After a while without an interview, we're bringing things back to you in a suitably grand fashion. Today, we've got Pistonsbeneath into talk to us. There's also a HUGE guest mix that you can check out at the end, or download from here...
NT: To kick things off, introduce us to Pistonsbeneath.
P: Pistonsbeneath is, unbeknownst to many, a duo rather than just being my thing... I work with someone I've known for many many years and we click on a level that I don't think many people do, and have an intuitive relationship when it comes to music. We've both tinkered for many years and compliment each other well.
My name is Jon and I'm from the Croydon area and have been for my whole life pretty much as has the person I work with. Our relationship isn't like most people that work together from what I understand of other duos. They wish to remain anonymous and I'm the public face of Pistonsbeneath hence I do all the DJing and interviews and anything else public.
Pistonsbeneath - Deep Peeping
NT: From what I've read elsewhere, you seem to have been involved in Electronic music for quite a while in some capacity, including running Dubstep nights in its spiritual home, Croydon. Can you tell us how you arrived to where you're at today?
P: I did put on a few nights in Croydon yes, pretty far back and obviously ran Dubkulture every week for 18 months before they decided the clientele wasn't to their liking haha and that pretty much to me sums up Croydon sadly... A strange mix of people all looking at each other, you would have thought Croydon would be a good place to put on grass roots Dubstep nights but the people and the clubs sabotage it themselves, there's not enough patience to allow something to grow and I guess like most towns, the venues just want a quick fix event that will get people through the door but go nowhere and indeed not have enough time to grow a reputation if the promoter wants to build something. Music is pretty poor in Croydon on a week by week basis.
Doing Dubkulture helped me make a lot of contacts and meet lots of DJs/producers that I see randomly at events now. Without having that 20k rig to play through each week (before they insisted it be on a ridiculously quiet volume to the point where people could have a conversation near the speaker) I wouldn't have bothered with delving more seriously into production.
I knew within Croydon a fair few heads before doing Dubkulture and linked back up with them. Shiverz and Lost are the main guys that spring to mind but I also had many other guys play wicked sets. The best DJ technically hands down I had down was Syte and linking him and Crises ultimately led to the Mindstep EP.
My music as an even younger youngster than I am now was pretty mixed. I remember being very connected to tracks like Omni Trio's 'Renegade Snares', LTJ Bukem's 'Atlantis' and also a lot of Orbital tunes like 'Halcyon'...One of the most powerful tracks for me to hear even now despite how cheesy it might sound is Manix 'Feel Real Good'. 4 Hero tunes can be as classy as they want but nothing for me will top that one (Marc Clair from 4 Hero was Manix).
My connection to music in general isn't necessarily the same as many people's, I feel, but maybe this is an assumption. I just know I don't feel all the music I listen too is a reflection of me necessarily and I appreciate the beauty of music in its many many forms regardless of whether I can relate to it on a personal level. I enjoy listening to Kozzie, DMZ, Photek, King Tubby & Clubroot but equally love to listen to Vaughan Williams, Satie, Vashti Bunyan, Billie Holiday, Fela Kuti and Linda Perhacs. I sometimes want to be away from myself and music is the best thing in the world for that. I think many people get too bogged down in the baggage that is musical identity and forget to possibly enjoy the music itself.
NT: You released your "24th Century EP" on MindStep, obviously a respected label. I get the impression that you were more meticulous in your approach to production than others, who seem to live by the standard of hearing a genre for the first time, and turning their hand to production straight away. Can you expand on your production history a little?
P: The tracks had time to breathe before being released there's no doubt. They went through a lot of changes to make sure the right end product was there, but in a natural organic manner.
Crises and Syte were both fantastic and helped a lot with the selection and also encouragement, I think it's important anyone's music carries a distinctive stamp that is them and not a ripoff of their fave producer, there isn't any point in just making music that sounds like someone else in the hope you will be successful, we are all individuals influenced by our surroundings and experiences for better or worse they shape us...breaking off from that to be someone you're not isn't natural.
Production wise I would say I have a good set of ears and that's a crucial element to have when making music! I used to mess with Music 2000 when i was younger and chopped up stuff on a mini disc player as well, always enjoyed anything creative like that. Ableton coupled with a variety of plug ins and additional programmes is about as fully loaded as they come and the sky's the limit with what can be achieved with it.
NT: As someone that was involved in (or at least heavily aware of) dubstep before it "blew up", what are your opinions on the way dubstep has evolved?
P: I think it's got a long way to go... It's now getting to the point where people are sick of the minimal deep stuff that was meant to be the antidote to the OTT shallow-step but I think we're just going to move to a new phase for the sound where soul will come back into it. D&B/Jungle had a similar era of grotty dark nasty tunes without soul in about 1997 but now I can look back and enjoy the tunes from then as it's not all there is around me, if you will. I am very proud to be a part of Mindstep as the sound they're purveyors of is the next phase and will takeover, along with the next wave of antisocial not just in terms of the collective but in terms of that sound. People like Silkie, Quest and Swindle could be appreciated by a more diverse and much bigger selection of grown ups than say Bar 9 or SP:MC, much as I enjoy music by both, then you have guys like Phaeleh that totally flipped the script and did it largely on their own making real music that could be appreciated by all. I've lost count of the amount of people I know recently that found their way into the sound via Matt Phaeleh.
