TAPEd conversation: Pinch (Tectonic / Planet Mu)
Another week has flown by and, I know, I know, we still haven't given you a great deal in the way of upfront of mpfrees. That will change soon, as I keep assuring you, but for now you ought to be contented with the spanking mixes from Sean Johnston, Heartbeat and our very own Ricky C in this week's earlier posts - Carnage's in particular has some bran new/as yet unreleased nuggets in its tracklisting, so have a listen 'em and spunk your money on some vinyl if you like what you here.
But to business...
Bristolians among you will, I hope, need no introduction to Pinch, aka Rob Ellis (picture above, taken quite a while ago, from Gutterbreakz...). Puffin Jack, who prizes a friendly manner as much as he does a heavy tune, habitually supplies the epithet "the nicest man in dubstep" whenever he mentions Rob's name, but frankly that's irrelevant, 'cos even if Pinch was a gun-toting nazi (which, I stress, he is not) we would still be forced to acknowledge what a shit-hot producer, DJ and label-owner her is. 'Qawaali', which came out on Planet Mu earlier in the year, is a solid-gold anthem round the smokier floors of TAPE Towers, and the man's speaker-melting DJ sets are the stuff of local, and increasingly international, legend (check out his Dubloaded night if you haven't already). He also runs the Tectonic label ("If your chest ain't rattlin', it ain't happenin'..."), which put out the totally off-the-scale double-header ('Bahl Fwd'/'Temptation') from Skream and Distance at the beginning of the summer, and is frankly one of the most important and interesting labels to emerge from the UK underground in recent years.
Anyway, I asked Pinch a few question about his influences, activities and aspirations....Here's what he said.
Dubstep, in particular the dancefloor-orientated tracks, has its roots and references in the dark garage sounds of producers like Horsepower; yetlistening to 'Qawaali', or tracks by Shackleton, Mystikz etc, in many waysit's dub in the purest sense, albeit beefed up and modernized. How important (if at all) are original dub and roots sounds to you?
Dub was always more important to me than roots originally – it’s where, andwhen, sound and space boundaries were first broken - the rules rewritten. My older brother used to listen to a lot of dub - especially the On-U Sound label andrelated stuff, he used to make me tapes - and a couple of them were the onlythings that received a regular airing from the age of about 10/11 the whole time through till, well now. In more recent years I've also come toappreciate the roots side too - and its conscious messages. I do think, though, that the 'dub' in dubstep has come a lot more recently, I think it was used originally to mean 'instrumental' rather than 'reggae'. Still there'sdefinitely a strong affinity between the genres, even if it’s more apparent in some productions than others.
You're based in Bristol, spiritual home of highgrade and, for want of a better word, trip hop. Have you been at all influenced by Massive Attack, Geoff Barrow,Smith & Mighty etc – what the rest of the world tends to think of as the Bristol sound? Do you ever feel like you're making music in that tradition? Or were those kinds of producers/artists never really on your radar?
Its funny I always liked the term trip hop - thought it was a good way of putting it. But yes - these producers were at the forefront of my 'radar'. I have been hugely influenced by the Bristol sound as it’s known - Portishead,Massive Attack, Tricky, Smith & Mighty, More Rockers, Roni, Die, Krust,Suv...It’s why I moved here 8 years ago (I grew up in Newport, was born originally in Scotland). It's been an incredible honour to meet and hang outwith Peter D (from More Rockers) and Rob Smith (from Smith & Mighty), through them finding out about dubstep and getting into it. Even Roni Size has called round to my house recently to fish out some beats off the hard drive!
I don't feel that I've set out to make 'Bristol' music, I'm just doing whatcomes naturally…I'm influenced by it so that will obviously shine through in some capacity, but my real drive came from London - dubstep is a London sound much in the way jungle was. I guess though (to go full circle), I've gone to London, taken it back to Bristol and I'm twisting my own variation on it. Thing is, my tracks have a very different sound to, say, the HENCH crew- they're all Bristolian so I guess their sound is more of a Bristol dubstep sound - even if, ironically, mine is probably closer to what used to be known as a Bristol sound...Complicated!
A lot of dubstep is intensely minimal. And techno production seems toreally influence (perhaps indirectly) the texture and construction of dubstep, even though the beat patterns are usually derived from jungle and 2step. Have you ever been into techno yourself?
