“The Sounds are Evolving and the Future Looks Healthy”: An Interview with Aaron Vybe & Perch MC

Son Raw speaks with Strange Static's Aaron Vybe and Perch MC about genre boundaries and running a collective.
By    June 9, 2016

1546008_1688225541419095_8797755410041070245_n

Is the hardcore continuum still a valid lens through which to examine London’s dance music? Detractors would claim that the links from rave’s earliest days through garage, grime, dubstep, and beyond have little to do with what’s going on in clubs today, but speak to Strange Static’s Aaron Vybe and Perch MC and you might hear different. While unequivocal in their love and dedication to the House sound, their roots are pure UK, and they bring the rawness and darkness of that tradition to their sets and to their label’s releases.

Their resulting sound—dark, percussive, and hype—was enough to catch my ear about a year ago, and they’ve since traveled the world and spread their unique take on House far and wide. With that in mind, now seemed like a good moment to catch up and discuss just what makes Strange Static so unique. —Son Raw


First up, can you introduce yourself for our audience. Where are you from? How’d you get involved in music?


Aaron Vybe: I’m a DJ and a producer. I’m from London. Initially I got into Hardcore and then Jungle, but was just a listener back then. I got my first decks when I heard the early sounds of UK Garage around ’97. Around that time I was big into Hip Hop too. The music from around those times in the late ’90s was magical, it was the best of both for me.

Perch MC: Perch MC, I host and am from London. I was into all kinds of music from early on going back to Hardcore days. Got into Garage and started getting into hosting from back then.


In terms of launching Strange Static, how did that start?


Aaron Vybe: Myself and Perch started thinking of forming the label back in mid 2013. We had people around us who needed a platform to put out there sounds and they had a love for House music. We wanted to be a bit different than how other labels operate as we are more of a collective. Our producers work very closely with us, it’s how we like it and get the best results. I DJ showcasing the sounds and Perch is a host/MC.


You guys have 5+ producers (6 with Aaron) which is a deep roster—how’d the crew basically come together?


Aaron Vybe: When we formed in 2013 it was KG3, Just JDan, and Joseph Curti5 who were the core of the producers. Perch was good friends with KG3. Joseph Curti5 is family and Just JDan, I knew his older brother, I got to hear some of his sounds and we went from there.

Later on we wanted to expand and always had the intention but wanted the timing to be right and find producers who make sounds that suit what we want for the label. DeepSteppz and Virtuoso joined in early 2016 and we have another producer who will join soon. I have my EP coming out later in the year.


I remember when I first heard your stuff through that Guardian article, the main thing that caught me was the energy: the samples you used, the emceeing, the darkness of the beats – the whole thing together. It separates itself from most house music, which feels aimed at a very general audience. In terms of choosing tracks for the label, how do you go out figuring out what’s a Strange Static track?


Aaron Vybe: Myself and Perch have very similar tastes in what we like in House music, we know the tones to listen out for and we both have a distinct love for UK underground sounds. What I mean by that is it has to have a rawness, not to say we don’t play sounds from all over but the artists who produce House who we deal with have a deep sense of the different genres that have come from the UK and incorporate that in their sounds.

Perch MC: Later on we wanted to expand and always had the intention but wanted the timing to be right and find producers who make sounds that suit what we want for the label. DeepSteppz and Virtuoso joined in early 2016 and we have another producer who will join soon. I have my EP coming out later in the year.


I remember when I first heard your stuff through that Guardian article, the main thing that caught me was the energy. The samples you used, the emceeing, the darkness of the beats—the whole thing together. It separates itself from most House music, which feels aimed at a very general audience. In terms of choosing tracks for the label, how do you go out figuring out what makes a Strange Static track?


Aaron Vybe: Myself and Perch have very similar tastes in what we like in House music, we know the tones to listen out for and we both have a distinct love for UK underground sounds. What I mean by that is it has to have a rawness, not to say we don’t play sounds from all over but the artists who produce House who we deal with have a deep sense of the different genres that have come from the UK and incorporate that in their sounds.

Perch MC: Later on we wanted to expand and always had the intention but wanted the timing to be right and find producers who make sounds that suit what we want for the label. DeepSteppz and Virtuoso joined in early 2016 and we have another producer who will join soon. I have my EP coming out later in the year.


In terms of bringing hosting/emceeing to a scene that hasn’t traditionally featured that aspect, how has the reaction evolved over time? Historically, some UK scenes have taken to it (garage to grime) while others have been more hostile (funky, etc).