Before it was widely known I suppose it was more special to me and I used to let it bother me when people would throw the D word around like it meant nothing and was whatever they wanted it to be and not just on dubstepforum either haha.
There is a lack of respect for the roots and the people that supported the genre, for sure amongst many many people sadly... far more than supported it to begin with and I'm sure many that would have had a problem with it now love it simply because they feel it's become accepted, now its just like any other dance genre with the same cliched things happening within it, alongside the more interesting niche elements that never bother them or enter their universe. I have met many people in Croydon from Croydon that say they love 'dub' and by that I mean the Skrill and Chrispy that not only haven't heard of Digital Mystikz, Skream, Horsepower, Hatcha, Burial etc. but are also totally unaware the genre began on their doorstep.
To them it's a strange concept, something being local and grassroots, as that isn't where they obtain their culture sadly. They regard Youtube as the place to find music and whatever has become famous in America. It needn't matter that much though, as those people would never be into anything that correlates with interesting thoughtful dance music anyway, and I would say they listen to the equivalent of any area like that of any dance genre... It's always gonna be there but there's always gonna be hipsters breaking off to do something 'new' as well. What matters is everyone making the music they love ultimately.
Pistonsbeneath - Proserpine
Pistonsbeneath - Proserpine
NT: Whenever I see one of your mixes, I'm always impressed by the amount of dubs in the tracklist. In a day and age where "everybody's a DJ", do you consciously consider this a way to differentiate yourself from the masses?
P: I don't really do anything like that on a self conscious level per se... I don't really plan sets in a club either, it's just whatever sounds awesome. There will always be tracks I rinse for ages way after others are bored of 'em and likewise big tunes I get bored of quickly. It's good that there's now enough dubs to just play my own tunes if need be as that gives an edge, for sure, providing you limit how many people have access to your dubs.
This mix that you hadn't seen when you gave me these questions is actually not so chock full of dubs as normal and in fact is more a journey through a huge variety of music...I like that I can truly not necessarily educate but share the music I've been exposed to that's stayed with me over a long period of time hence this one really goes all over the place yet still maintains some dubs alongside MJ Cole, Mogwai, LFO as well as Inasound, Perverse, Shredexx etc.
NT: As your first release was so well received, there must be plans for getting some more Pistonsbeneath out there surely?
P: Yes absolutely and I'm talking to a few labels about future releases. Sitting on a mountain of music. There are more Mindstep releases in the pipeline and these will include some vinyl!
The initial EP is always there for new people to discover in the meantime...
NT: Can you talk us through your selection for the mix? Is this representative of the sets you play out? Where can we catch you playing in the near future?
P: I would say this is something different to what you'd hear in a club from me. It's a collage of many elements, not necessarily homogenous to begin with but with their cultural overlapping evident throughout.
In a club I enjoy the simple pleasures of a clean mix between two tracks and the purity of switching the sub on the mixer for the next tune to make it's entrance, the little cuts between. There are mixes like that about to download such as my Subculture artists mix that just went up. In a club I'm moving more towards the vast majority of the set being my own material and picking out a handful of dubs by other producers that move me in some way such as Inasound's 'Backhander'.
With this it's not something that could really be pulled off in a club unless the whole set was geared towards it to begin with and I have no interest in using a laptop live and equally no interest in being known in that setting in that way, this mix is a story to be read again and again whereas in a club it needs to be fresh each time. I learned that with Dubkulture, every week I tried to vary what I played so the same faces wouldn't hear the same songs week in and week out, now I balance it and play the same songs of mine with unique dubs from others and WIPS of mine that won't see the light of day most probably but work in a club, but I never play the same set.
My next set is at the Mindstep event at Camp in east london on the 20th July with Syte going B2B alongside Quest, Jay 5ive, Compa, Vibration Lab, My Nu-Leng the don Crises and Mungo's Hi-Fi.
NT: Finally, if you had to pick your three favourite "Night Tracks", what would they be?
P: Such a hard question and I'm gonna have to pick from all over the place to do it justice..
Omni Trio - Renegade Snares
Erik Satie - Gnossienne Number III (from Six Gnossiennes)
Bob James - Nautilus
There's way too much music out there though. I don't personally equate night tracks with being dark and moody but having that smell of the evening air about them, that evocative feeling that could bring tears to your eyes on some level, the feeling of a song being a story told at the end of a day, sharing its experiences and making people FEEL.
I could find probably 20 jungle tunes that fit the bill nicely or atmospheric bass music but I just needed to share the power of the other two
If I could add a fourth I would certainly add Vangelis - Blush Response...
