Photo: Press (Pinch)
Genres rise and fall and in the past decade or so that wasn’t one genre that has crashed as hard as Dubstep. As soon as the Bristol-bred style was transformed into what cheekily is being referred to as “Brostep” and entered the arenas and smartphones of younger generations, many pioneers of sound moved on. So did Pinch. As one of the main figures of the genre, the Tectonic founder first focused on more House-oriented sounds while collaborating extensively with other producers like Mumdance or On-U’s Adrian Sherwood. Far more than an exit strategy, Robert Ellis’s newer productions showcase a thirst for the unheard-of. It is no surprise, then, that his contribution to our Groove podcast focuses on “what’s on the cutting edge, whatever is fresh sounding”, as he puts it. Having just returned to Swamp 81 with a two-track EP, Pinch’s mix gives a delicious foretaste of the future.
“I need a little space from [Dubstep]. I’ll probably be sick of house-tempo stuff in three or four years, maybe even making dubstep again, or hopefully something else altogether”, you said in a Resident Advisor feature three and a half years ago. Where are you now, artistically?
I’m in a good place at the moment, just focussing on making beats that I enjoy for myself and not worrying too much about whether they fit in with other people’s ideas or expectations. It’s hard to maintain the same kind of enthusiasm that you have when starting out, it can come and go in waves, but right now I’m feeling good about things and I’m making music across the tempo spectrum.
For the 100th catalogue number of your own Tectonic, you’ve paired MC Riko Dan with a variety of producers, among them Mumdance and yourself. What’s your relationship with Riko Dan like and how did the release come about in this form?
I get on with Riko and have really enjoyed working with him this last few years – both for studio projects and for gigs (including two Red Bull Culture Clashes!). This EP has been a while in the making but I feel it’s definitely been worth the wait – I’m really happy with the results. I can’t help but feel that Riko is an underrated talent. I wanted to pull out all the stops and put together something really solid for him, sourcing the best beats for him. It’s important to me that over the last 25 years or so Riko has been on point throughout the jungle, UK garage, grime years – right up to now. All important UK genres that have heavily informed the Tectonic sound in one way or another. That makes it especially appropriate in my mind for the 100th release, bringing his voice to Tectonic rhythms.
Besides Tectonic, you also run Cold Recordings, a vinyl-only imprint that in the beginning was dedicated to shedding light on young producers. Which purpose serves Cold these days?
It used to be vinyl-only but it’s all available digitally now as well – it’s kind of self-sabotaging to avoid digital now! For me Cold is still an outlet to showcase new music and new ideas. It tends to be for music around 120-130bpm that’s a bit like techno but not really techno – progressive sounds that I like and want to play out myself.
You often share your studio with others, however Mumdance is likely your most faithful collaborator. What characterises your working together?
Usually it involves an intense day in the studio with occasional manic moments, a bit of arguing about drum sounds and so on, until ultimately something really good sticks and then we can go to the pub for a pint and finish it up the next day. We rarely spend more than 2 days on a track and I think that helps capture a certain energy in the music. I enjoy working with Jack and am always happy with the results of those sessions. I think we compliment each other well with our relative skill sets.
Recently, you have also been prolifically working with On-U mastermind Adrian Sherwood, who belonged to the first generation of British producers taking sound system culture to another level. What brought you together and how do you approach your collaboration conceptually?
I grew up listening to a lot of Adrian’s music from a young age so was very keen to work with him when the opportunity came up. We get on well and the music we’ve made together is the result of many hours of working in the studio, experimenting, trying different things out, collaging sounds, recording session musicians, vocalists – seeing what fits best. In some ways – the opposite to how I work with Mumdance. Over time we have found a genuine shared sonic space, a place that reflects where our interests meet, through spending lots of time in the studio together. It’s why I feel the follow up album, Man Vs Sofa, is perhaps a truer Sherwood & Pinch collaboration than the first LP, Late Night Endless – there’s been more time invested in us getting to that point.
In the past, you have spoken very positively about tribalisation around certain music styles. While the ongoing digitalisation of music scenes has brought about a certain atomisation, cities like London and Berlin have been facing problems with gentrification, with many clubs closing or moving further and further outside. Which advantages do you see in this kind tribalisation and what do meaningful ways of connecting through music look like if the infrastructures around it seem to slowly vanish?
I suppose the upside is the creation and reinforcement of more globalised communities which can offer a more inclusive membership, basically to anyone connected online seeking shared interests. Seems like festivals are thriving more now while clubs are waning in popularity – illegal parties are also coming back more so. Maybe in the future we’ll just put on virtual reality headsets and meet friends from all around the globe in virtual club spaces, but I suspect people will always find ways to gather together and dance to music in some form!
Your contribution to our Groove podcast comprises a number of unreleased tunes, some more experimental and some dancefloor-ready. What was your idea behind the mix?
I just wanted to present an upfront listening experience with a deep, engaging mood. I’ve done a few dubstep/grime focused mixes recently around the TEC100 release so wanted to give some space to the techno-tempos I play out also. I can’t help but focus on unreleased tracks – it’s something I’ve always done from the very early dubstep days. As a producer and label owner, I’m always most excited by what’s on the cutting edge, whatever is fresh sounding – even if it’s not always the latest release or dubplate.
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks and/or performing live in the near future, and what are your plans as a producer and label owner?
I’ve a bunch of nice shows coming up – there’s the big Swamp 81 do at the end of March in London, Hamburg (WobWob) and Berlin (Reef) in April as well as a Tectonic party at Lightbox, and a 3 week tour of Australia and New Zealand in May time. There’s a bunch of great releases lined up on Tectonic including collaborations between Ishan Sound & Hodge, a killer 4-track EP from Hugo Massien and a seriously epic album by Walton. Cold will see a follow up EP from Cocktail Party Effect, who is really finding his feet in my opinion. I’m working on some remixes, new collaborations and solo material. It’s shaping up to be a good year already!
Stream: Pinch – Groove Podcast 150
01. Mumdance & Logos ‘Chaos Engine’ (Shapednoise Rework) (Unreleased/Tectonic) + film samples
02. Hugo Massien ‘Advanced Aerial Threat’ (Forthcoming on Tectonic)
03. Pinch ‘Street Lights’ (Appleblim Remix) (Unreleased/Aquatic Labs)
04. Walton ‘Angry Drummer’ (Forthcoming on Tectonic)
05. Szare ‘Kodiak’ (Forthcoming on Different Circles)
06. Hodge ‘Swing For The Fences’ (Hemlock Recordings)
07. PHON.O ‘H4NDCUFF3D’ (Cold Recordings)
08. Pinch ‘Skylines’ (Fabric Fund Raiser Comp)
09. Walton ‘Point Blank’ (Forthcoming on Tectonic)
10. Pinch & Mumdance ‘Strobe Light’ (Tectonic)
11. Szare ‘Translocated’ (Forthcoming on Different Circles)
12. Hot Knives ‘Pulse Tramadol’ (Unreleased)
13. Pinch ‘AHH FFF SSS’ (81 Records)
14. Cocktail Party Effect ‘Lemons’ (Forthcoming on Cold Recordings)
15. Blackdown ‘WDYM (Rollage Mix VIP)’ (Unreleased/Keysound)
16. Hugo Massien ‘Ursa Minor’ (Forthcoming on Tectonic Recordings)
17. Jonny L ‘Piper’ (Peverelist Remix) (XL)
18. Pinch Walking With Shadows’ (81 Records)