Bristol has always been a city that vibrates at the lowest of frequencies, and soundsystem stalwarts Pinch and Joker are hardwired into the DNA of its music scene. 13 years after its foundation, Pinch's Tectonic label recently reached its 100th release with the Hard Food EP from Riko Dan, one of the producer's all-time favourite MCs. Joker mixed it down and also contributed the beat for 'Hard Food'. His most recent solo release was the Mad Night 12" on his own label Kapsize, which is going to see a lot of activity in the coming months.
Ahead of their special b2b set at Bristol's Love Saves The Day, the two of them got together to chat mixdown tactics, the future of their respective labels and how to make a killer veggie sausage sarnie. Read on below…
JOKER: What was my first question again? So, I like cooking food a lot.
PINCH: I fucking knew you were gonna go for food. I was gonna cover food as well.
If you were to cook right now, what would you cook?
Traditionally one of the most comforting things I used to enjoy cooking was a proper bolognese with tagliatelle, partly because it reminds me of my dad. It was the only thing that he would cook – he didn't do it very well but he seemed to think he did. But I decided to stop eating red meat last year, so I can't really cook that anymore.
You could try the Quorn mince.
Quorn mince doesnt work for me. It's got no fat in it, no flavour. I’m warming up to veggie sausages though, I used to hate them but they've got a lot better. Those Cauldron ones are the best.
Yeah Cauldron ones are the best!
I’ve got a good veggie sausage sarnie recipe. So you get the Lincolnshire ones with leek and the Cumberland ones which are peppery. Fry them up with a load of onions or shallots finely chopped up, get them a little bit crispy. Then you get the bread, layer of Dijon mustard, little bit of mayo, no butter, sausages on, and then a bit of cheddar cheese with the onion. Same on the other piece of bread, chop it into a triangle, and it’s a killer. What's on your menu? I know you like cooking lentil tarts, that’s your secret manoeuvre isn't it.
Well I jacked it from an online recipe, and kept it as my own.
You could have got away with that.
Yeah I could’ve but I don't like lying! I just like to cook up chicken and throw some sweet chilli sauce on it.
I was gonna say! I remember when you were flossing your big cook would be just covering some chicken in sweet chilli sauce and frying it for ages.
You remember the time we went down that one at the end of the street, what's it called, Chaudry's? And you bought a whole chicken in bits then took it back to mine like, “You’re gonna love this recipe man!” And I remember thinking all you'd pretty much done is put some sweet chilli sauce on it, but it did taste good!
You can cook on levels in every type of culture, but from the Chinese shop when shit tastes good, usually it’s just some piece of meat with some basic sauce and it works. The flavours don’t go deep.
Speaking of which, you’ve just come back from a little holiday in Rome. Italy is the home of simple, effective food, so talk me through some things you ate while you were out there.
I was only there for two nights but I had carbonara three or four times! I sound so English now, but most places I've been around the world, they have the menu in English. And they didn't really fuck with that shit in Rome. So it was the only thing I recognised. And it made me realise that every single carbonara I've ever had in the UK is weird.
Yeah over here they tend to do it with cream, but Italian style is just bacon and eggs.
The sauce comes super yellow as well. Like, what the fuck is going on here? I knew it was definitely more real than what I’m used to, but I've never seen it like that before.
You must have liked it if you had it four times.
Well, the first one was the best.
Chasing that intitial fix, yeah?
I just thought I'd have it a few more times and then I could understand which of these restaurants is the one. Also during the meal I asked for a Disaronno and Coke, and the woman said, "With Coke?" She looked baffled bruv, like I really shouldn't have asked for it. She mixed it and it was very strong. It seems like Italians only drink anything sweet after their meal.
Shall we try and talk about some music then? I know you're in the midst of putting together an exciting package of releases for Kapsize, and it's the tenth anniversary of the label as well?
Yeah, I'm planning three releases from myself up until June 1st. The first one, 'Anamorphic', is quite a cinematic, espionage-y, James Bond-y, computer game kind of track.
It's definitely got that soundtrack vibe hasn't it. How many mixdowns would you say you'd done?
[Laughs] Minimum, eight. The only other track I've ever done so many mixdowns of was 'Mad Night'. I'm not mad about it though.
Nah, I think people don't appreciate the level of involvement that can be required in getting a track across the finishing line sometimes. Some go their own way easily and some drag their heels a little bit.
I’ve had the track for years and I had a very old mix that I knew was crap. Last year I bounced the mix out and went to America and was listening to it on my headphones, and I realised if I just EQ a bit of bottom end and some more top end, fuck with the mid side a bit, I can get it to pop a bit more while I'm out here on tour. But what I'd done, see, is I didn't turn down the EQ level, so I was clipping into Logic. But I bounced it out 'cos it sounded fine, so when I get back I'm trying to replicate a mix that's been pushed beyond the limits.
