‘There’s a lot of possibilities to be explored with electronic music’: An interview with Freshers Ball headliner Sub Focus

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I caught up with Nick Douwma, better known as Sub Focus, to chat about playing at this year’s Freshers Ball and his upcoming tour.

The video for this single is beautifully shot. Did you have much influence upon the story behind the video?

Nick: Yeah I get pretty involved with all the artwork and all the context with the album. With videos it starts with the director making suggestions. The guy who directed this video is a guy called Bob Harlow who did the video for Rudimental – ‘Feel the Love’. I really liked that video and he came to me with this idea to do a video in Tokyo. It really appealed to me, it’s a really cool place. A lot of it Bob has to take credit for. 

Your album features a number of collaborations, with people like Alex Clare and Foxes. Is this something you enjoy doing?

Yeah, I prefer to write songs with other people rather than on my own. I do all my production on my own. When it comes to writing lyrics and writing vocals I tend to prefer working with other people so that was the reason for all the collaborations. Its nice to work with so many talented people, from Alex through to people like MNEK who I did a house track with on the album who’s amazing. Then there’s people like Foxes who are really blowing up at the moment. Alpines as well who I did ‘Tidal Wave’ with. I’ve had a good time working with a lot of people on the record. 

You produce as well as DJ, is there one out of the two that you prefer doing?

I’ve done some production for other people. The biggest thing I did was when I worked with Example. Its not really a Sub Focus track but it was just something I wanted to do to dip my toe into [production]. I think I enjoy writing my own stuff more just because it’s kind of weird when you’re writing for other people because the most important thing is that they’re happy with the track. It’s nice when I’m driving the whole process and making the final decisions. 

So to mark the release of your new album Torus you’re going on tour. What are you most looking forward to whilst touring?

I’m looking forward to showing people the live show. For those that haven’t seen it, it’s a big lights show based around my disc logo. We’re doing some quite innovative things with it really. The lighting is audio reactive so during the show some of the things that I’m playing will actually create patterns of light on the discs. That’s something that’s really new and not a lot of people are doing it. I also use a lot of custom based instruments and motion sensors so I can move my hands around in the air to make sounds. I’m excited to play London Roundhouse. Its nice to play in my home city. 

As a DJ do you find it a challenge to interact with your fans whilst performing?

I want to make the distinction between my tour and when I DJ. When people see me on tour they are seeing my live show, which is different. Rather than just playing my tracks and other people’s tracks, which is what I do when I DJ, I’m playing just my own music and I’m taking it apart and remixing it on the side. With the live show I try to make it as visual as possible, which is why we’ve tried to make it audio reactive. I was very much trying to think about what the comparison is between electronic music and guitar bands. Guitar bands are really good because they face the crowd. I think there’s a lot of different types of music you can use with an electronic performance. There’s a lot of possibilities to be explored within electronic music, so it’s quite an exciting area to be in. 

So you’re headlining at this year’s Freshers Ball. We’re all very excited. What can we expect from your set?

Nick: Well I’m DJing there so it’s not going to be like my full live set. I’m looking forward to it, it’s gonna be good. I’ll be testing a lot of songs from the album. Playing a bunch of other people’s music too. Just lots of new music!

Do you have any advice for our new freshers on how to survive freshers week?

Nick: I don’t know to be honest with you. Pace yourselves. I can’t really remember being a student, it was quite a long time ago now. Enjoy it, it’s an amazing time – I loved being a student.

Sub Focus’s album ‘Torus’ is out on Monday 30th September

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Hi I'm Grace I risk sounding disgustingly cliched but I cannot remember a time when music wasn't part of my life. I love going to gigs and have been known to dabble in a bit of gigging and song writing myself.

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