Afrojack is not only a major contributor to the rise of EDM in today’s mainstream music scene, but he’s an integral figure in the scene’s future. He’s had a string of huge hits, but with a new album on the horizon for Island Def Jam in early 2014, Afrojack’s sound is taking a bit of a turn, which was properly showcased in his latest single, the radio-ready “The Spark,” which followed up his Chris Brown-collaboration “As Your Friend” from the spring of 2013… and that’s just his original production. He’s collaborating on limited-edition clothing lines with G-Star, being called a “DJ Legend” at the TCL Chinese Theatre, hitting the New York Stock Exchange with SFX Entertainment, spinning for MLB fans, and much, much more. With March of Afrojack, he gave us previously-unreleased footage of his life behind the scenes, and we recently got a chance to speak to Afrojack, getting even deeper into the next phase of his career.
On his latest single, “The Spark”
The idea behind the track was something that Spree Wilson wrote. It’s a song that he wrote together with a buddy of his, and I got the song through the label; it was just the song and a guitar. Just one guitar and him singing. I liked it so much that I reached out to him and said like, “You wanna do it together?” So I produced the whole song, finished the whole project, and then eventually, well, I got some requests of putting some major artists on there, like major major, and they did some cool stuff, but I just thought it would give the track the wrong balance. It’s really edgy pop, and [the other artists] made it a little bit too pop. I listened to it and thought Spree just sounded better and gave the record a better vibe. Now he’s coming on tour with me. Up until six months ago he was only writing songs. That’s what I like to do, to give someone an opportunity.
If the other guys would’ve been a better balance for the song for my project then, of course, but it wasn’t. I need to keep the balance, that’s why I think something like putting a brand new artist on it is just a really cool thing to do. I like the new artist aspect a lot, because it gives so much freedom of creating the image of that artist. People who see him now for the first time, they have no idea who he is but they see him in the video and everything outside of the video is an idea they can create themselves. Maybe he’s secretly gangster.
On his forthcoming album
[I’ve been working on it for] two and a half years. It’s the thing that we started it, I started it. It took me a year to find a label I wanted to work with, which became Island Def Jam. I think my way put the two roads together, it fits very obviously, but this was something I had to think about for a long time because I don’t like giving other people say over my music, which eventually they got. I’m the boss. But then I was working on the album and then, well, times change, music changes. I listened back, and I want to like my album, too. I was sitting on tracks that I made a year ago and I was like “ehhhhh. The album’s got to change.” Even now, I’ve basically said for the last couple of weeks, the album is 99% finished. I was working with some writers. We made some great songs and that shit’s gotta be on the album. It has to be on there. It’s now scheduled for February/March 2014. I’m handing over to the masters before the first of January 2014, and then that is it. So then it will come out, no matter what is on it. Even if it is what it is now, and that’s already something I’m excited about, because a lot of my fans are already getting exciting about the songs they are hearing.
On who’s heard tracks from the album
No one has anything. I didn’t sell out music for a long time, like old underground stuff. There used to be a time where every club you would go to, you would hear an Afrojack song. Everywhere, every DJ would play one. Now it’s still the same in the smaller clubs with a song like “The Spark” or “No Beef.” They still play “Take Over Control,” “Can’t Stop Me,” “As Your Friend,” all those songs are played. Also the productions like “Pon De Floor,” “Look at Me Now,” remixes. But the big DJs like Tiesto and Avicii, and Calvin, and David. They don’t really play them anymore, but it’s also [that] I don’t really send it out to anyone. I’m so focused on this album and I couldn’t really send anything out because that would be like putting my own finger up my own ass for the release of the album. So I’m about to start doing that with two of the songs. The next two singles, what I think are going to be the next singles. They’re going to be the ones you’re going to start hearing all over the world in the next couple of months.
They’re different. “The Spark” is like the most pop-radio crossover thing off the album. It’s like the introduction to the multiple styles you will hear back on the album. I’m a dance music producer, but I’m also a music producer. I love conducting, orchestrating, arranging, remixing, mixing, mastering – every aspect of producing music in every genre. So that’s what I always try to do, also when I DJ, I try to give people something new. I give them what they want, and then I give them something they wouldn’t really want in the first place, but then after listening they’re like, “it’s nice, I want it.”
First you saw the apple, then you saw the banana, and then you saw the dragon fruit. That’s basically how the whole album is going to flow. It’s going to be starting with an apple, one big-ass banana, going to dragon fruit, and then fucking weird Japanese fruit.
On featured artists on the album
Well, everything is co-produced, well not everything, but most of it, by Polow Da Don and DJ Buddha. Buddha used to do everything for Pitbull, and Polow Da Don is, as he’d say, Polow Da Don. They’ve basically been my co-producers, especially in the sense of project-handling. I’m also a DJ, so I’m also touring and doing interviews and they made sure I got to the right place, met the right people. They introduced me to the entire world behind the scenes, basically, behind the music scene. And they also helped with a lot of music, so it was a lot of fun. They are basically my main two guys. I actually never really talk about it because nobody really cares, but they’re actually really cool guys.
Polow is a legend of a producer. He’s great, he’s a great producer. He always plays me this shit and I’m like, “what the fuck?” He doesn’t like doing just something. If he does something, he tries to make it special. I want it to be special for the masses, but he wants it to be special for even the artists and the producers, like everything is in sync, like “oh my god this is so crazy.”
On making tracks that will connect in the mainstream as well as for diehard EDM fans
I have a really wide array of fans. I have my “Give Me Everything” fans, but I also have my make-fun-of-all-those-drunk-tweeting fans, and I also have my underground-“No Beef” fans. And when I do a show at a festival of 20,000, 80,000 people, I have to make sure that every one of them thinks that was so cool. I want to show people that it’s all possible to come together. It’s like, it’s not that the person likes one genre of movies; I only like action, so you watch Inception and you’re like “oh my god” and then the ending gets emotional, [and you say] “you’re so fucking emotional,” no. It’s part of it, it’s part of a whole and that’s what I try to do bring those genres together and basically do that as a producer and that’s what I’m doing with the album, it’s basically what I’m doing with my life.
That’s my next level shit, to set people free. People are bound to the rules of their own perception. There are no rules in this world. A lot of people aren’t focused on what is possible in life. They only think [about] what is possible according to the rules. But life is too short to stick to the rules. It’s your life, you only get one. Don’t waste it on making society. That can make you suffer, go do what you love.