The audio equivalent of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
Group of electronic musicians.
“Noisia have just released the Purpose EP”
To synthesise, modulate, distort & filter.
“He just made a sick Noisia bass”
In audio terms: perfectly balance and combine emotional electronic soul with destructive, industrial strength force.
“That Noisia sound”
Origin 2003: The brand name ‘Vision’ turned upside down gave the name to one of the most influential electronic music groups to emerge this century. Praised and celebrated across all corners of the scene – and beyond – the Dutch trio’s production techniques and brutally beautiful creations exist in a premier league of their own.
We caught up with the crew to talk about their new Purpose EP, modular synthesis, inspiration and football. Enjoy.
I had to appear before some 25 journalists with TV cameras to answer questions like “why you late?”, “we have free needle distribution, your opinion?” and “now that you’re here, do you think the neo-nazistic image of the town will change?” Oh oh… ”
The Purpose EP is out this week! Can you tell us what your favourite thing is about the new EP?
“We’re really happy that we’ve done a full drum & bass EP. We’ve been wanting to do this for a while, and some of the tracks on there have been waiting to get finished for a long while. So we’re very happy to finally have them all done and out into the world!”
Three of the tracks on the EP are collaborations with some amazing artists. How did they come to life?
“Sometimes you get a day or a few days to set something up (in the case of Long Gone with Evol Intent it was a very brief session, just like when we started The Liquid) and then finish it later or wait for the other party to have a session on it and send what they’ve done. Sometimes you power through and finish a tune one or two days – Purpose with Phace and Asteroids with Prolix were completed here in our studios in one session.”
Oh Oh sounds amazing. It has subtle elements of an older style 303 bass sound; yet simultaneously the resonances in the synths transport you to somewhere completely futuristic. What one fact about the track Oh Oh do you think is the most interesting?
“I guess technically it’s kinda cool that all the manifestations of the lead melody line and bass are instances of FM8, based on the initial bass patch, through different processing. The other main bass stab is made in Razor. And it’s also got drums in it.”
Just for fun, please may you give us the top three situations that made you go “Oh Oh?” It could be moments where you feared for your lives on tour or in a studio meltdown crisis?
Martijn: “I once had to stop playing my set in upstate New York, because some kids were shooting at each other over a pair of sneakers. Oh oh…”
“And one time in Russia, with first a night with no sleep and a Russian domestic flight, then a “salad” consisting of blocks of cheese and ham with mayonnaise as breakfast, then an eight hour drive in the back of a steaming hot van with three 18 year old kids (“promotors”) on mushrooms and ecstasy (one of the kids’ parents were driving), I had to appear before some 25 journalists with TV cameras and everything to answer some of the following questions:
“Why you late?”, “We have free needle distribution, your opinion?” and “Now that you’re here, do you think the neo-nazistic image of the town will change?” Oh oh… ”
Thijs: “I once spilt ketchup over a light shaded t-shirt. Oh oh…”
PS. Oh Oh isn’t called Oh Oh because of that expression though, it’s an onomatopoeia of the bass variation just before the drop.”
There are three people in Noisia, what would you say is each person’s purpose is in the group?
“I think right now we’re trying to each have the space to develop our ideas and be free in our own studio, yet keeping the collective energy and focus on our projects. Going from one room to these three new studios has definitely changed how we work. There is much more space for personal initiative.”
Towards winter we’ll be working on our next album hopefully. Besides that we also want to write a full soundtrack again for a game, like we did with Devil May Cry. Or a movie.
Moving forward, can you tell us about the next project you will be working on / unveiling?
“Over the summer there will be much touring, both as I Am Legion and Noisia. In between we’ll hopefully have some time in the studio (it’s the first time in 4-5 years that there is no production deadline!).
There are several games that we are doing bits of music for and we made a remix for J-pop group Momoiro Clover Z which will be out soon on Vision Recordings. Towards winter we’ll be working on our next album hopefully. Besides that we also want to write a full soundtrack again for a game, like we did with Devil May Cry. Or a movie.”
The recent Invisible release (Invisible 007) is very diverse and interesting. As a label what catches your ear when you are sent new music? Also what measures do you take to keep the quality control of your output so high?
“All three of us have to like it. So there are a lot of tracks that don’t make it, even though one of us is excited about it. I think one of the main things I (Nik) look for is that there is an expression in the song, that it’s elements exist for a reason and aren’t just some fast drums and some loud bass, that they serve to tell a story or convey something, whatever it may be. It’s easy to take this very literally, but I don’t mean it that way. It’s not a theoretical judgement, it’s a feeling you get pretty instantly when you listen to a song for the first time. It has to resonate with you somewhere. Maybe this is just a roundabout way of saying ‘ you gotta feel it’. Ahem.”
Speaking of high production values, in your tracks the frequency ranges between roughly 200-500hz are incredibly well defined, especially in drums. At what stage in the creative process is this clarity achieved?
“Somewhere between start and finish of the tune, but a lot of times it’s a constant process of monitoring the mix as you work, with the ethos of “the mix is the music and the music is the mix”. We don’t all work like this, but I (Nik) do most the time, and can easily get stuck getting the ‘expression’ of one snare right mix wise, without a song or anything else happening. This is often a sign of creative drought, but in the process does produce a lot of useful samples.”
