Dec 09, 2020
[Deep Dive] Afrojack Talks Kapuchon, 2020 Inspirations & More!
Last month Afrojack reignited his Kapuchon alias with the exciting release of “10 Years Later” and a fresh live stream from the shipping docks at Maasvlakte Rotterdam. It marked an exciting return to Afrojack’s roots in house and techno and we caught up with Nick for an inside look at Kapuchon and his 2020. Enjoy a deep dive with one of the stars of the electronic music world, as Afrojack highlights his strengths connecting with fans and peers alike, drawing inspiration in Dubai, growing the WALL team, his artist to watch, and of course, his Kapuchon project!
How’s 2020 been going for you?
Interesting (haha) but more positive than ever expected!
How is your new project Kapuchon going?
Excellent! Way, way better than expected. We put minimal efforts into promotion and marketing and stuff. When I started Afrojack, I started making music for fun, there was no promo budget, there was no label, no distribution company, there was no strategy — it was just music and people. You make music, you tell the people “Yo I made some music, please check it out!” and you hope they like it. So essentially that’s the strategy that we tried to use with Kapuchon.
How did you come up with the name Kapuchon?
I always used to wear hoodies — and Kapuchon actually means hoodies in Dutch. And for some reason no one used it! But a hoodie is pretty underground right? If you go to a house party, you see a lot of people with hoodies, cause you can hide, it’s warm, it protects you. So I got lucky with that.
What first got you into house music and the scene in general?
It’s the same for me as for everyone — the first time you go to a house music event, you really notice how the people are together, but the music is too loud for them to speak. So all of the standard rules of society sort of disappear in a dance music club or festival.
The first time I went to a club, I started noticing how people outside the club are always divided by social layers, like race, heritage, what school you go to, financial layers of society, etc. They would never talk to each other or even converge. Then you go into the club and everyone’s sharing the love for the same music.
“This is amazing!” “Yeah! This is amazing!” That’s it.
And that’s the only communication that there is. So it really has a sort of tribal essence to it. And I think, for 90% of dance music fans, when you go to a place and you feel accepted, while knowing in society that everything is weird and you’re trying to fit in, and you go to a dance music club and it’s all love, it’s like “okay, I wanna stay here.”
And that’s also what happened to me, when I was 15/16, the first time I went, I was like okay, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do, but I wanna live here. I wanna live in the nightclub. It’s exciting, it’s dark, it’s nighttime, and all of the people are mysterious.” It’s not, “what clothes do you like,” it’s “I love this song, I love this DJ, have a drink, dance, relax.” It’s the atmosphere. So I think that’s really what got me into house music.
What prompted you to start releasing Kapuchon records in 2020 when the clubs are closed?
The funny thing was, we started focusing on it about a year ago, around the same time as now. I’ve always been doing these parties at Val Thorens, which is in the French Alps, where I go snowboarding every year. And for the last 13 years I’ve been playing there on the slopes, fun parties. I was always playing with other Dutch DJs. And you’re in the mountains, so you can pretty much play whatever you want. It’s not like people can go to a different club or a different festival. So it was always very house and techno driven.
Two years ago I made the decision to make house records, and that’s when I made “10 Years Later.” Last year I was like “Okay, let’s release this! Let’s do something with it.” And then of course, I have touring, Afrojack things, pressure from labels, partners, companies, etc. So we got distracted.
But then Corona happened, and for two months I was very sad. And then suddenly I started noticing that I have all this time, I can do so many things. Instead of making a lot of music like everyone is doing, I actually started focusing on my team and spending a lot of time with them, trying to make new ideas. Basically, restructuring our relationship internally to be the strongest team ever when shit starts again.
Never have I been with my MC, my tour manager, my cameraman, and my label manager Roos in the office at the same time, all talking creatively about the brand. Usually we would always work together, but everyone would be in their own place — we would be on tour and the others would be in the office. So we really got closer together. If I look at the numbers, it probably wasn’t a good year, but it feels like it’s been a great year.
What’s inspiring you currently?
Restaurants. Dubai is open for business and entertainment, so all of the restaurants are open. The bars and nightclubs are still closed because of the virus. So the restaurants right now are packed every night. Everyone’s staying at their table, but this is the only place where you can have a snack, drink, and mingle.
So I’ve been here for about a month, and it’s so interesting how all of the restaurants are playing either 115 bpm deep loungey four-to-the-floor EDM sounding music, or they play 120-123 bpm afro house music, like Black Coffee style. It really enticed me to take that genre very seriously for building potential artists.
We are currently in the process of signing an afro house artist, a guy I’ve known for 10 years. He never really made it out there, because he doesn’t understand the industry of promotion and marketing, but his music sounds better than what the restaurants are playing here. So we’re bringing his music to these people, so he can play here, make some money, live his passion, and build on his brand. So that’s what’s been inspiring me lately.
