Photography: Michel van Rossum
This is not a drill or some type of weird poorly-timed April fool gag. Noisia will disband at the end of 2020 and Thijs De Vlieger, Nik Roos and Martijn van Sonderen will all go their separate ways.
The definitive split will follow one final tour and a series of releases. It will mark exactly 20 years of working together, during which they’ve risen to the very top of the drum & bass tree and set unparalleled benchmarks. They will remain at their Groningen studio complex in their solo and collaborative non-Noisia capacities and their labels Vision and Division will continue to run.
The news was announced just now by the band on their website with this statement.
“After 20 years of being Noisia, we are ready to become something new.
We’ve all grown, as people and as musicians. For almost 20 years, all three of us wanted pretty much the same, but we’ve developed, and realized that nowadays we want different things. If we all wanted the same different things, it would make sense to do that as a different Noisia, but we want different different things.
That’s why we’ve decided that for us, and our listeners, it’s the most honorable and respectful choice to put an end to this chapter, and start the next one. Noisia has always been about making as few compromises as we can. When Noisia becomes a compromise in itself, it’s time to move on.
We’ve tried to realign ourselves over the last few years to keep the wagon on the rails, but the reality still is: we are not who we were before, and the time of doing everything together because we all want the same is behind us.
Noisia is a game that we’ve completed. There’s very little left for us to explore together. Noisia is a beautifully consolidated shape. And we want to leave Noisia in that shape, rather than keep chiselling at it, with the risk of ruining it. A good artist should know when an artwork is finished.
What the future holds for us, we honestly don’t know. We still have our studios in the same space, and we will run into each other every day. We are still friends. We will still make music together in some shape or form.
We want to celebrate our 20th year and the past 20 years together with everyone who’s been involved and made it all possible. We want to go out with a blast and say goodbye to our fans properly, so that we can look back and say “it was an amazing era, and we finished it in style”. We want to do one last year of touring DJ shows, one last year of Noisia Radio, and finish and release the music that we’ve been working on together.
This was a very hard decision to make, but we thought about it for a long time and it feels like the only right thing to do for us without breaking what we’ve built.
We are very proud of what we’ve done. We’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity we were given to share our music and vision with so many people, and we feel greatly indebted to all those who helped us along the way. We’re excited about making the last year as Noisia as memorable as we can, and we’re curious to see what will come after.
TL;DR: We’ve decided to stop being Noisia at the end of 2020.”
This is a rarity. Electronic music bands barely ever announce any type of split and tend to just fizzle out. As ever, Noisia are doing things their own way. And while the news comes as a shock, their decision means they’ll go out right at the top… Where they’ve been for many years. Here’s where they’re at right now, though:
Sad news! Didn’t see this coming. Where do we start?
Nik: It’s taken us a while to think about it and argue about specifics so it’s not come as a shock for us.
Thijs: For the longest time we argued about how we go on but eventually decided maybe it’s better for everyone, and easier for everyone that we don’t carry on.
Including the fans!
Thijs: No we’re trying not to think about the fans. We have to think about what this means to us personally. What we want Noisia to be. What it can be. What it can’t be. Whatever the fans want is secondary.
Martijn: But it is a service to the fans; stopping like this is a service to the Noisia identity. To stop at the right time and not run it into the ground and milk it. We won’t cling on to it.
Yeah that’s more what I meant. You would never flog a dead horse…
Thijs: Oh totally. I was talking more about the process of deciding to continue or not. Did we want to bend Noisia into something different to represent what we are now?
Nik: That could be fine if we could agree on what that is.
Thijs: Yeah, after 20 years it’s pretty natural we’re all very different.
It would be strange if you weren’t. This hasn’t happened in electronic music before because most acts just kinda disband or fizzle out. Or one member is the person who does most the stuff and they leave. None of this applies here. You’re going out with a proper climax. It’s a very pragmatic way of doing things.
Nik: Ultimately it’s an emotional decision. Doing something for one last year is a pragmatic execution of that, though.
Thijs: It’s a totally emotional decision. I was playing shows this summer fully aware they could be the last shows I do as Noisia. I want to say goodbye to this properly. When we played Hospitality On The Beach it was such good vibes and we had so much fun, that I didn’t feel it was right for it to end there: I wanted us to say goodbye to this life properly with one last year of going to all our favourite places.
Woah it sounds like there was an alternative ending at one point though…
Nik: Maybe. We knew we had to stop but we didn’t have a plan at that stage. But then we came up with the plan to give it one last year and complete it properly.
Like a game, as you mention in your statement…
Thijs: That’s exactly how it feels.
Who or what is the end boss?
Thijs: It’s more of a completionist game. Like when you finish the story and you do all the additional bits to complete it 100 percent. That’s how we feel.
Nice analogy. I HAVE to ask about Noisia Radio! So many artists big up the service you contribute with that.
Thijs: Well everything that is based on or around Noisia kinda has to stop. It’s sad but it has to end. But we do love the show and we are aware of the role it plays and the community its created.
Martijn: We haven’t figured it out yet. But we have a year and three months to decide what that could be.
Nik: That’s another 60 weeks of Noisia Radio shows. We still have plenty of time to figure out what it feels like having announced to the world we’re going to stop being Noisia and see how that feels. We’ve never known what that feels like throughout our adult lives. We will be keeping the labels running too, of course.
That was my next question!
Thijs: Yeah there is no reason whatsoever to stop running Vision and Division.
