Noisia only have to travel to the cosy confines of their Groningen studio in order to explore the dark, unchartered territory of the outer realms. Aboard the modular synth enterprise, the D&B trio ventured deep into the final frontier when creating their most recent album Outer Edges, and upon their return to earth they have begun reimagining the acquired sights and sounds through a series of conceptual live shows.
So far the Outer Edges tour has seen Martijn, Thijs and Nik unloading their impressionist drum & bass at shows in London and across Europe, with further UK dates including Motion, Bristol, on Saturday 18th March and a number of summer festival appearances.
Wanting to learn more about Noisia’s cosmic aspirations, we caught up with the trio to talk Outer Edges, sci-fi and the possibility of sound in space.
Hi guys. The last 6 months will no doubt have been pretty busy with the release of Outer Edges – how’ve you been handling yourselves?
Apart from the release of the record we’ve been tweaking the Outer Edges show in between performing it, doing Noisia Radio every week, running the labels, doing Nightwatch production and side projects. We’ve had little bits of holidays here and there but it’s been quite full on!
The release of the album has been followed up with a series of live shows and concept performances. For those not lucky enough to catch the three of you in full flow, can you tell us a little bit about the concept of the Outer Edges shows?
It’s an audiovisual show. We put it together in collaboration with lighting director Manuel Rodrigues (deepred.tv) and all-round visuals man Roy Gerritsen (boompje.com). All of the costumes were thought up and fabricated by fashion designer Elodie Laurent. The idea is to have music, lights, visuals and costume all in sync with each other. We’ve made, cultivated and aggregated content for every song, every section, transition, and so forth. Martijn runs a laptop with Ableton Live, determining when new tracks start and how the transitions go. Thijs has a laptop plus modular synth in a case through which he runs audio from Martijn and generates sounds himself to be thrown live into the mix. Nik runs the visuals off a Razer laptop, receiving triggers from Martijn. The cool part of it is that we can tune the set to every venue, LED wall, lights set and keep adding bits and changing things as we go along. It’s not a ‘prepare once, execute 100 times’ kind of thing, it’s been growing and changing. We record every set so we can scrutinize it later with the whole team. The feeling of turning an entire venue’s audio systems, lights and LED walls into one giant instrument controlled from the stage is really awesome.
Sneak previews and recorded clips of the Outer Edges performances show you live on stage sporting some 2001-esque space helmets. Aside from Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece, were there any other depictions of the final frontier that you found to be influential when designing the aesthetic of Outer Edges, and the resulting shows?
Apart from the obviously scifi looking helmets, we wanted to forego as many sci-fi clichés as possible. Of course sci-fi is a big influence on our music and aesthetic, but we wanted each song in the set to have it’s own world, sometimes silly, cartoony, sometimes photographic. If anything the album artwork was the cornerstone for the show: the front cover’s focus on our faces ‘venturing into the unknown’ and also the refractography that Rutger Prins developed for the album - his stills are on the artwork and his videos are in the visuals.
Noisia albums tend to arrive in equal three year intervals, with your previous I Am Legion released in 2013. Do you find your indulgence in hardware and abstract recoding techniques prolongs the process of making an album, or is it always a quest for perfection?
You’re actually the first to point that out to us. Interesting... That pretty much guarantees our next project will surface in 2019...perhaps! I guess it’s more of a feeling than a certain benchmark though, we just felt the time was right and started working. The 3-year thing was a coincidence. We do like to take our time and not force material to come out. But even that changes, sometimes pressure can actually be productive. Maybe the next project will have a completely different approach perhaps.
Has your time spent touring Outer Edges enlightened you to elements of the music that you were unaware of during the recording process?
Well, the intensity of the entire experience surprised us to be honest. When it’s just you and a song in the studio, it’s easy to take a step back from it. But when it’s in full sync with the visuals and lights with the sound up past 100 dB, it’s pretty overwhelming! So it’s also nice to notice that more musical departures or experiments really work when part of a bigger experience. Also, we didn’t know ‘Tentacles’ was going to do so well...if we had we’d probably shot a music video for it!
So far on the tour you have played London with further shows set to come in Bristol, London again and at NASS and Reading & Leeds festivals. Have there been any stand out shows on the Outer Edges tour so far?
London was very special for us. It makes us feel like we’ve come a long way. From our first couch-surfing trips to the birthplace of Drum&Bass, trainspotting, gossiping, awe-struck by the big names in the scene, to our first DJ sets in London, to selling out a headline show like that. And to get a crowd like the one in there...amazing! A milestone.
April will see the release of an Outer Edges Remix album. Is it possible to provide a few clues as to who is set to feature on the remix LP?
We set out to approach many different artists that we’re into. We wanted to get exciting and unexpected results, we hoped the artists would each take the songs into their own outer edges. So prepare for a lot of surprises!
Finally, if it was possible to detect sounds in space, do you think they would replicate those which emerge from the Noisia studio?
Now wouldn’t that be something! To be honest, we’d be s**tting our pants if the sounds we picked up from way out in space were big angry basslines and eerie atmospherics. Wouldn’t bode too well for mankind. I’d rather hear something more welcoming echoing out from the unknown depths. So I hope they pick one of our more positive songs if they do! We’re alright, us humans! It’s just our way of blowing off steam! Please don’t hurt us :D
Interview by Elliot Ryder
Photos courtesy of Rutger Prins