Heralded as one of the most technically advanced producers in the scene, it’s hard to believe Icicle is completely self-taught. His haunting new album, Entropy, which dropped on Shogun Audio yesterday, is a 16-track journey deep into the creative mind of the Dutch producer.
With interwoven themes of chaos and disorder, coupled with next-level production and collaborations with some of the scene’s most talented vocalists, it’s no wonder the album has been met with critical acclaim. Never one to shy away from pushing the boundaries of production, Icicle is an exciting fixture in a scene that is forever evolving and moving forward with the times. We took the opportunity to chat with the man himself to get a deeper insight into how the album came together…
Congrats on completing your second album! How long did it take to piece together?
I started work on Entropy basically right after I finished Under The Ice, so almost 3 years, having said that, I’ve scrapped quite a lot in the process and I think the bulk of the album has been made in the last 12 months.
Before you worked on any tracks for it, what did you want to achieve with the album?
I had it in my head that to distinguish this second album from my first it had to be a bit more of a look into the future. I’ve said it before but, Under The Ice was really a summation of my early influences and heavily inspired by 90’s Drum and Bass and Techno. Entropy is more of an imagining of where my sound could go and I think is more of a search for more modern dynamics and sound design techniques.
Was it a case of locking yourself away from any external influences while you worked on it?
You tend to turn into a socially awkward person when you’re in the middle of the process and tend to get locked in your own little world a little bit, but I’ve never tried to really lock myself off from influences. Inspiration comes from all around you and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Is it difficult to get to the point where you feel like an album is finished or do you feel like you could tweak it forever?
It is really difficult to call an album finished. Thats mostly because it never is, you can always do more and tweak little details for the better. I think it’s about getting it to a point where at least it sounds as a whole, I think thats as close to finished as you can get.
Is there a tune on the album that took a particularly long time to perfect?
One of the oldest tunes on the album is entitled Mechanisms, which we tried so many different vocals for and different angles. Funnily enough though it has ended up going on the album in its original form. Then there were lot’s of painstaking mix downs, the usual boring part.
Big themes of disorder and social dis-content throughout the album, which is exemplified in the album title as well as track names such as Problem, Isolation and Acidic. Is this something you intended on exploring, or simply the way it came together organically?
Well the album is themed around disorder and an everlasting tendency for things to fall apart. I feel that in the studio music gets harder and harder and more and more complex, projects, however hard you try, always become more of a mess the harder you try to structure them out.
Let’s talk about Problem, probably the biggest tune off the album so far… I haven’t been hit by a tune like that for some time. Goosebumps every time. Tell us how the link with Skittles came about…
Skittles was down in London to be on Rinse FM with N-Type about a year ago, and I happened to be at the radio that time. We had a little party afterwards and I asked him to come up to my studio the next day to see if there where any tunes he was feeling, he picked a couple, we went to Alex Evans’ place (who is our recording engineer) and laid down two tracks within an hour.
The video is super powerful as well…
Thanks, we got our great director Jack Chute to thank for that.
Did Skittles have the bars already prepared or did you present him with the track first?
It was a bit of a spur of the moment collaboration. He has many bars in his head and we just found a tune to fit some of them!
Again we see strong themes of uncertainty and an impending chaos within our current system and way of being…
Thats the point!
I noticed a cheeky sample of Outlander’s Vamp in the aptly named ‘Amp’… was this an homage to old rave culture?
Well spotted, yeah it really was. Even though I said the album was much more of a look into the future, this is the exception. It started out as a bootleg really but as it got so much positive feedback we ended up licensing the sample and putting it on the album.
What kind of nostalgia does Vamp stir within you?
It reminds me of being a 15 year old kid techno raving in Holland, totally overwhelmed by a new world!
You once ended up at an after party with a bunch of my friends in Sydney and I received glowing reports about you playing some next-level techno until the wee hours of the morning. I saw a cheeky recording where you said “Icicle was just a mistake, techno is what I’m really about..” Is this the end of Icicle as we know him? 😉
Haha thats the type of comment that is supposed to stay at an after party! Nevertheless I have a great love for techno and the grass is always greener!
Can we expect a techno side-project?
Perhaps it already exists?
On the topic of after parties – is that something that happens regularly when you’re on tour, or does it get to a point where you just want a cup of tea and some silence?
I think being on tour you meet so many interesting people and you visit so many interesting places, I’m really about taking it all in rather than the cup of tea!
We’re seeing a lot of artists break away from the conventional “rules” of drum & bass, which has sparked a new-wave of creativity and working within tempo’s not usually associated with d&b. I feel like ‘Hani’ fits within this framework. What a captivating tune… Is there a backstory there/ significance to the title?
It’s one for the lady. I have to admit with my tracks that is not as straight forward, as a lot of it is quite dark and hard, but with Hani I felt like I got a nice mix of colourful & interesting with an undertone of the dramatic, it seemed to fit!
Do you ever feel restricted by the confines of tempos and genres?
I guess they are by definition restrictions, it’s about the little moments when you realise that actually you can do different things and they can sound great, thats when I have the most fun in the studio.
A couple of the tracks feature the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Sarah Hezen – how did the connection with Sarah come about?
She was tipped by Alex Evans, who was helping her out with some of her own music. She did a demo for us on Superimposed and blew us away, we asked her to do a second one as well as she just stood out so much from all the other demo’s we received.
You’re renowned for your technically advanced production skills, which you showcase throughout the album – how have you crafted your skill over the years? Were you professionally trained and is it something you would encourage budding producers to pursue?
I’m totally self taught actually. Getting a music degree is definitely not a bad idea, but it is maybe not a necessity anymore. Really what you need is an undying drive and wanting to explore new techniques, equipment and software all the time.
The recent 10 years of Shogun event was a huge success- was it just an excuse to party with the rest of the Shogun fam?
Partying with the crew is always a bonus, but to make a strong statement with a show like that at the 10 year anniversary of the label is a good message to send out there.
Definitely! What tune can’t you get out of your head at the moment?
Proxima – Playing the Arp.
Where to now the album is done? Do you go straight into relaxation mode or straight onto new projects?
Lot’s of new things to do right now, working on a few collaborations, some production work and preparing a new live show to tour next year.
A shout to all the support we’ve been getting on the album, it’s a really good feeling!
Entropy is out now.