This is often a big part of the ‘this is great – this is tricky – this sucks – I suck – wait this is cool – yeah now it’s going somewhere’ cycle. Please note that the ‘this sucks – I suck” part can take hours and hours. Persistence is a pretty big part of it.
Where do you find inspiration? Also if you are working in the studio and get stuck; how do you get past that point?
“I think a lot of ‘inspiration’ actually occurs when writing the track because you are often reacting to what your sequencer is playing (something based on an initial idea of course) It’s almost like playing a videogame: the computer plays something, you react, and so on. In this process you can easily lead yourself / be led (who’s doing what here? Who put that button there for you to press? …etc) into tangents, where you discover things that might excite you and influence what you want the song to become.
You could say that getting stuck means you’ve run out of tangents to explore. Often that means technical noodling, polishing something that isn’t an idea yet. To get out of it we don’t have a specific strategy, it’s either leave it and go do something else or keep at it until you’ve wrangled something worth pursuing out of it somehow. This is often a big part of the ‘this is great – this is tricky – this sucks – I suck – wait this is cool – yeah now it’s going somewhere’ cycle. Please note that the ‘this sucks – I suck” part can take hours and hours. Persistence is a pretty big part of it.”
When you test new equipment what is your thought process? How do you know if new equipment is right for you?
“If you try it once and it doesn’t make its way into your working process easily (as in, you don’t automatically want to use it afterwards) it often means it’s not really worth keeping. But then there’s also plugins you forget about or never gave a chance that can suddenly be rediscovered and save the day.”
It is clear over the years you have developed your own taste in mixing? Do you have days where you just experiment with mixing techniques? How did you come up with your current mixing philosophy?
“It’s constantly in motion, through using different plugins and trying out techniques mine are always slowly shifting. And every song is mixed differently, so there is room for experimentation every time.”
Where do you seek out information to learn, and improve your skills?
“We learn from people we work with and still read magazines. We also watch quite a lot of YouTube tutorials/studio features by new kids because they come up with new techniques all the time.”
You posted a video of a malfunctioning audio bottle opener recently. What is the strangest object you have recorded and included in a track?
“I think the number one spot still goes to the ‘random bit of cardboard scraping across someone’s ass’ sound we used in a track years ago. This ‘someone’ in question had jeans on though… don’t get it wrong.”
It seems there has been an influx of modular synth equipment in the Noisia studio, how did you get interested in modular synthesis? What sound design possibilities does it offer?
“The initial spark was looking for something that isn’t mouse and screen driven, something with a different physical experience. I’d bought a Prophet-8 before, but thought it was quite boring. I had always dismissed modulars for being monophonic, but I realised the concept of being able to design your synth according to your own needs and fascinations far outweighed the limitation of monophony, especially because most of our sound design is monophonic anyway.
So I asked BT for some advice, and visited Kyteman’s studio, he has a pretty big system set up as well. We jammed with his stuff for a couple of hours and I was sold. It is just so much fun, it’s so easy to get lost in it for a couple of hours, it’s like Lego for the synthesizer enthusiast.
I didn’t get it because it would be good for sound design, I got it for fun and inspiration, for different means of tune writing. So far though, all the things I made that resemble tunes are really weird and out there (our Soundcloud has a few) but I’ve done some really good sound design with it!
Anyway I wouldn’t say it sounds intrinsically better than software, but it does offer some pretty deep functions that are hard to come by unless you get into programming Reaktor or even deeper environments. Reaktor, Max for live, Kyma, and all other really deep programming software do appeal to me, but I spend enough time crouched over keyboards and clenching my mouse already! So I’m happy with my modular and look forward to when I will have some more time for it again.”
If you could not use a reverb plug-in how would you get an interesting sense of space in a track?
“Delays and panning, release tails and EQ. And record sounds in spaces. Or is that cheating?”
Imagine yourself walking into the studio; please may you talk me through a typical day? What are your habits and rituals?
“Nik: Wake up, do some exercise hopefully, shower, eat, bike ride to studio (unless raining), stop on the way at supermarket to get lunch supplies, come in and say hi to everyone in the studio offices, check the other studios and say hi, make coffee, start up equipment, read emails, work, meeting perhaps, cook lunch in the kitchen, have lunch break (or keep working while eating from big bowl like savage man), play some ping pong (or soccer outside), work some more, maybe have another meeting, eat lunch leftovers, work, go home.
It really depends though. Sometimes we’ll sit around having drinks and having fun until late night. This happens more frequently when we’ve got friends over for a collab (like i am legion or the EP collabs) or when it is close to deadline time.”
Using as few words as possible, what advice would you give to someone interested in writing music with a love for D&B?
“Make sure you enjoy the process of creating. Follow whatever has struck you the most and don’t worry too much about how others do things.”
Finally, is there anything else you’d want like us to know?
“Holland will win the world cup!”
Purpose EP is out now: Vinyl pre-order / Beatport