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Nicky Romero is a household name in dance music, but it’s all too easy to forget that the Dutch producer is just like you or I, and is not some electronic deity immune to the spotlight. Romero’s journey hasn’t been without its hardships, and he’s faced all the standard criticisms and doubt which come hand-in-hand with global success.

After graduating school and working as a bartender whilst pursuing production, it wasn’t until releasing “Toulouse” in 2012 that Romero saw mainstream success. He quickly skyrocketed to the upper echelons of the industry with a string of #1 hits and has gone on to produce with the pop world’s biggest acts such as RihannaBritney Spears, and David Guetta.

During Miami Music Week we had the privilege of speaking with Nicky Romero, earning a rare glimpse of what goes on in the mind of the Protocol labelhead. Read on for his thoughts regarding malicious criticism, the pressure of expectations, and what’s in store for Protocol Recordings in 2016.

How are you finding Miami Music Week this year?

It might be that it’s not as crazy as it used to be, but also I think I just might be getting used to it by now. So maybe that’s the reason why it doesn’t feel as strong as 2 or 3 years ago. But it feels like the EDM bubble really started 3 or 4 years ago for me, so maybe that’s I have no clue. But it’s still really good.

Right, and when did Toulouse come out? Was it kind of after that?

It was 2011 or ‘12 that came out, and “Metropolis” was the same year. Those were big ones.

We’ll start with something kind of cryptic, everyone knows who you are, but whoare you?

Well, if I were to introduce myself, I am a music producer that really likes to express himself in any possible way so, not necessarily bound to a certain style. I’m a very sensitive person when it comes to what people think of me. I think I’m very very happy person normally. And I really enjoy all creative stuff around, like cameras, images, audio, everything. I’m really a family man, I have a good connection with my family. I’m actually a very normal guy I think. Yeah, I don’t know, I enjoy everything that comes with speed, adrenaline attracts me. Boats, cars, motorbikes, everything that’s fast attracts me somehow, I dunno why… Yeah, that’s me!

And I’m sure that plays into electronic music with heart rates and BPMs, yeah?

Yeah, that’s the reason why I mainly release songs or produce songs that have an emotion, so it’s mainly chord songs with a melody, progressive, because that’s in my opinion one of the opportunities for me to express emotion in music. I can’t really do that with really hard sounds, for me it needs to be chords, because with chords you have major, minor. Fifths, sevenths, ninths. This way you can express yourself and evoke something.

You’ve been doing this for quite a while and you’ve been at the forefront of dance music for years now. What’s it like to maintain relevance and what are some of the difficulties in staying there once you’ve achieved that fame?

There’s one thing, and I will never forget, that Fedde Le Grand said to me in 2012 or ’11, when we made that song “Sparks” together. ‘Getting to a certain level is one thing. Staying there is the second and that’s the most difficult thing, because before you get to the top, no one has expectations.’ You just do what you want, make what you like, and you do whatever you want basically and people will love it because it’s new, and it’s different, and they always love new artists. But then, it’s really hard to stay on top with all the pressure that’s on you and on your shoulders, because people have expectations now. Fans expect you to make certain sounds that you might have already outgrown, and you might already have changed. So there’s the opinion of a couple million people on your shoulders and that’s what makes it hard sometimes, especially if you’re sensitive to these kinds of things, which I am. So that was a really good piece of advice and a big eye opener back then. I think that’s one of the things that still sticks with me from back in the day.

nicky romero ultra

Yeah that’s heavy to have everyone looking at you it’s hard to continue without taking their opinions into account.

Yeah! It’s mainly the pressure you put on yourself, I mean, there can be like ten million, a hundred million people putting pressure on you, but you only feel it when you allow yourself to feel the pressure. Then if you don’t then you’re good.

So expectations for artists keep getting greater and greater, fans, the industry, expects you guys to keep up with social media, to run a label, produce new music, tour, what do you think about that and these expectations? Is it healthy?

You know, I think every individual is free to think and to say whatever they like. And I think a little bit of expectation is good also to motivate you to do something new. At the end of the day, I think the best way to express yourself if you wanna have feedback to an artist, I have always written it in a way that the artist can actually use, and not in a way to put them down. Because in my opinion, there is no reason to put other people down, no matter what they make, no matter what choice they make!

For example, if Skrillex used to make only soft ballads, then you should respect that. Doesn’t necessarily mean that you like that or that you want him to do that, but you should give him his space, you know? And I think if people would offer their feedback positively and nicely, I think there is an opportunity for everybody to have their voice heard instead of just writing negative shit, which will only hurt people. It will bring people down, it will de-motivate them, and it won’t help people to create good music. That’s something I think about a lot.

I agree, from a journalist’s perspective, who am I to judge something that’s your own creative expression?

You know what, art should never be criticized. If Picasso would make a drawing, then there would be a million people who like it. And there might be two million people who don’t like it, and that’s fine! But that doesn’t mean if you don’t like it that you have to criticize it. You might explain what you don’t like about it, but you don’t have to criticize and say that it’s shit or it’s garbage or any of that. So I don’t know… If the world could do such a thing, then this would be a much happier place.

Right, it’s all subjective. So what’s new for protocol in 2016? It seems like you guys have really been revamping.

Well, there’s been some shifting, Also with the lineup of protocol management, there’s been a lot of changes. We’re building new studios, we’re building a production house, I’m releasing new singles, that’s really cool because I have more than five songs ready to put out right now for this year, so that means we have at least six or seven Nicky Romero records for 2016. Which is a big difference from the last 3 years, and that’s good, Protocol Recordings itself is doing really great. We have really good artists wanting to sign their songs with us, which we are very very grateful for and we’re trying to put all our effort into giving them the best space and give them the market. We’ve been trying to do creative things with our artwork by stepping out a little bit from the usual. And there’s people who’ve been saying the same thing, there’s people who love it, there’s people who don’t like it. Sometimes you have to take the risk and you have to just do it.

I mean, look at the biggest example is Avicii doing what he did on his True album at Ultra. Everybody laughed at him that he made country music. At the end of the day, he was the one that had one of the best albums of that year. So, that’s a great example for the industry.

Absolutely! So let’s end on a weird note – if you could take any three animals and combine them into one, what would they be, and what would you call it?

It would be a cheetah, because of it’s speed and precision. Probably an Eagle because of it’s eyes, it would be able to spot everything on the ground that’s moving. And I would probably go for something with strength, so it might be a Komodo or something. Something that survives and has a very thick skin and armor. I don’t know if it works or not, or if it looks like an animal still, but if you give me the options then yeah! It would be a ‘Peace-inator.’


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