Things are going better than good for Grammy award-winning DJ and producer Nick van de Wall this summer, better known by his stage name Afrojack. His track “SummerThing!”, featuring Mike Taylor, has steadily climbed the charts and has become a club and radio banger within weeks. But Afrojack isn’t just a seasonal addiction—from clubs in Vegas all the way to Ibiza, he’s coveted all year round by artists such as Ne-Yo and Nicki Minaj and festivals like Tomorroworld.
Forbes included the Dutch DJ in their annual “30 Under 30” list, which makes total sense since the he took home nearly $22 million home in 2014, averaging nightly fees as high as $100,000. Afrojack became an international success after his platinum hit “Take Over Control” was released in 2008, going on to co-write and produce the forever famous Ne-Yo and Pitbull single “Give Me Everything.” Which you know, sold more than 5 million copies worldwide.
Now he has his own label, Wall Recordings, and a multimillion-dollar deal as a resident DJ at Omnia Las Vegas. He’s flying jets, picking up cars like Tony Stark’s Audi R8 and is playing for attentive crowds at venues and clubs all over the world. All this from a 28-year-old who was the son of a single, working-class mother and started DJ'ing at local clubs at 14 to earn extra income.
Afrojack was taking a quick break from producing in his studio when we spoke on the phone about his new single, DJ rankings and what it means to be an EDM artist. Hey, it’s a round-the-clock job to remain on the top.
The track “SummerThing!” has been blowing up. What inspired you to create that song?
Actually my friend Mike Taylor wrote it, and when he sent me the song I was like, “wow this is an epic song.” But it was missing the drop, you know? It didn’t have the party flavor in there. I thought it was like a cool party song for the summer that you can just chill and enjoy it with the beats, and then also have fun with it in the clubs, and I haven’t done that in a while. So I said, “yo Mike, let me try something with this.” And that’s how “SummerThing!” came about.
You just released an underground EP. What are the benefits of releasing some of your tracks underground as opposed to under the Afrojack label?
There aren’t a lot of benefits, but I produce all kinds of music. I do know that when people are tuning into my Spotify or something, they have certain expectations of the Afrojack thing, so I want to keep that the same. Of course I’m constantly changing the genre, but I don’t want people to be like, “oh yeah I want to listen to Afrojack” and then suddenly hear a die hard club track that’s meant for festivals and dance floors only. Instead of doing that under the Afrojack moniker, I created an extra moniker to put the underground party stuff under.
You’ve had a huge summer. EDC, Ultra, Tomorrowland. What’s the most noteworthy event so far this summer?
Everything has been epic of course, but the most fun I’ve had this summer and all year, is my residency at Omnia Las Vegas. I play there 2-3 times a month and it just represents everything that Vegas is about.
You’re currently No.12 on DJ Mag’s “Top 100 DJ list”, and I know you’ve been in the top 10 before. How serious do you take that ranking, and how does that ranking resonate in the DJ world?
Well within the EDM community everyone takes it fairly serious. Everyone acts like they don’t take it serious, but they really do. But when it comes down to real life, I’m really happy for my friends, and most of the people that are in that medium are really good friends of mine. But then it’s really weird to see that someone, like Calvin Harris, is ranked number 11 or 13, right next to me in the DJ Mag and I was like, “uh, oh okay.” He’s sold millions of singles and albums over the last couple years but whatever, they are probably right. I don’t take it too seriously, but what I do take way more seriously is my fan communication. I spend a lot of time on Twitter talking to my fans and checking out the comments on Facebook and stuff. That is way more important to me than any kind of ranking. “SummerThing!” is right now number 37 in the Top 40, which is totally insane, and shout out to my fans for calling all the radio stations and asking to play it. They’ve been a big support. But the biggest thing for me is if my fans like the song. Eventually it’s awesome if the whole world loves your song, but the whole world isn’t your fan base. Those are not the people you see at the shows. So for me the most important thing for me with the music I release isn’t if it’s going to be the next number one song in the whole world. For me the important thing is that my fans dig it, and that it’s a representation of what I dig. Ya dig?
You’ve said before that “you’re not an EDM artist.” Can you explain what that means?
