Alan Walker talks fame, gaming and music-making | DJMag.com! Skip to main content

Alan Walker talks fame, gaming and music-making

Alan Walker is only 20, but this EDM DJ/ producer and video gamer already has millions of fans for his YouTube channel and a global following. Ahead of his set for us at Miami Music Week, we talk to the young artist about his rapid rise and how he copes with fame in his native Norway...

Catch Alan Walker at our DJ Mag's Miami pool party on 21st March! Tickets here.

Alan Walker's story is as remarkable as his name is not. British by birth but based in Norway since he was two, he's still only 20 but has just performed his latest hit single 'All Falls Down' with singer Noah Cyrus on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in the US. The single has been streamed more than 70 million times, while his debut - 2015's 'Faded' - has over 1.5 billion views on YouTube and topped year-end charts across Europe. 

His YouTube channel recently became the most subscribed portal in Norway, with more than 12 million followers, and it has more than 3.4 billion views in all. Alan was also ranked 17th in our latest Top 100 DJs poll (“which was insane, and one of the highlights of my year,” he says), and has clocked up hundreds of millions of streams for plenty of singles in between.

“It is very surreal to me as well,” says the charming and likeable Alan. “I remember first creating a YouTube channel in 2012, and it’s insane to see that it has more than 12 million followers now. All the numbers and stats really do mean a lot, because it means that I have so many people around the world who appreciate my music and what I do. And the results and feedback on my music also help to figure out what my fans like and resonate with.”

It was only back in 2012 than Alan first started trying to produce. Initially he was fascinated by computers, programming and graphic design, and had no musical background whatsoever. It was only after he’d been seduced by hearing a song by Italian artist David Whistle that he, with a beautifully youthful naivety, reached out to the producer to ask how he’d done it, as his thoughts turned to beat-making. Soon taking inspiration from EDM producers K-391 and Ahrix and lm composers such as Hans Zimmer and Steve Jablonsky, he began messing around on Fruity Loops and, with the feedback of his earliest fans, he started posting music on YouTube and Soundcloud.

“I just went online and tried to learn the basics,” he recalls. “I didn’t have a master plan behind my approach, but it was very natural for me to look up tutorials online, and get feedback and tips from other producers. I’m still learning new stuff as I go, and I think that will be the case moving forward as well. There is always new stuff that I pick up and apply to my own way of producing music.”

His sound is a youthful mix of big room house, progressive and electro styles that are swollen with emotion and rich in sweeping melody. It often features vocals from celestial-sounding female guests because, “I believe that vocalists add an extra dimension to a song. The re-make of ‘Fade’ into ‘Faded’ is a great example of that. I feel like the song gained a whole new life when we added the vocals to it.”

As for the subject matter, sometimes he writes the lyrics, sometimes the vocalists do. “On other occasions, there is already an idea for a melody or lyrics before the vocalist comes into question. I try to make sure that the subjects and themes in my songs are something that people can relate to, and that it ts with my overall identity.” He also admits that he takes inspiration from his surroundings and, ”anything at all! A conversation with someone, a movie I’ve watched recently, or sometimes I just start making music and go with whatever mood I’m in at that time. Norwegian music has also had an impact on me. There are so many great artists from Norway that are making amazing music, both within the EDM genre and in general. But if I stayed in the UK, I’m sure that would have impacted upon my style of music as well.”



On the subject of nationality, Alan says he feels Norwegian, but that he feels a special connection when he plays in the UK, as he will do in London and Manchester on his upcoming European tour. It comes after a few months off at home, with family. Away from making music he likes playing video games and hanging with friends, as well as with his dog, Happy. But when you’re as famous as he is in Norway, it’s hard to even walk down the street. That might be part of the reason that, initially, Alan tried to remain anonymous and wear a mask in public, but he says he feels he’s managed to not let it affect him that much. “It has never been about me wanting to be anonymous or hide my identity,” he says. “The whole visual profile is a way of saying that we are all the same and we are all equal. Anyone could be the person behind the mask and we can all achieve amazing things. Because I wear the mask when I perform, my face and looks are not necessarily something that people recognise as much.” Teenagers change and grow up quickly. Having emerged so young, Alan is mindful of the fact that he is always evolving, learning and changing his sound. “It’s quite fun to go back in time and check out demos and songs I made in the very beginning,” he laughs, before adding that he is keen to “maintain the signature elements of my music”. One thing he would do differently if he had his time again is prepare himself for the things other than making music that have come with his success. “I certainly didn’t know how much it takes to be an artist, and all the things that you have to take care of. But it all happened so quickly and I’m very grateful for all of the love and support that I got from early on. I obviously don’t get to spend as much time as I would like with family and friends, but it really comes with the territory. And I had to make a dif cult decision to drop out of school because the workload became so heavy at one point. But on the other hand, I know that I’ve got to see lots of places, and experience things that most people don’t have the chance to.”

