In Conversation With…Nymfo
Hailed by many across the scene as one of the Netherlands’ very finest Drum & Bass exports and purveyors, Nymfo is back with a cracking debut on the imitable Metalheadz imprint. The aptly-titled ‘Sting Blade’ EP flits between quintessential, grizzled Headz-style breaks on the ludicrous lead cut, to a barrage of sonic warfare on the aggressive Martyn collab ‘What’s Happening’. You’re taken to the very depths of the EP on the blistering ‘No Choice’, whilst ‘Lie Detection’ reveals itself as a sublime journey to finish off the 4-tracker.
On a sunny Wednesday last week (luckily for both of us), I had the privilege of chatting to Nymfo, in-depth across a number of areas including the EP, motivational phone calls from Goldie, his formations with Martyn in late 90s-Eindhoven, the importance of his diversity, the art of DJing (and looking boring whilst doing it), why collabs are so essential, 25 Years of Headz and much, much more.
You’ve been releasing top quality music since way back in 2007, and I’ve been following your rise since early 2015 when I heard your mix for FabricLIVE. Why is now the right time for your debut Metalheadz EP?
I’ve known Goldie for a long time already, and I’ve supported the label for a long time and worked with them. Before this, the focus was on different labels and of course, I wanted to have a Metalheadz release but the tunes weren’t there yet. I was always happy with my output but it wasn’t fitting on the Metalheadz label and last year after I released my second album I was like, “what’s next on my to-do list?” Usually, at the beginning of the year I make a to-do list of what I’m going to do music-wise and after my album, maybe start for a proper Metalheadz release. I was already working with Martyn as he’s an old friend from Eindhoven from back in the day, and he did Drum & Bass ten years ago but he went a totally different direction and around that time when I started working on this EP, I was having a lot of contact with him again about maybe writing a tune, stuff like that.
And also, I found this wicked old break for a proper old Metalheadz-style tune, and then at the same time I was working with Martyn on our track, and I wrote this ‘Sting Blade’ track. I sent them to Ant [TC1] who’s running Dispatch and also Metalheadz quite a bit and at that time he was in Thailand with Goldie, he showed them to him straight away and Goldie rang me like “Yooo!”, he really liked the tunes! I had two tunes for Headz, so I needed to write a third track, maybe a fourth track and I can do a proper EP. When I was in that mode, it was done in two weeks. When you get the really motivating phone call from Goldie, if you like Drum & Bass that’s one of the most motivating phone calls you can get!
Focusing on the EP itself, you’ve really nailed that quintessential Headz sound on the lead track ‘Sting Blade’, how did you go about writing & engineering the tune? Did you go in with the idea, “I really want to write a tune of that vibe”, or just go with the flow of it?
Definitely the vibe, I was listening to old Source Direct tracks & old Blue Note mixtapes, if I do a Metalheadz EP it needs to be that sound, but also so you can hear it’s Nymfo. Not like using all the classic, old sounds and breaks, but with what I used it’s not a common Headz break, but it feels Headz-y. In the past, I’ve worked on tunes and thought about sending them to Goldie but it was just a bit too cliche, like “let’s do the ravey sub bass & a Bladerunner patch” you know? I wanted to do a Headz sounding EP, but not a cliche Headz-sounding EP!
Nymfo ‘Sting Blade’
One of the standout tracks on the EP is your collaboration with Martyn, an incredible producer in his own right. There’s the Dutch link there, but how did ‘What’s Happening’ come about?
I’m super happy with the collab because you can hear exactly who did what part, and it’s a perfect combination of his sound with my sound. After Marcus Intalex passed away, he was a good friend of Martyn’s as well & he spoke to a lot of old Drum & Bass friends when that happened. I was still in contact with him, not chatting every day, just now & then but during that period, we spoke a lot with each other and I think he put something on his to-do list, to have a Drum & Bass release again. Then, we were just chatting a lot and he was asking for a lot of old breaks and sounds so I knew he was working on stuff! I was working on this EP and at some point, I thought it totally makes sense to put a collab on there because we have a history – we started promoting together late 90’s in Eindhoven, and my friends who did the artwork for the EP [Graphic Surgery] are also friends with him. The time was right, I was working on the EP, I had this track going on but it needed something, and I said “Yo man, maybe you can work a little bit on it?!” I think it was the timing, why didn’t it happen earlier in my career? Because it wasn’t the right moment you know. Now, with all that, it was just a really good moment.
It was definitely worth waiting for! I’m really intrigued by the journey of this tune from its inception to release. Did you go to Metalheadz with the collab & they were keen to release it, or did it happen a bit further down the line?
When I wrote ‘Sting Blade’, Goldie rang me up and I was just in that EP mode and those couple of weeks, we also had that record going on and I think when he saw the Nymfo x Martyn collab it was already sorted!
Nymfo & Martyn ‘What’s Happening’
On the subject of collabs, I was listening to your interview on the SINE podcast a while back, and was really interested in your comments on keeping things fresh through these diverse linkups. Could you possibly expand on that?
For me, collabs are very important because you can have a lot of fun with other people in the studio. Working as a solo artist, I like it but it can also be boring and lonely sometimes, and if you have a sick collab on top of that, that’s just a nice bonus. You learn from other people and you can show each other your tips & tricks. For me, the main reason is, I have my studio outside my house and I go there four days a week, and I’m there alone a lot so it’s good to work with other people, for the social part as well!
Have you got any particular picks from over the years, from either other collaborations that stand out to you, or from your own back catalogue?
Yeah, for example, the Martyn collab is cool because it’s different. I love to do the Black Sun Empire collabs because for me, those tracks are harder and for them, we are both out of our comfort zones and that’s what I like. Also, with the BSE collabs, you can hear this is four people with their own sounds, doing something different. I like it when you can hear we all went out of our comfort zone, and that makes a track different.
