Celebrating it’s 10th year of existence, Tectonic was an instrumental label in the pioneering years for Dubstep and continues to be regular and reliable leader in bass laden Dance music. He has been instrumental in the creation and establishment of Dubstep throughout it’s early years as reflected in the 10th year of his label empire. He also ran Earwax, brought Joker through, curated the Multiverse labels and in my opinion, made an all time forever classic tune in Qawaali. Top boy.
Sitting down in Pinch’s studio, I remember why this room is dope, the air is so still and the anechoic treatment it’s had makes just talking sound more intense. All questions are submitted by users with me running my mouth a little. LEGGO>>
DSF - @Johnlenham : What do you make of Bristol’s music scene, venues and nights, now compared to back when Subloaded started.
Pinch: It’s not quite as good I guess. There’s less choice, there’s far fewer medium size clubs which I think dictates a course of either big, big events - which are like mini festival line ups - versus those small, very niche venues. I think having those medium size venues, like the Level, meant you could have more nights that fit with a particular sound. There are mid range venues, but the likes of Thekla is owned by Rock City and all these interests kinda turn things a little bit.
Just before Subloaded, Bristol was a Drum and Bass city, and it was just DnB nights everywhere, and I kinda of feel like I’m also a bit older now, so less interested, less impressed - seen more stuff and a bit more jaded or whatever.
Pete: Yeah like Level, I remember Bar Latino being my number one spot, right number of people, great space and sound. Strong line ups. It does feel like the options are a bit more limited.
Pinch: It’s just that, in the medium size venues you could have a whole night of something of the same kind of sound, and in that process you create a community, a vibe of people who are in the room because they all want to be in the room. Very small venues make it too expensive to host a full lineup of bigger artists and large venues tend to need mixed line ups to pull in the numbers through the door. 400-600 capacity venues are perfect for good all nighters with a dedicated sound or vibe and Bristol is lacking in options around that at the moment.
But you know, there’s lots of possibilities out there really and if you’ve got money in your pocket you can still have a good time, you know.
Pete: The only night I’ve been too that really felt like the vibe of Dubloaded at the Croft, was when Hotline and Young Echo had the downstairs room at the Exchange, it captured the mood and, I dunno, created this communal atmosphere, there was always something to look out for.
Pinch: I remember going down there and ended up signing that tune from Ishan Sound, about a year before it came out. Just came down, hanging out, it was my girlfriend Lizzy’s birthday - we were out, it was a party. And I was like, yeah sick, this is still going on, this mood, this vibe. Like you said - it felt very much familiar to me. Heard this track playing and I went up,
“Shit this tune is fucking killer, who made that?!”, and Kahn says
“It’s by Chris, who’s playing it now”, so I asked Ishan Sound
“ Mate, can you send me that one?” I remember thinking, on the Monday when the email pops up - I’m just not going to like it as much; I was just in the mood at the time; it’s just a dubstep tune or whatever… Put it on. That’s banging, I’ll have it on Tectonic please! So, I agree with you there.
I wouldn’t look to equate Dubloaded to be the best thing around. It was a particular night. The interesting thing is… And I am aware it’s maybe self aggrandising to believe they’re stemming from Dubloaded, you have Young Echo nights which took on the slightly weirder shoe-gazing more experimental side of it and the you got Who Cares lot who took on the more Garagey, Grimey and party side. And I felt that wasn’t as much fun as when they were both together.
DSF – @ultraspatial: Thoughts on current retromania surrounding 'nuum sonics and mythology.
Pinch: It’s an extension of of stuff that has always been happening, every new generation of dance music -
which is nearly every 2-3 years now pretty much - you’ve got a whole load of new people coming through getting into music and going out, and because there’s such a wealth of music that’s already been made, so much just get’s ignored, because it’s just impossible to listen to everything. So you get these different sets of ears, cherry picking out things that aren’t as familiar to them but still work and therefore valid and you get a little style rolling out, referencing something. Personally I don’t have a problem with any kind of retro referencing, the problem for me is when you try and disguise it as something new and forward thinking. And then you’re like, “Really? I don’t think it is…” You could also say HipHop started out by sampling funk records and so that’s recycling, but it was the way they did it, that made it different. So now you have, for example, Hardcore, and that’s cool so lets get out the ravey piano stabs, but lifting it and using it in the same sort of context. There’s no fucking skill in that.
