Percolate, the self-titled ‘Party People’ have been keeping the capital dancing for over three years now, throwing unique parties in some of the finest spaces available. Purveyors of house, disco and techno, they’ve hosted the likes of Moodymann and Gerd Janson, invited Leon Vynehall for an all-night loft party and programmed an event in clubbing’s new promised land – Tisno’s Barbarella’s. Ahead of their last party of 2015 – NYE’s final throw down with Floating Points, Levon Vincent & Tama Sumo (Tickets to win here) – Hard Life headed to Netil House to meet the Percolate team.
“It’s not just something you get to do on your own, it’s something you get to do with some of your best friends.”
As soon as the office doors were opened the love was palpable. Togetherness you can only get from a group of best friends doing what they love. From capturing love on the dancefloor, weekends spent on the beaches of Croatia and wild but humble beginnings in a photography studio in Brixton, the nomadic boogie crew filled us in on all things Percolate: the music, the moments and how they’ve come to be one of the capital’s most adored parties.
Hard Life • Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and how Percolate started?
Fred Letts • I’m Fred. I’m the founder I guess. I did a couple parties originally with a friend who ended leaving so me and Simon got chatting. They were wicked parties in a photography studio in Brixton but they were losing shit loads of money. I was overpaying DJs, staff, venue owners, all that kind of stuff… Then Simon came on board and was like, “The party’s good, but you’re losing hitloads of money, let’s turn it into something a little more decent”. So the first time me and Simon worked together we booked Jeremy Underground Paris who changed the game for us. That party was the first time that these guys Krywald & Farrer played. Me and Krywald go years back, since school, and Farrer… I don’t even know how the fuck you managed to wing your way in! Although there is a scar on your leg to prove that that night actually happened… So these 2 boys have been our residents from day one and Simon’s the man who changed it from a complete farce into a party that people actually wanted to buy tickets to go to.
Hard Life • So Percolate is your full time job?
Simon Denby • Yeah, when I came on board it was just Percolate and I lent maybe more of a professional air to it?
Fred Letts • A LOT more professional!
Simon Denby • I’d been doing this for a long time up in Manchester and then down in London. I came on board and started doing the booking and getting us into ‘proper venues’ and larger spaces. It moved on from having a very strong following with a very small number of people who loved it because it was all about a friendship group, to something that went into an official thing, to the wider world. It’s taken us a very long time to get that off the ground, to get the bookings that we actually wanted and to win the trust of people. For instance, now we’ve just started working with Ostgut Ton. We were sat with one of their agents at ADE and he was saying they were very cautious about everything they do and there’s only a small number of people that they will work with. So to get the trust of people like that to now being able to book some of their artists and build up from the bottom is amazing. And they’ve got some of the most amazing artists in the world.
Hard Life • You work with some incredible artists. What is your proudest line up to date?
Fred • This is probably our proudest line up that Simon’s put together: [shows NYE poster artwork] Floating Points, Levon Vincent and Tama Sumo. I remember the day when that came through… you always know when Simon’s [got the booking]. We call it a ‘Denby Smash’.
“You always know when Simon’s Denby Smashed because he’ll stand up in his chair and start cheering, so you know there’s some good news coming our way! I remember the day when we got Floating Points. It was a pretty special day…”
Simon • Yeah, it was great. He was someone I’d been trying to book for 5 years even when he was really small. He’s so selective about what he does and I was speaking to people who used to work with him who said he likes to do 10 shows a year. And that’s 10 shows a year across the whole world, so to be able to get chosen for that, we were very happy.
Hard Life • You all seem like family now, how did you all meet?
Fred • We’ve all known each other for quite a long time and we’ve been through so much together now, it’s been such an adventure. We spent the whole of June touring around Europe, going to different places, playing different places and it’s not just something you get to do on your own, it’s something you get to do with some of your best friends.
Hard Life • Can you tell us one of the freakiest or worst experiences you’ve had during your parties? Beth, you must see more than anyone else doing the photography?
Beth, you must see more than anyone else doing the photography?
Fred • There’s THAT one
Beth Marsh • Oh yeah! The most eye-opening experience I’ve ever had and taken a photo of is some guy and a girl on the side of the dance floor getting quite ‘amorous’… And I got a picture of it! And it’s a really good picture! I know it sounds a bit lewd but it’s a really dark, beautiful…’moment’ captured between two people. That was quite a few years ago now, and I kind of aspire to get another picture like that, but unfortunately there’s just not enough sex on the dance floor for me to perv on.
Fred • Beth has this amazing album on her Facebook page called ‘Love on the Dancefloor’. It’s not about being pervy, none of that, it’s about showing that that’s what dancefloors are all about. Since the early days, Beth’s photos are what has built our brand. Every other night wants big crowd shots, hands in the air, “look at how massive this night is” type of thing, whereas Beth’s photos are always from the point of the consumer. So you get these amazing shots of people interacting, those little nuances that you can only get from actually being there and experiencing the party. So fucking sneaky! She’ll wander around with her camera just going ‘bang, bang in people’s faces.
Hard Life • Let’s talk about the Percolate’s residents Krywald and Farrer. How did you start playing together?
Krywald • We met before Percolate started. [Farrer] used to come up and stay at my house in Manchester
“We’d do B2B2B2B2Backs with everyone else at the house for like 8 hours and go back to work on Monday”
Krywald • Percolate’s done so much for us and the better Percolate does, the better we do, the better Percolate does…
Fred • We always make an effort no matter how well or how badly the party’s going, to make sure these guys get something out of it. It’s their craft that they’re giving up for us and they put so much into it that we always try and make sure that it balances out. The idea is eventually that these guys will become touring artists in their own right and Percolate’s been a great platform for them to build off, but our vision is that hopefully they outgrow Percolate one day. We want these guys to succeed as DJs in their own right. Not just be the Percolate residents but be Krywald and Farrer who are independent from everything and hopefully they won’t forget where they came from!
