Label parties are an integral part of the Amsterdam Dance Event, offering imprints a coveted chance to showcase their artists. But despite its huge significance in the local Dutch music community, Nicky Romero's Protocol Recordings had yet to host their own label party at ADE.
EDM.com sat down with Romero and Protocol's A&R Director, Jorik Van de Pol, to chat about the milestone for the record label and learn more about the DJ's various other ventures.
EDM.com: Nicky, how are you feeling tonight?
Nicky Romero: I’m feeling good. I’m a little—I don’t want to say nervous—but excited in a way. All of my friends and family are here. Literally, all my close friends and the people that mean a lot to me are here and normally when you play a show, it’s quite professional, but here it’s also emotional because of all these people who mean so much to me and my personal life.
So it combines business with my real life, and that’s what makes it so exciting. This show means a lot to me not only as an artist but also as a person.
EDM.com: For sure, you’re the hometown hero!
I don’t wanna say that, but at least I feel like these are the people who matter to me. And I want to perform at my best.
EDM.com: That’s beautiful. I’m happy that I can just sit in the background and enjoy.
Protocol’s coming up on 10 years. Can you tell me how it has evolved in the last decade? And what are your plans to celebrate the milestone?
Nicky Romero: I mean, we’re sitting next to one of my friends here who I started the label with back in the day. He’s actually one of my close friends, Jorik.
It actually started out as a platform to make sure you can make your own decisions and not have to wait for anyone’s approval on artwork and release dates and such. So to see that now, and how it’s a whole independent platform for other artists and a good home for those who are starting to produce and write songs, is amazing. It really feels like it’s a family now, and it’s quite special to realize that it once was a baby and now it’s a 10-year-old child that you can talk to and is independent. It doesn’t need your help anymore, which is really great.
EDM.com: Talking about artists’ labels compared to a major label, why is it important when you get in a certain position as an artist to have your own label and not rely on the Universals and the Sonys of the world?
Nicky Romero: Well, I’m thankful for the major labels because they can really make sure that your record gets out there on different levels, but I think we achieve almost the maximum that you can achieve as an independent label. And I truly believe that the mixture between the majors and the independents can be great.
So I’m happy that Protocol is where it is right now. At the same time, we also do singles with Universal and we learn a lot from them—you can have amazing results through collaboration. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to get a single to certain places, and then without us they wouldn’t have the content that they have right now, so it’s a really great collaboration.
EDM.com: “I Could Be The One” is reaching its ten-year anniversary. What's it like to have a generational anthem that people are going to remember forever, and how does Avicii continue to inspire you to this day?
Nicky Romero: “I Could Be The One” started as a track that we made for fun. It wasn’t necessarily like, “Hey let’s officially collaborate.”
I just flew to Stockholm and we were hanging out in the studio. Back in the day, we would never have thought that it would become such an iconic track. It kinda is a surprise to me—as much as it is probably to you—to see how that record became so iconic. Same for “Toulouse." When you create something like that, you’re so close to the record that you don’t realize what it means to other people, not to speak about what it means to the industry.
So I never felt about it that way to be honest. It just happened to me the same way things happen to you, and I can only say that I’m thankful for the fact that it got that popular.
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EDM.com: Let’s talk about Monocule, your side project for the deeper sounds. Why did you start it, why is it important to you, and why do you think so many artists have aliases and side projects?
Nicky Romero: I think one of the most important reasons is that they have the freedom to do whatever they want to do. I mean, sometimes I produce a song and I have no idea where I want to go to sound-wise, so now I can work on it without having to let go of it because it doesn’t fit the Nicky Romero sound.
And that’s the reason I made Monocule: I can just put the deeper sounds there. I don’t need to think about being a main-stage artist, I only have to think about what I want to produce for this act. And that’s the reason I think other people create aliases as well. Because you don’t have to steer in a specific direction with them, it’s like a free run.
EDM.com: Anything you can tell us about what’s coming up for the Monocule project?
Nicky Romero: We are not as scheduled with Monocule as we are with Nicky Romero, but what I can say is that we have an EP coming up that’s really cool. We have a collaboration with a guy named Lamas on it. Jorik and I do the demo drop every first Friday of the month on Twitch, where we listen to beginner producers and artists.
He contributed this amazing song and we started working on that with Monocule, and that created this new collaboration which is also the first official collab that we have done because of Twitch and the demo drop. That is gonna be part of the EP, and then we have two other songs coming up as the B and the C side.
EDM.com: You’re also really into gaming and esports and you recently invested in ReKTGlobal. Where does your passion for music and gaming intersect, and why is gaming important to you?
Nicky Romero: I don’t know if it necessarily crosses paths to be honest. It’s just another hobby that I have, and I’m happy to share that hobby with other people.
The only thing it has in common is the fact that we do the demo drop—that’s when gaming and music really come together. All the other streams and things I do with gaming are just a hobby that evolved into a business, but it doesn’t necessarily need to collaborate with music. It’s just another side of me, which is like the side of us that we like to play indoor soccer. It doesn’t have anything to do with music. But this one seems to match, and that’s why I really like the fact that a lot of Nicky Romero fans also like to watch the stream.
EDM.com: Talk to us a bit about Instigate Studios.
Nicky Romero: Well, back in the day I made my records in my own bedroom at my parents’ house for the first three to four years, and then I moved to a studio called White Villa. There I learned that separate space for your studio is really great for your creativity. You can do whatever you want, you can play as loud as you want, you don’t have to think about neighbors. And that’s the moment I realized that one day I want to have my own studio.
And the moment we made our own studio, I realized, “Hey, there’s space to build a few more, why don’t I do the same thing the other guy did for me when I went to White Villa Studios?” So we created extra rooms in order to be able to have more producers working, no matter if they were working for me if they worked for the studio or for themselves.
I just wanted to create a hub for young creatives that want to express themselves. I learn from them every day and they also learn from me. This way we motivate each other and that’s the whole goal of Instigate. You want to share and create a passion. Everything needs to be in the box—we can do everything at the studios, mixing, mastering, recording, even masterclasses, completely independent. I think that’s what Instigate stands for.
Listen to Nicky Romero's newest single, a tech house banger called "Acid Is My DNA," below.