In the dance music scene, it’s safe to say that energy is synonymous with passion. Too often do we see “seasoned veterans” become lifeless behind their music, too scared to test boundaries as they stand upon the biggest crowds with their head down and their eyes pinned on the decks. It’s the new guys who really want it. They’re the ones filling up set lists on main stages, and as we’re quickly finding out, are fueling the engines of the giants through trendsetting and ghost producing. This is why I sometimes enjoy getting to shows early so that I can see the opening act and hear what is usually a vigorous set that screams “LOOK AT ME!” You can’t beat that passion.
Last Saturday at Create Nightclub in Los Angeles, you could have thought that the Sick Individuals were the openers from the way that they approached things. “Who’s ready to hear some good fuckin’ house music tonight?” Ray called out to the crowed with a beat building rapidly behind them. He and Jim took to their decks and didn’t waste any time setting a torrid pace to their set by opening with their second Beatport #1 track of the year, “Blueprint”.
I was surprised. I’ve been following the Sick Individuals for a little over a year now, and one thing that always stood out to me is their consistent sovereignty. 2013 finally brought the respect that they deserve, and while success for many EDM DJs is accompanied by complacency, Jim and Ray proved in their set Saturday night that nothing’s changed. If anything, they rock the crowd with even more confidence and energy, showing in both their production and mixing style that creativity still has a good seat in the arena of music.
The Suprima Musique team was fortunate enough to catch the Sick Individuals after their set and get their unique perspective on a few topics. Check out the conversation below:
Suprima: First off, we have to thank you guys for taking out the time to chat with us after such a high energy and probably tiring set. We were trying to have our cameras ready for when you played it, but we can’t believe you guys actually opened with “Blueprint”.
Sick Individuals: Fuck it, we start with it. We have a couple of intros, but we always look at the venue and since the guy before us was playing pretty loud, we figured we’d open with it like a banger, go back a bit, and then build it up from there. You have to step back, because if you just keep going hard, people will get bored of it. It’s difficult sometimes, but that’s good DJing.
Suprima: You’re already talking like two guys who know music, but that’s not surprising considering we hear that you guys actually met at music school. With today’s EDM scene being so huge that a person can become a “DJ/producer” as fast as they can rip-off the necessary computer software, do you think that actual music training has helped you guys’ success?
Sick Individuals: To us it really helps. It’s probably the most important thing. I (Jim) think you’re born with it [talent] but school makes you develop it more. It totally opens your eyes as well, because in school they show you so many different types of sounds and music. Before school, you might be doing the same things musically, but after school you actually know what you’re doing. It makes us quicker with production and composition as a duo, but it also helps when working with other people. They’re trained singers, musicians, etc. so we’re able to speak the same language. We speak music.
Suprima: So, you guys are Dutch, and with guys from the Netherlands ruling the dance music scene, that obviously has advantages and disadvantages. But tell us a bit about how dance music culture influences the everyday lives of Dutch people, sort of like how Hip-Hop has been known to carry into the language and fashion of people here in the U.S. One thing we’ve certainly noticed is the whole U-neck, scoop neck t-shirt thing all of you guys seem to wear.
Sick Individuals: Wait, what do you mean? Like these shirt we're wearing?
Suprima: Yeah, that style shirt has really been popularized by DJs. R3hab really rocks it a lot, and now even the American guys like MAKJ are doing it.
Sick Individuals: Oh wow, that’s crazy! We didn’t even notice. I guess it’s because when you’re up there, and you sweat so much, it’s good to have an opening. If you look at us, we like wearing black stuff. We were in Miami not too long ago, and it was really hot, but we still wore all black. You’ll find that a lot of us DJs wear black, and we definitely try to keep it our signature because it sticks to your name. But as far as the shirt thing, only Dutch guys can do it!
Suprima: Okay, so let’s talk about the Icona Pop “I Love It” remix. You got a great reaction from the crowd when you started playing it, and admittedly, that track is the first time we heard of Sick Individuals. But after going back and hearing some of your older stuff with that almost tech-house groove, the Icona Pop remix seems to maintain that groove but adds muscle. Explain what that song means to you guys as a sort of come out track and in terms of developing your style overall.
Sick Individuals: We definitely think of it as a come out track. From that point on, we gained a lot of fans. A lot of DJs actually supported it and played it, and remember, this is before all the hardstyle-kick stuff came in. The track doesn’t have that kick at all but the sound is still very thick. It was sort of perfect timing because the track fits right in between somewhere. You had Sandro Silva’s “Epic” out by then and a lot of harder stuff, but we wanted to do something groovy, yet hard too. Sometimes we go hard and sometimes we go for a flow, but we always keep it groovy because that’s our key signature. What’s funny is that we actually made the track while watching the Ultra Music Festival after movie, and we actually have different versions of it, but finally we decided to go with that one and it seems like we made the right decision.
Suprima: We talked a little about diversity, and by no means does that track represent the entirety of the Sick Individuals style. You have an incredibly diverse portfolio of remixes from Asher Monroe’s “Here With You,” – where you surprisingly use dubstep – to remixes for Lil Wayne and Rihanna. What’s your formula for knowing which songs you want to remix?
