Redefining your career is no small feat. The amount of time it takes to lock in your sound is sometimes maddening, especially when it creates a tremendous amount pressure and self-doubt. But Nick Sember thrives off of it. Since dissolving the trance act Norin & Rad in 2014, Nick locked himself away in the studio for months as he worked tirelessly on producing new music that felt right for both himself and his fans. On Friday, he released the long-awaited follow up “Mezzo Forte,” which is already gaining some serious attention. I caught up with Nick earlier last week to talk about his hiatus, his future, and more.
I know you’re a Rams fan. How pumped are you to have the team back in LA?
Stoked! The biggest thing is being able to go to a football game without having to drive to San Diego. But also being a Rams fan it’s exactly what you could ask for when you root for a team on the other side of the country.
Your first solo single “Forth” came out over a year ago. What have you been up to since then?
Just working in the studio as much as I can. When “Forth” came out I was still playing by myself as Norin & Rad. I did that until the summer and I cut it off and stopped taking gigs because I wanted to focus completely on producing. I’ve been stacking up lots of tunes, working with Anjuna and figuring out some fresh ideas. The main reason I wanted to take so much time off was because I’ve been all about consciously deciding on the sounds I’m going to use and the style I want to go for, and it’s important to choose the right direction and decide what’s cool and what people will like but also what’s still me.
Your new track “Mezzo Forte” still has a very traditional Anjunabeats sound. Are you experimenting with other styles right now as well?
I’m definitely going to expand it. I want to take that classic Anjuna sound and flip it a bit. I feel like everyone’s saying it sounds like Arty or Mat Zo and I had that influence in mind. I love what they do and I want to hear more of that fresh, funky style that they’re doing. I don’t think I nailed it nearly as good as these guys but it’s nice to be compared to them! (laughs)
Because your first single went to #1 on the Beatport Trance chart, have you felt pressure for this next one to achieve the same success?
I definitely do. At the end of the day I’m just really happy to be starting 2016 by pushing out music. Overall I’m happy to be doing it with Anjuna. If it charts well, that’ll just be the icing on the cake. But in the back of my head I’m thinking about it because I’ve been putting a lot of effort into each individual track. There’s a voice in my head going, ‘I hope it gets #1,’ but at the same time I’m just happy to be here. It’s bittersweet.
In this year you took off, who were the people around you that were helping you redefine yourself?
Andrew Bayer was a huge help to me just from changing my way of thinking, and how to correctly go about things doing myself. I have this other friend Darius who from the time Norin & Rad split up has been the guy I share music and ideas with. He’s been a great help giving me feedback. On top of that, I get a lot of awesome help from guys like Jason Ross, Ilan Bluestone, Soundprank, Matt Lange…pretty much the whole Anjuna squad has been amazing. Having a list of people that include these great names who know what they’re talking about helps push me past my limitations. Some people will listen and say it’s great but then other people will find all these little details that I need to fix and I’m just really lucky to have such huge artists help me improve.
What are your goals for 2016?
I’m still going to hold off on touring too much. My main goal is to push out my music. I want to release a lot more frequently than a year in-between tracks (laughs). I also want to drive the Anjuna sound to somewhere different than it is right now. I’ve been influenced by the old Mat Zo and Arty feel and I want to push the boundary of the label because that’s what they do to me. So once I feel like I’ve accomplished that, then I can go back on tour.
Do you miss touring? Do you feel like you have DJ cabin fever?
I do and I don’t. It’s a weird spot . The thing I miss the most is being away from home and having fun, but I was touring with Bruce [Karlsson] and we’d travel with our label mates. Touring alone isn’t the same as when you have a friend alongside you. I can’t describe how fun it is to meet new fans and share your music with the world, but the best thing for me to do right now is just focus on me and driving trance music to something bigger and slightly different. I miss touring , but it’ll come back and I’ll be hitting all the major cities soon.
Speaking of doing things different, if you weren’t bound by having to play a trance set, what would be the ideal set you’d want to play?
I would love to play live. I’ve thought about it. If I could, it’d be a different side of me. I would play dance grooves and cool basslines. But I’d really want to experiment and have a few segments of the show where I’m doing songs that are 80-90 bpm. I’ve been experimenting writing some stuff that’s album-worthy – not to say I’m starting one – but it’s something that would work in a live, album setting to step outside the boundary of trance. For the most part it’d be funky and melodic and I’d keep those rich basslines.
Based on your answers so far, I’m curious; where do you think trance is heading in 2016?
It’s kinda weird right now. Towards the end of last year I was in a lot of forums and chatrooms with trance fans and from what I saw, people were into the big open chords but they’re starting to think it’s stale they want something new. I think psy-trance and the other genres like uplifting and 140 are starting to get big and they’ll continue to grow. Progressive trance we’ll see a change and I think this is the breakout year for that. Everyone just needs to push themselves more in the scene.
Alright last question, and I’m sure our readers want to know this too. Do you think you’ll ever bring back Artificial with Andrew Bayer?
I want to say there’s definitely a chance more likely than not. Andrew’s life is really busy right now because he’s about to go on that massive Anjunabeats tour over the next few months, but I’m sure when he gets more free time, there will be a chance. We bounce back ideas, though. There was almost a collab, but we just took our own parts and made our own tracks out of it (laughs). I’m sure we’ll do something. I don’t know if it’ll be Artificial or if it’s just me vs him or whatever but I promise you, something is bound to happen.