It’s often necessary for dance music festivals to specify on their lineups which acts will actually be performing live, as opposed to just DJing. Fans of UK electronic producer Sub Focus (AKA Nick Douwma) will be pleased to observe the “live” tag next to his name on the poster for next year’s Future Music Festival. Speaking from his London studio, Douwma emphasises that his shows are certainly an active undertaking.
“The show’s me playing all of my own songs on a fully electronic setup. I guess the best way to describe it would be live remixing,” he says. “I’m taking elements of my tracks and doing different things with them on the sly.”
The brand new Sub Focus LP Torus features collaborations with a number of guest vocalists, including Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke on the chart hit ‘Turn It Around’. Douwma won’t be joined on tour by the record’s vocal contributors but he says the Sub Focus live show provides plenty to stimulate.
“I wanted to come up with a show that allows me to perform, and change, as much of the music as possible in a live setting. I use motion sensors, which are a bit like theremins – they allow me to move my hands around. We’ve also made the lighting in the show audio-reactive so at points during the show the lights are actually responding to stuff I’m doing, whether it be playing the keyboard or hitting the drum pad or using these motion sensors.”
Kele’s not the only impressive vocalist appearing on the album, with other guests including rising pop lass Foxes and lesser-known English performers MNEK and Jayelldee. Collaborating with vocalists on almost every song greatly distinguishes Torus from Sub Focus’ self-titled debut. Douwma explains his newfound relish for working with other musicians.
“I didn’t really want to do an album with tons of features on it, but I much prefer songwriting with other people so that’s how it ended up … The last album was basically just me in my bedroom writing tracks completely in isolation. [On this album] there’s a lot more collaboration in general, which is quite refreshing for me”.
The internet makes it easy for artists to work together without being in the same room, but Douwma opted to personally seek out the acts who feature on the album, engaging in an interactive exchange of ideas. Virtual technology still played a part in the process, however, as Douwma elaborates on how he worked with Kele.
“Kele is someone who I’d wanted to work with for ages; I’m a big fan of Bloc Party and I love his voice on electronic stuff. He was living in New York at the time so we were sending to files to and from each other, then we got together when he moved back to London, about six months ago, to finish the track.”
Joining forces with many artists from a variety of genres has evidently broadened Sub Focus’ stylistic reach. Douwma says he previously regarded composition as an introspective activity, but he’s come to embrace the unique results offered by creative conference.
“I think an album gains a lot of richness from having multiple different players and people on it. I was quite interested [hearing] about the whole process behind the Daft Punk album recently. They were pretty much playing the role of the old-fashioned producer, getting the best players together in a room and recording the results. I definitely enjoyed the process of getting lots of people to contribute in small ways.”
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY
Sub Focus plays Future Music Festival 2014 with Deadmau5, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Phoenix, Hardwell, Rudimental, Eric Prydz, Kaskade, Porter Robinson and more at Royal Randwick Racecourse on Saturday March 8. Torus out now through Universal/EMI.