Although only 23 years of age, Belgian producer Maze approaches music with a creative maturity and philosophical mindset that belies the short time that he has so far spent in the industry.
Appearing on imprints such as Low Down Deep, Subway Soundz, BYTHEPRODUCER, and plenty more, Maze has made a name for himself in recent years through a plethora of high-energy and erratically grotty tracks that have been crafted with the dancefloor at the forefront of his mind.
However, 2022 sees the Belgium-based artist turn the page and begin a new chapter in his musical journey. Now on a mission to tell stories through sonic landscapes, Maze is aiming to transcend sounds, boundaries, and genres, with the ultimate goal of one day pioneering an entirely new branch of electronic music that he can call his own.
Ambitious, yet extremely grounded, Maze began this new journey on February 25, 2022. Landing on Radar Records, his This Love EP paves the way for the unpredictably experimental and personal sound that we’ll be seeing much more of in the coming years.
Chatting to UKF for the first time, we caught up with Maze to discuss his drum and bass roots in Belgium’s burgeoning rave scene, the intricacies of his latest release on Radar, and his aspirations in the music scene.
Let’s start by talking about your drum and bass roots. Am I right in thinking that you got into D&B after attending Rampage?
I did go to Rampage as a kid, but I was going to different raves alongside that as well. I was a young raver at 15. Here in Belgium, we have a really vibrant rave scene but up until more recently like 2016, there weren’t many Belgian drum and bass acts so pretty much everybody that was booked here was coming over from the UK. Artists like Guv, Dominator, and Hedex.
From an outside POV, the scene in Belgium seems to revolve around that really grotty, high-energy style.
Yeah, now it is. Belgian D&B is almost its own branch of the genre now (as much as I don’t like the word subgenres). Back in 2015/2016, it was the wompy jump-up sound that was huge here. I absolutely idolized that sound and I’m so grateful that I was able to go raving back then because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to be cultured like that.
You said that back then, almost all the artists playing shows were flown over. Now, there’s been a huge number of producers that have emerged from Belgium and it has a scene that can be sustained by its own producers. It sounds like the 15/16 days inspired a generation of young Belgian producers.
I think so. For me it did. It gave me loads of motivation to start making my own music. Dominator was my biggest influence. It’s the simplicity of his music that did it for me. If you can make such beautiful music whilst still so simple, it’s like poetry to me. It was amazing to build off of those stepping stones.
A lot of up-and-coming producers say the same. What happened is tragic. As D&B has changed and evolved, I think about the sort of music that he’d be putting out now as well.
Exactly. The thought of ‘what would Dominator be putting out’ goes through my head every couple of days. I still think his music would be amazing now, that’s for sure.
No doubt. As of last August, you went from a 15-year-old raver at Rampage to a DJ at one of their events. How did it feel to almost go full circle?
It was one of the first gigs after that first wave of COVID, so I had this set full of new music that I was hearing live for the first time. I closed the second stage and it was genuinely one of the best experiences of my life. Pure happiness and tears haha.
You can sit in the studio for months at a time, but the whole point of drum and bass is get people dancing and having a great time. In a way, I can imagine it made all those months in the studio during lockdown feel worth it.
Definitely. For me, COVID was a blessing and a curse. A curse because my life was shut down, but a blessing because it changed the way I made music forever.
What was the change?
I just locked myself up in the studio making songs. I put all my money into knowledge and software because I wanted to start making music that no one had ever heard before, really trying to implement my own form of storytelling within my music.
Did you feel like the music you’d released previously didn’t have that effect?
When you’re starting out as an artist, you have to learn a lot. I look back at my early releases and I’m grateful for the learning curve they gave me, but that’s about it.
That’s just a normal part of the artistic journey. Almost every artist says that about their early work. To fast forward to today, you’re going even more full circle and releasing music on Rampage’s sister label, Radar Records!
Yeah, it’s actually crazy. I am so grateful for this new chapter. When I make songs, I try to send them to people who even in my wildest dreams won’t sign them. Even back when I first started out and I couldn’t get backstage, I’d hop fences and ask artists for their email addresses.
So you were hopping into backstages to push your name. I love that.
Haha yeah, this was very early stages. I’d ask for emails and then get out as quick as I could. I won a lot of DJ comps back in the day, so even though no one really knew who you were, it was really good for networking.
Back to this Radar release, I know that for you, it’s a new slate in your catalogue of music that’s much more introspective and poetic than it has been. Why now?
It’s me trying to tell stories, which was something I was looking to do for a long time, but it ended up originating from me turning this COVID thing into something positive and taking the artistry seriously. I want to sound like no one else and be my own artist. Sometimes songs just happen and this EP is a collection of the best ones that have happened over COVID. I feel like the EP tells a story.
I know This Love has a particularly special meaning to you. What’s the story behind it?
It’s a representation of how the prospect of leaving lockdown and being allowed to play shows again felt. It shows the relief, but it also encapsulates the pain that lockdown caused as well. It’s me translating my feelings into a song and it really did just come to me so spontaneously. Plus it was also a very summery which was convenient.
When listening to the project, the emotion in the song really resonated with me. I always associated your music with a dancefloor-orientated sound, but this comes across on a deeper level.
To be honest, it just happened. I found the meaning in it after I’d made it. I opened the piano roll, I made a cinematic brass stab, and then I had a melody.
I live by ‘What If.’ What if that could sound good? What if I layer a synth sound with a sex moan? You never know if something will work until you give it a go.
Did you derive meaning from the other two after they were finished as well?
With The Darkling, I was watching a Netflix series and heard that vocal sample in the show. I put the vocal in, and then all of a sudden you have an idea for a song.
The creativity in the sampling is one of the things that makes drum and bass so special. The sample in Octopodinae is a seriously sick one as well!
For that one, I was sample hunting and David Attenborough was trending at the time. That made me think about finding samples from some cool documentaries. I ended up watching a documentary about squids with this Scottish dude narrating how crazy squids are. He says, “If you want to find aliens, strange beings from another dimension”. I was like, ‘this is crazy’ and I didn’t think I’d get better than that. Then all of a sudden, he says, “they’re already amongst us. Under the sea!”. I couldn’t just call the song squid, so I ended up calling it the Latin name for squid.
On the subject of creativity, you’ve recently released your new 100% mix, ‘REINVENTED: THE SEQUEL’. The experimentation in this music is leaps and bounds ahead of the first mix with new genres and new sounds. Is this a taster of Maze’s music in the future?
I don’t want to see boundaries. I just want to do me. I want people to listen to my music and think it’s new and fresh. The ultimate goal for any producer is to create something that hasn’t been created before, like an entirely new genre.
So Maze could be the pioneer of a whole new genre! When this happens, what will you call it?
*Laughs* Either ginger sugar berry power bass or Copper Blonde bass haha.
Haha, that’s awesome. So aside from the releases we’ve chatted about, what’s next for Maze?
I just want to keep on telling stories. Storytelling is beautiful. It gives me a direct connection to the person that is listening to my music and maybe they need that in that moment of their life. This is what it’s all about. I’ll always make drum and bass, but I want to expand and make other sounds. I don’t see boundaries because music is not only a playground but poetry to me as well.
To sign off with something fun, tell me about something you love outside of drum and bass?
I love skateboarding, but to piece it together with music, skateboarding is the same as music in some ways. You either see or hear something and you push yourself to the limit to make sure you achieve what you want to, whether that’s landing a 360 flip or finishing a song. I think that’s beautiful, and for me, those feelings don’t compare with anything else in the world.
Maze – This Love is out now on Radar Records
Follow Maze: Soundcloud / Instagram / Facebook