After an epoch-making year of career milestones and an announcement that brought the drum and bass community to tears—Thys, part of the Noisia crew has kept a nonstop schedule this year with several projects including the release of his first solo album, Sleeping Beauty Dreams.
Thys, known by Thijs de Vlieger on his passport, is currently sitting pretty on the charts with his pals and frequent collaborators, The Upbeats. Their funky Vision-released single “Halcyon” is currently making the rounds rave-wise and offers up a lighter taste of heavy bass. While his time performing as Noisia is coming to a bittersweet end, it’s his other collaborative projects that seem to be turning heads. From the three piece group, Three Reflections for String Quartet and Electronics, his project with American turntablist VinylRichie as DotCrawl, to his charity effort with the Grammy Music Education coalition, we’ve got a lot of musical ground to cover.
Signing in from his lush jungle hideaway in Fiji while performing on location as Noisia, Thys was kind enough to spare a few moments of reflection with Bassrush, and where this epic journey will take him next.
Hope you’re having a wonderful time abroad. Where do you plan on spending the holidays?
I’ve been answering these questions in Fiji and New Zealand! I’m out here for a mix of touring and holidays: this is our last tour in New Zealand and Australia. I played Your Paradise Festival in Fiji as Noisia, and afterwards saw some of the beautiful islands there. It’s really nice to see a place that still has a lot of intact coral reefs. So that was the first time Noisia played Fiji, but the last time as well..
Work on Holiday huh? Do you consider yourself a “work-a-holic”?
Absolutely. My brain is wired around music. I really need to make an effort to occupy myself with things other than music-related things to actually relax. I am constantly learning, interpreting and collecting information around music when I’m not actually making music. Music is really the only thing I’m any good at, too. I think being obsessed by music is almost necessary to be a successful musician, and being obsessed means music never really leaves you alone.
So how do you really unplug when it comes to your industry commitments?
I want to become better at it. I am not good at it. Usually my way to unplug is to distract myself with information or activities that thoroughly demand all my attention. Which isn’t really relaxing… So there’s room for improvement there.
What’s the longest time you’ve been away from music production?
Ehhh.. after I started out properly, I think I might have spent some weeks here and there not making any music. But I don’t think I’ve spent a single day not thinking about music. Music is almost everywhere, and sound is everywhere. My favorite parts of holidays are usually when there’s unexpectedly music in the street. I can’t escape being a musician, but luckily for me I have no wish to escape music either.
What was the most exciting aspect of sharing your score to Sleeping Beauty Dreams with the world?
I was really excited to show a side of myself and a side of my music that isn’t focused on dancefloor impact, but on more narrative and dramatic elements: telling musical stories, and writing music that goes together with choreography or other theatrical or cinematic visual arts. This album allowed to me to explore melody and harmony much more than what we typically do as Noisia, which is a direction I am really excited to go in! I want to compose more for performances, and I would love to compose for film and tv, or do another game soundtrack. That’s the direction I’d like to move in next.
Were you nervous?
Definitely! Writing and releasing albums is not new for me, I’ve been a part of many album releases (2 artist albums and the DMC soundtrack album with Noisia, the I Am Legion LP-our project with Foreign Beggars, and we’ve produced many albums for others as well). But this is the first one where I had to make every decision myself: I was at the beginning and end of every decision, alone. Completely different! So, I was nervous.
Who are some of your favourite cinematic composers?
Amon Tobin, Clark, Eskmo, Deru, Mica Levi, Trent Reznor, Jonny Greenwood, Hildur Guthnadottir, Angelo Badalamenti, Ennio Morricone, and of course Bernard Herrmann! I can also appreciate the more bombastic styles that Junkie XL / Tom Holkenberg and Hans Zimmer are known for.
I love the celestial vibes on your latest with The Upbeats, ‘Halcyon.’ Aside from the cool time signature switch up, what about this record stands out to you? Any special synths used?
The main rhythmic stab pattern is made with a cool new sampler I’ve been exploring a lot called UVI Falcon. I used this heavily on my string quartet piece “Three Reflection” and decided to pull it up when we got a bit stuck on an earlier version of this tune. It’s a really flexible tool, the IRCAM timestretch algo on it sounds fantastic. This tune was started in Japan with The Upbeats during their project “No Sleep Til.” It went through a bunch of metamorphoses before this little butterfly took its final shape. It actually started quite angry when we were all together in Japan, later Nik and Dylan took it to a lighter, more steppy vibe, and then at some point I got the idea to try this disco stab idea. A lot of the jazzy little melodies were played in rather than programmed: both Nik and I have been exploring playing keys more lately.
The Temp album on Division from Tek Genesis, mind blowing and beautiful. Can you tell us more about this artist and his journey on Division?
He’s a guy from Sydney that really sent us a pretty much finished album, saying Division would be his favorite label to release on it. I heard it and basically didn’t say much more than “I love it. Fits the label perfectly: it’s big but with the right amount of weird and experimental. Yeah, let’s release this on Division!”
Can you sum up your DotCrawl project for the uninitiated?
DotCrawl is my hiphop/beats project, with my friend Richie (VinylRichie/YoVinyl). I’ve been friends with him for years. He’s a proper hip-hop head from the Bronx: turntablist, DJ at open mic hip-hop shows, a scene insider. We met in New York but actually became friends in Den Haag (Netherlands), he’s married to a Dutch artist and lived in The Netherlands for years! He’s been putting out DJ mixes constantly, and we’ll start to see the new tunes come out in 2020!
What accomplishment are you most proud of this year?
That’s so hard. 2019 was such an eventful year. We’ve made the difficult decision to stop being Noisia after 2020. Maybe it’s a weird thing to be proud of, but I’m grateful for the way we’ve managed to make and execute that difficult decision. I’m super proud of the ‘Three Reflections’ String Quartet project, which I organized, crowdfunded, wrote and performed with my friends Nicholas Thayer and Setareh Nafisi. Releasing the Sleeping Beauty Dreams album was also a huge achievement, it is my first solo album!
What are your dreams for 2020?
In 2020 I want to fully experience, enjoy and celebrate the last year of Noisia. We’ve done amazing things together, and I’m really happy we get an extensive chance to say goodbye properly. My personal hope for 2020 is to get a request for a film, tv series or game to write the music for. I am going to be learning and studying more about film and game music anyway, out of personal interest. I’ve realized that that’s where I need to move on to next. Of course we’ve already done the soundtrack for DMC: Devil May Cry, but I’d love to get another big job like that. Besides that, I already have a bunch of music I want to fully finish and release as Thys. I have a little project with Amon Tobin that’s pretty much finished, I have a selection of sketches for a club EP, and an album’s worth of dark cinematic synth music that wants to sit without drums. And then there’s a bunch of stuff I want to finish for DotCrawl so, enough to do next year!