World-travelling, Grammy-award winning producer, DJ and car enthusiast Nick van de Wall, commonly known as Afrojack, is on top of the world right now. Performing at a litany of festival and club gigs all across Europe and the United States has the towering Dutchman jetting between nearly daily gigs in different countries. In between stops at his residency in Las Vegas and frequent gigs in Ibiza, performing alongside David Guetta, Afrojack took over Tomorrowland, Djing on all three days, plus the opening party that Thursday - an experience he described to Music Times over the phone as "a lot of fun."
One of those sets was under his birth name Nick van de Wall, which he only brings out for special occasions like Ultra Music Festival in 2013. The fact he DJed under his birth name wasn't the only unusual thing about his set. He was given the opening two and a half hours on the main stage Friday starting at noon. It is odd that Afrojack would play while the sun is so high in the sky and that he was given so much time to perform on the mainstage, but for Afrojack it was a welcome change of pace to do something like that on the festival circuit.
"The reason that I did it was because as a DJ it's really fun to have the freedom to warm up a club -- to bring the atmosphere there and basically build up the magic," he explained. "To be able to do that at such a gigantic festival as Tomorrowland, that's a pretty cool feeling. It was a good opportunity for me to just play some old school, a little more slowed down house music. And I always love to do that."
Van de Wall has been looking towards other top-level DJ tastemakers as he seeks to both connect with his roots and branch out further as an artist. "I really got inspired when I saw what Diplo started doing, Major Lazer, and then Jack Ü, and then of course there's also being Diplo," Afrojack says describing his new NLW moniker. "Like why the hell couldn't I form my own band by myself? So, now I have multiple outlets where I can release all kinds of genres of music."
The new moniker will remind fans of the glitchy, Dutch house sound produced when the DJ first rose to prominence. It is something he has been itching to do for a while and will continue releasing in the future because he doesn't like being boxed in as a musician.
"The thing is, like, I have so many different styles of music and genres of music I like to produce, and I just really felt like instead of hiding that music away because it doesn't completely fit that 'Afrojack idea' instead of just hiding it away, why not just start a moniker, you know?" he said.
For as much as he enjoys what NLW does for him creatively, the real work comes when he has to produce records as Afrojack. He took a big step as an artist in 2014 when he released his debut artist album Forget The World via Def Jam Records. The LP helped bridge the shortening gap between EDM and hip-hop with features from the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg and Chris Brown, in addition to nabbing a collaboration with one of his musical idols - Sting. It produced singles like "The Spark" and "Ten Feet Tall", which can still be heard occasionally on pop radio or in clubs.
Even with the success of the album, Afrojack has not sat back and watched his money pile up (though he is making a hefty sum). He is constantly working on new music in airplanes, hotels and occasionally studios. This winter, he spent one month in Los Angeles hibernating in a studio, working for 16 hours a day with a variety of different artists. The list of those who joined him reads like a who's who of pop and rap acts like Aashanti, Bone Thugz N Harmony, Ludacris, French Montana, Ne-Yo, Martin Garrix, Sean Kingston, Far East Movement, Rita Ora and more.
All of that work is coming together into an album that is still very much in the works, but Afrojack is tentatively planning to release it "somewhere around February, March 2016." There is still plenty of work to get things just right for the album. "It's not going to be coming out until it is exactly what I want and where I want. Right now I'm just cruising along, just making music by heart and selecting the songs that I like really want to put on there," he said. "It's kind of difficult when you have like 200 songs to choose from."
Fans will "probably" see tracks that came out of his L.A. studio binge, but Afrojack is open to where they are placed. They "might not be on the album but for sure the stuff is going to be released, be it for them or me, it doesn't really matter." He says he has 30 hip-hop tracks lying around and is looking to get them in the right place.
Afrojack took a big step and risk creatively when he put Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa on an album that was decidedly EDM. He describes the process of working with rappers as "awesome" and not just because it is fun to work with someone from another genre, but also how they create. "The way they rap, really reminds me of the way that I like try to use synthesizers in my productions."
Though Afrojack is very much living in the moment, he is also conscious of the legacy he wants to leave. He isn't letting the success of number one hit records get to his head, but the producer just wants to make music. At the end of the day, he just wants to share the toils of his labor. "For me the most important thing is that it's out there," Afrojack says from his Amsterdam studio.
"That's the only thing I ever dreamt of when I was a kid was to have a release on Beatport or on iTunes or whatever. I remember the first time I had a song out, I ran downstairs like 'Mom! Mom, look! I'm a producer now! I have a song out!'" he said. "For me, that's the most important thing: a continuous flow of music."
However, albums are very much a piece of the equation for who Afrojack wants to be remembered because "it sort of tells a story."
"When you have a couple of albums you're going to see the times that we went through. The way my genre of music changed, the way I changed, the way my fans changed. Forget The World was really a start of a journey that is going to go on for a long time."
That journey is constantly evolving for Afrojack who is always seeing new ways to make music.
"Everything in my head is constantly changing, so when you have an album and it's ready to release - the album probably going to come out three months later. Within three months, so much stuff happens and I'm already somewhere else with my head at the time that the album comes out."
Afrojack's music isn't the only thing he will be leaving behind in this world - he is also a father. The Dutchman rarely discusses his daughter with now ex-girlfriend Amanda Balk but that doesn't mean the basic support isn't there.
When asked if being a father has changed his perspective on life or his career, which was very apparent for someone like Armin van Buuren, the DJ seemed to look at his daughter as his financial responsibility.
"I didn't want it to change my work," he admitted. "It changed not really the way I am with my money, but it gave me just a separate responsibility." Work comes first for Afrojack and that is the best way for him to be there for her.
"So instead of just completely dropping everything, I just made sure that everything is arranged for the future and for my family's future. And I still try to put the pressure on myself to keep performing and keep taking everything to the next level, which is difficult sometimes, but I think in the long run it's going to be best for all of us."
The future is bright for Afrojack who beyond the album has plenty of new music on the horizon. There is an unfinished collaboration with fellow Dutch DJs, DubVision that they are still working on. The upcoming collaboration with Hardwell instrumentally is "basically finished," but they want to get a "cool" rapper on it like 2 Chainz. Afrojack already got his wish to work with the Atlanta rapper on a collaboration with David Guetta that the trio are currently working on now.
In the near future, he has the first crossover track from those L.A. studio sessions coming out in September with Twista and Travis Barker.
With all of this music - album and singles - in the works, Afrojack forges forward at the speed of one of his Lamborghinis. The Dutchman isn't concerned with the past or what others think, only constantly moving his career forward. He better keep those shades on because it is only getting brighter.