Debian Blak is the latest alias from the multi-faceted talents of musician Rowan Perkins. With a diverse portfolio of work to date, which includes work as drummer and producer for the 10-piece East Reggae Park Collective, collaborative remix work with Airhead as Narrow P and involvement with the dusty soul experiments of the Broken Orchestra, we have been intrigued to hear the development of his latest alias, which has formed a highly melodic and stirring take on the “post-dubstep” sound.
Following the release of the radiant ‘Six Months From Mars’ EP, which features the vocal talents of long-time collaborator Neo Joshua and Mt. Wolf’s Kate Sproule, we invited Perkins to turn his hand to a Hyponik mixtape (stream/download below) and share a few words on his various projects, festival curation and receiving advice from Nicolas Jaar.
It’s been a solid weekend weather-wise in UK – been up to much yourself?
Yep it’s been great! I’ve not had anything work/gigs-wise on this weekend and it was a friends birthday so we went to Regents Park and celebrated/got pissed. Pretty much what you should do when the weathers good I think.
We hear you’re the drummer for East Reggae Park Collective, could you tell us a bit about your background and music and what you were up to before the Debian Blak alias.
I’ve been playing instruments since I was about 6. I went through violin, recorder (like everyone probably), piano, saxophone, bass, guitar, drums, singing – the lot really. I settled on the drums and piano and have played those in various bands through my teens and early 20’s. I got into production and started making beats when I was 16, but the Debian Blak thing only came a couple of years ago when I was about 22 and decided to take on a new direction.
How did you hook up with Audio Doughnuts guys?
I got introduced to Henry about a year ago through some mutual friends I was doing some work with. Eventually I had some material I thought was worth sending and it went from there.
We haven’t caught you live yet, what does Debian Blak look/sound like on stage?
I used to do a live show with a drummer called Alvin Lee Ryan and Neo Joshua would sing or play a sampler whilst I played a synth or MPC. Recently though I’ve developed a new one man show where I play all the music live using an MPC and Neo sings on a few tracks. I’ve also had some visuals developed which sync to every song so I’m looking forward to doing that for the first time. Essentially it sounds like 2-steppy/housey/garagey/experimental beats.
You’ve been getting props from some pretty big names, who has been most surprising?
I guess in terms of big names I was lucky to have a bit of a dialogue with Nicolas Jaar last year. We skyped a few times and he gave me some critiques and advice about my music so that was really amazing.
What have been your career highlights to date?
I was really grateful to get a few Radio 1 plays of the Shox remix of my last single Push It which was a real milestone for me. The biggest highlight so far though was when I went out to be Artist in Residence with East Park Reggae Collective at Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy last year. We played about 19 shows in 10 days, opening up for artists like Erykah Badu and Rita Marley as well as playing to crowds of about 8,000 so that was pretty special.
Seeing as Glastonbury is happening this weekend, who would feature on the line-up for the Debian Blak Festival and where would it take place?
DAMN that’s a hard one!! I’d do a festival on some island in Bali and get Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common – probably my favourite hip hop artists – to headline the 3 nights. Then I’d just invite a load of random dope artists like Little Dragon, Cinematic Orchestra, Damian Marley, TNGHT, Kendrick Lamar, Laura Mvula, Lapalux, Flying Lotus plus anyone I know who makes great music. Then just chill out in the sun, surf, eat and dance all weekend.
Can you tell us a bit about your recent Six Months From Mars EP?
It’s a 4-track EP, 2 vocal tracks featuring Neo Joshua and Kate Sproule and 2 instrumentals. I guess it was a further stepping stone for me in developing my own sound. It was a way to experiment with some new ideas whilst trying to maintain my musical direction.
What other releases and projects are you working on this year?
I’ve been working on loads of new material over the last 2/3 months. Nothing’s finished but I’ve been working with a few new singers and I guess when they’re mixed I’ll start thinking about what kind of release I’m aiming for. I’ve also been working on some material with a good friend of mine and we’ve got some pretty good label interest on the first bits so we’ll see where that takes us.
Tell us a bit about your mix for Hyponik.
I tried to pick some of the music I’ve most been into over the last few months. Most the tracks are fairly new, and hopefully work together to be a bit of a party mix.