- Tue, 2012-06-26 15:25
The last two years have been pretty big for Belgian producer Netsky. From signing to the world renowned Hospital Records for the release of his debut album, to remixing the likes of Plan B, Pendulum and Leftfield and travelling to every corner of the world for DJ gigs and live shows, his rise has been unstoppable. But then, listen to his irresistible take on liquid drum and bass and it’s easy to see why he’s made such a mark.
I Like Music got Netsky on the other end of a crackly international line to talk about his new album 2, finding the right vocalists to collaborate with, branching out to write film scores, and playing his music with a full live band.
“I Like Music because… it makes me happy. That’s the most cheesy thing I could ever say!” Netsky
ILM: Tell us a little bit about your new album 2; you’ve gone for a pretty simple name there…
Netsky: I’ve had much more time to work on this record, so I’m a little bit more relaxed with this one. The first one I had about six or seven months to finish the whole album, and this one was made in about two years. I didn’t really go into the studio with an idea or a story of what I wanted from the album, I just wrote all of the music in between us touring. That’s why I wanted to call it 2, instead of a story title. If I’d worked on the album with a story in mind it wouldn’t have given me the same kind of freedom. I just wanted to have the possibility to do whatever I wanted. Look at Led Zeppelin: their first four albums were just called 1 to 4. I like that idea. I like people to have more of a story behind the tracks than the full album.
ILM: Your profile has really grown over the course of those two years. Did you find that your approach to writing songs changed at all as you grew bigger?
Netsky: There are a couple of tracks that I started working on in places like Australia, South Africa, America, so I think that made for a big change of influences over the album anyway. But apart from that, over the last two years I’ve been going through some stuff personally as well, and I think you can definitely hear that in some tracks. I’ve definitely tried to express my feelings over the new album. There are some really different emotions across the tracks. There are some very dark tracks, some very happy ones.
ILM: Are you going to carry on writing while you’re out on the road, or do you think that next time around you might go into the studio and create a new album that way?
Netsky: Without saying that I’m not happy on the way I worked for this album, I think I’m definitely going to try to go into the studio. Especially to take the time to work with some vocalists, instead of only having one or two days in the studio for a song. But I was really happy with how this album came about. I’ve had much more time to get used to the tracks before I release them, so I feel much more confident about it.
ILM: You mention working with vocalists, which you’ve done quite a lot on both albums: how do you choose who to work with?
Netsky: It all depends on the track you’re working on. For example, there’s a track on the new album that features Diane Charlemagne, but I started off working with Tom Barman, the singer from dEUS. He pulled off an amazing vocal, but in the end I just felt like he wasn’t the right choice. I was looking for this female, diva, big voice, and Diane Charlemagne definitely has that! You just have to look at a tune and see what goes around your head, then look for a vocalist that can actually pull it off.
ILM: So do you write the lyric and melody with the artist, or do you leave them to it?
Netsky: The Diane track is the only one where the singer went wild on the track and just did their own thing. I was in America, and it was the last phase of the album, and because we didn’t choose the other vocal we had to do it when I was away. But the rest of the vocals on the album are written by me, or me and the vocalist. We usually wrote together in the studio. I think it’s important to do that: some people might see something totally different behind the track than what you had in mind, and it’s very important to keep the atmosphere of the vocal and the instrumental in the same vibe.
ILM: Is there anyone you have in mind that you’d love to collaborate with in the future?
Netsky: One of them would have to be Joe Dukie, the frontman of Fat Freddy’s Drop. His is one of the most exciting voices that I’ve heard over the last couple of years. I’d love to work with those guys, but we’ll see what happens man!
ILM: Do you have any ambition or desire to produce for other people in more of a behind-the-scenes role?
Netsky: Sure! I’ve been doing some ghost production over the last couple of years. There’s nothing that I can talk about yet, cos it hasn’t come out yet and there’s always a lot of paperwork saying “do not talk about it!” But no, I love working like that. I think it’s something that I’ll have to grow at before I can actually do it professionally because I’m so used to working on my own and being my own boss. It’s not easy for me to make something and then get feedback from somebody saying “yeah, it’s great, but I want you to change that, that and that.” But I would love to do it, to work on music on a different kind of level. For example, I would love to do a small film score or something. Music has always been about emotion for me, and the perfect way to create emotion and atmosphere for me is on a film score.
ILM: So do you write stuff that’s not drum and bass then?
Netsky: Yeah! All music I’ve ever written just started off as a piano melody and grew into a drum and bass song afterwards. On the new album there’s an electro house tune and a dubstep tune on there. It’s still all dance music I guess, but yeah, it all starts as a piano. I’d love to keep it like that – very organic - and use it. I think the only way that you can use that is for a film score. Just very atmospheric, raw instrumental track.
ILM: What software and hardware did you use for the album? Was it all done on your laptop, or did you get into any studios and use analogue synths or anything?
Netsky: I started all of the ideas and structures on software, especially because I had to work a lot abroad and on tour. But when I started to work on a track in more detail I moved into studios to record percussion and bass guitar. But I’ve never really got into any hardware synths, which is strange. It might be some form of laziness! Also the idea of not having any power over the recording after you did it. If you’re on the road and you want to change something, but you haven’t got your synth with you that’s going to be a massive headache. I might try it out in the future if I have a lot of time to get into it, but for now I keep to software synths.
ILM: Does that make it easier to translate to the live show as well?
Netsky: Umm, yeah. The live show was in the back of my mind a lot while I was writing the album. I just tried to write it as live-translatable as possible. It has to be playable. I wanted to think about the music as if it was a little band on the computer, playing the drums, playing the pads, the chords… But because everything is software synths it was pretty easy to translate into the live set and get it off of the laptop. I’ve got the most amazing keyboard player who’s able to play the most amazing keyboard riffs. Without him the live set wouldn’t be anything. So it’s a combination of the right sounds but also the people who can actually play those very complicated parts.
ILM: Have you got a new tour booked yet, or are you waiting for the album to come out?
Netsky: Well, I’ve got 27 festival shows booked over the next few months, which you can see on my website, and then I’m just waiting to announce a UK tour for the summer. There will be a big UK tour with the live band.