Discovered by the godfather Andy C in 2003 and emerging on Ram Records two years later, Sub Focus’ uncompromising sound has gone on to achieve unprecedented underground and commercial success.
Drawing influences from jungle, dubstep, house and everything EDM, his euphoric take on drum and bass and his devotion to creating a spectacular audio-visual show sits the Guildford artist in a league of his own.
The legendary producer and DJ enters the new decade armed with brand new music, an unmissable live show and a calendar already jam-packed with massive performances across the globe. A regular fixture on his club circuit, Sub Focus makes another highly anticipated pit-stop at Motion, headlining a monster lineup for the first RUN event of the 20’s with an extended two-hour set.
Speaking to Nitelife, Sub Focus told us: ‘I’m really looking forward to RUN, I love coming down to Bristol and the venue is incredible – one of my favourite places in the UK to play.
‘This time I’m doing a bit of an extended set as well which is nice as it allows me to play some more unusual tracks and dig a bit deeper to play some different stuff. I listen to a massive amount of music and it’s nice to be able to play some underground and more deep stuff in my sets, there’s so much strength across all the sub-genres of drum and bass.
I think it is healthy to do the longer sets and explore the music
‘I don’t mind one-hour sets, but they are a totally different thing and they definitely lead you to playing one certain way, and that’s what can be frustrating in a way for some DJs. You have to get in all your anthems in that short space of time, so I think it is healthy to do the longer sets and explore the music.’
Sub Focus’ influences beyond drum and bass allow him to make both an eclectic mix of the heaviest tunes, as well as cultivating an impactful musical journey with his selections. Within his extensive backlog of releases sit a number of unique tracks featuring captivating build-ups rich with atmosphere, the likes of 2019 Virgin-released Solar System and the 2013 Ram Records hit Endorphins.
some drum and bass now can be quite hectic
‘I’m trying to get a balance in my sets, I think some drum and bass now can be quite hectic. Whilst it’s technically impressive to play three tracks at once and I can go there if I want to, I think there’s something to be said for just letting a tune play, almost creating down moments in sets and creating a feeling of a journey through it.
there’s something to be said for just letting a tune play
‘Sometimes that’s a bit lost in DnB mixing as its very full on and you can find the songs to match quite easily, so people end up playing loads of songs at once. It’s something I think I picked up from house music that I really like, creating those down moments and throwing the crowd off a bit.’
With Sub Focus approaching a second decade in the industry, he attributes his ability to evolve his signature sound and surround himself with fresh ideas and inspiration as key to staying motivated – and staying at the top.
In September 2019, Ram and Virgin Records presented Illuminate, the first track in an ongoing collaboration between him and fellow producer, the dance music titan Wilkinson.
‘We have been working on some great tracks together but that’s about as much as I can tell you so far. I’ve got loads of solo music dropping in 2020 too – a lot of it I’m working on for Circular Sounds. It’s been nice working with Mark (Wilkinson) though, through the years most of my work was on my own and I’ve really enjoyed doing more collaborations recently with the likes of him and Dimension.
‘The studio I’m at currently it’s me, Dimension and Culture Shock all in the same place and they’re all good mates of mine so it feels like a family vibe in the studio. That’s something I’ve always aimed to thrive off, having a lot of company and also competition around me.’
The most successful of his recent collaborations was the 2018 smash hit Desire, co-produced alongside Dimension, the track achieved silver certification and peaked at 8 on the UK Dance charts. The vibrant track, which expertly embodies both producers unique style, took the drum and bass scene by storm, as well as receiving huge commercial support.
‘I didn’t expect it at all, I think that it was a really nice surprise it did well because it is a club track really, so we saw it like that. We got good radio and Spotify support for it, despite it being uncompromising and it made me feel that it’s so important to stick to your guns and do what you want to do.
I don’t want to be compromising in any way with the music I put out
‘I don’t want to be compromising in any way with the music I put out, I want to put out good club music and that’s what people really respond to.
‘It’s the first track we had done together and we both tried to put in our best possible elements, I really rate what Dimension is doing at the moment and we definitely want to do something together again.’
The success of Desire sprang a handful of special back to back sets between the pairing, including dates from UK Festivals to Ibiza’s world-famous Amnesia nightclub, to the brand-new Titan Warehouse rave in Cardiff.
Sub Focus has been a regular champion for unique B2Bs, citing it as another way to keep the music fresh and fun after so many years in the game.
In 2019 fans saw the artist join forces with both Wilkinson and Dimension for BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend, as well as teaming up with UKF and mixing alongside Metrik and Culture Shock from the roof of Fabric in London, with more special B2Bs lined up for 2020.
It’s all about enjoying things and creating a crew vibe
‘We have announced that Culture Shock, Dimension, 1991 and I are doing a joint US tour in February. It’s all about enjoying things and creating a crew vibe, I feel like people enjoy seeing the combinations of when we all work together, and you can hear the different influences in the tunes. It’s a good vibe and it keeps it really fun for me as well, and that reflects on the performance.’
As well as being a year of remixes, collaboration tracks and unique live performances, last year also marked a decade since the first of his two album drops. The self-titled collation of 13 tracks was released all the way back in September 2009, following up with the release of Torus four years later in 2013.
Since then, Sub Focus releases have been a steady stream of singles like hit Take It Up and the lesser known heavy club tracks such as Love Divine, but a third instalment of a Sub Focus album has so far eluded shelves.
I feel really lucky to be in this position and I’m just loving making music
‘It’s pretty mad, it’s been ten years since my first album. I’m really enjoying it at the moment and I feel really lucky to be in this position, and I’m just loving making music.
‘I definitely want to make another album. For the last few years I’ve just been doing singles. Speaking as someone who’s done albums for a really long time, it’s nice to be out of that cycle now; you don’t just release an album and then tour it for a bit, you’re constantly experimenting with release formats.
‘I do think there’s still a place for them and I’ve got a few concepts I want to do as Sub Focus, but they’re a big statement and a lot harder to put together, I’ve got to feel really good about it.’
Though it’s unlikely we’ll see another album in the near future, Sub Focus’ stay at the upper echelons of dance music looks destined to continue throughout 2020 – and if he’s got anything to do with it, the rest of the decade.