By Seannie Cameras
Sunday night 9:30 Club hosted one of Europe’s most sought out exports in the realm of drum and bass music, the obscure yet hyper-relevant electronic music genre that is co-existing in a still thriving but post-dubstep craze that slowly swept America the past few years. At 140 BPMS (double that of dubstep) its roots are held firm by decades of influence from immigrants from the Caribbean/West Indian/African countries, bringing the ragga-dancehall vibes of their countries and resettling in Europe but more specially London, England. This culture mashed with the unbridled, brutal but sometimes beautiful amalgamation that is electronic music and a new genre was born. Usually performed live with a DJ and an MC, both serve as conductor’s of the art form unto the audience, the MC ridin’ the riddim with a machinegun like cadence, encouraging the crowd to participate, chant with him, and “NOW SCREEEEEEEEEAM!!!” But, DNB isn’t what the kids are listening to necessarily Stateside, the genre is more reserved for older heads that have been around since the Buzz days here in DC and the ever savvy UK scene out in Europe.
One would not assume that Boris Daenen, the tall, polite, 23-year-old from Antwerp, Belgium would be about to finish the last date on a spectacular 22 show run across the United States under his moniker, Netsky (Not ski, it’s sky, like eye). What’s impressive about this feat isn’t the young man’s age, but the fact that for someone so young he is elevating his performance past his peers who are lauded and put on a pedestal for the way they can twist nobs, jump high and point a number 1 in the sky night after night. Instead of relying on the same dog-and-pony show that dance music has become reputed for as its gotten more mainstream and exposed in the U.S. he brings a fresher approach to the genre by bringing a full band with him to perform his album cuts live.
I was blown away by his maturity and ability to be comfortable within his own skin, he wasn’t brash, or overtly confident, but seasoned. I hope you enjoy getting to know this pioneer as much as I did talking to him in the legendary space of the 9:30 Club.
I have him open things up by a brief history of his come-up.
We’ve been on tour for a month now, and I did a little DJ tour before that but I want to tell it backwards. We started playing as a band, 2 years ago now and this is our third U.S. tour but the first time for 2, 2-3 weeks here so this is a month long, full on bus tour which is what I really wanted to do, always wanted to do. But, when did I start I started making music? When I was like 15, 16 like messing around with some music production programs just because I grew up in a family that loved music. I remember my dad didn’t want any musicians so there were never any instruments…
That was actually going to be one of my questions.
Right, they just had a big record collection and my dad really introduced me to 80’s rock, some 70’s soul and Motown stuff, and mostly listening to records. Probably mostly after I left home like I was anti my parents music growing up then I left, and I missed it and I started building a little bit of a record collection on my own. I started sampling a lot of soul vocals like some Marvin Gaye, proper 70’s stuff and started incorporating it into drum n’ bass.
And this is like, 2009?
No, this is like 2007-2008.
Ah, OK. I’m trying to think back to when Kanye started speeding up vocals too trying to get a base of the time period to see if that affected your influence.
Yeah. Yeah. It definitely was. I think “Golddigger” was like one of the tunes that really, that made me really want to do those sample things and combine that with a more energizing beat and make it danceable. So yeah, that’s a good point that song and whatever Kanye was doing back then definitely inspired me a lot and lot’s of hip-hop, lots of Common and J. Dilla, stuff like that. Donuts is probably one of my favorite albums ever and it gave like half of the producers of today their inspiration to start working on music. So that was definitely one of the turning points. I was really into house and more, deep forward stuff and more underground house but I was always felt like I was missing something from the four-on-the-floor beat. I wanted it to have more energy, I wanted it to be a bit more jazzy like breaks a bit more broken up so that’s how I got into drum n’ bass, I think.
Now did you do any hip-hop production because four-on-the-floor is very house but also is kind of lends itself to be hip-hoppy. With your Dilla influence, and his very MPC driven sample based production was that ever a style you considered producing?
