Kill The Noise, Mat Zo & More Look Back on Noisia's 20-Year Legacy

Frederiek Bosch
Noisia

Tuesday morning (Sept. 17) was rough for Jake Stanczak. The influential bass producer, better known to fans as Kill The Noise, rolled over in bed, his brain still laggy with sleep, and tried to parse through a flood of text messages. It was hard information to process, and no amount of coffee could help digest the news.

“I never really felt this way before,” Stanczak says. “I was literally crying. It's bizarre to me. The only other time I got hit like that was when my childhood cat died.”

It was a “bizarre” reaction, because no one actually died, but Stanczak wasn't alone in mourning. The announcement that critically-acclaimed trio Noisia would break up in 2020 – after a revolutionary 20-year career – ripped a hole in the heart of the electronic music world far and wide.

Noisia formed in 2000 as drum'n'bass producers and immediately garnered the spins and respect of the genre's top DJs. Their unparalleled craftsmanship and radical attention to detail have earned them remixes for Moby, Pendulum, The Prodigy and more, as well as pop crossover remixes for Robbie Williams and Katy Perry. Their version of deadmau5's “Raise Your Weapon” and What So Not's “Divide & Conquer” are iconic in their own right.

The group released two solo albums, 2010's Split the Atom and 2016's Outer Edges, as well as the cult-classic collaborative LP I Am Legion with Foreign Beggars. Skrillex credits Noisia with his career, having been discovered and mentored by the group before releasing his Grammy-winning debut EP Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.

“The bottom line is, they have created the groundwork of what modern-day dance music is,” Stanczak says. “They've always been pushing that line of how good it can sound … I think we all have benefited from them experimenting on that.”

Nik Roos, Martijn van Sonderen and Thijs de Vlieger grew up in the small northern Dutch town of Groningen. The trio met in the '90s as rival graffiti taggers, but a shared obsession with drum'n'bass music and the burgeoning democratization of it's production thanks to new computer software saw them shake hands and come together under one roof.

It took them a few years to learn the ins and outs of digital audio workstations, but their endless curiosity have made them all masters in their own right. The group's productions made waves as independent releases posted to online production forums and led to Noisia's first official release, a 2003 collaboration with Atlanta-based producer Mayhem called “Tomahawk.” By 2004, Noisia was routing tours across Europe and the United States. So, the guys learned how to mix.

Work soon followed by tracks on D'n'B favorites RAM Records, Hospital Records and others. The trio became known for back-breaking beats and mind-melting melodies, pushing the limits of digital production across d'n'b subgenres from liquid, neurofunk, until that niche could no longer hold them. The funky, electro-tinged breakbeat swag of “Gutterpump,” released on Skint Records, was named Mixmag's breaks tune of he year for 2006.

“Noisia has not only influenced DnB but all of edm in general,” says three-time DMC Champion DJ Craze. “They’ve always kept pushing the boundaries, always stuck to what they like and never followed a trend. If you’re a fan of electronic music and it’s production, Noisia should be in your top three.”

On Split The Atom, Noisia purposefully blended elements of electro, breakbeat, '90s hip-hop, video game soundtracks and film scores over a patchwork of beats so experimental, it defied classification.

“Noisia was never afraid to make ideas that challenged people on a cerebral level,” Stanczak says. “They never assume that people were stupid. They [believe] people just need to be challenged, and if we challenge people more, they will rise to that level. I look around at electronic music today, and people like Noisia are super important. Maybe you don't think about that until they announce that they're not going to be around anymore.”

Noisia launched three labels of its own; Vision in 2005, Division in 2007, and Invisible Recordings in 2010, the same year hey signed with Jay-Z's Roc Nation for publishing. The next few years were a wild ride, with high-profile remixes, co-production credits on three Korn songs, a feature in the Transformers 3 trailer, and offers to soundtrack video games including Motorstorm: Apocalypse and Devil May Cry.

In 2013, Noisia moved from its shared home studio to a state-of-the-art facility that garnered press in its own right. Evol Intent producer and Icon Collective production professor Mike Diasio got to work with the group on site to produce “The Liquid” and “Long Gone.”

“I learned morning in one day working with them then I'd learn all year,” he says. “They are the unabashed gods of electronic music production … They might not be Swedish House Mafia big, but they have a massive sphere of influence. Nobody from any level of game is going 'hey that's cheesy,' or 'I'm too undeground for this.' It's very rare that you see that in an act, where somebody is just that universally respected.”

In 2015, the trio started Noisia Radio, a weekly podcast that gave Noisia a platform to share the ground breaking sounds they found inspiring without having to consider a club vibe or a festival atmosphere. It became a breeding ground for talent that dared to push the sonic envelope, inspiring a generation of producers, including bass music rising star G Jones.

“I also learned about so much incredible music through Noisia Radio, and believe their influence as tastemakers did so much to shape the current state of bass music,” Jones tweeted when hearing of the plans to retire. “Noisia constantly made me question what was possible with sound and how far i could push things. A genuinely legendary production trio. Thank you Noisia.”

Mat Zo also credits a lot of his style and technique to hours spent studying Noisia's moves.

“Noisia said they completed the game, but they created the game,” he tweeted. “It wasn’t just about good sound design. Everything Noisia ever released had a soul, everything felt human, musical and real. They took a science and made it art, and vice versa. One of my biggest fears as a producer was the thought of Noisia breaking up. They’ve taught me and countless others what’s possible. They set the bar so high, it’s going to be a very long time before anyone comes close.”

In 2016, Noisa released its sophomore solo LP Outer Edges, further pushing the project with an audio-visual tour that gave the trio hands-on control of every aspect of the live production lights and sound. They appeared in alien-esque glowing hoodies, pulling no punches with lasers, three-dimensional imagery and hard-hitting live prodution. It was their groundbreaking answer to a field of music ever-increasingly obsessed with on-stage presentation.

Noisia silently splintered soon thereafter. To read the group's retirement announcement, posted to social media Sept. 17, it's not a case of bad blood so much as growing in different directions. Twenty years is a long time for any relationship, and artistic minds as particular as Noisia's collective aren't easily placated.

"Noisia has always been about making as few compromises as we can," the group writes, "When Noisia becomes a compromise in itself, it's time to move on."

Roos, van Sonderen and de Vlieger all have creative side projects, some as diverse as experimental ballet scores, some as musical side projects collaborating with others and each other in various combinations. As a trio, though, Noisia will cease to exist. Rather than force it and become contrived, Noisia will spend one final year touring the world in thankful farewell. Some releases are planned as well. Start the clock, and say your goodbyes.

“There are certain songs that Noisia put out, albums full of stuff where I'm like 'am I challenging myself enough?' Stanczak says. “Every time they put a record out, go back and look at all the comments. It's like "I just want to give up,” but it's actually more like, 'I need to challenge myself more.' Today, it's almost that feeling of graduating from college or something. Who's gonna give us the lesson now?”

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