Modestep is a four-piece bass orientated band from London who are quickly rising to the top of every music lovers’ playlist. Armed with over a half a million fans total on social media, and selling out concerts worldwide, we are very honored to have one of the members of this iconic band. Enter Nick Tsang, since turning professional in 2004, Nick has already toured extensively throughout the UK and internationally, plus amassing a wealth of session, touring, recording, and songwriting credits. We sit down and talk about his overwhelming success, playing at Coachella, Asian films, and more! Read below for the full Q&A…
Would it be accurate to say there aren’t too many Asian musicians in the dubstep scene? How did you find yourself in the place you’re in now? Did you have aspirations growing up as a child?
Nick: I can’t speak world wide because I am sure there are Dubstep musicians in the far east, but I have to say I haven’t met many Asian Musicians in the Dubstep scene in UK and US. The only guys I know of are xKore and one of the members of the band Subsource. My last band was the Ting Tings, and when that finished a friend called me and asked if I was interested to meet a band that he was working with called Modestep. I went to meet the guys and we clicked from the start. The day after we met they asked me to join the band and three days later I was was performing my first show with them at Download festival. To be honest I never knew what I wanted to be growing up, but I knew I loved music. I was a bit of a failure academically so I thought I might as well pursue my passion. So here I am still with my six strings. Bit of a joke really!
What have you learned so far during your North American tour. Did you guys have any expectations from performing in the U.S. for the first time?
Nick: I’ve learnt that there is a huge difference in the Dub step scene in UK and the States. In UK, the people who come to dubstep shows generally are ghetto boys with new era caps and their hoods up. Its a very grimey and dark scene. In US its a rave thing. Everyone turns up in UV glow paint, glow sticks, juggling toys and bright pick tutus. Because of the big delay with the release of our album, I thought that the US would have forgotten about us. So it was pretty crazy to have sell out shows on our first ever US tour.
You most recently hit Coachella. What was that experience like?
Nick: Coachella was mind-blowing. We have been on the road for about two and a half months performing nearly everyday. Because of the routine of it, we felt like we had conquered the stage nerves. Coachella knocked the nerves right back into us! As soon as we saw the crowd that we were about to step in front of, we all shat our pants! The whole energy of the crowd, and the stage production got us all amped up more than any other of the US shows we had done. Hopefully our nervous energy translated into a good performance on stage.
There are lots of styles and sounds in your music like dubstep, rock, and other various musical elements. Since joining the band what unique attributes have you contributed to the sound of Modestep?
Nick: I guess I introduced guitars and help bring the rock element to the Modestep sound. oh and the asian factor obviously.
And how did that carry over into your new album ‘Evolution Theory’? What was the creative process like on that LP?
Nick: In the songs written before I joined such as Up, Bite the hand and Feel Good, there were little or no guitars on the recordings. Within the two day I met the boys, I was straight into laying guitars for ‘To the Stars’ and since then, we have recorded guitars for every track. The most guitar dominated track is ‘Freedom’, where you can probably hear my Rage Against the Machine influence creeping in. For the creative process of the LP, all the band members would sit in the studio together and start bouncing ideas for a song. The idea would come from anything from vocal hook, piano chords, guitar riff, drum groove or even a synth sound. If we all like the idea, then we all start building on it together.
Dubstep originated in the U.K., do you guys experience any pressure making music to such a pure audience?
Nick: We don’t consciously make music to fit in the Dubstep scene and we don’t claim to be a dubstep band. We consider ourselves more as a rock band with electronic influence. We all sit in the studio and we write music that we all love. We have such diverse music tastes between us, from old skool rock n roll, to soul, to garage, to metal and even classical. You can hear all our influences on our debut album and it’s just so it happens that dubstep is also a part or our influence to add to the mix.
A lot of times with these “underground” sub-genres people get worried about keeping the integrity when it gets big and mainstream. Now that the Grammy Awards are recruiting musical acts like DeadMau5 and Steve Aoki, do you think this is a great thing for music?
Nick: I think It is a shame that artists get slated for being successful at what they do. As long as the artist still enjoys the music that they are making then for me their integrity is still intact. For me, if an artist writes music that they love and it so happens to become successful mainstream, that to me has more integrity that hanging on to writing a certain style of music just to keep the ‘underground’ cats happy.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Nick: I am a huge fan of Studio Ghibli films. Princess Mononoke is one of my all time favourite films. And Dragon Ball of course
I read in an interview where you discussed the difference between actually loving what you do and just doing it for the money and fame. Without a doubt, you are making a huge name for yourself in the scene. How are you able to stay grounded and humble as a creative musician when you’re dropped in the middle of this chaotic tour and new album?
Nick: I started my music career in a different place from the rest of the boys. I was playing tiny toilet venues across UK for about 3 years when I first started performing. Back then I definitely was not doing it for the lifestyle. I was losing money every gig and I remember looking at the back to sofas scraping together pennies hoping I can afford petrol to get to the next gig. Even with the money problems and the fact I used to get really bad stage fright, it didn’t stop my passion for playing music. I later went on to do session work where I would play for different signed artists. In all the music work I did before joining Modestep, I worked with lots of amazing people and a few difficult ones. From these people I learnt how I want to carry myself and what reputation I want to build for myself in music. The fact that I was grinding away at the bottom for a good number of years taught me to never take anything for granted and always be grateful of the position I am in.
I think one of the hardest things to do is overlaying melodic vocals over hard beats. Modestep even goes progressive with Armin van Buuren. How do you guys achieve a nice balance when mastering a track?
Nick: The album is very diverse and spans across many genres, but we do also try to have some sort of consistency across every track, whether if it is the electronic element or the rock guitars. Everyone in the band are great musicians in their own right, so we value each others opinion and contribution towards a track. it’s easier to write a balanced track when there are multiple creative heads in the room. If there was only one person writing the track, it could easily go off into a self indulgent journey which no listeners would get.
Lastly, any advice you can give for humble musicians who just wants to add a bit more exposure to their work?
Nick: The internet is not only good for Facebook and watching porn. It is also one the most powerful tools for music marketing. Use it wisely.
Want to know more about Modestep and Nick? Check out the links below and be sure to purchase their new album ‘Evolution Theory’: