It took six years for Nick Douwma (aka Sub Focus) to release his self-titled debut album. The drum and bass prodigy first punctured the lower echelons of the British singles chart with the double-sided X-Ray/Scarecrow in 2005 and cracked the Top 40 four years later with Rock It/Follow The Light.
Since then, Douwma’s stock has only risen with remixes for The Prodigy, Deadmau5 and Dizzee Rascal and a raft of top 10 hits on the UK dance charts. Douwma’s second album, Torus (2013), propelled the artist to new heights thanks to its clinical, intelligent production and uplifting club sound based on a seamless combination of electronic styles. A third highly anticipated album is set for release at the end of this year.
Click through the gallery to find out the 10 tracks that have most influenced Sub Focus...
1. Michael Jackson - Bad
“As a kid growing up in the ‘80s, Michael Jackson was the first music I remember really liking.
“It wasn’t until later that I got into music generally, but I really appreciate Jackson’s music from that period - I think it was when I watched the film he made called Moonwalking, which was like a weird extended music video with a lot of tracks from the Bad album.
“I liked Thriller as well, but I’m not that old - I think that album came out the year I was born.”
2. Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
“This was when I was really discovering my love of music. Nirvana was one of the first bands I really loved and they inspired me to start a band at school.
“I started playing the bass, although we formed the band before we’d even learned how to play any instruments [laughs]. I still love Nirvana stuff, for me they stand head and shoulders above a lot of the other bands of that era in terms of their melodies and harmonies.
“I remember the whole distortedness of it and can see how that became the start of my love for the music I got into later."
3. The Prodigy - No Good (Start The Dance)
“I was always really into rock music when I was young, but through being in a band I got into using rudimentary music software and figured out how to write using computers.
“My mate gave me a cassette with a bunch of Prodigy tunes on it, so it was them and The Chemical Brothers that really got me into dance music.
“That was probably a rite of passage a lot of people experienced around that time, because you had dance bands like The Prodigy incorporating that rock element into their music - it just allowed me to understand dance music more.
“They took rave music and made it more musical, and it was a massive honour to remix two of their tracks."
4. M-Beat feat General Levy - Incredible
“I remember being about 13 and a friend of mine put this on cassette during a break at school. It instantly blew my mind because it was the first time I‘d heard proper jungle music and got into the genre.
“It sounded so different at the time; the super-fast drums, massive sub bass and the whole sound of it was very unique. From that time onwards, I was completely hooked on drum and bass and jungle.
“It’s a cool time when you get genres that are just starting; there’s a lot of experimentation and a lot of things that don’t work. With the recent tracks I’ve been doing, I’ve been revisiting a lot of those sounds and techniques, trying to figure out how they were made.”
5. Moving Fusion - Turbulence
“I guess this track felt like the beginning of a new stage in drum and bass for me, much more technical and more based on synthesizers.
“This was a massive track around the time I started DJing. I’d just bought some decks and I loved to mix with this track. It holds a lot of great memories and I still play it in my set sometimes.
“For me, it was the dawn of a new style of drum and bass and part of the sound that I started making, which was drum and bass with a more synth-based feel.
“I loved that futuristic aspect to drum and bass at the time, which wasn’t present in jungle because it was rooted in reggae and dub.”
6. Brian Eno - An Ending (Ascent)
“I discovered this track through sampling because I was starting to listen to sparse music and my friend’s brother had this on CD. The album that this was a part of is amazing and this is one of my favourite tracks of all time.
“I think there’s a soundtracky side to my style, so I wanted to pick something that reflects the interest I have in music that’s cinematic. You hear An Ending everywhere because it suits so many different types of moments.
“He was using pitch-shifted shimmer reverbs and that’s something I’ve touched on.
“I’ve definitely been moving more into a hybrid setup and have redesigned my studio so I can connect to a mix of analogue and Eurorack. I even bought a tape Walkman to record on to potentially age some of the sounds.”
7. Audion - Mouth To Mouth
“This is an alias of Matthew Dear. I picked this track because in the mid-‘00s, after I put out my first few tracks, I started to look at other genres of dance music for inspiration.
“I went to a lot of techno and house events, like Cocoon and DC10, and when I heard tracks like this it was really different because the hook is a massive effects riser.
“It’s quite unusual to make that the catchy element of a track and was quite inspirational at the time - it became a big influence from my first album onwards.”
8. Jon Hopkins - Light Through the Veins
“I actually didn’t hear this until I saw him play at the Royal Festival Hall a few years ago when I was really into his Immunity album.
“There are parallels with Eno, but I love his music because it’s an amazing mix of dance and this very soundtrack-based feel. I first came across him after hearing his soundtrack to the film Monsters, which I really loved.
“This is probably my favourite track of his. I’ve analysed it and it seems like all of the elements are running on different bar structures, which means that it cycles round in a really interesting way. All of the elements fade in and out and you can’t figure out when a section begins and ends."
9. Major Lazer - Get Free
“I’ve just done a remix of Major Lazer actually. I wanted to pick a couple of things that bring things more up to the present day.
“There’s a thread of ragga and dancehall music that I’ve really enjoyed since tracks like General Levy’s Incredible and I love the way Major Lazer are updating that.
“The track itself is almost a bit out of tune, which I really like - it’s kind of an odd complement to pay a song, but it’s got an amazing feel to it. I love the vocal too, it’s a great lyric.
“I’ve been playing around a little bit myself making drum and bass tracks that have dancehall rhythms rather than a typical drum and bass two-step rhythm.
“Get Free is probably my favourite track of theirs and shows what’s currently influencing me now, which you can hear on my current track ‘Lingua’.”
“I think this is another recent track that has inspired me. Again, it’s got quite a nostalgic feel to it and Jamie XX has got a very interesting take on updating jungle and drum and bass.
“He uses a lot of similar sounds but in a quite unusual way. One of his trademarks things is to take snippets from recordings of old rave tapes.
“You’ve got MCs coming in and out and it feels like a really cool and unusual use of all these familiar sounds. I’ve grown up with jungle and, like I was saying earlier, one of the things I’ve been doing recently is revisiting a lot of the sounds I grew up with in the ‘90s from genres like speed garage.
“I’m also a big fan of guys like Special Request who are doing this kind of sound. Jamie XX’s music definitely has a feeling to it and a strong nostalgia, which adds a lot depth.
“Sometimes when you’re working with synths, they can produce amazing sounds but lack a bit of character and emotion, so I try to make music that has that emotional resonance."