Fresh off the massive success of their 'Never Acid Again' EP for the C4C imprint, the German duo known as Neonlight touch down with Kmag for a chat followed by an exclusive dubplate session from none other than Mark of C4C fame to put some icing on the cake.
First off, introduce yourselves to Knowledge Mag readers and fill us in as to how you two came together to form Neonlight in the first place.
Tobi: We are the German drum & bass DJ and producer duo Neonlight, aka Tobias Jakubczyk and Jakob Thomser. Up to now, we had releases on leading labels such as C4C, Lifted, Bad Taste, Viper, SOM Music, Eatbrain and Trust In Music.
Jakob: We have known each other since childhood, as our parents were good friends and also had a (rock-) band. When we became teenagers we lost contact for a bit. We lived in different towns and developed different interests, especially in music. I made my first experiences with music software in the 90s, making techno and dance music. Later on I infected Tobias with d&b and he started exploring the scene.
Our first liaisons in the early 21st century held a lot of promise, so we tried to find more and more time to work on tunes. After we had a few smaller releases, we formed Neonlight in 2009. All signs showed in one direction, and now we make a living from composing music/producing and DJing.
I know you both have a passion for music and production from a very young age, what other music were you listening to before d&b? Any other influences you continue to draw on today?
Jakob: As a teenager, I listened mostly to techno, trance, breakbeat and stuff like that. Years later my taste of music turned more into directions like rock/pop (e.g. Sting, Supertramp, Yes, Spock's Beard, Peter Gabriel, Ben Folds, Mike Oldfield) and jazz.
With that said, I would not separate my life into ‘before d&b' and now as I continue to be fond of many different styles of music.
Tobi: As a child I often listened to music by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Jackson Five, Yes, Genesis, David Hasselhoff, and Roxette. This strange mix was a result of my parents taste of music and my own. As a teenager, I preferred old school hip hop, sometimes heavy metal and all kinds of broken beats. Nowadays, it has turned to various kinds of electronic music.
It's hard to believe it's only been a few years since you guys cracked the international scene as producers with your Blackout EP on Trust in Music. Talk a bit about the past few years and how things have progressed for you guys musically and professionally.
Tobi: About ten years ago, Jakob showed me his first productions on his PC. I was fascinated by that and started my own attempts in producing. By this time we both also had our first small DJ gigs. In 2003 we started working on our first drum & bass collaboration. It was an unofficial remix of Dune - ‘Hardcore Vibes'.
The following years we tried to work together on tunes as much as we could but it was not that easy to manage, because we lived in different cities and the internet was not available for us like nowadays. The years between 2003 and our first 12' release in 2007 (as Niz5ive & Pitch'n'Sulphur) were kind of a long testing run with highs and lows. The big change came in 2008, when I moved to Leipzig where Jakob already was living. From that moment on we sat in the studio each week and formed Neonlight later that year.
Part of this success has been a steady stream of remixes, original beats, and studio collaborations that have secured your position as one's to watch. How did this lead to linking up with C4C and how did this lead to remixing their classic "Never Acid Again"?
Tobi: After we had quite a successful release on Optiv´s label Redlight in 2010, we asked him if it might be possible to do a remix of a C4C track in the future. They are living d&b legends! Six months later we received an email with the stems for 'Never Acid Again'. It was quite surprising for us. We are still really happy and grateful that Mark, Edd and Stu gave us the opportunity to assemble that remix.
This is a huge release and I'm loving both versions of your remix - what were your thoughts going in and what approach did you take to capturing the vibe of the original while elevating it with your own vision?
Jakob: Thank you! Well, first of all, we listened to all audio files keenly that were sent over to us. We selected some distinctive samples and added own stuff, mainly new sounds for drums, bass lines and sound FX. From this point on we became creative (haha)! We experimented with our favorite plugins and synths; we cut, reversed and crushed samples searching for the right idea and groove.
What about this tune you guys did with Wintermute and sH1? The vibe on this one is deep and heavy - what's the story behind this one and how did it make its way onto C4C as well?
Jakob: Wintermute and Sh1 were the first guys from the d&b scene here in Leipzig we got in touch with. We recognised their musical skills and liked a lot what they did, and even though their style of d&b is different from ours, this was never an issue. It did, however, take us some time to finish off the tune as it was not so easy to handle the ideas and the input of four persons from time to time. After we had showed it Optiv for the first time, the decision to put it out with our remix on C4C was reached really quickly.
Any other projects, tours, releases we should be looking out for?
Tobi: First of all, the release of Bad Taste Volume 5, which has been out since July features two of our tracks. Both are collaborations, one with the mighty Aeph ('Space Truckers') and the other with our good friends from Leipzig SH1 & Wintermute ('Reminiscence'). Check this out if you have missed it so far.
We also have a remix of Black Sun Empire's 'Eraser' due out on a remix-EP sometime soon to introduce their forthcoming album 'From the Shadows.' We also just finished a really rowdy collaboration with the Russian producer Receptor called '800-Pound Gorilla' that will be released as part of a various artist EP on Lifted Music sometime in October.
Our main focus at the moment is on finishing our own 4-track EP for Lifted Music that will be called 'Computer Music'. The tracks are written so that now it is time to focus on the details and the final mixing. We are really excited and can't wait to show them to the drum & bass scene. Watch out!
Words: Chris Muniz
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