In Conversation With Netsky

Who is Netsky? You may ask. Have you been living under a rock? I may reply. If you don’t know him by name, you will almost certainly know him by sound; simply YouTube “Eyes Closed” or “Running Low” and, instantaneously, you will recognise tracks that have been planted all over the media soundscape this year. Boris Daenan is one of the world’s most exciting and forward-thinking producers and happens to be heading over from the continent to British shores to do a small tour this Autumn. CUB caught up with him last week to find out more.

You’re playing in London at KOKO on November 6th. What can we expect?

Yeah! We’re touring with my live band and it’s actually only our second club tour with a band in the UK. It’s been ages since we’ve done UK clubs because we’ve had a really long festival season. But I’m really excited to get to smaller venues, they have a more intimate feeling. And to actually see the faces in the crowd — you can never see any of their reactions at any of the shows, so I’m excited about it. We’ll have a bit of new production, guest singers we’ve never taken up with us, and lots of tracks coming up on my new album.

How much can an atmosphere differ, depending on venue?

You take it a bit more serious, I think, in smaller venues. Well, I do. Everyone’s really watching you, they’ve obviously bought tickets to see you and nobody else, it’s a bit more… It feels more natural… You’re playing in front of people who are there for you, everyone’s more focussed. I love festivals as well though, I couldn’t choose between either. There isn’t really any cons!

As a D&B artist, you constantly put together, decontextualise and negotiate multiple creations so as to forge a something new. How do you ensure your originality pierces through the inter-musical nature of the genre you play in?

That’s a cool question, I like that. The number one priority for any producer is make combinations, and like work with people, get sounds in your music that people won’t expect you to do. Its the only war forward. Otherwise people just stick to what they’re used to. I hate that, that’s the one thing I don’t like — I respect everybody’s opinions, but I just don’t like it when people will only listen to one type of music. I just really like it when people can be open minded about stuff…

Experimentation comes with flaws and mistakes – that’s what I’m all about. I love making mistakes, that’s the one thing that makes me think I’m doing something right. Even with the live band, even if I make mistakes, I’m happy I do, because otherwise you’re on the level where you are only mastering what you do, but there is nothing new or exciting to it anymore. Same in the studio — I try to do the weirdest combinations I can sometimes. On this album I’ve got an 80s sprint tune and I’ve worked with some really big people, but people won’t expect me to work with them. It doesn’t sound like drum and bass, it doesn’t sound like what people think I should be sounding like, but I’m really excited about it so…

Would you be prepared to sacrifice pleasing the crowd so as to keep innovating, whether successfully or not?

You’ve gotta move forward. But there has to be a 50:50 balance between moving forward and pleasing old fans. It’s something very discussable… They bought tickets, they got you on that stage, they made the show sell out, in some way you owe it to them to make them feel good and not to walk a way like “What the fuck was that?” You can’t do that. It’s important to shock and do something new, but strike the right balance — make them feel good as well.

What other influences are in your new stuff? I’ve heard you’re into reggae?

I’m not much into reggae anymore, but funny you bring that up as I went to a massive reggae party here in Antwerp on Friday and I really didn’t feel it any more. I’m much more into the roots reggae style back in the day. I really like to involve a lot of classical instruments in my music, old sounding cellos, stings, trumpets, film music type instruments.

To what extent does the knowledge of performance at the culmination of creating your album influence how and what you make?

I always hope it doesn’t but in some ways it does. It’s always at the back of your head. I look at it in a good way and a bad way, like, I don’t want the band to limit my production in any way but I don’t want to make something and be like “ah shit, nobody’s gonna be able to play that”. I’m in a very lucky position; I have found an amazing drummer – forty times as good as I am – and a really good keyboard player who plays leads I can’t play so I haven’t really come to a point where I’ve had something that they can’t play.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I play squash every Tuesday, which is my favourite sport ever. I like being really aggressive and hitting the ball hard, it’s like a release… And I really love film; I go to the to the cinema a lot. I love travelling and luckily that comes with the job; I try to take holidays, explore cities when I can. This is a bit nerdy of me… but i’m quite into home automatics! I’ve setup my whole apartment so when I walk in I just say ‘hi’ and it shows me the weather. It turns off the lights when I leave and stuff like that… My girlfriend hates it, but I love it. My computer recognises my face, and my hands!

What about iris recognition?

I’d love to say yes but that doesn’t really exist yet. But when it does…

I’ve read in other interviews that UK isn’t somewhere you can imagine yourself living. Not even London?!

(Laughs) I love London, I think it’s in my top five cities. It’s just not place I see myself living in… mostly ‘cause I grew up in a small village. I live in Antwerp now, which is a bit more of a city, but if I was going to move I’d go somewhere where the weather’s better, or New Zealand when I’m older. I need a more relaxing idea of a day than spending half of it on the tube. Still, I really respect London and I love being there. I have some of my best nights, days, meetings there.

What is the most exciting collaboration you’ve got coming up in 2015?

There’s lots… But none I can talk about, I’m sorry! I’ve been working with some of my favourite artists at the minute. It’s all too early to talk about yet, but there’s a few things to watch out for. You should definitely come along to the tour! We play a mixture, not just drum and bass – it’s much more song based than people expect and a lot of fun.

[Thanks to Mary Carter who contributed questions 5a and 7]

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