Despite his Spanish-sounding name, the Aryan-looking, blued-eyed, progressive house DJ/producer Nicky Romero is yet another member of the Dutch dance music mafia.
“Fedde Le Grand is my buddy and guide and has had a great influence on my career,” says Nicky, whose real name is Nick Rotteveel van Gotum. Fellow Dutchman Fedde is “someone I looked up to all my life and still do”, says Nicky. “I consider him a great friend and also mentor.”
Since releasing ‘Toulouse’ — with its arpeggiated synth intro and catchy bassline — in 2012, the 25-year-old producer has been unstoppable, ram-raiding our Top 100 DJ chart two years ago in a first-entry, Top 20 slot. After ‘Toulouse’, he hit back with ‘I Could Be the One’. Then, just last year, he collaborated with uber-blonde female DJ/production duo Nervo, for progressive stomper ‘Like Home’.
“I’ve also been lucky enough to work with David Guetta loads and I still do,” says the Protocol Recordings boss. “Working with him has broadened my skills as a producer and has given me the opportunity to work with some of the biggest and most talented artists in the world.”Long before he was programming drums, Nicky was playing them. His childhood penchant for bashing out tight rhythms on the acoustic drum kit began at home in Amerongen, a village in Utrecht, from the age of six. As a teenager, he swapped his drum kit for some decks — playing his first gig aged 19 — and soon decided he’d try his hand at production too, releasing ‘Funktion One’ a year later, aged 20.
Early progressive house releases, such as ‘Qwerty’ and ‘Privilege’, that both came out on Once Records, pushed him into view as a producer with talent. Then, when he did a bootleg version of David Guetta’s ‘When Love Takes Over’, Ministry of Sound Recordings contacted him, asking him to do some remixes for them. From there, things spiraled, with monster track ‘My Friend’ (featuring a Groove Armada sample) and last year’s ‘Symphonica’, the follow-up single to ‘I Could Be the One’.
But all this success, says Nicky, didn’t come without its pitfalls. “When I started out, I was fortunate to be picked up by a label but, in hindsight, signing that deal wasn’t the best thing for me to do as an artist,” he reveals.
“I gave up too many rights and at the time didn’t realise it. I did it in a hurry because I was anxious to get my music out there. Friends, such as David Guetta, strongly advised me to start my own imprint, to retain master rights to my music and build my own catalogue.”
So that’s what Nicky did, setting up Protocol Recordings, which happens to be the label that put out his recent single ‘Feet on the Ground’.
“The female vocals on the track are by one of Holland's biggest stars, Anouk,” says Nicky. “I love her voice.”
And when it comes to DJing, he plays like his productions sound — mixing progressive house with electro, dosed up with all the energy required to rock a ‘big room’.
What’s the most exciting thing to happen to dance music lately?
“I love the fact that the sound is moving towards a bit more of a housey, vocal and musical vibe. I love that people like Oliver Heldens are doing well and I am impressed with how music has progressed so quickly.”