There are very few artists who have made as much of an impact on the dance music industry as Nick van de Wall, better known as Afrojack, has over the past decade. From some of the most iconic tracks in dance music history, to headlining slots at all of the world’s premiere festivals like Ultra and EDC, Afrojack has seen it all.
While his output has remained amazingly consistent over the years, it’s safe to say that Nick has grown and changed as a person over the years. While the world was under lockdown for much of the past year, Nick took the time to reflect and plot the next chapter of Afrojack. We recently got to sit down and have a chat with Nick about his latest track with longtime friend and collaborator David Guetta, “Hero,” his upcoming performance at Eurovision Song Contest (yes, it’s a real thing), finding and promoting new talent and Nick’s personal reading list. Check it out below.
Hey Nick! Thanks so much for chatting with us today. First things first, tell us about your new song with David, “Hero?” Obviously, we all know you guys go way back. What was the inspiration for the song and how did it come together?
“Well, the inspiration for the song for both of us, and I think if you know some of our older work, was to go back to what it was. Right now the music industry is very one-directional, I like the direction it’s going in, but everyone is playing it very safe. Everyone is on the funk, disco, slap-house, crossover, use of hip-hop cadences. With this song we really felt like we had an opportunity to create a full-on old school dance music song. Not like old-school house, roots-wise, like old school dance music, 2007-2012 era. And we did, and of course it’s kind of risky to do something like this, but seeing how everything’s opening up again, and seeing everyone’s in a party mood. I honestly believe, of course this isn’t a Mumbai remix or a hard future rave record. But I believe when you have a song like this and you present it like this, a good song is a good song. And I really love the song, everyone really killed it on this.
How funny is it that this is refreshing now? If I did this like six years ago I would have been shot. There he goes again with the same old generic shit, actually it’s kind of cool.”
Tell us more about the songwriting behind “Hero?” I know there were some really big names involved like Ellie Goulding and Ryan Tedder.
“That was all them. All Ellie Goulding, all Ryan Tedder and Jamie Scott. We (David & I) just did the musical composition and production. It’s one of those ones that digitally came together. Stargate presented the song to me, just the acapella. So, from there I called David, like check this out. He’s like it’s great, we should do something with it. So we started building the chord progression, started production, Dubvision co-produced too, to get that sound extra tight. Eventually when the record was completely finished we wanted to present it at Ultra 2020, but it got cancelled. We didn’t know what was going to happen, so we had this song to celebrate life, celebrate music, and then everything stopped. And now that we see vaccines are rolling out, it’s like light at the end of the tunnel. It’s like we’ll party before the end of the tunnel, let’s party now.”
Tell us about your upcoming performance at Eurovision Song Contest? What can we expect? And can you give us American’s a little bit of background on it. I only found out about it after watching the Will Ferrell Netflix movie.
“Yeah, it’s a real thing. I also did not know how much went into it until I watched the movie. And now that I’m there and we’re doing rehearsals and stuff and I see all the people, it’s like the actual movie. It’s like the Super Bowl of European local songwriting. So, in America you have college football, in Europe we have college songwriters. They usually write only in their own country. And then for Eurovision they all write, sometimes still in their local language, sometimes in English, and they just try to be the best. But, it’s really more of a showcase of international talent. And it’s really cool to see how everyone can come together, kind of like what we have at Ultra or EDC, where our community comes together, it’s the same for the songwriting community of Europe coming together for Eurovision.
So what is going to be mostly, and there’s some bleeps in there, I worked some bleeps in there, it was very difficult to get it in there, but we got it. But, the main focus, for my performance is to represent dance music to people that don’t know about dance music. There’s going to be like 200 million viewers, and I think like 90 percent of them have never been to a dance music festival. So I want to show them what it’s like, what it feels like, what the music is like. And also incorporate some elements that they might be more familiar with, orchestra, dancers, singers, so it’s going to be like a showcase. I’m not to going to be doing like a full DJ set for hours, it’s just going to be a very big mashup of things.”
Tell us about how you scout for new talent, and how you find the time? How has the record label evolved alongside you as an artist?
“Finding the time is easy now. So, after Covid started, I just took a nice long quarantine with my wife in Dubai, we stayed there for two months. And after that I had to slowly think about, okay, now what? We said, okay, now we have the time, let’s focus on making the team stronger and getting closer together. We did that, so now we’re looking to grow and hire some people, to expand the team. And the team now is also so strong, I feel like we can easily handle more artists.
So we started opening up the doors by opening the email@example.com email. So any producer who thinks maybe this is interesting, you can send your portfolio there. I’m thinking about doing a full talent scout, marketing promotion, but I like the idea that the people who are coming now, they’re paying attention. It’s like why am I doing a marketing stunt to give you a career, if you want your career you should go get it. So right now this is the only thing I’m doing, I’m mentioning it in interviews, we’ll see what happens and slowly start working. But, I’ve already been talking to some artists and people.
