Afrojack first entered the DJ Mag Top 100 in 2010, but having hit the top of the charts all over the world last year with his Nicki Minaj and David Guetta collaboration, ‘Hey Mama’, the Dutchman — real name Nick van de Wall — has seen a huge change in both his musical output and the industry as a whole in that time. Following his shift into pop last year, 2016 has seen the EDM star adopt trap, dubstep, hip-hop, alternative music and more into his sprawling sets.
“A lot of people are narrow-minded and think you can only do one thing,” van de Wall tells DJ Mag from the studio during his recent tour of Japan. “Or that if you do more than one thing, you’re just selling out. But I’m really proud that my fans accept what I do and like to see me moving between genres. It’s healthy, it’s the same as dinner: if you love chicken, it doesn’t mean you’re going to eat it every day for the rest of your life, as you might like pizza and pancakes too.”
During his career van de Wall has also collaborated with a number of the world’s biggest artists, including Madonna, Snoop Dogg and Pitbull. This year he’s worked alongside Ty Dolla $ign, as well as on main room anthem ‘Hollywood’ with Hardwell. He has more material alongside his fellow Dutchman in the pipeline, as well as two new tracks with David Guetta, which will be their first since smashing the charts last year. But he says his dream collaboration is Kanye West. “I’d love to do some shit with him,” van de Wall explains. “I love his vocals, but what I really dig is his production style. It’s crazy. A lot of people don’t know he isn’t just a rapper, but also makes a lot of his own beats.”
It’s been another year of huge performances from van de Wall, too. As well as main stage appearances at the world’s biggest festivals, including those at EDC Las Vegas and Ultra Music Festival, he span a one-off techno set alongside Benny Rodrigues at Tomorrowland in August, the festival which he says was the highlight of his packed calendar. “Sorry to all the competition,” he enthuses. “But that show was insane, one of the best experiences of my life.”
Despite all this, van de Wall says his biggest achievement has been pushing new artists through his label, Wall Recordings. “Fais’ new song ‘Hey’ has over 100 million views on YouTube, 67 million streams on Spotify and hit No.1 in a couple of countries,” he explains. “In order to launch a new artist you usually need a major label, manager and all that type of shit, but we did it by ourselves with our little recording team, so I'm really proud of that. It’s something we’re looking to do more of in the future — launching new artists, producers and DJs. Making the dreams of children true all across the world!”
The next things on the horizon for Wall Recordings comes from rising EDM star Oliver Rosa, as well as a new collaboration with Ravitez. “It’s a bit of an old school Afrojack sound mixed with his progressive melodies,” van de Wall explains.
Ever since dating Paris Hilton in 2012 though, the Dutch DJ’s lifestyle away from the decks has been almost as well-known as his music. He reportedly purchased a Bugatti Chiron earlier this year, the fastest production car ever made, before announcing he would participate in this year’s gruelling Gumball 3000 rally. The 18th annual event travelled from Dublin to the Romanian capital Bucharest — a distance of 3,000 miles — in just five days. It seems his driving skills must have improved since 2013 though, when he crashed his Ferrari 458 on the same day as he collected his brand-new car.
A recent interview with the Wall Street Journal also revealed Afrojack’s essential grooming product is soap, and his favourite painting as Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Speaking to DJ Mag, van de Wall says the best things he’s bought this year are a new PMC soundsystem for his studio, and a trampoline. So what does an EDM goliath do when they’re not performing or producing music? “Playstation,” van de Wall remarks. “Or jumping on a trampoline.” ROB McCALLUM
What have been the new frontiers for you this year?
“All the weird, bouncy 160bpm stuff that’s a mix of hip-hop, trap and dubstep, but isn’t really any particular one. I did the remix for Major Lazer’s Justin Bieber record this year, ‘Cold Water’, and to me that’s really where the vibe is right now.”
Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?
“I don’t really care what other people think about electronic music. We’ve seen it move in many directions, but it’s not about whether the mainstream respects us, but more whether we respect ourselves.”
What’s the best new bit of DJ/production technology, and why?
“Nexus has really come through, the Spire synthesiser is pretty sick, and I’ve been using this thing called the FabFilter Pro which makes everything so loud. For the live shows, what’s really changed is the communication with the front of house team, which has made the lights and pyrotechnics insane.”
If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?
“Like Green Velvet said in ‘Shake & Pop’, 'I like electro, I like retro, I like ghetto, house and techno’. No matter what happens in the world, I will always love house and techno.”
As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ?
“Whatever the admission price is.”
What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths at dance music events?
“To anyone that thinks you need drugs to enjoy music: whatever. But just don’t do any stupid shit, and definitely don’t do it because of peer pressure. The most important thing from the industry side is to make sure it’s not possible. Tighten security to protect the safety of the people that are coming to enjoy the music.”
How can we increase diversity in dance music?
“The first time I went to a nightclub I realised nobody was worried about race or what kind of job you do, but that it’s all about the music. That’s the reason I became a DJ, because I wanted to spend the rest of my life surrounded by those people. Even though there’s a lot of mainstream media talking shit about us, people will always be jealous of the people that are free and happy.”