When you approach a track with the intention of making a re-edit, you’ve got to find the perfect balance between making it your own and diverging too far from the original vibe. For some it can be a case of being overwhelmed by options, hindering their ability to find any kind of direction, whilst others go in too set on one idea, only to realise it doesn’t work for the track, already hours in to the process.
Placed “at the top table with regards to the current re-edits scene,” by DJ Greg Wilson, reconstructing records comes naturally to Wolverhampton’s own Lee Perry. Since returning to music under his ‘Peza’ pseudonym, he’s seen his tracks supported by everyone from Andrew Weatherall to Horse Meat Disco, Craig Bratley to Ewan Pearson.
Approaching a re-edit, the options immediately become apparent to Lee and he’s able to quickly make it his own whilst managing to retain enough of the groove to be true to the original. This decisive yet respectful approach has led to Peza becoming a central part of Greg Wilson’s Super Weird Substance label as it expands into releasing original music throughout the summer months and he’s been an integral asset in the creative process.
As the first of the label’s eight summer releases begin to drop, we caught up with the man himself.
YOU KNOW WHAT, IT’S ALWAYS BEEN A DREAM OF MINE TO INTERVIEW LEE PERRY, ALTHOUGH I’M NOT SURE THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I HAD IN MIND… WERE YOUR PARENTS REALLY IN TO THE UPSETTER OR WAS IT PURE COINCIDENCE?
Haha! Pure coincidence mate… But when I was growing up I had two older brothers and three sisters and my eldest brother was massively into his reggae so I always used to nip downstairs and nick all his records. I noticed on some of the records the initials, L. Perry, I think perhaps that sparked off a little bit of interest in music and vinyl - it’s always stuck with me ever since.
WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP THERE WAS LOTS OF MUSIC COMING FROM ALL DIRECTIONS IN YOUR LIFE BUT THE LIKES OF JEAN MICHEL JARRE, TUBEWAY ARMY AND ULTRAVOX PARTICULARLY RESONATED. WHAT WAS IT ABOUT SYNTHESIZERS THAT APPEALED TO YOU SO MUCH?
I dunno… I think that album in particular (Replicas) - again, my older brother had a big influence on me, he brought that back and from the moment I heard that I thought ‘this is what I want to do!’
I’m a big sci-fi fan as well you see, and I like anything to do with space and it sounded like it had been beamed in from the future - I just found it captivating and even to this day I get tingles every time I play the album. And the Jean Michel Jarre thing as well - perhaps before Replicas - I was just fascinated by the whole thing. When I saw pictures or videos of them playing these monstrous big Moog modular systems - it was like sorcery to me. It stuck with me and I’m really grateful it did.
WHAT WAS YOUR INTENTION WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED MAKING MUSIC?
I think it was that feeling of escapism really. With that sci-fi thing, being transported to a different place when you hear different sounds and music. Trying to get involved in that and having that kind of power, where you can transport yourself or other people through the medium of music - that was the most appealing thing for me really.
Whenever you listen to music - whether it be dub reggae, or whether it be synth-based stuff or even classical - it transports you to a different time and place and it’s different for everybody.
THE WEST-MIDLANDS PERHAPS ISN’T THE FIRST PLACE YOU’D THINK OF IN REGARDS TO UK DANCE CULTURE BUT WAS THERE MUCH OF A SCENE THERE WHEN YOU STARTED OUT IN THE NINETIES?
Massive scene! The main place really was a club called Cleo’s - that’s where I had my first taste of proper dance music as it were. The club’s still legendary now, you speak to anyone from Wolverhampton of my age and if they remember Cleo’s it’s always with a huge fondness. It was an amazing place; a proper underground vibe to the club - it was ground breaking for the people of Wolves.
DID YOU THROW MANY OF YOUR OWN PARTIES?
