Ten years ago, a rising drum & bass star called Netsky released his self-titled album debut on Hospital Records, and fans weren't been able to get enough since. The release of his sophomore effort, 2, propelled Netsky even further into the spotlight, but when the next album in the number sequence was released (and not on Hospital Records), a schism formed between drum & bass purists and fans of Netsky's more experimental, pop-infused offerings.
In April of this year, however, naysayers were silenced as Netsky released a new drum & bass single via Hospital, "I See The Future In Your Eyes." That single was followed by "Mixed Emotions "(feat. Montell2099)," and those two tracks were just the beginning of the talented producer's return to drum & bass' biggest imprint. Now, the release of Netsky's forthcoming album Second Nature is imminent.
Taking a well-deserved vacation in Turkey, Netsky spoke with EDM.com about his new album, his return to Hospital, and more.
EDM.com: How does it feel to return to Hospital Records?
Netsky: It was a conscious decision to go back to what I would call the roots for me. Hospital Records is a label I signed with ten years ago, so we have a lot of history. I was working on a lot of other genres of music, and some pop stuff over the last few years, and I felt like it was a good time to feel what it would be like to make drum & bass again.
I went to a couple of shows last year that really made me fall in love with the genre again. One of them was Amsterdam Dance Event, and I met up with some people that run Hospital. We started chatting, and quite quickly, we came to the decision that it would be a really fun idea to kind of do a throwback album, a collaborative project again, and here we are in the midst of coronavirus.
It's actually quite good timing; I'm glad I didn't make an album that's just for festivals. This is really an album that you can just listen to as well.
E: It is definitely good timing for albums right now as opposed to one-offs and singles. Are you planning on having some artists remix the tracks off of Second Nature? Will there be a tour, if regulations allow?
N: Yes, for sure. It's gonna be something that hopefully kind of drags me to a point where, especially in Europe, we'll be able to do some smaller shows again. Even in America, the promoters seem to be quite positive about next summer, and I'm crossing my fingers. But, whatever happens with it, I'm glad this music is coming out, and if there's not many shows we can do, we'll be focusing on other stuff like cool music videos.
E: There are lots of collaborators on the new album both in the world of drum & bass and beyond, like Sub Focus, Darren Styles, and Hybrid Minds. What was it like to work with them?
N: I've always liked working with people outside of drum & bass and trying to make collaborations that people weren't expecting. But with this album, apart from Darren Styles, it's all drum & bass.
It all went very smoothly, compared some other collaborations I did over the last couple of years. I'm really glad because Urbandawn, Sub Focus, Becky Hill, and Hybrid Minds for example, those are all friends that I've known for the last ten years. They all love drum & bass, so it was all very smooth.
It's easier to work with Becky Hill and Urbandawn than it is with Bazzi or Lil Wayne. Not to say those artists are difficult to work with, it's just that it all goes so smoothly with drum & bass artists as they're used to the tempo and sound.
E: There are a lot of callbacks and influences from your earlier albums on Second Nature. There's lots of soulful liquid drum & bass, but much of your new style is present too. Is that mixture the next evolution of your sound?
N: Yeah, 100%. The artwork is me and my dad standing on a mountain somewhere in southern France when I was seven or eight. My dad was always one of the biggest reasons I love music, because he had such a massive record collection that I was almost forced to listen to all of his soul records.
That was kind of me rebelling quite a lot as a kid, because you're not supposed to like the music your parents like. But one of the things I liked to do was take those records and try to remix them and sample them, and make them into something I did find cool as a kid, and that happened to be drum & bass.
With this album, I really wanted to grasp that feeling again. It's definitely not all over the record. Maybe 40 or 50% is really soulful and has winks to soul music, but the other half is very dance floor, with Sub Focus and Darren Styles and all. But I tried to combine everything I love in one album, rather than just making a liquid album, or a dance floor album.
E: I'm glad you brought up the album artwork, because I was wondering if that was you on there.
N: Yep, me, my dad, and my dog!
E: So, why did you veer away from the number sequence within your album titles? Was it time for something different?
N: Oh man, I was waiting for that question! You're the first to ask. I think a lot of people are gonna ask that. It's funny, always loved the idea of just continuing with it for the rest of my career as Netsky. But I think I've just gone through a lot of changes musically, and it just really made sense, like you said, to kind of demonstrate the nostalgia and really have a title that works with it.
