INTERVIEW: Afrojack (2012)
Afrojack is invading the US with the massive JACKED tour. For his first big tour of the North America, he is bringing the party with friends (and label-mates) R3hab, Shermanology, Bobby Burns, and Quintino. The party vibe from his chart-topping single with Pitbull and Ne-Yo, “Give Me Everything,” and platinum crossover hit “Take Over Control” are just a taste of what you can expect from the tour and his forthcoming debut artist album. Born Nick van de Wall, he is one of those rare artists who cranks out commercial hits while maintaining club credibility with the underground through success on Beatport via his label Wall Recordings. With a keen eye for rising talent, he’s the one who helped R3hab break on the international scene. Already a Grammy winner (with David Guetta for their remix of Madonna’s “Revolver”) and top 10 on the DJ List, the intense amount of success and buzz has not gone to Nick’s head – he’s still a down to earth DJ who looks most forward to partying with his friends and fans while on tour.
Ron Slomowicz: How are you doing today?
Afrojack: I am in the studio working on getting some new computers and equipment set up.
RS: Are you working on your new album or tour stuff?
Afrojack: I am actually working on some edits for the new tour; it contains a lot of stuff from my album. I want to present it in a great way, so I am doing some special editing.
RS: This is your first big tour in the US, what was your motivation to do it?
Afrojack: It is my first big tour ever; I have never done a tour like this in my life. I have done some club tours but this is the first tour of my own.
RS: With your tour are you bring pryotechnics and video with you?
Afrojack: I think that I am bringing pyro and CO2. I basically did the light show together with some guys from Holland, EyeSupply. They are my good friends and we decided to work together and make it a big tour. I did some of the visuals and most of the lighting together with them. We are trying to make it really special and it’s looking like it is going to be really fun.
RS: Where are you most excited to go?
Afrojack: I have played in many cities already but I am excited to go to the places that I haven’t been before. I have been to Miami a lot and also Chicago a long time ago, I am excited to go back. I am also the most excited to go to all the new places that I haven’t been before. I want to see how the people are, what they like, eat, and drink. I am curious to see their party lifestyle and excited to meet new people also.
RS: How long will you be playing in your sets on this show? Will it be two- or four-hour sets?
Afrojack: I think that it depends per show, due to the restrictions on times in different cities. I think it will be at least two hours.
RS: What should we expect from your artist album that you are working on?
Afrojack: If you are familiar with my music, that’s what you should expect with a lot more of a personal twist. I want to make it more of a combination of the songs that the new people already know like “Give Me Everything” and “Take Over Control.” I want it to be an introduction of myself. I want to take people a little deeper into my mind and open up a little more. Because it’s my first album, I want to keep it really close to myself. I want to make sure that people who say “I like your music” that I can be like “thats my music that they like.” It’s not my idea of making money music, I want them to like what I like.
RS: When you work with people on music do you make the track and other people write to it, do you collaborate on the lyrics? How does that work?
Afrojack: With my own tracks, when it says Afrojack on the song title I work together with them on the lyrics. We brainstorm; I do some melodies and sometimes a little lyrical work. With “Give Me Everything,” I actually wrote most of Ne-Yo’s part. That was pretty cool. Everyone that I work with works together but I am pretty involved. I want everything to be my way; it is my album so I get to do what I like.
RS: Who are some of the other people that you are working with on the album?
Afrojack: Mainly just myself, but I have been in the studio with Omarion and have gotten some things from other big artists. I really want the focus to be on Afrojack music, I don’t want the focus to go towards gigantic mainstream artists. They are probably going to be on there but I want them to be invited as a guest to my mind state.
RS: It’s your party and you are inviting people to join you.
Afrojack: Yes, I am mostly inviting people that I have met and liked over the last couple of years. Pitbull is someone that I have worked with. We had fun and I really like him, I want to have him on there. I met with Shakira a couple of times, we are working on some things, she is really nice and I would love for her to join. I met Jason Derulo and he is a great guy, great personality. I want people on the album not only if I like their music, but can also hang out with them. I don’t want it to be a plastic type relationship but a personal one. I want a personal vibe on the tracks, if I don’t like someone who is working on the tracks it won’t be as personal. I don’t want to send my instrumentals out and have someone that I don’t know work on them. I want to make an experience and put the experience that I have with the artist in the song. I don’t know if you can hear it, but if there is a personal experience it means a lot more.
