Once best-known for its pioneering part in new beat and techno, Netsky — aka Antwerp's Boris Daenen — has been flying the flag for the Belgium scene since bursting out of his home country in 2009 with his eponymous drum & bass debut album for Hospital Records. Following this up in 2012 with the domestic chart-topping '2', June saw the release on his new album called, you guessed it, '3'...
With the minimalist title belying a maximal flurry of bass built on collaborations with an array of guests including Emeli Sandé and Chromeo, it also features UK vocalist Digital Farm Animals on previous singles 'Work it Out' and 'Rio', the latter of which is Netsky's ode to the city hosting this year's Olympic Games, which he'll be attending as an official ambassador of the Belgium team.
It's just a small part of his jam-packed summer, with a live show rolling out for the summer festival season at Reading & Leeds and SW4, amongst others. Ahead of this busy period, we caught up with Boris and chatted table tennis, Rick and Morty, '3' and possibly '4'...
You obviously spend a lot of time making your albums. Why no grand titles after such effort?
“I like the idea of albums not having a story that you need to commit to. There is a bit of a story if you listen through each album, it's one listening experience, not a compilation of songs, but I've always liked very minimalist album titles. I know Led Zeppelin did it back in the day. I might remember it from there.”
On the subject of names, who came up with Netsky and Chill, which was the title of your recent tour of America?
“I keep taking credit for it, but I must have seen it in a fan's post at some point. I thought it was a really cool tour name and quite relevant. For the DJ tour in America, I really wanted to play drum & bass and dancefloor-heavy songs, but also combine that with something more soulful and funky — even some R&B. So it really was 'Netsky and Chill', in a way. All the sets were two-hours long, so we wanted to build it up a little bit and give people a different experience of what they were used to from me.”
Netflix isn't chilled when you have to spend ages trying to find something decent to watch. Do you have any recommendations?
“They just added one of my favourite TV shows ever, Rick and Morty. Season Three looks exciting. You've got to check out their Twitter account, I can't wait for it to get released. In America they've also got It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, which is probably my second favourite.”
You've said that Emeli Sandé is your favourite singer of the last few years. How did you get her on the album?
“Ever since I heard 'Heaven', I've wanted to work with her. Her voice goes so well over electronic music. I got very lucky there. Emili is tour managed by her best friend, and her best friend's nephew really likes me and has been coming to my gigs since he was 18. Emeli wrote this really simple chorus that she was looking for a producer for. I think they were all having dinner and this nephew started talking about me, so they got in contact. All of a sudden I got this topline from Emeli Sandé and I loved it from the first time that I heard it. So I went to London and we recorded the whole thing together. We also did a show together last summer at Wireless."
What does your live show entail? Did you give Jungle Drummer a call?
“Haha, it's not like that. He's a drummer I really look up to, but Michael Schack, who is our drummer, is very used to playing electronic drums. We play everything live, but the set-up is basically Michael on the left, Babl, who is the second keyboard player, on the right, and I'm in the middle. Babl is a classically trained jazz musician, so he does all the chords. We play a lot of Rhodes if you come to see us, so there are a lot of jazzy interludes and more soulful stuff happening. I just do the leads of songs and some vocals most of the time. Then we have a couple of guest vocalists and an MC, called Script MC.”
How did you end up as the official ambassador for the Belgium Olympic team? Are they secret junglists?
“I had to do a couple of press conferences and I was thinking about the connection myself. Drum & bass has always been really good music for people to work out to. It has that energetic feel behind it. All the Belgium team, they like my music, or at least they pretend to. Obviously, I'm from Belgium and it's a big deal for me to be representing my country in that way. We have a couple of gigs coming up in Belgium to celebrate the team going to Brazil, then I'm going to Brazil on the big Olympic plane, which is going to be sick.”
If you had to represent your country at the Olympics, what would it be doing?
“I've always played table tennis, but we don't even have any Belgium table tennis players anymore.”
So you could fill the gap, then, maybe? You're going to be over there already...
“I didn't say I was good! We did have one player called Jean-Michel Saive [formerly ranked No.1 in the world], but he's stopped playing now. It's a small country but we've got some good athletes.”
You've written a track about Rio, where the Olympics are being held. Do you think playing at SW4 will inspire you to write a song about Clapham?
“Haha. It's funny that you ask because I'm working on my next album that comes out after this – I don't know if it'll be called '4', it might be a mini-album between albums. But the idea of the album is for each song to focus on a city or a country. So, who knows? If Clapham inspires me, there might be a song on the album called Clapham...”
* Netsky plays SW4 festival in London on Saturday 27th August.