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Music by VICE

Drum N Bass No More: Why Netsky Wants To Be EDM’s Next Superstar

Is drum and bass poster child Netsky selling out—or scaling up?

by VICE Thump
Aug 25 2014, 5:00pm

"Don't worry, I can multitask," is the first thing Boris Daenen tells me over the phone from his apartment in Antwerp, where he is fielding my questions while cooking a dinner of marinated pork and potatoes. The Belgian DJ and producer, better known as Netsky, is on a mission to improve his culinary skills. "I started a #CookingWithNetsky hashtag on Instagram, but I'm not the best chef. People expect me to be better, so I'm trying to learn," he says. 

This is the precisely the kind of attitude that landed the 25-year-old his big break in 2009, when the UK-based Hospital Records plucked his demos from a slush pile and bought him a Eurostar ticket to London. The label, founded in 1996 by Tony Colman and Chris Goss (at the time known as London Elektricity), launched the careers of drum and bass stars like Camo & Krooked, Danny Byrd and High Contrast

Netsky's sound fit the label nicely, particularly with his emphasis on liquid funk—a sub-genre of drum and bass with heavy jazz influences and a widespread use of vocals. Naysayers like to call it "drum and bass lite," but really, liquid funk's smooth, harmonic sounds are extremely palatable to all sorts of ears. When his self-titled debut album was released in 2010, Netsky soon found himself as the poster child of the scene.

Especially once word-of-mouth started spreading about his infectiously energetic live shows: 

With his third album nearly finished, Netsky decided to trade Hospital for the much larger Ultra Records. It was a move that made sense for an artist with hopes of joining the EDM major leagues and expanding his American fanbase. He also appears to have left on good terms, saying, "[Hospital] has been really good to me. They're some of the nicest people I've ever worked with." 

But that hasn't quelled the abandonment issues of some of his diehard fans, who have loudly vocalized their unhappiness with this recent change in direction. There is even a Reddit thread asking "Why do people hate Netsky now?" The answers range from accusations of selling out to sounding too cheesy; meanwhile, his defenders praise him for taking drum and bass to a wider audience. 

Netsky insists that he is merely evolving. "It's not a marketing thing. I just felt like making more kinds of music instead of sticking to what people know me for—the drum and bass thing. We were trying to go to the next level; I want to make my new album different and weird." 

He pauses. "And it wasn't just my decision." 

Asked if he feels pigeonholed, Netsky admits, "Maybe a little bit. People like to put a sticker on albums, like, that's drum and bass. That's not drum and bass. One of the jobs of a producer is to try and break out of that—you create your own genre. Like how people say, 'That sounds like a Disclosure album.' I want to do something like that, make something of my own." 

In June, Netsky scored a collaboration with Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto, whose unmistakably powerful voice is featured in his latest track, "Running Low." "She's one of my favorite people to be in the studio with. She's just so fun. It's hard to concentrate sometimes because everything she does makes you laugh," Netsky says. 

In many ways, "Running Low" is a sign of things to come. "I started out making drum and bass four or five years ago with my first album. My second album was a more crossover, dancefloor sound," he says. "With this album, I'm really trying to be honest. I just want to make music I want to make." 

Catch Netsky on the Beatport Riverside stage at New York City's Electric Zoo this Labor Day weekend 

More drum and bass: 

The Best Drum & Bass Albums You Missed In 2013

Nine Legendary Drum & Bass Tracks That Never Came Out

Drum 'n' Bass Don Friction Goes Back to Basics With "Battle Scars"

@MichelleLhooq