Neonlight is a German duo comprised of Tobias Jakubczyk & Jakob Thomser that is currently making huge waves in the drum & bass scene. In the past few years, they have released tracks on Lifted Music, BSE, Bad Taste, Viper, C4C, Eatbrain, Trust In Music, and most recently Blackout Music. Every track on their Sidus EP, which dropped almost two weeks ago, is charting on Beatport and 'Extrasolar' is sitting at #3 while my personal favorite 'Heavy Bettie' is comfortably at #11.
The past three years have been monumental in increasing the Neonlight "brand." Neonlight entered 2011 with another chapter in their illustrious career. Refusing to let up, duo released the highly regarded ‘Contraire/Ultraviolet’ on Bad Taste, The Frozen Tape on Trust in Music as well as a reworking of State of Mind’s ‘3 Dimensions ft Sacha Vee’.
Last year was huge as well, and promised to be one of the biggest yet - collaborations with the likes of Inside Info on Viper Recordings, Aeph on Bad Taste Volume 5 and Mefjus on Eatbrain have proven Neonlight's production and technical skills, and they have continued to produce Drum and Bass at the highest level.
Now with a massive release out on Black Sun Empire's Blackout Music label, Neonlight are poised to take over the drum & bass scene this year. Earlier this week, they stepped up to the decks to mix Blackout Podcast 30 and filled it with an hour of only the finest drum & bass. Listen to the mix below (find the tracklist after the interview) while taking a look at what Neonlight has to say about the current scene, Germany, their creative process, and embarrassing childhood memories.
What first made you look at drum and bass and think to yourselves, "Okay, this is what we wanna do"?
Jakob: I was about 14 years old when I visited my first Drum & Bass party. Some friends brought me along and I didn’t really like the music, but I had a crush on a girl from my school so I decided to stay longer to spend more time with her. Then there was THE ONE TRACK that made me dance! I think it was ‘Beneath the Mask’ by Makai. At that moment I realized how much fun it was to dance to Drum & Bass and I was hooked. After a few weeks, I bought my first record. I think it’s obvious what the longer lasting love was.
Tobi: I am really happy that Jakob was looking after that girl because he was the person who showed me Drum & Bass first. I didn't understand this strange sounding music at the beginning - it was definitely not my cup of tea when I heard it first. A little while later I went to a party to see Jakob DJ. He played the same ‘strange’ music but I enjoyed it a lot more this time. Don´t ask me why but from that moment, I always get a feeling I can’t describe when I listen Drum & Bass.
You released your Sidus EP on Blackout. How does it feel to have one of the most influential names in drum and bass essentially validate your work?
T: It's simply great that Black Sun Empire feel our music so much that they asked us to release it on their new label Blackout. I can still remember when I got a copy of the first Black Sun Empire release on their BSE Recordings label in 2003. It was ‘The Sun’ - what a great piece of Drum & Bass! Now nearly 11 years later, we have an EP out and that is hopefully just the beginning of a long journey.
How do you feel about the current sound of drum and bass? Do you think that there's room for improvement?
T: For me personally it's one of the best periods for Drum & Bass so far. The diversity is great. Many sub-genres have established their sound in the scene. I don’t think it’s necessary to give every track with a different vibe its own sub-genre name but it's okay when it helps to open the music up for as many people as possible who are all looking for something special. You also have festivals dedicated to Drum & Bass, so I think that shows how strong this music is right now.
J: Can we really call it “Improvement” when we talk about music that is shaped by taste? I would say it’s development. Historically, Drum & Bass is still a very young genre and after 20 years it has changed quite a bit since the beginning. I think the music is closely linked to the technical developments (hardware and software) – as well as the development of other electronic music genres. But the basics are still the same, like they were 15/20 years ago. So, as long as there is a bunch of technical possibilities, people are always going to be trying to form their music with it.
When creating a track, do you have any type of process or do you just let the creativity flow?
T: There is no big formula making a/the perfect track. We try to keep things fresh with each tune we start. Sometimes we start completely from scratch and when this happens, a tune can change its face many times. You might not be in the same mood to make music every day, or your computer isn't loading the latest version of the project or you get simply a better idea for a groove or an arrangement for the track you are working on. A flow of creativity happens mostly when we have already have composed a basic pattern. That means to have good and interesting sounding drums, basses and a rough arrangement. Than we can start making edits, little breakdowns and all the things which make a track more interesting and of course, more like a Neonlight track.
J: Sometimes it happens the other way round though too. For example, we might find an interesting sample with a special vibe that inspires us, and we add more things to it to establish a feeling for a track. Or we work on synth sounds and find a melody or harmony for an intro. But as Tobi mentioned, a tune changes very often during it’s formation.