Yes, I especially enjoy deep minimal techno, I'm (predictably) a big fan ofBasic Channel, Chain Reaction and - of course - their current incarnation, Rhythm & Sound. I also like anything that has a bit of a 'wonky funk' factor to it, not a fan of anything too rigid and industrial – it’s got to have an organic arrangement so it sounds like it’s been made by a human rather than beeb robotically organised. If that makes any sense...
How important is living in Bristol to you and your music? Do you ever feel tempted to move to London?
I like London - it is growing on me and I currently spend a lot of time there but I don't think I'm ready to live there. I find it a bit overwhelming whereas Bristol is laid back and predictable - which isn'talways a good thing but it’s quite comforting. There's a good, healthy music scene here considering the size of the city, always a lot going on.
Apart from the obvious - Loefah, Mystikz, Skream, Plastician, Kode9, et al - who do you think are the most exciting producers right now?
I'm big into what Random Trio are doing. Both Cyrus and Omen have a very different but distinctive sound to their productions but both make beats that - even if they don't grab you at first - stand the test of time, grow on you as you listen carefully. That’s important to me. I also think D1 is a little underrated for what he's achieved in terms of his own sound and Hijak is coming through with some quality sounds. Distance and Vex'd should have been on your list too by the way!
I saw you play in a backroom at a jungle night two years ago, and had never heard anything like it. Looking back on it, it was a pure dubstep set,even though people are really only switching on to it now... How long have you been playing records that you'd describe as dubstep?
I started with a few bits and I would mix it with minimal techno and other tempo-related things (grime, garage, electro) maybe 3 1/2 years ago. There really weren’t a lot of releases out then. As I started going to FWD>>, meeting people and getting tracks from them I started cutting more dubplates and bulding up enough material to play just dubstep - maybe a few grime bits too.
What was the first dubstep tune and made you think 'Fuck - this is something new and exciting…'
To be honest, it was more of an experience…Kode 9 at FWD>> (the first timeI went) took me somewhere that made me realise - this is it, it all makes sense now. Within a couple months I was playing strikkly dubstep and lost interest in most other styles of music...
Do you have any desire to work with MCs/vocalists on record?
Yes - it's in the works...
You've just done a wee tour of the US...How was that experience? Is there any kind of scene there?
It was a great experience, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I went with Distance and I think our styles complimented each other well, plus we had a good laugh. The scene is young but picking up speed very quickly now. In LA we played to an 'electronica' crowd, San Fran - a breaks/electro crowd. LA, took them a little while to really get it, but they went from head swaying zombie mode to full on bouncing around the room bawling for rewinds in about 10-15mins! Similarly, in San Fran the crowd was pretty icey when I went on the decks and I did think to myself, ‘Oh no, this is gonna be dry,’ but straightaway they reacted and it was pure vibes, throughout mine and Distance's sets. I was actually quite surprised by how well we were received.
What were the really influential/inspirational records/producers whenyou were growing up?
Too many! Jimi Hendrix was the first I really 'heard' and that’s where my own journey began, I suppose.
How important has the internet been in sorting out your productions, networking, raves, label etc?
The internet has definitely helped the scene move a lot quicker than itcould have without it - no two ways about it. It’s been instrumental in exchanging dubs (through MSN/AIM), remix parts - all sorts. A very important line of communication. Also, sites like barefiles.com have made the music available to people internationally who would have had no other way of hearing it - again, this has been very important to the scene's development.
Do you have any plans for a full-length album, or are dubs and 12"s the format you intend to stick with?
Album in the works…Should be on the shelves around March '07 hopefully.
Any collaborations in the pipeline?
Just finished a sick track with Distance, and hopefully will get round to finishing something I started with Loefah a while back.
What's your favourite biscuit?
This can be debated for hours on end. Depends if you want dunkability, a one-off biscuit hit or a biscuit with a good repeatability factor that you can hit several in a row without feeling nauseous. For all round balance I'mgonna go for... Milk Chocolate Hob Nobs.
This interview will appear (in abridged form) on FACT Magazine's website later this month.
Also of interest: K-Punk's profile on Kode9 at www.factmagazine.com