Well what I’ve always loved about EDM was the fact that it was out of the box, and over the years, especially in America, it became “a box” of floor-to-floor club bangers. The thing is, I started out as a techno house DJ, and then later started doing really, what do you call it, ghetto electro street hip hop mixed with dance music. That’s what really put me on the map, and doing projects like “Give Me Everything,” “Girls Around the World” and “Look at me Now.” But it’s all a mix you know, and the reason why I said I’m not EDM is because I don’t really think anyone is completely 100 percent EDM. Like one time when everyone was in the car, they heard “Take On Me” from a-ha and they aren’t going to chew it up—everyone loves that song. Or like Cindi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” I play that song sometimes in my sets when I’m feeling emotionally happy and I’m like, “oh let’s sing a song together.” You cannot be a box person. I love EDM and all the other sub genres, and I love listening to Aphex twins, but you cannot say “I’m only this” or “I only listen techno or hip hop”. So maybe I’m an EDM artist, but that doesn’t mean I’m a full on EDM person. You can love it, you can hate it, but you cannot completely be it. That’s the beautiful thing about being human—you can be a lot of different things in your life. I really, really encourage everyone to do as much as possible because you only get one life. So why would you limit yourself to one thing? No matter how much you love it, never limit yourself because there’s so much more to explore.
That’s a great answer. Thinking back to your “Take Over Control” track that came out in 2008, how has your music evolved since that first big hit?
I just started doing more out of the box thinking and out of the box producing, and it worked out in most cases, if not all. Almost all the songs I produced and released hit the charts and stuff, and my fans were really down with it. Right now that’s the most important thing for me because music is opening up more and more and the radio is playing more different stuff. Like the success of “Hey Mama” that has weird sounds in it, or “Where Are You Now” with Justin Beiber and Jack U. The radio is opening up to new stuff and it’s not just my job, but all of our jobs as producers, to take that chance and change the music world once again.
You’ve collaborated with huge names like Ne-Yo, Pitbull and even Nicki Minaj. What does collaboration mean to a DJ and producer, and what is the best part about the process?
For me the best part about the process is that I can take stuff that I record with those people and turn it into something for the dance floors. That is the most fun thing I get to do when producing with big artists. For a producer, there is nothing more awesome than having a gigantic force of media exposure and musical power where you have the ability to change what they are going to play on the radio. Say I used the cow bell on the track “Hey Mama,” and then maybe everyone starts to use cowbells. You have the ability to change music when you work with these big artists, and it’s a really cool advantage to have when working with those people.
It’s no secret you’re one of the top earning DJs in the world. How did you handle the success and the money coming in, considering you didn’t have a lot of money growing up?
I thought about it a lot and I had a lot of people being like, “you should do this, you should do this, blah blah blah.” Personally for me, I just think about having fun with it. I made sure my family is safe, and I invested to make sure my family has to never work a day again in their lives. And don’t get me wrong; they should work. You learn a lot from working, but if anything goes wrong they need to be safe. And outside that, I just want to have fun with it you know. I have a couple of cars, I bought my mom a gigantic 15-acre property with a big house and gear and stuff. I have a couple of watches, cars and I fly jets a lot. For me I always thought about it like, what would be more fun in life: To fly around everywhere, because you have to imagine I do about around 300 flights a year, in economy and not be able to work or hang with my homies and do whatever the hell I want and be really rich, or be a lot less rich, have shit loads of fun, bring your friends everywhere, fly gigantic jets and just make everything fun? For me, the latter was obviously the best choice. You have to imagine, say in 5 years, no one likes DJs anymore and all the DJs go bankrupt. I may not be the richest DJ left over, but i sure as hell had the best time.
Speaking of jets and cars, you’re quite the car aficionado. What’s the coolest car you have sitting in your garage right now?
Right now I have a Rolls-Royce Drop Head Coupe, and it’s like bright baby blue. I just did it because it’s like, “that’s so bad” and thats why I did it because it’s funny. I have an a Aventador Superveloce, a Ferrari 458 and an Audi RS6. I used to have a regular Aventador and an Audi R8, and I’m thinking about getting another one because I love the R8. I’m also really looking into a Bugatti, but the Bugattis are so ridiculously expensive than I’d have to think about trading all the other cars for one Bugatti! I love the Bugatti, but I’m not sure if it’s worth it.
I’ve seen you’ve been going to Ibiza a lot to perform. What’s your favorite part about playing at a party island like that during the summer?
The most epic thing about Ibiza is that all the people are there are there for a week or two weeks, so they are constantly experiencing the party center of the world. Being able to cater to that and party with those people is an amazing feeling, so I become part of their trip and vacation.