29th September 2013

Interview: Sub Focus

In anticipation for the release of his new album ‘Torus’, Phoebe Clarke caught up with Nick Douwma aka Sub Focus to discuss space ships, inspirations and collaborations.

Nick Douwma, better known as Sub Focus, has become one of the most important voices working in British electronic music today. From humble beginnings as a bedroom DJ, the now household name worked his way to notoriety as producer for chart toppers ‘Kickstarts’ (Example) and ‘Flashing Lights’ (Chase & Status).

Drum and Bass heads will know him best for single ‘Out The Blue’ that has been played at every club and festival around the world and features on new album ‘Torus’. However, the rest of his new material is set to propel him further into the realm of mainstream success.

“I started off wanting to write a bunch of electronic music in different genres,” he explains. “I’m certainly known for DnB such as ‘Out The Blue’, but there’s a mixture of a lot of different influences on this album. There’s House, Dub Step, general Electronic and even Indi references on tracks ‘Turn It Around’ and ‘Tidal Wave’. I wanted it to be diverse, a listening journey from start to finish.”

Defending the diversion from his signature DnB sound, he replies, “it wasn’t a conscious decision to go more “mainstream”. It’s just adding extra dimensions to my sound. I used to spend years making underground club music and so it seems like a nice evolution to be writing more songs.”

In fact, the diversity of the album has secured much support from DJs ranging from Skrillex to Avicii. “It’s been really cool to see different DJs playing it. I wanted to write more songs than I did on the last record as it’s true a lot of artists write new material depending on the reaction to their last album.” With collaborations ranging from Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke to upcoming vocalist Foxes, diversity is the running theme on ‘Torus’.

“Coming from DnB, I wanted to pick people who were quite unusual and not normally associated with it for collaboration. I really like ‘Until the End’ on the new album, as I feel Foxes suits the track perfectly. MNEK has a great tone that works perfectly on ‘Close’ and I’ve always been a big Bloc Party fan so was keen to work with Kele.”

“I believe it’s the unusual combinations that work. When you combine two things that don’t normally mix, for example the Indi sound and Drum and Bass, you get a cool mix of retro Dance with modern House, such as on ‘Turn Back Time’. I also have more confidence writing songs with other people than on my own. Although I would consider using my own vocals in the future, it’s a bit weird working on your own voice.”

It’s not just collaborations but the artwork and samples used on ‘Torus’ that push boundaries. He describes, “a lot of my material is influenced by futuristic sound tracks as I’m a massive fan of sci-fi”. Similarly, the artwork has an unusual concept where a ‘torus’ shaped disk is the running feature “I wanted a simple shape people could easily identify with Sub Focus” he explains. “The film 2001: A Space Odyssey was a big influence as I wanted the artwork to reflect the idea of an unexplained object.”

“I started off playing with a disc shape on the cover of ‘Out the Blue’ and ‘Torus’ was the geometric name for that shape. It felt like the natural title, as the design became such a monument for the album. It reminds me of space ship design in the future, something rotating, to imitate gravity.”

The Sub Focus website similarly features this ‘torus’ shape in stunning 3D graphics that uses panorama to place the shape in locations around the globe. Excitingly, visitors can also preview every track before its release on 30th September here. “I wanted to move this shape into the real world and so placed it in various locations on Google maps that had relevance to the tracks. It was great fun working with a 3D web designer to animate the disc and see the concept come to life.”

Looking to the future, Sub Focus will be hitting the Ritz in Manchester on 17th October. “Although the next thing for me is touring with my live show, hitting Manchester soon and then onto the USA and Australia, I’m always coming up with different ideas and will no doubt be making all kinds of music in the future. I feel my sound development for this album happened very organically and I’ve similarly already started working on music that could be the direction of my future material.”

You can catch Sub Focus Live at the Ritz on the 17th October whilst album ‘Torus’ is available now to pre-order and buy on the 30th September.

Phoebe Clarke

Phoebe Clarke

Saxophonist, Composer/Arranger and current Music student at the University of Manchester. Phoebe has been writing for the Music section of the Mancunion since 2011 and was appointed editor in September 2013.

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