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Six By Six: Noisia

Thijs de Vlieger's all-time top tunes

2016 Aug 29     
2 Bit Thugs

From Mozart to Starship, via Radiohead and Ray Charles, the Dutch master takes us on a supremely eclectic trawl through his record collection

Tunes for driving, tunes for dining, tunes for refining what music means to you… 6x6 is an opportunity for artists to revel in all the furthest facets of their collection and its many contexts and applications. A concept that’s ideal for Dutch dance music titans Noisia, an act who've been exploring the deepest, darkest corners of the bass landscape since 2003.

They’re most frequently found flying their flag from the craggiest, most perplexing drum & bass peaks but just as satisfied exploring the dingiest bass caves, carving their detailed designs in the harsh sonic surfaces. Fresh from plotting stark new territories on the map with their impressive Outer Edges album and performance concept – a project in which they’ve explored their sound and abilities to new extremes, letting their music and ideas grow into what they want to be and not what dancefloor custom, convention or expectation dictates – we collar Thijs, one third of the band (the long-haired one), and ask him to plot out the panorama of his own playlists.

The terrain is every bit as tasty as you’d hope. If not more. Aside from Noisia, Thijs has written and performed with the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, written platinum pop songs and has a deep-seated love for guilty bangers. A man of intense musical analyses and a longing to learn theory to the highest composer stripes, when he’s not with his bandmates Martijn and Nik he’s diving deep into a dizzying array of ambitious new musical projects. Or, for several hours last week, digging deep into his collection to find 36 building blocks of his own compounded musical make-up.

From Mozart's Requiem to Radiohead by way of some of the most brutal and beautiful electronica ever conjured in a studio and some of most toe-curling pop songs known to mankind, this is Thijs from Noisia as you never seen him before... pushing the 6x6 concept to its own 'outer edges'.

SIX EARLY INFLUENCES

 

Daft Punk – Da Funk (Soma, 1995)
"My most-played Daft Punk album is Discovery. I know Homework was super-influential, but by the time I got into them some of it felt a little old and I only listened to particular tracks. Da Funk was one of those tracks. Everything about it: I love the video with the dog and musically it’s so well done. So funky, and so slow! Much slower than a funk track would usually be. You don’t forget tracks like this."

 

Prodigy – Breathe (XL, 1996)
"I was around 15 at this time and, like it did for a lot of people, it just blew me away. It was long before we went to any clubs and experienced electronic music, which we were pretty late to do anyway. And it was long before there was any concept of internet music or streaming videos at our own leisure. We had CDs from the public library and three music channels back at the time - The Box, TMF and MTV - and this came along unlike any other video. The sound, the energy, the way it was presented. It was unreal. The whole album Fat Of The Land was, and still is, fucking sick."

 

Cause 4 Concern – Facelift (1210 Recordings, 2002)
"This takes me back to one of the first club nights we went to, a Virus night at a club called Zero13 in Tilburg. The first big night me and Nik went to (Martijn couldn’t come because he was too young), Ed Rush & Optical, Rhyme Tyme and Cause 4 Concern were all there. I took a little MiniDisc and recorded three tracks that blew my mind: Facelift, Synergy and Peep Show. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were all by Cause 4 Concern. Every tune that made me go ‘Fuck! What’s this?’ was made by these guys. They were so influential on our early stuff."

 

Stakka & Skynet – Decoy (Underfire, 2001)
"From the album Clockwork, which was the top of the mountain of that super-tech sound. Some of the tunes were known but the album came out bundled on one LP that was just one extensive vibe. Just awesome, super synthy sci-fi dance music. Using the term sci-fi is pretty corny but this really took sci-fi to its most extreme meaning for me. Stakka & Skynet and Konflict were the audio blueprint for this type of drum & bass."

 

Ed Rush & Optical – Fixation (Virus, 1998)
"Another one where the whole LP is so influential, but the track we’ve played the most in shows is Fixation. The arrangement is so slow and long, just one loop that’s so perfect. Wormhole is just so influential in tech drum & bass. Optical was an early Skrillex: his mind changed the way our music worked for a while. It was like ‘Hey, you can do it like this,' in ways no one had ever thought before. While Skrillex made something that existed into something a whole load more popular, Optical made something that existed a whole load more complex. Him, Ed Rush, Matrix, Fierce, the No U-Turn guys... they all did. But Optical was the first real block of energy."

 

Teebee - Daywalker (Subtitles, 2000)
"I know Teebee was very inspired by the same era but also a lot of Photek. I actually prefer early Teebee to early Photek, I think. All these Photek and Hidden Agenda records going through his weird Norwegian mind and coming out with a little less jungle and a little more tech and synth. It just sounded amazing to me. This was a little earlier, but his album Blacksciencelabs is just perfect. So much detail."

SIX DRIVING RECORDS 

 

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Sweet Hitch-Hiker (Fantasy, 1971)
"Driving and guitar music are intrinsically linked for me. I don’t know why. I have a really old car that has a tape deck and I’ve only got a few tapes. They’re all guitar music and they’re all I listen to unless I have classical radio on. Creedence Clearwater Revival really struck me when I went through a big guitar music period in my life, but I moved on. Then years later I saw an album of theirs on tape in a charity shop and it hasn’t left my car since."

 

Roy Orbison – Leah (Liberty, 1964)
"This reminds me of a trip around New Zealand in a camper van with my girlfriend. We picked up a few CDs for the van and Roy was one of them. I hadn’t really heard him before. I knew the hits but Leah is a little less well-known and it’s such a dramatic little love story. Very nice little lyrics. He had such a dramatic life."

 

John Lee Hooker - Boogie Chillin’ (Vee-Jay Records, 1959)
"John Lee Hooker is just so free, if you analyse John Lee Hooker rhythmically it’s so weird. He just completely skips beats. I heard bands had nightmares playing with him: he was used to just strumming his guitar and tapping his foot, so he could take liberties and start a chorus two beats early. He’s unique and I love his voice through all his ages, from when he was young to when he almost dead and still singing. Just so, so good."

 

Muddy Waters – Got My Mojo Workin’ (Chess, 1963)
"I had a long couple of years when I almost exclusively listened to blues. John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters were the two realest voices that truly represented the honest side of blues. Not radio-friendly or, I hate to say this, but what you might describe as white blues. Like BB King is really boring for me, but Muddy had this energy like a wild spirit soul."

 

The Cardigans - My Favourite Game (Stockholm Records, 1998)
"We have this long playlist shared between us called Guilty Bangers. They’re guilty tracks but also bangers... like this. I really do like this song. I love her voice, I love the energy,  I love the riff. This is so much of a driving tune it couldn’t be anything else. It was even in Gran Turismo, plus she’s driving in the video! Did you know they painted a tattoo on her arm and you can see it staining the car seat as the video goes on?"

 

Radiohead – Myxomatosis (Parlophone, 2003)
"I love driving to Radiohead. I love Radiohead full stop: they’re the biggest influence on me, ever. They make me want to make different, better music. They’ve written three of the best pop songs ever made, and most are on this list. But I also wanted to include something more upbeat for the driving section. This is it. Would I want to work with Thom Yorke? Of course, but I’m not ready to approach him. I’d need to be a lot more confident in my abilities as a composer and all-round musician. That’s a long way off."

 

SIX PEAKTIME RECORDS 

 

Noisia - Tentacles (Vision, 2016)
"All of these tracks have been peaktime tunes for a year and still will be in a year’s time. There are a lot of peaktime tunes in D&B but I’ve been very selective on these ones. Tentacles is a little newer so we’ve been playing it since May. We didn’t make announce it as a new track, because we hoped it would stay fresh and not go too viral before the album. That said, I do miss that culture when people would call for a rewind because they hadn’t heard the tune before... now they call for the rewind when they know the track. Unless you’re playing in somewhere like London or Bristol, then chances are the crowd won’t know if it’s a brand new track or just one they haven’t heard before. But that’s how things are - and it meant we could test this for a while before the album."

 

Audio - Ultron [Mefjus Remix] (Ram, 2016)
"We love Mefjus, and we love Audio. This is a great way of shouting both, especially because I chop up the original with the remix when I play anyway. Mefjus is the next big thing. Audio is the big thing. He’s super-consistent and such a quality producer. So this is perfect. We have certain producers that we play in every set. These guys, Ivy Lab and Alix Perez are guaranteed."

 

Ivy Lab – Planebeats (Critical, 2015)
"This is a party tune. I mix it in with a lot of anticipation so people are expecting a really hard D&B track, then this drops. It really works. That crazy offbeat shuffle thing totally throws and surprises people. There’s a lot of great music in the halftime sound now but this was one of the first that said to me, ‘This is the way to do it!’ It has all the drum & bass energy plus that really spacey, LA beat-y, Flying Lotus or J Dilla kinda shuffle in there. There’s no way you could drop something like this a few years ago, everyone would be like ‘What the fuck is this? This is a drum & bass night!’ But now it’s ingrained into the options… a lot of D&B DJs have a little halftime section, there’s jump-up takes on it, hard neuro takes on it. Everyone has accepted it as a new drum & bass context."

