It was the stuff of drum & bass fairy tales. A budding producer heads out for a night on the town with his mates, unaware that his life was about to change. His friend hands a label boss a CD-R containing his tunes whilst drunk….
That label boss was Andy C, and that budding producer was a Nick Douwma, AKA Sub Focus. Flash-forward 11 years, 2 successful albums, countless singles and many remixes and Sub Focus has carved an incredible career for himself.
When he’s not touring his sense-popping live show around the world, he’s playing impressive DJ sets. And that’s exactly what he’ll be doing this evening when he steps up to the decks at XOYO for the Desperados Verde Twisted Mission launch party. We caught up with him ahead of the event to chat about his love of various genres, what inspired him to get into production, and what’s left on his bucket list…
Big up Nick, where in the world are you?
On a flight en route to Seattle, playing a big festival there called Paradiso tonight.
You’re playing a DJ set at XOYO for the Desperados Verde Twisted Mission launch party tonight; Do you look forward to more intimate venues like XOYO as opposed to massive venues?
Yeah it’s good to mix it up I find. Different types of music work in small clubs to big arenas and I like to play both.
Speaking of massive venues- EDC in Las Vegas looked EPIC… how was it for you?
It was really good. Was fun to see a bunch of my friends there also playing that day, like the Dusky guys, Noisia, Foreign Beggars and Wilkinson and it was great to meet new people from the US like Milo & Otis.
When you’re standing in front of a crowd of thousands of people do you still get nervous?
Not really, after playing out so many times any trace of nerves fade, but I remember my first few shows I played I was really nervous. I remember I had a ‘mare the first time I played (legendary D&B night) Movement at Bar Rhumba when I took the needle off deck that was playing by accident.
Ouch! Makes for a good story though! Are you seeing a big shift in the popularity of electronic dance music across the globe nowadays, and do crowds react different depending on which country you’re in?
Dance music in general seems to have exploded worldwide over the last few years. There’s a big difference in which styles are popular in which countries at the moment. There’s a lot of more US centric genres like trap and twerk music which haven’t got the same popularity in the UK yet. On the flipside, deep house is very dominant in the UK but hasn’t fully broken in the States just yet. D&B seems to be gaining a lot of popularity in the USA at the moment. Which is really nice to see!
You’ve mastered the art of working within various different genres, from drum & bass to garage. Is that important for you and does it allow for more artistic freedom, rather than being locked in to one genre?
I just enjoy being free to write whatever style I like. I’ve always looked to other genres, particularly house and techno, for inspiration so it made sense for me to start making different styles and tempos too. Recently I’ve been very influenced by the way a lot of the deeper house and techno people DJ too. I love that with house music you can fit an obscure record from 20 years ago into a modern set and I’m starting to realise that you can do the same thing with D&B. It works playing a 10 year old M.I.S.T tune next to something brand new from say Fred V & Grafix. So basically I’m starting to incorporate more of my favourite older and more obscure tracks into my sets now and take more risks with my selection.
Recently you mentioned that you’d like to explore deeper sounds in your upcoming releases. Who are some artists you’ve been inspired by lately?
Sure yeah, I was more saying that I want to get back to doing some more club/deep stuff again after my album that was quite vocal heavy. I’ve been really feeling stuff from all the Critical crew, Stray, Ivy Lab, Foreign Concept and all those guys. Some other producers I’ve been feeling outside D&B lately are guys like Lone, RL Grime and What So Not / Flume.
As a kid growing up who were the artists who inspired you to get into production in the first place?
No one ever says this and I hope this doesn’t come across arrogant but some of the things that inspired me to get into production were how BAD I thought some other producers were…. I felt like I could do better. Especially when I was getting into dance music there were still a lot of very unmusical producers – using very out of tune elements or vocals and I remember thinking musically I could potentially have a lot to offer. Now the standard is a lot higher in terms of musicality.
Where to from here? What haven’t you ticked off the bucket list?
I do have a bucket list in my mind of places I still wanna play including: Fuji Rock in Japan, one of the main Glastonbury Stages, Lollapolooza and more. Right now after the summer I’m looking forward to getting stuck into writing some new music and my next album.
If you weren’t making music what do you think you’d be doing?
I did a lot of art and photography when I was younger so probably something in that area. I always get really involved in the design, art and concept side of my releases as well as the music.
Experience the unforgettable with Sub Focus at the Desperados Verde Twisted Mission on Thursday 3rd July to celebrate the launch of Desperados Verde, a unique blend of tequila flavoured beer with a big twist of lime and mint for a vibrant taste. To find out more go to facebook.com/desperados.