RS: When you made “Take Over Control,” did you have any idea that it would become as big as it did?
Afrojack: I didn’t know that it would become that big, but I did always say that it would be the first vocal and bleepy song to be heard on the radio. There has never been a song on the radio like that. That is what I wanted to do, I wanted to change it. I am happy it worked. I was sure that in Holland and Europe it would be on the radio but it was a nice extra that America liked it as well. I am happy that everyone loves it.
RS: You are one of those rare guys who are having the Beatport underground success and also that crossover commercial success. Why do you think that you are the one that is leading that charge?
Afrojack: I don’t think that I am the one leading the charge; you shouldn’t worry about that combination. There is nothing wrong with liking hip-hop and also liking pop or techno. I have made some techno tracks in my life and I just pushed it to the right people. There would be no point for me to go to Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and play the three-minute radio version of “Give Me Everything.” That is not what it is made for; it is made for the radio, for a short, happy, dancing in the car version. For EDC Las Vegas, all the other gigantic festivals, or my own club tours I have a special remix that I can play. In this case, I played a R3hab remix and it was a gigantic club banger. I think that you just have to put it in the right position and it will work out. There is no point of putting a three-minute song that’s a full vocal, poppy song on Beatport. I did a techno song on Lost and Found called “Tik Tik Tik Tak Tak Tak” that was nine minutes long and it was a really weird techno song. There would be no point in making a video around that and trying to get it to the radio. It is a really weird, instrumental, vague song that you wouldn’t put on the radio.
RS: Your label Wall Recordings has put out some amazing records. Why did you start your own label?
Afrojack: When I was just starting out I had some issues working with some labels. Labels are gigantic companies, they need to make their money, and contractually they do some weird stuff sometimes. I decided to just make my own label so that I could release whatever I wanted to release and do what I wanted to do. That was the main reason; no one had to be responsible for any falls or anything.
RS: How did you discover R3hab? It seems like you discovered him and help set him up for greatness.
Afrojack: I had known him for about four or five years when he was DJing around Holland. About a year ago I heard his tracks and thought that if he just changed a couple things, focused on the new style, and if I gave him a push promotional wise and a place to play, I was sure that he would kill it. We spoke about it and I told him that I was going to sign him to my label and give him a place to play. It wasn’t like I discovered him and made him big, he already had the music, and he just didn’t have the place to play his music. I gave him his place and now he is gigantic and a monster around America.
RS: And he is going on tour with you and Shermanology, how did you choose who you were going to bring with you on the tour?
Afrojack: They are all my longtime friends. Bobby Burns, Shermanology, and Quintino are my friends and all on my label. I figured that I could do the tour by myself and have a random warm-up DJ on stage with me that I didn’t know, or I could have them with me. I don’t want music and performing to turn into work, I want it to be the same fun that it always was. That is why I bring a lot of friends and family. Coincidentally, all of my friends are artists, so why not have them play there with me?
RS: What effect do you think the Amsterdam Dance Event has had on you and the Dutch music scene?
Afrojack: I think that the Amsterdam Dance event is still a more industry thing, but it is getting bigger and bigger with more artists playing there. I think that it has had a huge impact on the way that international people are viewing the music comes from Holland, especially with dance music. I think that the Amsterdam Dance Event gave Holland the base internationally. Now it is not just that there are music coming from Amsterdam, Holland, and Rotterdam, there is actually an Amsterdam Dance Event to showcase this. You can now see what the Dutch people, including me, are up to.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Afrojack: I love them and I hope to see them at all of my shows. There is absolutely nothing wrong with following me around for all of my twenty shows, I would love that. That is the only reason why I am touring, for the fans. There is no point in going out and playing my favorite music to 10,000 people who don’t like my music, or are not at the same level. Every time I go on stage and see them, I am happy and I want to party with them. I have to DJ so I need to stay in the DJ booth but I am still partying with them and after that, I just chill. That’s what I love the most is being able to party with all my fans.
RS: One last question, where did the name Afrojack come from?
Afrojack: That’s really simple, I used to have an afro and jack is a term used in house music, for example jacking music. In the beginning Jack had a groove and that is basically where it came from.
Interview conducted May 2012. Special thanks to Erika Gutierrez at Miller PR and Frank Murray at Robbins Entertainment for arranging the interivew.