Belgian producer Netsky made his name on the legendary drum’n’bass label Hospital Records, but he branches way beyond genre labels with his free-wheeling third album, 3. Due for release on May 20, the album features collaborations with everyone from British pop crooner Emeli Sandé to futuristic producer Digital Farm Animals. Perhaps one of the record’s most idiosyncratic tracks is “Forget What You Look Like”—premiering below—which features a vocal from Canadian singer Lowell that’s sampled from her brassy 2010 collaboration with German trance producer Alle Farben. On Netsky’s version, her vulnerable vocal floats over much deeper, richer rolls of bass, synth, and the occasional trap snare. As he explained to The FADER: “I felt like I was missing that L.A., west coast production on the album; there wasn’t really an 808 line. I really wanted a song to play at cool clubs in L.A., basically.”
The FADER caught up with Netsky over Skype while he was in Las Vegas, on his wonderfully named Netsky and Chill tour. “This place kinda reminds me of…” his deadpan Belgian accent trailed off, with a small sigh. “Have you seen Wall-E? That big super ship where everybody just sits back in their chairs, and all the food gets delivered? That’s how it feels being here.” He went on to speak about his collaboration-heavy new album, and upcoming starring role in the 2016 Olympic games.
Where does the name Netsky come from?
NETSKY: I started making music when I was 14, 15. Piracy and illegal downloading was still a really big thing. [Netsky] was basically a virus that destroyed my computer and all my music files, and I thought if people typed in the name ‘Netsky’ on an illegal website, they might get in the same trouble I did, instead of getting my music. So it was a bit of protest against piracy.
What’s the story behind the new album?
I [wanted to] protest against what a lot of producers are doing; how the music industry works right now. Songs just get written by other people, and sent over to a million producers, and the highest bidder gets the song. I really don’t like working like that. I made a really big point to my management and my record label that I wanted to have this album as an organic album. I wanted to work face to face with everyone who was working on the album, not over the internet. Not on an airplane, not on a tour. I’m proud it happened that way [in the studio]. It’s nothing like a corporate album or a big label album.
You’re musical ambassador for Team Belgium at this year’s Olympic games. How did that come about?
Obviously I had a lot of luck with [having] a single called “Rio.” It worked in my favor. The Olympic team in Belgium...were looking for someone young who could speak to the youth, and bring the committee and Olympic supporters into the news. So they rang us for a chat and I loved the idea. I was obviously super proud to be working with something that was a big deal for my country. I went to the sports camp they did in Lanzarote and I met every single sportsperson doing their discipline and tried to compete with them a bit, swim with the swimmers, run with sprinters—it was so much fun. I’ve always thought that drum‘n’bass works really well with extreme sports or just working out. I think it’s such a good match.
Have you been to Brazil before?
Yes, only for the first time last year. It was a really cool country. I didn’t get to any concerts but I did get to see some live street music. I was really intrigued by the local restaurant playlists—I heard so many songs that have been sampled in drum’n’bass. I was having dinner and in one hour I heard all these old Brazilian samba tunes that I recognized from other songs.
What’s going on in Belgium right now?
There’s Stromae. He’s my hero. Here’s the biggest star coming out of Europe from my generation. A guy called Oscar and the Wolf as well. It’s very deep indie rock, the lead singer is a really cool creative guy and the shows are really incredible. I’m very lucky to live in a country that buys a lot of tickets to see shows. It’s fairly easy as a popular band in Belgium to sell a lot of tickets. You can really tell that by the way bigger Belgian artists perform. They devote so much time and money to work on their show which is really cool. I’m so proud and happy [about] that.