Black Sun Empire


Dutch drum’n’bass trio Black Sun Empire begin work on another album and prepare to bring their Blackout club night to Perth this Friday, March 21 at Metro City – playing with Shapeshifter, Dillinja and Royalston. TOM KITSON chats with member, Micha Heyboer, about keeping their roots underground.

A drummer as a kid with a physics teacher and computer-enthusiast for a dad, Heyboer found a passion for computer generated music, eventually forming Black Sun Empire with his brother Milan and their friend Rene Verdult.

“My brother and I were in the same drum class and then we met Rene in high school,” he says of their beginning. “We started playing around with synthesizers and that was when electronic music became really big with guys like Underworld and The Chemical Brothers. We were all surprised by drum’n’bass when we first heard it, so it was kind of natural to start making it since we all have similar tastes and don’t have to force each other to like something.”

Growing up in the dawning of breakbeat and drum’n’bass was the inspiration, but when jungle came around, Heyboer says the guys were hooked.

“Music has always been a big passion of mine,” he explains. “Going out to concerts and dancing was a hobby that turned into something else. We were into a lot of the techno music coming out at the time, when genres weren’t as defined as they are today.

“We’ve always loved many different genres, especially breakbeat and drum’n’bass, which were totally new then.”

Despite releasing five albums and in the planning stages of a sixth, the trio have found ways to keep things interesting and not lose touch with their roots remaining in the underground.

“I’m doing a side project at the moment, which is progressive techno, and we’ve been making a lot of different types of music lately,” he says. “It’s normal for us to draw on different genres.”

Always preferring to spend time on a full album project rather than throwing out regular singles online, Heyboer says that’s been a vital aspect of their creative process and they’ve found other ways to remain relevant.

“We don’t really make hits – it’s more the underground stuff we try and do, so we definitely favour the album format rather than releasing singles,” he says. “This way you have a whole story to tell rather than just one radio single, and we enjoy working on a whole project requiring artwork, touring and music videos.

“If we made music like Wilkinson or Chase & Status it might be better to release singles, but we see making albums as the way to go with the music we make.”

Rarely playing out together and each having separate studios, begs the question of maintaining an equal relationship where each member can contribute at the right times. But Heyboer says the bond formed over years and a similar taste in music, allows for tracks and projects to form through three minds, despite distance or practicality.

“In our DJ sets we don’t play together that often and even when we don’t communicate about what we’re playing at different locations, we seem to play the same music. I guess we’re on the same wavelength!” he laughs.

It will just be Micha heading to Metro City for Blackout this time around, and he’s quick to assure that he’s got quite a few test tracks from the next album to play, along with music from other artists on their Blackout label.

“You have to keep challenging yourself so for us, the Blackout club nights are not so much about staying viable business wise, it’s more about just keeping ourselves interested in making music,” he explains.

“The label was previously called Black Sun Empire Records, but we changed it to Blackout to help other artists benefit and not have to be directly associated with our name.

“It’s exciting times with the label, which is mostly drum’n’bass focused at the moment, with parties and merchandise going really well,” he says. “Our artists seem to be happy so that’s good!”

According to Heyboer drum’n’bass is healthy in The Netherlands having been there as long as other genres, just perhaps keeping a lower profile and being more about the quality rather than quantity of artists or output produced.

Pencilling in their next album for release in early 2015, Heyboer in confident the trio’s method of production will continue to result in music that all three of them are proud of and inspired to create.

“We started off using one studio, but now we have three, and we don’t always perform together, but it still works fine with each of us having input on Black Sun Empire tracks,” he explains of their working arrangement. “The only rule we have is that we all have to like it!”


Black Sun Empire play Metro City this Friday, March 21.

Get your tickets here.