Well I started with house then got into DNB very heavily where I started to create a fan base at an early stage and I can only say that drum n bass and hip-hop are really far away from each other but at the same time still very close to each other in some ways as well. DNB is just double-timed hip-hop in some ways. Most of the songs I was producing back then started as a hip-hop beat and then I got some drum n’ bass drums in there to make it fit into my kind of bubble back then. That’s a good point though, I never really thought about the hip-hop influence as much I always thought more of the samples and like the soulful chords and yeah, there was a lot in there as well, yeah.
That’s actually the direction I wanted to that this was kind of the influence of hip-hop fusing with DNB together because I always felt I fell in love with drum n’ bass because I loved hip-hop and dancehall music. I find the correlation so stimulating because I feel a lot of UK DNB producers realize that or even Europe in general I feel it’s very much an American thing like maybe we see that correlation because we invented hip-hop and on the other side you created DNB? I don’t even know what I’m asking anymore…
No, I see what you mean. I think like Ragga/Reggae/Reggaeton have influence all over the world I think, and I feel more UK/underground especially with the electronic stuff like dubstep. All dubstep the stuff Skream, and Loofah, and those people were doing were influenced by a lot of American and Jamaican music styles, and the soundsystems, right?
Same with hip-hop though.
Right, yeah ,yeah!
Doing it in the park and all of that.
Yeah, that’s a good point actually I never thought about it this way and especially the MC heaviness in drum n bass in the UK that is so inspired by sound systems and by hip-hop, yeah.
I want to go even further with the correlation I see with dance music and hip-hop that a lot of kids don’t realize is that they could be avoiding a lot of problems.
Like, first and foremost, beef and ghostwriting is a huge thing now within dance music. If you don’t study the history then you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes of the past and I think a lot of these little, current EDM problems could be solved if they did their history and went back to a little hip-hop. How do you feel about all of that?
I think the problem I see in EDM, and I’m glad to see that you see it as a problem too it’s not really a musical problem, that’s the result of the problem. But there’s a lot of people doing a lot of cool, new stuff, reinventing genres and doing stuff nobody else is doing but I think there’s just too much money in EDM and it makes it hard for it to be a train for creative thoughts and there’s just too much money in it right now. I’m really talking about like the house, big room EDM stuff but not like it’s not amazing to see people create festivals, clubs where they are selling tables for half a million dollars on New Year’s Eve. In some ways it’s a really, really good sign that makes people really want to get into the genre and it makes the genre even bigger and makes electronic music big but it takes away that kind of sweetness, the romantic side of what it used to be about. But, not even the romantic side maybe even like the grimey side like…
Like warehouse clubs and dirty, underground, unspecified spaces…
More like producer’s making music for the love of music not like I want to be that guy flying the private jet and stuff like that because that’s what the kids see and most of the kids are copying that in EDM and doing the same shit everyone else is doing it’s the only thing they want. They don’t want to have a new perspective on music and show their side of their personality anymore, I feel in a lot of cases, not all of them but you know.
To go further down the rabbit hole even I remember in the mid-2000’s when rap/hip-hop was getting really stagnant a lot of these hip-hop groups struggled and started putting together bands and doing live hip-hop with bands. Now, I see the same thing happening in EDM where you have these guys show up with CDJ’s, pre-programmed sets, and they just go through the motions. Then, they build a huge stage show and the stage show is sick but what’s next? Doing it live. What you’re doing. Let’s talk about that evolution like can you make a “House” band?! Is there a techno band? I’ve seen drum n’ bass through you, and what the guys in Destroid do, the jazzier side of things with Big Gigantic…
BASS drops heavy in the background
Anyway, the whole live band thing, bringing back that live authenticity like A-Trak, Craze, Klever bringing turntablism into it now and you are bringing the band into EDM how do you see this taking shape in 2015 and hopefully at the same educating some kids in the fact it’s not all just neon colors and fucking molly.
