South London’s Tunnidge has been one of the artists on my feature hit list since I started FKOF and – although it’s taken nearly five years to pin him down – the wait has been more than worth it.
Appearing alongside a host of other amazing producers and DJs at our recent takeover event in Rotterdam, Tunnidge headlined one of (if not the best) the best events we’ve ever done. He’s an amazing DJ, carefully blending classics and dubs to keep the crowd demanding reloads as they wait for every tune to drop – no mean feat at 3am. And the Tunnidge sound epitomises the raw, industrial strength dubstep has. It’s music built for dancefloors and soundsystems. It has the kind of power that shocks on first listen – the music that’ll drop and get a crowd to respond in a guttural roar.
While he flew out, played his set and then flew home again, I managed to catch him for one of the realest and most honest interviews we’ve ever done. In the following interview, Tim hits hard with the home truths – but I’m stoked to finally have someone on FKOF who’s willing to say what everyone’s thinking. And as the visual archive from #FKOFBlendits shows, it’s not all doom and gloom. Our sound is very much alive and well…
Tunnidge, how are you sir? Been a while! Very well thank you, yes it’s been too long.
We first met at the Dubstep Bastards birthday in Gothenburg a few years back. You’ve been pretty busy since then. Any immediate highs or lows that spring to mind? Wow that was a while ago now! There have been lots of peaks and troughs. I think highs include visiting new countries to play and meeting new people. I recently played in Dubai which was a great experience – last year I was in Vietnam, Jakarta, Australia and New Zealand which were all incredible. Lows I think have been people moving away from the scene, in particular certain producers who have been around from the beginning. I think the past year a lot of the original heads have felt a certain disillusionment with the way the scene has turned.
Your history and background has been well documented so it’s not something we really need to get into. As far as your art goes, you’re still doing the Medi heads right? What other design projects are you working on at the minute? I am still drawing the Deep Medi heads. I also have a personal art and music project which I am working on and have been trying to complete. Hopefully that will be ready and will be announced in the not too distant future!
Dubstep’s been through a fair few evolutionary stages since the early days. Given the majority of producers still see the original sound from the FWD days as “true” dubstep, where do you see think the genre will go? Do you think this retrospection matters? Yes, I have a very specific idea of what true dubstep is and it is strongly based on the early sound of the fledgling years of the music. Truth be told, I don’t really like what the mainstream press continues to label as dubstep, but at the same time I feel the constant regurgitation of similar sounds and vibes that has been labeled ‘dungeon’ just as tedious.
In the early years, there was a lot more experimentation with structure, sound, vibe and percussion which seems to have declined lately. I think there are a lot of producers with no real sound of their own at the moment. In this capacity, I think retrospection is incredibly relative – not just on a sonic level but for the thought process that as a producer you approach music making. I feel and hope that the genre is shifting back in to a more experimental phase away from garish absurdity and bland plagiarism.
Distance, in our FKOF feature earlier this year, said “there are only a few producers keeping the sound alive”. For you, who’s making real standout music at the moment? Any particular producers you’re always excited to get dubs from? I agree with Distance and I think there are a few that have their own sound and execute it well. The people who I always enjoy hearing music from are the producers with the ability to make music that has dancefloor impact and have a fresh sound or vibe. I think we have wandered in to a strange territory where the majority of trend setters and critics are either very idiosyncratic (mainly because they wish to promote their own ambitions or never actually visit a dance and hear the music as it is intended for on a big system).
I find more and more the celebration of a certain type of dubstep that has absolutely no dancefloor impact. I think this has naturally lead to a greater influx of this sound in the genre which I would speculate led Distance to this statement. The people who stand out for me are the producers that have developed their own sound and vibes. I understand that some music is produced maybe as a listening experience beyond the dancefloor environment – as a producer I have projects exploring this kind of dance music beyond this setting. But I feel that the certain aspects of the media and many producers are too focused at the moment of this relatively extreme end of the dubstep spectrum. I really think there is a lot of talent out there and a lot of exploration to be had with the 140bpm signature, so why limit yourself?
You came over to Rotterdam for our Blendits takeover at the end of July. What are your key ingredients for a good dubstep dance? I really enjoyed playing over in Rotterdam and always try and mix up my sets with a bit of old school vibe and some new sounds. As a DJ, I try and entertain the crowd first and foremost and build a good vibe. It’s always good to get a bit experimental also but my priority is to see people enjoying themselves.
You’ve been fairly active as far as the bookings go in 2014; playing the UK, Malta, Holland a few gigs in Germany and a trip to Dubai. There seems to be few decent/ successful dubstep events left here in the UK – why do you think that is? You want me to be honest? I feel like I am on a bit of a rant with this interview haha!
