The London techno selector turns the genre inside out.
Perc is currently enjoying some much deserved limelight on the global techno scene, but it's been a slog. The London-based producer (real name Ali Wells) has been putting out records since 2002, although him and his Perc Trax imprint only truly hit their stride these last few years. The start of this purple patch also seems to be traceable: Wells released the sizable Up single through Kompakt Extra in 2007 and has since signed material to labels like Drumcode, CLR, Ovum and, more recently, Stroboscopic Artefacts. It's on home soil where he's shined brightest, though. Both as an A&R and producer, Wells' ear for dark and club-ready techno has seen Perc Trax's stock rise exponentially, giving a platform to artists like Forward Strategy Group and Ben Gibson. On his mix for us, Wells offers both an indication of the Perc/Perc Trax aesthetic and some context—Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle—as to its experimental influences.
What have you been up to recently?
The first Colony vs. Perc Trax night was a few weeks ago in London. Working on that dominated the last few months. Thankfully it was a great success and we will return in 2011. Apart from that I've moved apartments, played in Kiev and Amsterdam and completed three new tracks in collaboration with Giorgio Gigli. It terms of releases my EP with Modern Heads is out now on Stroboscopic Artefacts and my split 12-inch with Sawf is out on Perc Trax. Different sounds for different people, but the reactions to both have been very good.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded at my new place in north London. I used a mixture of current tracks and old tracks from my vinyl and CD collection. Some of these were edited in advance; others were rearranged live as the mix was recorded in Ableton. Say what you like about Ableton, but it makes it possible for me to fuse together a wider range of influences and sounds than I ever could before.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the idea behind the mix?
For the last 18 months I've been doing both club mixes and downtempo/experimental mixes and always keeping the two separate. For this mix I wanted to cover both sounds, so you get the opening blend of Hammer soundtracks mixed with those early British industrial tracks which leads into the first techno tracks of the mix. This idea is continued with the various ambient and drone tracks that are layered over the more rhythmic tracks later on.
Perc Trax has always been a strong label, but it seems like it's really hitting its stride at the moment. Would you agree with that?
Thanks. Perc Trax was set up initially as a vehicle for my own productions. I really believed it would stop after a handful of vinyl releases, leaving me with a garage full of unsold vinyl and a mountain of debt, but somehow it just keeps marching on. I think the recent rise in profile for Perc Trax is due to the label having a more focussed sound, whilst retaining its slight air of unpredictability. Even now the label can release a range of 4/4 and broken beat techno and people seem to understand what each release is about. One thing I firmly believe in is keeping things interesting by releasing the occasional curveball. The Ed Rush & Nico record with the Peter Van Hoesen remix is a perfect example of this, as is the forthcoming Justin Berkovi release, which is remixes of a track of his from 1999. Early 2011 will see releases from Forward Strategy Group, Samuli Kemppi, Donor/Truss, Sawf and me, plus one of the Berghain residents remixing for the label.
How would you personally sum up the state of the techno scene in London currently?
Good question. Like most scenes there are ups and downs. Fabric is the only constant in London but other good parties appear all the time, some of which stay whilst others vanish after a few nights. The popularity of Corsica Studios has really given the London scene a shot in the arm. The Bleep43, Plex and Border Community nights at Corsica all have their own flavours and it is the venue for the Colony vs. Perc Trax parties. Most of the producers and promoters I know in London seem to work together rather than in competition which is refreshing and it certainly has not always been like that. What London needs now is a monthly event with local DJs playing, maybe just in a bar with a decent soundsystem, to act as a social hub for producers, DJs, promoters and label owners. With most vinyl shops having gone from London, the scene misses the social environment and chance meetings that a good record shop used to provide.
What are you up to next?
My next release is Antifunk/Purple on CLR. Two very different tracks on one 12-inch and I'm really happy that Chris [Liebing] and CLR believe in it. It is my third release on CLR and I think the label is in great shape after the Traversable Wormhole remix series. In the studio I am getting stuck into my first album which should be released in spring 2011. The first single from it is being remixed now and I think a few people will be shocked when the remixers are announced. Next year there are gigs lined up in Berlin, London, Liverpool and Dublin followed by another tour of the USA and Canada.