This is definitely a kind of nostalgic moment for me musically, and I wanted to make that clear with the title.
E: A lot of people were a little unclear about the direction you were taking in working with more mainstream artists, especially the drum & bass purist types. They're eating their words right now after your new single came out. Is this album a response to the haters, or is this just what you wanted to do? Do you listen to what those people are saying?
N: I obviously recognized it, but I saw the reactions we got when I announced I was going to do a drum & bass album with Hospital. I was incredibly happy with all the reactions. It was really nice to just, like, swim in positivity again, rather than getting all of this, I mean I've never looked at it as hate. Like you said, it's a very purist genre, it's a very authentic and passionate community where a lot of people live and breathe drum & bass.
I was that kid as well when I was younger for sure. I couldn't even like Pendulum because they didn't make drum & bass in my eyes. It was like all of my friends liked Pendulum, so I didn't like it, it wasn't part of my identity (I think). Drum & bass, especially for younger kids, it's a real big part of people's identity. It's almost like a "fuck the system" kind of movement in a way, and I've always loved that about drum & bass.
It's because that genre exists with such a powerful following that I started touring, so I've got the most respect for it, but then again, I've always just released what I wanted to release. At so many points people were asking me, "Why don't you start an alter ego and do something with pop or house music under a different name?" - I just never felt that was right.
I've always felt like my artist name is my alter-ego already; that's what I use to make music and whatever I feel like putting out, it's something I want to do under that name. For me, [changing aliases] would almost be a form of selling out, or working towards a market, which I've always wanted to avoid. I think it should be about expressing and showing the truth of what you want to do as an artist or producer.
E: I highly respect that. Even your tracks that dabble in pop still have the Netsky sound, so it's cool that you decided not to veer away from the Netsky alias, and everyone is super excited to hear a full on drum & bass album from you again.
N: Wicked. I appreciate it!
E: Have you been hearing about the #USDnB movement? What are your thoughts on it? Will Americans "ruin" drum & bass?
N: [Laughs] This is a year where it's so hard to grasp because normally you'd tour America and you'd feel it at the festivals, and see "wow, actually drum & bass is moving!" But now I just have to hear it from you [laughs].
But yeah, there's so much cool stuff happening, especially in LA now as well. So many producers are really creating drum & bass that isn't drum & bass, it is 174bpm but people just disregard all the rules, and I fucking love that because there's not that many producers in Europe or the U.K. that feel like doing that anymore.
You jokingly mentioned America "ruining" drum & bass, and I remember very well when people were saying Skrillex was ruining dubstep. In my mind, it's the complete opposite. It's taking a genre, ripping it apart, and using elements and so much inspiration from other genres as well, and that's what America historically has done with EDM. It's very exciting.
I'm thinking about Reaper as well, as somebody that really pushes boundaries that nobody in the U.K. would dare to, which is really cool.
E: I'm glad you mentioned Reaper, because he's now appearing on massive lineups with big EDM acts like Kayzo. Stateside acts are starting to get some recognition globally.
N: So which other American producers have been on your radar?
E: Winslow. Boxplot. Flite. Though Flite actually recently changed his name after a small dispute with DJ Flight in the UK Did you hear about that?
N: I had no idea what was happening with Flite, and I've always loved his tracks! There's a couple of tracks I actually played in my live show. So what's his new artist name?
E: Justin Hawkes.
N: It's actually a really good artist name, Justin Hawkes. I like it. I got some shit for using "Netsky" in the beginning as well, because there's a drum & bass producer called Skynet.
Charlotte De Witte used to call herself Raving George, and changing her name was such a massive part of her career, because all of a sudden it all became a lot more real, and she didn't have to hide behind a male artist name anymore.
I know that's a completely different story, but I like it sometimes when artists change their names and there's a real reason to it. Hopefully it gives [Justin Hawkes] a lot of inspiration to develop his sound.
E: Speaking of developing sound, what do you see in the next five years for drum & bass as a whole? Will it move into more experimental territory, or do you think it will always have that need to remain at its roots?
N: We're in interesting times right now. I think a lot of the future of the sound of dance music will depend on gigs. With livestreams right now, a lot more people are playing more experimental music. If it keeps going that way for more than a year, I think we'll see some really interesting boundary pushing in drum & bass. Maybe some new genres will pop up. It's all very exciting!
Netsky's Second Nature will be released on October 30 via Hospital Records. Pre-save or preorder the album here.