Alix Perez has been referred to as one of the biggest and best drum & bass producers since his first string of releases in 2005 and 2006. He quickly rose from the smaller drum & bass labels to the inimitable Shogun Audio with his full-length releases 1984 in 2009 and Chroma Chords last year. Now, Perez moves to Exit Records with his latest EP, U.
Though he is firmly established in the drum & bass scene, Perez is not a purist — much of what he produces strays from the traditional drum & bass mold. Chroma Chords features an emotive musicality absent from much of the mainstream drum & bass landscape that seems to favor a heavy and hollow repetition. On U, Perez dabbles in footwork with a collaboration with DJ Spinn and the late DJ Rashad. It’s a refreshing take on where drum & bass can go when outside influences seep in.
The proof is in Perez’s varied musical interests: before moving to the UK and discovering jungle, Perez was a young skateboarding teen in France and Belgium listening to French hip hop. US hip hop proved influential as well, with DJ Premier and J Dilla’s beats laying a foundation for Perez’s own work later on. His parents’ funk and soul, too, opened Perez’s ears to rhythm and melody.
Still, drum & bass is where his primary interests lie – thanks to his mom’s Metalheadz catalog. And so, it’s only fitting that the home for his Boston debut this Thursday will be Elements at the Phoenix Landing.
I got in touch with Perez and asked him a few questions about his influences, his recent releases, and his thoughts on the current drum & bass environment. To accompany the interview is his 2013 Essential Mix as this week’s DJ Set of the Week. The mix explores drum & bass and beyond — dubstep, house, glitch hop, and hip hop are all in there, too. Released at about the same time as Chroma Chords, the mix serves as a glimpse into Perez’s eclectic taste and the various kinds of music that influenced the album.
How would you describe your sound? What do you think sets you apart from other drum & bass producers?
I’d say I’ve been massively influenced by hip hop, whether it’s golden era or more recently instrumental and electronic. From the art of sampling by producers such as Premier and Dilla to all the early LA beat scene stuff and late 80′s electro – boogie stuff. I rely heavily on hardware when it comes to producing, precisely synthesisers, which I believe definitely has shaped my own touch and sound over the years.
Your music pulls from a variety of genres in addition to drum & bass, so you must have a wide range of influences and musical interests. What kinds of music other than drum & bass are you into?
A very wide array of music, ranging from the likes of Prince, Erik B & Rakim, Fugazi, Aphex Twin, Jeff Mills, Vangelis and so on. These are just a few I can think of right now.
Can you name some specific songs that have influenced you?
Fela Kuti – No Water No Get Enemy
J Dilla – Ruff Draft
Group Home – Supa Star
Adam F – Metropolis
Jay Dee – Plastic Dreams
Photek – Solaris
Vanity 6 – Nasty Girl
…and a million more which I can’t think of off the top of my head.
You’ve been producing for some time – almost a decade, correct? How have you seen drum & bass evolve in that time?
I’d say so yea, roughly. Probably quite a bit longer actually. Like any genre that has been around, it goes in cycles. When I say this, it always goes back to it’s roots but in different ways with different influences. Right now for me it is a very exciting and interesting time around our tempo. There’s lots of influences, some things are slowing down, and more importantly there’s a blur between genre / sub genres. DJing is a lot of fun because I can bring all sorts of different vibes and moods to my set. From halving the tempo and playing electronic hip hop influenced beats to juke / footwork and jungle influences. There’s room for much more and I find audiences are a lot more indulgent than before.
How has your own sound evolved since you began producing?
Looking back at part of my discography there’s definitely a shift in style and sound but I believe it’s been all quite natural and progressive. I’ve always produced at different tempos and styles to remain sane and challenged as a producer which I think has gradually influenced my own work.
How would you characterize your two full-length releases on Shogun, 1984 and Chroma Chords? What was your goal with each of the albums? How are they different?
My goal with both was to make an album rather than a collection of tracks or DJ tools. I wanted to write a story and have a shift in moods and feelings throughout, with depth. I think they are both snapshots of my standpoints as a producer at the time. 1984 is primarily drum and bass orientated whereas Chroma Chords is more experimental in terms of fusion within the tempo I usually work at.
What inspired you to make the transition from Shogun to Exit Records with your recent EP?
Exit records is a label I’ve always followed closely over the years. I found they always focused on pushing new sounds and exploring untouched avenues in music. It was always an intention of mine to put something out with those guys and I guess it was kind of a natural move for me to do so at this point in time.
The EP features several collaborations, notably with the late DJ Rashad, and you’ve collaborated with quite a lot of artists throughout your career. Who would you like to work with next?
The list is quite extensive. Right now, off the top of my head. Bjork, The Underachievers, Kaytranada.
How is the drum & bass scene in the US compared to where you live now in London?
I’ve only just acquired my visa earlier this year so it’s all very new to me but I’ve found people are very on point and educated. It seems people have followed my music from older to newer stuff and have been very positive and responsive at his thus far. It’s been great and I’m looking forward to coming back a lot more in future.
Your 2013 Essential Mix is featured as this week’s DJ Set of the Week. Can you talk about what you included in the mix and why?
The mix was primarily based on my current standing on music but also a reflection of the past and the middle. I spent a lot of time on this mix and pushed myself to be able to incorporate it all which as you can imagine is quite difficult in 2 hours. It really was an honour to be able to do such a thing. It consists of productions and producers which I think are really pushing things forward right now, influenced me in the past and so on. It’s a very eclectic mix with coherence. At least that was my goal.
What can we expect from your set at Elements on Thursday?
Lots of new music from myself and producers which I really feel at the moment, with some classics thrown in the mix. A snapshot of future avenues in our sound basically.