Krake is a week long festival of experimental electronic music in Berlin that takes place between 5th – 10th August 2013 in a variety of venues that include Passionskirche chapel, Berghain Kantine and Suicide Circus. The festival is curated by Killekill Records and 2013 marks the fourth edition of the festival.
In 2012 Krake Festival showcased an impecable lineup of pioneering electronic musicians that included Murcof, Perc, Lucy, Dadub, Ulrich Schnauss, Pole, Alex Smoke, Tim Exile, Ceephax Acid Crew and Lakker. 2013 highlights include Cristian Vogel, Monolake, Untold, Dopplereffekt and Nathan Fake perform at Krake.
Inverted Audio have partnered with Krake to present a series of live sets that were recorded last year at Krake Festival. Perc aka Alistair Wells, DJ, producer and label owner of Perc Trax begins the series with an extremely rare live ambient set. He performed this at Berghain Kantine after Dadub’s performance. The recording contains new tracks and remixes of older tracks by Perc. “Some tracks were purely elements in my laptop and others were a mixture of laptop audio and live improvised electronics.”
In the interview we discuss Perc’s involvement and experience of Krake Festival and how his own record label Perc Trax is progressing.
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us what you’ve been up to over the past couple of months?
Hello, I’m Ali Wells. Based in London. I record, DJ and play live as Perc and run the Perc Trax label. Recently I have been working on launching two sub-labels and avoiding doing any more remixes to concentrate on tracks of my own. My gigging schedule has been fairly heavy with gigs across Europe including my first visit to Poland.
This mix is a recording of your performance at Berghain Kantine from Krake Festival in 2012. We’d usually expect a hard-hitting techno mix from yourself, so can you please explain the concept behind this ambient mix of yours?
The night was put together by the Krake / Killekill team. It was a mid-week night and each artist was encouraged to create a new, unique experimental set, something different from their usual dancefloor orientated sets.
One very important thing, this is not a DJ mix, it a live set made up of brand new tracks of mine and new remixes of older tracks of mine. Some tracks were purely elements in my laptop and others were a mixture of laptop audio and live improvised electronics.
How did this performance go down with the crowd at Berghain Kantine? What time were you playing and how did you perform this mix? Live, with records or from a laptop?
It went down well I think and the few people that have heard the recording since then have said it is one of their favourite performances of mine. I was playing after Dadub and before Lucy. I can’t remember the exact time. Maybe midnight or 1am. On stage I had my laptop, audio interface, midi controller, a delay pedal, a Korg Monotron delay and a small, portable FM/AM radio.
It was a mix of the individual audio stems running though effects inside the laptop and also going out to the external delay pedal. The radio was being tuned to whatever I could find on the night and running through the Monotron Delay. Some oscillator sounds from the Monotron were also added to the performance.
What ambient producers do you admire? For me Wolfgang Voigt, William Basinski and Marsen Jules are some of my favourite, what about you?
Basinski is definitely one for me. To go back to the British classics then I have to mention Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Global Communication and Higher Intelligence Agency. Philip Glass from the USA as well, of course. More recently Lee Gamble’s releases on Pan have been favourites of mine.
How did you get involved with Krake festival and what is it about the festival that makes it so special?
The call to play at the festival came out of nowhere really, but obviously having recorded for Stroboscopic Artefacts meant I fitted in with the other artists on the bill that night. I think the Krake Festival is special in the way it works across different venues with an interesting and unique combination of artists, not just the same 10 or so bankable big names you see at every dance music festival across Europe.
You founded Perc Trax in 2004 – How do you feel the label is progressing? What’s the label currently working on and how are you developing the imprint?
The label is doing great. Its fortunes and popularity are generally on the up, with the occasional hiccup of course. Currently the label is working on three album projects including its first compilation. In terms of new developments the two new sub-labels are perhaps the biggest change to Perc Trax since its launch in 2004. Perc Trax Ltd has already started with Matt Whitehead’s ‘A Is For Acid’, the second sub-label will be announced in a few months time. The only other significant development has been stopping doing digital-only releases and digital-only bonus tracks to vinyl releases and upping the quality of the vinyl packaging. Full colour 12-inch artwork inserts, coloured vinyl etc.
Have your aims and aspirations changed since you founded the label?
It was initially meant as an outlet just for my own music. Now it is a showcase for everything I love and believe in, from not just London or the UK but around the world. The ability to give exposure to music that might not find a home elsewhere and to help build these artists grow and develop is very rewarding.
Do you have a personal philosophy on sound? Where did you learn / hone your production skills?
