Nick Douwma, aka Sub Focus, has been a leading figure in bringing electronic dance music to the masses. With a career spanning a decade and a new album release, LSi caught up with Nick to discuss the new album, gigs and a heavy dose of drum’n’bass.
You recently streamed one of your London gigs.. what was the motivation behind that?
The live stream was really really cool. It kind of made the show quite stressful because I was very aware that we were going out live on the internet. But I love doing streams like that.. I did one for BBC radio one extra a couple of weeks back as well and it’s nice that you give people worldwide a chance to see what’s happening
Tell us a bit about how your music has progressed.. from the more grimy drum ‘n’ bass to the more mellow stuff you seem to be doing now?
I guess I just wanted to develop my sound. I was really happy with my last album and the way it was received but with this album I wanted to do more of a kind of varied one. I wanted to have more songs on there, and I also wanted to have more up and down moments, more ambient tunes to balance the dancehall stuff. I still wanted to keep that stuff there but i just wanted to make a more rounded album.. A mixture of some club music, some chilled music and yeah.. just trying to make it more of a journey.
Would you say you’ve ever changed your sound to suit more of a commercial audience?
It’s never something that I think about when I’m sitting down to write a tune at all, but I kind of wanted to basically write a lot more songs and it’s just kind of the way it’s come out I guess. I guess it is slightly more mellow than the other stuff.. I was thinking about someone listening to the album from start to finish and was thinking I would personally wanna hear something that has real soft bits and hard bits.. do you know what I mean? I was trying to make it have a very varied feel throughout, so hence the different tempos and different instrumentation and more singers. But no… I mean, it’s never a thing of ‘oh I wanna be more commercial now’.. it’s just the way that this batch of music has come out. I really like trying to keep my foot in both camps in a way.. like some of the songs work well on the radio and some of the songs work well in a club. I’m still writing more underground club tunes for my sets and things like that.
As your music has got more popular, it obviously opens up more doors. So in regards to people who you’ve been working with, who would be your favourite and would there be anyone else you’d like to work with? Do you see yourself maybe working with Example again, for instance?
Umm.. Well I never say never with Example but that was kind of more… I wouldn’t call that a Sub Focus tune… it was more a production I made for him. I’ve had a lot of enquiries from different artists to produce music for them, you know, not as in featuring Sub Focus but as in just make their music. People like Ellie Goulding… she was quite keen for me to get involved in her most recent album but I was very busy working on my own and wanted to prioritise that. But yeah… I’ve had interest from some cool people; even people like Kylie Minogue which was really funny, but I’ve chosen not to go down that route too much. I wanna concentrate on my own music for now and maybe do more pop production in the future. i can’t really pick a favourite from the people I’ve already worked with. Kele is someone that I’d always wanted to work with, though. I’m a big Bloc Party fan so that was really cool doing that.
How do you feel the new album has been received?
Ummm.. it’s been well received, i think, so far. I think that ‘cos the internet exists you’re always aware of everyone’s opinion. I mean I’ve definitely seen some people’s opinions that have been negative and stuff or they want me to be putting out that grimy drum’n’bass still but I kind of need to feel like I’m progressing. I think when you’re a musician you’ve got to be very careful not to think too much about what you read about yourself on the internet, ‘cos it can sway you. It’s a bad thing to be just working out what other people want you to be, rather than how you want to progress, so I tend not to read too much into that kind of stuff. But yeah… I’ve been really genuinely pleased with the response to the album.. it’s been good. And also from my fellow producers as well, it’s been getting nice comments.
How do you feel about how dance music/electronic music seems to feature on every pop song in the charts these days? Do you find that undermines what that genre of music is all about, or do you think it’s a good thing?
I think there’s definitely a clear divide. I mean, there’s dance tunes that I love that are in the charts and they are, i think, great dance records that are so good that they’ve got into the charts, but there’s also dance tunes that are a bit more poppy and not really to my taste. I mean all of Disclosure’s stuff that has charted is just great dance music. I’m not swayed to the more poppy side of it, but I do love that dance music is so dominant as a genre right now.
Would you ever see yourself as politicising your music?
I’ve just never been interested personally in making my music political. I like my stuff to be about escapism and being in clubs or festivals with your friends… so escapism basically, losing yourself in it. i’ve never thought to go down the political route or wanted to. I respect people that do it.. for some bands that works very well but I don’t wanna do that with my stuff at all.
What would you say is your favourite type of gig to play?
They’re all fun for different reasons. I loved Glastonbury. My favourite festivals are the ones where there’s a lot more to it than just the tents and the headliners and stuff. One of the most amazing things about Glastonbury is everything else that’s going on. Going back to all this escapism thing, it’s just pure escapism being there; it’s like being in a different world for a few days. Those types of festivals are probably my favourite thing to play because they’re so much less inhibited as well. I enjoy all gigs in different ways.. I mean Ibiza’s great because I’ve been going to amnesia and going to Ibiza as a punter for years so it’s quite fun to go there and actually play those big big clubs.
Check out ‘Turn it Around’ featuring Bloc Party’s Kele below: