Interview with Afrojack

Afrojack aka Kapuchon

He’s the owner of Wall Recordings, he’s one of the best known Dutch artists and the current no. 7 of the DJ Mag top 100: it’s Afrojack! We had the chance to sit down with him through Zoom, so we grabbed that opportunity with both hands. Check out the full interview below!

Thanks for making the time for this interview. I can imagine these are busy times for you with one digital meeting after the other.

No problem!

Okay, let’s kick off with something that’s pretty recent, Spotify Wrapped, came out this month, you probably got a lot of mentions about that on Instagram. What kind of music do you listen to yourself on Spotify?

To be honest, I don’t listen that often to Spotify. I mainly use it as background music. I enjoy playlists with 50s or 60s music. I listen a lot more often to my own record box, the Beatport top 100. When I’m producing a pop-music track I use it a bit as a reference, so I’d put on the US top 50 for example.

Interesting, I think many artists are very focused on Spotify, so cool to hear you’re also still keeping an eye on the Beatport top 100. Your radio show ‘Jacked Radio’ is approaching its 500th edition. Are you planning on some sort of special celebration, assuming that events will be possible at that point?

It would definitely be cool to do a live-event if it’s possible, however, Jacked Radio is meant to be a platform to bring new music to the listeners of the radio show. I’m flattered that radio stations all over the world are giving me an hour of airplay to do my thing, but it’s just a small part of what Afrojack is all about, to be honest. I personally focus a lot more on the artist behind the music and the music itself, instead of the distribution of the music.

You’ve been a part of the DJ Mag top 100 for many years now, you’ve had a very successful career as well. Could you outline some success factors of Afrojack as an artist?

I feel that it’s super important to be yourself and never change that. Armin’s super successful as well, but I’m not the same person. The same goes for Nicky Romero, we did the 2=1 for AMF together, which was super fun, but we’re quite different. I’m from Rotterdam (Spijkenisse to be precise) and I’ve always been a bit Ghetto/alternative/skater/urban. Nicky’s origin is progressive house obviously. It doesn’t really matter if people like me, because when they hear my music on the radio, they will either like it or they won’t. So, I’m always working hard on creating music of which I hope the people will enjoy and I think that worked out pretty well for me.

Definitely! Let’s get into the subject of Kapuchon. It used to be a cool trivia-question for an EDM quiz, but now everybody knows it’s your alias. Why did you decide to re-launch it after 10 years?

First of all, the timing was right. We finally had the necessary time to figure out how to re-launch this properly with for example the live set at the Rotterdam harbor. As for the music, a lot of it was already ready to go, I took the time I needed to perfect it. The most important thing for me regarding Kapuchon is that it’s going to happen the same way that my career as Afrojack got started at the age of 17. It all started with me, a guy making music, and then the music-industry came along, tv appearances, merchandise, etc. So, we were like, what if we do exactly the same thing for Kapuchon? The only big difference is that Kapuchon is focused on house music and that’s a style that I very much enjoy creating as well. This strategy means we’re not putting big marketing budgets on it, because it all has to come from my passion for this music. That’s exactly why I’m doing this interview right now through Zoom. If I’d be doing this as ‘Afrojack’ there would be a lot of people involved. When my career just got started it was just super personal. In the short time that we’ve been working on Kapuchon, my biggest takeaway has been that it’s super interesting to break down the barriers of bureaucracy. This is as real as it gets.

That’s great! I totally agree authenticity is key. That goes for basically every artist and concept, but you’re taking it to a new level here. How are you planning on dividing your time between Afrojack and Kapuchon?

As I already mentioned there’s a lot of music ready for release. It’s super important that there’s no label or third party involved here. It doesn’t matter at all what Afrojack is up to, Kapuchon needs to be able to drop a release whenever I feel like it. I’m blessed to be in the position that I can do this independently now. To be clear, I’ll still be producing pop & dance as Afrojack of course, and I’ll play as Afrojack too. Kapuchon music doesn’t depend on anyone else than myself and my mood. The Ghetto house type of music has always been a big inspiration for me and the same goes for what Dave Clarke was producing back in the ‘I Love Techno’ days. It was always difficult for me to define what my ‘style’ is, as I’m into many different types of music. Today I want to cook some pancakes and tomorrow I want to eat some fried chicken. So, one release can have a pancakes-flavor and the next could be a chicken-flavor, you never know! It’s based on my mood. I noticed that this makes it pretty difficult to play as my Kapuchon set goes back and forth from tech-house to techno to afro-house etc. When I’m doing a set at an event, I’ll obviously adapt my set to the event and the crowd. By the way, I love the Daft Punk essential mix from 1996, that’s very inspirational to me.

