Fred ‘P’ Peterkin is the living embodiment of the maxim that if you don’t succeed at first, try, try again. The Brooklyn artist has been making music for decades, but only started to enjoy recognition in the past six years with releases on his own Soul People label and for like-minded outlets like Jus’Ed’s Underground Quality and DJ Qu’s Strength.
Working as Fred P or Black Jazz Consortium, Peterkin’s musical, soulful take on house is refreshingly at odds with the sterile, faux deep grooves afflicting the form.
Having dabbled with nu jazz at the start of the noughties and with a passion for classic artists like Miles Davis — “Jazz is always an influence, it’s such a beautiful form of expression, and it’s part of my daily musical diet” — he nonetheless manages to make his records as DJ-friendly as possible.
Unusually for a house artist, though, Peterkin has released a string of artist albums, and his fourth long-player, ‘Codes & Metaphors’, recorded under the Black Jazz Consortium guise, is imminent on Soul People.
“I’m a '70s kid, so I’m used to the album format,” he explains in his pensive, deliberate tone. “I was a huge Isley Brothers fan and every year they would come out with a new album, so whenever I think of a project, it’s in album terms.”
Despite this, ‘Codes & Metaphors’ marks a departure of sorts for Peterkin; it was recorded partly at home and on the road “in hotel rooms”, an approach that required him to use software for the first time. “I’d say the challenge was learning Ableton and making that evolution to software, rather than making music on the road,” he believes. “It was a challenge to maintain my voice, and thankfully what came through was the language I am used to speaking, but using software.”
Speaking of voices, ‘Codes’ also marks Peterkin’s first album to use vocalists extensively. Fred explains that these collaborations came about organically through the community and network of friends and acquaintances he has built up.
“I love the texture, feel and soul of a vocal, the way it works with the chord structures, I like,” he says. “These collaborations were done via the internet, so the next time I would like to have the vocalist in front of me in the studio to capture that physical presence. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with the way that it worked out. Malena [Perez] is a friend of Aybee and I had just done a remix for Lady Blaktronica, so that’s how she came to be involved. Minako [Sasjima] is a friend of someone I played for in Tokyo, and Christina Wheeler is a friend of a friend — it all happened very naturally,” Fred explains.
In particular, the track with Perez, ‘Love Is…’ makes for a stunning combination, her winsome tones nestling up to Peterkin’s steely drums and spacey claps to create an unforgettable atmosphere. Elsewhere, the acidic ‘Amazing’ also serves to showcase Peterkin’s ability to fuse deep textures with a dancefloor functionality. This characteristic is also audible in his DJ sets. It’s a trait that he shares with that other great contemporary New York artist, Levon Vincent — is it deliberate?
“Nah, I don’t set out to do anything in particular when I go into the studio, I stay open to all possibilities,” he explains. “I don’t have a goal for doing music a certain way, I’d rather get better at making music and developing as an artist than plotting a course,” Fred says
modestly. “It’s about never-ending growth — I’m doing a lot of different projects, film scores, a lounge music series. These projects may never see the light of day, but they are a refresher for me, from doing 4/4 all the time.”
Like Levon Vincent and Jus’Ed, there is a disarming modesty about Peterkin and how he views his work. DJ Mag asks him about how he battled for years to get his music heard, overcoming personal demons and setbacks in the industry. Were there occasions where he felt like jacking it all in?
“Man, that still happens nearly every day!” he laughs, adding that “it’s funny how things work out. When you are at your lowest point, you get propelled to a greater place. Being in those dark places has allowed me to express myself.”
That’s part of the story behind Fred P’s journey from obscurity to the clubs of Europe and becoming one of house music’s modern luminaries. He also cites the rise in social media for helping him along — “if we had this technology 10 years ago, we would have had the same result”, he believes — as well as Jus’Ed and Underground Quality for breaking
him out. “They taught me how to make records and put me on the map. Ed taught me how to read a crowd in a club. In my personal life and artistic development, he was like a big brother,” he says.