I can imagine it must be a packed studio with all four of you in there! I just wanted to touch on your album, ‘Pictures On Silence’ (which had some amazing collabs on there), one of my favourite albums of 2019. How does the creative process change for you when writing an album, compared to writing an EP?
An album is just like a really, really long process. When I’m in the studio I make a lot of ideas and sketches, a lot of the time you have those weird sketches you don’t know what to do with; that’s perfect album material – put them in an album folder and yeah.. When I started working on Pictures On Silence, again it was the right time and the right moment because I was really in my Drum & Bass vibe again, writing a lot of music in the studio and I had a bunch of sketches waiting already. It took me maybe 6 months to write the whole album.
You’ve released on numerous labels, finding a home for your LP on Dispatch, and also dropping cuts on the likes of Blackout, Spearhead, CIA, RAM and even Barong Family. Do you find yourself dipping into each of those distinct sounds when you write music?
When I DJ, I’m very diverse as well you know, as a DJ. I don’t sign exclusively to a label, because usually, they need you for just one specific sound. I like the deeper stuff, I like a bit of Headz-y stuff, I like a bit more ravey stuff, a bit more Neuro, also what I DJ. Sometimes, I want to write some smooth liquid for Spearhead, and sometimes I want to make some deep minimalistic stuff for Dispatch, so I like to have the total freedom and also that you can show the people I can do more than just this one little trick, otherwise it gets pretty boring if I need to make another 20 deep rollers you know?!
It must be great for you production & DJing-wise as well, it keeps you on your toes…
Yeah, I’m really happy with the Barong releases and all that stuff, that was different for me. For me, it’s important to keep myself motivated and diverse, that’s why I do other music projects besides my Drum & Bass. Just for fun, also for some extra income, I do this chillout project just to get a bunch of Spotify streams and get them to the right playlists. I help this Tech House producer with productions… Just, you learn from that otherwise you get stuck in the underground Drum & Bass cycle, and then we still make deep rollers in 2030!
You mentioned your DJing, I caught your set at Outlook Festival last year and it really blew me away, especially with how unique and traversal the selection was. Is DJing something you really try to work on alongside the production side of things? I remember you opening with ‘Rock The House’, firing off ‘Trinity’ and a ridiculous blend of ‘Retaliation’ & Bou’s ‘Spook’ and instantly knew you meant business!
Thanks man, happy to hear that! Production came a bit later for me, I was always first a DJ then a producer and I like both don’t get me wrong, but what I like with the DJing is to entertain the crowd but also to find a good balance so you can educate them as well you know? With maybe some weird obscure old stuff, or some new stuff other people maybe don’t play, that kinda stuff! It’s super easy and simple to play all the new promos, what everyone can do, I like the diversity. Even when I played the Dispatch stage [at Outlook], it’s not that I play an hour of Dispatch tunes. Years ago I always wanted to have the newest dubplates and stuff but I don’t really mind anymore, of course if people send them to me and I like them I’ll play them and sometimes I hunt for them but in general, I think it’s also important to play tunes that the crowd knows and that’s usually some released songs. It’s just a bit of a balance of that, old, new… If you listen to old, for example, Renegade Hardware sets man you’ll hear a Marcus Intalex tune, into a Dillinja, and then a Loxy & Ink. That’s what I like, and what I want. That’s also what’s nice about Metalheadz if you hear a Goldie set it goes all over the place. That’s amazing. I play the music I like, if it’s liquid or neuro or a Headz tune, that doesn’t matter.
After your words on collabs, do you catch the same vibe from back 2 backs?
Yeah man, because when I DJ I look a bit boring!
Haha, don’t we all mate!
Last year, I did a few b2bs with Ant [TC1] and it’s just fun with him man. I always like to make some stupid jokes and if people see us having fun, there’s a good vibe on the dancefloor. What I like about playing with Ant is he’s doing a lot of quick mixes, a lot of teasing, it’s challenging me!
It almost turns into a bit of a versus?!
Yeah, a little battle you know! A DJ battle, like “oh he’s doing 3 decks now, I need to play with 4!” That’s what I noticed playing with Ant, it’s really fun. We play music we love for people who like it.
Could we potentially see a b2b with Martyn at some point?
If people are interested for sure! We haven’t talked about it but at the moment we’re doing this Rinse FM mix for the next Headz Rinse show, and that’s not a b2b but it’s a 2 hour mix. I don’t know, let’s see what happens when this EP comes out man, if people are interested I’m down for it! We’ve done that, we promoted years ago and we were the resident DJs of the Red Zone nights and we’ve played b2bs loads of times. But yeah, if people are interested, definitely! He’s a super good selector, his tune selection is really good.
Finally, ravers everywhere have been celebrating 25 Years of Metalheadz recently. If you were to play a ’25 Years of Headz’ set, what tunes would have to be in there?
Good one, I would need to dig into the collection! I’ve seen a lot of people play classic Headz sets which is wicked, but as much as I love ‘Metropolis’ and all those tracks, I’d say the back catalogue is so much wider and diverse. Most people only play the similar kind of tracks – ‘Metropolis’, ‘The Angels Fell’ – again, great tracks. But, I would dig deeper and look for those weird B sides, or if you find an old double CD with some weird unreleased stuff on the second CD and people are like “What is this?!” So, I don’t have a direct answer but last year for this radio show, I did an old skool Headz mix and I was digging in the back catalogue and I played a lot of different stuff. That’d be my advice, if you play a classic Headz you can still surprise people.
Massive thanks to Nymfo for the interview, the ‘Sting Blade’ is out now on Metalheadz, which you can grab here!