Cool, when I was watching your Kapuchon live set I noticed indeed that you’re still trying to figure out what you really want with your Kapuchon alias. I’ll definitely keep a close eye on your upcoming releases. This year you came in at no. 7 at the DJ Mag top 100, you’ve been in there for many years. Does it help you define if your year has been successful?

Success is basically based on how many tickets can you sell. When I’m playing at a festival and everybody is hyped, I’m happy. If they’re not happy I didn’t do well. The crowd-reaction at a live event means a lot to me. DJ Mag is important as well, even though it doesn’t tell me a lot personally, it’s very important for my team. If someone who isn’t particularly into DJs looks at the list and sees that I’ve been in the top 10 for many years they’re probably impressed.  People who are into the music industry know that Calvin Harris has had more hits than me. Deadmau5 is placed around 50 and that doesn’t mean he’s a bad producer or he would have more trouble selling tickets. People would rather take a selfie with the no. 7 than the no. 27, it’s as simple as that. Of course, I’m very grateful that fans vote for me and it’s an advantage marketing-wise. The fans are the most important for me. I’d rather be no. 100 and have millions of fans all over the globe, than no. 1 in the poll and have trouble selling tickets or be forced to play music that I don’t enjoy playing.

Kapuchon is an underground movement right now, it may be a big advantage for you that when events will kick off again it may get started in clubs. Of course, as Afrojack back in the days you kicked off your career in clubs as well. What’s the big difference for you when you play in a club or at one of these big festivals?

The acoustics is a massive difference! Dubfire music doesn’t come across at a big festival due to the lack of good acoustics, but if you’d play that in the Maassilo it would sound incredible. The same goes the other way around, if you play heavy EDM, which works perfectly outdoor, in a club, it would pretty much destroy your ears. The more intimate your environment is, the more interesting is the audio-experience that you can offer a crowd. To be clear, that only goes for the audio part, because EDM can be super fun to play at a big festival.

That makes sense, in that way, the current situation is perfect for the development of Kapuchon isn’t it?

For sure! Right now, there’s no pressure from a booking agency to do a lot of gigs, I can focus on making a lot of music and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

You mentioned the 2=1 with Nicky Romero for AMF already, definitely an interesting combo. You probably know him for a long time already, but how did you guys prepare for that set?

We sent a lot of music back and forth and we tried to figure out where I ease a bit on my heavy EDM sound and he could drop some trancy sounds in order to make it a fitting set. Nicky’s super progressive and I’m rather Ghetto, but there’s a big overlap music-wise. We can really challenge each other in a nice way for the back-2-back set and we aim to create a new sound together for it. We’ll be the 2=1 for AMF 2021 as well and this live set for their livestream was a nice preparation for that. We want to create something that’s not super obvious, but something new and surprising. We want to do something impressive from the first second till the last second. We may be working on a collab together…

Exciting! So how are you experiencing the Corona-times at this point?

I’m blessed that my financial situation is stable and I can make sure that my team is okay as well. I’ve had like a holiday, which I spent thinking about what else I want with my life and my career. I’ve spent 15 years doing 150-200 shows per year. I still enjoy that, but I want to do more than music and producing. Wall Gaming is one of these things. I really enjoy playing Call of Duty, it’s a new way of entertainment. With Wall Gaming I want to help out gamers to bring out their A-game and help with their branding and marketing, just like I did that with Wall Artist Development. There are many similarities actually in that sense, so why wouldn’t we use our existing framework to help out gamers? The risk is the same, you’ve got to tell your family you’re going to do something they won’t understand. The similarity is the huge amount of time that you spent on making it happen. It’s all about the passion and the prize that you’ve got to pay.

I totally understand what you mean in terms of passion. Without passion, it’s never gonna happen.

To conclude this, I’d like to say: enjoy life & make sure to focus on the positive aspects of these Corona times. We’re doing the same, we’re not trying to do something drastic, but we’re preparing everything really well that when events will be possible again, we’re ready!

Thanks a lot for your time!