“A good dance track isn’t just like a nice song, it’s also a sonic experience.”
Just before his Smirnoff Experience performance in Mumbai last night, The Sherp managed a casual tête-à-tête with the Dutch dance music superstar, where he talks about his Indian fans, remixing music for the greats and his love for Michael Jackson!
1. Hey Nick, we’re glad you’ll be back in India. What is it that you enjoy the most about performing here?
India is a great land of culture. It feels so positive everytime I’m here. I love my fans in India, they just don’t quit. I don’t know if the rest of the world knows yet, but every DJ already knows the passion and love is real in India, that why we all keep coming every year! Every dance music fan in India is a prime example of what the scene is about!
2. Who are your musical influences, from your contemporaries?
Guys like Tiësto, Armin Van Buuren and Ferry Corsten were some of the first artists to have international success and we are now almost getting a third and fourth generation of artists with DJs like Hardwell or Martin Garrix. It’s not just Holland, it’s also the UK, France, Belgium. I think it’s basically the upbringing and the culture so it makes it OK and normal for people to think, ‘I want to DJ’, or ‘I want to produce’. It’s not that crazy a thought. Now that EDM’s become cool, there are producers just rising up out of USA. Max Martin, Frank Sinatra, Richard Branson are some of my mentors.
3. You’ve gone on record to say that what you make is not EDM music. How would you best describe your sound?
Afrojack music, I’d rather let the people decide for themselves, not a big fan of putting things in a box. The thing is, like, I have so many different styles of music and genres of music. I like to produce, so instead of hiding that music away because it doesn’t completely fit that ‘Afrojack idea’, why not just start a moniker, you know? I get my inspiration from all around the world. For the last five years, I’ve been traveling non-stop. Most of the time it starts with a melody inside my head and I immediately work on it on the road. Then I’ll finish it afterward in my studio. I follow my heart and my passions.
4. Electronic music has evolved in a major manner over the last several years, with several sub-genres under it. What would you say about the contemporary scene in electronic music?
Every hype comes and goes but I think the music always stays. Right now the entire music scene around the world is really interesting. You have a lot of new genres and sounds popping up, and this is something I’ve always been interested in. So right now, the music I’m working on is not just about making great songs or making great club tracks; my main focus is to make a sound that is indescribable. I want to use instruments where you’re unable to tell what it is. In “Summer Thing!” when the beat drops in, I don’t know what to call those sounds, but they sound fun. I don’t think EDM is the ‘new pop’ because it’s not pop. I think its fanbase now includes people that probably used to listen to pop, or still do, but dance music will always have a different sound.
5. You’ve remixed popular songs such as Madonna’s Revolver, for which you won a Grammy, and Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball. What’s the process of doing that? How do you pick your tunes?
It’s great, being in the studio with these superstars and they just being like family to you is a bit surreal sometimes.When I start on a dance track, I always make sure that the beat sounds great and that it’s mixed properly. A good dance track isn’t just like a nice song, it’s also a sonic experience. To me the most important thing about dance, for the clubs or for the festivals, is that it sounds really, really amazing. It doesn’t even matter what chord is playing, what melody, I just want the sound to blow me away. When I’m working on a song I’m working more on the melodies and making sure that everything fits together, then I’m not necessarily too worried about the mix sounding insane! If it fits OK then I’m OK with it because if it’s a song then it’s about the song. That’s not to say that the two approaches cannot be united. The most beautiful thing for me is if you have a perfect combination that works on the dancefloor in DJ sets as well as on the radio.
6. Have you considered incorporating other radically diverse genres in your music, such as Jazz or maybe, even, Indian?
Yeah, why not. I’m still trying to find new sounds. I’m still trying to constantly reinvent what I’m doing. Right now the entire music scene around the world is really interesting. You have a lot of new genres and sounds popping up, and this is something I’ve always been interested in.
7. What genres of music do you listen to often?
I believe every hype comes and goes, but I think the music always stays. I love Michael Jackson, and U2 concerts are amazing too!
8. What projects are you working on currently?
Currently I’m working on lots of different things, but I never speak about the future until it’s there. Right now the most important thing is that every song gets the attention it deserves. I’m bringing everything in-house and making sure everything is perfectly organized. Trust me , it’s a lot of work, but nothing is better than bringing the experiences I’ve had to other artists who are just starting. The time I had last year, the private jets and big shows were amazing, but more amazing is getting to share that with younger talent, the new generations.
9. Lastly, if you had to give one advice to young producers, what would it be?
Work hard and smart and make music by your heart! The message that I wanted to send out is that I got to where I am today by following my heart and following what I think is fun and what I think is cool. If you’re not going to try, then it’s impossible. When you try, it’s always possible.