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Baker's Dozen

Metal Machine Music: A Persher Baker's Dozen
Patrick Clarke , February 28th, 2024 10:45

Electronic producers but longtime punk, hardcore and metal heads, Blawan and Pariah take Patrick Clarke through the thirteen records that shaped their swerve into heavy music as Persher, from Meshuggah and Napalm Death to Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan

Persher perform live, photo by Helge Mundt Studio

Ostensibly, Persher is a project in which electronic music outliers Pariah (aka Arthur Cayzer) and Blawan (Jamie Roberts) turn their hands to heavy music. To view the project as a mere punk-and-metal-meets-techno mashup, however, would be to do it an immense disservice. This, explains Cayzer, exists firmly in the realm of the latter. “There are no synths. All of it is guitars.”

Though best known for their dance-leaning solo production work, and their improvisational techno collaboration Karenn, Pariah and Blawan are no tourists in the land they explore as Persher. Growing up in Barnsley, “I was a grindcore fan. Big time,” says Roberts, who in an effort to rail against what he saw as the timidity of the nu metal that was emerging during his teenage years, went straight for the harder stuff. “I saw Slipknot and all that shit as quite commercial. I wanted to go straight for the gullet.”

Cayzer, meanwhile, embraced a spread of different influences in his adolescence, but it was the heavier stuff that he held in highest esteem. “My teenage years were about punk, hardcore and metal. Electronic music was on the side,” he says. Both played in bands, too. Cayzer was a guitarist (though his projects never made it further than a misspelled entry in the live listings of Kerrang!), while Roberts was a drummer of some pedigree. “I started when I was eight,” he says. “By the time I was 14, I’d already played in a few bands, and when I was 15 I started to tour England playing in pubs with death metal bands. It was me driving around with 30 year old guys basically, because I was quite competent on the kit. Coming from a small town, people like that were few and far between.”

The influences they gathered in these years and beyond abound on Persher’s debut album Sleep Well, which follows the limited edition Man With The Magic Soap CD in 2022. It's a raging record, all avalanche drums, overwhelming noise and larynx-lacerating vocals. And yet, it still sounds distinct. Although they stuck to a straightforward setup of guitar and drums when it comes to instrumentation, when it comes to production they draw from their dance music chops to push things outside of the norm. “The way we write is basically identical to the way we write the Karenn stuff,” Cayzer explains. “We do long improvised passages on guitar, and we’ll have it hooked up to loads of effects, some of Jamie’s Eurorack stuff and other guitar pedals. I’ll play while Jamie’s fiddling with the parameters, and then we build the track from there.”

It’s part of a conscious effort to swerve the clichés that mark so much of heavy music. “I think it’s a problem that most metal and hardcore bands are too self-referential,” says Cayzer. Part of the aim with Persher, he says, is to push this music they adore so much into newer, more experimental climes. “There used to be this thing where you’d hear that a new band had started up, and they’d literally be described as an ‘insert-band-name worship band.’ But what’s the point?” he continues. “This kind of music can have so much potential, and I wish there were more bands that got outside their own shells.”

To mark the release of Sleep Well tQ asked Cayzer and Roberts to pick out 13 records for a special joint Baker’s Dozen (six picks each, plus a shared choice at number 13), that most shaped this record, from punk, hardcore and metal, to experimentalists in whose dismantling of genre trappings they found inspiration.

Persher’s new album Sleep Well is out now via Thrill Jockey. To begin reading their Baker’s Dozen, click the image below