Nobody Beats The Drum – Interview

Nobody Beats the Drum hit the ground running with an 8-week North American tour that spanned over 12,000 miles and encompassed some of the top music festivals in the world. The Dutch trio was able to show off its highly sophisticated visual performance while filling support slots for acclaimed artists such as Skrillex and Wolfgang Gartner. I had the opportunity of sitting with NBTD at Sasquatch Music Festival to chat about their unique take on EDM and what it means to mix such stunning and raw audio with nine surrounding screens of visual decadence.

Sjam Sjamsoedin: We’re kind of in the beginning of our tour right now. We started in Philadelphia [a few] weeks ago.  Then drove down to Alabama, LA, San Francisco, Vancouver…

Jori Collignon: …we’ve been on tour for a short time but we’ve been in the car a lot.

Vancouver Weekly: Tell me about the visual component to your music?

Sjam Sjamsoedin: Rogier is our visual guy.  He’s been in the band since the beginning. We’ve always been a three-piece and always wanted to connect [both the visual and audio] – to combine the whole experience.

Rogier Van Der Zwaag: It is kind of a strange process because both are so different. I mean, how one makes a track and how one makes a video.

Jori Collignon: We did the whole album in the same time it took [Rogier] to make one video for example.

Rogier Van Der Zwaag: I do a lot of work with stop motion (frame by frame animation).  We know what each of us is up to and so we are able to keep each other inspired.

We have a big installation with us.  It’s [made up of] nine screens. I play the visuals while they play the music.

Vancouver Weekly: Is it your show primarily live or is it mostly pre-produced?

Jori Collignon: Creating electronic music live is always a balance.  I think the most important part is to give a lot of energy and make it a lot of fun for yourself to play.  It takes a long time to prepare the sets but when everything is finished, it’s like a play garden full with buttons. We control pretty much every aspect of the sound.

Sjam Sjamsoedin: Some parts are improvised. Basically, there is a beat coming from the computer and we fill it up with samples and keyboard lines – When parts come from the computer, we are more focused on the effects and making sure the build up is as epic as it can be.  In other words, our roles are always changing.

Jori Collignon: [Sometimes] we can really make mistakes.  I mean, really fuck things up and that is a real achievement for electronic music.  It’s fun to improvise and surprise each other.

Vancouver Weekly: What are some of your influences right now both from an audio and visual perspective?

Jori Collignon: We’ve been listening to a lot of Beastie Boys lately. We don’t only listen to EDM.  We get our inspiration from everywhere.

Sjam Sjamsoedin: It’s almost not dance music at all. When we’re in the van, we play Nina Simone, some post-punk from Sao Paulo and also Analog Worms Attack.

Jori Collignon: I get really inspired by dance music when we see a really great DJ play.

Rogier Van Der Zwaag: I’ve always been into abstract animation. I especially like the period in the 30s of the last century where we had a lot of German animators.  A few years ago I really changed the style of the visuals that I make and it’s mostly based on that period – mostly based on shapes moving on music.

I use to try and make stories during our performances but I learned that that’s not really a good way to go.  People have to really feel it.

Jori Collignon: They have to really be able to dance to the visuals too.

Rogier Van Der Zwaag: You have to see the music in visual representation.

Jori Collingnon: We actually played a concert for deaf people back in the Netherlands a couple of weeks ago.  It was great. They had a vibrating dance floor. And they don’t applaud, the just do this “     ” between the songs.

Vancouver Weekly: How long have you guys been together?

Jori Collingon: We’ve known each other for a very long time.  Sjam and I were playing in another band before and at that time Rogier and Sjam were living in the same house.  We were doing music in one room and he was doing visuals in the other.  It really stuck together like that.  We released our first album in 2008. That’s when it really started to take off. We’ve played around Europe quite a lot.  For us it’s a great moment to be here – to discover this whole new world.

Vancouver Weekly: Technology is changing so quickly. How do you react to those changes?

Rogier Van Der Zwaag: Visually it started getting really interesting a few years ago. You’ve got a lot of electronic acts that are doing big ass visual shows. Sometimes you can get really jealous because you don’t have the budget to do those sorts of things but you don’t really have to focus on the technical aspects as long the energy is up.

Jori Collingon: If we start making more money we can definitely start to improve. I mean the skies the limit when you really think about how you develop your own sound.

We get really inspired by synthezers or open-source software. I walk around and record the train as it drives bye at the motel at night. It pretty much comes from everywhere.  It’s really cool now that we’re on tour to work on tracks while traveling as well.

Ricardo Khayatte

Ricardo Khayatte