What do you listen to when you're not listening to EDM?
J: Game Soundtracks, Rock/Pop and Jazz.
T: Mostly to the vinyl collection of my flat mate but in general, music with a heavy dose of groove! Rap music, Funk & Soul, Beats….
What would you say is your most embarrassing childhood moment?
J: When I was 12 maybe, I tried to steal a chocolate bar in a small store near my home for the first time. I was very nervous and of course the salesgirl caught me. I felt awful about it and I never ever did it again.
T: I was about eight years old. There was a girl….I thought I can impress her on my little bike. So I decided to jump around like a pro in front of her and her friends who were all girls too. I remember that it didn´t go really well for me. During my last jump, my bike literally broke down the middle into two pieces and I fell down right in front of her. Then I had their attention. They laughed quite long and loud.
What was it like growing up in Germany, in terms of music? Did you have a lot of access to electronic music or did you have to go searching for it?
J: Well, I never had the feeling that I must search for it but I took notice of EDM rather late. On the other hand, one can say that Techno was figuratively born in my neighborhood..
T: Electronic music came to me quite late as well. Bands like The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers were the first things I heard in around 1996. The next was Drum & Bass. All the typical electronic music genres from Germany like Techno, Minimal and House weren´t that important for me in the beginning. I think things like the LOVE PARADE and the internet helped young people to get in touch with it quite easily.
Many thanks to the guys for answering my questions. You can check out the tracklist for their Blackout Mix below.
01) Neonlight - Transit (Blackout)
>> Black Sun Empire & Foreign Beggars vs. Ed Rush & Optical - Dawn of a Dark Day Remix vs. Get Ill Remix Mash Up (BSE vs. V!rus)
02) Audio - Heads Up (Ram)
03) Blokhe4d - Shithouse Kicks (Dub)
04) I Am Legion - Make Those Move - Teddy Killerz Remix (Owsla)
>> Dom & Roland - Outta Endz VIP (Metalheadz Dub)
05) Misanthrop - Deadlook (Neosignal)
>> Frankee - Gully (Ram)
>> Enei - Prometheus (Critical)
06) Chris.SU & State of Mind - Above Earth (Fate)
07) Memtrix - Ethereal (Lifted Dub)
08) Optiv, BTK & Mindscape - Intruder (V!rus)
>> State of Mind & Nymfo - Put It On (Blackout)
09) The Upbeats - Corposant (Blackout)
10) Neonlight - Extrasolar (Blackout)
>> Audio - Stampede (Ram)
11) Mefjus - Signalz (Critical)
>> Calyx & Teebee - Skank (Ram)
12) Dying Punks & Current Value - Love All The People (Off Key)
13) Billain - Autonomous (Bad Taste)
14) Cause 4 Concern - Low Life - Maztek Remix - (C4C Dub)
15) Neonlight & Hedj - Hammerhead - NickBee Remix (Red Light Dub)
16) Phace & Noisia - Micro Organism (Neosignal)
17) Neonlight - Kosmonaut (Blackout)
>> Phace - The Set Up (Critical)
18) Mefjus & Emperor - Disruped (Critical)
19) Posij - Misfits (Division)
20) Gridlok & Prolix - Slingshot VIP (Project Trendkill)
>> State of Mind & Black Sun Empire - Unconscious (Blackout)
21) Optiv & BTK - Shredder (V!rus)
22) Telekinesis - Atlas (Eatbrain)
23) Nero - Satisfy - Audio Remix (Bootleg)
24) Black Sun Empire & Eye-D - Breainfreeze - Neonlight VIP (Blackout)
25) State of Mind - No-Operative (Blackout)
26) Dose - Scourge ft. Victim (Commercial Suicide)
27) Rawtekk - Photone Recruits - Phace Remix (Hospital)
28) Mercedes - Full Tilt - Ulterior Motive Tear Up Mix (Airwave Hustler)
29) Detail - Zooi (Bad Taste Dub)
30) Teddy Killerz - New Drums - Neonlight Remix (Bad Taste)
31) The Upbeats - Werewolf (BC Presents)
32) Gridlok & Prolix - Metalbrane VIP (Dub)
33) Z Connection & Concept Vision - Tough Leap (Blackout Dub)
34) Neonlight - Basso Continuo (Lifted)
35) Neonlight - Heavy Bettie (Blackout)
36) The Upbeats - Def Cresent (Blackout)
37) Neonlight - Ultraviolet (Bad Taste)
>> Hybrid Minds - Drama ft. Tempza & Laurence Baker - Neonlight Remix (Spearhead Dub)