Four years… A lot can be done in that time.
You can study for a degree and take a year out.
You could travel the world and spend a week in every single country.
You could find love, get married, divorced and find love again.
You can raise a child from newborn to their first year in school.
You could wait for Netsky to deliver his long awaited third album: Netsky – 3
Even Netsky himself thought it would land sooner than it has. But he’s the first to say these things can’t be rushed. In fact since he told us it was likely to land last summer he’s rewritten the whole thing!
Listen to it when it drops on June 3 and you can tell from the rampant orchestral energy of the Emile Sande-fronted opener Thunder through to one of Netsky’s finest instrumental moments to date (Bird Of Paradise) it’s a serious body of work that explores a whole gamut of genres and styles from Flume-style beatwork (Go To) to jazz-tinged glam electro pop (TNT with Chromeo).
We caught up with him to find out more about the album, the live show that will be dominating festival line-ups throughout the summer and his ambitious plans that will follow. The Netsky takeover bid starts here!
Netsky – 3… This has been LONG!
Longer than you’ll ever know man. I think between the last time we spoke and now the whole album has completely changed. 13 months ago we all thought there was an album but obviously there wasn’t one. We threw away about 90 percent of the songs and rewrote the rest. I’m so much happier with it now.
Completely threw away?
Well, they’re still filed, they still exist, they just need time to breathe and space for me to re-approach them… Maybe they’ll re-surface as productions for other people or new tracks or remixes in the future. I didn’t completely bin them, though. That would be too much work!
The album strikes me as more mature Netsky… You okay with that?
Yes, it’s definitely not as club-based as my last work. About 80-90 percent of it is proper songs and not club-focused instrumentals so I’m happy with that description.
Tracks like High Alert and Go 2 are very song-based. They’re your slowest, mellowest tunes to date. Have you tried them live yet?
Yeah I’ve played them in my DJ sets. We haven’t tried them live with the band yet and I imagine we’ll make new versions of them for the live show that have a little more energy. Go 2 goes down especially well in my DJ sets already though. Especially at festivals in between harder dancefloor tracks. People like the change and switch ups.
The popularity of halftime tracks has helped that. It’s opened our minds to different dynamics and things don’t have to be hurtling away at 170BPM all the time.
Yeah it’s encouraging to see. Minds haven’t always been as open and it has, in the past, been quite hard for artists to try new things out. There’s definitely a refreshed interest in experimenting and trying new things now, which is very exciting.
But are they ready for the new song-based Netsky? We’ve touched on it before, but can we discuss the old hater thing again?
No it’s an important question, it’s something I have to address every time I go on Facebook. It’s amazing that people really enjoyed my first album but a shame people didn’t travel with me on that journey. But I have to respect my original fans who gave me this opportunity to develop. Without their early support I’d be nowhere! What’s beautiful to see is how involved fans are in this genre.
Yeah, drum & bass fans are seriously passionate and protective!
More than other genres I think. It’s so passionate! People are so protective of their scene. But the thing is I’ve never felt part of the drum & bass scene. I always felt a lot of proper D&B fans didn’t like me anyway. I remember the first comments my productions used to get on drum & bass forums were that I made drum & bass for girls! But I see that as an advantage… I want to make music for everyone but if I had to choose then a crowd of girls over a crowd of boys any time!
No harm in being a lady’s man!
Haha. Exactly! It was the gap I always felt drum & bass had… The music should be for everyone and not just crowds of boys. And I say this in total respect to underground drum & bass fans too. We should be inclusive and we should cater to all music fans. And some of the most exciting moments for the whole scene have been when we fuse ideas from both sides of the spectrum and influences from outside of the genre.
Agreed! Like Chromeo! TNT took me by surprise…
Thanks! It sounds cheesy but at one point I wanted the album to represent every genre I couldn’t live without. I wanted to pay homage to 70s rock and Prince and funk and I think I did that with this track. Especially Prince’s I Wanna Be Your Lover, that was a huge influence on this track (which was recorded long before he sadly passed).
RIP Prince! I’ve read some tweets by younger artists and fans who don’t really cite Prince or really appreciate his influence. What direction would you point them in to catch a vibe and get to know his work a bit more?
It sounds obvious but for anyone who hasn’t listened to Prince I would say check out a Greatest Hits and you’ll quickly realise how many tunes you already know! He’s written so much music that’s universally funky through every generation. It’s happening now; he’s storming the charts since his departure and long may he do so!
Amen! Let’s talk about Stay Up With Me. Orchestral rave business! Was that recorded with a proper orchestra?
Yes, I worked with the Brussels Philharmonic for other tracks – which was absolutely incredible – but what I’ve found is that for dance music you have to find the balance between software and live recordings. Samples have more of a punch in that way so I’ve combined both.
So now the album’s done, I’m assuming it’s full focus on the live shows now?
Yes. We have a very busy summer, especially in the UK with Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds, SW4, Nass and many more. I’m really looking forward to Panorama Festival in New York, which is run by the same people behind Coachella and I’m also going to Costa Rica for the first time which I’m really excited about.
How much of a job does it take to convert the productions into live performances?
It’s a whole long and involved process that we’re in the thick of right now. Sometimes it’s very easy to switch things into a live version; the arrangement and parts all fit the live set-up. Other tracks take a long time and a lot of rewriting and refocussing. It’s always fun but there are lots of people involved and everyone has their own opinion and take on things. It’s hard to find the right idea by the end of the day but we always get there!
Do you play the big bossman band leader and have the last say?!
Of course! None of the band members know what they’re talking about. They’re all chatting shit.
Seriously though, they’re all incredibly talented people with a lot more experience in the live set-up than me. They know a lot of tricks that I’d never have learnt if it wasn’t for them. Of course I have the final say with electronic elements, like basslines, but I always take on everything everyone says because they’re so talented.
Digital Farm Animals have a strong presence in your work at the moment, too…
Yeah, I met Nick two years ago; every demo of his I heard killed it. Like really killed it. I love his delivery, his chords, his songwriting, it was love at first listen! It’s been a great match to work and write with him. We balance each other out; if he writes too pop then I balance him with a darker backing track and if I write something too major key and positive then he complements it with a much more complex vocal backing.
So was the delay on this album due to the huge shift in people in your team? It sounds like Team Netsky rolls a lot deeper than you did even a year ago?
Yeah kinda. By the time I thought I finished the album we made Rio, which became the first single, and it led to lots more songs. At one point it felt like we were coming up with an exciting new tune every day. It’s been a crazy year.
And a crazy year ahead?
I hope so. I want to take the live show next level. We had a great year last year and I want to build on that. I’ve said this before but I want to be the first drum & bass band to conquer America. It’s one of my ambitions. There’s a real opportunity in the market; the emptiness EDM left behind… Everyone’s really interested in electronic music now and they’re really hungry to fill with new genres and sounds. So I’m going to invest sometime in really focusing on America and move to LA for a while after the summer.
Netsky – 3 is out June 3. Support.