Nicky Romero is like a machine. Like some sort of super-human replicant, he's motored his way super-fast into the upper echelons of the EDM scene in just a few years, collaborating with the likes of David Guetta, Avicii and Krewella along the way, and was voted No.7 in the Top 100 DJs poll last year.
Nicky likes his technical innovations — he was the first DJ to wear Google Glasses while playing a big festival set at TomorrowWorld last year, for instance. And this year he's come up with an innovative way of trying to get people to vote for him in the Top 100 poll — the #CallNicky campaign (see below).
He's also got a new single coming out with renowned Dutch singer Anouk — 'Feet on the Ground'. “She's a very interesting and talented singer, she was always high on my wish-list to work with,” the Dutch DJ/producer tells DJ Mag. “I was listening to her songs as a kid, and I thought it would be great if I could ever work with her in some way. And then the opportunity was there — she asked me if I wanted to do a song together with her, and I didn't hesitate for one second. She's very different to most artists, she does everything in her own way — something I can respect.”
So Nicky, tell us about your Call Nicky campaign?
“Sure, well, every year around the time of the DJ Mag [Top 100 DJs poll] everybody tries to do something special — a video, a track or something — and I thought I wanted to do something different than most people do. I wanted to do something interactive, cos I wanted my fans to be able to be in touch with me. I felt this way — recording a couple of videos where I'm doing some activity like [working in the] studio or being at home Playstationing, or there's more scenarios coming up — I'd be giving my fans the feeling that they were actually communicating with me — instead of just supporting me on Twitter. I wanted to find a way where I could reach them in addition to all of social media.”
So if someone puts their phone number in the box on your #CallNicky web page (www.callnickyromero.com), will you actually call all of them up? Every single person?
“Yes. This is how it works. We pre-recorded a couple of videos, and we recorded three scenarios where I'm calling them — dialling a number, and talking. And that was recorded, so I was actually speaking in the video, and this was then put onto a digital tape. So whenever you put in your phone number, you'll see me dialling the phone number. A couple of seconds later your phone will ring, and you'll actually hear me talking through your phone — and it'll be synced to your laptop screen. It's like I'm calling you live sitting there, that's actually how it feels — but of course I'm not, cos it's actually pre-recorded. I'm saying something about recording things in the studio, finishing songs for some festivals, and by the way the DJ Mag campaign has started just now...”
So someone on the receiving end, it's almost like they get a robot Nicky talking to them?
“Yes. You can only be called once, because I'm paying for it — it's like seven cents per call. Is my phone bill going to be astronomical? Yes, I've invested... it's not only that I wanted to spend some money on the DJ Mag, cos that's not what it's about. For me it was the excuse to invent something new, and I will try to expand on it in the future. I want to find new ways to talk to people — this is the first step, and I think we've made something pretty cool.”
I didn't fill in my number, and yet I'm talking to you on the phone now...
“Ha ha, this is the real Nicky.”
Are you phoning up any fans in person — the real Nicky, instead of the robot Nicky?
“I would do that but not right now. I do that with my Protocol radio show, I have a section called Text Nicky, and once or twice a month I'll change it to Call Nicky and call a few random fans.”
What's your favourite robot movie?
“I always really liked Terminator 2 — not the new one but the one with the loony cop that had this liquid kind-of metal. That's the one I like the most.”
If you were going to be in a remake of a robot or sci-fi movie, which would it be?
“The Fantastic Four, it would be remade as the Fantastic Five. I'd have to find a new superhero for myself, I don't want to be an existing one — I want to be someone else. So I'd have to invent my own features, my own powers.”
Could a robot make a good DJ?
“Technically yes, robots could be the better DJ cos they wouldn't do anything wrong. But I think no, because a DJ needs to feel atmosphere and ambience in a room — and I don't think a robot can do that. Couldn't it learn? No, because it's inhuman, I don't think robots can have the same emotions as human beings. So when a human smiles, for example, or cries, that's an emotion that a robot might be able to copy — but not to invent. Being human comes from within — a robot just copies it. If you're playing in front of an audience, people can feel that it's you.”
Can a robot develop a soul?
“I don't think so. If I look at I, Robot and stuff, I would say yes, but I'm not really sure if that's what the future will be like. Right now, I would say no.”
If there was a robot DJ in a nightclub, what do you think they'd be like?
“Physical-wise? I think they would look like a human being, the closest to a human would be the best option, and DJ-wise I think you could just select his mode. If you wanted him to play house, if you want him to be a hardstyle DJ, or techy or techno or whatever — it'll have options on music selection, and its own moves behind the decks.”
For some DJs, wouldn't it be handy to be able to send robots of themselves out to gigs sometimes?
“Yeah, but I think a better solution would be to 3-D stream yourself — instead of sending a robot. I was the first one doing this as well, I did a live stream from the Protocol studios here, DJing with multiple cameras around me. There was a small audience, and the whole package was being sent to Empo in Mexico, and there was a whole venue there with over 15,000 people and multiple screens, and I was projected onstage. The cameras were on the other screens, so you could actually... it was a little bit like the Snoop Dogg and Tupac performance at Coachella. I was actually DJing live here in Holland, so can you imagine if you sold a stream of your set to multiple venues? You could perform at multiple places.
“There was a screen in front of me with a camera, showing some footage — there was some delay, it took some while, but if you get the technology better it would be a serious option to broadcast to six places in the world or whatever. This would be better than a robot, if I'm honest. It would be more realistic. I'm not sure if I would ever pay for a performance being played by a robot, do you know what I mean? To have favourites of anything, you need to have experience — and robots don't have experience.”
Yeah, it would be strange doing their Top 100 DJs interview, for instance...
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