Another of his more unusual experiences is appearing on YouTube channel, NoCopySounds. It was started by Billy Woodford while he was working on a construction site. After being burnt sharing video clips on YouTube of him and his mates playing Call Of Duty using tracks from some big established artists, his idea was to give copyright-free music a chance within the music community.

On getting his break with NCS, Alan says he is truly grateful for the platform and exposure. “It is a big part of my identity as both a musician and gamer, and helped to spread my music across the world via YouTube,” he says. Now he’s with a major label, he feels he still has the autonomy he needs. “I’m happy that I have a team who really understand who I am as an artist, and they always try to maintain that in all aspects of my career. They are involved in the sense that they give me feedback on my music along the way, and we also come up with different ideas for how to roll out and present my music to the world.”

Like many modern artists, that music mainly comes via streaming services and digitals sales sites. The problem with that is that often, artists feel they don’t get fairly recompensed. With numbers as impressive as his, Alan might well fall into their category. But rather than being bitter, he recognises that it is the modern way and that he must earn through other channels.

“Because I’ve only been around for a short period of time, I didn’t really experience the drastic change from mainly releasing music on CD and vinyl, to now mainly releasing music online via streaming services. I know that there is an ongoing debate on whether artists are getting fairly paid on these new platforms, but my opinion is that it’s on its way to becoming sustainable for artists as well.”

For now, he will continue to clock up the air miles. After Miami, Coachella is on the horizon as well as plenty of new music. He might only be 20, but Alan Walker has already crammed a whole lot into his life. On the subject of nationality, Alan says he feels Norwegian, but that he feels a special connection when he plays in the UK, as he will do in London and Manchester on his upcoming European tour. It comes after a few months off at home, with family. Away from making music he likes playing video games and hanging with friends, as well as with his dog, Happy. But when you’re as famous as he is in Norway, it’s hard to even walk down the street. That might be part of the reason that, initially, Alan tried to remain anonymous and wear a mask in public, but he says he feels he’s managed to not let it affect him that much. “It has never been about me wanting to be anonymous or hide my identity,” he says. “The whole visual pro le is a way of saying that we are all the same and we are all equal. Anyone could be the person behind the mask and we can all achieve amazing things. Because I wear the mask when I perform, my face and looks are not necessarily something that people recognise as much.” Teenagers change and grow up quickly. Having emerged so young, Alan is mindful of the fact that he is always evolving, learning and changing his sound. “It’s quite fun to go back in time and check out demos and songs I made in the very beginning,” he laughs, before adding that he is keen to “maintain the signature elements of my music”.

One thing he would do differently if he had his time again is prepare himself for the things other than making music that have come with his success. “I certainly didn’t know how much it takes to be an artist, and all the things that you have to take care of. But it all happened so quickly and I’m very grateful for all of the love and support that I got from early on. I obviously don’t get to spend as much time as I would like with family and friends, but it really comes with the territory. And I had to make a difficult decision to drop out of school because the workload became so heavy at one point. But on the other hand, I know that I’ve got to see lots of places, and experience things that most people don’t have the chance to.”

Another of his more unusual experiences is appearing on YouTube channel, NoCopySounds. It was started by Billy Woodford while he was working on a construction site. After being burnt sharing video clips on YouTube of him and his mates playing Call Of Duty using tracks from some big established artists, his idea was to give copyright-free music a chance within the music community.

On getting his break with NCS, Alan says he is truly grateful for the platform and exposure. “It is a big part of my identity as both a musician and gamer, and helped to spread my music across the world via YouTube,” he says. Now he’s with a major label, he feels he still has the autonomy he needs.

“I’m happy that I have a team who really understand who I am as an artist, and they always try to maintain that in all aspects of my career. They are involved in the sense that they give me feedback on my music along the way, and we also come up with different ideas for how to roll out and present my music to the world.”

Like many modern artists, that music mainly comes via streaming services and digitals sales sites. The problem with that is that often, artists feel they don’t get fairly recompensed. With numbers as impressive as his, Alan might well fall into their category. But rather than being bitter, he recognises that it is the modern way and that he must earn through other channels.

“Because I’ve only been around for a short period of time, I didn’t really experience the drastic change from mainly releasing music on CD and vinyl, to now mainly releasing music online via streaming services. I know that there is an ongoing debate on whether artists are getting fairly paid on these new platforms, but my opinion is that it’s on its way to becoming sustainable for artists as well.”

For now, he will continue to clock up the air miles. After Miami, Coachella is on the horizon as well as plenty of new music. He might only be 20, but Alan Walker has already crammed a whole lot into his life.



Words: KRISTAN J CARYL 
Pics: STIANANDERSEN

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