Nick Douwma, better known as Sub Focus, may take a while to produce a full album, but he certainly knows how to make history with it: his self-titled debut, released in 2009, took nine years to produce, but four years later it’s still successful. Tracks like the glitch-roller “Time warp” still fill dance floors, just as they did when they were released on digital dub plates.
Sub Focus and his journey
His journey began in 2003, when he was first signed to one of the biggest drum & bass labels, Ram Records, on a CD: R that one of his friends drunkenly handed to label boss Andy C. Despite this unfortunate encounter, the legendary DJ was so impressed with the content that he signed all the tracks and invited Douwma to join the Ram family. Sub Focus’ tracks are wide-ranging and extremely creative, but produced with the scientific precision of a military warhead and a perfect fit for the label’s growing fan base. They quickly set themselves apart from the rest, going through all the major DJs in the scene, getting mainstream radio airplay and attracting fans from all over the world.
The next step was to produce an album. But as Douwma had shown throughout his career, he wanted to go further and create something that encompassed more and wasn’t limited to the narrow confines of drum and bass: he wanted to collaborate with the synthesizer pioneers of the 80s, Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre. His eponymous debut album, released in 2009, is based on his fondness for all things dance music – from ’80s synth pioneers Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre to dance masters The Chemical Brothers to futuristic house and techno from artists like Lindstrom and Matthew Dear. It combines not only elements of drum ‘n’ bass, but also dubstep, old-fashioned breakbeat, bopping house, electro and rock with a 21st century excitement. It was an instant success.
Since then, the immortal dance music star has not taken his foot off the axe, but has been on the road for a decade with the same success. 2013 saw the release of his second album Torus, a dancefloor-oriented, down-to-earth expression of vibes. 13 Tracks Among the album’s tracks are “Endorphins” and “Turn Back Time,” two of which reached the U.K. Top 10, while the other three reached the Top 40.
Where has he played?
Douwma has spent the last few years perfecting his incredible, infectious live show, touring with Pendulum, wowing crowds at Glastonbury and selling out Brixton Academy twice. He has also performed with many of the world’s chart toppers, including Rudimental, The Chronix, the stunning “Trouble” with Maverick Sabre and Chase & Status’ cult song “Flashing Lights.”
Impact on the Drum & Bass scene
At the forefront of the drum & bass world, Douwma has become a mentor for nurturing new talent in the scene, leading to cross-border collaborations with artists such as Wilkinson and Dimension. In 2018, Sub Focus and Dimension’s single ” Desire” was streamed over 30 million times worldwide and represents a new chapter in the story.
As 2019 begins, the release of the double singles “Solar System” and “Siren” showcases an artist who has remained true to his musical roots throughout his long career and has no plans to leave his path anytime soon.
The follow-up to Sub Focus, “Torus,” which has been four years in the making and will be released on Monday, September 30, is sure to offer more of the same.
What next for Sub Focus?
Balearic-inspired and with a new appreciation for synthesized six-string instruments after a residency at Together at Amnesia earlier this year, it will be a departure from the usual D&B selection. DJ Mag spoke with Sub Focus to discuss the unexpected guest appearances, hands-free mixing, and why it takes so long to make an album.
“You mentioned earlier that you put a lot of effort into live performances, and live performances are an essential part of the Sub Focus experience. Live shows are an essential part of the Sub Focus experience. You’ve just announced a big UK tour, what can we expect from this set”
If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s huge. I’m very influenced by artists like Daft Punk and The Chemical Brothers and their approach to live performance, and more recently artists like Deadmau5. I really like that kind of format and this is my own version. There is a great lighting production that is very exciting because it pushes the technical boundaries. The people in charge of the lighting have developed a lot of software that allows the lights to react to the sound. Some of the songs I play during my sets create light patterns. That’s something very new and technically quite difficult to do. It was a very novel experiment that was technically difficult to do. Also, my audio equipment is pretty new and some of it is custom-made. For this exhibition, I built a motion sensor that is like a modern Theremin. With this sensor, I can move my hands in the air and control the sounds of the show. I wanted to find a way to make the electronic performance more visual. In the beginning, I think the problem with the electronic shows was that they seemed a bit boring, with people hunched over their laptops. So we worked with the designers of the show to come up with a concept where everything is open, so I can show the audience exactly or as much as possible of what I’m doing. We found a way to make the performance as visual as possible, using motion sensors to move my hands, and drum pads and keyboards to show the audience how I control the sound. When I move my hands down, the lights come on, and when I move them up, the lights go off.
How do you plan to develop Sub Focus after the release of the album and the tour?
Right now I’m focusing on developing the live shows again. I’m building a whole new set for the live tour, playing more songs from the album, and working on a new technology for it: there’s a company called Leap Motion that’s developing something similar to the motion sensors I already use. You can use it to control a computer, like in Minority Report, where you move your hands and move the windows. We’ve been testing these things over the last few weeks to see if we can integrate them in some way and if we can use them in place of the motion sensors we use now. We’re always looking for new technologies to incorporate into our live shows to make them interesting, and we’re doing a Future Music Tour in the UK in October, in the US next year, and in Australia the year after that. We’re really looking forward to the big festivals in Australia. For the album tour, we want to visit as many places as possible around the world and immerse ourselves in new music. We’ve already started thinking about new things we want to do on the next album.
Sub Focus is a world famous DJ who has global recognition. Sub Focus is performing within the field of Drum & Bass, Dubstep music and is ranked 299 on the official DJ rankings list
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