Perera Elsewhere: “Berlin was the home I chose”

We caught up with Sasha Perera AKA Perera Elsewhere ahead of her gig at the Volksbühne to talk about experimentation, belonging and how to cope with Berlin winters.

Credit: Gene Glover X Hugo Holger Schneider

After years labouring on the Berlin underground scene, it feels quite fitting that the experimental auteur and all-round anarchic noise-pedlar Perera Elsewhere has been honoured for her skills and dedication to the cause. The winner of last year’s Best Act accolade at the VUT Indie Awards, Perera Elsewhere, aka London-born, Berlin-based producer and vocalist Sasha Perera has long had a reputation as a tasteful, genre-pushing, songwriter.

Those with some serious legs in Berlin will remember her as the face of unruly, bass-shaking trio Jahcoozi, or a DJ-promoter at the city’s Grimetime parties. Now under her solo moniker Perera Elsewhere, the innovative producer has released three albums that are somewhat downbeat and folky, while remaining at a cutting-edge that defies contemporary categorisation. Her latest LP investigates the notion of identity and home, while trudging through am acoustic landscape of deconstructive pop, neo-folk, and droney beats.

Well done on the new record. Are you happy with how it’s been received?

how much identity do you adopt and how much are you born with?

Yes, I feel like my music needs to grow. It’s not something that needs to be consumed immediately, it is something progressive yet also timeless. The feedback has been nice. I’m playing a live show at Sonar Festival some other amazing festivals, which is great especially after corona imprisonment. 

Was there some sort of underlying commentary you had in mind while making the record?

The commentary relates to my other albums; who are we really; where do we choose to be and where are we forced to be; how much identity do you adopt and how much are you born with? It’s about finding a space you fit into as an adult, working out where you are creatively, politically, ethically, musically, and socially in this world. Home is just part of this journey.

As you stated about the context, Home is a juxtaposition to being ‘elsewhere’. What have you learned about home over the past few years?

The pandemic meant being stuck in once place physically, which is a lot for me, someone who is constantly running away. Through this stability I matured as a person and as a producer. I feel like my sound became more solidified, and I became a better producer.  Is Elsewhere juxtaposed to home? That has always been a question, but Elsewhere can also be a home. I see home as a community and I’m always expanding on that through the people, music, art, technology and ideas I encounter.  

Credit: Gene Glover X Hugo Holger Schneider

How was your relationship with Berlin, changed over time, in the context of it being your home?

I guess Berlin was my first real home, the one I chose and not the one I was born into. Perera, my mum’s maiden name, is a Portuguese colonial name, something which is the result of history and geo-political manoeuvres. Sri Lanka was a Portuguese colony once and my parents come from there. London is my home because many Sri Lankans emigrated to the UK as it was last coloniser of Sri Lanka.

Berlin was my first real home, the one I chose and not the one I was born into.

My parents come from both sides of the civil war. They speak different languages and were born into different religions. Nothing is really homogenous. I grew up on the slip road of a motorway in south west London, a place of transit with no neighbourhood or sense of belonging. 

I also lived in Singapore for two years in the middle of all of this as a kid and then had to move back to the motorway in London. There was lots of input, inspiration, paradoxical ideas, and upheaval.

In the end, Berlin was the first place I actually chose to live in. I moved to this city and decided to make music.  I am the first EU member of my family, and the city has nurtured me and allowed me to express myself. I have affordable studio space and a big apartment, all things I could never have had in London, where you have to be pretty rich to sit around making art until it is good enough to sell somehow.

Still, I have a love hate relationship with Berlin. I love the dynamic community, but I just am a bit pissed at being stuck in the northern hemisphere and can’t take the lack of light in the winter. I speak German fluently however and this makes me feel very at home. I’m also happy that the city has become more diverse over the time I have been here.  I’m lucky to live in a liberal city where people are really into culture.  I am always shocked that in Britain culture seems less accessible and how shopping has been substituted for culture.

On ‘Heatwave’, the lyrics refer to your life being a jigsaw. What like puzzles are you currently trying to solve?

I think I’m not trying to solve a puzzle as the puzzle is always changing, and I would get bored and depressed if I did crack the code to life, but I do have problems fitting everything into the one lifetime.

I’m a bit ADHD and a total multi-tasker which is why being an interdisciplinary artist probably suits me. I’m also very sentimental, sensitive and have way too many thoughts, ideas, wishes, and dreams. But isn’t that the same for everyone? Would we be more chill making fire from stones and cave paintings? Probably…

“Most people don’t even realise I play the trumpet till they see me on the stage with it” Photo:

Do you feel like you’ve arrived at a sound that completely defines you, or is there still more to explore?

I have no idea what is coming and I find that is exciting. I think I have defined my sound more clearly over the years, and I do love collaborating, having mad ideas of totally reinventing the wheel but who knows.  Space, time and bass plays a big role in my music and that will always remain the same.  One day I may end up being Lee Scratch Perera!  There’s so much room to experiment in dub. Plus, I still haven’t made that trumpet album I’ve always intended to. Most people don’t even realise I play the trumpet till they see me on the stage with it and with pitch-shifters and harmonisers.

Would we be more chill making fire from stones and cave paintings? Probably…

What can people expect from your show at the Volksbühne?

Fire!!! For a start Eddington Again is opening for me, who are amazing. I will be playing a live AV [audio-visual] show with my band. That means the totally mad visuals, as produced by Hugo Holger Schneider, my visual collaborator. I don’t know anyone who has these kinds of visuals. My band have been on the stage with me since the first album, and although I like to produce alone I actually love standing on a big stage with other humans who can do spontaneous stuff. Plus, after my show Born in Flames and Selecta K7 will be playing a B2B DJ set in the foyer of Volksbühne for post-gig hangs where I will surely be getting drunk and selling merch.