« x »

Sub Focus


It’s often necessary for dance music festivals to specify on their lineups which acts will be performing live as opposed to DJing. Fans of UK electronic producer Sub Focus aka Nick Douwma will be pleased to observe the ‘live’ tag next to his name on the Future Music Festival poster. AUGUSTUS WELBY chats to the main man in his London studio ahead of his appearance this Sunday, March 2 at Arena Joondalup. 

“The show’s me playing all of my own songs on a fully electronic setup. I guess the best way to describe it would be live remixing,” he explains. “I’m taking elements of my tracks and doing different things with them on the sly.” 

Last year’s Torus LP features collaborations with a number of guest vocalists, including Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke on the chart hit Turn It Around. Douwma won’t be joined on tour by the record’s vocal contributors but he says the Sub Focus live show provides plenty to stimulate.

“I wanted to come up with a show that allows me to perform and change as much of the music as possible in a live setting. I use motion sensors, which are a bit like Theremins – they allow me to move my hands around. We’ve also made the lighting in the show audio reactive so… during the show the lights are actually responding to stuff I’m doing, whether it be playing the keyboard or hitting the drum pad or using these motion sensors.”

Kele’s not the only impressive vocalist appearing on the album, with other guests including rising pop lass Foxes and lesser-known English performers MNEK and Jayelldee. Collaborating with vocalists on almost every song greatly distinguishes Torus from Sub Focus’ self-titled debut. Douwma explains his newfound relish for working with other musicians.

“I didn’t really want to do an album with tons of features on it, but I much prefer songwriting with other people so that’s how it ended up… The last album was basically just me in my bedroom writing tracks completely in isolation. There’s a lot more collaboration in general, which is quite refreshing for me”.

The internet makes it easy for artists to work together without being in the same room, but Douwma opted to personally seek out the acts who feature on the album, engaging in an interactive exchange of ideas. Virtual technology still played a part in the process, however, Douwma elaborates on how he worked with Kele.

“Kele is someone who I’d wanted to work with for ages; I’m a big fan of Bloc Party and I love his voice on electronic stuff. He was living in New York at the time so we were sending files to and from each other, then we got together when he moved back to London about six months ago to finish the track.”

Joining forces with artists from a variety of genres has evidently broadened Sub Focus’ stylistic reach beyond drum’n’bass. Douwma says he previously regarded composition as an introspective activity, but he’s come to embrace the unique results offered by creative conference.

“I think an album gains a lot of richness from having multiple different players and people on it. I was quite interested about the whole process behind the Daft Punk album recently. They were pretty much playing the role of the old-fashioned producer, getting the best players together in a room and recording the results. I definitely enjoyed the process of getting lots of people to contribute in small ways.”

« x »