Rewind: Pinch Interview + Set This Saturday in Brooklyn

Pinch-portrait

For today’s throwback we fittingly picked to share an interview with Pinch that was done in the days when dubstep wasn&#39t a shame word, sounds just started turning purple, and Pinch has not yet created Cold recordings. Read back about Pinch&#39s interesting theory of mid-range frequencies, his story as a DJ, and to see if he was right predicting the future of dubstep.

If you are in New York this Saturday, do not miss the man perform in flesh alongside Facta and Ishan Sound.

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interview by John Dawson as published in Big Up Seven

Both Tectonic as a label and you as an artist, have walked a long road over the past five years. Where would you say it all began?

Initially, I was a bedroom DJ, playing jungle for many years. Getting bored of the music coming out of drum and bass at the time, I began playing more eclectic, deeper minimal techno and garage until a friend of mine, Jamie Vex’d, suggested going to check out FWD>> in London, which was a bit of an epiphany for me. Hearing Kode9 play put it all in perspective, having not heard dubstep through a system before, or in a fully mixed context.

About 2004 I decided to get involved and put on an event, Context, playing dubstep, electronica, and jungle. But after a few months that became predominantly dubstep. Next thing after that was the bi-annual Bristol event Subloaded. By the end of the year I’d set up Subtext, the first label, with a few friends and then a year later Dubloaded, the regular monthly event that carries on now…

Were you writing music at the time?

I dabbled to start with, writing a few jungle tunes until 2004 when I began to make dubstep… It totally absorbed me, containing elements of everything that interested me. About that time I was working on some tracks with Ginz, known as P-Dutty, called “War Dub” and “Alien Tongue” that became Tectonic 001. Then, there were only about half a dozen records that could be considered proper dubstep – everything was being played entirely off dubplate. So I started writing tracks, swapping dubs, and cutting plates.

To be honest with you if there had been a dubstep night set up in Bristol, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. The height of my ambition at the time was hoping to hear someone drop my tracks at FWD>>.

Starting a record label is a bold move. What motivated you to form Tectonic?

I wanted to have my own label to put out tracks people had sent me that were never going to see the light of day. And that was the birth of Tectonic. Selling records was a real struggle in those days. [Laughs] I’m talking about it like it was 40-50 years ago, for example, with Subtext there wasn’t a single distributor that would take on the shortest run of records that would cover the cost of pressing. So I had to sell directly to shops in London and Bristol, finally managing to get a bit of distribution over three separate companies, but it felt half-assed on their part. Whereas record sales are a bit tough today, there’s a market for dubstep now.

Did you have any difficulty being taken seriously in the beginning?

We were quite lucky with the success of Subtext, the first label we set up. The tracks were solid and had crossover appeal, John Peel was playing them on his show before sadly passing away. So essentially that helped us in setting up Tectonic, working with one distributor after that, and receiving support by DJs.
[quote]

I have a theory about these mid-range frequencies, the same frequency range of the human voice, around 1–3 kHz. Our ears are highly trained to pick up these frequencies. However you&#39ll notice a lot of early deeper dubstep does not have a lot of this frequency range. It will be powered by the snare but there will be a lot of space. The effect of this in my opinion is that it provides a more meditative context.

[/quote]

Did you always have a vision for the label?

The idea was blandly simple at the time – set up a dubstep label and put out great tracks that I had access to. I had faith in it, believing in the music and knowing this was what I wanted to do.

It takes a huge amount of effort and man hours to create something with longevity. What do you think has helped you provide a product that stands the test of time?

I can honestly say there is a lot of genuine love [that has] gone into Tectonic. You couldn’t have a viable business if you were just about breaking even all the time. Some releases sell more than others but touch wood, there’s not been any sign of anything not breaking even yet. Some releases will sell more and be more popular, but I still think it’s important to put out tracks that are significant for other reasons. An example of that would be Tectonic 010, a four-track EP by Moving Ninja with two tracks that were practically beatless.

It’s evident that some believe there is a generic sound to dubstep, while others acknowledge its diversity and ability to draw upon different influences. Would it be fair to say that Tectonic supports the artist’s intuition and ability to reinvent a sound?

Yeah, in the case of “Get Up,” all the artists (except RSD) asked if they could do a remix ‘cause they liked the track so much. Remixes always come out better when someone really wants to do it. There was actually one by Skream – he wanted to change the drums but never got round to it, so will never likely see the light of day.

But to elaborate, it is a source of frustration to me that a lot of people consider dubstep a very small window that reflects only one aspect of the sound. I guess it’s quite inevitable. When dubstep was a small thing for relatively geeky people that were into music, it was a more diverse and deeper sound. The more popularized it has become, the more people cling on to the popularized elements.