Sick Individuals: For us it’s important that every time we do a remix, it has to be something special and different. You can do something multiple times, but we get bored (laughs). Plus by us being musically trained, we don’t want to play certain sounds out. We definitely get inspired by what we hear in the industry, and it’s funny because as the industry is constantly growing and moving in so many different directions, whatever we do we want to make sure we do it the best. So if we do a dubstep break, we have to do it good. As far as what songs to remix, we have to pick songs where we can add something to the original. There was a time where we wanted to do a really good tech-house remix, but we didn’t do it because the song was already so good. With the Rihanna “Right Now” remix, we really loved the vocals, an idea came to our head and we just rolled with it. It’s never about just copying a break or something so small. We want to add something fresh and new.
Suprima: Well, congratulations on a really big year. You’ve had two tracks to reach #1 on Beatport, with the first being your collaboration with Axwell, “I Am”. Not to mention any names, but we’ve heard from upcoming DJs who’ve worked with bigger name artists that oftentimes the smaller guys will do pretty much all the work and the more popular guys just tag their name on it, often getting the recognition. However, in that track, we hear both you and Axwell. Tell us how important it is when working with a legend like Axwell that you not only get recognized alongside him, but that your sound and touch is apparent when people listen.
Sick Individuals: That’s a good question. Like we said before, for us, it’s really all about the melody and the groove so we wanted to make sure that was in there. With all the harder stuff dominating the scene, we said, “fuck it, let’s do something different.” So we actually came up with the idea first to do something more melodic, but still groovy, and then we sent it over to Axwell. He loved it, loved the vocals, and said it was really good but that we should tweak it a bit. We started sending it back and forth, and when he added his sound to it everything worked perfectly. We never got to work on the track in the studio together, but it’s definitely not one of those situations where he did nothing. Also, our name is first on the track so that says something as well.
Suprima: Let’s talk about your second #1 track, “Blueprint,” which is a collaboration with Dannic. When listening to Dannic’s originals such as “Clobber” and especially “Ignite,” we’ve likened that sound to songs of yours such as “Pepper” long before you two ever did this collab. We noticed that you guys played a lot of his tracks tonight and want to know just how it was working with him, and is having a similar style something that inspired the collaboration?
Sick Individuals: We loved his music and he loved our music so it was really easy to collaborate. We never have done a collaboration that worked so well and so fast. All three of us hit the studio and finished the track in only 3 days. When working with someone they’ll bring ideas, and it’s rare that you’ll always like the idea, but in this case we were like, “okay, let’s do that” (laughs). It was really nice to work that way and add ideas. When you listen to the track, we think you can definitely hear both Dannic and Sick Individuals.
Suprima: We definitely agree, which is why we hope you guys do what Skrillex and a lot of other DJs are doing now and create a mini-project involving Dannic so that we can get more tracks.
Sick Individuals: You’ll definitely hear more tracks. For this one in particular, the reason we called it “Blueprint” is because while a lot of popular tracks right now are using that hardstyle-kick, we wanted to show that you can make a track that is still funky, still hard, and has the same energy. It’s also very melodic, so “Blueprint” for us pretty much contains all of the things we like to do as producers.
Suprima: So “Lights of Neon” is your newest track and your first original mix since the success of both “Blueprint” and “I am”. What part does this song play as you try to continue with the energy you have and carry it over into the New Year?
Sick Individuals: We’re definitely thankful to be getting a lot of support on this track as well. At first it was really hard to release songs on big labels without the recognition of big DJs. So after the collaborations with Axwell and Dannic, we started working on our own originals and a really great label in Australia called One Love really loves our stuff and has been supporting our tracks for a while. We released “Pepper” on that label as well. A lot of times it’s very hard to get in contact with labels and they take a long time to release tracks, but with One Love it’s quick and it’s easy. It’s not always about releasing on big labels, it’s also good to release on credible labels that might be a bit smaller, but will help get you the support. Now big DJs like Hardwell, Nicky Romero, and R3hab are playing it so we’re very happy. Also it’s great to get support from our fans who love that we did a track that manages to be both progressive and electro. It’s something different our recent stuff and something new on the scene, so it feels good that people are responding well to it.
Suprima: We know that the info on upcoming tracks can be very confidential, but can you guys give us any heads up on things to look for at the end of this year and beginning of next year?
Sick Individuals: We’re doing a remix to an old trance record in December on Armada Music that we’re not sure if you guys would know, but we definitely know it from back in the day listening to it over and over. We’re doing another track for One Love that we can’t really speak about, but will be released in December as well. It’s original, but it’s really underground, so something totally different. We’re working on a lot of vocal tracks for next year too and working with a lot of vocalists from LA and other parts of the U.S. Definitely working on some more progressive tracks with that.
Suprima: Well thanks a lot guys, and just like you did out there with a perfect set, leave us with something good that we should know.
Sick Individuals: (Jim laughing) well Ray just cut my hair. No, but it was really awesome playing in Los Angeles for the first time. We loved the crowd and can’t wait to come back. They throw us all over the place sometimes, but we don’t care. We just kill it.
Suprima Musique couldn’t have asked for a better night or two cooler guys to interview. Thanks again, Jim & Ray!