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Perquisite takes beatmaking to new heights
On a recent trip to Amsterdam, Beatnik caught a few words with perquisite, the production mastermind behind Dutch national treasure Pete Philly & Perquisite, who expects to be broadening his output for the foreseeable future.
Out of his home studio in Amsterdam, Perquisite has tirelessly provided us with dope music, keeping a firm base in hiphop but itching to tear down genre walls and make use of live instruments. Today, film music and a solo project are on the cards for Holland’s hardest working producer.
Whether as a solo producer or in his (now) former group, Perquisite seems omnipresent in his home country these days. One week after Pete Philly & Perquisite’s final show as a duo at Melkweg in Amsterdam, where they were backed by a 13-piece band, video screens inside the city’s trams report on the success of the jam-packed event. Despite all the hype, Perquisite is relaxed and talkative when I meet him in an Amsterdam café, where he explains that he is enjoying the aftermath of the duo’s ”Final Celebration Tour” which drew crowds in the thousands throughout Holland.
Ever since releasing a couple of jazz-fused hip hop EP’s in 2001 and 2002, his production has consistently sought to explore new terrain. Grounded in hip hop, Perquisite turns a familiar format into a playful medley of styles – ”it’s still hiphop, even though the sources are totally different”, he says. Having flirted with jazz throughout his career, particularly on the early EP’s Outta Nowhere and Double Vision and Pete Philly & Perquisite’s debut Mindstate, Perquisite now draws on anything from african rhythms to classical music.
“I think that’s how you develop as a producer… by listening to all kinds of music and not copying, but getting ideas from it. I can go to the Royal Concert Hall and a composition by Johannes Brahms, and it can give me an idea for a dubstep kind of track I’m making.”
And Perquisite makes no secret that he does not limit himself to hiphop. ”Fish to Fry”, a reclined jazz track from Pete Philly & Perquisite’s sophomore album Mystery Repeats, fades into an afro-carribean chant where Pete Philly’s vocals give us an exciting whiff of Aruba, where the MC was born. Also the more hip hop inspired tunes from the duo’s final album are lifted by either live instrumentation, on ”Q&A”, or by Perquisite’s innovative beatboxing on ”Clap Kick Flow”, which even contains a mouthed saxophone solo (!).
So, after globally spanning tours, a handful of awards (among the the Amsterdam Award of Art) and a number one album, Pete Philly and Perquisite have decided to quit as a duo. A surprising decision no doubt, but given Perquisite’s constant search for new musical environments and challenges, it actually seems logical.
His latest venture was in to the field of film music. His work on Dutch film Carmen van het Noorden—a gritty adaptation of the opera Carmen set in a hip-hop ridden Rotterdam—resulted in a ’Goulden Kalfe’ (basically a Dutch Oscar award). Perquisite’s work on the film allowed him to explore new terrains in music production – one where he did not always speak the same language as the film’s directors.
“I initially made beats with only minor and diminished chords, which I thought was very dark and melancholic, but the director kept saying it was too happy. And I said, ”how can you say this is happy?”, but she had felt the tempo, which was pretty upbeat, was happy. To me, a tempo is just a tempo.”
The soundtrack, which expectedly flirts with styles from modern classical music to broken beat, also has Perquisite make a beat out of sounds of fish being sliced open and thrown into buckets – an updated version of ”Clap Kick Flow”.
It’s not only experimentation that signifies Perquisite’s music, but also the elaborate structures of his songs. While some think 8-bar loops, Perquisite can have a song (’Traveller’ from Mystery Repeats, featuring singer Erminia Cordoba) that beings with a flamenco guitar solo, picks up with broken beat-drums and ends with a brass section.
A former architeture student, Perquisite explains how his studies helped him create these arrangements.
“Architecture really trains you to think in a conceptual way. You really learn the process of sturcturing creative thinking. I use that skill when I make songs. When you design a building, you have to create a foundation and how things are connected and structured within the building. As a producer, a foundation an be the drums, on top of which you have the bassline, then on top of that layer you have strings or vocals.”
Whether or not his listeners look past the emotion conveyed through his music, it’s clear that Perquisite has an intention with every break, and an execution plan for each song. He explains that, at the moment, he has an urge to ”make songs in an old-fashioned way, like the way the Beatles made songs, or how singer/songwriters make their songs; three-minute tracks with a clear beginning, middle and end.” It sounds like the kind of production that, like all music, provokes raw emotion, only with deliberate timing and chilling accuracy. And given his apetite for new challenges, the sound is ever-evolving.
“I’m going to work with world artists, songwriters and rock artists, as well as some MC’s [for my next album]. It will be more diverse… It gives me a lot of energy to work with different vocalists because they have different musical ideas and give me a lot of input. It’s really interesting to do that.”
Whether it’s delivered to a film audience, a noisy and numerous live crowd or the radio, Perquisite has an idea and the skills to formalize it. The only question that remains is where he may go next.