Afrojack has secured himself as one of the biggest names in electronic dance music (EDM). Between making music, giving back, developing new artists — and even getting married — aside from missing playing live shows, he’s certainly been keeping himself occupied since the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Just ahead of his brand-new single alongside the legendary David Guetta — who just so happens to be the reining #1 DJ in the world for 2020 via DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs poll — we has a chance to sit down with Nick (better known as Afrojack) to discuss “Hero,” quarantine, his Wall Recordings label, and much more.
“Hero,” by Afrojack & David Guetta, sees its official release on Friday, April 30, and it marks the pair’s first collaboration in years. Joined by the immensely talented Ryan Tedder, and powerhouse Ellie Goulding, Afrojack & David are finally ready and able to drop their highly anticipated new track, which has been a long time coming.
Afrojack has come a long way since his “Take Over Control” and “Bangduck” days, and it’s not only noticed in his evolved and matured sound, but through his humble take on the industry as a whole. In the days leading up to the “Hero” release, The Nocturnal Times caught up with Nick to touch base about the massive collab, lack of performing and gigs, and what managed to get him through the many days of monotonous quarantine. Read our full Q&A with Afrojack, below.
Nocturnal Times: Due to the pandemic the last year has been rough, especially in the music and live industries. How has the last year been on you?
Afrojack: I’m very lucky, I have savings. My family is all healthy and happy, my grandma is vaccinated. I spent a lot of time with my wife especially during the first major part of lockdown. We were together for 65 days in Dubai. She’s my best friend so we had lots of fun. A lot of people said they grew personally, I don’t think I grew personally but I really grew closer to my team. When you’re traveling so much and constantly in different places, you don’t really get to spend time one on one with the people that do everything behind the scenes. During this time we spent a lot of time together and realized we have a lot of potential, not only for Afrojack but also for Wall and artists signed to Wall. Right now we’re looking for new talents so if you’re a producer or DJ, email@example.com
Nocturnal Times: Do you see the pandemic shifting the industry further than it already has? In particular the live event space?
Afrojack: I’ve seen a lot of people focusing on digital events but I think everyone in dance music knows that you can sell an artist’s performance like that but you can’t sell dance music like that. Dance music is about the experience and the togetherness. It’s possible to do a digital festival but when festivals open again, there’s not going to be any longevity because people go to festivals to come together. In my opinion, there’s not really a future for digital festivals – it might be a nice extra to put in the background but we can also just watch a re-run of an Ultra set.
Nocturnal Times: You’ve collaborated with David many times on smash singles like “Titanium,” feat. Sia, “Hey Mama” feat. Nicki Minaj & Bebe Rexha, “Dirty Sexy Money” feat. Charli XCX & French Montana, and “Another Life” feat. Ester Dean. It’s been four years since your last collaboration with David. What are some things you look forward to about working with David?
Afrojack: We’re best friends so it doesn’t really feel like I’m working with someone outside of my team, that makes it really easy for us to work together and exchange thoughts. Usually when I put stuff out, it’s nice but I have something better on my computer. This is the best thing I have on my computer right now. I have nothing that’s beating this to my own taste so I’m really excited for this record to come out. I’m also very excited that David is so supportive and posting on his socials. His team has been really collaborative and I’m really happy.
I’m also nervous and it’s the first time in a long time that I’m nervous to put out a record. I think it’s a combination of the timing and the type of record it is, because when I did “Another Life” with David it was future bass, and at that moment that sound had a lot of hype. If it didn’t work, whatever, at least we tried. This is a song in something we’re both supposed to be very good at – progressive, big song type of shit with a big drop. I’m also thinking, what am I going to do after this one? I have some songs but they’re very different, my music is always very different. I just hope people are ready for this sound right now. This sound hasn’t been on the radio and on the mainstream Spotify lists for a long time, so I really hope people are ready for this. I also hope it’s going to give inspiration to a lot of producers to pursue this type of music. You can’t blame producers right now for making TikTok-esque songs, because at the end of the day people need to get paid. If you listen to Spotify dance playlists right now, everything is hook, hook, hook, something familiar, or it’s a cover, either slap house or disco/funk. It’s as if the industry is saying “if you want to make some money right now, do that – do not do progressive, big room EDM. You can…but there’s a very good chance you’re not going to be added to playlists.”
For us, we’re really in a position where we’re lucky enough to have a good marketing/promotion situation with people who do these kinds of playlists and radio programming, so I think they’ll give it a shot. I just hope people are going to love it. When people love it, that means radio and Spotify are going to be more open to these types of songs. It’s going to open up the playing field more for dance music producers to stop doing only slap house covers and start doing what they’re also going to play at festivals. Again, I’m not blaming them, they go get their money because they have to. Everyone has to fight to remain relevant, but I think everyone is thinking right now how everything’s starting to sound very similar.
Nocturnal Times: Is there anything you can share with us about David that fans may not already know?
