Well known in the drum & bass world for his forward-thinking productions on the deep and rolling tip, the Dutch mastermind Nymfo is a familiar and ever-impressive presence on legendary imprints ranging from Metalheadz, Hospital, Ram, and Dispatch. Having refined a sound that sits comfortably within the deep, dark confines of the tech-driven side of the dancefloor, it came as quite a surprise when the Amsterdam-based producer showed up on Yellow Claw’s Barong Family imprint earlier this year with a full-on four track EP.
While there’s no doubt that Nymfo has been pushing the genre envelope for the past decade, the tunes he dropped on his now seminal Stranger Things EP were like anything we’d ever heard from the man and immediately stood out as being in a class all their own. With elements of half-time, trap, dubstep, and straight up underground flavor, the four tracks that Nymfo dropped for Barong Family smashed any preconceived notions about what form a hybrid, cross-genre experiment of this nature would take.
Known for their dominance in the 140-150 bpm zone of trap, bass, and EDM, Nymfo’s EP was an experiment of sorts for the imprint as well. Nurturing a not-so-secret love of drum & bass and with longtime plans of expanding the label’s output in that direction, Yellow Claw admits that they’ve just been waiting for the right time, vibe, and producer to realize their vision of a fusion between all things bass-driven on the dancefloor at a 170+ bpm tempo.
Even more interesting perhaps, is the way in which the project seems to have sparked a newfound energy and direction in Nymfo’s work. Forced to work outside-of-the-box, Nymfo is the first to admit the move has been a liberating one, a notion that’s reflected in his latest bubbling “Do You Like Bass?” remix.
But still, we and other die-hard fans can’t help but ask: Is this the end of the Nymfo we once knew? Should we only expect trap and bass from here on out or are there plans to dip back into the minimal roller territory that made his name? All of these questions and more are answered in the in-depth interview we had with the man below as we contemplate a future where genre-conventions continue to be blurred and the results are anything but expected.
For those who don’t know, how would you describe your sound
#crossoverdrumandbasstrapstepwithanymfotouch. Outside the box and not using the “unwritten drum and bass rules.”
With these new trap-and-bass hybrids surfacing on Barong Family, does this mean that the old deep and minimal Nymfo is dead?
No, not at all! I’ve always been a diverse producer and DJ. Of course, I still like my deep minimal rollers. In fact, I just finished a nice, smooth and deep EP for Spearhead, so don’t worry!
Okay, let’s jump into the real reason we’ve got you in the hot seat today. Earlier this summer you hit us up with four tunes that were unlike anything we’ve ever heard! We love that the template (and tempo) still allows these to fit into a drum & bass set and yet as a whole, these new works are unlike anything we’ve heard. How did you link up with Yellow Claw and what led to this new direction?
I’d done a remix for Yellow Claw four years ago and always kept contact with them. At some point, they asked me for an EP for Barong Family. At the same time, I was a bit stuck in the studio, because I wrote so many similar sounding tunes. So doing an EP for them was a perfect project to go more outside the box at the right moment. Once I started doing that, I noticed I really enjoyed writing music again. No rules, just go with the flow.
Before this recent dip into Barong Family territory, what did you know or think about trap as a genre? Who were some artists, labels, or experiences you had with it?
The best part is that I don’t know anything about trap. Because I’m so deep into drum & bass, it also can be tricky for your creativity. Using inspiration from other genres was an eye opener for me; just because you don’t know what you can and can’t do. That’s the reason it’s sounding “fresh” and “new” for a lot of people, I guess.
Drum & bass is known for being notoriously insular. Were you worried as you moved in this new direction that you were somehow abandoning your old mates from the d&b neighborhood? Did you consider changing your artist name or using a different alias for these new releases?
I was really nervous when that EP came out. Of course a few people were disappointed, but most of the reactions were super positive! I can’t make the same rollers for 15 years—it’s good to develop your sound. I always compare it like this: if you work for a boss, at some point you are getting interested to see what else you can do for maybe a different company, or sometimes you go for a totally different job or direction. I think it’s healthy, and it’s worked out really well for my creativity. It’s also part of getting older, having babies, and more of that emo stuff.
With the Stranger Things EP, did the concept come first or did the music?
Jim [from Yellow Claw] literally told me that I could do whatever I wanted to do, because then it really sounds like Nymfo. That’s the best situation you can have, total freedom. No master plan or concept, just writing music. Because Barong Family never released a drum & bass EP before, I wanted to introduce the genre with the Stranger Things EP. All the tempos were 174, but most of the tracks still had that half-time/trap feeling and vibe, but I teased a lot of typical drum & bass sounds and drum edits in all those tracks. I think the EP has the perfect balance between a lot of genres.
I imagine Yellow Claw are fans of drum & bass on some level. What was their reaction when they heard the tunes you sent over?
I was nervous as hell to show my true following this EP, but when Black Sun Empire told me they dropped two of the tracks at EDC in Vegas, Noisia played them in their radio show, and Teddy Killerz wanted to do a collab after they heard it, I thought I did a good job! The EP did quite well [on the] Beatport charts, too. Besides that, there was also support from people like MUST DIE!, Lny Tnz and Juicy M. I reached the usual following, but also a totally new crowd.
You’ve just dropped another heater on us with your remix of Yellow Claw and Juyen Sebulba’s “Do You Like Bass.” Fill us in on how this one came together.
I recently had a second daughter so was offline for five weeks. The day before I was going back to the studio after my break, Yellow Claw texted me to ask if I was up for doing a remix. Well, they didn’t really ask it, but send the stems straight away! [Laughs] So I went to the studio and two hours later it was almost done. They liked it, so it took me two days to finish it properly. Usually it’s the other way around and I work for weeks on one track! Sometimes it’s good to take a few weeks off in the studio.
What has been the reaction from the broader bass community?
The introduction with the first EP was already good, but this remix is full-on D&B and the feedback is even better, especially from the non-D&B crowd, I think because they know the vocal from the original track and the drop is quite simple but effective.
It seems like these projects have given you a new energy and focus. Where do you go from here?
I’m working on a new Barong EP as we speak, but I’m also working on new music for CIA and Dispatch. I like that diversity and the balance. I tried to do a collab with Yellow Claw, but it didn’t work out yet just because we didn’t have enough studio time. I just hope releases like this bring D&B as a genre closer to a bigger and new audience. At the end of the day it’s all bass music, the only thing different is the tempo.
Last but not least, what kind of advice would you give to someone hoping to shake things up and approach their own creative work in a new way?
Writing music is not a competition, you need to have fun. Don’t try to be somebody else, but follow your heart and do what YOU like. Don’t use unwritten rules, everything is allowed. And if you think while writing a track “this is too weird, people are not going to like it,” you are doing a good thing!