Nik: What might happen is that people don’t see the labels the same way because they’re not ‘Noisia labels’ so to speak. But we’ll be representing the label as label owners and A&Rs. They are their own entities, and we see no reason for us not to be able to run them when we don’t live our lives as Noisia any more.
So the business structure you have and the mad studio complex you’ve built will remain the same. Most importantly you’ll remain friends hopefully now you’ve dealt with what I’d imagine to be a rather large elephant in the room?
Thijs: Totally. We’ve basically spent the summer holidays asking ourselves whether this is what we want. But there was definitely relief when we decided it was a good idea to go our own ways and do our other projects together which are much more low pressure. Let’s do the clear stuff, or the exciting stuff, and not this fucking immense writers-block-peer-pressure kind of thing that was keeping us together. When that fell through. When we all let it happen, the atmosphere was immediately ‘ahhhh… Let’s go do some stuff now!’ For a long time we were thinking ‘what’s our next big move?’
How long did that pressure last? It was probably a massive monkey on your back and everyone else you work with?
Thijs: The whole company for sure.
Martijn: Basically towards the end of the Outer Edges show.
Nik: That was an end boss, doing that. That was the biggest landmark of our career and having done that it was like ‘where do we go from there?’ And we couldn’t agree on where we should go next and the tension started there.
Professionally you could never tell that. You’ve carried that for ages and that must have added more pressure?
Nik: Yes and no. There were some things we could do because we knew what we were doing. The radio show for example – it’s not hard to be inspired by the music we’re playing and we’re always grateful for that.
Thijs: It’s not like tension where you say ‘you’re a fucking asshole I don’t want to see you for a month!’ We could always be in the same room. It would be tense after a conversation when our opinions would oppose. But we didn’t talk about it publicly. We kept it in our own little loop so we dealt with it ourselves. No one else has had an opinion or an influence on this and that’s been important.
Nik: But it also feels like that’s the way we’ve handled ourselves since high school. How we make decisions, how we talk to one another, how we debate, how we argue. But we need to abandon that now. We’re older people. This vehicle doesn’t serve us anymore. Noisia was one thing we all loved and benefited from. But when that thing loses its purpose and gets in the way it’s an old model. We’re very grateful for everything we’ve done and achieved. But I also can’t forecast how I will react if we’re met by the reaction of sad fans.
Man, there’s gonna be some sad fans! Trust me!
Nik: I don’t know how that’s going to make me feel. For us as adults to say ‘this was a great journey but this high school band has had its day’ between us feels – I don’t want to say effortless – but definitely an easy decision. There’s no tension among us in saying we’re stopping.
Thijs: We’ve had months, maybe years, to start making sense of the moment this might happen. We’re a lot more prepared for this than anyone else.
Let’s get your favourite end bosses during this journey, this game you’ve completed?
Martijn: Probably visiting the UK for the first time. We had very low-key releases out at the time. I didn’t have an idea of what the actual drum & bass scene was like but we just went over on a ferry to London on a summer holiday. We stayed with a bunch of people and went to a bunch of D&B nights, saw Bad Company play and decided to stay an additional week to go a Renegade Hardware night at The End where we heard our brand new track which we hadn’t sent to any of the DJs in there. DJ Ink was playing it and I literally took my ear plugs out. It was a genuine ‘what the fuck is this? Is this happening?’ moment. That was very exciting. It felt very ‘big boy game’ in my mind. That was a real milestone. People started noticing us at that moment. Before that we had niche relations but then it felt like we’d made it into the real game.
That’s not an end boss, that’s a level up!
Nik: Those DJs at Hardware were THE bosses. Breaking through and being in one of their sets was 100% end boss. I was going to give the same example.
Thijs: My first end boss was when we wrote the intro to The Tide. I felt like ‘we’re making some form of art here’. This wasn’t just making a tune. We always had this ambition but this was the first time I thought ‘okay this is saying something really cool.’ So, for me, that was when I really believed ‘wow this is special – not many people can do this.’ Like a feeling that what we make matters. Since that, I’ve felt like ‘this angle is what we need to facilitate and pull attention to’. Yes, The Tide has a wicked drop, but the intro isn’t the standard smash-and-grab big intro stuff. It’s smart, beautiful and well composed.
100% agreed! Nik. In the interest of completion myself, I need your end boss…
Nik: Starting a label in 2005 and doing the artwork was a big thing for me. Having my own release with my own artwork on my own label. Making the illustrations, doing the songs, I was 22 and walking around art school with records in my hands to show my classmates. I felt like school was done. I had my own business, my own designs, I was making music. I felt great about myself. I was an arrogant prick.
Haha. I totally get that. I think the whole idea of complete control is very important and something Noisia has been synonymous with ever since.
Thijs: That’s thanks to Black Sun Empire and Marco and the people at Triple Vision. They pushed us to do it. They kept saying ‘why are you fucking around on other people’s labels? Release your own stuff!’ They were absolutely right and we’ll never forget that…
Absolutely. They set the blueprint for how the drum & bass scene does business in The Netherlands. Then you guys took it to another level. And will do right up until the end of next year… Then beyond with your future projects, post-Noisia. This isn’t goodbye yet though. Anything else to add for now?
Thijs: We just want to thank everyone for everything so far, all the people that helped us on our way, and all our listeners and supporters.
Martijn: It’s kinda sad it ends, but all good things come to an end eventually don’t they? So we want to make that a beautiful ending..
Nik: Yeah exactly, we really look forward to ending this Noisia era in style until the end of 2020, we have a bucket list of things we still want to do before we move on! And then a wide open future awaits us…