Things have been getting hectic for Nick Douwma lately. Going by the moniker Sub Focus, he’s become one of the most recognisable names in drum and bass, undertaken a rigorous touring schedule, and has just released his long awaited second album, Torus.
Amidst the hullabaloo of promoting the immense new record, and performing the new tracks at some huge shows, including the recent B)BC 1xtra, Nick stopped by to give us the lowdown on the new album and what we can expect when he visits next March for Future Music Festival.
Music Feeds: G’day Nick! I know it must be late at night there, I hope we’re not keeping you up. You must’ve had a massive week-and-a-bit with the album dropping?
Nick Douwma: No, it’s cool. I’m usually quite nocturnal. I’m currently in my London studio working on my live set.
MF: That’s actually what I wanted to ask about. You’re pretty well known for having one of the most unique live performances in the electronic scene at the moment, how have the new shows gone off since the release of the record?
ND: It was really really cool to see the new album tracks getting a good response. I think since the album has been released and since the singles have been on the radio and stuff, people are really recognising them and knowing the words. I’ve been happy with the way the live set’s been going.
MF: For our readers who mightn’t have had the pleasure of seeing it go off, could you give us a bit of a rundown of what makes your show so special?
ND: I was a big fan of Daft Punk and The Chemical Brothers when I was growing up so it’s kind of my take on those kinds of shows. What I wanted to do with it is address some of the issues that people have – people complain about certain aspects of live dance music shows, not being able to see the producers performing and things like that. So I tried to make the design as open as possible so people could see me playing the keyboard, playing the drum pads or operating the different kit that I use. We actually did a sort of mini-documentary on some of the kit we use for the live show. Some of the stuff we had custom made and that’s the stuff I’m most excited about. The lights actually react to some of the things I play during the set
MF: We’ve seen some of the infrared lasers that you use to control effects – that’s pretty unreal, who came up with the idea for that?
ND: Basically it was my idea, just something that I’d wanted to try doing for this kind of performance, and nobody else seems to do that, so I thought it would be quite a unique thing to try with the live setup. It’s really cool to be able to control the sound by waving my hand in the air, it’s kind of amazing. We had this guy, this inventor from the U.S. who makes instruments, make them for us.
MF: It seems like it might be a logistical nightmare to get all that gear across the pond to Australia. We will be seeing the whole setup at Future? You won’t be missing a disc or two?
ND: [Laughs] No, I think we’re playing with the whole rig, which is cool. It’s definitely difficult to do these shows in different places. I’ve done a couple in the states so far, like Coachella last year, and that’s the only difficult thing about doing these shows. It’s frustrating because you’re not as mobile as I used to be when I was DJing for years. Doing the live shows, there’s a lot more logistics that go into doing them in every place but it’s really nice to be able to do something like the Future tour because of the multiple dates, it allows you to put on a big production like this.
MF: At Music Feeds, we tend to focus on independent music quite a bit, so we couldn’t help but be excited that you did have Kele [Okereke] on one of the tracks. Is there an indie rock fan hiding inside of you?
ND: [Laughs] Yeah, massively man. My first fore into music was basically a rock band in my teens. At the time — it was a long time ago — I was really into Nirvana and stuff. Basically I got into dance music through groups like Prodigy who were combining dance music with guitar music and rock. There’s definitely a more indie-electronic vibe running through the album. I was inspired by groups like Friendly Fires and the The XX. I like a lot of guitar bands that combine their sound with electronics. Groups like M83 who are sort of borderline between indie and electronic.
MF: So of the lineup at Future Music Festival is there anyone you’re looking forward to touring with? Any old Friends? Anyone on the bill you’ve been keen to meet?
ND: Yeah, yeah! I mean, it’s a ridiculous lineup. There’s a couple of people – I’m good friends with the guys from Chase and Status and Knife Party as well. It’s going to be cool touring with those guys. But there’s a bunch of people I’m really excited to see play Gesaffelsten is very good, Gorgon City, even Sven Vath is someone I’m quite liking forward to seeing – I’ve seen him play numerous times at Ibiza and stuff and I’m quite into techno music as well. There’s certainly some different people there, I mean it really is a ridiculous lineup. Deadmau5 as well, Phoenix, Baauer – lots of people I’m looking forward to seeing.
MF: When we see you in March, you’ll have just missed the Australian summer, but I reckon it’s still gonna be pretty blood hot, in Brisbane at least. Obviously you’re from the UK, how do you think you’re going to be handling the heat over here?
ND: [Laughs] I’m very much looking forward to it because I will have just been through the English winter, which is…not that great. Nah, I’m really excited to get out there. Like I said, it’s been too long. I’ve got a bunch of friends in Australia so it will be good to catch up with those people as well.
MF: Cool cool, any plans on what you’ll do with the rest of your time off yet over here?
ND: I’m not too sure, because I haven’t had a chance to study the tour schedule too much, but I think I’ve got a few days off in Perth so I’ll probably be trying to escape to the countryside there. I spent a bit of time in Margaret River a few years ago so I might try and make it down there again.
MF: Alright, awesome! Well it looks like we’re just about out of time, thanks again for taking the time to talk to us, Nick. We look forward to seeing you in March!
ND: Thanks man, cheers for the interview.