Whether it's serving up blistering ghetto house or lo-fi Memphis rap, Delroy Edwards' label is always raw and unpredictable. Matt McDermott meets the outfit's key players at their base in LA.
After a few more releases for L.I.E.S., Perlman began LA Club Resource with an Untitled EP featuring a blurry photo of a black man getting arrested on the sleeve. In March of 2014, Perlman turned up to the private pop-up club Top 40 for a night called Duck Slick (an homage to DJ Screw's 1995 mixtape Duck Sick) and played an all-vinyl '90s G-funk hip-hop set. He followed up with three "screw" tapes, Slowed Down Funk Volumes I-III, distributed free online, while also releasing the Teenage Tapes, a mix of embryonic Roland SH-101 noise, on Boomkat-affiliated label The Death Of Rave.
"I wanna be able to make all sorts of music," Perlman told me when we sat down at his house in March. "I'm a bit ADD so I lose interest quickly, which is kind of why DJing is a little bit of a bummer. Because I'm up there an hour or two or three and I'm just like what the fuck am I doing here, you know?"
In fact, Perlman has continued to DJ, just in an extremely unique manner. An NTS radio show from October 2015 was ranked first on Mixcloud's hardcore chart, eighth in the beats chart and 14th in the techno chart—apt placements for a set that includes rare punk 7-inches alongside his own synth experiments and music from Phil Lynott (of Thin Lizzy). His February mix for NTS, titled Fun In The Sun, has him delving deep into lysergic American garage rock. Meanwhile, LA Club Resource has issued previously unheard beat tracks from Gene Hunt, obscure Memphis and New Orleans rap from the early '90s, and gathered a cadre of rambunctious US techno producers including Skander from San Francisco, Perlman's longtime friend Vereker and LA artist Delivery. Perlman's taste, as it extends to his productions, label and DJ sets, feels akin to that of a record store employee who exhaustively rummages through each genre before moving on to another, the difference being Perlman has built up a dedicated audience willing to follow him down these wormholes.
Perlman runs LA Club Resource with Henoch Moore and Jimmy Fleming, a duo who also look after Gene's Liquor, a management company, creative agency and online storefront selling everything from Dance Mania dead stock to Mexican hardcore to Louisiana gangster rap. "I think Brandon is going to consistently be forever challenging... moving forward in his story," says Moore. Perlman puts it more simply: "I feel like house music is really cool but as far as mixes, I've played all of the house music that I have so I'm not just gonna play it over and over again."
I've never seen a DJ stick to his guns like Perlman. In 2014, he closed out a night at long-running Hollywood club Avalon. After taking over for Dennis Ferrer, he pitched his turntables down and launched into an awesomely weird jackathon that totally cleared the room. A hip-hop set in Vancouver had fellow RA scribe Andrew Ryce tweeting about the tension of a 4/4 kick that never came. Perlman's unpredictability can be frustrating for promoters or fans simply out for a good time, but the feeling goes both ways.
"I'm not really crazy about DJing," Perlman says. "I feel like clubbing culture has a little bit of ways to go to really hold my interest because it's hard to play exactly how you're feeling. There's a social aspect to it, so people aren't exactly letting themselves vibe out or be mellow at some points, and then be really hyper at some points, and then be quiet at some points, you know?" Perlman rarely goes out these days. Despite a steady stream of offers, he tours infrequently—he'd rather be digging, producing or working on the label with Moore and Fleming.
LACR has a knack for freewheeling recontextualization that extends to its sound and imagery. After a barrage of techno 12-inches, it issued Shawty Pimp and Reddog's Comin' Real Wit It on vinyl for the first time (their LP version of the 1995 cassette now goes for over $100 on Discogs). The same year, Perlman tracked down an unreleased Gene Hunt beat track he'd heard and released it on 12-inch with a Chicago Bulls logo as cover art.
"I think with us, we are really driven by our personal taste," Moore says. "And there are no limitations to that. There are no temporal limitations, there are no contextual or cultural limitations… These aren't things that we're overly intellectual about, we just try and follow our gut and I think that gets all of that stuff out of the way and lets people see it for what it is." LACR focusses on urban drum machine music from all eras and locales. "These cultures, these contexts, they're really important... We really make an avid effort to acknowledge them but we also feel like this is a moment we're trying to create for our fans."
Fleming adds that the date stamp on LACR's records is irrelevant if the music doesn't hold up. "Gene Hunt's sitting on tracks that he made in '92, when he was a young buck riding the train in the winter time just doing his thing, trying to discover his sound… We love to put that shit out there," he says. "If Shawty Pimp made a tape that 50 people owned in '95, we love to help to continue to tell that story as well… A good track is a good track. If that shit was made in '92 and it comes out on an LA based label in 2015 it's not gonna matter unless that shit is good."
Perlman stands an imposing six and a half feet tall, but has a easy smile and an uncommon politeness. It stands at odds with, say, his one-off DJ Punisher record, which prominently featured a handgun on the cover and in the promo video. Punisher, Skander, Vereker and new Brazilian signee Innsyter represent the scorched-earth side of mucky American techno. "We kind of all have that warehouse-y, 'louder is better' attitude when it comes to club music," he says. "As far as the imagery goes, it's kind of just what is on my mind at the time. When we did the first one [Delroy Edwards' Untitled] it was some shit in the news, you know? I feel like it's interesting to repurpose that, because for me, in a club atmosphere, I want it to be like chaos, craziness, where it can be highs and lows and good and evil. Real chaos, almost police brutality chaos… It's not an unjust violence against an oppressed group of people, but it's taking that sort of mentality that we see on the streets, and bringing it to a place where you can be really loud." His upbringing in Los Angeles, a place where racial tensions with police often boil over, also informed these aesthetic choices.