NT: Big up Jon for the fascinating read, much respect. Check out his guest mix for us below, eighty tracks over eighty minutes, big is an understatement. Again, you can download the mix for a limited time by clicking here.
Clubroot - Tempt Fate [LO DUBS]
Cyrus - Calm Before The Storm [TECTONIC]
Perverse - Cerberus [MINDSTEP MUSIC]
Inasound - Backhander [MINDSTEP MUSIC]
Heny G - Arena 1 (Jazzy Jazzy remix) [DUB]
RSD - Kingfisher [PUNCH DRUNK]
L-Wiz - Cowboy Universal [RED VOLUME]
Toasty - Like Sun [HOTFLUSH]
LFO - Psychodelik [WARP]
Benga - Middle Man [BIG APPLE]
Swindle - Under The Sun [DEEP MEDI]
Pistonsbeneath - Deep Peeping [FORTHCOMING MINDSTEP]
Loefah - Mud [DMZ]
Boot - The Rift [DUB]
Boot - Debased [FORTHCOMING PARADISE LOST]
Loefah - System [TECTONIC]
Compa - Loomis [DUB]
Mogwai - May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door [CHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND]
Si Begg - Colour (Feat Jinadu) [NOVAMUTE]
Distance - Cyclops [PLANET MU]
Headhunter & Ekelon - Timewarp [PLANET MU]
Pistonsbeneath - Resonate VIP [MINDSTEP MUSIC SPECIAL]
Shredexx - Geared [DUB]
Photek - Lost Blue Heaven [VIRGIN]
Content - Osmosis [DUB]
Headhunter - Descent [TEMPA]
Sparxy - Mr Robot [BACON DUBS]
Darq E Freaker Feat. Kozzie & Infa Red - Cherryade Special [OIL GANG/NO HATS NO HOODS]
Ben Verse - Wilderness [WHEEL & DEAL]
Pistonsbeneath - Phaelon [DUB]
Perverse - Thalamus [MINDSTEP MUSIC]
Claro Intelecto - Peace Of Mind [A.I. RECORDINGS]
Swindle - Mood Swings [BUTTERZ]
Deekline & Wizard Feat Yolanda - Ill St Blues (Club Mix) [BOTCHIT & SCARPER]
Swindle - Pineapple [BUTTERZ]
Majora - Lost In Diamonds VIP [DUB]
Search & Destroy - Anger [HOTFLUSH]
Rossi B & Luca - E10 Riddim [PLANET MU]
Untold - Bad Girls [FABRIC]
MJ Cole Feat. Elephant Man - Mad Man [UNIVERSAL]
Darqwan - Said The Spider VIP [TEXTURE RECORDINGS]
Pistonsbeneath - Skelextrix [DUB]
Roska, Swindle & Funtcase - Spanner In The Works [RINSE]
DJ Zinc - 138 Trek [PHAZE:ONE]
Aphex Twin - Donkey Rhubarb [WARP]
Lamb - Gabriel (Si Begg's 5.1 Futures Remix) [MERCURY]
Vex'd - Ghost [PLANET MU]
Misteeq - B - With Me (Bump & Flex Radio Edit) [TELSTAR]
A List - Flags Of Our Fathers [DUB]
Benga vs Babycham - World War 7 (Ghetto Story Vox) [BOOTLEG]
Howie B - Angels Go Bald Too (TLS Remix 2] Pistonsbeneath - Tarnished [DUB]
Lory D - Deep From Colosseum [REPHLEX]
Starkey Feat P-Money - Numb [PLANET MU]
Badklaat & Requake - Whopper [DUB]
The Bug Feat. Flowdan - Warning [NINJA TUNE]
Cessman - Gurkha [SIN CITY]
AFX - Boxing Day [REPHLEX]
Phaeleh - Lounge (Geiom Remix) [SURFACE TENSION]
Pistonsbeneath - Esper [DUB]
Kromestar - Rainy Dayz [DEEP MEDI]
Goth-Trad - Flags [DEEP MEDI]
Pistonsbeneath - Make Your Enemies By Choice [DUB]
DJ Madd - Vampire Skank [WAR]
Boot - Colder Now [DUB]
Tim Wright - Kick The Door In [NOVAMUTE]
So Solid Crew - They Don't Know [RELENTLESS]
The Tuss - Rushup Bank 12 [REPHLEX]
Muk - Wasteman (Badklaat Remix) [DUB]
Alter Ego - Rocker (Plasticman Remix)
Mala - Learn [DMZ]
Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Exercising (Horsepower Remix)
Boot - Reeducation VIP [DUB]
Forsaken - Into The Sunset [SOUL MOTIVE]
Coki - Mood Dub [DMZ]
Kromestar - Take You There [JAH]
My Nu Leng - Time Goes By [MINDSTEP MUSIC]
Phaeleh - Lament [AFTERGLO]
Christ - Lazy Daisy Meadow [BENBECULAE]
Larvae - Less Than Now [AD NOISEAM]