Dark Lights

17 May 2012 | 6:30 am | Cam Findlay

Pumping d’n’b duo Neonlight may work like a well-oiled dancefloor machine but, as Cam Findlay learns from Tobias Jakubczyk and Jakob Thomser, it’s the differences that grease the cogs.

It's so easy to get lost in the world that dubstep and drum'n'bass has formed in the last few years. Blending themselves into breaks, jungle and a myriad of other dance styles only in a way that the eclectic styles can, each country, club and group has their own answer to the dubstep/d'n'b sound. Neonlight, though, might just have found one of the most exciting formulas of recent times.

Which might not be completely surprising, considering they're based in Liepzig, Germany, one of the hotbeds of contemporary progressive dance music. The union between Tobias Jakubczyk (Nize5ive) and Jakob Thomser (Pitch'n'Sulphur) is more than just happy locational circumstance; the two have known each other since they were ankle-biters. “We first met when we were babies,” Jakubczyk explains from his home in Liepzig. “Our parents were friends since their days at school, and as we entered the universe in the early '80s our families spent a lot of time during holidays year by year together.”

“We spent a lot of time doing nonsense,” Thomser continues. “As teenagers, we lost contact for a bit because the city I lived in was much cooler than the village. The interest in music was the reason to reconnect when we were about 15 or 16 years old. We started sharing our first experiences with electronic music as DJs and producers.” And, as the story inevitably goes, it went from there. Though not exactly as one might expect. One of the more interesting aspects about Neonlight's work is that, despite the obviously organic working relationship between Jakubczyk and Thomser, their musical leanings couldn't be more different. “It was Jakob who showed me drum'n'bass first,” Jakubczyk explains. “He introduced to me this sound that was absolutely new for me. I spent hours listening to his first records and CDs and discovered more and more artists and labels. The consequence was that our preferences with drum'n'bass went into different directions very soon. Jakob was more into the deeper and darker sounds by producers like Dom & Roland, Konflict, Ed Rush and Optical. I liked that as well, but I was more interested in the growing sound of 'Jump Up',” as the DJ puts it. Thomser puts it succinctly: “Now we have quite the same taste of drum'n'bass. But it is still fun to me to 'surprise' Tobi during our DJ sets with tunes he does not like as much as I do.”

That dynamic has arguably set them apart from the standard nightclub d'n'b scene, as differing judgments on the same style has allowed the duo to incorporate many other elements and genres into both their sets and their remixes. “It makes it so interesting to create music together,” Jakubczyk excogitates when asked how their differences make the mould for Neonlight. “I think the most important thing is that we can trust the skills of each other. When we are producing, we talk a lot about the arrangement or what a sound should be like. We try to take the time to make a track perfect, although we know that it is impossible. But we try.”

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“We think it is very important to have a trademark sound today, but then it also isn't everything,” Thomser continues. “It's always a challenge to do a track with the distinct 'Neonlight' sound, while still combining it with new and fresh sounds to keep it interesting.”

Fresh and interesting enough to sign to Bad Taste, as renowned tastemakers (sorry) Blokhe4d can attest. The UK-come-US duo have been busy signing the hottest acts they can find to their Bad Taste Recordings label, one which stemmed from Blokhe4d Michael Vegas' involvement in the world-renowned Bad Taste UK collective. They're also responsible for Neonlight making it to Australia, alongside young guns like Aeph and Prolix. “Bad Taste and Blokhe4d as leading artists from the label helped us a lot to get more popular in the scene,” Thomser explains the backing of the label. “They supported our tunes many times in their podcasts, which has a fast-growing fanbase. They also have a solid promotion concept that reaches the top DJs in drum'n'bass. So we are really happy to be a part of that label and we are really looking forward to touring on the back of that, as well as being featured on the upcoming Bad Taste Volume 5.”

One of the highlights of working with the label for Neonlight has been their working with German producer Andreas “Hedj” Hedjran, a popular mainstay of Freak Recordings and a frequent Bad Taste collaborator. Tragically, Hedjran passed away in 2008 from a swimming accident. “That was a really sad day for his family, close friends and all who knew him as a private person, and for all who knew him as a DJ and producer as well,” Jakubczyk explains. “His music was really inspiring for us. We loved that sound and the energy of his tracks. He also was a great sound engineer too. I think a lot of artists still play his music like we do because it is simply good.”

All said and done, the two have spent enough time grinding away in German clubs and nailing down studio tracks to garner attention throughout Europe and dance hotspots around the world. It's a token of appreciation that can be hard to come by for the average d'n'b DJ, and one that Jakubczyk and Thomser do not take lightly. “About three years ago, I can remember that we played a maximum of 10 shows in a year, and that was 80 percent in our home town,” Thomser reflects when asked how affecting the growing credibility in the dance scene has been for them. “Now we have 10 shows in two or three months all around Europe. That is definitely a crazy and sometimes unreal, feeling. It's also still an exciting feeling to know that people come to a show to see us play.”

“The daily living changed so much as well,” Jakubczyk adds, before delving into a story that may just be all too familiar for the budding DJ. “About a year ago, we worked not more than two days a week for about four hours together on our tunes. We both were students and could not spend as much time on music as we wanted to. Now Jakob has finished university about two months ago and I'm in the last phase of my study as well. So we can work so much more on our music and can focus more on a project without long periods of doing nothing. It has become a full-time job for us, and we are so happy with that.”


Before they were Bad Taste recordings, they were Bad Taste, a collective of international dubstep and drum'n'bass producers who colluded for one very simple reason; to create the most banging beats their accumulated minds could come up with. Blokhea4d was the original basis of the company – UK producer Michael Vegas and Swiss-born Jonas Uman came together on the basis of infusing their original dub/d'n'b styles with electro, house and disco. Apart from Neonlight, Aeph is another Bad Taste act “on a path to greatness”. Born Simone Vallecorsa in Rome, Aeph discovered bass music at the tender age of 16. He now lives in London and has released cuts for a number of cutting-edge labels. And then there are number of other  acts who won't be making the trip down under this time


Luke Ellis aka Loki got into music from a very early age, studying the cello and piano from age 7. At the age of 13, he tried out a friend's new copy of Logic, and was hooked from then on. He started out as a purely trance and house DJ, but has subsequently switched back and forth between styles, with dance production taking a back seat while he played bass in a band. He eventually got back on the decks in '08, and is now known for straddling the darker, heavier side of drum'n'bass in line with the Bad Taste ethos.


Coming out of Sarajevo's neurofunk scene (hey, it's not just turbofolk that's coming out of Eastern Europe), Billian is regarded for his amazing use of custom sounds and textures, inspired by soundtracks from Kubrick, Kronenburg and Carpenter films, and the tragedies of war in his homeland.


Telekenisis is the two-man outfit of Smooth and Markoman. After working together for a while, they've developed a d'n'b sound all of their own, and have supported a multitude of acts including our very own Pendulum.