Whatever Alix Perez does, he does well.
His seminal debut album 1984 is frequently hailed as one of the finest drum & bass records from the past decade and virtually everything he’s touched since then has received similar levels of acclaim.
Last year’s Recall & Reflect EP marked something of a musical resurgence following a relatively quiet period on the back of his sophomore album, Chroma Chords. It was an EP that signalled a nod back to his original sound and one that once again demonstrated that he’s one of the best in the business when it comes to thought-provoking, soulful drum & bass.
Since then, he’s been busier than ever in the studio, preparing a hoard of releases to drop on us over the course of 2016 – the first of which was a mouth-watering collaboration with Ivy Lab; a mesmeric EP which dropped on Friday, featuring an even split of soulful drum & bass and gritty halftime.
We caught up with Alix to talk about that EP, the state of drum & bass, what he’s got in store for the year ahead and more.
No comment will ever deter me from making the music I want to make and won’t stop me developing as an artist.
It seems like you’ve been very busy in the studio lately – is that the case today?
Sadly not… I’ve just been doing admin stuff today. Not the most exciting part of being a producer but very important. I’ve got kickboxing in a bit, which is fun until you get your ribs broken, but that’s part of the whole thing I guess. I’ll be back in the studio tomorrow – probably very sore, I imagine.
Ouch… Let’s get to the music. How did the Ivy Lab collab come about for the Arkestra EP?
I’ve worked with Sabre and Stray individually in the past so we’ve always been friends. We’re all making the same kind of music at the moment with our halftime stuff and soulful liquid so it was a natural collaboration. We’ve all got different elements which we brought together as a collaborative project for the EP. We didn’t really plan to make an EP, we just got in the studio and ideas started to come about really quickly and before we knew it we had a release ready to go.
What was the aim of the EP?
We wanted it to reach out to more than just drum & bass fans; something that could touch a lot of different corners in the music scene. We’ve already had very good feedback from people like DJ Craze which has been really encouraging.
You’ve been around for the best part of a decade now – do you still get nervous before new releases?
Yeah it’s always a bit nerve-wracking just before releasing new music no matter how experienced you are, but I never pay too much attention to what people say on the internet.
You’ve experimented quite a bit with your sound over the years and people sometimes criticise that. Do those comments irritate you?
I do get annoyed sometimes when people don’t give other sounds a chance. Drum & bass fans can sometimes be a little bit elitist which can be quite frustrating as a producer who likes to try other things. I wish people would be a bit more open-minded at times, but I guess those comments are always going to be made by certain people.
And do those comments ever make you consider what you produce?
Absolutely not. No comment will ever deter me from making the music I want to make and won’t stop me developing as an artist. Anyway, it’s not like I’ve deserted drum & bass altogether, not at all. On the EP, for example, there are a handful of very soulful drum & bass tracks. Some people may not get the whole halftime thing but I think it’s a very refreshing sound and I’m going to carry on experimenting with it. It’s healthy for the genre; a genre which can sometimes get a little bit stale.
So you think variation is key to being a good producer?
Definitely. It’s healthy for both producers and the genre as a whole. I can’t just do liquid rollers forever otherwise I’d go insane. Repeating things is cool in moderation but it’s always good to experiment. Some producers might be fine with rehashing things but I like to expand on my production techniques and my approach to making music. Making new styles is really important to me.
Some people – including Friction – have recently commented that there isn’t enough musicality in drum & bass these days. Would you agree with this statement?
Yeah, I think it’s a real issue within drum & bass to be honest. I will gladly play a song that has less sonic credibility that has more vibe than one that is sonically very impressive but lacks feel. There’s a complete mix-down war going on at the moment; it’s all about loudness, which is distracting producers away from remembering how to write engaging music. I think a lot of music is sounding quite similar too, but I guess that happens in a lot of genres these days. Obviously I care about mix-downs but I’m not going to base a track around it, it’s always about the vibe for me. Music can be dark but still have emotion. That’s lacking at the moment.
And why do you think is this?
The increasing levels of competition in the music industry and the increase in how easy it is to make music from scratch is mainly to blame, I think. Being able to watch a couple of videos and download a piece of software has made making music so accessible for anyone who wants to have a go at it. That’s a great thing in one sense, but it does mean there’s a massive amount of music being made all the time. Music is also very disposable these days; people don’t tend to listen to an album the whole way through, they’ll just listen to random tracks when they like.
You seemed to have a bit of a break after Chroma Chords – why was that?
An album can take a lot out of you as a producer because there’s so much creativity and concentration involved. I find that writing an album is quite a stressful process because I’ve got such a perfectionist approach and I’m never really happy with anything. Everything has to make sense in an album and Chroma Chords took a lot out of me, so I took some time out to reflect on where I wanted to go next after it was released.
You seem to be fully reinvigorated now, though?
Yeah definitely, I’m feeling really creative at the moment. I can’t disclose exactly what I’ve got coming but it’s very exciting. You can expect a lot of music coming to the middle of this year. Recall and Reflect was a nod back to my older sound and there will be more of that stuff coming this year, and also some music with Eprom as Shades. A large array of music, basically.
Speaking of which – how did the Shades project come about?
Eprom and I met at Northern Bass around two years ago. We were both playing there and clicked in a general sense and musically. We were, and still are, very much so on the same wavelength when it comes to music. We met in L.A and did some sessions with Foreign Beggars and it kind of went from there.
Some producers who started out at a similar time to you seem to have opted for the mainstream route and now feature quite a lot on radio – did this route ever appeal to you?
No, it never has and it never will. I’m quite content where I am. I’m more about integrity and making good music than making tons of money. I don’t think large amounts of money would make me as happy as looking back at my career and feeling proud of what I’ve achieved, all the while doing it by making honest music. That’s a lot more rewarding. I could go down the money route but it’s not really me and that would translate in the music.
Did you envisage this journey you’ve had when you released 1984? And can we expect a third album any time soon?
I had hopes but never thought I’d come this far. That album was really well received and people still talk about it now which is pretty mad. It goes to show that music made with integrity and honesty has longevity. There will be a third album in the future but not immediately. But, as I’ve said, there is a lot of music to come from me this year.
You said that you’d written “one of your favourite tunes in a good while” on Twitter January 22. Can you reveal a bit more about it?
It’s a very emotional, soulful piece of music which resonated with me instantly. There are quite a few like that in the pipeline which will hopefully please a lot of people.
And finally, do you still see yourself as a Shogun artist?
Probably not anymore. It’s nothing personal, I’ve had a great relationship with them over the years and I think I’ve done a few good things for them too. After being signed for two albums I decided it was time to be free with what I release. I just felt it was time to try some new things, and to be able to do that I think it’s best to have free rein on what I release.