In 2007, Paul Rolan Perkes was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At the time, he was married and had a successful career as an accomplished science professional. The debilitating disease ravaged Paul's body and his personal life, but it couldn't wreck his soul.
In the wake of his illness, he discovered his inner musician, and, since 2011, he's released 22 albums of intricate and emotionally resonate electronica that, taken as a whole, represent a brave and profound life and artistic journey. His artist name is perkXsoundlabs, and he calls his latest album Structure. Powerfully, he has chosen to use the word "without" in each song title.
"Because of MS, I've learned to live without a lot of things," the Phoenix, Arizona-based artist says. "MS robbed things from my life like my marriage, my independence, and my career. What I do have left is the freedom to create music and that brings me a lot of enjoyment."
perkXsoundlabs is music of hope and intrigue. Compositionally, Paul pulls from a foundational background in classical piano and choral music, his scientific training, and progressive rock and a variety of electronic influences, including progressive trance and chiptune. His albums have garnered favorable comparisons to Kraftwerk, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Jean Michele Jarre, Infected Mushroom, Yahel, Astrix, and Indra. These are heady creative touchstones indeed, and the music of perkXsoundlabs represents a fascinating sonic tapestry for EDM fans. But without a cultural compass for these signposts, the music stands on its own as richly accessible for the casual music fan.
perkXsoundlabs latest, Structure, is influenced by the imaginative arrangements and transporting melodicism of 1970s progressive rock bands such as Yes and ELP. Though the album is instrumental, the title Structure is a lyrical gesture. "The title references that previous to MS, my life had a lot of structure. Now, I live without that, but there's a fluidity to my schedule where I can be creative whenever I feel up to it," Paul explains.
The track "Without Structure," interestingly enough, has a labyrinthine arrangement. It opens establishing a celestial melody, next expands and explores that melody, and then, like a sliver of anti sonic matter is introduced, dissolves the sequence. For a moment, it feels like the song has evaporated before the melody powerfully reappears for a vigorous climax outro. Other album highlights are "Without Form" and "Without Basis," both of which exhibit a 1980s new wave blissful poppiness, and the gorgeously haunting "Without Framework."
Paul holds a degree in physics with a minor in numerical analysis. For over 20 years, he worked at the Center for Solid State Science at Arizona State University managing computers and research software, rising the ranks up to Principal Technical Support Analyst. His technical background informs his music programming skills and producing skills. He produces all his music himself in a home recording studio he set up in his spare bedroom using a digital audio workstation (DAW) he designed and built.
"My scientific career is relevant insomuch as my music often has a scientific theme and is often inspired by science," Paul says. "I consider myself a scientist musician. I have noticed that many of my colleagues also play some kind of musical instrument. Science and music often go hand-in-hand."
In closing, Paul says: "I couldn't exist without my music. It's enriched my life so much. Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for myself, it's given me a reason to live. It's uplifted me and helped me to connect with other people."
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— Bio by Lorne Behrman
To learn more about the perkXsoundlabs backstory and about Paul personally follow my Tumblr blog .
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Photos by Kathy D. Wigal.