PERC06

How would you describe the theme of The Power And The Glory?

Compared with Wicker & Steel, which could be described in a sentence, it’s a lot harder to sum up. The Power And The Glory was originally going to be quite critical of organised religion and I was doing sneaky field recordings in churches and things like that. It was going to be choral sounds, organs, preacher samples, things like that, but it just didn’t really work. I think it maybe could be done quite nicely by someone but maybe not me. That got scrapped and the title stayed. The concept of it now, it’s weird – I don’t want to sound like some sort of new-age self-help book, but it’s about the power within and how you can’t read someone on first meeting.

People have so much potential if you bring it out of them. I watched the original of Carrie before I started. Obviously she’s bullied and very quiet and then this explosion of power and destruction comes out of her. That’s something that I tapped into. When you’re DJing and travelling you have a meal before the gig and people say, ‘Oh, you didn’t say much at the meal. You’re so quiet.’ One promoter said, ‘You’re like a politican, you’re so polite.’ Then they’re at the bar having a drink and I start playing and it’s like this wall of sound. ‘Wow, OK, where did this come from?’

I don’t want to sound like some sort of new-age self-help book, but it’s about the power within.

xPERC08The most literal example of that is on ‘Dumpster’, where it has this bit at the start of someone hanging out, you can hear the wind, they’re sort of whistling, then suddenly out of nowhere it just kicks in. That’s kind of how I feel backstage at a gig. I’m not full of ego, I’m not saying, ‘Wait till I start, I’m gonna blow you away.’ I never talk shit like that. I’ll do my best and let’s see how it goes.

It’s very personal.

Yeah, I think albums have to be personal. EPs not so much. When people do an album and they just randomly choose some word from science fiction or technology and it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s an album about the future,’ and that’s it… there’s nothing there, it’s just hollow. They can still be great albums musically, you don’t have to have a strong concept, but hopefully one of the things that was successful about Wicker & Steel was the artwork, the concept, the tracks, the whole thing.

How directly is your music an expression of your motivation for making it? Is there a direct link or is it just that it’s you making the music and therefore it’s inextricably linked to your personal politics?

In the past… There was no political element to Wicker & Steel. It was quite personal, maybe slightly referencing being brought up in the countryside, moving to the city, university, working life, quitting my job. I’m not Mystic Meg or something. I didn’t see the London riots coming and write a soundtrack to something that hadn’t happened yet. That was a very strange bit of journalism. It’s nice to have the Guardian writing about you, so I was slightly flattered by it, but it was slightly strange.

The new album is a little bit more political. ‘David & George’ is obviously a reference to our beloved leaders. ‘A Living End’ is touching on a few issues – not lyrically of course – about the right to die and assisted suicide. I read these court cases about people that want to die and their families want to help them. It’s not something that’s affected me or my family, thankfully, but it kind of taps into something for me. If you’re ill and you’re ready to go you should be able to make a conscious decision, not live until you’re in intense pain.

There was no political element to Wicker & Steel... I’m not Mystic Meg or something. I didn’t see the London riots coming.

Some other journalist mentioned the Mark Duggan inquest. The verdict was announced the week the album went out to journalists. ‘Oh, did you time it for the Mark Duggan inquest?’ No, of course I didn’t! I don’t look into what’s going to happen in the courts in a year’s time. It’s just ridiculous. They try to make it out that the first album’s about the riots and this one’s about the inquest but it’s just coincidence.

It’s like people really want that to be true. It must be slightly bemusing.

Yeah, it’s strange. Every single day of the week there’s a court case or police brutality or a corruption case. Every day you could tie it in with something.

Does it feel like you’re out of control? Like, here’s Perc, the techno producer who makes tracks about news and current events. And you’re…

Yeah, it’s weird! It’s not me at all! I understand that journalists have to have an angle for the first paragraph of their article, not just, ‘Here’s ten tracks of techno from some guy in London’. I kind of find it interesting. The riot connection was bizarre. I wasn’t involved in them, obviously, but if you could somehow do a poll or survey of what people were listening to I’d be surprised if it was this kind of techno.

It’s really trying to force a sort of zeitgeist theory onto it. Do you think that kind of analysis of techno music works? Is it something that you read?

I find the connections people make interesting. There’s a track I made for Stroboscopic Artefacts a while ago called ‘Paris’, this downtempo thing, and the reason for the title was just that I started it in Paris when I was there for a couple of days. Not my most inspired title. But the write-ups for that were talking about how it evokes a midnight walk in Paris and the dark underbelly of the city’s social life. It’s just like no no no, it’s not.

I hate to see producers and artists go on comment threads to try and correct a reviewer, though. I prefer to leave it a bit more ambiguous, unless it was connected to something I find morally dubious or something. Artists and producers replying directly to reviewers and maybe attacking them personally is something I’m seeing more and more of, and I find it pretty cringeworthy.

Author Greg Scarth. Photos: Jerome Slesinski
21st February, 2014

Comments

  • Seems a decent down to earth fellow. Nothing worse than people putting words into your mouth so it’s nice to hear his own thoughts on the “political motivation” (or lack thereof) behind his work.

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  • Good interview. There’s an interesting postmodernist debate to be had around the idea of authorial intent in auteur techno. Ali seems incredibly gracious in allowing people to project their own meaning onto his work. I think I’d be a bit more frustrated by that kind of pseudo-intellectual stuff being written about me. Analysis of techno (and other music) is great but there’s a big difference between drawing parallels and making connections as opposed to making definitive statements about artists’ intentions. The Duggan anecdote he tells above is hilarious. Talk about clutching at straws to try and force a social narrative onto the timing of a promo!

    The Power & the Glory is excellent. Really enjoying Ali’s work and most of the Perctrax output over the last couple of years.

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  • I love this. The guy’s making some of the darkest, most brutal, face-pummelling techno around. What’s his studio? A table at the end of his bed with a £5 Casio keyboard, a couple of Monotrons and a fuzzbox. Oh, and a copy of the rough guide to techno. Love it.

    He comes across as a really good bloke too. I haven’t checked the new album out yet but I’m off to give it a spin now.

    Thanks

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  • Politics, music and personal world. The real parts of an artist. Thanks for the interview!

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  • Sounds like a sound bloke – who makes great sounds . Sound! anyway I always thought techno music is kind of ambiguous like make of it what you will which I suppose is part of it’s appeal to me. Good work Perc

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