I hope people who read it don’t think I am being negative but I really feel some things – now more than ever – should be said. Many, many good solid dubstep promoters were put out of business by DJs and agents charging too much money. In the early years most nights you played at would be independent, run by people like us who loved the sound and wanted to spread the vibe. As the music became more successful and people were able to charge higher fees, these smaller venues were unable to complete with the larger established promoting companies who don’t give a fuck about the music – just the finances. Certain agencies and DJs were looking to charge the 150 capacity promoter from Brighton the same as the huge festivals and mainstream events promoters. Not just in the UK, even more so abroad. A lot of the surviving nights that are independently run or have smaller more intimate capacities still exists because DJs and agents can see the value in establishing a good relationship with these nights. If you have flexibility you afford these night’s sustainability.
Now we have seen the shift of focus from dubstep from the fads of mainstream and I’m hoping that more people will see the value of contributing to the scene – not just taking from it everything you can. When Distance spoke about certain heads keeping dubstep alive I agree and interpret that as not exclusive to the music, that extends to sustaining and nourishing what we have. The easy answer to that question is that dubstep as a genre is as popular as ever and will continue to grow which I wholeheartedly believe. But, at the same time, with the changing of the scene – from one which we all pretty much knew each other to the wider platform where some producers agents etc live on other sides of the planet – I think it’s important to reiterate the ethos of contribution.
Of the events you’ve done in the past few months, are there any systems or venues that stand out as those you’d like to revisit? Have you got a favorite system or venue? I have to say a big respect to all the promoters that I have played for recently because they all have done a tip top job with their sound systems. My favorite systems are always going to be the purposed built ones – your Irration Steppah, Aba Shanti etc. I really rate RC1 also and Fabric’s system. I would live to play on Dillinja’s Valve Sound as well, that would be one off the to do list. Venue wise I always like the smaller venues, with no lights and big sound systems. You cant beat the underground vibe.
Release-wise, so far this year we’ve had Rukkus on GetDarker’s awesome TID compilation and your brilliant Juiceman remix on Ghost Recordings from you. What else can we expect over the next few months? I have a few projects I am working on but I am infamously unproductive in the summer months I am afraid. I have never been particularly prolific but I write best when the weather gets grimier and more turbulent, and pub gardens aren’t as appealing….
There seems to be a decent number of producers moving on from dubstep and branching out into new genres, or changing up the tempo. In terms of new material, are you still experimental with the Tunnidge sound – or sticking to the signature style we know you for? There is a duality in my production. My new sounds are more experimental and perhaps less what you would equate to the Tunnidge sound. But I will always make those big heavy riffs until people stop moving to them on the dancefloor. I do have some different tempo and genre productions but they are all anchored heavily in my sound. I can’t say too much at the moment.
We ask this question quite a lot, but it still seems a popular topic. What are your thoughts on the vinyl vs. digital debate? I have discussed this ones a few times so I will keep it short and sweet. If everyone that participated in the digital vs vinyl debates online defending vinyl actually bought vinyl and put their money where their mouth is there would be no debate. People like to say they support vinyl to look cool but the reality of it is vinyl sales are down. I have said this before and been taken to task on it, but let me say that again with the fact that ST Holdings has just gone out of business. Buying second hand vinyl from Discogs does not constitute the same thing as regularly buying independent pressings. Will vinyl die? No. But it is getting more and more niche, especially with the ease that digital can be downloaded and pirated. I will always buy vinyl and I will always strive to release my music on vinyl, do I think that this will always be possible? I honestly don’t know.
As a DJ, digital vs vinyl is a no brainer. Digital can be taken in hand luggage, downloaded in hotel rooms and doesn’t cost me £50 to have two tunes to play. Most clubs have appallingly maintained decks and needles, increasing the chance of having a problematic set. That’s the reality of the situation like it or not. I grew up buying vinyl and I will continue to support it but for me personally to select vinyl over digital wouldn’t make sense, I am used to CDJs now and I don’t need the bragging rights of playing dubplates. I’ve been there and done that.
Have you got any advice for producers looking to get started or get signed? Anything you’ve done that you’d recommend doing – or avoiding? I think just spend as much time as you can developing your sound and trying different things, treat everyone with respect and do as much as everything you can yourself. The internet provides so many opportunities to the up and coming producer these days. Remember your music is you collateral so be careful how and with who you spend it.
Any final words or shoutouts? Thanks for your time and see you in Rotterdam! Yes massive shout to all the contributors to the scene, and keep your ears out for the new wave….
Images by Luiza (Photography)
Set recorded live during the Blendits x FKOF takeover earlier this summer
Watch the set (and the others we were allowed to archive) on YouTube. Streamed live through Chew TV.