A Sit Down With DJ Sub Focus

An artist who needs little introduction: Sub Focus has evolved through the Drum and Bass scene from humble beginnings to worldwide acclaim. Standing as a figurehead of British dance music, his material has kept a consistently growing caliber, stemming from the roots of the underground, with his first release on Andy C’s side label ‘Frequency’, to the highs of stardom with his latest album ‘Torus’. Standing as one of the artists who successfully bridges the gap between the Drum and Bass underground and the mainstream, his production quality transcends the niche dancehalls to a wide audience, appreciative of the tuneful flow of his songs, whilst still maintaining his dance floor ethos.

 

“Music as becoming much more eclectic at the moment in terms of peoples tastes, I think there aren’t so many staunch purists of each genre.”

 

How did you first get into music production? At what point do you feel that you had harnessed your niche?

I got into when I was about 13, not being a skilled player at the time I liked the way you could compose whole tracks on a computer without having to play anything. When I left school, it was all I did in my spare time and my friends started to encourage me to try and send demos out and try to actually do it as a job. 

So do you prefer you live sets to DJ sets now?

It is hard to say. Sometimes it is nice to play other peoples music in DJ sets, because in my live shows I just play all of my own stuff. Some of the stuff that I can do in the live sets is so much more than what I can do I the DJ set. In the live set I can take songs apart, change the beat or re-sequence a whole new section. The possibilities are quite exciting when I am doing that, but I really enjoy DJing as well and I try to balance the two. I’ve particularly been enjoying the shows that I have been doing with my residency at Amnesia in Ibiza.

What’s the best festival you have been to?

Glastonbury in 2006 has some of the best memories for me I think. I saw Chemical Brothers play live there for the first time who have been a huge influence on my production and live shows over the years. Since then it’s been one of my favourite festivals to play. Last year Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis came to watch my set at this crazy afterhours stage at 2.30 in the morning, we gave him a shout out and the crowd all saluted him, was a really cool moment.

You’ve played all over the world, are the crowds in America or in other countries different to the UK?

Definitely. America’s really good at the moment; dance music’s kind of exploded over there. I did a massive festival over there this summer called EDC in Las Vegas; it’s one of the big dance music festivals there. And the reaction I got was really cool. It’s more like – different crowds react to different things. The type of tracks I might play over there is different to the stuff I might play here. I subtly change my set for wherever I play, depending on the crowd. In England, the deeper, house stuff is popular and I might slip that into a set, some of the more underground drum and bass stuff, I might play over here. Then in America, it’s more dubstep and things like that. It’s nice that I’ve got to a time where I’m making these different styles, so I can dip into these different genres throughout my set.

How important was and is the combination of DJ, sound system and lights?

The combination is hugely important. I really wanted to start having more control over the overall look of my shows which is why I started doing my live shows. Being strong visually or being in a unique place adds so much more to a show. I love festivals and events where lots of attention is paid to how they look or they are in an amazing outdoor location – Secret Garden Party in the Uk for example, Belvoir Amphitheatre in Perth, Red Rocks in Denver.

When you’re standing in front of a crowd of thousands of people do you still get nervous?

Not really, after playing out so many times any trace of nerves fade, but I remember my first few shows I played I was really nervous. I remember I had a ‘mare the first time I played (legendary D&B night) Movement at Bar Rhumba when I took the needle off deck that was playing by accident.

In terms of creativity in general for you, what inspires you as a person, what infuses your music?

It’s hard to say, I wouldn’t say I’m influenced by anyone person or genre, I basically listen to a lot of different stuff. I like to think that sort of trickles down into my music. The groups that I find really inspiring aren’t necessarily groups you might imagine I’d be inspired by. I like Daft Punk and Justice, groups where there’s whole world and design to the world surrounding the band. I love it when everything works together to create this world around a band. 

If you weren’t making music what do you think you’d be doing?

I did a lot of art and photography when I was younger so probably something in that area. I always get really involved in the design, art and concept side of my releases as well as the music.

 

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