As one of the most well respected producers and DJs techno has seen in quite a while, UK native Perc has carved out one of the most established labels in all of underground electronic music. Perc and his label Perc Trax are synonymous with each other for obvious reasons, but the Londoner has gone above and beyond what many of his compatriots have done and has established a true community among some of techno’s hardest hitting names.
With shows all over the world on a weekly basis, the time and effort that goes into running the label is second to none, especially when you’re releasing regularly with the likes of Ansome, Scalameriya and AnD to name a few. Couple that with the fact that his tracks are up there with some of the most well known and loved in the electronic sphere and it’s truly hard to imagine where Perc gets the time to do anything aside from music, especially when you factor in the hectic nature of an international touring schedule as busy as his.
Despite this, the label and his own career are showing no signs of slowing down, with a new EP coming from Scalameriya this Friday after Perc himself played a massive back to back set with Randomer at the Rotterdam Rave mid way through March.
His scheduled show at BD Festival in Glendalough was compromised by a bus that caught fire on the Heathrow run way, meaning he couldn’t fly, marking the second time he had missed the festival, however missing shows is totally out of the ordinary for the artist.
“To miss the event for the second time is beyond unlucky. In the past few years the only gigs that I can think of that I missed were the two BD ones, one in Barcelona about four years ago and one in Chicago where I had to fly across the States but there were storms there so they wouldn’t let me go. They’re the only ones that I can think of over the past five or so years.
It’s really frustrating and there’s not that much you can do, some people may say that you can get to gigs earlier, and that’s true but you can get to gigs a day early and stay there sitting in a hotel and not getting anything done in the studio or with the label. You have to give yourself some leeway for problems like that but also to run things in the office.”
The party culture of it all must make that harder, especially approaching festival season.
“I try and be the best prepared that I can before I go. I don’t just jump on the first flight. The day before I’ll look at the schedule and see if there are connections and if they’re tight; whether I’ll have to hurry across an airport or if I’ll have a bit more time to chill. It’s just so there’s no surprises when you turn the page of a schedule.
Boring things like following airports on Twitter and things like that are obviously boring throughout the week, but it’s really important for when you’re flying to know if there are delays.”
Despite not coming across as the most outspoken DJ and producer out there, Perc most certainly conveys emotions through his music and its surrounding artwork and videos. The Perc Trax label too is pretty forthcoming with its artwork and doesn’t hold back in a genre that for the most part is pretty plain on the surface.
“I used to be really attracted to the whole faceless techno sort of thing; buying 12 inches that you didn’t know who made them or where they come from, they had very limited information on them.
I think that era, with the internet now, has passed over with the combination of interviews, videos and things on the internet. Every artist on Perc Trax is different and has something to say. I’m probably the oldest so I have more social and political edge to what I do and what I want to get across. Ansome is more so this playful and cheeky character which people love and it suits him, his music, his performance and his online persona very well.
Some labels release good music, it sounds great and looks great but you have no idea about personalities or the person’s beliefs behind the music.
I want Perc Trax to be a collection of personalities, not generated characters but people being true to themselves and that coming across in their music, not purely just focusing on technical aspects of production.”
The quest for total underground acceptance and the approval of techno purists seems like a fruitless task at this stage.
“I think there’s something to be said for that. If people want to do that, that’s fine but if people want to claim to be anonymous and mysterious and then do interviews and have Facebook pages with no information on them it seems a bit pointless. Either don’t have a page or give a bit of info, it doesn’t have to be your life story!
The way people run their careers and labels is up to them, but I think it’s nice if a bit of personality shines through.”
Perc Trax’s artwork is one of its defining features. The cutting edge nature of the label’s music is definitely apparent, however the use of colour and imagery is much more left field compared to more stark artwork that is used by other techno outlets.
“It just developed with the label, I didn’t want to put out white labels I wanted there to be some information on the release. The records were much more simply packaged when the label started off.
Once I quit my day job I had a lot more time to focus on the label about ten years back. I wanted to do good artwork for the album projects and keep the singles quite simple. Of course, people started doing singles and asking if the artwork could be as good as the albums were when they’d finished the singles.
