With our first feature for 2012 we introduce Pistonsbeneath, a name that has quietly been doing the rounds on the underground circuit for some time now and one associated with an uncompromising approach to quality bass music. The duo, fronted by Jon Burl, have quietly been building a wide-ranging repertoire of sub-driven beats and are set to unleash seven of them in the next week on the '24th Century EP' via the ever-impressive MindStep Music imprint. Focusing on an effective use of space, interesting sampling and big, lurking basslines, Pistonsbeneath provide a refreshing rework of the original elements of the now-inescapably-global dubstep sound that includes, perhaps most importantly, the wealth of variation that that original sound template was open to. We caught up with Jon for an interview and he's also put together an epic mix to mark the 30th exclusive mix in our series, and the first of the new year.
Hedmuk: To introduce yourself, what's your name, where do you hail from and how would you describe your sound?
Pistonsbeneath: I'm Jon, I'm from the Croydon area and I'd describe Pistonsbeneath tunes as atmospheric, sub-driven, sci-fi horror.
H: How long have you been producing for, and is Pistonsbeneath your first venture into making music?
P: I make the tunes with a friend of mine, we have setups at both of our places. We've both been messing around with music independently since we were young, but we started making a few tunes around 2005/6 when I showed him dubstep. We've been getting a bit more serious over the last 18 months, trying to bring the production up to par and were going to start sticking out some tunes under my alias Pistonsbeneath, sort of the way Goldie and Rob Playford worked: he just likes to sit at the computer making the beats with me and doesn't like to be on the radar, while I'm more the public face and the DJ. Obviously there's the MindStep '24th Century EP' and some of the tunes you're going to be hearing at first we made a long time ago, but we've got a lot of new tunes in the pipeline and hopefully we'll be getting some of them out in the second half of 2012.
Pistonsbeneath - Resonate [EP Sample] [MindStep Music] by MindStep_Music
H: Many will know you as the man behind the now-defunct DubKulture night at the Black Sheep Bar, can you enlighten us as to the reasons behind the night's sudden demise? And do you plan to be running anything similar again in the near future?
DubKulture was great and I made so many fantastic links through it, so I'm not going to try and say I regret it at all: without it, who knows where I'd be. The man that called me up to do it was Gavin, and he had a lot more input at that point, if not for Gavin it would not have happened. It was just to do a cover set as there was nothing on that Wednesday and over 100 people walked in expecting to hear 'Sierra Leone', Dr. P and Borgore and I played DMZ, Vex'd and Distance to them (laughs). They all wanted more though, and not necessarily because of the fact that on that night there was a powercut at 11.
In the beginning it was busy and the Sheep were pushing the event and people came and we got between 100 and 150 people on a Wednesday night in Croydon. It had busier nights than that later, and some huge names played for me that were local. They would say the event ran out of steam but I would argue they didn't want to do anything to promote it given i was running/residenting their night for them. So of course it died a death, I dont think they wanted it there in the end especially given my lack of willingness to compromise to the extent they wanted.
H: Your debut release, the '24th Century EP', is about to drop on MindStep; how did you get involved with the label, and what was the process behind selecting the tracks for your first appearance on the label?
P: I got involved having had Syte play at DubKulture a few times (my favourite DJ technically to watch, and so underrated) and had him crash at my gaff as he lives like a million miles outside London and we got chatting and I showed him some tunes. We had some good chats over greasy spoon brekkies too. I knew Crises already as well, as he'd played DubKulture a couple of times for me and he had 'Unspeakable' a while back and repped it.
The track selection came about from a combination of the three of us and we were initially gonna do a 5-tracker but just weren't willing to let any of those 7 go in the end. There were a lot more tracks than that in the pool at one point, but it got to a point where it had to be those 7. Crises decided the final running order as I had no huge preference.
Pistonsbeneath - Blue Jaunte [EP Sample] [MindStep Music] by MindStep_Music
H: You have, in the past, been quite vocal about some of the divisions within dubstep: is this something you continue to feel strongly about, and do you see some vindication in the recent return to prominence of the sound's original components of bass and space?
P: To be honest, I don't feel that strongly about it these days: people like what they're going to like and there's nothing you can do to prove to someone one tune is better than another as it's so subjective. Most people these days under a certain age are happy listening to YouTube downloaded files, so God knows. It's great that everyone's kind of back on it, it was always on the cards really though. I do feel a load of people had just had enough and willed it to happen.
To an extent it's all an illusion anyway, and you go to a club in a run of the mill city centre a la Croydon and you will find nobody wants to party in the 'dungeon'. They just want the usual suspects regardless, and Youngsta's show hasn't hugely impacted on their lives the way it has to so many new people of late. Of course there is more longevity in this real shit and people are actually willing to pay for it and not just torrent it, but there will always be those people that don't want it and just want to brock out to Nero and Pendulum. One group that've really surprised me and have been sending me the best produced tracks of late are Mt. Eden...
H: You've done something pretty interesting with your mix for us: take us through how you went about putting it all together.