Not really at that time as such - I was more interested in going to the parties! The Cleo’s thing, that really catalysed me wanting to make dance music more than anything else. At that time I was in a band with a few mates of mine called Gravity Wheel - it was a sort of amalgamation of dance music with live guitars and drums.
So our sort of ‘throwing parties’ was actually going out and gigging. We were more of a live band than a recording band. We had such a laugh doing it, it was fantastic and it was a great foundation for where I am now really. We used to get quite a decent following - people who used to go to Cleo’s. So that was our party culture really.
THIS LIVE SHOW YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT - IS IT THE SAME ONE YOU SUPPORTED THE LIKES OF APHEX TWIN AND 808 STATE WITH?
Yeah that’s the one. We went over to Istanbul - fantastic weekend! I think it was the first dance music party thrown in Istanbul. We flew out there and got to meet Richard James (Aphex Twin) - he’s an absolute hero of mine, I’ve always loved his stuff, he’s such a maverick really. So to sit and have a chat with him and watch what he was doing on the stage was just a dream come true.
It was brilliant. We played our set, we played in the afternoon and we felt like rock stars. At the end of our set - there was a swimming pool to the left of the stage - and we all kind of looked at each other and thought “well this is a once in a lifetime thing” so we finished our set, ran off the stage and jumped into this swimming pool haha. Then we had paparazzi taking pictures and stuff, it was just fantastic, really, really good fun.
SOUNDS IT. BACK THEN YOU ALSO HAD A SLEW OF RELEASES THROUGH OUTLETS INCLUDING EMI’S INFLUENTIAL DANCE MUSIC SUB-LABEL POSITIVA. WHAT MADE YOU TAKE A STEP AWAY FROM MUSIC?
Well, I think it had come to a point - with the Istanbul gig and the way things had gone - it had burned itself out a little bit and at the time, Katherine and I, my wife, we were thinking about buying a house and settling down - and it was the right time to do that. So that’s what we did, we got ourselves settled and comfortable and had our two beautiful kids. But as they’ve got older this nagging feeling has started coming back.
I’ve always been involved in music, even through that time I was doing bits and bobs, producing for other people and that kind of thing and as the kids have got older I started acquiring a few more bits of equipment and got to setting the studio out the way I want it. That nagging feeling came back to me really I just thought it was time to give it another go. And that was that, I started back up again.
YOU CAME BACK WITH A BANG IN 2012 WITH TWO DISTINCTIVE EDITS; ONE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE’S BEING BOILED AND THE OTHER, GARBAGE’S STUPID GIRL - BOTH MET WITH GREAT SUPPORT FROM SOME HEAVYWEIGHT DJS. DO YOU THINK YOU CHOSE THE RIGHT TIME TO RETURN?
I think it was the perfect time for me - it was like I said with the nagging feeling - and I started looking at the edits scene and thinking, “this is great man!” Some of the stuff I was hearing, it was old tracks that I’ve always loved but with this extra production and it immediately appealed as something I could get in to.
That’s what I did with the 'Stupid Girl' one and I played it for my mate at work Tim - my long-suffering business partner - and it was him who actually suggested I send it to Greg [Wilson] and luckily for me Greg picked up on it. Then, from that point, stuff really started to pick up.
On the back of that, I came in from work one afternoon and I got the idea of doing something with 'Being Boiled', which for me, is one of the best tracks ever made - if I’m gonna do it I’m gonna pick the tracks that I love. So I put that one together and it felt like a winner so I sent it over to Greg and he picked up on it as well. Then the likes of Sean Johnston and Andy Weatherall started playing it, which absolutely blew me away - I was so pleased with that.
Dicky Trisco is another person who’s been instrumental in helping things along for me; he put my first few edits out on Autodiscoteque. Since then we've worked together on a fair few projects and have gigged together once or twice. He's a top man and we have a great side project that’s just starting to bubble along - very excited by it!
