Perfect Dark is the brainchild of Alexander Azzi. A product of the Rob GEE crew in the late 90’s, Perfect Dark made their official introduction to the hardcore/gabber world with his debut vinyl EP release “Here I Stand” on ADAM Recordings in 2002 where he made a massive impact with his heavy metal inspired raw-to-the-bone hardcore/gabber productions.
Fast forward to 2021 where Perfect Dark has officially returned and re-signed with GEE thAng Music to create brand new heavy hardcore/gabber music again. Get your curb stompin’ boots laced tight. Perfect Dark is back. We’re grateful to Alexander for the interview.
Your new single is “Still Standing” but your previous track from 2002 is “Here I Stand”. Why the 20-year gap? What’s the difference in motivation between the two tracks?
“Here I Stand” was my debut 6 song EP in 2002 with the title track being “Here I Stand”. Following that release, a few other EP’s and Singles came out under a different name I had that I don’t use any more (Atroa). Between then and the present day, I went through a Dubstep phase under the name Drop Goblin, but that was more of a cash grab thing riding on the hype of the Dubstep genre at its peak. I didn’t really have a plan to make a comeback to Perfect Dark and focus on Hardcore/Gabber again, but for the past few years it has been lingering in my mind. After a few empty teases here and there about coming back, something finally switched in my head and committed to the return. It was fitting, at least to me, that since my return was stepping on the doorstep of 2022, that I should make a single titled “Still Standing” to essentially bookend the theme. It’s a weird bookend though because a bookend means to have a beginning and an end, but for this it has a beginning and then re-begins 20 years later.
Was the Perfect Dark name inspired by the 2000 video game of the same name?
This might come as an odd and even anti-climatic surprise but deciding on the name Perfect Dark, while it was inspired by the video games name, had nothing to do with being a fan of the game. In fact, I have never played the game. Not then, and not since. Maybe if it’s ported to VR I may give it a try, but all that game gave me was a cool name for my music persona. I wish I was a little more copywrite intelligent 20 years ago though because after the “Here I Stand” EP was released, I kind of panicked thinking Oh no, Nintendo of America is going to have a big issue with this’ and I changed my name for the following releases at that time and added “(formerly Perfect Dark)” to the titling so to not confuse anyone, but I now realize that while Nintendo owns the copywrite to “Perfect Dark” as a video game, I am not a video game. I am a human that is producing music. Completely different category and there never would have been an issue.
You have an extremely unique style. How would you describe it from your perspective and who influenced you musically?
I have always been a fan of natural instrumentation. Real guitars, real this and that. I also fully realize I produce Electronic Dance Music (EDM) so that puts me in a bit of a pickle because EDM is essentially computer music. The good news is that I can get away with utilizing natural instruments in Hardcore/Gabber music because it’s the rule breaker genre of EDM. It’s the hooligan hiding in the dark alleyway waiting to jump out and kick you in the teeth. Adding real guitar and vocal driven Hardcore Metal type breakdowns occasionally in my Hardcore/Gabber productions won’t get the snob
treatment that other “vibrant” EDM fans might give because I am not catering to that
My influences range from the Hardcore Metal scene like Sheer Terror and Blood for Blood, to the Hardcore/Gabber producers like Neophyte, Art of Fighters, and Rotterdam Terror Corps.
Could you take us inside your studio and give us an idea of what tools of the trade you use? What’s the genesis of a Perfect Dark track?
In the present day it’s a very minimalistic setup. While I have an actual studio space with the dual screen’s, high quality sound monitors, subwoofers and all that flib-flab, I am rarely in front of it for most of the actual production arrangement process. The heart of my production workflow is just me and my supped up Thinkpad laptop workstation loaded with Ableton Live, using my go-to instrument plugins like Serum, Kontakt, and u-he diva. I also use some not-so-common instrument plugins like ReDominator which
emulates the classic Roland Alpha Juno series synthesizers, and the JPK6 plugin that emulates one of my and many other hardware synth addicts’ favorite synths the Roland JP8000. I should have never sold my hardware versions back in the day. For effects plugins my go-to’s are the Plug & Mix, SoundToys, and D16 Group effects bundles. D16 Group effects are amazing.