Who are three artists who you are excited about right now?
Black V Neck. They’re RIGHT there. They were right there when everything went to shit, but they’ve been doing a lot of streams and making a lot of dope music. I think when everything reopens they’re going to be right there at the forefront.
Rancido, who’s super super SUPER unknown. But if you look around you’ll see some of his records back in Solomun and Black Coffee tracklists. He’s just a guy who makes music so we’re going to help him do the other stuff.
Lastly, I think David Guetta and Nicky Romero. David for doing what he did at his age, after how long he’s been in the industry, still getting the DJ Mag #1, getting the Top 101 Producers #1. He’s putting pressure on everything and he’s moving. No festivals, no clubs, but he’s still making Future Rave and releasing it. He released a record on Tiësto’s Musical Freedom, the humility of that! That’s a legend move. That really got me excited.
And also, Nicky Romero. Doing the weekly radio show, building his gaming team. At a time when everyone is lost, they’re hammering the road in front of them and pushing. That’s also really inspiring to me.
You’ve been making music for over ten years and have been in the industry for such a long time. How do you navigate through that while keeping things fresh?
You just do it. Yeah it’s an industry, but at the end of the day we’re all people. If you stop seeing the industry as the industry, and just start seeing people as people, it all becomes very easy and fun. We’re all just doing what we love, let’s remember that.
How are you connecting with your fans in 2020?
We started doing Team Wall, which is a gaming thing because I love gaming. So I found a guy named Sven Fields, who is a very good Call Of Duty player and also a very good house producer. He was at the start of his career so I said “Let’s try this shit!” Then I started using that as a communication vehicle for my fans. Three days a week I’m on the stream, and we talk. We have a small community now, we started about 2-3 months ago and we now have 2,400 followers on Twitch. Which, I think honestly without doing all the promotion and marketing and industry mumbo jumbo, it’s all organic. It’s fun.
Usually when we do streams we have 50-100 people concurrently viewing and chatting. Those people are the A-team, that’s who I see as my fans. And all of the fans that I have from around the world, they were there at every show, they always DM’d me or commented, and they’re also in that Twitch stream so we all talk together. It’s very fun and comforting to know that I can always speak to them whenever.
How do you get past the “writer’s block” moment?
When I’m in the studio and I have writer’s block, I will force myself in whatever way possible to not have writer’s block. I’m not allowed to have writer’s block! I get to fly all over the world in private jets, party, DJ in front of millions of people every year. I can’t go in the studio and go “ahh I have writer’s block” and just go to sleep. That’s not really taking responsibility for living your dream life.
What we do at Wall — and it’s not just me, but all pf the artists and everyone that works with us — it’s okay to be tired, it’s okay to be resting, but we never take our own no’s for an answer. Never. We talk about it and figure it out.
Last question — as a DJ, what’s important to you when you look for music for your sets?
Well, this is 1001Tracklists, so I’m sure you know the depth of my research before making a set! I look for everything.
Basically what I try to do, for example, for a set like Ultra, I start preparing 3 months in advance because I think it’s the biggest set of the year. I prepare a tracklist with everything I think is cool now, and everything I think is cool from the past that I haven’t played yet or I think now is a great time to play. So I get like 400 tracks.
Out of the 400 tracks I see how I can utilize it — so I start making acapellas, instrumental breaks, etc. This also includes music for Final Fantasy or for movies, effects, whatever I can find. When I start to actually make the set, I start thinking — first of all, Afrojack fans have to be happy. So the intro needs to have some Afrojack. Then there needs to be, within the same first two minutes, something that makes the haters go “oh okay this is interesting, what is this?” Then you come with something dope that everyone loves, but no one expects.
The haters are 1%, the Afrojack fans are 1%, but the rest of the 98% are people who just want to have a good time. So I try to hit all of those fields within the first 15 minutes.
Then in the middle there’s space to have fun, to take them on a journey, play some oldies and some new shit. Then at the end again the same thing. So I try to make “blocks.” For Ultra I made 5 blocks of about 10-15 tracks per block, in an hour and a half, so about 90 tracks. It was very difficult, but very fun.
Make it a story, make it a movie, have some emotional shit, then finish with a bang. You have to innovate, you have to adjust, you have to tell your story. It’s giving the people a legendary experience. That’s the idea behind a set. That takes a lot of time, and I hope the people see that.
I also genuinely hope that any hater who’s reading this interview understands that we don’t play one 90 minute mix. We prepare a 90 minute mix, then we dissect it into however many tracks they are, and we plan when we play them. So that’s why sometimes it sounds like it’s pre-mixed, but it’s not. We know exactly what we’re doing, because we prepare for three months, 16 hours a day. You better know your set!
You can buy/stream your copy of Kapuchon - "Ten Years Later" on your platform of choice today! https://spinninrecords.com/releases/10-years-later
short link 1001.tl/mfz3gl