DSF - @wilson In your experience has the general condition of venue’s turntables improved or continued to decline in the last ten years?
Pinch: Ah they’re fucked! I carry my own needles around with me. Buy new tips every 3 or 4 months. And the number of times you turn up at clubs and they don’t even have needles. Or one of the decks has a rusty spoon for a needle waiting to cut your plates up. Decks are generally a bit battered and people don’t know how to set them up properly any more.
Pete: You specify decks in your rider?
Pinch: Technics. Just turn up and I say, look it’s going to be fucked if I can’t play them records because I ain’t got anything else to play.
The worst are when clubs are not used to having people play on vinyl: “ Yeah, yeah it’ll be fine we had someone playing off of Traktor last month”, asking the soundman if he’s sorted out the bass feedback, “It’ll be fine”, put on the first record and BBBBBBBBBBFFFFSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHH (sound of needle skating across the record). “Ok…”
So part of my skill set as a vinyl dj is dealing with these problems and minimising them as much as possible – so, for example, you might spend half the time with the bass on 0 whenever a track drops to a quiet part and popping it back in at the right time, when the bass kicks in. There’s lots of little ways around these issues.
Pete: Ever thought about Serato?
Pinch: It’s pointless. Might as well use CDJs. Why bother trying to look like your mixing vinyl, end up carrying all that shit with you. You could just take 2 USB sticks.
Pete: You can still play vinyl though, switch between if problems occur.
You’d just take a USB stick with you. I did go through a period of getting reference cds when I would get my dubplates cut, carrying them around with me, thinking I was being too precious; adapt to the modern age, get used to these different ways of playing music - have a back up plan. I just never ended up playing them, so I stopped getting them done.
https://tectonic.databeats.com/vinyl/tec077 (has vinyl and digi)
DSF – @Johnlenham : How has the rise of social media over the last ten years with things like Facebook and Twitter affected how Tectonic is run, if at all?
Pinch: It means I now have to get my girlfriend to do a lot of that for me!
Pete: It’s Lizzy that controls all that?
Pinch: Oh god yeah, I’ve never even signed in to Facebook, don’t have an account. I do my own twitter and Lizzy runs certain posts past me for Facebook and that…
It’s an essential part of operations now and I have adapted slightly to that change in things, but personally, I hate the neurotic and narcissistic aspects that all of these things bring out in people, including myself. Maybe I would have been more successful if I had opened a Facebook account several years ago, I don’t know. There is a balance there and I’m still trying to work out where it is.
What I would be interested in is developing more community around the label and I’m sort of tried to do that by getting the web shop up and functional and selling TPs (vinyl test pressings) and stuff direct from there. That’s something I’m working on developing further and I’m interested in. But poking your head out on the big wide world of social media is quite alien to me, I don’t fully understand all of it. When people talk to me about it, I kind of switch off and would rather talk about something else.
Pete – Fair enough.
DSF – @Johnlenham: Any people who sent you tunes and you didn’t sign and now wish you had?
Pinch: Yeah I missed out the Martyn remix of Brokenheart on Hessle by about a week or so! Yeah TRG sent the original to me, I was like ‘this is cool, this is cool’, but I never usually make snap decisions when signing a track. And by the time I was like, yeah it’s on. He was like “No it’s gone”. I always wanted Footcrab too, but Tony (Headhunter/Addison Groove) already promised it to Loefah. I thought he was on Tempa exclusive at the time so didn’t ask him for the track. When I found out he wasn’t anymore: “Sorry I gave it to Pete (Loefah) now”. C’est la vie.
SF – @Leo_Watkins : With the UK dance music scene in a state of flux, with a huge variation of genres and distribution methods, how do you see your labels place in that? And has there been a dubstep resurgence of late?
Pinch: I’d say, in the manner of a teacher marking student’s homework: “Tectonic could do better!”
