If you visit Bristol one of the first things you will notice is the colourful graffiti which adorns the city’s walls. Look closer and stuck to the walls you’ll see the many posters announcing club nights past and present which read like a who’s who of UK bass music. Names like Untold, Mala and Ramadanman stand out as well as locals like Joker, Gemmy and Pinch. This month Bristol hosts a massive underground music festival called In:Motion which will be featuring Andrew Weatherall, Orbital and KRS-One amongst many others. Yes, it’s a busy place for music fans but somehow very chilled out.
Away from the hyperactive hub that is London, producers in Bristol can work at their own pace. The dubstep scene is strong: Tectonic, Immerse and Punch Drunk have their label headquarters here and some of the most seminal records of the past five years have been recorded in Multiverse Studios. At the centre of all this is Rooted Records – a record store managed until very recently by Tom Ford aka Peverelist.
Peverelist’s epic debut track ‘The Grind‘, released on Punch Drunk, the label he runs, impressed fans of dubstep and techno around the world. Since then his productions- always focused, fascinating affairs with an emphasis on complex polyrhythms and dubby space have entranced listeners. Last year he released his debut LP Jarvic Mindstate – a hypnotic collection of techno and jungle inspired tracks which has solidified his reputation as one of the true innovators of the genre.
Oddly enough Tom is not a Bristol native, having moved to the city in the late ’90s. “I got to that point in my life where I had to leave home and I was either going to go to Bristol or London. They were the two centres of the music I was into at the time. London was a bit too close to home so I went for Bristol. I was interested in jungle and dub music so I fitted in well at Bristol.”
Tom has recently assembled a compilation showcasing the best Bristol productions over the past five years. Entitled Worth the Weight the unmixed anthology will feature classic tracks from Appleblim, Headhunter, Jakes and others across two CDs. “It’s bringing it all together really, what we’ve been working on for a few years – putting it into one context. We sometimes forget what’s happened so it’s good to bring it all together. I wanted to try and get what I felt were the definitive tunes that had all the different styles that have come out of the city – there is a whole spread of sounds.”
Given his unique vantage point Tom has a good view of what’s going on in Bristol. “Working at the shop you see a lot of young faces coming through and you hear their stuff and you see them developing and getting new ideas. The real grassroots underground in Bristol is still bubbling away. It’s very healthy.”
Despite being such a recognised label Punch Drunk has only 21 releases under its belt. “I wait till things are ready – I don’t like to push anything. If something’s good it happens when it happens – that’s the Bristol vibe. Things happen in their own time.” While he might be relaxed about quantity he is serious about quality. This philosophy is evident from some of the game changing records Punch Drunk has put out. Tracks like Guido’s ‘Way U Make Me Feel‘, Gatekeepers ‘Let Go’ and Peverelist’s own ‘Clunk Click Every Trip’ have breathed new life into the scene and challenged everyone’s ideas of what can be possible with dubstep.
Punch Drunk also has a sister label called Unearthed Records which Tom started last year with the intention of re-releasing older tunes from Bristol’s history. So far he has worked with Rob Smith, one half of dubstep pre-cursor Smith and Mighty and quality producer in his own right. “I want to make these old tracks available for DJs to use. I don’t have any plans [for new releases] at present but I think next year I’ll look at putting something out. It’s good working with Rob Smith coz he’s got loads of tunes a lot of the younger generation haven’t heard before but are relevant to what their current interests are. There’s lots of material lurking in the archives of Bristol.”
While there is a strong techno element to Peverelist’s sound, techno isn’t a direct influence on his work. “It’s a funny thing coz I grew up listening to jungle, the people making those jungle records were influenced by the first wave of techno so it’s a second hand influence that techno has on me. Its been filtered through jungle. There’s techno influences all over mid 90’s jungle. After listening to that I went back and listened to what those people had listened to which is Detroit techno. But in the past few years I’ve been getting into more contemporary stuff.
The contemporary techno Ford talks about includes Shed and Pole – artists who Peverelist has shared stages with and done remixes for. How did the Bristol based producer get involved with the Berlin dub-techno scene? “When I put my first record out I think a lot of people connected it with the German techno sounds which wasn’t something purposeful on my part. There’s this shop called Hardwax in Berlin and the guys who run it are really keen on the UK underground and we struck up a relationship through that. And that’s how the connection with Shed came about. I’m good friends with the people who work there now. We’re always swapping music and ideas. I’ve been to Berlin a few times, most recently in January. I played at the Wax night, which is the Hardwax monthly. When I have the time I try to go over there. It’s a cool city. I think it has the Bristol vibe in a lot of ways because it’s quite laid back and there’s lots of music heads.
Peverelist has also played at Scuba’s Substance night which takes place in the infamous Berghain club. “It’s the big dubstep night in Berlin, its on once every two months. It’s great – it gets a good crowd every time- but I’d say it’s a very different from the standard techno nights in Berghain”.
Ford’s next release is a collaboration with Hyetal who has previously featured on the Punch Drunk roster. “I’ve known Hyetal for a few years now and we’ve always talked about doing a track together so I made a drum pattern and a bass line and sent it over to him and he came up with some melodic ideas and put different pieces together like a jigsaw. It happened really quickly and easily so we did the same thing again and decided to put it out. He’s got a lot of good ideas – definitely someone to watch out for in the Bristol scene.
So, with such a keen eye for talent and years of experience running a label, what does Tom think dubstep will sound like in another five years? “I have absolutely no idea! What most people consider as dubstep I don’t feel much of a connection to. I think the Bristol scene is quite separate from what happens generally in London and the rest of the world. I think with regards to Bristol, music will keep evolving with the multi-genre vibe, so I don’t think music in five years will sound like anything specific.”
Worth the Weight will be released on Punch Drunk Records on November 8th.
Image by Ronan Reid.