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Five Records: Peverelist

With the debut album of his Livity Sound project with Kowton and Asusu due for release later this month, Oli Warwick talks to Bristol veteran Peverelist about five important records from his collection.

Through his production career to date, it would be hard to listen to the music of Tom Ford and pinpoint the obvious influences that feed into his singular sound. His curation of Punch Drunk Records has highlighted many of the styles he feels are worthy of representation in his potted library of modern Bristolian electronic music, but his own output evades easy identification with anything that has come before, much less anything else occurring now.

Since first emerging onto the dubstep radar as Peverelist back in 2006 Ford has pointed to his roots in jungle as a decisive informer in the rhythmically dizzying music he makes; though it would be churlish to dismiss the adventurous spirit of techno running through his art, when those reference points are held in literal consideration alongside a typical Pev record they seem to fall short.

What better way to try and comprehend the musical DNA of the man than through a shortlist of five records that hold some significance for him? At the time of this interview taking place, Tom is fully immersed in the Livity Sound project, which acts as both a vessel for releases from himself, Kowton and Asusu, and a live show that combines the forces of all three and their respective tracks into a soundsystem throwdown of rough-edged electronics somewhere between techno, dubstep, grime, dub and plenty more besides. Meanwhile the tidal shift in tempos has seen more shades of 4/4 creeping into Pev DJ sets where previously it wasn’t possible, revealing previously hidden depths to his tastes.

Over a cup of tea at his home in Bristol, Pev toured us through a personal selection of tracks that span disparate styles from the past twenty years, giving at least some indication of what makes him tick.

1. Danny Weed – Dirty Den Instrumental (Southside Recordings)

I think this came out in 2004, and it was that time when grime and dubstep stuff had a lot in common. You might go and see Plasticman as he was back then play a mixture of dubstep and grime, and certainly me and Pinch would play a mixture of dubstep and grime. This has got dubstep elements to it, but it’s a grime track as well. It was an interesting time, this interchange going between them.

Were you just getting into playing grime at this time?

Not really. I was playing early grime, before it was grime, back in 2000, 2001, and then when the grime thing happened I was into that as well, around 2002, and it flowed on from that so I followed it through.

There’s not much obvious grime influence in your own music.

Not in my own productions I wouldn’t say. But I really like it. I like a lot of music.

You chose “Dirty Den” over any of Danny Weed’s other productions. “Salt Beef” and “Creeper” are arguably bigger tunes.

He did another one called “Shank Riddim” which was one of his big tunes. He’s one of those producers who made these anthems and then fell off the face of the earth. You make tunes when you’re young and you’re in that, and then your life changes and your priorities change and maybe you move away from music. I’m not sure what happened to Danny Weed, maybe he’ll come back. But this is the thing with grime, after 2004 records just stopped coming out because the genre moved onto DVDs. Practice Hours and Risky Roads and all that kind of stuff, which is almost a genre in its own right. Producers didn’t really get pushed on from that point whereas MCs became much more the focus.

Are you picky about what grime you reach for?

I’m always picky about music! Grime’s such a weird thing. I think a lot of the tunes are so quirky that they stand out on their own. Obviously there are tunes that I’m less into but I think it had that ‘anything goes’ kind of thing. Some people think grime is really aggy and dark, but there was often a sense of fun and humour mixed in with the darkness, whether it’s a DJ dropping “Gype Riddim” or the inevitable “Murkleman PA”.

2. Roni Size – Phizical (V Recordings)

What was the brief for this article originally?

Any five records you like. Are you surprised at what you picked out?

No, it’s all very predictable.

Were you up on this Roni Size release when it first came out?

No, not really. I was getting into jungle maybe a year or so later.

The breakbeat on this tune is lovely. It’s got such a dirty snare hit.

It’s got that early ’90s grit. I don’t know whether they sampled all the beats directly from a hip hop record? Probably, so that added an extra layer of grit. It’s got that dancehall feel in the beats, a bit of a half time thing. It’s got the space, and the rhythm. I think with tunes like this they don’t force a rhythm on you. You can just roll along to it.

When did you first come across this?

I really don’t know. With a lot of these things, you would recognise tunes from tapes when you heard it, but you wouldn’t know what the actual tune was ‘til years later when you’d come across it, that was quite common. A lot of the time you were working backwards and going, ‘ah that’s that tune, I wondered what that was’. There was a lot more mystery back then.

At the time you discovered this, were you consciously tapping into the jungle coming from Bristol?

I definitely gravitated towards the Bristol end of things. I liked a lot of stuff though. A lot of Dillinja, Photek and Dextrous; all those kinds of people.

Have you always been happy to use jungle as a reference point in your own music?

Yeah. I don’t know how obvious it is really. It is to me, but I think that applies to anyone of my age. I think it’s inevitable that the music that you grew up with is always going to stay in there.

When you first got into production was jungle something you had a go at?

There’s a few tunes knocking about. I might have a few dubplates cut from around 2001 to 2002, but I probably wouldn’t play them out. Maybe someone else would.

Have you got a lot of archive material?

A lot of unfinished tunes. A few finished bits. I saw someone on Twitter the other day give away twenty unfinished tunes – why would you do that? It doesn’t do anyone any favours I don’t think.

3. Ron Trent – Altered States (D-Jax Up Beats)

It seems like your house and techno appreciation has been slowly emerging over the past few years. I first noticed it on the Mix For The Winterval Traveller you snuck out on the Punch Drunk blog in 2010. Is it something you’ve had a love of for a long time?

Well, I’m a music fan, so I like all kinds of stuff. I’ve always played more UK and soundsystem stuff DJing, but I’m into all that other kind of stuff at home. I play more of it out now. I was into it around the same time, I just gravitated more towards jungle and garage. I was always buying bits and bobs [of house and techno], very select tunes.

