Despite ten years at the helm of Rooted Records, Bristol’s foremost record store, under his belt, plus an integral part in the development of the original dubstep sound thanks to his always reliable Punch Drunk imprint, Tom Ford aka Peverelist has to be one of the humblest men in modern bass music. Having played a major part in pushing dubstep to the forefront of the Bristol and UK music scenes in the mid-to-late noughties, Punch Drunk has gone from strength-to-strength with each release, releasing the finest sounds from a roster of artists including Pinch, RSD, Hyetal, Gemmy, Guido and of course, Peverelist himself.
Late last year saw the release of the labels first compilation ‘Worth the Weight: Bristol Dubstep Classics’, a two CD release of the most fundamental tracks in the Bristol dubstep scene, plus the launch of Punchdrunkmusic.com, the online home to the label, and a fine source of independent music. We called him at home to chat over the development of the scene, his favourite tunes on the compilation, and the labels place in the Bristol legacy.
Interview/ Louis Cook
How would you say you’ve seen the dubstep scene develop in Bristol since the first few parties in 2005?
Well its completely changed certainly, I mean, its been a crazy journey from real, real grassroots – standing in a club with ten people in it to seeing big, big raves with hundreds of people in going mad. So yeah, in a very short space of time its gone from something which is very niche to something which has really, in some ways, taken over from drum & bass in Bristol as the major force in Bristol club life. Bristol was, certainly pre-2005 and had been for a long time before that, a drum & bass city – drum & bass was so prevalent and dominant and it was everywhere and I think dubstep may have taken that over. Its been a mad mad ascent parallel to London and around the world.
Where would you position Punch Drunk in the dubstep scene as to me, it’s obviously an outlet for new Bristol talent…
I’ve always said it’s a platform for people from Bristol to represent their own sounds, so it’s not a sound specific label, some labels will operate within a certain strain of dubstep but with Punch Drunk it’s more a reflection of alot of the different kinds of sounds that are happening within Bristol, so it’s all encompassing really.
Are there any new Bristol artists you’ve got your eye on at the minute?
Yeah there’s alot. Alot of young guys coming through that are developing their own sounds, but people that you’ll have heard of already but are just coming to the fore really are people like Hyetal, Kowton, a guy called Andy Mac, plus a guy called Ekoplekz who’s got a release on Punch Drunk as well. There’s quite alot of little crews that are kind of coming to the fore certainly.
I was reading an interview with Kode9 in which he spoke of Hyperdub as a label in affect, choosing it’s own release schedule, deciding its own path, with himself not actually having that much to do with it. How do you go about A&R for the label – do you hear something and just know that it would sit right with the label and that’s it, or is there more of a process to it?
Generally I think it’s always been people that I know, or that have come out to the dances, or people I know from going out in Bristol and being aware of their tunes, and whenever they feel they’re ready, I’ve given them the opportunity to put out what tunes they want to put out at the point they think it’s ready – it’s happened very naturally. Similar to what Steve was saying I guess, it kind of happens itself, it’s not something I try to guide too much, it just kind of happens naturally when the times right.
I noticed in your RA interview that you talk about remixing and comparing it to painting. If there was say, a visual palette for Punch Drunk, what colours would that consist of?
(laughs)Erm – I guess I’d say it’s definitely very artist to artist, so maybe multi-coloured all in all.
So with the release of the Worth the Weight compilation last year – was that a big move for the label or just a natural progression?
It’s obviously something new, but I kind of just felt that we’d got to a stage where I wanted to tie everything together a bit and put everything in the context of a CD if you know what I mean? Obviously I’ve been going to dubstep parties in Bristol for 5 years and alot of things have changed in that time, so I’m jut trying to bring it all together and tie it up.
CD 1 is definitely more ‘traditional’, if you like, but how did you go about picking the tracklist for each CD exactly?
There were some obvious contenders, but I had more tunes that I wanted to put on than I had space for so I had to whittle it down a little bit, but that was a good position to be in really.
So after a few years does it make you go back and revisit those tracks and listen to them in a different way, or do they still sound the same as when they were first created?
Well there’s memories and times attached to it certainly, so it’s quite interesting trying to fit them all together in a way that makes sense, which is quite difficult because obviously alot of the tracks are so different.
Do you have any particular personal stand out tracks, as for me I’d say ‘Roll With The Punches’, ‘Qwaali’, ‘Circling’ and ‘Pixel Rainbow Sequence’ are definitely personal highlights…
I think they all have different memories for me so it’s hard to pick any – obviously ‘Qwaali’ was a really important track in Bristol, and ‘Pretty Bright Lights’ by RSD was a big track for the scene. It’s quite funny because tracks that might not stand out to some people outside Bristol – for someone who’s been out to dances in Bristol alot – tracks have taken on a whole different life that other people might not have known about if you know what I mean.
Do you think it’s fair to view Punch Drunk as an extension of labels started by the likes of The Wild Bunch, Die, Krust, Roni Size, Smith & Mighty etc – how does it feel to you as I guess a fan of those artists, to create a label that can sit side by side with their work?
(laughs) I hadn’t really seen it like that, I think I’d be flattered if you suggested that!
Ha – well yeah, to me the ‘Punch Drunk sound’ seems to be an extension of that sound…
Yeah it’s definitely carried on – I mean those are the things that all people our age grew up with, and I guess in a way we’re carrying on. That was ground zero with this dance music and we’re carryng on that tradition, I mean I’m always referring to the Bristol soundsystem legacy, all the way from proper raggae soundsystems, through post-punk, and Mark Stewart, into the Wild Bunch and the Bristol hip-hop scene, and then jungle and I guess this is the next chapter. So yeah, I’m really happy if we do fit in within that legacy somewhere, but I guess history will tell us.
Finally, where do you see the dubstep sound, and Punch Drunk within that, heading in the future – do you have a plan or would it just follow its own path?
Well that’s the million dollar question ha! I can’t really speak for dubstep, as I’ve always found that we’re quite seperate from the generic dubstep header y’know? In a way we’re quite isolated in that I think Punch Drunk has always been on its own path almost parallel with London, so as far as dubstep generally, where that’s gonna go I’m really not sure, but the Bristol artists will develop in their own directions. Where that will go who knows, but we shall see.
‘Worth The Weight: Bristol Dubstep Classics’ is out now on Punch Drunk Records.