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Online music websites and groups have been around for almost two decades, but you’d be hard pressed to find one that’s weathered the storms and come out stronger than NY-based


Percussion Lab... Words: ZARA WLADAWSKY


electronic music. Instead, it serves as a platform for a dedicated community via its website, radio shows, and parties which have welcomed everyone from Scuba and SBTRKT to Flying Lotus and Dorian Concept. This past summer DJ Mag joined the party trail, both in Brooklyn’s Loreley Biergarten, and the Lower East Side of Manhattan’s Tammany Hall. We were so impressed that we caught up with its core three members for a round table discussion on the history and ethos behind their remarkable community.


B


Can you please all introduce yourselves and give a quick background?


P: “My name is Praveen Sharma and I started Percussion Lab as a weekly radio show in upstate New York where I grew up and eventually went to school. I am one half of Sepalcure — with Travis Stewart, who also makes music on his own as Machinedrum — and I also release music as Braille, amongst a few other solo aliases.”


B: “My name is Brian Blessinger and I grew up near New Haven, Connecticut, and went to school in Atlanta, Georgia. I also had a radio show back then and found this old jungle compilation around 1994 that changed my life. A few years later, I started throwing parties there that were originally rooted in drum & bass and jungle and then eventually moved here, and it all aligned with Dub War and Praveen a few years later, which we’ll discuss more of later.”


N: “I’m Nooka Jones and I grew up in the suburbs of Indiana and went to school in Boston. My brother and I bought turntables and learnt to DJ when I was fourteen, and I spent a lot of teenage years playing at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs for money. I fell out with dance music and DJing a bit when I moved to Boston, but studying abroad in London in 2008 got me right back on it since there were a lot of great scenes, artists, and clubs there at the time. After I returned to the States, I too had a radio show on my university’s station,


030


oth an online and real-life extended family of passionate music-types that’s been around for a decade, Percussion Lab doesn’t limit itself to a select few genres within underground


which was instrumental in becoming part of the Percussion Lab team as you’ll hear when we go through our history.”


There’s a huge sense of community that surrounds Percussion Lab. Why do you think your scene is especially full of this familial spirit?


P: “There’s a huge disparity between the scenes in America and Europe that the online world has helped close for some. A lot of these kids that listen live in the middle of absolutely nowhere here in the States. They DJ this music that none of their friends know about or like, and where there isn’t a thriving scene in place to become a part of. The United States is huge, so something like Percussion Lab is a platform.”


N: “It’s welcoming, with a nice layout and a built in community of like-minded people they can connect with. It’s also a means to upload their own bedroom productions or DJ sets to a place where they can get comments, critiques, and finally a bit of recognition and validation.”


P: “It’s like I’m trying to give something back, since my own musical history was shaped and aided so much by the internet. Travis and I both grew up in the sticks and met each other via an IRC chatroom, and that’s how it all started!”


B: “I don’t know if we embody an ethos of playing music that’s across the board, but we actively encourage it and it works.”


N: “One night we’ll have a deep, heady techno set and the next week Pearson Sound will do his


thing.”


P: “Remember, this started a decade ago as a 6am radio show that was rooted in ambient music. So it’s gone across the map since.”


Speaking of which, can you please tell us about the history of Percussion Lab?


P: “It started out in 2002 as a weekly radio show on [upstate New York local university/community station] WVKR 91.3FM Friday mornings at 6am. I would go there alone armed with a bunch of IDM and ambient music. Eventually a good friend of


mine, who had a show on Friday night that I would regularly guest on, stopped his show and I got that slot. That’s when I started bringing friends in to guest DJ, and that’s the time when I learned to DJ from watching and working with my friends, since they were proper turntablists and very talented. There would often be two guys and four turntables juggling beats back and forth with some MCs. Unfortunately, we then got shut down because of too much swearing on the air, so it went back to me alone in the studio on Friday nights. So that’s the origins of Percussion Lab, and that’s why it originally followed a weekly format since it stemmed from being an actual weekly FM radio show. It’s become a great party for sure, but it’s a radio show at the heart.”


B: “I was throwing parties with varying rates of success in New York City, at the time that Praveen moved here after he finished his degree in 2005, and he wanted to do something and get involved with the scene. The Percussion Lab name, besides sounding cool, was already recognized and respected with a bit of history because of the radio show. So we got together and started booking everybody and anybody that made electronic music in their bedrooms and weren’t really playing out that much. Travis, Daedelus, Jimmy Edgar... they were all guests in the early stages of their careers. It’s great that, six years later, them, and countless other friends, are running labels, making beats professionally, and doing well for themselves. They think of us favorably since we were the ones to help coax them out of their bedrooms when they were younger and much more unsure of what they were doing. This period, starting the year that Praveen moved down and we began the then-monthly parties, was also interesting since it was at the same time that Dave Q and his crew began to form Dub War. There was still a massive schism between house, techno, IDM, and dubstep back then that both Dave and Praveen, independently since they didn’t really get to know each other until a few years later, were trying to bridge. I’d even go so far as credit these two guys with being the people that did eventually achieve this and create a scene that accepted this eclecticism here in New York City. Anyway, we spent 2005-2008 throwing irregular parties at a bunch of venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn.”


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