There’s a lot of kids there that are there to just have a good time and you can’t argue with that, this is the business we are in, it’s entertainment. People want to have a good night, they probably want to have fun with their mates and meet guys/girls that’s what happens in clubs so I guess from my background it’s absolutely normal that the crowds we still attract are 80-90% of the crowds are going to be very much into that…
*At this point the bass in the media room I was doing the audio recording of the interview got too loud and had to move to a more sonically, stable room.”
Anyway you see the 10% in the first 3-4 rows, fan boys and fan girls, people that really want to see what is happening on stage which is brilliant this is what we do this for and I feel like there is an evolution on the way you can’t expect people to be into something that they are not used to yet. The generation of people that we are playing to right now especially in America since it blew up so big 5 years ago I really hope there’s this kind of revolution coming up where a lot of people will spend a lot of money, time and investing in a big, massive, production with a light show and visuals which is very cool.
But to answer your other question about whether you can imagine a techno band or a house band some parts I can’t. I think, first the music needs to lend to what you are showing on stage and if it’s really about the beat, then you are going to want to have a 4×4 beat for an hour and a half (from a DJ). You know like the German Abelton shows? With the knobs and twists through the FX, they do it really well I think and for that kind of vibe it works, it’s amazing. If you look at Richie Hawtin in Ibiza and he plays a live set with somebody else they’ve got two computers up on stage and MIDI controllers and it just works and there’s not one person there that thinks like, I need a more visual set up on the stage. They just want to get in the moment and there is that human element of having someone like Richie doing something artistic to the music during his set but it’s not pre-programmed, he’s doing something he feels works with the crowd which is cool. So, I wouldn’t say it’s something that fits every kind of music genre but then again, yeah I do hope there is this kind of revolution where people and a lot of producers try to do something else and try to get more personality on stage and it’s not just pressing ‘PLAY’ and seeing what’s happening.
You mentioned how big dance music has gotten within the U.S. over the past few years and the amount of people it’s brought out for better and worse do you only find that bro, dumbass, meathead mentality Stateside because this music is ingrained in the culture there (Europe) making your audiences more intelligent or savvy?
I wouldn’t go that far, as you said, hip-hop originated from this country so you have a lot influence with that and in big parts of the crowd you can see and tell they really like live shows, they like having an MC on stage, they like to see that stuff happening, uh but I saw the “bro” thing happening and it wasn’t really my crowd. I saw it happen with Skrillex when he blew up they called it “Brostep” for a reason and to be honest, again it’s not favorite look but I agree it’s nice to see a crowd where it’s a lot of different types. It’s not just emo’s, or that, everyone is there for the same reason where it unites all the people which is cool and you see a lot more of that now, and in Australia I’m sure (where we referenced this recent engagement). That’s the worst I’ve ever seen of it, putting it perspective with America but I really don’t mind seeing people like in a crowd, I don’t like when a crowd is just a certain part of the population, I’ve always liked a very, mixed group and I can only applaud it.”
I guess I never looked at it from your perspective where you just want to/happy to play for people.
Right, sure exactly, people may want to show off how they work out everyday, gym, salad, tan, laundry all that shit definitely is not my cup of tea but it is as long as people want to have fun and as long as they don’t arrest people or annoy anybody, then yeah.
Drum N’ bass, dark techno and the like have always been kind of a futuristic music for me ever since I can remember getting into it, we are getting into 2015 and the future is now, where do you see those dark, sonic landscapes playing and painting the future in the next few years?
Yeah, that’s a really good question, a million dollar question speaking to a lot of people, I wouldn’t say DNB is going to be the next big genre in America it has to be, it has to be close to the roots like trap is to hip-hop and dupstep was tempo-wise, house is always gonna be somewhere like it might grow massive and like some subgenres might become big like the deep house thing but it’s funny and very interesting how it fairs in different parts of the world. Deep house is kinda going downwards in the UK where it was like massive a year ago and that’s now happening in the States. Deep house is like really big over here now like maybe in a year or two that will decline here as well. Who knows whats going to be big? I think reggae, dancehall, reggaeton are going to play a big part in the next segue.