Jay-Z once said, “Want my old s–t, buy my old albums.” It’s a bold statement, but one with which many artists can relate.
Netsky sure can. The Belgian producer got his start in the liquid drum ‘n’ bass scene, and was heralded as a kind of teenage prodigy. Five years in, he was itching to try new things. His sound expanded, bringing in elements of pop and R&B while working with producers from other corners of the electronic world, including Lost Frequencies and Digital Farm Animals. He moved to Los Angeles, produced for David Guetta, and released a track with Bazzi and Lil Wayne. It brought chart success and broader popularity, which led to some of his earliest fans to call him a sellout.
Say what you want about Netsky, but you can’t say he forgot where he came from. Netsky is back with Hospital Records, prepping to drop a whole album of d’n’b brightness. The flood gates open with the lead single, “I See the Future in Your Eyes.” Out Friday (April 3), the track is an energetic blast of melodic instrumentalism — beautiful, punchy and hopefully enough to give those old-school fans something to sing about.
We caught up with the producer, who is currently quarantined in Belgium, to hear what inspired this return to his roots, and where the rest of the LP will go.
You’re back with Hospital Records, droppin’ drum and bass. How do you feel?
It’s exciting. I signed up with them for the first record deal I ever signed 10 years ago. I was a little teenage boy, not knowing much about the rules and contracts and record labels. I was obsessed with this genre called drum ‘n’ bass, and Hospital was my dream label. It was the start of this beautiful relationship. They’ve got a great independent record business going on, and their “Hospitality” events department is very good as well. I look back at it with so much love, so many good memories.
I tried to explore some other music styles. I was really interested in pop music. I moved to L.A. two years ago, and I met all these incredible people. These two producers called Stargate really took me under their wings, treated me like a brother, and gave me their studio basically for free for so long. I learned so much from that experience. I worked on the David Guetta album a lot and had all these amazing opportunities.
When did the album with Hospital start to take shape?
In 2018, I went to Amsterdam Dance Event and the Hospital label nights. I really had the best time, and it left a massive impression on me. I decided to do a couple more underground DJ sets. At Tomorrowland, there’s a stage called the rave cave, which is basically a 50- to 60-capacity room. It was really cool.
Last year at ADE, I went to dinner with Chris Goss, the co-founder of Hospital. He was my main guy at the label when I was a little Justin Bieber-haircut teenager. We had an amazing dinner and talked hours. We got very drunk in the end. I told him I’d love to do a project. After that, we ended up at Charlotte de Witte’s, who is a really good friend of mine. She played a massive techno show at The Gashouder. The whole night was so crazy. The day after, we had to recalculate everything, call Chris like, “Are we still feeling this idea?” Lucky for me, they were still very much into it, and that’s where this whole project was born.
So it really was something you set out to do intentionally.
Yeah, 100 percent. I mean, there’s so many reasons. I sometimes read the comments that my lovely, very passionate old-school fans write. They’re not always so lovely. I use the term a little bit sarcastically, but they are very passionate, especially in drum ‘n’ bass.
For years, I’ve been waking up to messages saying, “Go back to your old style.” It’s annoying because I’m like, “I can’t give you what you want right now. I’m not in this mindset. I’m really enjoying making an R&B beat with this incredible songwriter.” This drum ‘n’ bass style, as much as I always still loved it, it was just not what I wanted to make.
As a creative, if you do the same thing over and over, it isn’t the best use of your muscles. When you did go back to drum ‘n’ bass, did all those collaborations and experimentations influence or change your workflow?
Seeing somebody like David Guetta, who isn’t the most technical producer but is an amazing people person, really taught me how important it is to have a relationship with somebody you’re going to write a song with. You have to make them feel at home and give them the trust they need to open their hearts and talk about something that’s very personal. That’s something I never knew just being in dance.
Seeing Guetta work with three different session writers a day or with massive pop stars who might have something happening that day — you don’t know how crazy the personal life of our favorite pop stars can be. He treats it as a people’s business rather than anything too technical. That was really inspiring to me, and I’m trying to do that more myself.
What else can you tell us about the album? Is it called IV?
No, haha. I don’t know the title yet, otherwise I would tell you. There’s a lot of familiar flavors on it for older fans. It’s mostly drum ‘n’ bass, definitely more underground U.K. sounding. There’s a couple of songs with rock influences.
Before I started with Hospital, it was all about my dad’s record collection and his love for ’70s soul music. I used to sample a lot of his records. I got away with it in the past. Right now, it’s a little bit harder. I’ve got an incredible team behind me with amazing publishers. They managed to get me two of my favorite songs, to do drum ‘n’ bass versions, including the next single. I look at “I See the Future in Your Eyes” as a teaser to show people that I’m going back to drum ‘n’ bass. It’s a fun, instrumental track, but I’m excited about these soul influences coming afterward.
For people who are into drum ‘n’ bass, the constant conversation is “it’s coming back.” Do you feel an increased interest in the genre?
Dubstep was a crazy peak in Europe, and then it faded a little bit, but drum ‘n’ bass has always been there. It’s more stable rather than bipolar peaks that go away for a couple years. It’s always there, with a couple of exceptions on radio and big pop songs. It’s a steady, passionate fan base all over the world.
Lots of DJs are making drum ‘n’ bass now. Jauz loves drum ‘n’ bass. There’s a lot of people taking influence from Noisia, like Skrillex. It’s the genre that might not make it to Ultra’s main stage for more than an hour, but it’s so energetic and people dance to it wildly, which is what this kind of music is supposed to do.
“I See The Future In Your Eyes” is out now on Hospital Records. Listen to it below, and tune in to Netsky’s celebratory Hospital livestream set at 4:00 p.m. ET via Hospital and Netsky’s YouTube and Facebook pages.