When Michael Jackson's family reached out to Afrojack to remix "Bad," the 25-year-old DJ said he was busy. He was scared and truthfully, how would you feel remixing the King of Pop's now 25-year-old single? Afrojack compared the feeling to having President Obama ask him for financial advice.
Well, Afrojack changed his mind. The Dutch DJ went to the same studio that MJ used to record "Bad" over two decades ago and put his own spin on the track, while trying to appeal to every generation of Michael Jackson fans. The remixes are part of a commemorative package that drops today, which includes three CDs, two collectible booklets, and the highly anticipated DVD release of a concert from the record-breaking "Bad" tour.
Afrojack spoke with Complex on his fears surrounding the project, what he changed about MJ's iconic track, working with DJ Buddah and Pitbull for the radio edit, and how to make it as a DJ. He spoke on his relationship with Paris Hilton and her DJ career, too. Read on for the details.
Interview by Lauren Nostro (@LAURENcynthia)
How did you get involved with the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s Bad album?
I was asked through the label and through the estate, the actual family of Michael Jackson, because they thought that I was the perfect guy to remix Michael Jackson. I was like, ‘Well that’s really nice, but it’s Michael Jackson, you don’t just remix Michael Jackson. I told my manager, ‘I don’t know, maybe, let’s think about this very clearly.’ We told them that we were busy and they told us it was really important and that they were sure Michael would have wanted it. They said, "We’ll fly you off to LA and put you in the studio there." You can’t say no to Michael Jackson. I was excited to do it but it was really scary. It’s like you are remixing the president of pop music for the last 25 years. He just recently passed away and I have to remix his music, I’m the first guy to remix this.
I had to remix a track that’s been known by multiple generations across the globe; everyone knows that song. We had to do something that’s for the original generation, for the now generation, and for all the generations in between, and it has to have the Afrojack sound because that’s why they wanted me to remix it.
Were you a big fan of Michael Jackson as a child?
I grew up with his music. When I was a baby, my mom used to have a dance school and she used to teach classes there. We didn’t have money for a babysitter so she always brought me with her to the dancing school. Back then, I was already watching and listening to Michael Jackson for a long time. I saw him on TV when I was 5-years-old, then when I was 6, then when I was 10, then when I was 12, then when I was 15. He basically is a part of everyone’s life that's my age. He made music that we all danced to and he was the biggest media thing in the whole world throughout his entire career. I’m sure everyone else would be as excited as me to remix Michael Jackson and as scared because it’s like the President of America asking you for financial advice. You’re like, ‘What!’ That’s scary.
How did you deal with that fear? What was it like when you started on the project?
I thought about it. I could have made a happy, good remix that is only for this generation but I wanted to keep the original in tact because I didn’t want to offend the original Michael Jackson song. I was sitting there in the original studio where they recorded BAD 25 years ago and I’m 25 myself so that was pretty crazy. I had to remix a track that’s been known by multiple generations across the globe; everyone knows that song. We had to do something that’s for the original generation, for the now generation, and for all the generations in between, and it has to have the Afrojack sound because that’s why they wanted me to remix it. When I started it, it was really easy. I wanted to make a global combination of dance music right now combined with all the electro sounds that are going out and the more progressive house sounds and of course, a lot of the original with the bass lines, the trumpets and the drums. Basically, the old school dance feel like you’re in an 80s club.
You created your own remix and then you linked up with DJ Buddha and Pitbull for the radio edit. How did that come together?
Buddha helps me out a lot with radio edits and stuff. I only did the original club remix and later, they said they wanted Pitbull on it. That went through the family, the estate, the label. They wanted him to be on it. Buddha is a radio professional so he edited the original into the Pitbull radio version. I think it’s good because even though some people say you cannot put a pop star of today on the original thing, this is what the family, the estate, and the label want and how they want his legend to live on. I think it’s not that crazy and that the end result is really cool.
I think [the radio edit remix] is good because even though some people say you cannot put a pop star of today on the original thing, this is what the family, the estate, and the label want and how they want his legend to live on.
Has MJ’s family reached out to you after hearing the remix?
I went to the studio in LA and I did the whole remix and everything. I got an email a few days later from my manager saying the label, the estate, the family-everyone was super happy with it so I was happy. A happy camper!
Have you performed this remix live yet? I'm sure that will be an entirely different experience.
I’m working with my video guy right now so that when I play the song live I will actually have the original video and some of my visuals put together. Basically what I do in the clubs mixed with what he did in the clubs and around the world while performing for hundreds of thousands of people 25 years ago. It has to be a really cool look, I don’t want to just play the song, I want it to be an experience. That’s what I always try to do with my live shows.
I did it once before in the Bay Area, really close to San Francisco, in a really big coliseum but it was a crazy party when I was playing with Tiesto and some other DJs. I was closing down the first night and we did it for the first time and I wanted to keep it really exclusive so we never did it again. I think MJ actually started that when he started touring with all of the crazy dancers and visuals and fireworks. I’ve never been to one of his shows but I’ve watched some on YouTube and they’re all really impressive.