In Conversation with Icicle


Post album artwork

The man of many talents and many genres, Jeroen Snik has returned with a third album under his bass-music alias – Icicle. 

The twelve-tracker is loaded. Spanning the sonic palette and range of tempos he’s been able to master throughout his career, combining his modern production skillset with a palpable influence from the old school. 

Unfortunately for us though, it’s likely to end here. He’s quite certain that this will be his last major release, hence the title Post. But that has several meanings in this context besides just ‘post-career’.

Post-drum & bass, referring to some of the modern approaches and styles featured. The single Dominate is a good example, sitting at 174 BPM but incorporating elements of techno and gabber, to deliver something that would really turn heads in a D&B dance-floor setting. 

Post-90s, referring to the early rave-culture influences that went into it – drawing on his early days of going out, and getting into production on Mum and Dad’s PC. You can hear this most blatantly on Inside Looking Out, which folds in the jungle, bassline, and atmospherics you’d hear at a back-in-the-day rave. 

Post-covid, referencing the time in which it was written. The album was started before it, completed on the other side of it – and contained all the struggles and reflections any musician would’ve experienced. And with ‘post-covid’, came the desire to branch out and try new things. 

Post-music career, Jeroen has already started shifting his cold and creative brain towards the world of game design and 3D animation – which we’re able to see a preview of, with some of the small contributions he’s made towards the album artwork. There’s a bigger example on the way too, with the forthcoming release of his album VR game.  

At UKF and across the scene we’ll be sad to see Icicle go, but excited to watch Jeroen evolve…

Hey mate, how’s things – how are you feeling about having the album out there? 

Good! I mean it’s been a strange one, it will have been for anyone in music in the last couple of years. 

The initial motivation was just to do one more album, to see what I’ve got, and to round things up for me. But then the pandemic hit and everything changed. At first, that kind of gave me more energy to write, with all the spare time. But then as it went on, as an artist you lose that connection with the dancefloor, and the music becomes theoretical for a ‘potential dancefloor’ you may not see for years – it was really demoralising. 

Did it feel like there was a risk you’d never finish it?

At a certain point, yes. I was procrastinating, and it was quite a push to get the last few percent done. It was like any album, a painful process. You go through a lot of emotions and you sit there thinking it’s all ‘meh’ sometimes. 

But now that it’s actually out and we’ve had a few days, I’ve seen some of the reactions, and had friends or peers give me good feedback – I’m really happy with where it’s landed. 

What are the origins of the concept?

Sonically, the idea behind it is something that’s already been a red-thread of my career: 90s drum & bass and electronic music, which I got into when I was really young. With the whole 90s and rave culture aesthetic, I have a lot of nostalgia for it, and I wanted to put it into this album – but it turned out that it was mashed into this pandemic scenario as well. 

So you could say it’s ‘post’ in the sense of post-90s, post-rave, post-drum & bass, post-pandemic, post-so-many-things – and that’s exactly what I wanted to say in the end. 

I’m definitely at the tail end of my career, I’ve been planning to quit next year at some point. So it’s a weird feeling as well. It’s more than just being happy about having a new album out, it’s also starting to feel like I’ve reached a conclusion – I think I need that. I could’ve just slowly stopped and fizzled out, or I could’ve kept going forever and ever. But I feel like for me, it needed to be this way. 

How much was there to finish off post-covid? Was there a nice injection of inspiration after getting back out there?

Oh yeah definitely. Right near the end of the pandemic, my general feeling was that I was writing this music for nobody. 

Writing music is quite a selfish process, it always has been. You’re trying to satisfy yourself, but also, that’s not the whole story. You also play it, you leave it out there, you see people’s reactions – and somewhere in the middle it becomes a tune. There’s an interaction and a type of communication I think. 

So I missed that aspect more than I ever thought I would. I thought I was much more selfish as a producer than it turns out! I want to see people’s reactions. 

Also, there’s another side to it where I just realised, throughout the pandemic, how strange it is to be so dependent on freely travelling for your livelihood. How one-dimensional sustaining yourself from music really is. Because your income is 80-90% derived from playing shows, and it can be taken away.

So at a certain point I started to think I wanted to do different things. I’ve always been interested in 3D animation. I have been doing some of my own bits since the Entropy Live show, where a good friend of mine (Immanent VJ) made the show visuals, but I started replacing little clips and teaching myself animation. Then during the pandemic, I was thinking I wanted to build up a company – to diversify and not be so dependent on gigging. 

Coupled with that, was also the realisation of how awesome it is to wake up in your own bed seven-days a week and not be hungover so often. All of that together put me in the mindstate right at the end of the pandemic of: “is this really worth it?”. 

It did start to come back though. After playing some shows I remembered how much I missed it – and that definitely gave me the last bit of motivation. I think the album was 90% done for about a year without working on it anymore. But then when things reopened, I was able to finish it.

You speaking about your 3D animation interests reminds me of the crazy album artwork –  how did that come together and what are the messages behind it?

There’s a lot to say about it. Firstly, there’s a guy from England, Ryca – he’s a street artist who does amazing sculptures and prints. About ten years ago he hit me up on Facebook asking if he could design a sleeve for me at some point. Although it never really worked out for us to do something together. 

But with Post – especially with the whole 90’s aesthetic – it really aligns with his stuff. So I approached him, asking if he wanted to contribute something, thinking of a print. But then he said “how about I make a sculpture?”. I thought that sounded cool. 

So he made that syringe with the figure inside it – it was called ‘Freedom’. He was trying to illustrate that we’ve been in limbo, and that we were being squeezed into shape, just waiting to come out the other side – a transformative time. 

I think that concept fits with the album really well, because it really echoed my thoughts. After he sent me the sculpture, I modelled the syringe in 3D and I photo-scanned the figure. I was thinking I would do some renders and we’d get a visual artist to do more stuff, but I was way too busy to really carry the artwork any further. So I gave the assets and concept to Khomatech, who does a lot of work for Vision, and he ran with it. 

Nik (from Noisia) who is A&R at Vision, got involved quite a lot too. When they were doing their last weekend of Noisia Farewell Tour shows, Nik was sending us all these drawings from the tour bus – scribbling on pieces of paper, taking photos of them, giving suggestions. 

I was really happy with it, because we had several different artists and fields of practice coming together.

It sounds like Vision invest a lot of care and resources, and give a lot of freedom. What else can you say about the experience of working with those guys?

Yeah it’s awesome. I was kind of wondering who I’d do this album with, and there were talks with different labels in the past. 

Me and Martijn first talked about it on a plane once a couple of years ago – I said I was writing it and I don’t know where it’s going, and he said to send it over. They were very interested, and as you say they, let me do my own thing completely. 

Nik was definitely giving me some advice and A&R-ing, helping on mixdowns, giving me usable feedback. They care about quality, they’ve always been like that with all their work. And I can see that with Post, like for the vinyl they went all-out with marbled yellow vinyl, and I’m thinking “wow that’s a risk, but that’s cool!”. 

Is that different from Shogun?

With Shogun they were always pushing me to do more riffs or add a vocal – which is great as well – pushing me to be a bigger artist. But Vision was much more “you do you, and we’ll make the best out of that”. That’s what I wanted with this album this time, at the end of my career that’s definitely what I want.

When I look at your three albums, I feel like they’ve all got quite a similar palette and tempo range. But ‘Under The Ice’ had a more minimal and rolling vibe, and ‘Entropy’ was on the heavy side. What are the key difference-makers on Post?

Yeah I agree. Entropy was called Entropy because it was heavier – this idea that everything falls apart, you start playing harder and harder and things get more chaotic. This was really how I felt at that time. You write a cool roller, people react to it, and then the next time you write something, it needs to be more! Not necessarily a positive feeling towards music. 

But with Post, I don’t think I cared as much about this aspect – Vision and I mixed it down with less intensity. 

Tempo-wise – I’ve always tried to be diverse. But I was more looking for a broader aesthetic that represents 90s dance music from rave and techno, and I wanted to do it slightly more pronounced than I’ve done so far. 

Where does it sit exactly on the heavy spectrum? I’m not sure. Because you’ve got ‘Dominate’ for example, which is on one hand a gabber tune, and on the other hand quite softly-produced and stripped-back. 

To me, it sounds like a combination of both albums. With ‘Nostalgia’, ‘Perspective’, and ‘Don’t Blink’, these feel closer to that rolling approach – and hark back to the late-2000s.

Thematically, they’re aiming for 90’s, but my production then puts it into that kind of area. I’ll also reference a bunch of tunes that I’ve always liked that I have in my head, and they are definitely 2005-2007 type tunes. 

How do you decide which genre you’re going to produce on a given day? Do you approach it with intent – or do you just let it manifest during the session?

It’s always been the case where I’ll start a tune, and then at a certain point I think “hmm not sure where this is going” – then I’ll try it in 140 or 170 depending on what I was doing, and you sometimes get a really nice new perspective on it. 

