26-year old Belgian DJ Boris Daenen, best known as Netsky, is at the forefront of Europe’s drum ‘n’ bass movement. A few weeks before his forthcoming UK tour, BN1’s Gary Marlowe caught up with him to find out what’s been happening with his much anticipated third album, who he’s collaborating with on it and what we can expect when Netsky Live headline Concorde 2 on December 8th.
Back in July, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Michael Schack when he gave a Roland drum masterclass at GAK in Brighton. He’s such an impressive drummer, you must be really pleased to have him in your band?
Boris: Absolutely! Two and a half years ago when I was just starting experimenting with live stuff, Michael was the first musician I worked with. We started the band with just the two of us. Back then, it was more of a DJ set with a drummer playing on top of it. Now of course, that’s grown to everything being played live.
What makes Michael such a great drummer for you?
Boris: There are so many reasons. The thing I like most was that he played electronic drums and and he really knows how to play. That makes it so much easier. Drum ’n’ bass requires such a different style of drumming and he’s been playing V drums for a long time, so he knows how to hit triggers and playing using clicks which is important with Netsky Live. But apart from those technical things, he’s really good at playing faster tempos.
It was interesting how the two of you met, because you actually lived very close to each another, but you connected through Facebook…
Boris: That’s right. Michael posted a video of him playing a jungle beat on electronic drums and I just commented on it and from there we started chatting.
Belgium’s a small country, but it turned out you were just around the corner from each other.
Boris. Yes, he lived really close to my place, literally just a few kilometers away.
Brighton is the first date of your UK tour and I believe you’ve got quite a soft spot for the place?
Boris: I do actually. I used to date a girl from Brighton. It must be four or five years ago now. So I’ve spent some time there. I like it much more than I do London. I grew up in Edegem, a small town just outside of Antwerp and whilst Antwerp’s a city, it’s not massive like London. Brighton is similar, it’s close to where the action is, but it can still be quiet and close to the countryside. Yet it’s really vibrant and has great places to shop and to eat. I also love the pier and the beach.
You’ve played Brighton quite a few times, I last saw you when you supported Chase & Status at Brighton Centre.
Boris: I remember it well! It was a really fun night. I liked playing there and I liked playing Concorde 2 as well. It’s a venue with a really nice feel to it. A good vibe. And, it’s right by the sea, too!
You’re a little unusual in that you’re a DJ, but you also have a live band. I’ve seen a lot of DJ’s who just come onstage and push buttons and most of the time they’re just looking down at their decks. But you’re somewhat different…
Boris: Kind of. I mean putting on a great live performance was the idea behind Netsky Live, but to be honest when I started the live band I thought DJing would’ve died out by now. I would never have thought that DJ’s could play big gigs just being onstage on their own…but they still are! I’m not trying to bash DJ’s and there’s some subtle differences between them. Some of them are incredibly technical and never play the same set twice, then there are those mainstage DJ’s who just have to play the same set everytime because that’s what the promoters book them for. It’s turned some DJ’s into a big business, which is a shame. I prefer experimenting and trying something new. And that’s what I do in my DJ sets.
So you have the best of both worlds…the DJ set and the live performance…
Boris: That’s right.
So far, you’ve released two albums, you’ve been working on the new one for a while now, is it finished?
Boris: It will be by the time I come to Brighton! You know, I started working on it straight after that second album, but I don’t think there are any songs from back then that have survived. All the music on it is very new.
Where did you record the album?
Boris: Mostly in Antwerp. Straight after ‘2’ I moved to the Zuid in Antwerp and started building a studio in my apartment. So now when I’m recording it doesn’t feel like a nine to five job any more. It’s really relaxed. Most of the time I’m making music in my underpants!
When is the album scheduled for release?
Boris: First there’s going to be the next single which should be out in the next week or so. That will be released in January. Then there’ll be one more single and then the album follows around May/June time.
Do you have a title for the record yet? You’re not going to call it ‘3’ are you?
Boris: It’s a daily debate between me and my management. I’m kind of on the verge of calling it ‘3’ actually, yeah! Following in the footsteps of Led Zeppelin! So, maybe 3, but I haven’t quite decided.
Well, so far we’ve only heard ‘Rio’ which has a much more tropical rhythm than anything else you’ve done. How representative is that of the rest of the record?
Boris: ‘Rio’ has a samba-ish feel to it, but the album is full of different sounds. Every song is kind of an ode to a different genre and so sounds completely different from each other.
One of them is a collaboration with a funk band from New York. But up until now, you haven’t revealed who they are…
Boris: That’s right. It’s a song I’m so proud of and I just want to throw it out there and surprise people as much as I can. It won’t be the second single or the third one either.
Another collaboration that we can talk about in more detail is from Emeli Sande, someone you’ve described as being one of your favourite singers. You premiered that song – ‘Thunder’ – at Wireless this summer with Emeli singing on stage with you. How did that collaboration come about?
Boris: It’s funny, so many people think it’s just like now you can afford to work with bigger artists, but it wasn’t like that at all. In fact, it was very organic. It was basically her manager’s nephew that really liked my music and she talked to him about it. We actually worked on it in London.
So she didn’t see you in your underpants…
Boris: No! I was fully dressed!
On a sadder note, just a few weeks ago another of your collaborators passed away. For those who perhaps didn’t know her, tell us a little about Diane Charlemagne…
Boris: Diane’s passing was a big shock to the whole band. It’s hit us really hard. She’d been touring with us for just over a year. We went to America, Australia and New Zealand together. She was a one of a kind. I’ve never worked with anybody quite like her before. She was a fabulous singer and a lovely person.
She was from Manchester…
Boris: Yes, she was. She died from cancer and we actually saw the first signs on tour, but we never knew it was that serious. She kept coughing a lot and then she become very sick after we stopped working. It’s very sad, but I want people to remember her as a very happy person. She made a really positive impact on my life. Whenever anybody was down, she was the first to cheer them up.
Is there one particular Netsky song that she featured on that is the best example of her singing prowess?
Boris: We only actually recorded one song together. Sadly, it’s called ‘I Will Die For You’. She was so amazing singing it live. We’ve played a couple of mainstage shows in Belgium with Diane to audiences of 60,000 and she just killed it.
That’s such a powerful song, so its lyrics are even more poignant now?
Boris: Yes, indeed.
Looking ahead, what can we expect from the Brighton show? Will you be debuting some new songs? And what changes have you made to the live show?
Boris: We’ve been working on the set for a long time now and there’s a lot of really cool new musical elements. I think we’ll be playing four or five new songs including the new single. I’ve kept the same line-up, so we’ll still have Script MC and Billie with us, but I hope the new show will surprise people. It’s going to be a lot different from the last tour we did.
Words: Gary Marlowe
Portrait of Boris provided by Chuff Media, remixed by Images Out Of The Ordinary
Follow Netsky at @netskymusic
Netsky Live plays Brighton’s Concorde 2 on Tuesday 8 December 2015