Ali Wells, aka Perc, is one of modern electronic music’s reference points; an internationally touring DJ and live act, founder of the renowned Perc Trax label and one of the most respected producers in techno today. Known as one of the most forward-thinking individuals in the scene, Wells fuses current sounds with his extensive knowledge of electronic music’s past to create something unique and unforgiving. With regular appearances on esteemed labels such as CLR, Kompakt, Drumcode, Stroboscopic Artefacts and Ovum, Wells is as uncompromising as he is unique.
By successfully combining bleeding edge techno with classic noise and experimental influences, Wells has been able to release a plethora of immaculate techno records over the last decade and a half, dropping his first ever solo album “Wicker & Steel” back in 2011. Reaching a wider audience with his “The Power & The Glory” LP a few years on, Wells consistently hit new heights evidenced by his infamous “Look What Your Love Has Done To Me”, recognised as one of the most well received techno tracks of 2017 whilst simultaneously clocking in as the highest selling song in the thirteen years that Perc Trax record label had been operational for. In the same year, Wells won the DJ Magazine award for ‘Best Remix’ in collaboration with Tom Russell (aka Truss), for their remix of “Move Your Body” by Mumdance and Logos.
The Londoner has now unveiled his next instalment on Perc Trax, an epic three-track EP called Greed Dance – designed to capture the energy and chaos of the rave without relying on the same classic sounds that have been in constant use since the early 90’s. His first full EP for 14 months, Perc serves up a plethora high-octane techno tracks, ready and primed for a dance floor motive. We caught up with the highly regarded artist about his new record.
First of all how are you? And what have you been getting up to recently?
Hi, I’m good. Things for me have slowly been getting busier since events starting to begin around the world and now these last few weeks have been really hectic. I’ve had two tracks released on Soma that I collaborated on with Slam, my new EP ‘Greed Dance’ 12″ for Perc Trax has just been announced and I played a Boiler Room session in Toronto last weekend. Plus all the usual stuff running Perc Trax and getting ready for each weekend of gigging, but after 18 months of down time I’m loving being back at it!
You’ve had a busy couple of months in terms of events! How have you found the re-opening of clubs? Any personal highlights since the easing of lockdown?
It was a bit of a shock to suddenly go back to playing up to three gigs a week after so much time off and mentally and physically it took some time to adjust, but I feel like I’m back in my old rhythm now. There’s been many highlights since I returned to gigging, a few off the top of my head would be Monasterio in Moscow, Intercell x Perc Trax in Amsterdam, the Hydraulix party at Fold in London, my 6 hour set at Basis in Utrecht and Telehaus at Hidden in Manchester.
Releasing the likes of Fire In Negative in the later stages of 2020, how did the last year and a half impact your motivation and creativity levels as a producer?
During lockdown I had more time than ever in the studio, so it gave me time to decide where I wanted to go with my music. It also gave me time to go down a few directions that were great as learning exercises but maybe did not produce anything that I’ll actually release in the future. Trying to make different types of music is always a good insight into yourself especially when you know it is not intended for a release or has to hit some kind of deadline. My motivation never dropped once during lockdown. I knew that events would happen again at some point so I decided to use the time to work hard to become a better DJ and producer rather than worrying about my personal image or ‘brand’. I might never have this much spare time again so it was an opportunity to improve as an artist that I didn’t want to waste.
Based mainly in London, how do you think the techno scene is progressing and are there any particular nights/ labels that we should keep our eyes on?
London is always in a state of change when it comes to the music scene here and obviously if I’m away playing gigs most weekends then I don’t get to experience as many new events and venues as when I was clubbing here every weekend, that said I played Fold for the first time a few weeks ago and that really blew my mind and I still love playing at Corsica Studios or Village Underground. I also have my debut in Room 1 of Fabric coming up in November. I’ve played Room 2 a few times, but I’m looking forward to finally being let loose in the biggest room there. As for labels in London I’m still getting deeper into the whole Stay Up Forever universe. I’ve been a fan of them since I went to university but in the last few years I’ve somehow got a lot more into their many sub-labels and distributed labels. It’s a rabbit hole of great music when you get sucked into it. Like all scenes I don’t like it all but what I do like from producers such as Ganez The Terrible, Tassid, Rowland The Bastard and OB1 I really, really love and play out all the time.
