You might expect glitz or ego from a DJ and producer of Nick Douwma’s standing – someone who’s been instrumental in taking an underground genre to huge commercial success, who’s worked with the biggest names in the game, who’s brought his huge audiovisual shows to vast arenas and festivals full of tens of thousands of ecstatic fans – but no. Dressed down, laid back and possessed of a constantly enquiring mind, Nick is about as far from the superstar DJ cliché as you could hope for. The 34 year old is a man with a good sense of why he got into music in the first place, a refreshingly un-jaded love for what he does, and a clear sense of mission as he looks forward to the next stages of his career: more than simply pushing his own profile upwards, he still believes in what he does, and wants to represent electronic music as a creative force to the biggest possible audiences.
Brought up between London and Kent, Nick fell for jungle and drum’n'bass early: he heard his first mixtape at 12, was DJing at underage clubnights at 14, and by 16 his home productions were good enough to cut to dubplate and play out. At the same age, he managed to sneak into the final ever Metalheadz Session at the Blue Note, and was bowled over. Moving on to college to study sound engineering, he threw himself into the club scene proper, lapping up the “sci-fi atmosphere” at legendary nights like Renegade Hardware at The End and of course Friday nights at fabric. It was at fabric that Andy C first played one of Nick’s tracks that a friend had passed him, and a relationship struck up that led to Nick’s signing to the mighty RAM Records in 2003.
Since then his ascent through the ranks has been steady but relentless. Even when drum’n'bass was at its most insular in the 2000s, Nick’s love of the whole history of electronic music made his tracks stand out, citing influences as diverse as Vangelis and Richie Hawtin, even getting inspiration from the light-and-sound experiments of the Haight-Ashbury hippies and their Acid Tests. And as the 2010s came close, he shared a studio complex with Chase & Status, Nero, Shy FX and Breakage, all of whom were determined to diversify and break the scene out of its constraints – in the process bringing their UK bass sounds to arenas and huge festivals. Sub Focus too has become a huge act, his 2009 debut album a true statement of intent, and his live shows growing ever more ambitious in both sound and vision – the pinnacle so far being his sell-out solo show at Brixton Academy in 2014: “I felt like I was getting close to that feeling I got the first time I saw Chemical Brothers play,” he says. But he’s not resting on his laurels yet. Still constantly expanding in scope and ambition, as with his experiments with the Ministry Of Sound’s Dolby Atmos Surround system, Nick has become a true ambassador for evolving that “sci-fi atmosphere” he loved into ever more spectacular forms.