Breakmaster Cylinder

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The Mysterious
Breakmaster Cylinder
Also known asBmC
Years active2006–present

Breakmaster Cylinder, also known as The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder or by the initials BmC, is a musical composer and producer who has provided title themes and background music for a number of radio shows and podcasts.


Breakmaster Cylinder grew up playing music, including compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach.[1] They first began working with music sampling using a ping-pong recording technique with two cassette tape decks. Cylinder later acquired a keyboard with loop-recording capabilities and eventually began making DIY albums of trance music for friends.[2] Cylinder spent more than a decade composing and producing music before finding a wider audience.[3]

Cylinder produced many of their early works using a Novation Launchpad mini drum machine and Fruityloops software before switching to the Cubase digital audio workstation.[4]


Breakmaster Cylinder self-released their first album, Spasmodic Symmetry, in 2006 and then the 2009 Logic Pro-driven Method Man-Monty Python mashup Dolomite! before being picked up by the label Breakbit Music. Breakbit helped issue several of Cylinder's early albums, including Say Hello to Klaus (2010) and See You Around (2011).[5] In 2013 Cylinder started to get some press with the release of Big Schnitzel, an audio mash-up sampling food references made by the Notorious B.I.G.[6]

Cylinder's career took off after scoring the theme for TLDR, an internet-themed segment of the WNYC Studios public radio program On the Media hosted by Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt. Goldman enlisted Cylinder as the show's composer after seeing a music video remixing The Chordettes' song "Mr. Sandman" mashed up with clips from horror cinema.[7] Goldman and Vogt then brought Cylinder along to Gimlet Media when they started the podcast Reply All, for which Cylinder also composed a theme, with a chord structure derived from Bach's "Prelude in C Major" mixed with acoustically recorded drums, a MIDI-derived bass line, and the sounds of rolling jars, spinning coins, and a small glass being shattered by a hammer.[8] Cylinder also contributes recurring musical segments to the show and, for one season, a serialized audio story that appeared at the end of each episode.[2] The space opera-esque serial featured Cylinder and a canine companion, known as "Dog", visiting alien planets while lost in outer space without any guidance from the internet.[7]

Reply All's success led to Cylinder taking other jobs creating themes for more than 60 other podcasts, as well as music for film, advertisements, and video games.[2] In 2015, Cylinder collaborated—via Twitter and Dropbox—with the Switched on Pop podcast to reconstruct then-current compositions by Justin Bieber.[9] In 2018 Cylinder collaborated with media artist Zardulu to produce the track "Ablanathanalba" following Reply All's exposé on Zardulu's viral Pizza Rat phenomenon.[10]

Many of Cylinder's albums are thematic, and include mixtapes, collections of ringtones, and music made for podcasts. The 2014 album Pineapple Princess was partially derived from hearing Alanis Morissette’s music being played in the produce section in supermarkets. The 2017 album Pickled Beets Part III features a year's worth of weekly submissions to the Stones Throw Records beat-writing competition, Stones Throw Beat Battle.[1] Cylinder has also been known to use to their mixes to mess with public radio culture, heard in their parodic remixes of radio themes such as that of Morning Edition.[11]

In 2019 Cylinder collaborated with comedian Bec Hill on her live show I'll Be Bec.[12]


Since Cylinder's earliest contributions to TLDR, radio hosts have credited the composer as "The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder" and claimed to never have met nor spoken with them, and to have no knowledge of who Cylinder actually is.[8] Cylinder has perpetuated this mystique of anonymity in interviews stating, "I guess the anonymity is interesting", and, "My face (if I have a face) doesn't matter".[2] Reply All's Alex Goldman maintains Cylinder's anonymity. "I found him, or they—we don't really know—on the internet," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I contacted him and he agreed to work with us, so long as he could remain anonymous."[13] In an audio story about Breakmaster Cylinder's compositional and recording techniques, Song Exploder producer Hrishikesh Hirway states, "I interviewed Breakmaster Cylinder, but out of respect for his or her privacy and mystery, I had an actor replace Breakmaster Cylinder's voice...or did I?"[8]

