With over 23 million monthly listeners on Spotify, Norwegian DJ Alan Walker is one of the biggest recording artists on the planet, and so far, 2021 is one of his biggest years yet.
First becoming an international sensation with his 2015 single, “Faded”—which is currently the 20th most viewed video on YouTube and one of the most-streamed songs in history—Walker has continued to make a name for himself as a master crafter of melodic electronic music with irresistibly catchy hooks and undeniably dancey beats.
In May, he began releasing installments of his latest project: The Aviation Movie, a concert-film-meets-music-videos masterpiece that’s been two years in the making. Sewing together live footage and stunning music videos, the ambitious project is a creative triumph, bringing together numerous mediums to execute a singular artistic concept. Alongside the film, he also released The Aviation Game, an iOS and Android app created with indie studio, Hello There Games.
A week following the premiere of The Aviation Movie finale, Walker dropped “Sweet Dreams,” a new, goosebump-inducing collaboration with Imanbek.
Prominently featuring a sample of Scatman John’s “Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop),” the new single is indicative of just how creative Walker is as an artist. Taking the humorous and nostalgic idea of the Scatman melody, but setting it in a jaw-dropping electronic arrangement—paired with the uber-cool visuals of the music video—the end result is a profound and incredibly enjoyable musical feat.
Launched onto the international stage as a teenager, the now-23-year-old DJ has managed to keep a level head, which, in turn, augments his music with an unmistakable air of authenticity. Hopping on a Zoom call with American Songwriter, Walker demonstrated this quality even further. Chatting a bit about what it was like to put together the massive work that is The Aviation Movie—as well as offering insight on his creative headspace—Walker was open about his process and the creative benefits of keeping himself grounded. Read the conversation below:
American Songwriter: You started working on The Aviation Movie two years ago—what has that process been? How did things change with the onset of the pandemic last March?
Alan Walker: It’s been pretty wild. But throughout the pandemic, it was very, very quiet. Not much action, but a lot of work in the background, stuff that you wouldn’t normally see. So, we’ve been preparing a lot throughout 2020 for all the music that’s rolling out now.
The Aviation Tour took place in India, China and one show in Norway—in total, there were seven shows, and the concept around The Aviation Movie was something we started discussing fairly early on. It became the core of the entire project. We wanted to combine music videos with the concert footage to make it like a movie, but even then, it’s grown a lot since that time. Alongside all the great minds I’ve worked on this with—from my management to everybody on the creative process—we were a full band pre-planning everything. Even the tracklist itself specifically matched up with the wider creative ambition the team had.
So, it was a lot of back and forth, planning different scenarios that would happen in the concert, black-outs or whatever. Everything was supposed to be conjoined with the movie in the end. So, if you saw just the concert, then there would be aspects of it that would just not make any sense at all. But when you see the final product of what it became, it’s like “Dun, dun” and you’re like, “Oh, okay, it makes sense!”
AS: You have a lot of collaborators in this project—including Steve Aoki, Au/Ra, Julie Bergan, Sophia Somajo and more. What was it like coordinating all of these collaborations? How did they augment the project?
AW: When we were filming it, we wanted it to be as unique as possible. So, we were trying to get some big names. For example, Stevie Aoki, who participated from his studio. We also got other artists who are the original singers on some of the songs. That created a unique experience for both the audiences that were there and the audiences that are watching it today.
AS: You also got to unveil The Aviation Game on the iOS and Android app stores—that must’ve been cool to design a game to go along with your music. Did you ever think you’d get to do something like that?
AW: Not really. It started off as this, like, wild idea. Then, we started working with some great programmers from Sweden. They took in, listened to my ideas and made them all reality.
It was super cool, but I felt like everything was really rushed because we were under deadline to make it happen. So, I really wish we had had more time to work on the game—that was still pretty much a beta version. That’s also why it was relaunched. We made a more updated version because I had discovered so many bugs within the software.
AS: Tell us about your new single “Sweet Dreams”—how did this collaboration with Imanbek come to be?
AW: Imanbek and I both just started talking about making a song together because we’re both young and aspiring music producers. So, it’s kinda like the combination that you didn’t know you needed, but you needed, you know? It was really fun. I got to experiment—he’s super talented. When we were together, of course, there was a little language barrier. He’s from Kazakhstan, speaks Russian and doesn’t really speak much English, so that was something to overcome. But at the end of the day, like, fast-forward a few months, we got “Sweet Dreams.” It’s also based on the Scatman melody, so that’s the catchphrase of the song. Even the fact that we got permission to use that is remarkable!
AS: Do you feel that staying grounded is integral for your creative process?
AW: It’s really important to remember where you came from. Like, where were you before? Just because you achieve success doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to turn into a douche either. After becoming a big name in the industry—and from that process itself—I realized that, all in all, it’s only a name and a status. At the end of the day, I’m just a normal person. I realized that at an early age, which is part of why I was able to grow. I think that’s really important.
AS: With “Sweet Dreams” and The Aviation Movie both out, how do you feel? What’s next for you?
AW: It’s great. When I see The Aviation Movie, it just makes me want to go back out. It’s been too long—I have to get back out and tour. I’m sure the audiences, the artists and other DJs are all eager. We’re just waiting for that “Go” signal from the government or whatever. It’s been quiet for the past year, but I’m excited. 2021 has been really great so far. The Aviation Movie and these other songs—hopefully, down the pipeline, there’re more songs, more music videos and more gaming projects to come.
Alan Walker’s new single “Sweet Dreams” and The Aviation Movie are both out now—watch the movie’s intro sequence below: