As his collaboration with Danny Byrd hits the shops, we speak to Netsky about his journey to the top, work on his second album and non-stop touring.
To be honest, it’s kind of a miracle you are reading this interview at all. Boris Daenen, aka Netsky, is a very busy guy.
Fresh from winning the Drum & Bass Arena Best Newcomer Producer and Best Album awards back in December, and squeezing in a speedy round of European dates, we had a sneaking suspicion pinning him down for this interview wasn’t going to be an easy task. We weren’t wrong…
Small matters such as snow, (remember the snow?) Christmas, (remember Christmas?) and a New Year’s Eve booking in New Zealand mean that this interview eventually takes place across a pretty large time zone. Netsky’s in Australia, about to head out to play a gig in Perth, and Kmag is mainlining coffee, up very early on a rainy morning in London. Not that we’re jealous or anything, okay?
“I’m going back tomorrow”, Netsky says. “I’ve got used to the laid back Aussie vibe – I wish I could stay in Australia! It’s been such a good tour; I’ve played Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. New Year’s Eve in New Zealand was one of the best gigs I’ve ever done. I played at a festival called Rhythm and Vines – the festival site was completely packed, and the landscape just looks amazing over there.”
Netsky grew up, and still lives in, Edegem in Belgium. (The name Netsky, by the way, is the name of a computer virus, and was borrowed by Boris early on to become his DJ pseudonym.) He has been a music lover from an early age; at 12, he started messing around with production software, experimenting with synths and samples.
“I’ve always been interested in electronic music,” Netsky explains. “I think I got my first music production software when I was 12. I was just messing around really, playing with samples and loops, but it’s a really good way to learn it! I started out making house and electro influenced music. The drum & bass came later.”
Fast forward a few years and Netsky started getting a lot of attention. The transition from humble bedroom beat maker to in-demand new producer was a swift one, helped in no small measure by the explosion of social media sites at that time. Geography alone was no longer a stumbling block for any would-be artists, the internet had changed everything:
“A big help for me to get noticed by music lovers and labels was the internet. When I got into producing, MySpace and YouTube were getting really popular and people started looking for new music using the internet. I think I started making music just in the right time! It’s so easy to get your music out there and get recognised, you don’t need any big contacts in London anymore to get in touch with labels.”
Netsky’s music was quickly picked up and embraced by some of the scene’s biggest players. His music was becoming well known and he started playing out at clubs. Before then, his interest lay purely in making music – the DJing came later, a product of massive demand for him and his tunes.
Releases through 2009 on Allsorts, Liq-Weed Ganja, Spearhead and Talkin Beatz became staples in many a DJs set, and when the legendary DJ Hype championed some of Netsky’s tunes his reputation was well and truly cemented.
“DJ Hype was the first radio DJ to support my tracks”, says Netsky. “I still don’t know how that happened but I was really happy with it, haha!”
2009 was a busy year for Netsky, with him putting in studio time working on remixes for some of dnb’s biggest names: Witchcraft for Pendulum, Only Man for Audio Bullies, and Glory Days (Never Again) for Mutated Forms, to name just a few, all got their fair share of turn table time, and mainstream radio started picking up on Netsky and his music.
Things were really picking up pace, and at the end of 2009, Netsky got contacted by Chris Goss, boss of the legendary Hospital Records. The label had been charting his rise for a while, and felt, with a little polishing, Netsky could bring his brand of synth-y, soaring, drum & bass to the Hospital masses.
Speaking about signing to Hospital, Netsky explains: “I signed to Hospital records at the end of December 2009 – they’d been listening to my stuff a while before they signed me, they always said they liked what I did but they wanted me to get a stronger hook and a stronger signature in my sound. I was really happy they told me that because it made me experiment with other sub-genres a bit more.”
After signing with Hospital, Netsky upped his game even more and the releases came thick and fast, including his debut album in May 2010. Netsky worked with some of DnB’s biggest names on the self-titled release, including a collaboration with DnB vocal queen Jenna G on the soulfully euphoric tune Moving With You, as well as being gifted with guest vocals from Darrison on Escape. The work rate doesn’t stop – Netsky’s second album is already under construction.
“I’m excited to work on the album,” says Netsky, “I’ve been listening to loads of different types of music recently. For some weird reason I’m getting influenced by classical music a lot lately – don’t worry I’m still gonna make drum & bass! It’s not gonna be softer or anything, but I’m just really into strings and keys lately.
“I had been hearing a lot of 70s soul music before I got into making music,” continues Netsky, “because my dad is a big Motown fan. I think that influenced me a lot. I learned much more from 70s music then I did from other drum & bass. I’m just into any music that has got soul and musicality in it really, from reggae to post-rock. I’m listening to Before I Move Off, by Mount Kimbie right now.
“I’m gonna take some time off just before the summer to work on my second album a bit more – I find it hard to work when I’m on the road and I’ve got a lot of DJ gigs and tours planned for the next few months. I definitely need some time off if I want my album to be finished this year!”
Time off (a rare and precious thing for Netsky these past few years) is generally spent in Belgium, with the family and friends he misses when he’s on the road.
“I can’t say there’s anything bad about my job, I can’t complain as it’s my dream job, but the one thing that’s a little bit negative is that I got much less time for my friends now,” Netsky states. “It’s always good to be home for a bit but I feel I don’t get much chance to hang out with them because I’m always away in the weekend. I love it though, so it’s all good!”
A move to the UK isn’t on the cards right now either, despite huge numbers of UK bookings, and a massive UK fan-base, helped in part, by massive support from BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra; Netsky was nominated for the Radio 1Xtra Essential Mix of the year at the end of last year, eventually losing out to Swedish House Mafia: “I love England but I couldn’t leave my family and friends behind! I’ve got an airport really close so it takes about 50 minutes to get from Antwerp to London City – so easy to get there!”
2011 is looking strong for Netsky already, with the last few dates of his Australian tour being played out, before heading back to the UK for a run of gigs. (“The travel side of my job is what I love the most about it – It’s so good to meet so many cool people and see sick places!”) Netsky’s playing shows in Nottingham and Sheffield at the end of February, and will also be making appearances at upcoming Hospitality events in Leeds and Cardiff, which look set to be monster nights.
“For 2011 – I just can’t wait to tour some more. I’m doing USA and Canada in March and I’m really looking forward to that – I’ve heard the scene over there is interesting! Canada should be great, and we’re doing a Hospitality night in Miami – I can’t wait!”
In a few short years, Netsky’s gone from making beats in his bedroom in Belgium, to being an international DJ with his tunes getting airplay from some of the DJs who first inspired him. If you think that’s impressive, hold tight: this is only just the beginning.