The name "Breakmaster Cylinder" is a portmanteau of "breakmaster"—a musician who works with breakbeats—and "master cylinder"—an automotive component that regulates the brakes of a car, truck, or motorcycle.[7] When asked about their gender, Cylinder has referred to themself using the singular they pronoun.[3] In photographs, Cylinder appears as a head shrouded in a black motorcycle helmet painted with white bug-eyes.[1] Their head is shown on a variety of different bodies and gender expressions, and occasionally on a manipulated portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach.[1][3] Despite their anonymity, Cylinder has gained repute for responding to fan letters and being easily accessible via the internet.[1]



  • Spasmodic Symmetry (2006)
  • Dolomite (EP, 2009)
  • Remix One (2009)
  • Say Hello to Klaus (2010)
  • Musique Pour Les Pubs De Nourriture Pour Chiens (2011)
  • See You Around (EP, 2011)
  • BMC: Remixed (2011)
  • Tokyo (EP, 2012)
  • Blithering Heights (Mixtape, 2012)
  • The BMC Fine Ringtones Collection (2013)
  • Remix Two: Short Attention Span Theater (2013)
  • Big Schnitzel (EP, 2013)
  • Pineapple Princess (EP, 2014)
  • Pickled Beets: Part I (2015)
  • Songs For Broadcast: part I (2015)
  • The BMC Fine Ringtones Collection: 2nd Issue (2015)
  • Pickled Beets: Part II (2015)
  • Songs For Broadcast: part II (2016)
  • BMC: Live From Gimlet's Executive Washroom (2016)
  • Songs For Broadcast: part III (2016)
  • I Wanna Hear The Music (EP, 2017)
  • Pickled Beets: Part III (2017)
  • BMC ONE: Video Collection 2007–2017 (2017)
  • Songs For Broadcast: part IV (2018)
  • Singable Songs For The Increasingly Enraged (EP, 2017)
  • Songs For Broadcast: part V (2018)
  • Blithering Heights 2 (Mixtape, 2018)
  • Songs For Broadcast: part VI (2018)
  • Remix Three (2018)
  • Mono Planet (2019)

Podcast Themes[edit]

  • Above the Fold
  • All Consuming (Sandwich)
  • Battleborn Tech
  • Be Less Typical[14]
  • Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History (Omohundro Institute)[citation needed]
  • Bettomic Bomb
  • Bleeped
  • Blogtacular
  • The Changelog (Changelog Media)[15]
  • Changelog: Brain Science
  • Changelog: Founder's Talk
  • Changelog: Go Time
  • Changelog: JS Party
  • Changelog: Practical AI
  • Changelog: Request For Commits
  • CM Answers
  • Completely Optional Knowledge (Greenpeace)
  • Crazy Genius (The Atlantic)[16]
  • Cyber Space
  • Darknet Diaries[17]
  • Decoder With Nilay Patel (Vox, The Verge)
  • Dedicate It[18]
  • The Deep
  • "Dirtyfunk Daniel"
  • Doing History
  • The Drunk Projectionist
  • Fictional
  • Flag
  • Footloose and Fancy Free
  • For the Record with Tim Smith
  • Gender Reveal [19]
  • Get More Smarter
  • Girl's Girls (Curvy Girl Media)
  • Glow Girl (Curvy Girl Media)
  • Hit Enter
  • Hungry Fan
  • Indaba Podcast (Indaba)
  • It's About to be Meta
  • Know it All
  • Meat & Three
  • The Mediator's Studio
  • Met Nerds om Tafel[20]
  • Methods
  • Moonshot (Lawson Media)[21]
  • Nerd Power
  • Nothing Is Boring
  • Obsolete Occupations
  • Otakon
  • Outside/In [3]
  • Personal Best (CBC Radio)[10]
  • The Pitch (Gimlet Media)[7]
  • The Payoff (Economist)
  • Play It Back Podcast
  • Pullquote
  • RehabCast[1]
  • Reply All (Gimlet Media)[7]
  • Reset (Vox Media)[22]
  • Resilience: Medeea Gabriel's Story
  • Sandwich Podcast[23]
  • Sanity Podcast
  • Sidedoor (Smithsonian)
  • Say Something Worth Stealing[7]
  • The Secret Room
  • STEM Diversity Podcast
  • Sandwich Podcast (Sandwich)
  • Sidedoor (Smithsonian Institution)[24]
  • Special Relationship (The Economist)[25]
  • Switched On Pop[9]
  • There Will Be Spoilers
  • Think Again (Big Think)[26]
  • Time Well Spent
  • TLDR (WNYC Studios)
  • True North
  • Today Explained (Vox Media)[10]
  • Undefined
  • Unmonumental
  • The Walk-In
  • Welcome to McIntosh[27]
  • We The Ppl[7]
  • We've Got Issues, Girl (Curvy Girl Media)
  • Yesterday's Technology Tomorrow
  • YM Answers
  • You Can't Do That[28]

