More so than ever the Drum & Bass genre is experiencing a wealth of interest with more and more people being converted to the genre. Nick Douwma, or Sub Focus as he is better known, has definitely been one of the busiest and most prolific of the D&B stars to explode in popularity in recent years. In the midst of touring and recording his sophomore album, Douwma took time out to speak to Contactmusic about his influences, the direction of Drum & Bass and what we can expect from his upcoming album.
Who did you grow up listening to and who do you think influenced you the most?
As a kid I didn't really have a massive interest in music until I was about 10-11 years old, I really started to get into rock music around then particularly artists like Nirvana. After a few years though I started discovering dance music; artists like Prodigy and Chemical Brothers who utilise guitars in their music were important to me at that time and still are.
I was in a band when I was only a kid really and I used to produce the stuff we did, it was around this time that I really started listening to electronic music. I think that The Chemical Brothers were the biggest influence for me around this time, not so much musically but just in their general approach to their music - I've always really loved what they do at their live shows. Bands like Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk; all the obvious choices really, were the ones that influenced me a lot. I remember listening to a lot of jungle around this time and I remember listening to 'Incredible' by M Beats at school and being blown away by just how different it was. So this is really how I started getting into dance music really.
What do you listen to at the moment?
Quite varied really, I'm into electronic music on a whole, whether it be ambient or a little more up tempo or dubstep. I guess recently I've been listening to bands like M83 and even bands like the Maccabees quite a bit as well as more electronic artists. I've been listening to house artists like Hot Natured, the latest Jamie Jones project, at the moment and its kind of old school house and pretty exciting stuff.
With Drum & Bass gaining more support as the years go by, can you see the genre being incorporated into more generic pop music in the same way dance and hip-hop has?
I think that in a way this has already started to happen, but for me I don't really condone this kind of thing as it can really dilute the music. I'm all for the idea of music for mass appeal but when it really starts to be diluted for pop it sort of becomes toxic and there's a real danger of that happening with genres like D&B and dubstep. With dance music now, it has become really pop on the whole and the genre has suffered from this.
We've heard two singles from your upcoming album so far, 'Falling Down' and 'Out The Blue,' what else can we expect and will there be anything that will really surprise people on the album, any surprise collaborations for example?
There's definitely a lot more of me venturing between light and dark/mellow and upbeat stuff on the album, stuff people wont really be expecting. My criterion for the album is something that doesn't sound old, I'm trying to make things more expressive and that don't sound like a track I've already done. There are elements of house music and some more downbeat parts to the album, stuff that really contrasts with what I'm already known for.
I've been and will be working with quite a few different people for the album, so far I've worked with Alpine and been doing stuff with Kele Okereke (Bloc Party) - a real kind of mix of people. Obviously I'm still working on the album and will be for the next few months so the final list isn't yet confirmed but I am looking to have a varied mixture of guests.
D&B artist like Chase and Status are incorporating a dubstep/hip-hop edge to their music, could you see yourself doing something similar with upcoming releases?
Definitely. With my last album (2009's Sub Focus) my idea behind that was to incorporate a lot of different stuff I was interested in and that resulted in some non-Drum & Bass tracks. That's really been something I've tried to push since that album and have since been experimenting with certain dance elements, experimenting with tempo and BPM and even bits of dubstep. I've really been toying with different tempo speeds on this record and this is what I think is exciting with music at the moment, I don't really have to consider myself as strictly being a drum & bass producer because I can experiment with dance for example and broaden my horizons. There's a nice mood at the moment among audiences and I've found that most aren't exactly snobby when it comes to the way you play around with tempo and whatnot. A few years ago when I was DJing and I tried to put on an electro tune of some description there would be no positive crowd reaction, but now with the ascendancy of genres such as drum & bass audiences have become much more open to DJ's trying out all kinds of genres on stage.
When you take into consideration artists such as Burial and James Blake who are incorporating a very minimalist style to dubstep, can you see D&B taking up this direction?
I like the idea of a post-drum & bass movement it would be interesting to hear, but I do think there has already been this kind of reaction within the genre. In the last few years with D&B there has been a trend to bring in a more minimalist approach and artists like SpectraSoul and Instrumental are examples of artists who really break their music down and use devices such as analog to push the genre to new extremes. I really think these are good groups to be around today.
You played your largest headline show to date at the Brixton Academy in March; do you consider yourself to be a performer?
Yeah I really do enjoy being in front of a crowd. That show really wasn't the easiest show to do either as we'd just updated all my live equipment and behind the scenes the sound setup was something that I'd never used before and in previous shows I'd never really use the same technical equipment so that show in particular was a challenge in terms of sound and lighting. It all came together really close to the wire with equipment going wrong, for example I've started using iPads to help me during the shows and one of them froze about a minute before I went on stage and we suffered a bit of a technical nightmare [laughs]. We've ironed all these problems out since though so hopefully we won't suffer from the same sort of problems again and the Brixton show itself went really well despite that hiccup.
You made a number of festival appearances over the years; will we be seeing you on the festival circuit again this year?
Definitely. I enjoy festivals a lot and in particular I like the idea of being in front of people that might not necessarily know your stuff already and you're kind of converting people in a way. I'll be doing a whole bunch this year, starting with Coachella very soon and that is something I'm really looking forward to. Dance music in the States is really blowing up at the moment and now is a great time to go over there. I'll be doing another show there before heading back to the UK where I'll be doing Lovebox, Global Gathering, Creamfields, Bestival and possibly a few more. I'll be in Europe a few times as well plus I'll be heading to Ibiza for some shows and I'm really excited for that. I played Amnesia in Ibiza for the first time last year and I really love that club for my time going as a punter so it was a real pleasure playing there.
You're currently experiencing a great deal of exposure, more so than ever. Do you think that the only way is up for you?
I don't see things as a foregone conclusion but I do hope that I can reach new people with the next album and I am really looking forward to getting this new music out for people as soon as I can. As for the future, we'll have to wait and see.
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