Perlman currently lives between Silver Lake and East Hollywood, but in the past few years has lived south of the 10 in West Adams (where Fleming and Moore currently split an apartment) as well as Mount Washington. "There's a lot of that shit out there," he says. "You drive around and you see cops pulling over black guys in droves... So when you see it and you grow up with it and get used to it, it's a part of the city. So with LA Club Resource we show what the city is—the good and the bad, I guess. When you look at it, it's artwork, it's not gonna change the world, it's just a picture, you know. And you can do with it what you want, but it stemmed from what was happening at the time and trying to make sense of that."
At this point, it's fairly common knowledge that Perlman is the son of Ron Perlman, an actor whose credits run from Hellboy to Drive to Sons Of Anarchy. Online chatter can veer towards questions of authenticity, Delroy Edwards' "street" image and assumptions about his background. Perlman says, "People are always gonna have some little thing to say about whatever. The main thing is this, I tell people this all the time: music is separate. And especially when people don't know about my upbringing... That's not really what's important, the music is what's important."
Speaking frankly about his family on record for the first time, Perlman credits his dad, who comes from a family of musicians, with his early musical development. He talks about taking over the basement with his drum kit, and goes on to say exactly what a mother, father or sister would want to hear. "I'm so proud of everybody in my family and what we've all done. My dad's line of work is so impressive and it's just inspiring for me to just keep making stuff. Same with my sister and my mom. We're a family that loves each other."
Perlman's 30-track debut LP, Hangin' At The Beach, does not feature a gun on the cover. Instead, he's opted for a goofy closeup of his face. The music feels more playful, romantic and vulnerable. The cuts are shorter, more lo-fi and more melodic than ever. "I Love Sloane," named after his girlfriend, nails the warm sentiment of its title in just over a minute. No longer looking to the grittier regions of LA for inspiration, Perlman says, "A lot of [the album] was influenced by Northern California and Monterey and Big Sur. It's called fucking Hangin' At The Beach and that's what it's about. It can't all be like, house, you know."
Moore and Fleming, who take meetings and handle correspondence and shipping while Perlman keeps up a prolific production pace, view Hangin At The Beach, as well as the preceding LP from São Paulo's Innsyter, as milestones. "It's been about two and a half years since we put out the first record," Fleming says. "So now we've got the Innsyter LP followed by the Delroy LP, so that's exciting to us, because that's challenging for the label, challenging the people in our audience." True to form, Perlman's new record sounds like nothing that's come before it. It's a minimalist tour of the genres he's previously explored that feels akin to the messy, brilliant early work of fellow LA iconoclast Ariel Pink.
From the absurd Gene Hunt cut "Ow (Drum Beat)," to Innsyter's menacing, metal-inflected "Coffin Time" to the gothic, paranoid ramblings ending Lil' Noid's "Binghampton Niggas," there's a shambolic imperfection to the music Perlman and co. release. The thread tying the label together is a smash-and-grab creative process that emphasizes ideas over fidelity. Many of the lo-fi tracks on Hangin' At The Beach fall between one or two minutes, with Perlman recording the tracks quickly in a restless flurry. "I think we focus on bedroom production, a style of music defined by that experimental, creative approach," Moore says. "A really individualistic auteur approach to creating music." He goes on: "You can find that in Memphis in 1992, [you can] feel that same bedroom aesthetic and resourcefulness that really is pulsing through the cities and the streets of LA, that a lot of artists have today. You can find that in Brazil, in São Paulo, in Innsyter's bedroom. You can find that spirit, that desire to make something, something a little different, something a little challenging."
When we arrived at Perlman's house, set back from the road on a tree-lined street not far from Hollywood, he was drumming along to a record by DAS, a one-man Michigan garage act from the '80s that's nearly impossible to find on the internet. Moore refers to the trio's shared ability to source rare music as part of an ongoing quest to "get to the bottom of the rabbit hole." Perlman, doing his part, spends a lot of time on the phone. He sometimes talks with Death, the New Orleans gangster rap producer who took over Mobo Records (a label whose back-stock tapes are sold on the Gene's Liquor site), and calls numbers he finds on rap tapes from the '90s, with hopes of finding out more about the music, acquiring it, or at least hearing some stories. Perlman, who spends most of the interview keeping his affable pit bulls at bay, says, "It's weird sometimes... I called this one guy, he was at a dog fight."
Perlman is a music fan and prolific producer first and foremost, with a contentious, at best, relationship with the dance floor. So what, then, does LA Club Resource have to do with club music? "It's music for our own club," he says. "And hopefully other people use it in their clubs. If you get all the records, and you listen to them all thoroughly, that's what would be in my club. All of those songs would be playing, every single one. That's how I imagine it, I don't even know what the place looks like, but it's our club, you know?"
Label of the month mix
Delroy Edwards turns in a mix of rock obscurities, sad Mexican songs and lo-fi synthesizer experiments. It sounds like a mixtape melting in the LA sun.