“I felt like I’d been in a bubble… I didn’t realise people knew my stuff! All I had to go on was what I saw on the internet. So actually meeting people, meeting my peers, it’s been so inspiring… I’ll be writing very differently when I get home…”
There’s an intensity to Peter NC-17 Aldan at the best of times. The Toronto producer wears his emotions without filter; whether he’s feeling fierce, fatigued or full of love, you’ll feel it a mile off. It burrows deep on his brow, his eyes spark up and actions become animated. And right at the moment we speak, Friday June 24, he’s positively bubbling over with enthusiasm.
Just days off completing his first ever international tour as an artist – a full month spent playing up and down the UK – he feels rejuvenated, re-energised, inspired and excited at the prospect of being reunited with his family.
This wasn’t just any old debut tour; living with an old friend for the full month, it’s reconnected him with some very special people in his life and feels much more connected with the UK than he ever has. After spending so much of his life studying and creating a style of music born in Britain – not to mention his 35mm view of the UK through his other deep passion, cinema – he feels much more in-tune with the drum & bass motherland.
“The biggest culture shock I’ve had is that everyone has been so nice!” he laughs. “I’m not used to people messaging me saying how they enjoyed my set or how they’ve been following my music. It’s very humbling when you meet people who know what you’re doing and appreciate your work. Does that count as a culture shock? It is for me because I’m not used to it.”
These are the levels of enthusiasm we’re dealing with here and they highlight just how intense Peter has been on himself and his craft. His lockdown was spent writing a trilogy of albums. The first of its kind in drum & bass, Most Violent Year was a creative endeavour of brutalist proceedings.
“I’ll write for 15-20 hours a day. I do not leave my room unless it’s for food or whatever and just work,” he told me mid-way through the process in this UKF interview in 2020. “It takes a lot out of me but it works. The closest thing I can describe it is like method actors and how they don’t leave their character at all, they go so deep. I guess it’s kinda similar.”
On another occasion, when asked for a story about a specific track I was playing on Vision Radio (Lord Of Illusion) he explained how he’d worked so hard in the studio he’d fallen asleep at his controls in a contorted angle and woke up suffering so much back pain he couldn’t walk properly for weeks.
This is the madness to Peter’s method actor style approach. But the results speak for themselves. Featuring collaborations with the likes of Kumarachi, Philth, Dauntless, Dunk, Yatuza, Logam, Dr Apollo, Kolectiv, OB1, John Rolodex and Exile, the Most Violent Year series spanned a year of releases (concluding just last month with the third and final part) and comprised some of his most accomplished and celebrated work. Completely bucking the notion that albums are dead, all three LPs were successful and made an impact. “I wasn’t expecting them to do as well as they have,” he admits. “They’ve all hit number one on the Beatport all-genre album charts and the Juno Download drum & bass section.”
The hard work has paid off and it’s another reason why he feels so elated about his tour and experiences playing in the UK. After such a feverish creative spate – during which he wrote hundreds of tracks – his UK tour broke a very thick no-gig seal. In fact Peter hadn’t played out for nearly four years prior to arriving in the UK.
“I wasn’t getting bookings at home,” he explains. “I hadn’t played for a while, then the pandemic happened and I was working on my albums so I decided, “You know what? I’m going to wait until I play here. Plus drum & bass just isn’t as big in Canada. Not in comparison to what it’s like here. I’ve been in the car thinking we were listening to some mixtape and it’s BBC Radio 1! I don’t think everyone appreciates just how big it is in the UK.”
One of the biggest things in the UK for Peter during the tour, however, was his friendship with his friend Trevor. His best man at his wedding, Trevor Sheen and Peter have been tight for many years. During his time as a producer, under the name Masheen, Trevor would regularly visit Toronto for bookings. “It’s funny,” grins Peter. “People often call me a machine because of my work rate, but he’s the original!”
“We saw a lot of each other in the past and he’d come every three months or so. He took a hiatus from the genre, now I’m doing my thing and he’s repaying the favour. He’s been in my house at least 100 times and brought friends. We’ve met each other’s families. It’s so cool to have that tight friendship and bond.”
It’s also allowed him to make his tour work. The savage reality of touring for underground artists of Peter’s level within niche genres is that there’s a danger of coming home with no more money than they started with. Staying at a friend’s house has allowed him to make the tour work in his favour and justified the longest amount of time he’s ever spent away from his wife and son. “I’ve had a few nights where I’ve cried, I won’t lie to you,” he admits.
“No one talks about the sacrifices you have to make to follow your passion. Having a family is beyond priceless to me. My wife is so supportive. If she wasn’t, then I don’t know if I’d be doing all this. She made this happen. I owe all of my success to her support. She was the first one to tell me to follow my dreams. She’s been with me 10 years and been through all those nights up for 24 hours. Being an artist is that you’re stuck in your head. You’re thinking about what you’re doing.”
There’s a lot to think about when you’re as prolific as NC-17, too. Most Violent Year wasn’t the only project Peter had committed to over recent years. He’s been stuck in his head while considering other missives on major league labels, too. As well being a permanent fixture on Dispatch, he’s dropped EPs and singles on the likes of Ram Records, Bad Taste and Rebel Music to name a few. In fact, as this article was being written, he hit number one in the Beatport drum & bass charts with his latest Metalheadz release Winter Sleep.
We can also exclusively reveal that he’s also well into another album and his second album trilogy! The first LP to land will be a collaborative album with Australian producer Dauntless (who also appeared on the inaugural chapter of Most Violent Year) before he follows it up with Enter The Violence. Another intense three-part marathon, he and Dispatch bossman Ant-TC1 are already in the throes of the A&R process as he’s submitted his first 60 tracks for consideration. Kindred spirits through their well-publicised love and commitment to martial arts, Peter and Ant’s connection runs deeper than your typical musical friendship.
“I really believe that to be friends in this game for such a long period of time you have to have common interests,” Peter reflects. “I stopped martial arts when I got more seriously into music, not long before the pandemic. But I’ve kept the work ethic and translated into my music. When I trained I noticed that it wasn’t the most talented guys who made it, it was the guys who worked hardest at achieving the next level. You know those guys who are in the gym from first minute to the last? Those were my inspiration and to be able to parlay that ethic and energy from martial arts into my creative process is something I believe has given me the edge. That’s another thing I’ve really missed during this trip, actually… I can’t wait to get back into the studio!”
Peter’s eyes light up once more, his actions remain animated, his brows constantly raising with enthusiasm as we wrap up the call and he prepares for his last two UK shows and say bid his farewells before heading back to his long-missed family (and studio) By the time you read this, he’ll be back in his natural habitat preparing for another trip later this summer. The seal on his four-gig abstinence well and truly broken, he’s back on European soil for Outlook festival and more key UK shows before finishing up the first chapter of Enter The Violence for release before the year is out. The intensity never ends…