You have started to do live shows again after a three-year break so you could focus on producing, what does a live show mean to you?
With a live show, not only are you so absorbed with what you’re doing but sometimes it takes the attention off the fact that you’re entertaining people, it becomes a showcase of my music and not me entertaining the crowd. Sometimes you just want to have a dance and a bit of fun but you can’t with a live show, so I decided to have a break and play some DJ sets. It’s been a few years and I’ve now got quite a lot of my own music to work with so I thought let’s do a live tour again. It’s a very different type of show to do. I had two really great live shows this year, one was at Panorama Bar and the other was at Glastonbury. It was really good for me to see the music I make put together in the way I wanted and working in an environment where the people appreciate it. That’s the thing about a live show. It is a really personal thing. That was what was hard for me before, because as a DJ if you need to switch it around you can do that but if it’s live that’s not always the case. It’s about picking the right bookings for it, because I’ve had a few shows over the years where I just shouldn’t have been playing live, because playing live in that environment is a really difficult thing to do and if you aren’t feeding off the vibe of the audience it doesn’t work, so it has to be the right crowd and atmosphere, but when it is right it’s really, really cool.
You’ve literally just landed this morning from Ibiza to Play at The Social, what were you up to out on the white Island?
I’ve had a pretty heavy week this week, I did quite a few shows, I did a really cool boat party with Sonica last Sunday, and did DC-10 on the Monday, which is obviously as good as it always is, and it was a mates birthday so I ended up playing at his after-party Villa thing on the Tuesday which was a lot of fun, before you know it it’s Wednesday and then Thursday, I actually played Cocoon on the Thursday, which was at a really cool club called Tipic in Formentera, and then it rolled into Friday and before you know it, it’s the weekend again and now I’m here. The only thing with Ibiza is you go there with the intention to chill but before you know it you’re back on the plane again after a week of partying.
Too true. You grew up being heavily influenced by the legendary “Essential Mix” on Pete Tongs Radio 1 show and now you’ve recently had the honor of completing an Essential Mix of your own. How did you prepare?
When I was younger I used to stay up and listen to the Essential Mixes because that was the only way for me to find new music, I couldn’t get into clubs, I didn’t have anyone passing anything down so whatever was on the TV or the radio was what I was listening to.
I think for most people always have a playlist in their iTunes for playing something big like Panorama Bar at DC-10, even if you’re not going to get booked, they’re always there in the back of your head just in case, and that was what happened with me and the Essential mix. I had the playlist in my itunes for about three or four years and I kept topping it up, or I’d come across a track and think ‘if this ever happens, this has to be in there’, it was like my Pandora’s box. And the preparation for that was that I wanted to have a mix of music that was inspiring for me but also would inspire someone else who was in a similar situations to me when I used to listen to Essential Mixes, so it was important to have a combination of what got me into music, where I am now as an artist, but not being too clever, it had to be quite a fun selection of music that is accessible to a lot of people and would introduce people to music maybe they wouldn’t necessarily be introduced to, because that’s what happened with me. I remember when Jamie Jones did his Essential Mix, about five or six years ago, there were quite a few records I hadn’t heard before and I went and found those records and off the back of them I found other records and that’s the beauty of music. It had to be a combination of stuff that’s accessible in the right way, but it had to be good quality music. It was a big project.
It’s interesting how what is deemed accessible has changed over the past few years with the internet making new music more accessible than ever. Do you think this has made it easier or harder to for emerging artists to be heard?
Nowadays it’s really hard to become successful in the industry, and it’s not necessarily over-saturated but everything’s far more accessible, anyone can be a DJ if they want to be, anyone can put together a track if they want to. When I started doing it I was fourteen or fifteen, I went to college, I went to University, I had an apprenticeship at Jaguar and I had to make a choice whether I should take that or go and study. I had the support of my family and I decided to go and study and do music, spending all my student loan on equipment. There’s all these kind of things, all these decisions that have made me end up where I am today, with a lot of hard work. These days I think young artists need to realize that if you’re into it you should be willing to give everything up and put everything you have into it. If you’re not willing to do that then it probably isn’t for you. I’d always recommend that level of commitment to doing what you want whether you want to be a DJ or a Tennis player or a footballer. That said you have to seriously think can you do it as well, there’s a fine line between wanting all of this and realising if you’re serious about it or not.
With such a hectic life style and constantly move from one country to another how do you try and stay balanced?
On the weekend I do what I want to do but during the week I try and go to the gym at least a couple of times, I’m very much a morning person, I get up at seven or eight, I’m definitely an early riser. I go to the gym and then I get in the studio and for the first half of the day, when I’m at my sharpest, I’m the most productive. I have this psychological thing where I have to have this nice, healthy smoothie every day. I have plenty of spinach, half an avocado, and maybe a dash of spirulina with a bit of coconut water for my favorite health tonic. It just depends on what time I make it, if it’s in the morning it’ll be more of a breakfast smoothie with almond milk, oats and banana, blended with some frozen ice - otherwise it feels like you’re having a massive bit of phlegm. But then in the evening I like to have a juice, so maybe a nice raw beetroot juice, with a bit of celery, a lot of ginger a little splash of apple and it tastes so good.
When you’re not making your tasty smoothies or at the gym how else do you like to spend your free time and how do you like to unwind?
When I’m not working I’m probably sleeping in or at an airport, or just chilling with my girlfriend Jessica who currently lives in Ibiza. I have this thing called movie club and she just falls asleep as I keep watching. At the moment it’s House of Cards and it’s getting really juicy. I know it sounds like a cliché but I just love to watch films, and I spend a lot of time whats -apping my sisters, which is heavy duty work because there’s four of them and my mother. So I’ll start texting one sister and then I’ll get a message from another ‘why aren’t you texting me?’ so I have to manage those girls, and then a girlfriend, that’s a full time job in itself.
So after a busy summer tour round Europe hitting the top festivals and venues what next on the horizon for Subb-an?
I’ve got a lot coming up, I’m playing at a few new places I’ve never been. One of the places I’m most excited to play is South Africa, I have two dates down there, and I really can’t wait because it’s been one of those places I’ve wanted to go for years, and it includes a safari so that’s going to be great. I’m going to be back over in Australia with Sasha in November, I have a Fabric event at the end of this month, and I’ll be in Asia as well, Taipei and Singapore for some DJ sets, so I’m quite spread out. I know Seth did South Africa and he said it was amazing, and for me that’s an exciting part of the job, going and exploring these new places. It’s a great part of the job is that most people would have to save up for a lifetime just to go to these places, and I get to go and play records and meet people who want to hear what I’m doing . It’s an honour; it’s a really beautiful thing. I think we can take for granted what we have here.
Not lucky enough to have caught Subb-an at The Social or just fancy seeing him again? Then grab your tickets for his return to London at Awake's 2nd Birthday at The Lightbox November 8 below his excellent Essential Mix.