Perko – Incorporating Copenhagen soundscapes into introspective techno tunes (interview)

February 21 2020, af Alexander Julin

Interview by Alexander Julin Mortensen, photo by Matthew McArthur Williams

The Scottish, Copenhagen-based producer Perko debuted back in 2018 with the release “NV Auto” on likewise Scottish label Numbers (Lanark Artefax, Peder Mannerfelt, Randomer, etc.). On February 7th, Perko returned with his sophomore release, the 8 track-long “The City Rings”. While the release, according to Perko himself, may be characterised by more smooth sounds than his debut, “The City Rings” still demonstrates his skills and taste for sharp sound textures as well as his abilities to fuse energetic club elements with a dark, even “introspective” mood, as he also puts it himself. Compared to “NV Auto”, “The City Rings” may present smoother sounds at numerous points. Yet, in general, the release still exhibits a cold – and intriguing – sonic sharpness.

“The City Rings” also shows Perko incorporating various soundscapes from Copenhagen into his electronic compositions, while the track “Grounds” consists of a collaborative exchange of field recordings with Australian producer and DJ Lia T. The release thus encapsules and embraces the fact that (interesting) music is never merely created in an isolated studio, but is often the manifestation of the given musicians’ place in, and inspiration from, a broader environment – for instance socially, politically or ‘just’ aesthetically, by focusing on and applying the sounds of their specific everyday lives. On “The City Rings” Perko seems to acknowledge and draw upon the implicit assumption that we do indeed live in a world of sound – a world of music, that can also be modelled and used in other auditive contexts. I’ve therefore interviewed Perko about his use of field recordings, his other thoughts behind “The City Rings”, and his practice in general.

P/A: Have you tried to achieve something sonically different on “The City Rings” as opposed to your former EP? If so, what?

Perko: “I guess this record is a further exploration of the themes and ideas explored in “NV Auto”. The last EP has quite a light, airy feeling whereas this is a bit darker and denser. This wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision but it’s nice to have this contrasting mood between the two releases. This one also feels “sharp”, whereas when I think of “NV Auto” the sounds and timbres are quite “rounded” and smooth.”

P/A: ”The City Rings” starts and ends with, respectively, an intro and an outro. Was it important for you to create a record, which somehow worked as a coherent whole, rather than merely a collection of songs?

Perko: “As much as I love dance 12s, I think there’s a good opportunity now to create longer, more considered records. This is especially important in an age of curated streaming playlists which remove all sense of place and narrative from albums. Even though it’s a relatively short listen, I hope I’ve been able to create something cohesive, which is an engaging listening experience. The “Intro” and “Outro” act as bookends for the record. They help bring out the themes of the music, and put focus on particular elements within the songs.”

P/A: Tell me about your collaboration with Lia T: How did the idea behind the collaboration on “Grounds” come about?

Perko: “There was no real idea behind this track. It just came about, which is often the best way for these things to happen. Lia was living in Copenhagen at the time, and we were talking a lot about field recordings. We were both making a lot of recordings on our phones and sent them back and forth.

The bulk of the song is made from unused synth recordings made in Glasgow 2016 – 2017, which I recovered and resampled. Then Lia sent me some recordings and extra synth productions which worked perfectly underneath. It came together really quickly and easily. I am super happy to have her on the record. Collaborations are something I’m trying to do more of in the future.”

P/A: Do you think in terms of emotions or atmospheres when composing? If so, which emotions and/or atmospheres have you tried to create on “The City Rings”?

Perko: “When composing I usually start with some small textures or sounds, so emotion isn’t something I consciously think about from the get go. How I’m feeling definitely comes out but I’m never sitting down like ‘Ok, I’m sad about this thing, let’s make something moody.” My composition process is fairly long and laborious so the emotions and atmospheres playing out tend to be things I’ve felt over a longer period of time, rather than day-to-day experiences. 

This record feels pretty dark and introspective though, so I’ve probably been bummed about something.”

P/A: When did you get the idea for “The City Rings”? Did the final outcome in any sense end up different than you had expected it to?

Perko: “The name comes from a quote from a book called “Sonic Experience: A Guide to Everyday Sounds”, which I borrowed from Emma (Solid Blake). I’d had the name and quote noted down a long time before I started any of the music, but about 75% of the way through making the record it clicked that this was perhaps a good summation of the ideas and themes I was exploring.

It also happens to be the name of the new Metro line in Copenhagen. Total coincidence.

I usually let the music dictate the direction things are going when deciding on a final tracklist, so I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted it to turn out once the bulk of the songs were finished. The “Intro” and “Outro” were the last things recorded.“

P/A: Could you explicate which aspects of Copenhagen that inspired you to do this release? Did any specific sounds/noises or locations inspire you in particular?

Perko: “I’m more inspired by cities and spaces in general, but some spots I really like in Copenhagen, and recordings of which made it onto the record are my garden in Christianshavn, Heimdalsgade (just outside the old Percy Records store), Refshaleøen (down by the water), Utterslev Mose and Stadsgraven.

I appreciate how many quiet, green spaces there are here, so easily accessible in the city. You can be on a busy street and have a secluded spot right nearby.”

P/A: How has Scotland – musically as well as in a more general sense – had an impact on your sound or your approach to composing? How does it manifest on “The City Rings”?

Perko: “I spent my formative musical years in Scotland, so it has left its mark, however this is slightly hard to pin down. Glasgow is similar to Copenhagen in that they are both relatively small cities with compact creative communities, so you end up with a lot of crossover, and are exposed to many different styles of music. This has led to me drawing from lots of different things when composing, and developing my “sound”. Parties and labels there like Concrete Cabin, FWDK, 12th Isle and All Caps were instrumental in this.

I think it was Hudson Mohawke who said Scotland has so many good producers because the weather is shit, and there’s not much else to do but stay inside and make music. The same could probably be said of Copenhagen.”

P/A: Which other artists have inspired you, both in general and specifically on your latest work?

Perko: “Hard to say specifically about this latest work, but in general some artists, labels and other things I’m inspired by are Parris, Young Echo, Mother, uon. Exael, Gigsta, Bake, Concrete Cabin, Klaus, ANA, Low Company, Mark, Tobias Kirstein, Sofie Birch, Felix K, Oceanic, Peter Cusack, Jacob Kirkegaard, Acting Press, Ossia, SUED, Sports & Central, Lil Mofo, Sähkö, Graham Lambkin, Quasimoto, Jon K, Porn Sword Tobacco and DJ Stamina’s Rave Tapes archive.

Parris, Klaus and Quasimoto especially have been pivotal in shaping the way I think about sound.”

Info: “The City Rings” was released on Numbers on the 7th of February.