Do you feel you have quite a high benchmark for stuff you pick up?

I think so. That’s the advantage of working in a record shop. If you’re just visiting a record shop, you tend to make impulse purchases, whereas if you work there you get a few days to check stuff out and mull it over.

You do feel that you’re letting more 4/4 creep into your sets?

I think I can get away with it now. The tunes I play have slowed down so there are a lot more things you can cross it over with.

Can you remember when you picked up on this particular tune?

I think I heard someone playing it in the late ’90s and asked them what it was. A great tune. Gritty. Synthy. It’s got a real bite to it. I never think of techno as rave music though. I would never go out dancing to it. It’s just not my thing, but I really like listening to it and vibing off it.

What do you feel you miss from techno as dance music?

I don’t know. I think because the rhythm is so forced on you. It’s too rigid.

What do like about that 4/4 framework as listening music?

It’s got that hypnotic thing. That repetition. I think that’s what I like about it.

The synth in “Altered States” reminds me of your earlier work, like “Junktion” or “Bluez”. Do you feel like you were taking much influence from techno at that stage?

Definitely. I think my music’s much more informed by this stuff than by grime, even though I’m more likely to play a grime record out.

By the time you get to the climax of this track there’s quite a lot of jagged rhythmic stuff going on in there as well.

Yeah, it’s got a lot of energy. I think I took the textures, the sonic signatures, and some of that energy. I guess it’s taking that and recontextualising it.

Do you find yourself buying more house and techno now that you can play it more?

Yes… Maybe that’s because there’s not a lot of other good stuff around. If there was good dubstep and that kind of thing I would buy more of it but there’s not a lot about. I like listening to house and techno at home, so I do tend to buy quite a lot of it, but I buy a lot of reggae as well… which we’re going to come on to later.

4. Mala – Blue Notez (DMZ)

Why did you go for this record in particular from DMZ? Obviously there are a lot to choose from.

I didn’t fully get this one until I heard Mala play it at DMZ. I think it’s one of those system tunes that just click when you hear them in the right context. Mala just churned out classics at that point in time. 2004 to 2006, everything he did was just mind-blowing. Obviously he’s a big UK sound system head, and that’s crossed over into his music. It’s got the dub sounds, but it’s also got that hypnotic flavour, that’s what does it for me really. Mala’s definitely influenced by a lot of that UK ’90s dub sound as well as the older Jamaican stuff.

Was DMZ pivotal for you when getting into dubstep?

I think they were pivotal for everyone. They just set the bar. There was other stuff going on at the time but I think they were consistent and they had their vision and they did it really well, and then they came to define their own dubstep sound.

Did you go up to DMZ quite a lot?

Yeah, I went when they were in 3rd Base and then later when they were in Mass, I went to quite a few of them. It was always inspiring.

What was the atmosphere like at the parties?

At the early ones it was definitely more of an older crowd I would say, people drinking and smoking. It was heads, people there for the music. I think when it started blowing up a lot of younger people came and that combined with the smoking ban, made it get a bit ravier.

Haven’t you played DMZ before?

I did, many years ago. In 2009 or something like that.

5. The Disciples – Prowling Lion (Boom Shacka Lacka)

Early ’90s UK dub. This is an unknown quantity to me.

Well it’s quite difficult to get into. They don’t do media in reggae. It’s a whole separate world. In house and techno it’s very online and there’s websites and promotion and radio, and this is hidden from all of that.

How did you manage to find a way in?

I think in Bristol we’re lucky there are nights you can go to, there’s a bit of a reggae thing in Bristol, and I’ve got a lot of friends who are into it, so I got into it slowly over time. I find it difficult talking about my music, ‘cos I get interviewed by a lot of house and techno magazines and people who are from that scene who like to talk to me about what I do, but trying to explain to them about reggae and how that informs, not just my music, but people like Mala and Pinch and all these guys who do a similar thing, they find it hard to see that context because they don’t have the knowledge of that music.

What’s the deal with The Disciples specifically then?

This is just one of their big tunes from the early ’90s, UK Roots producers had developed their own unique sound around the early nineties which was electronic, darker, tougher and was often quite militant with that 4/4 steppers rhythm. It’s not hard to join the dots to some of the earlier dubstep tracks, to make that connection. While Jamaican dancehall was getting big in the charts, this was what was happening in this very underground UK scene.

This track has three different versions here. Is there a particular one you go for?

I think you’ve got the first one and two dubs; I wouldn’t pick one over the others. I think if you were in reggae you’d probably play all three, one after each other.

Have you got quite a collection of this kind of UK dub?

Not loads and loads. I’ll tend to gravitate towards late ’70s dubs. It’s more out there, alien, weird psychedelic dub sounds.

You started to tap into the idea of different versions with some of the releases on Livity Sound, such as the first split 12” you did with Kowton.

We’re constantly dubbing stuff in the live context. That’s what the live show is based around, so it’s a reflection of that.

As the one at the effects controls for the live show, does Craig [Asusu] share that love of delay and reverb?

He does. I don’t think he’s much of a reggae head but he’s into that process and that sound creation, and the way you can mix textures with sound.

Did you ever do dubbed out versions of your earlier tracks for your own amusement? Did you ever cut any of them to plate?

No, I never got that far. I like playing about with that kind of stuff at home. I do that when I’m producing as well, so it’s part of the process actually.

Is it easy to go too far with it?

You can’t go too far. Definitely with our live thing we like sounding raw and quite extreme. We don’t want it to sound nice.

Interview by Oli Warwick

Livity Sound by Livity Sound is released on October 21.