Interviews

Published on March 22nd, 2019 | by Jerry Doby

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Exclusive: Afrojack Talks Bringing New Talent Into the Fold, LDH Europe and When He’s Likely NOT to Give Advice

Back Story – One of the world’s most innovative and sought-after artists, Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, DJ Afrojack, continues to shatter boundaries that push music into bold new directions. Since making his breakthrough with the multi-platinum-selling single ‘Take Over Control’, the Dutch-born genre-bending musician has lent his production skills to tracks including David Guetta’s number one smash ‘Titanium (feat. Sia)’ and co-created major hits for such artists as Beyoncé, Pitbull, and will.i.am.

Most recently, Afrojack released the cross-genre bending hit “Sober” with Rae Sremmurd and Stanaj and is gearing up to release an album this year. In the last three years, Afrojack was named one of the 50 Most Important People in Electronic Dance Music by Rolling Stone and placed on the Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ list, also receiving a stamp in his likeness in the Netherlands and becoming the second DJ ever to imprint his hands into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He continues to appear in Las Vegas every month as a resident DJ for the Wynn Hotel Group at their three luxury venues XS, Encore Beach Club and Intrigue. Outside of Vegas, he performs worldwide at all major festivals and premier nightlife venues.

Afrojack (Mexico, Ultra Music Festival 2018)

Afrojack (Mexico, Ultra Music Festival 2018)

In September of 2018, Afrojack announced the worldwide competition “Global Remix Battle I” powered by PMC Speakers, a global search to discover the most talented yet undiscovered producers. On Monday, March 18th Afrojack began to unveil one winner per day via his social media channels; Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. The winners, Hiroki, Chipcat, Buzz Low, DES3ETT, and Exlau range in age from 17-25.

In partnership with PMC Speakers, the global search sought to uncover a new crop of music producers and give them a huge platform to have their talent noticed. Over the last 6 months, the competition received over 1000 submissions. Afrojack alongside partners at LDH Europe listened to every entry and hand-selected the five winners. Following the final announcement, the winner’s remixes will be released on an EP next week.

Ahead of the announcement of the winners from the search, The Hype Magazine got some time with the super producer and we got him to weigh in on a few things from work ethic to mental wellness and maintaining focus in this crazy maze called the entertainment industry. We floated from serious to humor and back again for a well-rounded conversation that touched pretty much all aspects of the game…

Much is said from the opinion of the pundit regarding the subject of their interview or conversation, we flipped the script with Afrojack and let him take the onus of describing himself as an artist/producer and talent developer

Describe Afrojack the creator then and now!

Now when I start making music, it is with a goal, before that, I was making music for fun, but then I was like, okay, well I got to make some successful music because then people may like my music and come to see me so I can DJ. All I wanted to do was DJ, and then I started producing to get to deejaying, and I got to deejaying which improved my producing and it just kept going. And then at one point, I was flying all over the world, nothing made sense. I was just having a ball. Then when I was 25, I thought wait, let me analyze this, and I started signing people and trying to build other artists up.

To whom much is given, much is required! Afrojack describes his global searches for artists and producers and lays out a bit of the regimen he has for those chosen. It’s a grueling process and being selected is just the beginning, there’s still much work to be done!

Talk to us about the searches that you’re doing and why you’re reaching out and mentoring new producers also what attracts you about the pop artists you just picked up.

Well, like you said earlier as I did before, but it was always with friends and people I knew from different places or different things around the world and now, since we’ve merged with LDH Europe, we feel like we have the team in place and the hands ready to deal with. Let’s say the external balance, like people that don’t come from our own network. We now feel we can offer the same opportunity to people that are not necessarily in the network, so it doesn’t matter if you’re in India, in South Africa, in North Africa, or New Zealand, now everyone’s getting a shot.

And you’re going to mentor them to help them grow personally?

Well, if they’re the right people. There’s no set rule. There’s no set rule for women or men, there’s no certain number of winners, there’s no certain amount of prizes. We find the right people, we’ll try and work with them and if we find cool remixes or great producers, but they’re not the right people, we’re not going to work with them because the most important part of talent is it’s a mindset.

Yeah. A lot of people can’t handle the pressure. Enough pressure will bust a pipe and trying to make it in the industry is hugely stressful.

I’ll tell you honestly, yeah, it’s pressure but it’s not pressure from the music industry, it’s the pressure of life in general, life is hard and if you think you have the time to complain about that, then life in the music industry is not for you. But probably any industry. So that’s the main thing. We’re just trying to find the people that are ready to fight for what they want.

So that’s really what it’s all about, intestinal fortitude. So, it’s kind of like “Making The Band” you’re putting people through their paces?