I just try to make something that is unique to me and personally satisfying. I try not to repeat myself or what I hear others do, but of course other artists and their work has a big influence on me. I aim to take in some of their attitude and spirit, not directly copy their sound. I started off producing in my own bedroom aged 16; at 18 I went to university for 6 years to study various production courses. I am still learning now and whilst I never prioritise the technology over the human element of the music I still love the technological side of it, new studio equipment and software releases etc.
How do you juggle running a label with producing records and touring?
You just do. Until I really can’t manage everything I want to keep doing it all on my own. Some weeks I feel like a label owner and spend 90% of my time on Perc Trax stuff. Other weeks I just answer the essential emails about the label and focus on production or preparing for my DJ sets. I love all aspects of this life and job so even if I spend 18 hours a day working it still never feels like a job.
Krake recently released ‘Krake001’ featuring your track ‘Kord’ – Tell us more about this track, when did you produce it and what character or atmosphere do you feel the track embodies?
The track is about a year old. It was made during an intense period of studio work that also led to ‘Kater’ on Stroboscopic Artefacts. I wanted something deeper and the manipulated choir samples added the human element that I was looking for. The track is definitely in line with some of my work for Stroboscopic or ‘Steve Bull’ on the Electronic Explorations compilation from this period, perhaps more atmospheric than what I am working on now, but both approaches have a place in what I do.
Will you be playing at Krake Festival 2013? If so will you go down the atmospheric route or mechanical techno path?
I have not been invited back this year, but I hope that is more down to them not wanting to repeat line-ups in consecutive years rather than any dissatisfaction with my performance last year!
What environments or even states of mind do you prefer to write music in?
Just focussed and relaxed. The environment is nearly always my studio in North London. I’m not someone that often works on tracks on planes or in hotel rooms. Tweaks and re-edits yes, but I can’t really get into the correct mindset to start a track whilst wedged between two people on a transatlantic flight.
Where are the strangest places you’ve played?
A nuclear bunker in Slovakia, a swimming pool (drained) in Birmingham, a country & western bar in Nashville, USA. I like people being creative when they look for spaces to host events. Clubs are great but it is always good to play somewhere different as well.
What else do you get up to apart from music?
I’m pretty much doing this all the time, but apart from that the usual UK stuff. Out with friends and family, going down the pub, eating out, watching football, nothing too out of the ordinary.
You’ve released records on other labels such as Stroboscopic Artefacts, Kompakt, Prosthetic Pressings and many others – why do you release through other labels and not solely Perc Trax?
Different labels have different sonic and visual identities and appeal to different groups of people so it is good to reach more people by working with other labels. Often they are owned and run by friends so it is nice to do something with them. That said with Perc Trax becoming 3 labels I’ll be releasing most of my music there. I enjoy the full control of my release schedule, mastering, promotion and artwork. You just can’t get (and would not expect) that level of control with someone else’s label.
Do you have any records coming out this year? If so please us about them and how long you’ve been working on it for.
Next for me is a series of collaborative EP’s. They are not really connected and will be released on 3 different labels but they have all reached completion at the same time and will be out from July onwards.
Two are me working with techno producers I respect greatly. The other is collaboration between myself and an older industrial band. That one has taken 2 years. The other EP’s have both been brewing for about a year each. All will be revealed very soon. I also have one track coming on a various artists EP on the excellent 10 label from Japan. After that I’ll be hiding away for a while, steering clear of remixes and working towards my next solo EP, probably for Perc Trax but it might pop up elsewhere.
What are your views on music journalism at present? Are you influenced by people’s interpretations of your music?
I like to read people’s opinions of my music and luckily they are generally favourable. I hate it when people make assumptions and state them as fact. People mentioning me being influenced by people whose music I barely know or guessing what my thinking is behind a track and its title when they have no idea.
Recently a journalist said a track I had remixed and released was outside of my sound, when it was the one track I have played in every set since October and desperately chased to sign to Perc Trax. People’s interpretations and opinions can’t influence you; otherwise you might as well just make focus group house music and chase sales whilst giving up all you stand for as an individual and an artist.
You’re currently based in Stoke Newington, London – How are you finding London life? What do you love and despise about the city?
No, I’m in Crouch End. Stoke Newington is far too hip for me. Crouch End is a bit more chilled and relaxed compared to Stokie. I’ve been in London for about 12 years now. I love it here. Of course it has its pros and cons but the music scene here is great and I have so many friends here.
Things I hate here? Not much springs to mind. Maybe the city is too big. It takes the best part of two hours to visit my brother and his kids. It is also expensive but I don’t hate that, it is just economics and I manage to lead a life that is comfortable enough for me, so I am not moaning.
Would you ever up sticks and move to a different city? Berlin perhaps?
It has never seriously crossed my mind, but if the political and/or financial situation in the UK and London was seriously affecting me then of course I’d think of moving.
Do you have any final words, words of wisdom perhaps?