An integral part of DJ Friction’s Shogun Audio family, Icicle has been turning out quality D&B and dubstep for nearly a decade now. Known for his deep, atmospheric and often hard sound, stripped back from needless embellishment, the Dutch producer enjoys a reputation as one of the best producers out there.
As such, the release of his second album for Shogun on 17 November got all of us here at Trap a little excited. We caught up with Icicle at his home in London to find out more about that project, life on Shogun Audio and his views on the sounds and scenes he operates within…
Your new album ‘Entropy’ is out soon. How is it different to your last album, ‘Under The Ice’, and what should we expect?
‘Entropy’ will be my second album and I’ve been working on it since I finished ‘Under The Ice’. I spent a lot of time working out how to differentiate between this album and my first. My first album was really an attempt to sum up my influences and where I came from musically; a bit of a look back. ‘Entropy’ is more of a look into the future, an imagining of the progression of my sound. It’s more sonically advanced, a bit harder and more chaotic, but has a lot of musical moments, too.
The album features several guest vocalists – SPMC, Manchester’s Skittles, Foreign Beggars’ Metropolis and vocalist Sarah Hezen. What was your thinking in getting them involved?
It’s always a little difficult to find vocalists for my tunes, as, mostly, they don’t have obvious riffs, but these were the people that really made it work for us. SP, Skittles and Metropolis are simply just some of my very favourites MCs out there, and Sarah Hezen was bit of a find. She’s undoubtedly one of the most unique sounding vocalists I’ve ever come across and I had so much fun working with her. Working on future vocalist-driven projects is something I just got into and it’s definitely something to develop more in future.
You’ve lived in England for a while now – what do you miss most about Holland?
Well, the obvious thing would be my family and friends. Holland is a great place, but in work terms, I haven’t really go that many ties with there anymore. Leaving behind people you’ve know all your life isn’t easy, but then Holland is only a 45-minute flight away.
You’re one of many D&B producers to come from Holland, and in particular Eindhoven. Why do you think so many quality producers come from there?
Eindhoven is definitely a creative place, but, I think, to an extent it was just a random coming together of likeminded people. We had a good group of people sticking together and helping each other forward, that helped a lot. To be honest, I haven’t lived there for six years so I am getting out of touch.
Shogun Audio has been your home almost since the start of your recording career – what does the label mean to you?
Shogun has been great for me, and Ed (Friction) and Keir (K-Tee) have pushed me hard and been open to my ideas about my music. We’ve always had a very nice group of producers who are also actually all friends; that’s helped to keep it a nice place to release music.
Who inspires you most from among your fellow Shogun producers?
I think, right now, we have a nicely varied group of producers. I wouldn’t pick a stand-out person, but it’s nice to see everybody working themselves near to death to improve their music! That’s inspiring for me.
Do you feel any restrictions from being so closely tied to one label? Or is it a happy marriage?
It’s a happy marriage, but there are obvious restrictions, because of the exclusivity. It’s hard to not think the grass is always greener. Shogun have always let me do certain other things when I really wanted to and, overall, the drawbacks of being signed exclusively are dwarfed by the payoffs, such as promotion and development. Bit of a PC answer, but that’s really how I see it.
You’re known for producing both D&B and dubstep and your new album features both – which do you prefer making?
I always find that a bit of a weird question. I think the whole point of making more that one style of music is because it feels like the same music to me. I think my dubstep and my D&B are very similar in energy and sound. From tune to tune, I might prefer a certain project to another, but that’s not because of what genre it is.
Dubstep as a sound and movement has retreated to the underground since its popular pinnacle a few years back – do you think the genre will ever return to the fore?
I think the retreat in popularity was to be expected. When something becomes as unbelievably popular as dubstep did, there will always be a terrible backlash. Dubstep is going to be fine, though, it’s building identity still, in my opinion, and has a long way to go. As long as people like Proxima, Thelem, Commodo and Biome keep popping up and keep dubstep inventive, everything will be OK!
Who are your biggest influences as a producer?
I would say people like Amon Tobin for pure sound design, Noisia for pushing the limit of musical dynamics and maybe Blawan for reinventing an age-old music style such as techno and showing that there’s always more to do.
And who’s exciting you most as a producer in electronic music as a whole right now?
That’s an impossible question, I think. I have to give two very different answers; I’m really into FKA Twigs and her absurd song structures – that sounds fresh to me. On the other end, Mefjus is putting so much into FM type sound design; that really feels like the forefront of modern dance music to me.
D&B has been around for almost two decades now – does it still excite you and do you feel it still has room to grow?
Absolutely, music is never finished. If you look back over the last few years of D&B you can see the progression; even if there were times you may have felt D&B was a little stagnant, you can really see the jumps in quality. D&B will always take influence from what’s happing in all other styles of music and so will stay alive, in my opinion.
And finally, now the album’s here, what’s next for Icicle?
An audio-visual live show that’s coming next year…
‘Entropy’ is out on Shogun Audio on Monday 17 November.