Basically, the only the difference is we’re not doing a TV show out of it. Our main priority is only to find that balance, and also give shy people a chance. It’s very interesting because also with the artists, the Global Vocal Battle Auditions (VBA), we had a lot of people that say like, “Okay…so what’s happening next or can you give us update?”, And it’s like, no, it’s private because we found some people we’re working with them and we’ll let you know when there’s another audition. But that’s the nice thing about this. It’s not built for creating instant entertainment; it’s actually trying to make people the best people and artists they can be.

What kind of program do you have for them? I understand they’re being groomed in Japan at this point.

No, for the last rounds we took them to Japan to see how they would handle training. But basically, the grooming process is not that complicated. You find people that love to sing and dance and want to make something out of it, and then you just provide them with the right platform and the right training tools. So, all of them, get vocal coaching so many hours a week, they get dance coaching many hours a week, we make sure to set up so they have a place to live and they can afford their food, etc. They get a special schooling program, they get mental health training, they get everything necessary skills that from my experience and knowledge helped me get my life on track. You know, only then, of course, the vocal coaching and dancing coaching or whatever’s necessary to maximize that.

Don’t get me wrong; this is not a charity. Of course, there’s the business formula that also works, and it’s my hobby. That’s the thing, for me, the most fun thing right now is doing what I love. I did what I love for a very long time but what I love right now is having the ability to teach people how to do what they love and become successful at it. Because it’s like if you’re a great pianist, that doesn’t mean that people will know you’re a great pianist. Someone needs to tell the world, or you need to figure out how to tell the world, and that’s what we do. We don’t tell the world enough as managers. We teach you how to tell the world; we teach you how the tricks work.

With you hearing so many sounds, constantly, is music still fun for you, outside of the training people and teaching them, are you still able to listen as a consumer?

Yes, but I get more inspired from my guys because I’ve been producing almost everything, every kind of sound for the last ten years. So, for me, it got a little bit boring in the sense of just making music by myself all the time, and I also learned to play the piano in the last couple of years. Figuring out the chord progressions, there’s not a lot of stuff that comes out of me by myself that makes me say, oh shit, that’s crazy unless it’s a special session or whatever. Most of my time right now is spent building either, IDs for my DJ sets, which I still have a lot of fun with. That’s actually how my last album came together. It was all stuff I made just to make my set better, not what I made for Spotify. Yeah, so all those records were built for my sets. I didn’t create them to release; it was just at one point I had so many records I was like, oh yeah, we actually should release something.

I’m sure that people were clamoring for a collection from you!

A lot of friends were very happy with it. But like I said, that’s the only way it makes sense for me to make music is if I have a goal. I really don’t like to sit down and just f**k around. I’ll sit down behind the piano, or I’ll play guitar, or I have some fun doing sessions with friends, but I rarely sit in the studio by myself and just try to come up with a new concept.

The thing is for me is, if I make another successful song, “whoo hoo!” there’s another top 10 record and everyone’s getting money, and you’re getting very successful, it’s fun. But for me, having another top 10 record would be another top 10 records, while doing it together with one of the new kids I signed would be a life-changing thing for them, it would change their life and they can grow off it and they can do all kinds of things with it and for me it would just be another record. So, I’d rather work with them than do it by myself.

That’s fair. Are you going to take anybody out on your North American tour?

Yeah! I’m bringing Chico Rose who’s one of our new artists and, I’m bringing  Disto to Mexico. Disto is the kid to watch for this year and next year, his music is insane. We did this Chainsmokers remix together. This kid is like; I don’t know, he’s excited about everything. You give him an apple, and he starts juggling and cutting it up, and he’ll remix the apple. He’s so inspired the whole time. So that’s a lot of fun. I’m very excited about that. I don’t know man, as I said, everything is more fun when you get to grant other people the same experience and they can grow from it. Now every time I get on the plane, I’m getting on the plane, as I get on a plane 300 times a year, I quit caring about getting on planes, but for me to bring someone that’s like, “Oh my God, I’m on a plane, that’s awesome!” That motivates me and inspires me to work harder, and I sort of get the same feeling of enjoyment. I’d say that’s the best feeling right now.

I love seeing the smile on my kid’s face from their first-time experiences with new exciting things.

That magic feeling and that to me gave me sort of a new, I wouldn’t say new life, but like a feeling of new life, definitely.

In the middle of our conversation, the tables turned when Afrojack was served a salad that was just kind of thrown together…this led to an amazing segment away from music itself…dig it!