Afrojack: I will tell you a secret. When I started working with David I didn’t know shit about song structure or chord progression or melodies. I knew beats and I knew mixing, that was my thing. David didn’t know shit about mixing and the more clubby side of things but he was insane in chords and melodies because he has that ear. Over the years he slowly became able to do everything. David’s a fucking beast now – he’s not the David from 12 years ago, he’s like David with the settings, tweaking, opening the filters, and playing with the releases, he’s a monster. I’m very proud to say this because when I started working with him I was the monster and I was showing him how to do everything. I trained him well haha. He’s my big brother and I say that with pride. I’m very proud of still being able to work with him. He’s still got the songs, look at Jack Back and Future Rave. He’s the fucking #1 DJ in the world, again. I’m 33 now and I hope I can do what he’s been able to do over the last 20 years. I look up to him and he’s definitely one of my heroes.
Nocturnal Times: Take us into your collaborative process for “Hero.” There are even more artists like Ellie Goulding and Ryan Tedder behind this one. How did all of you come together?
Afrojack: It started with me at Stargate in the studio in LA, and they already had the song written but no production. I just heard the acapella and was like “oh my god.” What we ended up doing, I thought “wow if we can do that, it could be like ‘Titanium’.” I sent it to David and he thought the same thing. Then we ended up making what we have today. We wanted to premiere it at Ultra Miami 2020. Everything was planned to do it live and that would be the starting signal. We’d release it in April then also present it at Eurovision, there was a whole plan and then EVERYTHING got canceled. Now, we still have the right situation for the song and we have time to do interviews to try and promote the song a little bit. We have time to work with every facet of the industry to get everyone in the same direction. We have the momentum with Eurovision coming up where we’ll be presenting the song to 250 million people, so that’s a gigantic platform for the song.
Nocturnal Times: Talk to us a bit more about everything going on with Eurovision?
Afrojack: Eurovision is basically Ultra Music Festival for songwriters. They have a contest and the best song wins. Thank the lord we don’t have this in DJ culture, because I couldn’t imagine the pressure when we all perform at Ultra and then at the end of the day there’s a top 10 or some shit. We have a very loving community and I’m very thankful for that. In the song industry apparently, it’s a contest. There will be people judging and singers will be under a lot of pressure. I’d recommend everyone to watch the movie called EuroVision with Will Ferrell. It has an insane soundtrack but it really shows how the event is sort of a Miami Music Week for songwriters. You see how all these people get together and they’re all friends, it’s beautiful.
Nocturnal Times: Which of David’s songs are your personal favorites or have been go-to’s in your sets for as long as you can remember?
Afrojack: Always acapellas. He did a remix for Calvin Harris’ “Flashback” a long time ago which was very cool. “I Got A Feeling” is still the easiest song to get everyone in the club to sing along and feel good. I wouldn’t play the original but just the “da da da” and people go crazy. I think the strongest part of David that reoccurs in my sets are his mashups and his acapellas. Now with Future Rave, I think that’s going to change for a lot of DJs. I think a lot of DJs are already playing the Future Rave stuff in their sets. When everything opens back up I think this is going to be the new standard. I even have some of the younger producers signed to Wall coming to me with new records like “do you like this it kind of sounds like Future Rave!” And I’m like “yeah man it’s dope!” That’s really taking over.
Nocturnal Times: Can you share more about your Wall Recordings Label and developing artists?
Afrojack: We started a long time ago with R3HAB and Quintino about 7 or 8 years ago. They became bigger and bigger so I’m really proud of them. We signed Chico Rose 4 years ago and he’s now about to touch 300 million streams. We did a lot of records together and he’s a great DJ. He’s really building his own career now and of course, there are not too many gigs right now but it is what it is. We just re-signed Chasner and he’s also touching 50 million streams now. We just released one of his singles a month ago and it’s going really well (that’s the guy that came to me with the Future Rave song by the way haha).
We’ve also been establishing Kapuchon as a separate brand. It’s always been my moniker of me playing house music but I never really did anything with it. Now we started the label to release the music and also to be able to work together with younger, upcoming underground artists. We just signed Rancido, who if you look at 1001 Tracklists you’ll see him in all the major underground sets, so that’s really cool. Also, check out Black V-Neck – they’re from Florida and they’re fucking insane. They’re the exact mix between house music and a little bit more dance music EDM. They’re right in the center of it and they’re killing it. They’re DJing everywhere and crushing it. I’m really proud of them and we’re just at the start of collaboration so that’s very special. And again we’re looking for more – the doors are going to close in September when hopefully I start touring again. If you’re a DJ/Producer and want to shoot your shot now, shoot your portfolio to firstname.lastname@example.org . And when I say portfolio don’t just send one song – I cannot judge from that whether we should collaborate or not. I need a zip file of all your shit.
Nocturnal Times: If you could sum up “Hero” in one or two sentences what would it be?
Afrojack: “That’s music power.” Sounds a little bit cheesy but I like it. “Dance Music Energy” I like that more.
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