LAST YEAR YOU REALLY CEMENTED YOUR PLACE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE RE-EDIT SCENE, WITH YOUR JUNO CHART TOPPING SUBWAY EP AND YOUR FIRST RELEASE THROUGH GREG WILSON’S CULT VINYL IMPRINT, A&R EDITS. IN THE LATTER YOU MASTERFULLY REIMAGINED ONE OF BLACKPOOL MECCA’S UNDERGROUND HITS - WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS DRIVEN THE NEWFOUND INTEREST IN NORTHERN SOUL?
Yeah there’s been quite a few things - there were a couple of films that helped spark it off and you’ve got the likes of Greg playing that kind of stuff in his eclectic sets. It’s just timeless music and it spans generations; you’ve got the older generation that still love it and the kids are picking up on it as well - I think it’s just one of those genres that’s never going to die really. Fads come and go but it’s hardly a fad, it’s a real staple in English culture. The Northern Soul scene was huge and it always will be.
THIS YEAR, AS WELL AS PUTTING OUT ANOTHER RELEASE THROUGH A&R EDITS, YOU’VE ALSO BEEN WORKING EXTENSIVELY WITH GREG WILSON ON HIS SUPER WEIRD SUBSTANCE LABEL. HOW HAS THAT DIFFERED FROM YOUR WORK ON A&R EDITS?
Well I think with the A&R Edits it was more like; sit back and get cracking on the edit, enjoy it and do my own thing with it but with Super Weird Substance it’s been really interesting because it’s working and collaborating with a number of artists, all of whom are bringing something completely different to the table.
Being steered by someone like Greg, his knowledge is just amazing really and I feel very fortunate to be involved in such a project, I think it’s going to be fantastic for everyone involved. So yeah it’s a really exciting time for me and I’m dead excited to see what happens this summer with all the different releases coming out.
WHICH OF THE RELEASES IS YOUR FAVOURITE?
It’s difficult to say… It’s like asking which is your favourite child - you can’t really answer that!
HAHA OKAY, SO WHICH DID YOU ENJOY WORKING ON THE MOST?
Well I loved working on 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' because Kermit’s vocals on that are edgy and they’ve got an element of punk to them and I just loved working on that. But the things that the girls have sung on as well - The Reynolds - I’ve been blown away by their performances on a lot of the tracks.
'The Best Is Yet To Come' is one of the tracks we’ve worked on and I get tingles every time I hear their voices. It’s a testament to them really; they can switch genres and switch styles so easily, which is something that I try to do as much as I can - I love doing the edits, I love doing the new disco stuff but I also love - if I get the chance - to work on some of the more acid, chuggy stuff, I always have a foothold in that.
I don’t like to pigeonhole myself really and I think, going back to the girls, I don’t think you can pigeonhole them. You can throw a style or genre at the girls and they quite happily give it a go, well not just give it a go but pull it off!
So yeah, I’ve got a lot of favourites, there’s another track I’ve done with Kermit; it stemmed from an old ska track - I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard it before - the original track was called 'Seven Letters' and our version is called 'This Is The Last Time'.
The reason I like that so much is because it came together so quickly. Kermit gave me the idea and I wrote my version of the backing track in a day and a half and then Kermit came back with the vocals a few days later. Sometimes those are the best one’s, you know they’re gonna work because they come together so quickly.
YEAH AND THEN YOU RETAIN THAT INITIAL ENERGY THE WHOLE WAY THROUGH THE PROCESS AS WELL.
Yeah exactly, that’s exactly the thing! If you spend too long on something that energy can dissipate quite quickly and the last thing you want to be doing is getting bored with a track. If it ever gets like that for me, I’ll just leave the track alone for a few days and come back to it with fresh ears. It’s the only way to work on stuff really.
AFTER PLAYING THE STONE BOAT AT LAST YEAR’S FESTIVAL No.6, YOU’RE BACK AGAIN THIS YEAR, RETURNING TO THE STONE BOAT, AS WELL AS FEATURING IN THE 12-HOUR SUPER WEIRD HAPPENING ON THE ESTUARY STAGE. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE FESTIVAL TO SOMEONE WHO’S NEVER BEEN?
