In 2008 things started to get wired a little differently. Tectonic boss Pinch’s Underwater Dancehall album had opened the floodgates for this intelligent and gripping, spacious dubstep music to exist as a more rounded form of musical expression at the end of 2007 and 2562’s Aerial album re-applied that same weighty undercarriage sub bass to a completely different swing. At the same time Skull Disco was long on its percussive stride and people like Zomby, Rustie and Joker were making high profile inroads into multi colour synthesized glide. The axis of experimentation around then was less of a curve and more an ink speckled sheet of graph paper, as producers drew on all manner of influences; reapplying their personal music grounding to this new style of dance music that ferociously implored the change.
One of the imprints that was at the core of that kind of unwavering stream of dancefloor influence, was Punch Drunk. The label was coined and is still operated by Tom Ford, a Bristol resident whose productions like ‘Roll With The Punches’ and ‘Clunk Clip Every Trip’ as Peverelist, marked him out as a unique music maker who possessed this weird ability to streamline the rhythm and pulse of even the loopiest of his ideas. Punch Drunk releases from people like RSD, Forsaken and Gemmy (and later Guido and Hyetal & Shortstuff) were each a gateway 12” to another facet of dubstep production and all [still] exist as a unique take on the craft. After they’d caused enough of a stir on the club landscape of Bristol – which in reality (as well as in my sepia tinged romanticism) can often be cavernous, gritty and tucked just meters out of the way of the footfall of the city’s streets – Punch Drunk housed them and then gifted them to a wider audience.
Ford worked at Rooted Records, Bristol’s main squeeze when it came to buying vinyl over the counter from specialised minds like his, up until its closure last year and he undoubtedly used that position to chat and discuss music with a network of producers. Sometimes a little at odds with the music that adorned the new releases wall at the masthead of the old shop, when in conversation he’d back off but at the same time work you like a sponge; feeding these subtle recommendations with an approving nod whilst consistently asking you ‘what’s good?’ I remember one time he sold me No One Leaves, a DJ Signify and Sixtoo collaborative double 7”, that I don’t think he quite got why I was so excited about. I doubt he ever sought it out himself after that transaction but still… he was incredibly polite about my purchase.
His own album Jarvik Mindstate, a 9 track work that was released in 2009, prompted this response from me when I was contributing to Resident Advisor: “the most amazing thing about Peverelist’s music is that he makes it work; elements that on paper would clash horribly combine to form the kind of overtly stylish and smooth productions you could only attribute to an avid experimentalist” – and since then he’s continued to think outside of the box. Punch Drunk’s 20th release was a dubby shot of abstract noise from Ekoplekz, an artist who went on to release a full length LP, Intrusive Incidentalz Vol. 1, on the label and a guy whose work you’d be hard pressed to find being played on any kind of dancefloor.
“The goalposts need moving,” he tells me today – a sentiment that the current (outsider perceived) groundswell of housier textures in Bristol seems to be mirroring. “I’m not scared to push in new directions with releases, if it’s confusing, hopefully it’ll all make sense in retrospect. I realise the Ekoplekz LP was a no holds barred bombshell, we really wanted to push that to the limits, but hopefully that shockwave can open doors for more left leaning Bristol artists in to what has become a very conservative global scene considering the obtuseness of where we started.”
It does feel like it’s propped the door open a bit for that bittier, gritty work from people like the Young Echo guys who are re-wiring that whole dubstep tempo thing with a bit of sheet noise…
Yeah, The Young Echo crew are definitely some of the most exciting prospects in the city, they’ve got no interest in affiliation to a scene or toeing the line and that’s refreshing.
I know that musically your interests have always run way deeper than ‘dubstep’ if you know what I mean? You worked in Rooted and you continue to stock the more discerning kind of electronic titles on the Punch Drunk site so I guess your taste is always a little bit on show but like with the Ekoplekz project and stuff, it seemed like you were pushing the weird stuff more outwardly. Since Rooted closed and Chris opened Idle Hands have you been looking elsewhere for inspiration? Like without that constant influx of new records…
Most of my inspiration comes from chatting through ideas with people. Music nerd, ale fuelled pub talk. Most people in Bristol aren’t scene focused, they are music focused which allows a lot of flexibility.
