Since his first release in 2003, Sub Focus has enthralled both mainstream and underground dance music lovers with his unique blend of drum ’n’ bass, dubstep and house. His most recent LP Torus translates into a cohesive live show that will stop at the Regency Ballroom on Dec. 15.
We had a chance to chat with the prolific producer about his recent record, the upcoming SF show and what it means to craft a live performance.
Your most recent album Torus dabbles in a bit of house, which is a big leap from your typical productions. What inspired that change, and where do you see yourself taking your tracks in the coming years?
I’ve actually made house music for years. I had a couple of house tunes on my first album in 2009. In general, I like to be eclectic in my productions and sets. With this album, I wanted to write a big variety of different tempo dance music and I’ve been really stoked with the variety of DJs playing the album tracks in their sets, from Skrillex to Andy C to Avicii.
MK mentioned in a recent interview with us that you personally asked him for a remix of “Kele.” That style of stripped down house is interesting juxtaposed with the organized chaos of drum ’n’ bass. What made you think of him for a remix?
I listen to a lot of house music, MK is a bit of legend in that scene and an expert remixer so I was super happy he wanted to be involved. I always pick all my own remixes. I am particularly excited about the remixes for my latest single “Turn back Time” as I got all my first choices: Special Request, Metrik and Bro Safari.
The ellipse shape has played a big part in your aesthetic. Does that geometry influence production, or do you think of them separately?
I wanted to start working with a simple shape and I came across this type of disc shape. The geometric name for it is a “Torus,” hence the name of my new album. It has heavily influenced the design of my live show, where I perform in the middle of three interlocking LED discs.
Tempo seems to play a huge part in the progression of Torus. What role does tempo play in your production process and live performance?
It’s hugely important, especially in creating the flow of an album or a live performance, I usually map the tempo changes of my set out in my head before I begin. Some purists get unhappy at me not writing solely drum ’n’ bass anymore, but this seems especially weird when putting live sets and albums together. Why would you ever want to do a whole album at the same tempo, it just doesn’t make sense to me.
Your show at the Regency in SF is coming up fast—how has San Francisco been for you in the past? How do you think the show will differ from the smaller EPR show you played here in 2012?
Last time was really good, but I’m hoping this one will be bigger and better.
Your gig history between your first and second album is massive. Did any inspiration for Torus come from experiences touring? Does crowd reaction play a big part in the production process now vs. then?
Yeah crowd reaction is very important. I road test most of my songs in my sets in unfinished form for months before release. I often get inspired to write tunes at first for specific shows: the title track ‘Torus’” was written for a show at Brixton Academy in London, the tune ‘You Make It Better’ was written to play at my residency at Amnesia in Ibiza.
How has your live show progressed since your first album? Has gear and on stage performance stayed consistent or are updates common?
The audio gear has changed a lot since the first version of my live show. Now the main core of my set up is: two laptops, an APC 20, keyboard, drum pads, two iPads and two Motion sensors that I had made for the show. They allow me to move my hands in the air to control different sounds during the set. My aim is to do live performance in a totally electronic way.
With your recent splashing in differing genres and remix choices, it’s clear that you’re aware of the rapid evolution of modern dance music. Where does drum ’n’ bass, both modern and traditional, sit in a modern context?
Drum ’n’ bass has been a very influential genre on modern music. For example, many of the ideas in dubstep have their origins in DnB. I think it will continue as a genre for a long while, there are so many talented producers still coming through all the time.
Any upcoming projects to look out for? We’re excited for the Regency show.
I’m super excited for the show too. Also look out for my next single “Turn Back Time” dropping mid-December.
Sub Focus performs at the Regency Ballroom on December 15. More info.