Leafcutter John

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Leafcutter John performing in October 2008

Leafcutter John is the recording name of John Burton, a UK-based musician and artist. He makes frequent use of Max/MSP in his compositions. Much of Burton's style is based in computer music and use of samples of everyday sounds. However, he also has roots as a folk musician, and this influence is apparent in his more recent work.


After graduating Fine Art Painting at Norwich School of Art (1996–1998), Burton moved to London and after a year pursuing a career as a performance artist began to concentrate on his musical work. He soon secured interest from Mike Paradinas, owner of independent electronics label Planet Mu. Paradinas encouraged Burton to develop his electro-acoustic folk hybrid and his first full length release, Concourse EEP, was released in early 2000. His album, The Housebound Spirit, was a response to being mugged outside his London studio. The album deals with themes of increasing alienation and agoraphobia; indeed, Burton was housebound by increasingly severe panic attacks for which he eventually had to seek therapy.

As Leafcutter John, Burton has played at festivals throughout Europe, North Africa, and Australia. In 2003, he headed the dis.lab event, curated by no.signal in Rome. 2004 was marked by performances at Berlin's club transmediale festival, Paris Confluences and others in Belgium, France, Spain, Manchester, Norwich, and a Live streaming event between New York City and London. He is also a regular participant of the annual Le Placard festival. Burton is also now a full-time member of the contemporary British Jazz Mercury Music Prize nominee Polar Bear, founded by drummer Seb Rochford, who won the BBC Jazz award for Rising Star in 2004.

Leafcutter John is also an accomplished remixer, having worked on projects for: DJ /rupture, Melt Yourself Down, Mu-ziq/Speedy J, Electric Company, Badly Drawn Boy, Capitol K, and others.


Leafcutter John has engaged in several projects, both commissioned and DIY. Examples include installing microphones under a creaky wooden floor to record and manipulate the sounds in a software program, growing and constructing piezoelectric crystal microphones, and building a laser "microphone." Currently, he is working on making a massive morse code chorus for BBC Radio 3.


  • The Sky Is Darker Than the Road (1998)
  • Concourse EEP (2000) Planet Mu (ZIQ017) 12" and CD
  • Microcontact (2001) Planet Mu (ZIQ022) CD
  • Zeagma (2001) Planet Mu (ZIQ036) 7"
  • The Housebound Spirit (2003) Planet Mu (ZIQ061) CD
  • The Forest and the Sea (2006) Staubgold Records (Staubgold 68) CD/LP
  • "Tunis" (2010) Tsuku Boshi CD
  • "Resurrection" (2015) Desire Path Recordings (PATHWAY009) 12"/Digital

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