I am also a fan of vibrato style effects. MeldaProduction’s “MVibrato” plugin is a superstar in my effects collection. For those who don’t know what vibrato is, it’s the type of effect that makes a tone warble in an eerie way with slight pitch bends locked to a time signature. I HIGHLY recommend going on YouTube right now and typing in “Rob Zombie Dragula” in the search box and a vibrato sound will hit your ears immediately in the intro. I love that effect and use it a lot on my lead synths in my productions. I don’t go too heavy on it. It’s usually a subtle addition, but even when used lightly it will make an otherwise boring single tone sound creepy.
For hardware, I have a Schecter 7 string for my guitar work, an M-Audio MIDI keyboard (49 keys) and various mics. I also have a micro sized MIDI keyboard that fits in my backpack since I rarely use my actual studio space. As far as Mixing and Mastering, I contract that out to a professional. I made the decision
when making my return that I would focus on the creative arrangement side of things and hire someone to take those arrangements and process them professionally. It’s well worth investing in this process because trying to do it on your own will always lead to second guessing, self-criticisms and never being satisfied.
What makes a successful remix from the perspectives of both the remixer and the
I think the best remixes are from people that have had the opportunity NOT to hear the original beforehand. All it takes is one listen to the original and you are already being influenced by it and putting yourself into a small prison cell of which there is no way out. However, if you are lucky enough not hear the original first and get sent the multitrack stems of just the vocals and maybe a few incidental elements, then you will have a fully open mind into creating something brand new while it still being a remix of an already existing track. I was fortunate to have this happen a lot when I was doing the Dubstep thing as Drop Goblin, but the Perfect Dark remixes that I have done in the present day are either remixes of legendary classics that are well known to me and the rest of the Hardcore/Gabber community, or newer originals of which I just happened to hear them and then soon after I was asked to remix them. I do my best to separate influence from originality in those cases.
There is one remix however that I have done and is on deck to be released soon that deserved to remain true to its original roots. The song is titled “Schizophrenic” by Rotterdam Terror Corps. Although there is no release date yet from when this interview goes live, the original song was released in 2002 and was a huge hit, yet it has never been remixed before. Officially or unofficially. So, it was an honor to be offered this contract and bring new life back into this song with a more modern sound, but still pay genuine respect to the melodies from its origin.
What’s next for Perfect Dark in the foreseeable future?
I have a quite a few remixes and originals that are in line for release and awaiting dates for. I do have a big undertaking that is happening and will continue to happen for the next few months. My original idea for this was to take the project files from my original 2002 6 track EP “Here I Stand” and re’mix-down’ and remaster the EP and give it out it for free as a digital download along with a completely new version of the title track “Here I Stand”.
About a week ago I decided to scratch that idea entirely and instead I am re- doing all 6 tracks with brand new kicks and select other modern elements while keeping the vibes of the original EP alive. I will even be re-recording my vocals for the tracks that I did custom vocals on. This will be more of a “Here I Stand 2.0”. There will be a “2.0” version of all 6 songs and the original songs will accompany it. 12 tracks in total for free. After speaking with Rob GEE who released the 2002 EP, as well as my new single “Still Standing” on GEE thAng music, we are looking at a December 2022 release month for this which will make this new 2.0 project be 20 years to the year of the original “Here I Stand” EP. So, between the “Still Standing” release and this 2.0 project, 2022 has and is continuing to be a pretty special year for me.
Many years in the future, if someone finds your music, what would you like them
to learn about your legacy, just from listening to your work?
Simply put, there is no guideline to any genre of music. While much of the music someone can enjoy may have a certain “format” in how it’s made or how it sounds, the fact of the matter is this: ALL music would sound the same if rules were never broken. It’s ok to take risks and while I might be criticized for it from time to time, I don’t let it bother me because if even ONE person enjoys what I have created and is willing to sacrifice a few minutes of their life in order to enjoy it unforced, then I feel like it was
worth taking those risks, for them.