dj to dj: kowton & mr beatnick


Mr Beatnick and Kowton are two DJs/producers that are enjoying a great year. Mr Beatnick completed his acclaimed Synthetes trilogy on Don’t Be Afraid (with a compilation of all three, plus a few new tracks due out imminently), played a game changing set at Sonar and was signed up to The Secret Agency, while Kowton’s reputation as perhaps the foremost purveyor of heavy techno in the UK has steadily grown and grown, with a string of solid releases, collaborations with Pev and Hyetal and a Livity Sound LP due out very soon. We caught up with them both ahead of them sharing the bill at the DBA party this Saturday to talk collaboration, differences and similarities between Bristol and London, and building narrative arcs while djing… 

Mr Beatnick: Ill start with an easy one. You recently moved from Bristol to London – how are you settling in and how is it different (if at all) to the vibe in Bristol?

Kowton: Yeah settling in nicely thanks! I think music people are the same everywhere, so it feels a bit like Bristol just on a much bigger scale.. Everyone has the same groans and gripes just scaled up! You played in Bristol before right? How did you find that?

Mr B: Yes, I played there a while back, had a great time. Really love Bristol, I actually went to Exeter Uni years ago, so Bristol was a regular favourite place to go for a night out, Blue Mountain used to be the spot to go raving back then. I’m playing in Bristol end of October for the Housework guys, really looking forward to being back, and stopping by Idle Hands for a bit of record shopping.

Kowton: Ah that should be great – the Housework  parties have really taken off this past year or so, they’ve done a lot of big names.

Mr Beatnick: Staying with Bristol, maybe we should talk about you and Pev and the new 12″ you’ve done for Livity Sound. How did you guys hook up and how does the collaboration work, and who does which parts?

Kowton: I met Pev when he was managing Rooted, then after a couple of years of seeing him out and about and sending him tracks he invited me round to work on a tune. I think that became the first Livity 12″. There’s no real pattern to how we work – just a lot of bouncing things back and forth. With End Point that was a tune that we started together, then I took away and made a version we were playing live for a bit, then Tom remixed that into the tune that was finally released. Vapours was a similar process.

Its brilliant to work with someone thats such a strong vision of what they want to hear; having Tom as an editor (as well as a creative force) on the collaborations makes them what they are I think. 

I had a look on Discogs but I couldn’t see any collaborations you’d done as Mr Beatnick – have you done much work with other producers under different names?

Mr Beatnick: I guess I started off doing a lot of collaborative work, I used to co-run a (very short lived) label called Other Worlds with a guy called Max Cole back in the mid noughties – we were really into Sun Ra and out-there jazz, and had a live band which did a few shows around that time. Looking back on it it was quite a crazy concoction, I played Roland MC202 into a Revox B77, used as a tap delay along, with an MPC for sampling, and the rest of the band was a rotating cast of recruits, Arkestra-style.

I’ve still kept those influences in my dance floor stuff but I guess my taste has broadened a lot in ten years! Other than that, Braiden and myself starting doing some work in an all analog studio earlier in the year and have some unfinished stuff that hopefully we’ll come back to when the time is right. I struggle a bit with collaborations, partly cause my working method is pretty slow, and Im so used to working alone these days – I think good collabs are about finding people who are good at the bits you struggle with!

Do you think your influences have changed much over the years? I’ve come and heard you play a few times and it strikes me that you draw from all over the spectrum – techno, grime, funky, house – I identify with that approach to bringing things together in sets.

Kowton: I think they probably have changed over the years – its funny though cos i just go round in circles: I started off playing house and techno then shifted over to grime and dubstep then back to techno then to house then back and so on! I guess theres periods where I ‘m more influenced by one thing than another but its forever switching. I just find it more interesting as a DJ to play between styles, building a kind of narrative arc out of things that you might not imagine go together that well.

I think theres definitely a huge amount to be said for DJ’s who can play one sound for hours and keep it vibing but personally i’ve never played like that really. Have you always taken a varied approach to what you’ve played?

Mr Beatnick: Definitely – and I think now so more than ever – I really struggle to play one style for an extended period in my sets or on the radio – I seem to have developed an attention span in my old age that makes Madlib seem quite attentive in comparison. I guess that’s why I’m really looking forward to warming up for you on Saturday – will be a chance for both of us to take the set nice and broad.

Kowton & Mr Beatnick are both playing at the Don’t Be Afraid party this coming Saturday in E2 with support coming from Semtek, ????? and Idle Hands boss Chris Farrell. Advance tickets still available here.