‘…I’ve learned a lot over the years, but I think my main takeaway from all this is to trust your intuition.’ our chat with Perc about his latest album over KEYI Magazine

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Perc Trax celebrates its 100th release milestone with Perc’s highly anticipated return to the album format after seven years. Titled “The Cut Off,” this marks Perc’s fourth studio album, following the success of ‘Wicker & Steel’ (2011), ‘The Power & The Glory’ (2014), and Perc Trax’s top-selling release, ‘Bitter Music’ (2017).


“The Cut Off” showcases Perc at his most dance floor-oriented yet, delivering a pulsating energy designed to captivate contemporary audiences. Stepping away from both the overused 90’s hard techno nostalgia and the repetitive ‘real techno’ templates established decades ago, Perc crafts a dynamic and innovative sonic journey that defies genre clichés.

Perc stands as a cornerstone in the realm of electronic dance music: a globetrotting DJ, label proprietor, and one of techno’s most revered producers. Renowned for his forward-thinking approach, Perc, also known as London-based Ali Wells, expertly melds contemporary sounds with a deep understanding of electronic music’s heritage, crafting a distinct and innovative sonic palette. His presence is ubiquitous on esteemed labels such as CLR, Kompakt, Drumcode, Stroboscopic Artefacts, Ovum, and his own esteemed Perc Trax imprint, showcasing his unwavering commitment to uncompromising artistry.

Hello Ali! It’s fantastic you join us here! We’re eager to learn more about your remarkable journey in the industry. With over three decades of experience under your belt, your insights must be invaluable. As you reflect on your career, what conclusions have you drawn from this incredible and long journey?

It has definitely been a long journey, but I did start later than a lot of people. My first release came out when I was in my 20’s, though I was producing and DJ-ing (with no real success) for some time before that, so it’s not really 30 years. These days with the ease of releasing music on Soundcloud and Bandcamp and promoting it on social media I’m seeing people release their first music to a high standard at 16 or 17, which is great, but I couldn’t find the money for the production and manufacturing of a vinyl release when I was that age. Ease of access has to always be a good thing though.

I’ve learned a lot over the years, but I think my main takeaway from all this is to trust your intuition.

I try to make creative decisions quickly and if something doesn’t feel right then I’m happy to say no immediately. Also having a small team of people working with you is much better than a huge amount of people that you can’t trust or rely on. 

One final thing is don’t just follow trends blindly, you will be found out by your fan base very quickly.

If you were playing hard techno two years ago, psy trance a year ago and you play hard groove techno now then it’s obvious you are just following trends and chasing money and attention. Are you seriously telling me your own personal musical development has exactly matched the dominant trends in techno recently? It’s just so transparent when people behave like this.

We’re excited to explore your newest album, recently launched on your label. Could you delve deeper into the release, starting with the significance of the title ‘The Cut Off’ and its meaning to you? Additionally, could you elaborate on the collaborative efforts with supporting artists on the album? What was the central concept driving the creation of the album, and how did you conceive this idea initially?

Thank you, I’m excited for you and everyone else to hear the album. The title is quite self-explanatory. When you are a new artist, you want to be part of the scene, maybe to be regarded as part of a clique of artists or part of a certain subgenre. It’s a form of recognition that is attractive to someone who felt like an outsider from the scene just a short time ago. 

Then as you get older and realise more and more how the electronic music / techno industry works behind the scenes and you start to shrink down your friendship circle in the scene and be more wary. Recently a few artists I used to really respect have shown they were someone completely different to what I thought they were, so the album is about that. Being myself, cutting back on interactions with the wider scene and just being me for a while.

Two of the collaborations on the album are for their unique vocal sounds. Sissel Wincent has a perfect nonchalant vocal delivery. I loved remixing her ‘Sissel & Bass’ track with Peder Mannerfelt a few years ago, so it was great to work with her again. Leandro Bastos is a metal vocalist who I reached out to when I wanted some aggressive vocal shouts for ‘Imperial Leather’ and he fitted the track perfectly. EAS is a friend of mine and is great at writing acid lines, something I am not good at (there are very few solo acid tracks in my own discography), so when I wanted some acid on ‘Cold Snap’ he was the perfect person to work with.

Musically the album ties into the idea of ‘The Cut Off’ in its own way. It is not a lonely or desolate album, but it is more dance floor-focused than my previous albums.

Maybe I’m wrapping myself up in these protective hard-edged club tracks, rather than being left exposed by the more spacious and experimental tracks of my last album; ‘Bitter Music’, back in 2017.

Having established a significant presence in the electronic music scene with such a huge experience, what are your thoughts on the constantly changing music industry, how do you think your album will affect the scene?

