11th December 2016

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“There are no rules… Only guidelines”

It’s a freezing, rainy evening yet 30 plus students gather outside BIMM Bristol. Shivering hands in pockets, they await the mysterious figurehead of Bristol’s legendary Tectonic Records, Pinch. Since 2005, Tectonic have written the rule book for left-field, sub heavy dance music. Originating as a dubstep label, over the past 11 years Pinch has led Tectonic on a winding route through house, techno, grime and more experimental trips whilst maintaining a solid signature sound.

Pinch started at the beginning, his own musical story played out against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century England. After learning to DJ in 1998, he soon found that there wasn’t much dubstep around outside of London’s legendary Forward>> night. This meant travelling up to Plastic People in Shoreditch every month to experience this new truly underground movement. In bringing this back to Bristol, Pinch was able to slowly introduce dubstep to Bristol via jungle and dub reggae nights. Eventually the clouds broke and ‘Subloaded’ began; Bristol’s first ‘true’ dubstep night.

Alongside this, finding the tunes to play out was getting increasingly difficult, with dubstep taking from the exclusive dub plate culture found in sound system crews. This lead Pinch to early experiments in production, utilising Fruity Loops and a simple Roland groovebox. From here came ‘Deserted Island’ and ‘Qawwali’, the latter now an iconic milestone in the hardcore continuum of UK dance music.

From here Pinch and Sophia Loizou (head of Music Production) discussed approaches to the studio experience – from working in collaborative projects with other producers or vocalists, to mixing and mastering techniques and, of course, how to get massive bass weight. With a very humble approach to discussing his own techniques Pinch both inspired and challenged the students in the room with scribbling pens, tapping thumbs and nodding heads taking in all the tips, references and quotes.

Opening the floor towards the end encouraged plenty of questions regarding the history of dubstep, running Tectonic, and a careful consideration of something known as ‘The Bristol Sound.’ Through answering these questions Pinch explored the relationship between acting as a DJ and a producer, the fundamental things for starting a record label, working on multiple collaborations at once, and praising Bristol as a worldwide musical city.

“Bristol is a great place for interacting with music. I’ve been all around the world and people are always amazed at how small Bristol is and how many great producers and musicians we make…
– Rob ‘Pinch’ Ellis, 17-11-2016

As a production student it can often be a struggle trying to achieve a sound without ‘x’ super expensive piece of gear that all the YouTube tutorials say you need. However, after leaving the masterclass with Pinch I felt encouraged to work within my limitations, hone my sound, and experiment with any and every new idea. By the look on all the other faces as they exited BIMM back into the cold night, I know they felt the same.


Benjamin Chilton