Alan Walker On “Faded,” Remixes & Unexpected Collaborations: Interview
Alan Walker landed one of the biggest hits of 2016 with “Faded.” The dreamy banger, which started life as an instrumental way back in 2014, topped the charts in more than a dozen countries and has racked up close to 600 million Spotify streams. The video performed even better, amassing a whopping 966 million YouTube views. It was always going to be hard to follow that up, but the 19-year-old DJ cranked out another two club monsters before the end of the year — “Sing Me To Sleep” and “Alone.”
The Norwegian, who learned to produced music via online tutorials, is now featured on Sofia Carson’s new single, “Back To Beautiful,” and has new music on the way. I recently caught up with Alan in LA and asked him about the phenomenal success of “Faded,” his trademark hoodie (don’t be surprised if it goes soon) and speeding up the BPMs in his music. He also ruminated on the next trend in dance music and the prospect of releasing an album. Get to know the DJ a little better below.
Do you ever get sick of playing “Faded”? It’s always really exciting to play “Faded” for people because every time I play it live, people are always screaming and sometimes they sing louder than the song. It’s emotional sometimes. So many people actually know the song and lyrics.
It was so successful. Is there pressure to match those numbers? It was really going through my mind after “Faded,” thinking if my next single would live up to those numbers, but that would tear me down as an artist because I’d maybe work myself too hard and scratch ideas that could actually be the next “Faded,” for example. So I’m just trying to avoid comparing my own songs to one another and just try to do whatever I like.
It’s part of a trilogy, was that always the plan? Not in the beginning. We got the idea after making the music video for “Sing Me To Sleep” because that was pretty much the follow-up to “Faded.” We introduced more of what we call walkers in the video. In “Faded” there was one walker and in “Sing Me To Sleep” there were three walkers. “Alone” is a song about unity and we had walkers in many, many different countries. It’s pretty cool.
You worked with Noonie Bao on “Alone.” What was that like? Well, she is very, very dedicated and a very good singer.
You also performed at the Echo Awards with Zara Larsson. Would you collaborate with her? Yeah, I think that we could be pretty cool if we collaborated. We did a performance together but I think it would be way different to actually make a song together.
How did you end up on that Sofia Carson song? I think it was more like they wanted me to do a remix of it and I don’t know, it just escalated all of a sudden and I’m very proud to be able to be a part of it because it is a pretty good song, the topline is amazing and the whole song is actually pretty cool.
When you first heard it, how did you decide what to change? That’s always a very big challenge. First of all when it comes to making remixes it works pretty much the same way. My “Millionaire” remix, my remix of Sia’s “Move Your Body” and all the other remixes I’ve done. The first thing that goes through my head when I first get the stems is how I’m going be able to put my sound into this and that’s always a big challenge. It’s also something that can be very, very beautiful. To come up with ideas and that’s what I did here.
Did you know who she was beforehand? No, not really, but when I first got the request and found out they were very interested, I, of course, did my research and found out who it is.
It might raise your profile in the States. Is that a priority for you? I mean I think it would be pretty cool. I also think it’s important to build my brand in other continents and countries. I’m focusing a lot on Europe and Asia and we’re having a lot of success, but it’s good to focus on the United States as well.
Have you noticed a difference in what works in Europe and America? For my music, not really, because it’s been pretty much the same response.
How do you put together a setlist for a show? I pretty much just do what I usually do and that is comparing my old songs which are often very slow songs, and try to have a flow throughout the whole set. I try to find other EDM songs for the set and that’s the hardest thing because my songs are anything from 88 bpm to 100 bpm, but I think that gives the audience a different experience because I mean instead of just playing 130 bpm, for example, straight through for 90 minutes, I also play maybe 30 minutes with slower shit and maybe one hour faster.
Are you thinking about a bigger body of work or do you just want to release singles? My thought is to just continue releasing single by single. I don’t really think an album is something for me to do because I’ve always been doing single to single and I think albums are quite difficult nowadays to build up because there’s so many tracks coming out at once and also you need to build them up and usually it’s just one or two tracks on the album that gets attention.
Have you got other songs in the works? Not really any collaborations but I’ve got two or three singles coming up and they are getting ready to be released very soon and I’m looking forward to it. I may also be coming up with a few remixes in the next couple of months.
Do you think with the new singles we can expect a faster sound or stick to your signature? I think the one thing with the songs I’m actually working on is the bpm. I think it’s very important to actually sort of pick it up. I think people can easily think, “Oh, he can only produce something like this.” What I’m trying to do is actually do something different.
So many people in EDM wear masks. Is that coming from a place of wanting to retain some privacy? I really decided to wear the mask, it wasn’t necessarily about privacy but it was pretty much giving me a unique symbol. As an artist, I feel that’s pretty cool because I think that also means the audience is more curious, like who is really this person you see on Facebook, who is the person behind the songs and who is this person you see on social media? I think it also gives the audience a different aspect.
Will you change that and you’re more open? I don’t know actually yet because what I’ve been doing now is mixing it up. Sometimes I actually do interviews without the mask, like for example for at the Brit Awards, I went without the mask because I didn’t feel like it would be suited. It’s not something I’m going to maintain forever.
What do you think is the next big trend in crossover dance music? I don’t know. I notice that more and more people are starting to make similar songs to what I’m doing. It’s hard to predict actually. I notice like in Europe more and more songs are going down in bpm. Techno is starting to get back, kind of techno-trance and but yeah it’s the whole edm market, is hard to predict.
Which DJs/producers should we look out for? From Norway I would say Mio which is a good friend of mine and a very good producer. He just launched a remix of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You.”