It’s not really meant to change the scene. It’s an old cliché but it’s an album that I wrote for myself that I really hope other people will also enjoy. I hope the album reminds people that techno can work in an album format. Making a techno album that works well as a complete listen is hard and I’m proud of the success that myself and Perc Trax has had with albums. I want my albums to be listened to from start to finish whilst also containing standalone club tracks. Just grabbing ten bangers from a hard drive full of unreleased tracks is not an album for me, there has to be more thought and consideration to it than that.

I also hope the album proves that a modern techno record can work without relying on the same old sounds and genre patterns. Whether it’s rave stabs and old-school sounds or the same old ‘real’ techno blueprints of which I still get endless EPs sent to me every week as promos. So many older producers are playing it safe right now when they have the skills and talent to make amazing new-sounding music. I don’t get it at all.

A friend said that ‘The Cut Off’ is the album techno needs right now and that’s the best endorsement I’ve had of it so far.

We love the combination of variety and diversity in the album. We’ve had it on repeat for weeks and can’t wait to hear you mix these tracks. If you could choose only one track from the album that could be released, which one would it be and why? and could you tell us the story behind its creation?

My favourite track from the album changes all the time, but for some reason ‘UK Style’ still resonates with me deeply. It is one of the very rare times in my career when I’ve had an idea for a track and gone to the studio and the finished track is like 90% of how I imagined it in my head. It’s glitchy and moody and I love the time stretched vocals on it that hints at old jungle and drum & bass. There is nothing else like it on the album or as part of my previous releases. 

The main zap sound is a patch I programmed on my trusty Waldorf Pulse 2 with a lot of LFO modulation happening in the synth and a whole chain of effects being used on it and heavily automated once the sound was in my computer. The arpeggios are made by putting a basic sustained note from the Pulse 2 through Sonic Charge’s amazing Permut8 plugin and programming the arpeggio pattern in that. The other pad and drone sounds are from a mixture of old Korg and Roland synths that I recorded at a studio near my house just before I started writing the album. I like to go to a well-equipped studio before starting a new album project and recording a few days’ worth of sounds to give the album a unique palette of sounds to pull from.

If you could tell us about your daily workflow, how do you usually get inspired and connect with music? 

If I’m at home and not travelling for a gig then I try to wake up by about 9 or 10 am. I check my emails, work through some admin stuff for Perc Trax and for my gigs then check out any new music I’ve been sent. After that I think about studio work and often work into the early hours of the next day making music. 

Music comes at me in many ways, from producers and labels sending me music directly, promos from PR companies, and me searching for music on Bandcamp, YouTube, Juno download, Beatport etc. Also, I see a lot of tracks and releases announced on social media and then try to hunt them down. I try to follow every producer whose tracks I am into. I can’t understand people who just follow a few friends on Instagram rather than the producers they are into. It’s strange. I do also listen to a lot of older music that I’ve built up in my collection but I’d much rather play and support new music and new producers rather than fill my sets with old classics.

When it comes to your label, Perc Trax, how do you select the artists to collaborate with? How can artists approach you to become part of the family?

It’s just a case of people whose music I like and which will fit the label and my own DJ sets. They also have to be people I think I can connect with on a personal level. Also more and more social media is coming into my decision making process. I don’t mean the artist’s follower numbers, I don’t care about that, but if an artist is constantly wasting time posting about their morning coffee or new outfit then I find it hard to want to work with them. All that just seems a bit desperate to me.

If you could tell us your ten favorite tracks from this year so far? What would it be? 

1) Zero Dayz – Sacred Business (D.A.V.E. The Drummer Remix) – Resilient Recordings

2) Tassid & Eski – Septic – Skuxx

3) Perc – Static feat. Sissel Wincent – Perc Trax

4) Salat – Different – Salat

5) Perc – Fire In Negative (Million Remix) – Perc Trax

6) Dynamic Forces – First Day Of Live  – Planet Rhythm

7) Scalameriya – Cranial Augment -Void+1

8) A.P. – Oblivious – Refined Format

9) Anteac – Waiting For A Slot – Gomboc

10) Acerbic – In Your Face – Stay Up Forever

What does the future look like for Perc?

I’ve just started the album tour for ‘The Cut Off’. It’s currently has 27 gigs across Europe, the USA and South America running through March, April and May. So far it’s been great. My sets will lean heavily on the new album tracks, which is a real pleasure for me, but of course in a 2 or 3-hour DJ set there will be a lot of my other productions plus tracks from other producers being played. 

The next Perc Trax release after ‘The Cut Off’ features a remix by me and I also have a track coming out soon on the label of a younger German artist that I am a big fan of. After that I don’t know, I’ve not started work on any new Perc productions yet.  I think I’ll start that process again once the album has been out for a few months and I can judge the reception to the different tracks on it. 


Talent : Perc

Interview : Grzegorz Bacinski

Photo : Sam Rockman

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