We’re also in the process of hiring a painter, it’s very interesting. We’re expanding on all fronts, I really want to use this experience I’ve built up and this network we’ve all built up as a music label all over the world. To introduce people in this network, because honestly, I think that if someone makes something dope, it’s dope, it doesn’t matter if you’re small or big. But, I have some numbers in my phone that I can make sure it gets to the world immediately. So if something’s dope, let’s go. That’s the only thing we’re doing is using myself and Wall as a vehicle for talent to get from A to B.
I think it did, but in small steps, and I really think now over the last months that we’ve been getting close together, I’ve really noticed…Like, I’ll give you an example. Everyone knows I like the fancy cars, I don’t know how much money I’ve spent on private jets in my life, I don’t want to know. The only thing I think now is if I invested that in new artists, you know many careers you can build, how much music you can put out, how many music videos you can make?
That’s the only thing I’m thinking about now. I still do it sometimes, don’t get me wrong. Now like every time I think I can build more studios, or I can build an art studio, I just want to facilitate the talent. I’d rather use my income for that than just having more fun. But, to be fair, I did have an amazing time. Me and my team, I think we were the most fun-having crew of all the DJs back from the touring days. We did everything, we went to the strip club with 20 people, we ate chicken wings. We did everything, everything you could imagine seeing on ‘Entourage,’ we did all of that. Now I’m a little bit older, a little bit wiser. That’s what I’m in for the future really. To give young artists the same platform and the experience. A positive and fun experience in this industry.”
Have you been booked for any upcoming shows or festivals? When do you think we’ll be able to see you here in the US?
“I hope as soon as possible, my visa actually expired, so we’re working on getting that back, which is very difficult because of Covid. We have some lawyers working on it, so it should be good. But, I hope to be back this summer. I got so jealous when I saw all the Las Vegas residency announcements. I was like oh my god, everyone’s DJing, where’s my visa!?”
Other than making music and the occasional live stream, what did you do during lockdown? Did you binge watch any good shows?
“If you like fish, do not watch ‘Seaspiracy,’ because you will stop eating fish. I stopped eating fish, it made my wife stop eating fish, don’t watch that, unless you’re ready for that. ‘Call of Duty: Warzone.’ We started a Twitch streaming channel, Team Wall. Which is basically the same thing I’m trying to do for artists, but for streamers. So we’re looking for new streamers and trying to give them a home and introduce them to our network in the gaming industry. It’s a partnership with a very good friend of mine who I’ve been working with for years and she knows everyone in the whole gaming industry, so that’s fun. So, we use my name as leverage and use her network as leverage to get people to come watch and to get big players to come play on our stream. Then combine that with brand new talent.”
Just wondering if you have any good life advice for people out there? You’ve managed to sustain your success for so long and remain one of the most iconic names in the game. What’s the secret?
“Honestly, a few things, I’ll give you the short. If you want full life advice go watch Gary Vee, he gives very good life advice. But, read books, get better at life. There’s this stupid concept we have that when we’re 18 and we’re an adult we’re fully grown and nothing will change ever again. The concept is called neuroplasticity, which means our brain is always open to development at the same level when you’re 40 as when you’re five. But, social boundaries stop you from trying to develop because you don’t want to look silly and you don’t want to fail. But, when I found out about neuroplasticity, I was like okay, that still means that I can learn anything I want. So, I started doing language classes, I started reading books. And that really completely changed my life, especially my happiness. My happiness is no longer dependent on outside factors, it’s only dependent on myself. So no matter what happens, like if something shitty happens, hey it sucks, but that doesn’t mean I have to have a shit day or a shit week.
And that really changed my life. I really would recommend, studying, reading books. There’s a lot of books I’d like to recommend, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’, ‘Extreme Ownership’, ‘Good to Great’, ‘Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes’ is a very good book that really changed my mind about how life can work. Simon Sinek, ‘Leaders Eat Less’, ‘The Happiness Advantage’ by Shawn Achor, Malcolm Gladwell with ‘Outliers.’ There’s a reason why these books are big, there’s information in there that will hack your life. We’re born with a certain vision of life, we go to school and that gives us a certain vision of how life works. Technically that’s not how it works at all. So when shit’s not working out for you, it’s usually because we have this concept of if I try hard it will work, that’s not actually how life operates. So I really would recommend if you want to life-hack your life, start reading books. I do the audiobooks too!”
Check out the latest from Afrojack & David Guetta, “Hero” out now on Wall Recordings. Stay tuned to Afrojack’s socials for more info on his upcoming livestream this Saturday and his performance at Eurovision Song Contest on May 22.