The main person to thank for all of this is Jonny Costello who is originally from Dublin. He’s based in Birmingham, but he’s from Dublin. He’s Perc Trax’s main designer, he does about 75% of the sleeves. All of the albums, the current Scalameriya sleeve; he put it together and worked with an illustrator on that one, he’s great because he’s good at what he does but he also knows when someone else could do it better.
The artwork takes a lot more time and money than usual but I think it’s worth doing and for someone like Scalameriya, he doesn’t want the same internet persona as Ansome. The artwork has really benefited that EP and that anime/manga thing is something Scalameriya is really into in his spare time. I’m really happy with how the artwork is going, in saying that there will be some white labels due to how busy the schedule is, generally the Perc Trax artwork will remain at that standard from now on.”
While Perc Trax reigns supreme as one of the most prominent labels in techno alongside the storied likes of Monnom Black, Klockworks, Soma and a few more, Perc himself is a dominant force within the genre too, and not just for owning one of its biggest labels.
“Before this was a full time job I was working at record labels and running them for other people. I juggle everything. I know a lot of producers that will get up in the morning and work on the label and the emails and then as the day progresses they’ll work on the music in the night time.
For me, it’s whatever I feel I like doing, if I wake up and want to start a track or a remix then I will, if I want to do no studio work all day and deal with Beatport and stuff like that then I’ll do a day of office work.
The label is named after me because it was originally just for my own music so it’s always going to be associated with me even if I don’t release on it for a long period of time. I really love it and I don’t want to be known as just a label head.
These days I’m recording less for other labels but I still do other things; like I did for MORD recently and I still do stuff for Stroboscopic [Artefacts], remixes take me on to other labels too so it’s nice to keep up things as a producer as well. One of my favourite things about producing is finishing a track during the week and then taking it out and playing it in the club on a Friday night and that will never change.
While most of my releases will always be on Perc Trax, it’s always good to work with other people.”
Perc’s sound is one of the most definitive in techno, you know a Perc track when you hear one. With that being said, his flexibility and ability to collaborate with other producers and DJs is second to none, both in the studio and on stage. Having worked on tracks with Randomer, Truss and Ansome, as well as playing back to back with them and more, there are few that rival his collaboratory efforts.
“All the collaborations came about in different ways. With Truss, we started recording together with no plans to gig together. Of course, the gigs came pretty quickly after the records. The thing with Adam X, the AX & P project, came from mutual respect; big upping each other in interviews and Adam booked me to play at a night he was running in Berlin so that came about quite naturally.
Randomer is a really good friend of mine and he lives quite close to me. He’s probably the techno producer that lives closest to me so I see a fair bit of him in London. The Perc and Randomer thing is just a few gigs, we do them and we enjoy them, especially the last one at Rotterdam rave.
I don’t really know how the Perc and Ansome thing started really. Often these things start with Dutch promoters, with the Dutch scene there are so many promoters, parties and festivals that people are always looking for something new, the world premiere or this or that. I’m pretty sure someone suggested us as a back to back.
It started as this hybrid thing where Kieran [Ansome] would play his usual live set and then I’d be DJing and adding kick drums or extra noise. That all slowly mutated into a two man live set, that worked better. The gigs with Ansome have been great.
The topic of DJing is an interesting one in Perc’s case, as he does so using his laptop and Ableton, rather than a set of Turntables or CDJs. He isn’t the only one to do so, with fellow techno heavyweights Truss and Paula Temple both opting for the method too, but solely using his laptop is still a unique weapon of choice in 2018’s electronic climate.
“I never DJed using CDJs. I did when I was in college, with CDs, with those Denon mixers that you sometimes see in bars now. I moved onto vinyl for a while and then I’d play live off a laptop. I once had a gig in Mexico and I was advised not to bring vinyl for immigration and Visa reasons. I put together an Ableton set for that, and then for a while I was picking and choosing my sets, playing some on vinyl and some on my laptop. At the time, Surgeon was playing from Ableton and he was one of my main inspirations. The things he was doing on Ableton were incredible and that inspired me to push on with it.
To have 4 or 5 things running at a time kind of combines production and DJing. It’s funny years ago, guys with laptops would laugh at people carrying around bags of vinyl and now Adam X plays off USBs and laughs at me for carrying around my laptop.”