The Bristol-based producer blurs the lines between techno and dubstep on his mix for the RA podcast.
Can a producer successfully traverse the boundaries between dubstep and techno? Shed certainly doesn't seem to think so. But the work of Bristol-based producer Joe Cowton may make him think twice about bass music creators meddling with four-to-the-floor dynamics and lower tempos.
Cowton made his first foray into dubstep production while he was studying music technology in Manchester. Inspired by both his visit to a DMZ rave in Leeds' West Indian Centre, and the records that he was picking up at Boomkat's now defunct physical store, Pelican Neck, Cowton started to craft his own take on the dubstep sound, pricking the ears of blogger and Keysound owner Martin "Blackdown" Clark at an early stage. His first actual releases came under his Narcossist moniker, fusing together deep sub-bass tones with the rhythmic skip of UK garage on both the Mindset and Clandestine Cultivations imprints, but by the middle of last year, Cowton had started to unveil a much different style to his work.
His debut release as Kowton for Keysound was the first chance for many to hear what he'd been concocting in his new surroundings of Bristol. By dropping the tempo down by a good 15 BPM and trying to integrate heavily swung rhythms and dubstep production tropes into a house and techno template, Cowton has managed to create a genuinely unique niche for himself. The clanking minimalist churn of his 12-inch for Idle Hands from earlier this year only served to compound his reputation in techno circles, but Cowton definitely hasn't left dubstep behind. His DJ sets frequently combine music from both genres, and that's exactly what he's done with his RA podcast, transitioning through low-slung techno into hyper-kinetic dubstep.
What have you been up to recently?
Just been sorting the tracks for my next Idle Hands 12-inch. As things stand, that's going to be Idle005. One of the bits, "Drunk on Sunday," is in the mix. Other than that I've just done a remix for Dusk, which is going to be on a Keysound 12-inch around the new year sometime with a tune I did called "Looking at You" on the A-side. I've also been spending a bit of time round October's studio, and the products of that will probably be coming on Caravan before too long.
How and where was the mix recorded?
In the corner of my room on two 1210s and a knackered old Gemini Umex-9 mixer.
Can you tell us a little more about the mix?
It's some of my favorite records and dubplates at the time it was recorded, in an order I thought worked quite well. Some bits like "Claptrap" and the Panamax record I've been caning for months, others like the Szare plate and the Pev and Hyetal bit had only arrived in the post a day or two earlier. I tried not to put anything too obvious or anthemic in there. It's heads down stuff from start to finish. Focused.
How have you found making the transition from out and out dubstep to more techno-geared material? Do you find it difficult when you're playing to more of a closed minded crowd who want one and not the other?
Yeah, it's harder for sure if the crowd aren't open minded, though most of the bookings I get are from promoters that operate somewhere between techno and dubstep. I've never been a big fan of playing one sound exclusively, I think it's great though when you can move through different tempos and styles and the crowd is into it all the way through. Freerotation was a good one for that. I think increasingly crowds expect to hear both sounds; in many respects the more rolling end of the old dubstep scene now has a lot more in common with techno than the jump up most people consider to represent dubstep. The same is probably true of the crowds.
What are you up to next?
I'm promoting a Sunday evening session in Bristol called Boundary Object with one of the people from Super Ultra Mega. The first one is on October 3rd. It's in a proper little pub called The Bell and we've got some brilliant guests lined up already. Gig-wise, I'm really looking forward to playing at Apple Pips in Bristol next month, and then Colony in London on 19th November—the line up for that one is big. There's the Idle Hands and Keysound records to master along with a release for a new Bristol label by the name of Commune. I'm also working on something with a view to putting it out on Blackest Ever Black, who've just released the fantastic Raime debut. Finally, I just started working a couple of days a week at Rooted Records and I've got a 16,000 word dissertation to write before November.