Perch MC: UK dance music has always had the elements of having a host/MC. I ain’t had a problem in the past but I can see why some might see it as being a concern. Some accept it while others, it’s not there thing, it’s always been like that except for Grime.


How’s the scene in London right now in terms of your sound? When I visited last year there were mad flyers and posters for Deep Tech raves all over, but I saw a lot of the same names across them.


Aaron Vybe: The sound is always evolving. I like how the sounds have changed and you have a mixture of House sounds which you can play in a set and they can blend so well. I don’t like to play one particular House sound, like the sounds at the moment that use a lot of ’90s House samples, it’s nice but to play a whole set of those sounds gets real boring for me.

It’s funny you have noticed the same old names popping up all the time. It doesn’t help with the cycle at the moment of some promoters who are DJ’s booking each other for the same events and they book mainly the same DJ’s too. It’s not all events but there is a pattern, which many are noticing. I respect it’s their event and they can book who they like, but it’s getting boring now. I feel this will change over time, just in a bit of a crazy phase in club land at the moment.

Another aspect is most of these DJ’s profess to play Deep Tech but they ain’t playing that at all, they play generic Ibiza House as I call it. Just listen to the live sets from these events and they are very different to what you or I will perceive as Deep Tech.


Speaking of which, are you even comfortable with that term (deep tech)?


Aaron Vybe: Personally I never did like the term Deep Tech as that sound/genre was around way before this particular sound in the UK came along. I don’t mind if someone wants to use the term as I feel it’s up to listeners to say what genre they feel we fit in, as we don’t imitate anyone’s sounds so whatever term that comes to mind when they listen to what we do is up to them.

I remember in the early days of UK Garage, we just called it Garage music, and the old school Garage heads did not like that, as it was different to the US sounds, which I could agree with. Over time the terms like UK Garage and Speed Garage came along, it stuck and got its own identity in the end.

Perch MC: I’m comfortable with the term Deep Tech. I leave it up to others to decide really.


To my ears, your sound feels hyper specific, but at the same time you’ve taken it as far as Tokyo recently. How did that booking come about? How’d they react to your style out there?


Aaron Vybe: What I noticed is that it’s people overseas that tend to notice the underground genres emerging from the UK, more so than many who actually live here. We’ve had people who contacted us early on from China, America, Japan, Czech Republic, Canada, France, and Holland about our music.

It was Datwun and Frankie Dollar of House Not House who contacted us a few years back when we set up the label and showed interest in what we do. Over time we have got to know them and they had been doing events in Tokyo and invited over to do an event for them. Both are top guys, they really showed us a good time out there.

The scene is very underground over there as is the case for many styles of western dance music. There is a movement over there that is growing and can only see the scene increase over time, but it will always be very intimate which is real nice in a way. It’s strictly for people who have a deep love for the music, there hearts are fully in it.

Perch MC: That was a great experience in Tokyo. Datwun and Frankie Dollar are good pals, got to know them well over the years. We had good fun showcasing our sounds, it’s got a cool underground vibe out in clubs.


Another thing that struck me was the passion the scene has for the music—I mentioned deep tech on Fact once and got cussed out in the comments because people said I was “jumping on the bandwagon” and such. Do you think the sound is reaching beyond its initial audience these days?


Aaron Vybe: That is sad you were insulted like that, it’s anyone’s scene that enjoys the music, it does not belong to anyone.

What I noticed in this scene is people come and go but in particular for anyone that has left, they have been replaced by even more talented and hungrier producers. They have been following the scene and now are getting involved—whether it’s being a DJ, producer, or even a promoter. The sounds are evolving and the future looks healthy, it takes time for scenes to grow but it’s only been getting better and better.

Perch MC: Don’t take notice of that, the music is for everyone. The audience is growing nicely. We see that in the interest in the label and what me and Vybe have been doing on the circuit, it takes time but we’re in it for the long run.


Where do you guys see yourselves pushing your sound in the future?


Aaron Vybe: We will keep pushing our sounds further to a global audience as we have been doing. We want to showcase our sounds and hope we get more opportunities as time goes on. We have hit up Tokyo and Perch went to Prague at the end of last year, we have played in a few cities in the UK and many in London. There is still a long way to go but the challenge is what makes us stronger and we are fully enjoying the ride. Many thanks for the interview.

Perch MC: We keep going, we only just started. Peace.