Oh God, where to start? Well some people might remember my older mixes like 'I Love Bassick' (named after the Bassick nights I put on in 2007-2008 in Croydon) and the last one before 'Sound of Gemini' that had loads of tunes mashed together with no edge, well this is a far better realised version of that with cuts, teases, extreme militant EQ-ing and rephrasing tunes where necessary: it's a mix to end all mixes. The mix is treated the same as a tune using Ableton Live, a collage has been built, woven together and comprising of dubs I've been sent and the true sound classics and a few random tunes thrown in. Please note it's not just a 'dungeon' mix, or a tearout mix, or a pad oriented lush atmospheric workout but it covers tons of ground and never leaves you wanting...if I may say so myself.
Pistonsbeneath - Unspeakable [EP Sample] [MindStep Music] by MindStep_Music
H: Finally, have you got any forthcomings or upcoming gigs that you'd like to put the word out about?
P: The '24th Century EP' is released 24/1/12 on MindStep, you can preorder it before this date from all good online retailers and there are ultra-limited CDs that are going fast direct from the MindStep website too. Big up Crises and Syte.
I am playing at 'Mind The Dubstep' at Brixton Jamm on February the 18th with a pretty sick lineup and am back on GetDarker on the 21st of February. Attend either and you will hear a certain VIP of mine that currently is in the hands of only 4 people.
Download: Pistonsbeneath - Hedmuk Exclusive Mix
Digital Mystikz - Ancient Memories [DMZ]
Clubroot - Stained Glass [DUB]
Trashbat - Relic [DUB]
Caski - Collapsed [DUB]
Terrafonix - Path Of Jah [DUBLIMINAL]
Pistonsbeneath - Present Knowledge [MINDSTEP]
Lost & Beezy - Untitled [DUB]
Pistonsbeneath - Psychic 24th Century [MINDSTEP]
Bandicoot - Left Behind [MINDSTEP]
Pinch - Swish - [DEEP MEDI]
Perverse - The Iceman [DUB]
Pistonsbeneath - Seven Years [MINDSTEP]
Darqwan - M/a...ximum Reespek [PLANET µ]
Toasty - Unconcious [UNRELEASED FREE]
Skream - Lightning (VIP) [UNRELEASED FREE]
Pistonsbeneath - Primordial [DUB]
Clubroot - Scars [FORTHCOMING SOLACE RECORDINGS]
Anex - Hurt [DUB]
Pistonsbeneath - Blue Jaunte [MINDSTEP]
Kode9 - Ping [REPHLEX]
Loefah - Goat Stare [DMZl]
Zed Bias - Boomerang (South3rn Remix) [DUB]
Truth - Don't Explain (Riskotheque&Marchmellow Rmx) [DUB]
Swarms - Polar (Hxdb Remix) [DUB]
Pressa - Technoid [DUB]
Majora - Ayo Technology (Justin Bootleg) [FREE]
Phaeleh - Fuzzbox [DUB]
Pistonsbeneath - Luminous Body [MINDSTEP]
Widowmaker & Digid - Rollin' [DUB]
Thelem - Waiting Hour [LOFT PARTY RECORDS]
Teknian - Isolation (VIP) [DUB]
Clubroot - Hellion [FORTHCOMING SOLACE RECORDINGS]
Distance - Knowing [CHESTPLATE]
Pistonsbeneath - Resonate [MINDSTEP]
Widowmaker - Cloud City [DUB]
Shredexx - Transporta [DUB]
Wascal - Clustered (Nephilim Remix) [DUB]
Pistonsbeneath - Proserpine [DUB]
Thelem - Drones (Core Remix) [DUB]
Widowmaker - Voodoo [DUB]
Compa - Security [AREA RECORDINGS]
Subeena - Solidify Feat Jamie Woon[PLANET µ]
Clubroot - Celestial [DUB]
Pistonsbeneath - Black Sleep [DUB]
Digital Mystikz - Lost City [DMZ]
Djinn - Something You Know [FORTHCOMING MINDSTEP]
Cessman - Six Million Ways [DUB]
Gemmy - Shanti Riddim [PLANET µ]
Pacematic - Green Amnesia [DUB]
Legend4ry - Wandering [FORTHCOMING DUBSTRICT]
Pistonsbeneath - Unclosing Eye [DUB]
Subreachers - Devil's Eyes [DUB]
Surva - Wonbyu [DUB]
Skream - Angry [ITAL]
Curzed - Night Storm [DUB]
Pistonsbeneath - Unspeakable [MINDSTEP]
Loefah - Rufage [DMZ]
Gravious - Ghostly Steps [DUB]
Content - Oxygen Shadows [INNAMIND]
Gravious - City Of Spheres [BROKEN BUBBLE]
Goli & Ashburner - Field Of Vibrations (Core Remix) [DUB]
BadKlaat - Zonk Dem [DUB]
Hatcha & Benga - Progression [PLANET µ]
My Nu Leng - Find You [MINDSTEP]
Compa - Bacteria [DUB]
Boot - Structural Function [DUB]
Core - Out The Cage [DUB]
My Nu Leng - Fireflies [MINDSTEP]
Trim - I Am (De Real Remix) [DUB]
Mr. Projectile - Underneath The Evening [MERCK]