The Man Behind 2013's Dancefloor-Devastator: Justin Prime [Interview]
Last year, if you had a pulse and liked dance music, you jumped in the air like a rabid baboon approximately 28.9 times to “Cannonball.” There have been studies, look it up.
But that was probably already common knowledge to you. Justin Prime, alongside the hit-making duo Showtek, has been inescapable in recent times. The original track had legs for days (a veritable Gisele Bundchen of hit singles), and just as the buzz began to die down, the ubiquitous voice of Matthew Koma came swooping in to breathe life into the bombastic banger. Like a classic Mario Party minigame, there was no avoiding the Cannonball.
While we all enjoyed the hell out of that song and Justin Prime’s follow-ups, most notably “Thunderbolt” with Sidney Samson, there’s plenty you may not know about Mr. Prime: the long road he took to this juncture, where his relationship with Showtek began, the true scope of his musical abilities, what it feels like to have such a massive hit on your hands almost overnight, and of course, just who is it that provided the vocal sample for “Cannonball”?
What was your life like prior to breaking through in dance music?
“As a kid I grew up in a little city in The Netherlands called Huizen, next to Amsterdam. I was living with my mom and we didn't have much, but we had everything we needed. My mom is from Moluccan origin and lived in The Netherlands, and my father is from Dutch origin and lived in America. I grew up with my Moluccan family - for those who don't know where that is, it's those little islands on the right next to Indonesia.”
In my family everybody played music, either they played the piano/guitar, or they were singing. But then you have my grandfather, he was the best musician in our family. He played more instruments than I can even count. At the age of 5 he decided to teach me to play the piano. Little did I know back then it turned out to be just what I need for my music production nowadays.
Before my whole music career started, I went to school studying computer science and multimedia design. That's also the point when I discovered apps like Fruity Loops, Reason, and later on Cubase. Later on I started to study at school for sound engineering. Next to that I had a little part-time job for a while at a computer store, fixing people's computers and building new ones. Oh yeah, I also worked at a vinyl record shop called Mid-Town Records for a while and then eventually I switched over to a local CD store until the age of 23. Then I quit my job and became a full time music producer. So that's the short story!”
Did you have any producers who influenced your development?
“I think everybody does. Way back when I was like a 15 year old kid, I started to listen to techno producers like Max Walder and Marco Bailey. But it was not long before I turned to hardstyle music, listening to producers like Deepack and Luna. When I first heard those beats I was like, ‘wow…this is insane! I want to make this too!’ [laughs]. And I did, for almost 8 years, until I came to the inevitable point where I wasn't able to make my vision of music fit into hardstyle anymore. I was looking for something next level, and then I heard David Guetta's music. He had a big influence on me too.”
What was it like to collaborate with Showtek?
“Fun times as always. I already knew Showtek for many years back then, because we both came from the hardstyle scene and I released on their record label for years.”
How does it feel to have such a massive hit in "Cannonball"? How has the success of that track altered your career and life?
“It's just amazing! When we finished this song we were like ‘yeah, this is pretty dope it could be a bomb.’ But what we didn't expect is the fact that ‘Cannonball’ became a massive club hit all over the world and later on also a radio hit. We received two golden records and one platinum for this track.
It's just something we all never expected. And I'm still very proud of this achievement today! And I'm not even talking about my DJ career yet. ‘Cannonball’ really turned my DJ career into a…well yeah, cannonball [laughs]. I have been touring all around the world every week now for the last one and a half years and I'm enjoying every minute of it!”
Is it difficult to try to follow up such a wildly successful track?
“Yes…it always is. You can never tell what's going to be a successful track. There was a short time that I tried to follow up ‘Cannonball,’ which is a stupid thing to do in my opinion. It totally blocked my creativity for a while, then at some point I decided to just make music and don't think about how it should sound or if people might expect me to make a ‘Cannonball’ v3.0.
That's also another thing people should know about me. I'm not just able to make tracks like ‘Cannonball’ and ‘Thunderbolt,’ but I also have a really musical side I like to express, where I like to add piano, cello, guitars and other acoustic instruments to my music. I'm also really into pop music and hip-hop! I actually have a new song ready that is different than you are used to from me, and I can't wait to let you hear it!”
What is your dream goal in music?
“For me it's important to develop myself being as good as I can possibly be as a musician and stage performer. That's my ultimate goal. I'm in it for the music; becoming a better piano player, becoming a better producer. Not only for me, but also for my fans who love to listen to my music. It all starts with good music. If the music is good then everything else will naturally fall into place.”
Is there anything else you would want people to know about you, who you are, or your story?
“How about one little thing that most people probably don't know: did you know that the voice of ‘Cannonball’ – ‘Show us what you got, when the m.f. beats drops,’ is actually my voice? It took me hours and hours to get the desired effect like this [laughs].”
I can only imagine how the original vocal cut sounded! We want to say a big, warm thank you to Justin Prime for taking the time to share his experiences with us. Next time you hear one of his tracks, you’ll be able to listen knowing the heartwarming family history, years of technical training, and constant evolution that led to the music we hear from Justin Prime today. We’re looking forward to the next track he teased.
You can catch Justin on tour in North America this month, kicking off July 16th: