The last two years have been a creative whirlwind for Alix Perez: as a producer, as a designer, as a label boss. As a human being.
After a few years in the post-Chroma Chords wilderness – a period during which he departed from Shogun Audio and redefined his vision and rediscovered his place in the bass game via two landmark EPs on Exit – the launch of his new label 1985 has revolutionised how he works and how he translates his inspirations.
Whether it’s his own self-designed clothing range, the artists he’s helping to bring through such as Monty or Deft, his obscene low end creativity with Eprom as Shades or the fact he’s still one of the most crucial latter day roller craftsmen, everything Alix Perez does, he does with detail and, since going fully independent, very much on his own terms.
Everything is considered and has a reason: it’s clear Alix had developed the vision and image of the label long before he set it up. The look, the vibe and the music policy of what he’s doing now are so strong they’re almost tangible. And it’s clearly resonating; 1985 won Best Newcomer Label at this year’s Drum&BassArena Awards.
This week there’s plenty more to resonate us as this week sees the release of Edition One. The label’s first V/A album, it boasts a rollcall of some of the sharpest minds in bass music: Halogenix, Fracture, Tsruda, Compa, Chimpo, Skeptical and Ivy Lab’s Sabre… With his first solo drum & bass tune in over five years. It also features a whole stack of Perez cuts and collaborations such as the immaculate, purring roller Dark Star and the rubberband funk stepper Acropolis.
Sonically it’s resolutely clear he’s in a good place right now. Talking to him you get the same vibe, too. As we wrap up one year, he’s already staring down the barrel of a new one and has plenty more inspirations to translate. Get to know…
These last two years for you have been a whole new chapter…
It feels like it, yeah. I’ve experimented with different things over the years but having the label has definitely brought it all together. To have complete control over the music and all the design side of everything. It’s a big creative outlet I can put all my focus into and really enjoy it.
The design side is a whole new side we’re seeing to you
Definitely. It’s been great to explore that. I studied graphic design but never used it in the last 10 years. With the label it made sense to re-touch on my skills. I’ve got a particular vision for the imagery, very minimal but efficient. ‘Less is more’ is the ethos. Behind the design and the label in general. I’ve always been inspired by clothes and have collected trainers for years and skated for a long time. The marriage between music and fashion is prominent for me so 1985 is a chance to bring lots of things I love together and make it coherent musically and visually. It’s to my own tastes; I’m putting out what I’m into.
Do you think you’d have become a designer or work in fashion if you didn’t get into music?
I’ve wondered about that. I was always going to work in a creative industry of some sorts. I studied art and graf’d a little when I was younger so maybe. But I’ve always wanted freedom in my job and I think the fashion or design worlds may have been too corporate for me.
Do you get torn between creative roles now? Are there days when you want to do everything but don’t know which one?
Everything’s on the laptop so I can either load up Ableton or Illustrator or Photoshop. That’s really handy on the road because it’s creatively exhausting when you’re touring. Switching between the two refreshes your perspective.
And beats creative blocks
I try and push through the blocks. Sometimes it works, sometimes it becomes more frustrating. I’ve never found a way of getting around it. Collaborating helps, too. Getting that new perspective pushes you forward and inspires you in a different way.
And finding new artists for the label. That’s a new skill in itself, right? You’re building a crew…
A lot of my friends whose music I really love are signed to other labels so it’s been an interesting challenge to find people and work with people without stepping on any of my friends who run label’s toes. I’m happy for that to take time. I’m very specific about what I want to release so if I haven’t found quite the right record then we’ll wait until we do. I never want the label to be about numbers and just throwing them out. I want every single release to be something special to look back on.
Not flinging out bangers. Music to play for years to come!
Yeah longevity is everything. That’s what I’ve done through my whole career. I’ve never blown up, it’s been a steady climb of establishing myself and having quality over quantity.
There’s been a few big explosions. 1984 was a big elevation, for example…
Yeah a debut album is a moment for any artist. I had a bit of momentum that year before, which put me on the map. That set people up for the album. It’s very gratifying that people still talk to me about it now and it still holds that weight for people. And yeah, it did have an elevation. I look back on it fondly – at points I loved it, at others I hated it. It was very emotional and it was extra special because it was Shogun’s first album as well so we were all moving forward and learning as we went.
You know there was a point when I was worried you weren’t going to make drum & bass for a while. Maybe halftime realigned the context of drum & bass for you?
Yeah after my second album I felt a bit lost with drum & bass. I didn’t feel the need to make it and I wanted to experiment as an artist and do other things. My Recall & Reflect EP on Exit was a changing point for me. I was touching base with my past and moving forward. It all clicked, and writing for Darren was creative freedom. It was an honest record. I didn’t feel pressure to please anyone, I was just writing something I wanted to write.
And with the halftime sound, I feel people are opening up a bit. It’s not for everyone but more recently people are a bit more open minded. Subgenres have come and gone in drum & bass but it’s a part of the genre now and it’s been exciting see how rave and jungle elements have been incorporated into it in a new way. Hip-hop and bass music and beats have all come into the movement and I’m happy I’ve been part of it.
It’s reminiscent of the autonomic era. New ears from other genres coming in with new ideas…
It’s great, yeah, people coming from other genres and applying themselves. You inevitably get fresh ideas and new takes. It’s very exciting.
In our last interview with you, you discussed the lack of open mindedness in drum & bass. It feels more open now, right?
Yeah there’s definitely a move in this direction, or 1985 wouldn’t have picked up the recognition it has I guess. On the other side, people are always going to be elitist. And I do get that. People get into an artist for a certain thing and they always want that forever. But artists change, experimentation is good. With the label, for example, we did the Eprom release and it’s gone down really well. It’s far away from the minimal rolling stuff we’ve put out but that’s what the label is about – pushing new things out there.
Eprom’s the man. How did you hook up? He seems like a close ally of yours. A kindred spirit
Definitely. We’ve become close through touring and making music together. It came about through writing for Foreign Beggars and we were out in LA and he flew in a did a couple of tracks. Me and him had some ideas left over and we combined them and the first record came together. It was very natural. We work well together.
Let’s talk about Edition One
We wanted to end the year with our first big project. I’m very happy with the outcome. It encapsulates the sound we’ve got and the people we’re working with and what we’re all about. It’s a snapshot of what’s to come.
It’s a statement – it reps everything you do and all affiliates old and new. Did it come together easily?
Orchestrating so many artists and getting the masters ready and timing it all was something I’d never experienced before but I enjoyed the process. I basically just hit up people, told them I was doing the project and asked them if they would like to be involved. Some had tunes there and then, others took a while because they had other things going on. It was very natural. I believe in people making records and knowing what they’re capable of. And when friends send me tracks or I get demos it’s either a yes or no. I don’t seek to change their music, it’s their music. It either fits the label or it doesn’t.
No heavy 1985 A&R process then?
I don’t feel right telling someone to change a melody or the vibe of a tune. It’s their work at the end of the day. If it doesn’t fit the label it might fit somewhere else. That’s not for me to prevent that.
You must have stuff lined up for 2018?
The next release will be Monty. He’s going to start the year for us.
Can I interject and say Monty is smashing it?
He is. He’s great and a lovely guy. We’re working closely with him but we’re not an exclusive thing. I think exclusivity and ownership doesn’t work. I’ve had deals and I’m much more comfortable with the idea of working closely with people than keeping them exclusively and not letting them develop in the way they want to. We’re happy to have Monty on board and he’s happy to be on the label, he’s got his own sound and style. So yeah, he’s got the next release, then I’ll do a few more records. Eprom and I have also just about finished our debut Shades album, so we nee to decide on plans for that next year.
You seem in a really happy creative space right now. Perhaps more than ever?
I think so. As you grow you become more confident about yourself. When you’re younger there’s more insecurity and I think things have become more solidified and are coming together. The label is 100% mine and I can concentrate on that and have total freedom. It’s a good feeling. And now we’re also doing some events around Europe. We did the launch earlier this month and it was amazing. So that will also be a focus next year; having our core 1985 artists, inviting people we look up to and another way to bring everything that inspires me together.