Cold Recordings, the sister label, is without distribution. We do it all ourselves, cherry pick which shops to sell to, only dealing direct. The problem is the balance between being visible and doing what you want to do. Unfortunately, in my experience, those two things don’t always match up. I would much rather a situation where I didn’t have to bother with any social media at all - build up a great email list of people who are genuinely interested in the label, so you aren’t bothering anyone unnecessarily. Build a community around it and sell direct. Do digital worldwide but only sell the physical direct to people. That’s what I’d like to see, but it doesn’t quite work like that yet.
On the Dubstep resurgence, I get this impression there’s a load of younger generation just wising up to the fact the stuff we were into is still cool and the stuff that passed through most people’s attention was more relative to a fashion at the time - which has gone out of fashion now. Sometimes I think it’s a shame that you can’t have that interest focussed at more appropriate times – like, when a lot of that aspect of the creativity was more impulsive excitement and genuine.
It’s another retro thing. There’s value in enjoying anything and everything from the past, and in order to appreciate what is really new you have to have an understanding of what has already happened. Those two things are inseparable really. The very best music is timeless though.
DSF- @swerver: Do you consciously avoid producing or signing the more traditional 140 stuff these days?
Pinch: Kind of. The last straight up Dubstep 12 was the Namkha EP with Ishan Sound and the Kahn remix - which I really like and still gets played out regularly. I saw that as something in a traditional vein but a very rare example of sounding quite unique and fresh so it still fits with my impetus for releasing music, which is more about what’s fresh and exciting than maintaining pre-existing standards. I think that that will be something I will be hoping to continue throughout because stagnation is self indulgence. They are the same thing.
You can’t expect to move forward with a perpetual reinvention of everything every time you make a new record. But there’s moments where things build up to a point and it’s like, this beat pattern, for example the half-step beat pattern, was mind-blowing when it happened, when I first heard it. Unfortunately now, I have heard it so many times it’s just a bit fucking boring. I don’t really want to go perpetually celebrating that great moment. I would much rather find new ones, which is a bit more work, a lot more risk and doesn’t always yield such successful results, but I think it’s a more honourable path to pursue.
Pete: That leads nicely into:
DSF – @RKM: Do you think half-step beats have become cliché and halted development in the genre?
Pinch: I would say yes. Anything that becomes overly familiar loses the excitement spark, the magic that comes from hearing something fresh. Of course that’s going to be true to that extent.
Halting it’s progress? It’s the more the fact that it became such a template, a defining aspect, that people started thinking if things didn’t have a half-step, it wasn’t Dubstep. That’s the deeper issue in my opinion. Which is to say that the perception of the music transformed it into a caricature of what represents it and then it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
Pete: Pinch. Deep. We’re going in.
DSF – @jrkhnds : What’s the future for Tectonic and Cold looking like? How are the labels connected and what’s their function in your musical vision?
Pinch: Tectonic is the mothership, Cold Recording is the little reconnaissance shuttle that goes out exploring. I started it because I wanted to create a new platform for some of the more bass-and-techno variations of the things I was enjoying and playing. I felt that it would be important to establish a new identity to do that. I realised when I was initially putting this kind of stuff out on Tectonic, there was an expectation of what that label should be releasing. It didn’t do as well as I well as I would have liked it to. At the same time, the two things feed between each other because I’m A&Ring both.
Pete: Is there a crossover of artists or do you try and keep the separate?
Pinch: I set out thinking I was going to have all the separation in mind or whatever and then I just thought ‘fuck it’. There’s no rules and I’m not going to start making them for myself. I have kind of decided more recently that Tectonic is going to be the main impetus for release side and I’ll keep Cold as a platform for 12s. I don’t see it as a platform for artist albums yet like I do with Tectonic.
Pete: You will still do compilations?
Pinch: Yeah, the compilations are a way of some contribution to the digital realm whilst maintaining preferential treatment to vinyl buyers.
DSF – @Johnlenham: Any collaborations he wished he could do or haven’t had the chance to do?
Pinch: I’ve been pretty lucky to be honest with you, I’ve worked with a lot of people I do genuinely respect. I’ve fallen into a lot of the ones that have happened from meeting people, chatting, hanging out and deciding to work on some tunes together. Off the top of my head, I’d quite like to do some rhythms with Arca, I think he’s a sick producer. Vocalists - well I’d love to work with Beth Gibbons from Portishead. One of my favourite female vocalists.