Netsky is a name that’s making waves among the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) community. The Belgian producer’s drum and bass albums have been incredibly successful so far, with Netsky bagging number ones for both his 2012 album ‘2’ and his latest single ‘Running Low’ (featuring Beth Ditto) in his home country.
Boris Daenen chose the stage name Netsky not too long ago –he’s been in the producing game for almost ten years now. “I started producing when I was 15,” Netsky explained, “Just dance music on very simple, easy software. It was around that time that I started going out in Belgium – over here we don’t really have an age restriction on going out clubbing…or even drinking! We just do it basically,” he added with a laugh. “I started going out quite early with my friends so we got to experience a lot of dance music and DJs from a very young age. I really noticed that I liked going out and dance music. I was playing drums by then and when I saw DJs with electronic music I really saw that it was my type of music. That’s when it started for me.”
Not everyone was as inspired by Belgian’s lax age restrictions as Netsky. “No one in my old friend group produced music but I started making friends definitely this way. My friends from back where I live, my small village, they like music but they never really liked it as much as I did. They never really played instruments or DJ or anything.”
Despite the lack of music in his social group, from a young age Netsky’s family helped him out. “I grew up in a really musical family. My dad really enjoyed listening to music and really schooled me in 70’s music and motown. He really for me into listening to records and buying them, going to record stores. I owe that to him.
Part of Netsky’s appeal and popularity in the drum and bass community is due to his emphasis on live music – his liquid funk style of producing mixes generic drum and bass with instrumental layers and vocals. Since 2012 he has toured as Netsky LIVE!, with a live stage band accompanying his DJ set. “There’s a lot of work to be done around the band. It’s not as easy as just DJing, but its so much fun!I learn stuff everyday and that’s what keeps me so happy about it. I just love learning to play instruments and give the crowd more than I could with just a DJ set. Sometimes I feel ashamed of the DJs just standing their pushing buttons. I wouldn’t pay money to go see DJs anymore at my age; I like seeing a bit of a show and seeing a bit of a production with that, and that’s what we do with the band.” Although he considers himself a drummer, and he plays guitar and keys alongside that, Netsky’s not entirely sure why he turned to production rather than focussing on instruments. “I haven’t figured it out myself yet to be honest!” Netsky laughed, “To be honest I think I just really like the energy of electronic music combined with how soulful hiphop can be. That’s why I love bass, its so full of energy and still you can have so much soul in there.”
The charm of production isn’t limited to the studio however. “The million dollar question” for Netsky is whether the studio or the stage is better. “For me, it’s both. The magic moment is when you create something in the studio and then see the crowd love it, when you see them get something from what you’ve been working on for a long time.”
Although it can be tricky to image how artists find inspiration for music away from the indie-band relationship drama, Netsky finds himself inspired by music itself whilst he creates it. “I just really love travelling and I love listening to other styles of music – Punjabi or African music. Just last week my cleaner from the building I live in, she gave me this CD of her favourite Punjabi Indian bands, and I started sampling some of it. I just love listening to music that people wouldn’t normally relate to as an artist so I try to do something people won’t expect.”
The process of creating tracks isn’t as straightforward as with other musicians either. “Sometimes I get up in the morning and I know I want to make this drum and bass tune and it has to be hard, or I want to create a funk tune on a very slow tempo. At the end of the day it always completely changes so I can’t really predict what a tune is going to look like for me. It surprises me every day where the tracks end up.”
As a producer, Netsky’s liquid funk drum and bass requires a lot of collaboration with other artists in various capacities. “I work with a lot of writers. I start working on a melody and invite a lot of people. I can’t really write lyrics and I can’t sing either so it’s much easier to write with somebody who I know can judge lyrics and melodies better than I can do.” Working on tracks with musicians like Beth Ditto is something that Netsky also does a lot of, yet his attitude to the collaborative process is refreshingly realistic. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I think seven out of ten sessions always work out great for me. When that happens it’s great, you have so much energy so you can enjoy and share excitement with someone else who’s feeling it. I’m very much a solo guy though, I love working on music on my own.” Given the chance, Netsky says Prince would be his dream artist to work with. “I think every producer says Prince!” he laughed.
Although Netsky doesn’t collaborate with other producers on his own songs, there definitely is an atmosphere of companionship. “There definitely is a community. It’s funny, there’s a DJ called PC and he’s a drum and bass DJ as well. He started this Dropbox thing, like a shared folder of maybe 20, 25 DJs and we all share music together in it and help eachother out. I think that that’s something that is really beautiful and I have a feeling – I shouldn’t really be saying this, but I think that happens more with drum and bass than any other genre which is pretty cool.”
It’s been two years since the release of ‘2’, but Netsky says the newest one will be “out early next year”, with January and February as hopeful dates. “I’m just about to finish it actually, just a couple more weeks. I’ve been working on it for the last two years so it’s been a fairly long process but I’m getting there. There’s been good and bad days. It’s been a stressful album to make,” Netsky admitted. “For the first time in my career I’ve had a pressure on my shoulders and I’ve never really had that before. The last six months it’s been really hard. Touring with the band there’s been a lot of rehearsal and technical stuff which is hard to combine with the writing mode. My first album was mostly drum and bass and my second was like that with more pop influences and other tempos and genres. For me it was a logical step to go a bit more into that direction with this album.”
Having travelled extensively over the last couple of years especially, Netsky’s had the chance to experience some new places. “I think my favourite place to be at to DJ and tour is New Zealand. We had the luck to do a really great tour there with the band last year. My one favourite thing about touring is meeting new people and seeing beautiful places and New Zealand is definitely my number one.” After a 28 stop tour of the USA, followed immediately by Australia, Netsky is returning to New Zealand very soon. “I’m then going to Fiji, I’m excited about that!”
This month sees Netsky return to the UK for the first time since the summer festival season ended. “I’m excited about it we’re bringing a proper production to the UK with us for the first time. It’s just a short tour but its gonna be full on, it’s gonna be hardcore! It’s been a while since we played in clubs, so it’s gonna be sick!”