Crushed to shit.
But it didn't sound bad!
Nah, I've heard a couple of people say that they’ll whack it into the reds and bounce it back out.
It definitely created this hard punch that I was struggling to get back. And I remembered, 'Fuck, I clipped the hell out of it!' So I've tried to do that. And I was just ruining the track [laughs] and I have to keep telling myself it doesn't matter how loud the song is from file to file, it just needs to sound good when you play it, you know what I mean? Anyway the day before I went to Rome I was like, look, if I want this to come out in April I have to finish this today. So I got into tunnel vision and went into the whole history of the track in my head, figured out what I’d done, turned all the outputs down, and just mixed it clean. Bounced it out without a limiter, crushed it with a clip plugin, then sent it to the engineer with a reference, and he done a great job. And I'm happy with the track now.
So the second release is going to be a collaboration with Footsie? How did that one come about?
I know Footsie well enough that I can call him and he can call me and it won’t be weird, does that make sense? I sent him the beat a year ago, and the very next day he sent me the vocal. I listened to it eight times in a row, learning the song again and learning what he'd done. Once you're used to listening to the instrumental, the second someone fucks with it, you need a second to adjust! He's done a good job, you people will hear it soon.
Then the third one is 'Boat', I’ve been hammering that. I love the sea shanty vibe. It catches people unaware when that melody comes in.
Yeah, and 'Deploy' as well, I think they're two of my latest favourite tracks.
Alright, well you're obviously a very focused production head. At the end of the day, which is more important – the content or the quality of the sound?
This is me being super honest – with any piece of art I think it's idea first, polishing second. But I definitely think the cleaning up can be 50% of the song. That's why 'Anamorphic' wasn't ready for so long. If I can hear something in my head and I know it needs to be a certain way – and it's not there yet – then it's not ready, whether I like it or not.
I hear you. Occasionally a track'll get me where I've got a vision of what it should be doing when it impacts, and it's disappointing if you don't get to that. Last time I got stuck on something like that I ended up naming the tune ‘Obsession’ [laughs]
I definitely believe 'Anamorphic' has stolen a day of my life – like, I'm gonna die a day earlier because of that track, it's made me age! But I feel better now, I'm alright. So anyway, you've just put together a project for Riko Dan.
You were involved as well! Yeah that's out now. 100th release on Tectonic, a six-track Riko EP with beats from me, you, Mumdance, Walton and Ziro. It's a milestone. When I started the label I never thought we’d get to 100 releases.
I know how hard and long it is, even just doing my own music on Kapsize, let alone other people's – and by June this year I’m only gonna be on 25, and obviously Tectonic's been running a lot longer, but still, 100 releases is a lot!
Yeah, and there's 22 albums in there as well.
Do you think you've lost a day in life maybe?
Oh man, I've lost out on several forthcoming lives that I might have been reincarnated in. It is a bit of a labour running a label. It's not always rewarding and fun – there's lots of boring admin aspects, and the more people you've gotta deal with the more complicated it gets. But the truth of the matter is I absolutely love Tectonic, the catalogue, the history, all the people I've worked with… and it was wicked having the Subloaded event the other week to mark the 100th release, and it had that sense of community around the music. The engagement reminded me that's why I do these things, so it's all worth it. Tectonic has had an impact, it's become part of the history of British underground music. The best thing is, now I've got to 100, it feels like New Year's Day and a fresh start, so I’m already excited about the next bunch of releases.
Is there gonna be a 200th release?
I don't see why not! It's a long way away, but I can see the next ten release unfolding, and then it'll be about keeping going. The music industry has obviously changed a lot since Tectonic started – you're pretty much just covering your costs with selling vinyl these days. But I can't get my head around not doing it.
Where we come from, it's almost like it doesn't come out if it doesn't come out on vinyl, do you feel the same?
Oh 100%, if I can’t hold it in my hand it's not a real release. Just getting it mastered and ready for digital distribution isn't really that much effort, you can do it quite quickly. There's a whole process to vinyl, and once you’ve learnt all that…
Are we old?
[long pause] Yeah? I mean, I’m a lot older than you [laughs] so you're alright for a while.
Not in a funny way, but I look at you and I don't see an old man… and I feel 18 still, so…
Fair enough, I’ll take that!
Pinch and Joker play B2B at Love Saves The Day, 26-27th May. Tickets available here.
Hard Food is out now on Tectonic.