Radio Show Themes[edit]

  • Battle Born Tech on KNVC 95.1[29]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Millions, Kid (11 July 2017). "Kid Millions Talks With Breakmaster Cylinder About Their Brain-Breaking Beats". Bandcamp Daily. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Lusk, Ashley (30 May 2018). "20 Questions with the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder". Bello Collective. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d "Breakmaster Cylinder". Romeo. 18 May 2017. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Behind the Beats: STBB#386 – Breakmaster Cylinder". Beatmakology. 4 August 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  5. ^ "The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder Opens Up: An Interview". Exolymph. 31 July 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  6. ^ Lockett, Dee (2 May 2014). "This Hilarious Mashup Features Biggie's Many Food References". Slate. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Goldberg, Kevin (11 April 2018). "Breakmaster Cylinder: A Conversation with Podcasting's Most Prolific (And Mysterious) Artist". Discover the Best Podcasts | Discover Pods. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Hirway, Hrishikesh (26 November 2018). "Bonus Episode: Reply All". Song Exploder. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  9. ^ a b Sloan, Harding; Harding, Charlie (7 October 2015). "21. Justin Bieber's Existential Suite". Switched on Pop. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  10. ^ a b c Luling, Todd Van (1 June 2018). "Zardulu And Breakmaster Cylinder Debut A New Song Collaboration". Huffington Post. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  11. ^ Quah, Nicholas (February 12, 2019). "In Liverpool, a football podcast has grown into a real media company — based mostly on listener payment, not advertising". Nieman Lab. Retrieved 15 September 2019. For the first time in a very long time, NPR is updating the Morning Edition theme to appeal to “new listeners,” i.e. the youths. Shouts to that one time NPR asked its audience to remix its theme in 2016. Personally, I stan [sic] for the Breakmaster Cylinder take.
  12. ^ Dali, Ben (August 9, 2019). "Bec Hill: I'll Be Bec: 5 star review by Ben Dali". Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  13. ^ Elliott, Tim (26 April 2016). "Two stars of the podcasting world head Down Under to download". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  14. ^ Hennessey, Patrick.; Hennessey, Courtney (October 2015). "Advanced Social Strategies – Kinny Landrum Part 2" (PDF). Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  15. ^ "The Changelog Podcast". Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  16. ^ Thompson, Derek (1 May 2018). "Introducing Crazy/Genius". The Atlantic. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  17. ^ "Darknet Diaries Podcast". Retrieved 2019-04-17.
  18. ^ Curran, Bill (November 22, 2017). "THE NOD's Brittany Luse, Eric Eddings To Host Podcast Pitch Night. Plus, Our Five Selected Podcast Pitches! | Made in NY Media Center By IFP". NY Media Center. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  19. ^ Close, Paris (April 12, 2019). "Best LGBTQ Podcasts For Millennials". I Heart Radio. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  20. ^ "Met Nerds Om Tafel Podcast". Retrieved 2020-03-09.
  21. ^ "Moonshot". Retrieved 2020-05-10.
  22. ^ Quah, Nicholas (September 17, 2019). "Vox's new podcast goes where news podcasts haven't gone before: Sundays". Nieman Lab. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  23. ^ Fellin, Conor (5 January 2017). "Beet Reporter: An Interview with Breakmaster Cylinder". rail gaze. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "The Economist Radio". Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  26. ^ Gots, Jason (19 February 2016). "Think Again Podcast ep. 34 – A TINY, COSMIC THREAT (feat. Comedian Paul F. Tompkins)". Big Think. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  27. ^ Bramhill, Mark (October 2, 2017). "Pandora's Box". Welcome to Macintosh. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  28. ^ "What? / You Can't Do That: A Hockey Podcast". You Can't Do That.
  29. ^ "KNVC - Battle Born Tech Radio Show". Retrieved 2020-08-13.

External links[edit]