Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Not-So-Bitter Music: Ali ‘Perc’ Wells On His Favourite 13 Albums

We've sent that young rascal Tonka to interview Ali Wells about the albums that made him Perc, from Huey Lewis & The News to Pete Swanson, Aphex, and how Iron Maiden made his kick drum mockery-proof

It’s early May, it’s sunny outside, and I’m sat opposite the strapping, unquestionably attired frame of Ali Wells, aka Perc, in the specially constructed mock-up bakery I had assembled in my back garden shed especially for this interview. I’m eating a cream bun and Perc has just dropped a load of lemon meringue crumbs all over his lap. As I’m roleplaying as the baker, I’m wearing one of those red and white chequered aprons that all bakers seem to have, so any crumbs that I spill won’t ruin my trousers. I’m always thinking [taps nose and winks].

On my little, sky-blue plastic table-top next to my two little, sky-blue plastic chairs where I’m leading the interview, I’ve positioned as many pints of real ale as I could fit, and I’ve asked Perc to help himself, in honour of his new album, Bitter Music – out now on Perc Trax. I’ve Blu Tacked a wide variety of beer mats to the walls of the shed, and the ceiling, and before I had the chance to surprise him with a 12-month CAMRA gift membership pack, I was politely corrected on the meaning behind the title of the new album.

"The title itself comes from the general feeling in the air right now, and especially that spread by the tabloid end of the media. Everyone seems bitter, even the people that wanted Brexit seem bitter about the speed and the way in which it is happening", said Perc, before embarking on a lingering quaff of caramel flushed Yo Boy.

I’ve put a copy of Bitter Music – out now on Perc Trax – on the counter-top stereo and we’re having a listen to it together. It’s good, and I tapped him on the knee and told him so. I chuckled, rolled my eyes and shook my head in an over-the-top manner at the blunder I made when thinking that Bitter Music was Ali Wells’ ode to real ale, when it’s actually in relation to the general feeling in the, hang on a minute, The Quietus editor has just telephoned me to say that I need to tone down the madcap and get, "on message" and "more tQ", because I’m, "embarrassing", him.

Frowning, I hurriedly asked Ali if he’d care to briefly explain how Bitter Music came about.

"The idea for the album was originally to write much more introspectively about personal relationships and personal change, but the whole Brexit/Trump shit that swept in last year moved the focus of the album to world affairs. The album title changed and Bitter Music ended up being about both themes. ‘Look What Your Love Has Done To Me’ is a good example of this. The lyrics could both be about a partner, but also about the way the parts of the UK population that voted for Brexit have fucked their own country." I could feel my cheeks blushing, and I was quite sheepish as he said all that, but I ploughed on and asked him to pick a favourite track from the album – an easy win for a brown-nosed music journalist.

"It’s hard to pick a favourite track, but ‘Wax Apple’ feels like something new for me, which is what I’m always looking for. Also ‘Look What Your Love Has Done To Me’ is the first time I’ve written lyrics, rather than just asking someone to scream over the top of some beats, so that means a lot to me. Elizabeth [Gazelle Twin] did the vocals perfectly as well." Before I could ask Ali if there were any other collaborators on the album, he’d already excitedly moved the conversation on.

"Aja Ireland; vocals on ‘Spit’, and Ian East; flute on ‘Chatter’, also feature," he roared with an enthusiastic wave of his arms. I turned my head towards the front windows of my living room, at an imaginary camera and imagined myself as Tim off of The Office as I stared with wide-open eyes, a faintly exasperated and resigned expression on my face as I fired off one last emailed question to Perc whilst pretending, in my head, to be sat opposite him in person, in real life, in a fictional shed at the rear of a back garden that has never existed, wondering how I had turned out this way; an actor in my own life, a Russian doll of lies and make-believe, asking questions of a friend and artist who deserves more than a part-time creative writer ruining the introduction to what is a sincerely brilliant, warmly funny and thought-provoking Baker’s Dozen feature with a massive load of bollocks about real ale and enquiring about whether he reckons any of the political leaders might want to use any of the songs from his new album as their 2017 General Election anthem, à la ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ by D:Ream.

"I’d love Theresa May to use ‘Unelected’, although the joke will then be on me if she wins the election and I can’t moan any more that we have an unelected leader leading this country." Ali and I smiled and shook hands as the mock-up bakery at the end of my garden dissolved into a squidgy, multi-coloured waterfall, and I clicked on the next email to see which thirteen albums Perc had chosen as his Baker’s Dozen.

Bitter Music by Perc is out now on Perc Trax. Click the photo of Ali Perc below to read all about his favourite albums

First Record

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