Utility man: Kowton - Artists - Mixmag

Utility man: Kowton

Focused, undemonstrative and a little bit shy, Kowton puts all his efforts into his innovative, incredible music

  • Words: Kristan Caryl
  • 15 April 2016
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Nowadays Kowton still channels the same singlemindedness that he had as a youth when watching records go round on one deck in his room. Having got into dance through older friends in the sleepy tourist hotspot of his home town, music was mainly something young Joe read about until he finally left for his doomed sociology degree aged 18. Those years brought pilgrimages to parties in Manchester and bass-heavy events at the West Indian Centre in Leeds. Giving lots of credit to an employee at Boomkat’s now-defunct physical store, it was then that Kowton first got into techno, jungle, Basic Channel’s dub, Four Tet’s Text label and “pretty maudlin stuff like that,” before grime and dubstep exploded.

After that time in Manchester and the spell of hotel employment back home, during which he managed to have some early Fruity Loops experiments played on Mary Ann Hobbs’ 6 Music show, he moved to Bristol, mindful of the city’s skateboard and music scene, but also thanks to a friendly shove from his mother. It was an unofficial centre of dubstep at the time, was where he met and formed close friendships with Peverelist and Pariah and began working in Rooted Records, then for Chris Farrell at Idle Hands once Rooted closed. Again keen to credit others, Kowton reckons that “these music pedants par excellence showed me the way and told me what to like.” Add into that a first in his music technology MA in Bristol, his own belief that dance music should be visceral and direct and “not too ponderous but make people move,” and you have one of the most interesting producers of recent years.

“Watching these guys mix music is like magic,” says one fresh-faced raver at Wire as another corrugated bassline barrels out of the crisp Funktion-Ones. It’s one of many high tempo, high-impact techno-cum-bass tracks the close-knit DJ trio seamless weave together, despite little interaction and no forward planning. Mixmag’s new friend is one of a hardcore crew of fanboys pressed down the front, and the now London-based Kowton earlier admits the sound he and his Livity label mates are known does bring the geeks out of the woodwork.

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