I have a theory about these mid-range frequencies, the same frequency range of the human voice, around 1–3 kHz. Our ears are highly trained to pick up these frequencies. However you’ll notice a lot of early deeper dubstep does not have a lot of this frequency range. It will be powered by the snare but there will be a lot of space. The effect of this in my opinion is that it provides a more meditative context. The absence of this frequency range and lots of bass creates an immersive sound, whereas using lots of midrange has a very alerting effect on the listener. It’s an exciting effect but doesn’t allow the more meditational aspects to come through that I particularly enjoy.

That’s an interesting theory; I’d never really considered it to that length.

[Laughs] I could go on forever with half-cut, half-baked theories of mine based on no science and a lot of guesswork.

Personally, I love what’s going on with the techno and dubstep crossover productions that have been emerging over the past few years and look forward to hearing more. Do you have a similar intrigue in this area?

I like certain kinds of minimal and experimental dub-influenced techno, and have liked it for a long time. I’m not very knowledgeable about it as a subject but Basic Channel was a primary inspirational factor. To be honest with you, I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the whole dubstep and techno crossover as a concept, it feels artificially constructed.
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The problem is with music journalists looking for the next big thing. The dubstep-techno crossover was written about before it got a chance to breathe naturally. As a result, in terms of journalism and the general public, it was dead before it really happened.

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There was a period when things were happening naturally. I’d started writing a few tracks and Peverelist was working on tunes that seemed definitive of that sound, then I signed 2652 to the label. Both artists have very naturally mutated the ideas of techno and dubstep together.

The problem is with music journalists looking for the next big thing. The dubstep-techno crossover was written about before it got a chance to breathe naturally. As a result, in terms of journalism and the general public, it was dead before it really happened. There are artists doing it for the right reasons but then there are some saying, “That’s what I want to do, get some records out,” and artificially combing two genres, the results often being very boring.

Tectonic and its newer sister label Earwax come across as well organized and forward thinking. Do you drag in any coworkers to help keep things on track?

Tectonic, Earwax, Kapsize, Caravan, Build, and previously Subtext are all labels that operate from a company run by four of us called Multiverse, which was set up back in 2004. Certainly in terms of Tectonic I do all A&R and label management. Fid and Jabba work on the digital releases, organizing all the metadata. For Caravan, October is in charge of the A&R, and Sid helps with the running. Kapsize I look after entirely on behalf of Joker. Between us we decide on what goes out.

There is a wealth of good DJs and producers out there that look at what you have achieved for inspiration. What advice would you give to those serious about setting up a label?

Specifically, when setting up a label, don’t bother unless you’ve got something different to offer, and the same goes for being a producer.

There are a lot of dubstep labels, more than I’m aware of. There was a point in early 2007, I believe I had everything that was considered to be dubstep. It has spiraled on and now there are labels in Bristol that I don’t even know the names of.

[quote]

The bottom line is, if you believe in it, then you&#39ll find that other people will too and buy it. Whether I or anyone else thinks that&#39s good or not is irrelevant.

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If you’ve got an idea, music, co-producers, and a certain continuity to your sound which is different than what’s out there, then I would say yes, start a label. But it’s actually quite foolish to set up a label if you haven’t thought past the first or second release. The bottom line is, if you believe in it, then you’ll find that other people will too and buy it. Whether I or anyone else thinks that’s good or not is irrelevant.

Agreed. Your DJ sets have taken you all over the world. What’s the most vibrant crowd you’ve played for recently?

Gosh, Helsinki was great! And Dundee, I thought I was going to be beaten up and deep fried. My favorite place in the world to play though is Tokyo, I’ve played there three times. Otherwise, Dub War in New York, I’ve played once and it was a really good experience. Just under a year ago, I played in China. The Shanghai crowd was just off the chain. Out of 500 people not all of them were used to dubstep but there was a definite contingent. By the end they were banging on the walls for rewinds.

Any interesting anecdotes from recent travels?

I guess the last time I was in Japan I was with Steve Lynx and MC Kemo, who decided we were all going to a Japanese karaoke session on the last night we were there. We ended up bawling out karaoke in a small room in this huge building in the centre of Tokyo, which was quite bizarre. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Steve Lynx singing “Running up that Hill” by Kate Bush at 6 am.

Where do you think the dubstep scene and sound is heading in 2010?

I’m usually quite reserved about this question as I don’t like to cause any offense, but I’m going to push the boat out on this one. The very aggressive, mid-range wobbly sound that certainly dominated last year is at the peak of the curve and will start rolling down, not being such a dominant force later this year. What will pick up more and more speed this year will be the very Joker-esque, synth-led sound with emphasis on the heavily swung rhythms.

Purple Vibes?

Yeah, the colorful synth sounds… They captured people’s imagination towards the latter part of last year but this is the year I think it will all take off. People like Joker, Gemmy, Guido and others will be at the top end of that vein of production.

Finally, any BigUp’s to friends and famo?

Big Up to Lizzy, Big Up the Multiverse crew, and Big Up to the Bristol dubstep famo!!!

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