Underneath his tiny baby pink OFF-WHITE sunglasses and bleached blonde bowl-cut (which he admits has grown out and needs a cut), you’ll find that 17-year-old Perto has a wealth of production knowledge, of new rappers and producers on the come-up and a strong vision of his own musical output, which he categorises as “somewhere between like, five different genres”.
“I don’t really know how to explain it. I just steal shit from other genres and then put it all together really.”
Despite not having an official EP or album out yet, Perto already has remixes under his belt for Flosstradamus and Valentino Khan, as well as tunes with features from underground artists like all damn day. and DCMBR. He’s sold out Sydney’s Civic Underground, despite not being old enough to party there himself, and gone on a massive tour of Asia, with plans for another. His on-stage energy is absolutely mammoth – the drops are bombastic, the dry ice is plenty and the crowd is frothing on it. He just got his first song released on Diplo's Mad Decent, a huge tune called Gone, which was premiered with much excitement by Beats1's Zane Lowe.
When I catch Perto in his studio, it’s the night before his 17th birthday and he has no idea how he’s celebrating.
“I dunno, I’m just gonna hang out with my friends. It’s like the purgatory year, it’s like between the cool Sweet 16 year, and 18 when you can actually do shit.”
When he started producing at age 10, Perto dabbled around on GarageBand, apparently with “no idea” what he was doing.
“Then I cracked Ableton, and I just started fucking around for a year or so. Then I felt like I was finally getting somewhere – well, for an 11-year-old it was getting somewhere. Everything else I’d done before that, I’d done for a few months and gone, ‘cool, I don’t like that any more, I don’t wanna do it.’ This is really the only thing that ever really stuck with me.”
Like many musical origin stories, Perto admits he “fucking hated school” and always told himself he was gonna leave. When he finally did, soon after he was signed at age 16, he explains that his label A&R had to write an adult absence note to his school to prove that he was indeed signed.
“I don’t know if he had to send a contract but he had to send like, something to say I’m employed basically. Most people who drop out do internships and apprenticeships and stuff, so they had to make sure I wasn’t just gonna drop out and chill.
“My school didn’t know anything [about my music]. They had no idea what was going on. So when I was like, ‘hey I’m leaving because like… my music is a thing’, they had no idea. I didn’t really interact with many people at school, I’d just sit down and do my music so they were like, ‘are you lying?’”
He speaks fast like there’s a million things going through his head at once, almost like a human fidget spinner – except unlike fidget spinners, Perto’s undoubtedly cool. His sense of humour is dry and sardonic, the memes he shares are so tied into the internet’s inside jokes, you actually have to stop and wonder whether you’re already out of touch in your 20s. I watch him make a fake FaceTime screenshot of him “chatting” to Soulja Boy, whose photo he saves from Google Images. “It’s funny because it’s so obvious it’s fake,” he explains, a cheeky grin on his face. Unsurprisingly, the fake screenshot racked up over a 1,000 likes on his Insta in minutes.
“Right now, I’m heavily, heavily influenced by a lot of stuff coming out of Sweden right now. Yung Lean, Bladee, Thaiboy Digital, they’re seriously the next wave. The next level. But I was pretty much listening to generic dubstep [when I was younger]. I was always into rap, I was a Lil Wayne stan when I was like 8, I don’t know how that happened. I’m a huge fan of GOTHBOICLIQUE and all the emo shit coming out of them and all their contemporaries right now too. Huge fan of Lil Peep, Lil Tracy, Lil Raven, and I was trying to reach out to these guys for a while.” He ended up connecting with Raven on his track, Myself.
His entry into electronic music, though, was through Skrillex and Major Lazer, both of whom he calls heroes.
“I was on my way to soccer practice, I think I was like 10, and I heard Bangarang on the radio. I was like, ‘what the fuck is this?!’ I went home and I was like, ‘I’m not doing soccer anymore! I’m gonna be a DJ!’” he says with a snigger.
So it was pretty surreal, he explains, when at age 11 he found himself hanging out with Flosstradamus and Major Lazer at their Sydney show.
“It was the SECOND show I ever went to, Major Lazer and Flosstradamus, and it was all ages for some reason at Enmore Theatre. I had been annoying Flosstradamus on Instagram for a while, just like ‘check out my songs!’. This is on my 11th birthday! I was at that show. And Curt [Cameruci] and Josh [Young] brought me back to say hi, and I was like freaking out because Major Lazer and Flosstradamus were my favourites.
“That night I DM’d them and was like ‘hey what’s up,’ and they didn’t say they were gonna bring me back, but then they had some security guard come out and picked me up and my brother and my friend. Actually they brought me out on stage and I didn’t know what I was doing, so I was like… I dunno what I did! Everyone was like, ‘what the fuck are these kids doing here?’ And then like, we were just talking to Curt, and Diplo walks past, and I’m like ‘what the fuck…’ because he was like my hero. Him and Skrillex were like THE guys. So I was just freaking out.”
So DMs work, apparently. “DMs work sometimes. I reckon I have 30 or 40 unread ones where I’m like, ‘what’s your email?’”
A few years later, a similar gig run-in actually connected him with Diplo.
“It was Post Malone and Diplo’s tour down here. I was already in contact with someone from Post’s camp first, just online; I was just sending them stuff for a while. I ended up meeting them at the show, I couldn’t get in [because it wasn’t all ages]. And I had a USB and I saw Post get out of the van and I was like, ‘hey, I just wanna meet him,’ and gave him the USB and said, ‘hey, can you please give this to Diplo, I really want him to hear this.’ Next morning I woke up to a follow from [Diplo], he DM’d me. And the next day I was in the studio with Post’s camp working on shit.”
He says meeting and working with Skrillex and Yung Lean is still top of the list. “The person I NEED to work with is Yung Lean. I would do anything. I’m waiting for the right song [to reach out to him].”
Aside from music, which we’ll be hearing a lot more of this year, Perto spends time looking for dope clothes from labels like Balenciaga or Heron Preston online or playing PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS [PUBG]. He says he’s working on starting his own label collective too.
“A lot of my inspo is from Instagram. There are heaps of these mood board pages and I just ask my cool friends, like, ‘what is that?’ Then I’m like, ‘oh, it’s $3000, cool no.’ I’m in Newtown so that’s where all the people go to thrift stuff, so it’s all empty. So it kinda sucks. But I go to Grailed and Depop [online], I go to get some cool stuff. Grailed is basically like Depop but for high fashion and streetwear.
“And I’m working on an exclusive merch drop! Me and a friend of mine, Trashar, are working on our own label as well. Doing some weird shit. But yeah, that should be coming soon. Everyone I’ve shown it to has been kinda excited about it. We’re gonna make as many pieces as possible and then cut it down, but that’s gonna be separate from Perto.
“It’s kind of like a collective I’m working on too – a bunch of young artists that don’t really know what they’re doing. We’re just gonna bring each other up.”
See ya at the top, Perto.