Hard Life – Where did you get the afro vibes and inspiration from?
Krywald • I’ve been into afro music for about 11 years now. The other day I found a cd while clearing out some drawers in my bedroom that I hadn’t listened to and just found loads of wicked samples. It’s happy without being cheesy which is hard.
Farrer • After 20 minutes exporting 4 CDs worth, a lot of it was pretty cheesy Spanish music but some of them were massive. So we just put those on some sort of beat structure and now there’s like 6 or 7 edits sitting there waiting to be played out.
Krywald • We try to maintain that fun vibe but also making it dance floor friendly.
Farrer • In our sets we’re getting more and more to playing 50% our own edits.
Hard Life • Have you got plans to do any ‘live’ shows?
Farrer • When we get a little bit better with equipment! It takes a lot of time and planning to be able to do that.
Krywald • When we get to the level where we can smash it doing that kind of stuff. At the moment when we play we want to give the best we can.
“It’s about creating that perfect set.”
Farrer • It’s about editing at the moment for us. There’s a lot of old African music from the 60s and 70s and when you listen to it, it’s a kind of 4×4 house-ish tune. And all you need to do is spruce it up a little bit, put it at the right speed, put the right beats underneath it, put the bass on it and you’ve kind of got a whole list of minor edits that you’ve made.
Hard Life • How has playing alongside all the amazing artists you’ve had at Percolate influenced or affected you as DJs?
Krywald • You definitely pick up different techniques when you watch people and hear tunes that inspire you. That’s why I think it’s so important for DJs to get out there and listen to music. A lot of DJs get stuck in a rut because they only go and play a gig and then leave straight after, so they don’t hear what’s going on in the scene. I’ve heard DJs play stuff and I’ll be like “That’s wicked, I’ve not heard anything like that before” and it inspires you. If you drop out for a couple of weeks you can lose track of what’s going on. Although we probably dig back more than we dig forward these days.
Farrer • Different styles of people have different types of music as well. Like techno, you can be mixing like 8 songs together in ten minutes. Whereas disco can be all over the place, BPM will be going everywhere, or fun house where you’ve got vocals that you don’t want to clash. It depends, it’s just good fun mixing all different types of music in different ways and putting them together.
Simon • I think personally my favourite shows are always ones that progress musically. Whilst a lot of club nights are strictly techno, strictly house or strictly disco, with a lot of our programming we like to have people that might start slower and the beat will move up and I find that a lot more interesting. But also, personally my favourite DJs are people like Gerd Janson or Midland who will start on some weird afrobeat stuff with tribal rhythms and then play some rock or indie tracks then go into disco house and then finalise on some techno. That for me is the most interesting
Krywald • Sometimes you get a DJ who will get quite self-indulgent in what they’re doing and go deep into some dark shit for ages and everyone’s there like “I’m staying with you but, like, please play a vocal soon!” Yeah, it’s nice having some variation on the lineups
Hard Life • What’s next for Percolate? Do you think about doing more than just one night events?
Simon • At the moment we’re trying to concentrate on building Percolate outside of London. So we’ve started in Amsterdam which went really, really well and we’re now going to do that every few months at De Marktkantine which is a venue where Innervisions have their home. We’re starting in Manchester as well which should be really good, at the Soup Kitchen. Then for me Berlin, which musically is my spiritual home, and the leaning that I’d like to take the parties towards, to do something there would be amazing. Brighton has a new club called Patterns which is brilliant, we’re hopefully going to start working there. It’s just about expanding it I guess.
Hard Life • Last question, what do you think about clubbing in London at the moment?
Krywald • It would be nice if there were more options definitely and it would be nice if stuff didn’t close down, but it’s a financial city and you’re always going to have to battle with that.
Fred • It’s a mantra that I came up with from day one that I always wanted to be a party that wasn’t in one space. It’s difficult! We always struggle to find new places to do stuff but as much as venues close down, new ones do open, like the Pickle Factory for instance. The scene’s not quite as bad as everyone’s making it.
Simon • I spoke with the Night Time Industries Association and did a panel with Alan (D. Miller) who runs that and the owner of Village Underground specifically about London venues closing and how the council are really cracking down on our culture. We’re in a difficult place at the moment. The chief of metropolitan police has said some strange things like, “If we shut down more venues then crime will decrease” but that’s not dealing with the problem. It’s not dealing with the issue. People aren’t saying “Let’s shut down motorways because people are dying in car accidents”. But I also think that when London becomes a 24 hour city with 24 hour transport it’s going to open up huge amounts of space for partying. There’s a lot of spaces, the number of warehouses on the outskirts of London is huge. So I think in the next year or so there’s going to be a massive change in London in terms of where you can party. As soon as 24 hour tubes start it’s going to change everything.
Krywald • There’s a lot of good inventive people out there who are working in the scene as well to provide venues and find spaces, like for instance Shapes in Hackney Wick has always been a great place for us to party. There are people trying to make it better but these guys are up against councils who have a lot of control. Let’s just start doing illegal parties!
• Interview Lena Novello • Photo credit : Stephanie Galea •
HARD LIFE EXCLUSIVE MIX KRYWALD AND FARRER
Percolate residents Krywald & Farrer have been rapidly making a name for themselves in the dance music world with their weekly Meattransmission radio show and regular slots on Rinse FM, along with three years of life-affirming DJ sets for Percolate. Before playing Rise Festival with Jackmaster & Axel Boman and ahead of their January 2nd set supporting Booka Shade at XOYO, they were kind enough to record an exclusive hour long mix for Hard Life which we’re pleased to premiere below. Enjoy