Well I mean, I’ve been to a few festivals and I love festivals but there’s something special about Festival No.6. It’s a mixture of the setting - which is just amazing, particularly on the Stone Boat stage because you’ve got the backdrop of Snowdonia National Park, which is just breath-taking - the people that are there - I know this is a bit of a cliché - but they’re all there as music lovers and it’s such a great, chilled vibe. Everybody’s so friendly, it’s a real enriching experience Festival No.6, most festivals are but there’s something special about that place.
YOU SIGNED TO THE UNITY AGENCY AT THE END OF LAST YEAR AND HAVE SINCE BEGUN TO DEVLOP A NEW LIVE SHOW. WHERE ELSE HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING RECENTLY?
Well the live show’s still in progress. At the moment it’s sounding pretty dark haha! I’m trying to lighten it up but I kind of like the darkness as well. Basically what I’m trying to do is make five or six loose tracks; skeleton tracks that I can jam live with the equipment I’ve got - so every live show will be different. It’s coming together and I’m really, really enjoying the challenge of putting it together and I know it’s going to be fantastic. It’s where I come from really, live performance.
DJing-wise, I love playing to the crowd. It’s been fairly quiet this year to be honest; I played in Birmingham at Rave Against Racism, which was a great gig and a great cause, I’ve got a gig coming up with Greg on the 17th July in Wolverhampton - the first time Greg’s played in Wolverhampton, so that’s going to be great - and I’ve got another gig lined up, September after Festival No.6 in Croatia, in Zagreb. So yeah there’s a good few things happening.
WHAT SET UP DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUR LIVE SHOW?
Well I’ve tried to keep it quite minimal really. I’m a big fan of the Elektron machines so I’ve got an Octatrack and I’ve got an Analog Rytm as the main backbone of the set, Analog Rytm doing drums and the Octatrack doing percussion and drums as well as firing in vocal samples and that kind of thing. I’ve got a Moog Minitaur on bass duty, I’ve got a Waldorf Streichfett, which is like a pad-machine, string machine - gives it that real Jarre-esque synth sound and I’ve got my Xoxbox, which is my acid box, hence the fact everything is sounding very dark and acidy at the moment haha.
SO IS THAT SOMETHING YOU’RE LOOKING TO BE TOURING WITH TOWARDS THE END OF THE YEAR?
Yeah, I think that’s realistic. At the time I planned to do something this summer but I think I’m probably about 40% there with it at the moment so I think October/November is a realistic target really.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING ELSE ON THE HORIZON FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR?
Well yes I have, I’ve got a really exciting project that I’ve just stated working on, which I’m ecstatic about to be honest. I’ve been doing a bit of work with a guy called Mike Smith - he’s the musical director for Gorillaz and Blur whenever they go out playing live. He’s a really nice guy, I got to meet him through a friend of mine Stu Lowbridge who works for Blur.
I did a remix for Damon Albarn last year, one of the tracks off his solo EP - through that I got to work with Mike as well. And this project - which is just coming to light now, I don’t know if you remember a few years ago Damon Albarn wrote an opera based on Monkey: A Journey To The West and there was a Chinese guy who did the direction for it.
This guy, Chen Shi-Zheng, he’s putting a new show together and Mike’s going to be the music producer and he’s asked me if I want to jump on board and do some of the music production with him. So I’m really excited to do it; I’ve got to go out to Shanghai at the end of July to do a creative workshop and then I might have to go back out in September.
Then at the end of the year the show opens in New York and we’ve got to be out there a week before the opening for final rehearsals. So it’s a massive project, it something completely different to what I’ve been doing but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do so I feel really lucky, really blessed. I’m chomping at the bit to get on with it. I’m grasping it with both hands - there’s a few things that will take a backseat because of that - but this is a big one for me so I’ve got to put my all in to it.
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