Netsky Mad Decent Block Party

Netsky (Image: Oh Dag Yo Photo)

North America has a strange relationship with drum & bass. It gained some momentum during the great dubstep explosion of 2010-2012 when everything was described as “filthy or “dirty,” even resulting in the fusion genre known as drumstep. Still, the UK formed and European-leaning sound never experienced the same reception as its counterpart in America. 

Los Angeles tends to be more of a pocket for D&B with the long-reigning Respect crew making waves for 16 years now, throwing down in Santa Monica each Thursday night. Not to mention events like Bassrush Massive and Control at Avalon on Fridays, often times showing love for the veteran genre.

Regardless, when Belgian drum & bass producer Netsky (Boris Daenen) stepped up to the decks at Mad Decent Block Party this past Saturday in LA, it was his name that seemed to stand out on the lineup. Playing alongside artists like Major Lazer, T-Pain, and Riff Raff might not have been what Boris expected just a few years ago, but it’s pretty clear he’s been having the time of his life.

“It’s been a really great experience for me and the whole thing is really well put together,” says Netsky when asked about MDBP. “We don’t have events in Europe like this with festivals between buildings in the middle of cities so it’s a different experience. Both Canada and America have been an amazing and I’ve even made some friends including JAUZ, which doesn’t always happen.”


Image: Oh Dag Yo Photo

It might not be the territory Netsky has grown accustomed to, but the last few years have been all about change for the 26-year-old musician. 2014 saw Boris trading in Hospital Records (who he still remains friends with) for the Sony-owned Ultra Music and further embracing the EDM world. Following this was his deeper immersion into pop tendencies while taking on Ed Sheeran and eventually Jack Ü. When we asked about the transition, Netsky could not have been more open. 

“It’s really about branching out and reaching a more diverse audience. I still love drum & bass and want to educate crowds that don’t know much about the genre, but it’s also about playing more music that people know,” says Boris while admitting that he performs different DJ sets here than in Europe. This statement definitely rang true, incorporating artists like Skrillex and What So Not to ease the transition after JAUZ left the decks.

The drum & bass did come eventually with classic tracks from his album 2 and the most recent single entitled 'Rio'. It's undeniably more pop influenced than his previous records, but he embraces that too. “I teamed up with Digital Farm Animals for that one, who I made about four songs on the album with. We wanted to create something that was an upbeat party track, like not worrying about tomorrow just focusing on tonight.”

Netsky admits he has love for pop music now, but also mentioned that he wasn’t always so receptive to certain artists as a kid. “I used to hate Pendulum when I was growing up,” admits Boris. “It was just so big with the guitars and vocals and everything. It just wasn’t for me. But now I love it and think Rob Swire and all of them are so talented.” This is coming from an artist who officially remixed Pendulum back in 2010, and in many ways has followed a similar path with his own live performances.

Once again though, Netsky didn’t back down when asked about the irony of his path from hating Pendulum to receiving his own criticism from the drum & bass world. After laughing and complimenting the question, Boris stated “I see where the hate comes from and I get it. I understand the perspective of the die-hard drum & bass fan who would hate something like this. For me though it’s about growing as an artist and trying more than just one sound.”

Next up for Netsky is a big European live tour and the long-awaited release of his third studio album. Still untitled and without an official release date, but slated for “Early 2016” while featuring “Emeli Sandé and some heavier tracks.” With Mad Decent under his belt and a newfound understanding of American pop culture (including Netflix and Chill), it really feels like the quiet before the storm for Netsky’s official ascension of dance music.

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