Afrojack is one of the biggest DJs on the electronic music scene nowadays, thanks in no part to his collaborations with huge artists, his flair for dramatic displays behind the decks and his tremendous talent in the studio. At only age 25, he’s one of several Dutch DJs who are taking the world by storm; he was already as high as No. 9 on DJ Mag’s “Top 100 DJs of 2012.” Moreover, he invaded the mainstream on U.S. shores when he collaborated with Pitbull and Ne-Yo one of the biggest songs of 2011, “Give Me Everything.”
After playing both weekends at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, Afrojack’s out today with the music video for his latest track, a collaboration with Chris Brown called “As Your Friend.” In the futuristic medieval video, Afrojack (birth name: Nick van de Wall), lords over a kingdom of dancers who seem to bow to his every whim, much like his legions of followers at festivals and clubs around the world.
We caught up with Afrojack in-between gigs to ask him all about what’s going on in his universe right now.
You just finished playing the Ultra Music Festival this year? How would you describe what did fans got from your set?
I gave them lots of energy during my shows so that they [could] dance all day long! It was massive! [Fans got] new tracks that were played and surprise guest appearances by my Wall Recordings artists.
Which other acts were you most excited about seeing at Ultra this year?
I wanted to see a lot of them, but this year I had my own ‘’Jacked’’ stage and the DJ’s who played there gave fans a performance they won’t ever forget! It's amazing to see them have successful careers [as they] are able to play all over the world.
The Festival was also a showcase for some of your own Wall Recordings artists -- how did you prepare them for Ultra?
They all have a lot of experience playing around the world, so they know a little bit about what to expect. I told them to just enjoy and make it your best set ever! Miami Music Week feels like a homecoming for the whole Wall family.
Tell me about "Air Guitar" -- which is your new single and one of the official anthems for UMF this year (and available on the ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL 2013 compilation album, out April 2) -- how did it come about? Did the festival commission it with you?
I was asked by Ultra to create an Anthem for Ultra Music Festival. With a new crossover single out called “As Your Friend,” I felt it was time to release something that would please my core fan base and so it did, the reactions have been overwhelming.
What's the inspiration for you behind this track?
When they asked me to create an anthem for them, I wanted something different than a lot of other tracks and wanted to create something edgier. “Air Guitar” is more like a dance/rock track. I like to try out different styles of electronic music and this was a kind of track that I haven’t really done. I think it really fits for Ultra Music Festival.
What do you think is behind the huge influx of DJ's coming out of the Netherlands right now? Why do you think there's so much talent from the Dutch on the electronic music scene?
One of the reasons probably is that electronic music was already very famous here a long time ago. We all grew up with this music because we were listening to it when we were young and all tried to experiment with it when we got older. A lot of the different styles of electronic music started in the Netherlands, so I don’t think it’s crazy that a small country like ours is bringing a lot of talented DJs into the world.
You're always very busy in the studio -- how much of your time is spent there producing music vs. how much time you spend performing live?
A lot, as much as I can actually. When I’m in the studio it is always a couple days in a row because when I start with a track, I want to finish it as soon as possible, so that’s a long time. But when it comes to performing live, it will take a long time as well. If you look at Miami Music Week, I have different gigs where I will be performing, but in-between I also party or collaborate with some other DJs. I think traveling is also a big part of my life. Because having shows around the world means that I have to travel a lot. This also gives me a lot of time to finish tracks during all the flights.
For some of our readers, they might have only heard of you in the past couple of years, but of course, you (any many DJ's who are just now finding huge fame in the States), have been working for many years … Why do you think electronic music is only breaking through in the U.S. in a big way right now?
It’s probably because of the collaborations with other artists who were already huge in the U.S. Somehow the crowd loved the collaborations with big artists and DJs, so a lot of artists asked a lot of different DJs to help them with remixing the tracks or with creating new tracks. Mainstream collaborations have lead to DJs getting huge fame in the U.S. and I really like the U.S. so I don’t mind at all!
A lot of people have been critical of DJ's who just "press play" on their music during sets -- and I've read that you've been critical of that as well -- are you seeing an increase or decrease in this trend? … and what are your further thoughts on the topic?
Well, I’m not going to say a lot of things about it. Some DJs do it so they can get the crowd going and get pumped for the next tracks. Other DJs do it because they don't think they are real artists. But I like to do it just live, because that is why the fans are there, they want to see you perform and are willing to pay a lot for it. So, I do my very best to get the crowd pumped and crazy with my live sets!
Your latest single, "As Your Friend," is with Chris Brown -- who certainly can have a hard time himself in the media -- you've also worked with him before … what have your experiences been like working with Chris?
It’s always great. We had a good time in the studio and I am really happy with the result. It isn’t fair he’s had a hard time in the media, I really like working with him. That’s the most important thing I think.
Who do you think is the next big thing on the electronic music scene?
There are a lot of DJs who are trying to do their very best to get to the top of dance scene, but I recently added D-Wayne to Wall Recordings and I really think he will be huge as well. He’s only 18-years-old and he is getting big in the Netherlands, so it will only be a matter of time before he will be travelling around the world for international gigs!
When it's time for you to decompress after a set, what do you listen to in order to wind down?
Different kinds of music actually, from Daft Punk and Nirvana to The Goo Goo Dolls and R.E.M. I like a lot of different styles of music, to relax but also to get ideas for new tracks.
There was a report out there a few weeks ago that you got into a bad accident in your new red Ferrari -- what happened there? Can you explain the sequence of events?
Yeah, it was not nice since I just picked up the car, which was supposed to be my mom's. I wasn’t driving that fast actually. It was really terrible weather and in one turn a car in front of me stopped, so I also had to hit the brake. I slipped since the Ferrari had rear wheel drive and then it’s hard to get it straight, so in the end I hit the sides of the road.
A few hours later I heard that apparently I wasn’t the only one who crashed at this turn. In the last months a few cars have also slipped there, so now they are going to look if they can fix the road somehow.