 

Alix Perez - Hack & Slash (1985 Records, 2016)
"Like Ivy Lab, Alix just makes amazing music whether it’s drum & bass or halftime. This was called Murder Tonight but he’s changed the name to Hack & Slash. He’s been playing this since last October and I was there the first time he dropped it. I was like, ‘I need this tune!’ I busted his balls on it for so long and now I have it and it always, always goes off. It’s the biggest halftime track beside Planebeat. It’s coming up really soon but you can hear it a few tracks in on our radio show from last month."

 

Must Die - Hellcat [Annix Remix] (OWSLA, 2014)
"I love everything Annix do. Everything. I really like The Contraband from their album Forever but this one is so well done with the synth that comes before the drop that makes it so easy to DJ with. The first time we heard Annix was on DJ Hazard’s Fabric mix. They had this weird-assed attitude. Funny but not forcing the funny. And weird rhythms, too. They just stood out and reminded us of oureselves, in a way. So we called up Hazard - who is also a massive hero - and asked him for the tunes and a link-up and they keep us up-to-date. We’re happy they exist and make tunes."

 

Noisia & The Upbeats - Dead Limit (Vision, 2015)
"That build-up was a problem. When we made it we knew it was promising so we knew were going to persist with it, but it was so dominant we couldn’t find a drop to follow it. It took us so long to work out that we needed something that was more tunnel-vision and didn’t continue the epicness of the drop. It was a very tough birth. But we got there in the end!"

 

SIX LIFE-CHANGING RECORDS 

 

The Doors - The End (Elektra, 1967)
"I’ve known this record all my life. It’s from my Dad’s record collection, I’ve been exposed to them forever and if we were allowed to pick from his collection we’d always put this on. But getting into music and lyrics more later on in life, I realised how special this was and how special the whole time in music was. The Beatles is the same but they have a whole part of their catalogue I don’t like so much. The Doors never made a bad record; it's all so psychedelic and rich in textures. I actually played this at the last Renegade Hardware at The End. It was the last song I played. A very cool moment. I love playing unexpected stuff, I’m playing a Hendrix tune in my set at the moment and I’m so proud to be able to drop it in a D&B context and for it to work."

 

Mozart – Requiem (1791)
"I’d never drop Mozart in a dancefloor set, but I’m very influenced by him, and especially by Requiem. I know every note. I’d have this on headphones for days when I was around 17, and I’d listen to nothing else. The richness of this is incredible. He was a mastermind, a fucking prodigy. It makes me realise I have to do something with this feeling that classical music gives me. It has so many dimensions and opportunities for myself and for Noisia to develop in. It’s fascinating and very inspiring."

 

The Beatles - Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Parlophone, 1967)
"The Beatles were a gift in life. My dad didn’t like them a lot so I was under-exposed to them growing up. Then suddenly I heard all this incredible music of their later catalogue that I didn’t even know existed. I suddenly went on this journey by myself and I was a blank slate. This is my favourite because it’s so weird and visual and fictional. I love when you see a story happening in music. Tom Waits is another man who’s so talented at this."

 

Wendy Carlos - Theme From Clockwork Orange (CBS, 1973)
"The main theme, which is based on Purcell’s funeral march for Queen Mary. Those beautiful synthesizers. That sound effect that’s so iconic and so good. It’s one synth that’s probably not hard to replicate but this was when it was used first. I’ll never forget the first time I heard it and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched the movie. All the classical bits licensed for the movie are perfect but this is especially influential and moving."

 

Radiohead - Paranoid Android (Parlophone, 1997)
"OK Computer was when Radiohead got really interesting. A real landmark in the history of music for me. Paranoid Android is one of the few true rock epics that really works. Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart is another one. If you analyse it it’s almost majestic. The key changes are just about acceptable to the brain and the weirdest stuff is going on but it works. Bohemian Rhapsody is another one. It’s totally overplayed but the melodies and harmonies and arrangement go all over the place. Such a range of musicality that’s totally different from most keep-it-simple radio music. It’s complex but it works. Very few songs can do that."

 

Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit (Atlantic, 1972)
"I listen to Billie a lot, she’s a fucking genius. She changed so much in jazz. More than many other singers. She’s so weird in her timings: she starts way too late and somehow catches up in a way that really shouldn’t be done, but she does it. Every time, the band are like ‘How’s she going to finish this? Ah...’ I also wanted to include this because of what’s happening in America with the police shooting black people. Because this is what this is all about. A very complex, confounding and sad situation."

