The past twelve months has seen an array of producers switch from their usual starting palette for the one forty tempo. I am mostly referring to the writers of Drum & Bass, who have made the jump to experiment with the sound’s spacious structure, and ergo, the endless creative canvas it offers. Adapting techniques, refining design, and applying the knowledge and wisdom from relentless studio hours, a new source of original sub-harnessing sounds are now resonating within our beloved community. The talented minds of Consequence, Ulterior Motive, Skeptical, Jubei, Amit, Asylum, and Icicle have all found their attempts at dubstep met with high praise. Icicle’s BNC EP was one of the genre’s biggest highlights in 2012, raising the bar for not only himself, but for all those left stunned by the sonic masterpiece. There is one other who I haven’t mentioned, and fortunately for us, he is related to the architect behind last year’s most treasured piece of wax. Proxima’s contribution to dubstep [albeit small] has been rather spectacular, securing two 12″ on Tempa & enjoying phenomenal support by all those I need not name. His trademark compositions of warping sfx, and tech-led percussion neatly enveloped by bass driven grooves cement him as one of the most innovative producers par excellence. Intrigued by his runaway success, I decided to track him down for a word or two. He also kindly agreed to record a mix to showcase where he stands musically.
TRUSIK: For the readers who are not familiar, what is your name, where are you from, and how would you describe your sound?
Proxima: Hello all, my name is Gijs Snik a.k.a Proxima. I’m a producer and DJ from the Netherlands. Some of you might know that my musical endeavour departed with Drum’n’Bass, and I recently started out in the wonderful world of dubstep. Must say I’m liking it so far! It was my intention to sort of take the sound I was going for in D&B and give it a try at 140 BPM. I’d describe it as a dark, minimal and newskoolish sound, with loads of synthetic influences. It’s a bit of a search still, but that keeps the innovation and development going I guess.
T: Your first ever record, ‘Vital Signs’ was released in 2008 on Cylon Recordings. Looking back over the past four years, how have you progressed in your approach to music production? How much of this has contributed to the development of your own sound?
P: I think the main progression I’ve been through is being more able to determine what kind of structure works and what doesn’t. I used to make tunes that made complete sense in my head but took a while for others to grasp. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but a part of it has to get everyone’s attention instantly. My focus has been on that aspect a lot, though other important features have been given some attention as well. I’m much more happy with how my tunes sound nowadays, and my overall sonic knowledge has grown as well I think. These progressions have had a big impact on the way my music sounds, they changed my vision and so the outcome of a studio session.
T: Prior to producing electronic music, did you have much of a musical background? Did you play any instruments – were you in a band?
P: I come from a musical family, where pretty much everyone is or was playing an instrument. I discovered the trumpet around 8 or 9, and had lessons for quite a while. I really liked it, though the problem was the small town I lived in didn’t have a lot of opportunities for a musician. There was a youth orchestra and a brass band, that was it. So I quit eventually, but I’m definitely hoping to pick it up again one day!
T: You’ve released a number of Drum&Bass records, and now you’re experimenting with Dubstep. For you, what is attractive about the 140bpm tempo? Which do you prefer to play out when at the dance, and why?
P: The switch to dubstep has been crucial for me. I’ve produced Drum’n’Bass for an extensive period and at a point, I felt like there wasn’t much for me to explore anymore. I’m happy with the releases I’ve had (and made so much more that didn’t came out), but I couldn’t really find a sound I liked after that. A fresh direction to keep it interesting. So the motivation to produce and the enthusiasm declined and I started to concentrate on other things, until I gave Dubstep a try. The love for making music was instantly restored. All the space I suddenly had in one bar gave access to so many new possibilities, it was amazing. So I started producing more and more with tunes coming together quicker and quicker, till it got up to a point where I would finish like 10 tracks a month. The output is still very high while my time is a bit more scarce, but the strong need to make music is always there! Although dubstep is where my focus lies right now, I’ve noticed that the love for Drum’n’Bass is slowly returning. I’m still playing it most of the time as I have been over the years, and still really like it. Dubstep is fun to play, but nothing beats a scorching mix at 174 BPM. I don’t think there’s a more interesting genre to play out in a club than D&B.
T: How encouraging was it for you to have one of the genre’s flagship labels, Tempa, sign your first batch of 140bpm productions? Does Youngsta give you any guidance on developing your tracks, can we expect a future collaboration with him?
P: Their interest, which was there almost right from the start, has been incredible to say the least. It’s the label that everybody knows, that put Dubstep on the map, and has putting forward so many great artists. It’s a blessing to be working with them. This can be said about Youngsta as well. He has been so important for my progress in the genre. The constant exposure I’ve had through him has made a lot happen for me. The development of my tunes has always been in my own hands, but he has been the platform to bring it into the world. I owe him much, definitely!
T: Let’s talk about your cousin, Icicle. He’s a very talented producer and exceptional DJ. How would you describe your relationship with him?
P: I owe a lot to this man as well, and that might be a serious understatement! He has been one of my best friends all my life, and we have been close for as long as I can remember. We’ve always been into the same thing, from radio controlled cars to music. Since he’s a bit older than me, most of the time new interests and hobbies came from him. It was the same with electronic music. One day he pulled Reason from somewhere and showed it to me, that’s how it all started. Along the way he used to come up with new tricks and entrusted me with them, although I had some for him now and again as well. He has introduced me to so many people, artists, insights… Icicle has been my main influence in electronic music for sure.
T: How often do you get to work with him in the studio? What do you consider to be the most important lesson he has taught you?
P: Every time we get a chance. We try to visit each other as much as possible, which basically comes down to around once every two months haha. He’s always extremely busy and lives in the UK, so that makes it difficult to hang out whenever we want. We do our best to make it happen though! I think the most important lesson from him has been if you want to do something, just go for it and make it happen. Don’t just talk about it, don’t be worried by any obstacles, just do it and make the most of it while you can. Don’t let anything stop you. That’s why he is where he is now, and such a tremendous drive has been really inspirational for me.
T: Let’s move on to the bass music scene in Holland. Are the Dutch more responsive to the deeper, bass driven sound or tear out party music? Can you name some Dutch artists we ought be paying attention to / or are coming through, and deserve some recognition?
P: The music scene in Holland is not bad. Dutch people like a bit of both I guess, although the harder, Skrillex-like, form of Dubstep is definitely the big favourite right now. But I reckon that it is like that almost everywhere. Sometimes it feels like the Dutch ravers need a push in the right direction, they’re open to other things but like to stick with what they know. Or so it seems. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of headz with their harts in the right place, I just sometimes wish the mass wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon so quickly and ignore everything else that’s happening. But hey, that’s how it goes in music.
T: How did the mix which you recorded for us come together?
P: I knew rather quickly what I wanted to put in the mix. It had to have some new forthcoming bits from me, some Icicle beats, some older stuff I still really like and play out. And all of that had to blend together nicely of course. I think the end result is what I was going for, and I’m quite happy with it!
T: What can we expect from Proxima in 2013, is there any forthcoming material / interesting projects in the pipeline?
P: A lot, actually! New releases have already been planned, and so much more is going happen. All of this will be revealed shortly, keep an eye on my Facebook if you want to stay up to date!