Exclusive Interview: Nicky Romero Talks Games, Ghostwriters And “Future Funk”


As rapidly as the electronic music landscape appears to be changing, we would rather not envision a world without Nicky Romero. For that reason, it delights us to discover that the Dutch progressive house DJ/producer and Protocol Recordings Label head is on the tail end of a temporary hiatus from releasing music, a hiatus which is owed to his own personal struggles stemming from anxiety.

When we caught up with him in Miami last month, Romero opened up about a series of topics, including his creative process on “Future Funk,” his foray into the world of video games and his anxiety itself. Reassuringly, he appears to be on the up and up – and as fun of a departure as “Future Funk” was, his longtime fans can look forward to seeing him return to his signature sound.

In addition, Romero expressed a firm stance in regards to ghost producers – and even teased an upcoming collaboration in the works. If his newfound vigor is any indicator, 2016 will prove quite the comeback year for him.

Check out our full interview with Nicky Romero below, and enjoy!

Even though more classic styles of dance music have become popular again lately, we didn’t expect to hear what we heard from you on “Future Funk.” Was it more of a one-time thing, or is this something you’ll be pursuing more moving forward?

Nicky Romero: That’s a fair question. In a market where everything’s shifting so quickly, I think it’s good sometimes to have a different angle on producing music. I’ve been doing a lot of songs the same way in terms of concept; the sounds were different but the concept was the same. It should be able to be played on dance floors and everything. That was my main focus: I wanted to be able to play it live.

With that song, the approach was a little different. We just got to the studio and we produced music. We had fun. We had Nile Rogers in the studio jamming on his guitar, and he did a really cool riff so we said, “Let’s record this,” and it became the whole song. We took a different angle and took a new approach to the song, and we just wanted it to be the way he played it, which was 120 BPM and not faster. So we just left it that way and built the song around it instead of taking parts and making them 128 BPM.

It’s not my “new sound,” it’s just something different we tried out. There will be two different new Nicky Romero songs coming up that really sound like old school “Legacy” type stuff. We have a really big collaboration coming up with a big band. I can’t give the name yet, though – I wish I could. We’re still in production but the first demos are finished and it’s shaping up to be a really big song. If everything goes right, that one will be done in the summer.

Your video game, #PlayNicky was awesome! When I heard you were making one it kind of sounded gimmicky at first, but the final product had such a classic look and feel to it. What made you want to do something like that?

Nicky Romero: I did it for those that were exposed to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). They’re the ones who would recognize a lot in this game. For a small part of my youth I was able to play those games, and I just miss it because these days everything graphically is done so well that it almost looks like the real world. I just wanted to have a gimmick. I wanted to bring back that feeling of playing Nintendo, just racing back from school to try out a new level. We also love the story of Flappy Bird, and we wanted to make a combination of those two things.

In the past six months months your releases were kind of sparse, but it sounds like you’re planning on getting back up on it, right?

Nicky Romero: Yeah, true, and I can tell you why. It’s been really hard for me to produce music over the last two years. We’ve kind of closed this chapter, but I’d been experiencing a lot of problems with anxiety. It kind of took away my ability to produce music for a long while because I was mentally so far away from where I needed to be to produce music. It was not like I didn’t want to or was being lazy; I just could not produce. We’ve closed that chapter and everything is well now. We’re finally back in the game, and yes, there will be a lot of new Nicky Romero songs. Hopefully it’ll stay this way for a long while because I’m feeling great.

How do you differentiate your sound during festival performances from those at nightclub events and Protocol parties and such?

Nicky Romero: I don’t. Of course, at Protocol parties the focus is on Protocol songs, but when I play my own sets it’s 80-90% Protocol and myself with maybe 10% edits, bootlegs and stuff like that. I would never change that, because one of the reasons I have my label is to create a platform – and if I don’t use that platform in my live sets then I miss the biggest opportunity to support them in the best way I can, which is onstage. I always try to sign the best songs that’ll work for Protocol and support those artists by bringing them with me onstage worldwide.

I’ve heard you say that a concern of yours is not having a hit song that’ll gain traction. Do you feel like that’s because you’ve had so many hit songs that blew up that you’ve set a high bar for yourself?

Nicky Romero: You always want to give people the best of you. For myself, I translate a song that is not successful into people not getting the best of me. That is my problem sometimes, that I take that too personally – and sometimes you have to accept that what you like to produce might not always be what people want to hear. Sometimes people just want to hear the same old thing going on and they’re not ready for a new kind of sound – but that doesn’t mean you can’t try it out, and try to stimulate yourself to get back in the studio and try new things. That’s how it started, was having fun and trying things. There should be a balance between what they want and what you want.

Well there’s Nicky Romero the brand, but there’s also the Nicky Romero that’s you – and at the end of the day, the music is for you, too.

Nicky Romero: Exactly. Well, I understand very well that the Nicky Romero brand as it is now is thanks to all the people who supported me, so I feel a certain amount of pressure to produce something they like as well. These are the people that made me.

As far as signing new artists goes, it’s such a crowded talent pool already. How do you decide who to bring into the Protocol family?

Nicky Romero: I don’t really pick people – I pick songs. It could be anyone. The only thing that I have in mind is that I don’t really like to sign artists that don’t produce the music themselves. I don’t really like ghostwriters. If I notice that a song is ghost produced and I’m aware of it, I don’t release it. If I’m not aware of it, then there’s no way for me to know, but as far as I know, if I find out that it’s ghost produced then I’d rather not sign it because I’d rather support the artists who do it themselves.

That concludes our interview with Nicky Romero, but we would like to thank him very much for his time.