SIX SUMMER BBQ RECORDS 

 

Total Touch - Somebody Else’s Lover (Ariola, 1996)
"All these BBQ records are just great songs, but horrible, too. Guilty bangers. This one rocks: it’s the Dutch version of the 90s, one of all those semi-electronic pop acts that were inspired by 2 Unlimited. This was one of the biggest and everyone in Holland knows it. Turn it on, turn it up. It’s a fucking tune mate."

 

Starship - We Built This City (Grunt, 1985)
"Iconic 80s long curly blonde hair, torn jeans, bandana... all awesome. Awesome when you want to have fun. Awesome to sing along to. I was seven when the 80s finished, so it was on the radio when I grew up during that time but I wasn’t conscious of it. This came along much later in my life."

 

Time Bandits - I’m Specialized In You (CBS, 1982)
"A very happy, friendly song. I found it on my girlfriend’s iPod once on shuffle. I had no idea about this song before and found it really cute. Just a very cute little poppy song. And just this minute I’ve realised they’re Dutch, too. That makes them even more awesome!"

 

Ultravox - Dancing With Tears In My Eyes (MCA, 1984)
"An emotional masterpiece. Just the hook is enough for me. Those lyrics. The melody is great. Just beautiful music."

 

Brandy & Monica - The Boy Is Mine (Atlantic, 1998)
"The intro with the guitar melody hooks me every time. Essential 90s kitsch, this was a huge hit and very of its time. Just so well written and executed and great to hear at any BBQ or similar social type of situation. Weirdly, years later, we actually worked with the guy who wrote this. But not as Noisia - it was as part of our Nightwatch alias. That’s a whole other story, though…"

 

R. Kelly - Ignition [Remix] (Jive, 2002)
"Thomas our tour manager is a bad influence and he brought R Kelly into our lives. When this comes on, everyone gets out of their chair and raises a drink. That’s just how things get done. It’s late night/BBQ/anytime party drinking music... an essential guilty pleasure."

 

SIX AFTERHOURS RECORDS 

 

Radiohead - Everything In Its Right Place (Parlophone, 2000)
"Is that sound a Rhodes? Is it a synth? What the fuck is it? It’s probably layering of an electric piano and synth but it’s so gorgeous. I don’t know the meter, either: it’s not 4/4 and I’m not sure if it’s consistent, but one loop is 13 beats and it’s great to free your perception. It brings you into a hypnotic vibe, you have no idea where you are in the tune and you take it for what it is. Every new beat could be a new chord or sound. There are no drums besides a really small kickdrum and the way they process the vocal. Possibly with a Kaoss Pad?"

 

Jon Hopkins - Open Eye Signal (Domino, 2013)
"Afterhours music has to be nice and not in your face, and the minute I heard this I was convinced. Our friend Khomatech sent it to us because he knows we like Stephan Bodzin’s style of beautiful, very deep melodic techno. It’s so nice. The bass section is so well done... and I don’t say that a lot."

 

Koreless - Sun (Young Turks, 2013)
"I found this through Radiohead: they had this 'office playlist' thing with the music they were listening to. I have no idea who was updating it, maybe Thom Yorke? But this is so cool. It’s just like one loop for five minutes. A really nice simple melody, with a big old school synthesizer that sits in its own place. The whole thing is like the score to a movie without the movie. That's kinda how we approached Outer Edges: no concessions to how people might want to consume it but rather ‘This is how the track wants to be, that’s how it’s going to be’."

 

Rival Consoles - Howl (Erased Tapes, 2015)
"We’ve only heard of him a year ago but it’s very interesting, melodic techno with maybe a little IDM to it. There’s some great sound design with really nice synths and clean clear drums, with enough character to keep it from being boring. It’s all about the atmospheres."

 

Radiohead - Pyramid Song (Parlophone, 2001)
"What else can I say about Radiohead? I’ve talked about them a lot today. But here’s how it is… if we’ve had a rough night and we’re all still up and we’re listening to nice music and this comes on and everyone shuts up, I’ll be very very happy. I love it so much. It’s one of the best pieces of music ever written."

 

Jamie XX - Gosh (Young Turks, 2015)
"Just very nice, not-so-hyped-up music. I really like the big synth melody that comes in and sweeps you away. And I love the vocals. Such a great idea. I’m kicking myself I never thought of it before. But would it be cultural appropriation to do that as Dutch outsiders? Our whole framework is pretty much UK so we don’t feel like Dutch outsiders. We’ve just built our own little world right beside the UK."

As told to: Dave Jenkins

Outer Edges is out now on Vision. Buy it here.

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Tags: Noisia, Thijs de Vliegen, D&B, drum & bass, drum n bass, DnB, The Prodigy, Radiohead, Daft Punk, Ed Rush & Optical, Teebee, Ivy Lab, Alix Perez, The Beatles