3 Oct 2020

INTERVIEW: Netsky and Montell2099's 'love letter to Aotearoa'

From Music 101, 4:30 pm on 3 October 2020

Belgian drum n bass superstar Netsky recently released a 'love letter to New Zealand' in the form of a collaboration with 23-year-old Māori producer Montell2099. The pair spoke to RNZ Music's Tony Stamp about how their track 'Mixed Emotions' and its stunning video came together.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Netsky is one of the world's biggest drum n' bass DJs. He's a regular at huge international festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella, and sells out shows to over 18,000 people, but his favourite place to play is New Zealand.

After releasing his debut self-titled album in 2010 he travelled here to perform at Rhythm & Vines, and hasn't looked back, making it an annual trip. In January this year he posted to Instagram "I just realised this is the 10th year I’ve been invited to your beautiful country. New Zealand, you’ve got a very special place in my heart."

Netsky, whose real name is Boris Daenen, is often referred to as an 'honorary New Zealander'. His lates track 'Mixed Emotions' is the first time he's collaborated with a New Zealand producer, namely Montel2099, whom he met backstage at this year's R&V festival.

The song's video begins with a title card describing it as a love letter to Aotearoa.

"Something draws me back every year," Netsky told RNZ Music's Tony Stamp during a Zoom call from Turkey, where he's sheltering from COVID.

"Obviously it's the amazing festivals, the great gigs and amazing crowds. It's just a great place for me to play drum n' bass. But I've definitely fallen in love with the country.

"I never realised I liked beautiful nature so much. Coming from a country like Belgium, we don't even have any mountains. We have beautiful countryside, but it's not anything comparable to New Zealand. It's so different from anything I've grown up with here in Europe.

"But it's the people too, you feel weirdly at home. I've made so many friends over the last couple of years and it just really feels like a second home."

For Montell2099, real name Montell Pinny, the video for 'Mixed Emotions' has a personal connection: "All the shots from the marae and all the people there were a lot of my family. That was super cool. The last shot of the lady and the man standing in front of the marae, they're actually my grandparents. It was cool to have that connection there."

The song itself came together during fleeting moments when the pair found themselves in the same town, as well as sending the in-progress files back and forth across the world.

"We had a lot of sessions in the hotel close to Rhythm and Vines in Gisborne. And every time we touched the computer, every time we played demos to each other it was completely different tempos, it was always very open minded," Netsky says.

"It's surprising that drum n bass came out, because it could have been anything."

Montell has dabbled in different genres, but this is the first time he's released a drum n bass song.

"I've got a bunch of d n b ideas, but this is the first time one's come out. The original file name was 'Kati d and b' and I made that in my nan's studio, which is fifty metres up the road from the marae in the video, so it's kind of come full circle."

The track started with an idea from Montell that appealed to Netsky, who says "The vibe was there, I loved it the first time I heard it. It was really cool.  

"I like to work on melodies a lot, and Montell worked on kind of soundscapes. The drums have so many little tiny differences that I don't really add myself.

"And that's what's so nice about collaborating, Montell added these details that give that extra depth that I sometimes overlook. It's really cool."