Your brand new EP Greed Dance is a high-octane affair. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the record and how you would describe it?
The EP was started around Christmas Day 2020 and at the time I was caught up in some confusion and anger about how the pandemic was turning out and how certain dance music institutions were clearly using the situation to their advantage. The ‘Greed Dance’ track originally had a lot more vocals on it but I stripped it down when I realized that some of the message of the track had passed its moment of relevance. ‘Resistor’ was me trying to squeeze as much as I could out of a small palette of sounds, because the less sounds you use in the track the easier it is to mix down well! And ‘240 Volts’ was me playing with sequencer patterns playing randomly to make something that sounded orderly yet chaotic at the same time. Orderly chaos is a good way of summing up how I approach DJ-ing and production!
What was the creative and production process behind the record?
Production-wise the tracks on the EP were a mixture of software and hardware, in the box processing and solid state and valve saturation and filtering. ‘Greed Dance’ is built around a loop of one of my own unfinished tracks which was sent out to one of my Culture Vultures to give it some bite and then comb filtering to give it more feeling when the sound came back into Ableton Live. All the hi-hats, ride and synths drones are from my sample library or come from VST synths and then again were sent out to hardware for processing. The same is true for the other two tracks on the EP. The sounds are generally from my own collection that I’ve built up over the years and then sent out to rack effects or guitar pedals to give them some attitude before they are recorded and arranged in the box. The EP was mastered by Matt Colton at Metropolis Studios in London who is now such a key part of my sound I couldn’t imagine working with anyone else for the mastering of my Perc Trax releases.
If you had to choose a favourite track, which would it be and why?
That’s an impossible question. The ‘Greed Dance’ track itself has all the drive and energy and the highest BPM of the tracks on the EP, but ‘Resistor’ is the one that has been doing the most damage on the dance floor. I hope people can hear a slightly different sound for me on that track, but it still connects with what I’ve done in the past and has that kind of spit and attitude that I try to put into all my tracks. Lastly ‘240 Volts’ is the sleeper track, tough but not as aggressive as the other two tracks and almost melodic, but in a random way rather than some big obvious riff or arpeggio.
The release sees you return to your esteemed Perc Trax label. What is the philosophy behind the label and where do you hope to take it over the next couple of years? Any plans you can share with us!
Perc Trax has always just been what I want it to be. At times an outlet for my own music and at times a label to help shine a light on artists whose music I think deserves more attention and exposure. Of course the focus is on me a lot of time with Perc Trax but I’d be happy to do a year or so without releasing anything on the label as long as the music coming out on Perc Trax was still exciting me. I don’t really have any long term plans for the label past maybe the end of 2022. As you’ve mentioned my own ‘Greed Dance’ EP is out mid November and then next year begins with an artist album (not from me) then a big surprise release and after that probably something else from me. 2022 will also see the 3rd installment of the ‘Forever’ various artists EP which is always a great way to introduce artists to Perc Trax for the first time.
Finally, have you got coming up that you would like the Dance Wax readers to know about?
Apart from the Perc Trax releases I’ve just mentioned I have a track coming out on Possession early next year and one coming out on Inhalt Der Nacht’s Lebendig label, plus a handful of remixes which should all hit in the first 3 or 4 months of next year. Gig wise I’m all over Europe for the next few months plus I’m touring the USA for the first half of December. Even though we have events happening in most countries again the scene still feels more fragile than ever, so whilst I have plans for next year I’m still thankful for every month when events can happen and the scene can start to recover or even grow again.
‘Greed Dance’ is releasing November 12th via Perc Trax.