Does Bristol feel different without Rooted at all? It’s not quieter or anything, but I guess it’d be
interesting more on a personal level. Like has it changed your life brutally not having that base?
Things change and that’s life. Idle Hands has done really well to pick up the baton and Bristol would be a sorry place without them. People were sad to see Rooted go but I think it was a bigger personal loss to me after putting a decade of hard work in. My own online store has been running for a year and doing well though, so I still get to keep in touch with new music.
And what about production wise…? Since the Hessle plate there hasn’t been anything of yours I’ve heard bar a couple of remixes. Are you sitting on stuff? What’s coming up for early 2012?
I haven’t done much production in 2011. I had a busy year with Punch Drunk and setting up Livity Sound and my online store. I had the Hessle 12″ and a track on their compilation, and a few remixes for Honest Jon’s Shaangan Electro project, Vessel and Emptyset. I’ve never been that prolific but quality over quantity, eh? I’ll have a Pev 12″ for Livity Sound out in the next few months. Hopefully I’ll manage more than one this year…
The mix you’ve made us is quite… techno focused. And similarly you said in an interview with RA that “I really like techno… but I’m almost too scared to say that.” Was it then, a conscious decision to go down that route with this mix? Like, is it time now…?
I guess it is more unwittingly techno focused, although I’m not sure what a techno fan would think of that. It’s definitely more Pev focused which is what I want to concentrate on this year. I set up the label Livity Sound, working with Kowton and Asusu, to try to more specifically define that, a more dedicated Pev based sound. Because I am a producer myself with a strong ideas of my own I think I need to represent that more, alongside pushing the Bristol scene as a whole which I love doing.
Regarding DJing, I usually try to mix it up, especially if I’m playing for 2 hours. Experience has taught me that too much Pev sound is too earnest for most people on a Friday night out (that’s an understatement). I’ve been playing more older bits recently as well as fresh beats, dubstep, some garage, a bit of techno, all sorts… It’s inevitable that I’ll move towards a live show this year to showcase my music, something I have resisted for a long time. I’ve spent the last year trying and failing to work on a format but I’ll get there in 2012. Generally crowds are much more accepting of less conventional sounds if they are presented in a live format, something I am begrudgingly accepting. All I ever wanted to do was play records. It’s all new challenges though which is good.
With the techno thing, I was very cautious about being put into a box back then. I definitely didn’t feel like I was a techno artist, even if my music has some of the sonic signatures from that scene. I am more relaxed about it now though, especially as I’m further from the dubstep scene than I could ever have imagined at the time.
With that in mind and looking at Punch Drunk as a kind of reliably ‘Bristol’ barometer, regardless of style, what’s next for the label?
We’ve got a 12″ from another super talented young South West producer called Tessela due in February, which I am excited about. I think he’ll really make his mark this year. Fingers crossed we’ll also have a spectacular new album project from another Punch Drunk artist ready for the first half of 2012 too, as well as a flurry of new 12″s…
It’s full steam ahead with the Livity Sound label too alongside a new Livity Sound live show featuring Kowton, Asusu and myself. We have our debut show in Bristol in February.”
Traditionally we ask mixers for some words of wisdom… got any you’d like to share?
Get yourself down to Idle Hands Record Shop and treat yourself to some new music. Its life affirming!
DOWNLOAD: Peverelist – Sonic Router Mix #114
Szare – Triplicate [Horizontal Ground]
Asusu – Too Much Time Has Passed [Livity Sound]
Levon Vincent – Revs/cost [Novel Sound]
Bass Clef – Electricity Comes From Other Planets
Funkineven – Beat Crash [Apron]
Kowton – Jam001
Alex Coulton – Bounce
Kowton & Pev – Raw Code
Kowton – End Point
Pev – Salt Water
Asusu – Sister [Livity Sound]
Pev – Erosion(s)
Pev – Livity
Zhou – Noboru [Punch Drunk]
Peverelist plays at Pinch’s FABRICLIVE 61 launch party in Room Two at fabric on Friday 13th January.
Photo: Caroline Lessire