Do you know how to toss a salad? I’m here at this hotel and they just gave me a salad, but it’s all stuck on each other. (There are too many crackpots out there for me to really answer the question LOL)

What is your diet like with you traveling and doing 300 shows a year?

You get used to it, but the thing is I used to be quite unhealthy, not super, but over the last three years I started working out a little bit, eating healthier and it really changes the way you feel. That’s probably how I can stay so active and I stay fresh. I sleep seven, eight hours a night, every time I wake up, I feel healthy and motivated and that’s probably because I eat healthy most of the time. Before, I just ate McDonald’s all the time and it was still fun, but you just feel a lot weaker. Right now, I’m in the middle of training because I felt like “Yo, I really want to feel like when you see a guy on the beach, and he has a six-pack, and you say, wow, I wonder how I’d be with a six-pack.” I wondered that for 31 years. When I was a baby, I was a fat baby already, so this year I actually took matters into my own hands, hired a trainer and she goes with me everywhere around the world, and she’s been going with me for months, and I’m working out five or six times a week. And it’s a very, very fun experience. I never experienced physical activity like that, so if you never did it, it’s a lot of fun. I definitely recommend working out, you don’t need a trainer, but if you can get a trainer (laughs), the trainer for me, sort of cheating, you know, it makes it easier for me to get me motivated. If you can afford to train and get a trainer and if you can just get yourself out of bed, you’re going to work a little bit harder.

My publicist said to go to classes. It’s probably very motivating to work out with other people.

Yes, if you’re someone who likes to be around people you want to make music with people, exercising with people was probably even better.

Well, I think it might also be a good exercise for people that don’t like being around people that feel ashamed because, if you’re not in shape yet, when you go to a class, to workout with some people that are in shape and some people that aren’t in shape it has to be a very humbling experience to be there. Of course, it’s a bunch of people you don’t know, but still, everyone’s always worried about looking silly. So, I think it might be a very good exercise on gaining self-confidence and feeling stronger and better about yourself when you notice people don’t judge you for looking silly in a gym class.

I was a little chubby and I went into the military when I was a kid I’ve had as much exercise class as I can stand. I’m done!

For me, it’s the other way around! David Guetta, is a very good friend of mine, I recently asked him how he was doing like, “Yo, man, how are you doing?” He just sends me a picture of him raising his shirt to show me his six-pack and he’s 50 and he has a six-pack. It was like, “Okay, I’m 31, I’ll go to the next 19 years with a six-pack just for fun.” Now, I work out four times a week and I love working out. It’s actually a very good feeling.

Daily we see evidence of creatives being overwhelmed by their creativity and perhaps not secure enough in themselves to make changes they need. Afrojack weighs in on his experience and how he might respond to someone who holds themselves back with negative thought

Does it help you clear your head when you’re focusing on something else besides music?

I don’t really have problems with that, I studied a lot of philosophy and psychology and neuroscience and myself a lot, so I have no problem at all with clearing my mind. That’s also something I would recommend to people, get to know yourself and just study how your brain works. Everyone’s always focused on everything that’s happening outside of them and no one ever takes the time to look at themselves in the mirror. No one tries to look into their own brain. Why do you do the things you do? Why do you feel the way you feel? People always ask that question, but they’re never looking for the answers when the answers are most of them in books and Google.

It’s not that they don’t have time, it’s just that they don’t take the time.

I still catch myself every time, when I’m like talking to a friend about something and then I say, “Oh I wonder about this or that.” We keep wondering and fantasizing about how it might be and then we completely forget we can actually Google the real situation of it. It’s very easy to trick yourself into not knowing, which is nice because ignorance is bliss, but ignorance is not very handy in order to achieve success in any kind of way.

People say, ask questions, but sometimes you just don’t know what question to ask. And so they get lost and oftentimes lose motivation.

If you allow yourself to be lost, I’m not going to advise you, you know, that’s like saying, “…yeah but it’s so hard”, so I say, okay, so don’t do it. Just go be miserable for the rest of your life. If you feel you can get away with just complaining about it and not doing anything about it, then why would you deserve anyone from the outside to motivate you? Of course, I will because I’m a nice guy, but I really, I think that if you really want to make it, you’ve got to recognize that no one cares. No, no one’s going to fix it for you, or they can, but it won’t fix your situation. So, if you want to fix your situation, the only one that can do it as you is yourself and sometimes to get people to do that, the advice is not to give them advice or tell them to do the opposite. That sometimes is the best advice for someone to realize, oh wow, I really have to do this myself.

Sound thoughts and guidance from one who has made it from the streets to the suites and a position to give others a chance to fulfill their dreams!

Featured image credit Sander Nagel


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About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.


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