‘Drawn In’ was like that, it was a drum & bass tune for years, I still hear it as a drum & bass tune. But we weren’t sure it was really adding too much to the album – it was a bit too cool, a bit too deep, I wasn’t sure if the groove was really right. Then I turned it down to 140 and it could finally breathe. Same concept goes for ‘Dominate’, which started as a 150 techno tune, until I decided to crank up the tempo and see what would happen if it was drum & bass. 

I think that’s a nice way of working, because every time I set out to make a drum & bass tune that turns into a techno tune or something like that, you make some choices you wouldn’t have necessarily made if you deliberately tried to make one genre. That crossover-ey sound design gets me good results because I make different choices. I like the idea that you can always change the tempo and the tune all of a sudden makes sense – like a get out of jail free card or something like that. 

Almost feels like cheating! But do I also love the idea that you’d make different choices at a different tempo, and you can carry those over with the click of a button. 

While we’re on tempo and genre exploration – how come you decided to include a Cadans track on this release?

Well first of all, because it’s a collaboration with my brother Kracht, who is a techno producer. Knowing that it was going to be my last album, it was nice to have my brother involved. 

At the beginning with Cadans, I was kind of keeping it a secret – because I didn’t want to play a techno set and then have requests for drum & bass. I was building up a nice profile, playing internationally quite a bit. It was still building but I was releasing on labels I was really glad to be on. But then when the pandemic hit, the momentum went down, and now for me to build it up again, I can’t do it. I can’t see myself working enough to do that again. 

With the move to 3D animation and game design going really well, that’s keeping me extremely busy. So I think that led to the decision to put it on there as Cadans – kind of bringing it together and saying “by the way, that’s me”. 

Definitely ties in with the techno influences on the album too. 

So your brother is a techno producer, your cousin makes wicked D&B and dubstep as Proxima… why is your family so good at producing? 

I have no idea! We all got into it when we were super young. Buying turntables and records when we were around 12 years old. My brother was big into forums, and made trance back then – he had a vinyl release years before I was even being considered or played by other DJs. Which was crazy because he’s like 2 years younger than me. 

But anyway, he got Reason on CD – less than legal, let’s put it that way. We put it on my parent’s PC, and then every night when we were like 13 or 14 we would have a schedule. I get an hour, he gets an hour.

I know those sharing the household computer days all too well. 

Haha, exactly. There was no YouTube yet, so we were just pressing every button to see what happens and trying to make a tune. That’s how it started for both of us, and then we went in musically different directions. 

He stopped for a while and then picked it up again, and now he does very heavy techno, which I very much like. In terms of taste we’ve come much closer together, and we’ve done more releases on techno labels in the past, but it was cool to do another one on a drum & bass label instead.

So Post is… the end. We’ve touched on it a bit already – but what does the future look like for you, now it’s released?

Well I’m not fully done yet in that sense – we’re going to do a big remix package for the album, and I’m doing some other remixes as well that I’m tying up. 

Also at the moment I’m trying to turn the album into a VR game, which is an idea I had from the beginning. Oculus Quest development is something that I do during the day time. So I’ve started with the development on that, and hopefully I’ll still be able to release that this year. It’s totally experimental, I have no idea where that will land because it’s unprecedented I guess. 

Slowly but surely I will turn my Icicle artist persona into my animation work. My company is called Icicle Media, so I’m keeping the name. I’m probably going to consider finishing DJing next year at some point. But I’ll be around for a bit. 

Will there be a tour to showcase the album?

Not as extensively as I always did. Once upon a time we’d make a graphic of the next 30 shows, and it would look really cool on Instagram – but I can’t really be bothered with that anymore.

I’ve also been thinking recently, with this whole compulsory touring and touring, and doing all these dates – I don’t know if it makes sense anymore. We’re just burning off Cº2 to satisfy DJ’s egos, when there’s loads of good local DJs. But that said, I’m still playing shows, and there’ll be several across Europe I think. 

Well, to round things off, with the sun-setting on your musical career, are there any big lessons you’ve learned?

I really learned discipline and perseverance, to follow through on stuff. I was a lot more flakey early on in my career and I wouldn’t push through like I do now. But I don’t know – maybe that was appropriate and needed for the time and my age. 

But I think this is really helping with where I am now. In comparison to touring, DJing, producing to deadlines – the pressure of other creative industries feels… medium!

Overall, I had a great time. When I look back, I lived in London for 10 years when D&B was going well, around 2007-2008. We had a little clique with Perez, Rockwell, Tasha and a bunch of other people. The times at Shogun were amazing. I wouldn’t do anything differently.

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