Globe-trotting super-DJ/producer Afrojack is only 25, but the Netherlands native has already reached incredible milestones in his career. He has a massive international hit, the multiplatinum “Give Me Everything” with Pitbull and Ne-Yo, which notched him both producer and artist credits, and brought his party-ready “Dutch house” sound to the masses. He came up under the wing of David Guetta and has co-written for Beyonce and co-produced for Chris Brown.
He shepherds his own flock of buzz-heavy EDM talent, including R3HAB and Shermanology. But, above all, Afrojack has developed his own sense of right, releasing his music on his own terms, primarily through his Wall Recordings.
Here, he defends his pop collaborations (he produced four tracks on Pitbull’s new “Global Warming”) and shoots down Deadmau5’s controversial “press play” position that EDM artists pre-program their performances.
What makes the Netherlands such a dance-music hotbed?
Our music has a lot of balls. Most music that comes out of Holland is basically the harder part of dance music-hip-hop, drum’n’bass.
How involved are you in the day-to-day of Wall Recordings?
The label is my baby. Every song that gets released, every artist that gets signed, I decide. I try to do everything from picking the cover image to helping [Shermanology DJ Andy] Sherman know what songs to play in a solo performance.
How are festivals different from solo gigs for you?
For a solo gig, the crowd knows your shit. At a festival, a lot of people came to see other artists, so you have to put on a signature set and performance: This is what I do, this is why I’m here. At solo gigs, I’m a DJ — I’ll play two-and-a-half hours, and not just my own music, also my favorite songs by other artists.
So, solo gigs are more traditional DJ sets? No “pressing play”?
You’re never just pressing play. If you’re a guy in a cube with a mask on, you can press play. Deadmau5 also said himself he’s not a DJ — don’t talk about stuff you don’t know about. I don’t know shit about LED walls and giant mouse heads; I can’t judge it. But if you put four CD players in front of me or [Sebastian Ingrosso] or even Skrillex, we’ve been DJ’ing for so long, we can do a lot of things with those CD players.
Your full-length studio debut, slated for a summer 2013 release, might be a double-album. Why?
One album would be accessible dance music, crossover tracks, maybe some hip-hop, and one more underground stuff. Pitbull and a lot of other artists are using the opportunity to get new people into dance music. That’s what I’m trying to do right now. People are always scared of things crossing over, that it won’t be cool anymore, but we don’t do it because it’s cool. Eighty thousand people in a crowd, and they all love each other because they love dance music-that’s why I do this.
On one of your tracks for Pitbull, “I’m Off That,” he sings: “Label execs, I’m off that/But DJs, I love that.” What do you think that means?
I think it shows that these days artists are doing more of what they want themselves. It sounds really dumb to wait for a label to say yes to something. I’m following my heart, basically. A lot of people are scared to.