Sub Focus, aka Nick Douwma has long been one of electronic music’s most exciting names. He makes a comeback this Spring with new single “Out The Blue” featuring the haunting vocals of indie siren Alice Gold. His hotly anticipated sophomore album is set for release on Ram / Mercury Records in Autumn 2012.
FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T FAMILIAR WITH YOUR BACK STORY, HOW DID YOU INITIALLY GET INTO PRODUCTION AND ELECTRONIC MUSIC?
I was in a rock band as a teenager. I was into Nirvana and started hearing the likes of The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers and bands that were fusing their guitars with dance music. At the time I was making demos and started dabbling making dance music in my spare time. So I produced music since I was about 13. It’s always been something that I have been interested in.
WHO WERE YOUR MAIN INFLUENCES AND INSPIRATIONS GROWING UP?
Chemical Brothers definitely influenced me on the dance side. I just liked the way that they were doing interesting stuff. And groups like Daft Punk – the bigger dance acts really. And then I got into drum and bass and that’s what I became known for initially. In the last 3 to 4 years I really diversified and got into making all kinds of electronic music.
DO YOU THINK YOUR SOUND HAS EVOLVED FROM YOUR FIRST TO YOUR SECOND ALBUM?
Yeah, I think that with my first album one of the things I was really trying to achieve, was to show the other genre stuff I’d been doing alongside the bigger drum and bass tunes that were on there. This one I feel quite free of any kind of shackles tying me to one genre or another. It’s a nice time at the moment with the whole movement of what I’d call bass music, which covers a lot of different styles from drum and bass, dubstep to some house music as well. It feels really open now, the whole electronic scene. With the next record I’m trying to experiment as much as possible. There are song based tracks and less clubby moments. Slightly more ambient and downbeat.
ALICE GOLD IS FEATURING ON THE FIRST SINGLE “OUT OF THE BLUE”. HOW DID YOU GUYS HOOK UP?
I was looking for the vocal to add something to the track, and she sent me this idea that she’d done. It instantly made the track come alive in the club, it added so much to the track. We got together in the studio and finished it. It was a real pleasure to work with her and I was drawn to her initially because she has quite an interesting voice. I tend not to go for voices that are too perfect. I like the way she’s got a lot of grit in her voice, she’s got a lot of character and personality in it. In the same way I was drawn to working with Coco Sumner before. She’s someone with an unusual, interesting voice.
WHO ELSE WILL BE FEATURING ON THIS RECORD?
I’ve been working with Kele Okereke from Bloc Party and invited Alpine down to the studio. I’m really trying to work with people who aren’t big established, I like looking for people who are under the radar too. I’m really open to working with whoever, it’s almost preferable if they are someone who is outside of what you’d expect or know for doing dance music.
THE DANCE WORLD THAT YOU’RE IN I’D SAY IS NOTORIOUSLY STRONG MINDED. DID YOU GET ANY BACKLASH WHEN YOU WERE PRODUCING FOR MORE COMMERCIAL ACTS LIKE WHEN YOU DID “KICK STARTS” FOR EXAMPLE?
Not so much for that track, I think thankfully that close-mindedness is a thing of the past. Drum and bass used to be a very closed scene and even doing house music was considered a bit weird. That said, I didn’t really market the stuff I did for Example, it was production rather than Sub Focus.
ARE YOU PRODUCING FOR ANY OTHER ACTS COMING UP OR ARE YOU FOCUSING SOLELY ON THE SUB FOCUS PROJECT?
At the moment I’m focusing on my own stuff, but there are a bunch of people I’d love to do some records for once my album is all done.
WHO WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO COLLABORATE WITH IN THE FUTURE?
I’ve talked to him about this before, and I’d love to make a track for Tinie Tempah. I had some interest before from Kylie, which would be quite fun.
WOW! WOULD SOMETHING LIKE THAT BE PURE POP OR WOULD YOU ADD A SUB FOCUS FLAVOUR TO THE TRACK?
I would definitely be looking to add something more edgy, but if I did something it wouldn’t be a Sub Focus track, it would be me producing for her. I really enjoy doing that kind of stuff as a side because dance music is quite serious.
YOUR PRESS RELEASE SAYS THAT YOU HAVE PLAYED AT EVERY MAJOR CLUB NIGHT AND FESTIVAL AROUND THE WORLD. IF THAT’S THE CASE, DO THEY ALL BLUR INTO EACH OTHER?
I’ve been touring on and off for quite a long time, 6 years or so. It does blur into one although the really good ones stand out. There’s obviously places that I really like to go and play.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE NIGHTS?
Recently I’ve been really enjoying playing in Ibiza. Nobody really went to Ibiza to play that kind of stuff, but its really opened up to that style out there. I’m going to be doing a residency at Amnesia this summer, which will be really cool. Places like Fabric because it holds a lot of memories for me because I used to go out there a lot when I was younger and see people play.
HAVE YOU BECOME COMPLETELY NOCTURNAL?
Yeah, I’ve always been like that. I like working at night. You get into a certain frame of mind, especially if you’re writing music, there’s no distractions, no people emailing you.
DO YOU PREFER BEING IN THE STUDIO OR PLAYING LIVE?
I think my favourite thing is a combination of the two. I love when I’ve written a new track and I go to play that for the first time. It’s really exciting because it can go either way. It can go down really bad or really well. It’s nice when a new idea that you come up with works, especially if it’s a bit off the wall or different.
I’VE HEARD THAT YOUR NEW LIVE SHOW IS VERY TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED AND VISUALLY EXCITING. COULD YOU DESCRIBE TO OUR READERS A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT THEY COULD EXPECT TO SEE?
My logo is a disc shape and it’s all based around that. It’s 3 large interlocking discs of light. There’s a lot of brand new technology that we’re using. We’re using the lights to respond to things I play, so sometimes I could be playing a riff on the keyboard and it will actually be represented on the lights. It’s like visualising what I’m playing which is quite different. A lot of people when they play with light shows, it’s kind of like a sequence, but this responds to what I’m playing at certain moments, so it’s interactive. Check it out on YouTube, or better come to see the show!
HOW DO YOU WIND DOWN AFTER THE THRILL OF THE SHOWS THAT YOU PLAY?
That’s a good question. It definitely takes a bit of time, it’s impossible to relax straight after. I think the reason a lot of artists become alcoholics and a lot of musicians have a relationship with drugs, is that they are often, I think trying to replicate that low you have after playing, as it’s a massive high from the things we’re doing. It’s something that is unavoidable – drugs and night club culture.
DO YOU THINK THAT IN LONDON, DRUGS AND THE RAVE SCENE IS MORE PREVALENT NOW THAN EVER BEFORE?
I don’t. I don’t think there are more drugs now, there’s always the same amount they’re just different.
ARE YOU LOOKING OUT AND SEEING A LOT OF DILATED PUPILS?
Yeah but that’s been the case forever. People are using ketamine, methadrone more now. It’s a massive part of club culture.
WHAT IS THE MOST PLAYED TRACK ON YOUR IPOD AT THE MOMENT?
Koreless. His stuff’s about a year old, it’s future garage-y. And Disclosure too.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE NEXT FEW MONTHS?
To finish my album, and imminently i’m going on a run of dates.
ARE YOU PLAYING AT LOT OF FESTIVALS IN THE UK?
Lovebox in London, Global Gathering, Creamfields, Bestival- all over the place, T in the Park in Scotland. And a bunch of ones in Europe too.
AND FINALLY, WHO ARE YOUR IDOLS?
I try not to have any. But I guess in terms of dance music, Chemical Brothers.
Original interview for IDOL Magazine