Interview: Batu // 5 Years of Timedance

Interview: Batu // 5 Years of Timedance

Posted on: 16 Apr 2020

This article was first published in the second edition of LOUD Magazine, 365Bristol's dedicated music publication. 

Read LOUD Magazine, Issue #2 on Issuu:

LOUD Magazine Issue #2.

5 Years of Timedance


Dreamt up and developed in Bristol, Timedance has been a staple of the city’s electronic music scene since it was established in early 2015. Now, in celebration of its fifth birthday, label boss and revered DJ Batu is taking his brainchild on the road for an inter-continental series of anniversary parties


If I remember rightly, Rob [Pinch] put me in touch with my first distributor,” Omar McCutcheon, more widely known as Batu, recalls as we chat over a coffee in Old Market. “I had people like Pinch, Pev, the Rewind Forward crew and loads of other people who I could learn from when I was starting it up.”


It takes a few seconds of consideration to journey back to the circumstances surrounding the birth of Timedance, such is the huge progress the label has made in the five years since. Over the course of the next hour, it becomes strikingly apparent that Bristol and Timedance are inextricably linked; that the label wouldn’t be quite what it is had it been based somewhere else, and that the city’s musical identity is woven into the Timedance output.


A Bristol resident for a large portion of his 20s, McCutcheon’s musical journey sounds as though it was destined for the city long before he arrived here. He credits his dad and uncle as two of his biggest early influences, both part of the dub scene in Nottingham in the 1980s before getting into early jungle and dubstep later on.


“Bristol, for me, is a real music lovers’ city rather than a music industry city. There’s a really important distinction there”


McCutcheon explains that a love of cutting-edge electronic music was “all laid out” for him from the get-go, with his uncle, in particular, opening his eyes to dubstep. Around 13 years old at the time, being exposed to a totally new sound in his formative years had a lasting impact on his view of how music could, or should, be made. “I feel quite strongly about making sure what I do feels contemporary and of a moment in time,” he gradually tells me, clearly choosing his words carefully. “I think the scope of electronic music always needs to be at the forefront of culture and art.”


“Whether it’s a case of using modern tools and software and manipulating sound,” he continues, “or if it’s just rhythmically trying to avoid making big references to stuff that happened 20 years ago, I want to make sure that my music sounds brand-new.”


In that regard, things started to fall into place for McCutcheon when he started to integrate himself into the Bristol scene after moving to Bath for university, meeting fellow producers – and now close friends – Bruce and Ploy on his music tech course around the same time. Able to look around at his contemporaries for motivation, McCutcheon started Timedance in early 2015. He laughs when I ask what the inspiration was for getting it going, admitting that there wasn’t really a big dream behind it, that it was born out of necessity more than anything else.


“I just wanted to put some tunes out,” he recalls. “Around that time I was struggling to find a home for my music – I’d had a couple of releases already but was slightly frustrated that I couldn’t seem to get the music I wanted to make into the hands of the right people.” McCutcheon’s ‘Cardinal’, the distorted, almost sinister sounding first release on Timedance, was a testament to that desire to go down a new route. It wasn’t long before the label started building a serious reputation at the forefront of Bristol’s notoriously forward-thinking musical community. 


Semi-regular parties carried the torch in Bristol over the next few years, taking over The Island for a string of events that offered something different to the familiar house and techno scene of the time, much more in line with McCutcheon’s own taste. “Five years ago,” he says, “I don’t think the kind of music that Timedance is associated with was very well represented in Bristol clubs, and The Island just worked. It had a few characteristics that have become really core to a Timedance night; things like good sound, bass especially, dark rooms and a very no-frills feel.”

Timedance at The Island. Timedance at The Island. Photo: Alex Digard


“There were some real standout moments” from a series that featured the likes of Lena Willikens, DJ Nobu and Ben UFO, but he goes on to explain that the big-name headliners only tell half the story. “A lot of the fondness, looking back, comes from seeing the same people there, the afterparties we’d have, a lot of connections being made and friendships forming as a result of the parties.”


The relationship with The Island eventually came to an end with a closing series at the end of 2018, a three-part curtain call put together to, in a sense, prevent Timedance from overstaying its welcome. Ever the innovator, McCutcheon says he was conscious of maintaining a sense of exploration, and that the party series had simply run its course at The Island after three successful years. “By the end there were a lot of nights at The Island that occupied a similar place musically,” he says. “It’s nice sometimes for things to move on before they get old.”


All of this brings us to 2020, more than a year since the last Timedance party and five years since the birth of the imprint itself. After half a decade of hard work fine-tuning the label’s identity, McCutcheon has kicked off a 5 Years series, taking Timedance to venues across the UK and around the world. After an opening party in Leeds, the Bristol leg saw Timedance take over the Trinity Centre for a proper hometown affair in February. Giant Swan, Metrist, Anina and Batu himself played to a sea of familiar faces, with headliner Shackleton putting his own trademark spin on proceedings.

Timedance 5 Years at Trinity Centre.

Timedance 5 Years at Trinity Centre.

Timedance 5 Years at Trinity Centre.Timedance 5 Years at Trinity Centre, 8/2/20. Photos: Ollie Kirk for Here & Now


“Bristol has played a huge role in the development and shaping of Timedance,” McCutcheon tells me. “From people helping me set up the label, to the artists releasing on it, it’s been a really great hub. Even if what you’re doing is a worldwide thing, the atmosphere you come back to here is always so supportive and easygoing. The confidence and self-assurance that gives you to continue to try new things is invaluable.”


McCutcheon’s personal taste is far less Bristol-centric these days, his outlook widened by the array of sounds and styles he’s been exposed to through touring over the course of the last few years. Travelling and playing at least once a year in Asia - and at some of the biggest and best clubs in the world - has been eye-opening, but he’s mindful to remain appreciative of the musical environment that Timedance emerged from.


“Bristol’s still small and definitely punching above its weight musically. You can get to know everyone here, whereas if you’re somewhere like Berlin or London, you probably have to shout a bit louder to be noticed. Bristol, for me, is a real music lovers’ city rather than a music industry city, and there’s a really important distinction there.”


2020, alongside the 5 Years celebrations, presents an opportunity to further establish Timedance among an international audience. There’s a fifth birthday compilation on the way, as well as a fresh batch of singles to be announced in the near future. Aside from a couple of dream projects, though, there aren’t many big ambitions for the future of the label.


McCutcheon’s only worry, for now, is ensuring that Timedance continues to be open-minded and is able to facilitate more musical development. “I don’t want to force anything,” he says, “but the most important thing for me is to remain at the cutting edge of music you’d want to hear in clubs. That needs to be the foundation for whatever I go on to do.”


Header Image: Kasia Zacharko

Read more:



Article by:

Matt Robson


Editor - & LOUD Magazine

Matt is a Journalism graduate and writer, passionate about supporting Bristol music, art and independent business. Get in touch via email at