AFISHAL is the Visual DJ. While most DJs would put their stick in the computer and just press play, AFISHAL does it differently by playing every single note live using his drums.

Interview with the Visual DJ AFISHAL

7 months ago

You may know him from our previous article: AFISHAL, the Visual DJ, drumming EDM. We were so impressed by his videos on YouTube, that we didn’t hesitate to write an article about this amazing artist. But who is the man behind AFISHAL actually? We contacted his management and had the pleasure to interview him. Read the interview below!

Please tell us, how did it all started?

To get to this point took a lot of time, and at first I didn't intend to transition into DJ’ing. I just knew I wanted to do something different to everyone else. Becoming a Visual DJ happened to combine all the things I'd learnt and all the things I loved doing. Music production, drumming, video editing, creating graphics and building things.

It began with just customising see-through Acrylic bongos with LED strip 8 years ago, so I would stand out from other Nightclub Percussionists and make my performance more of a show! It was in the studio one day when I was tuning my bongo’s. I’d tuned them perfectly to the track and could play a melody with them. Thats when I thought I could attach electronic triggers to them and actually trigger a synth melody using the bongos and a laptop.

Then after playing around with the concept of drumming with sounds, I found that using electronic drums instead of acoustic meant I could connect them directly to a laptop. So then I decided to make my own. Combining the idea of electronic drums with my LED lit drums.

I started to make prototypes, different shapes, materials and circuit board designs. That was three or four years ago now. It took me 10 months to make the first AFISHAL set of DJ Drums. Then I created my YouTube channel in 2013 and uploaded my first video. That’s how it all started, that was version 1, my first visual DJ Rig. Now me and one of my best mates Mike have created The TREMOR. A big upgrade from the original!

Did you play any other instruments before the drums?

I was a drummer and percussionist from the age of six. I trained with a lot of bands and I loved it, sometimes attending twelve rehearsals every week. Brass bands, orchestras, funk bands etc. you get the idea... It was a very musical upbringing and I loved it. I studied Music in high school/college and university. At uni I decided that I definitely wanted get into the Music Industry, but more specifically... Electronic Dance Music!

But we may know you from something else? What is it?

Yeah, back in 2012 I was on Britain’s Got Talent. It was a really good experience and it came at the right time. I moved from my home town of Huddersfield down to London, where I established myself as a new artist. I started uploading videos to YouTube. They discovered it and gave me a call with the question whether I want to perform on stage at Britain’s Got Talent.

It was a really good move in my career at the right time. All the judges were positive. Even Simon Cowell, which is my biggest achievement from the show. I got through to the semi-finals. The exposure helped for a few months. So I rode that journey for a while. Then I realised it was basically going to fade and I wouldn’t progress any further. So a real push came to build something new.

I wanted to perform on bigger stages, but also on arena and festival stages. That was the drive to always take steps forward, never steps backwards. Also people started to think I only got the gigs because I’d been on TV, and after 20 years of training as a drummer that annoyed me a little bit. That’s why I re-branded myself after Britain’s Got Talent from Fish on Percussion to AFISHAL, to show people that I can start from scratch with a completely new alias and a new instrument, and still hopefully be even more successful without the help from a TV show.

That was the drive to always take steps forward, never steps backwards. AFISHAL

What do you want to achieve with people with what you do, how do you want to make people feel?

I hope that people enjoy what I’m doing. I’m trying to put existing elements together in a unique that no one has ever done before, just to entertain people, to put on a show. I just want to continue to do what I enjoy, performing and making new things. If people enjoy it as well, then that’s incredible! To have my hobby as my career is a blessing.

Do you have other hobbies as well?

Yeah, I really love freestyle skiing. I’ve done a few seasons in the french alps and still can’t get enough. I try to combine a ski trip with drumming each year. Every winter my friends and I would go on a tour there: in the daytime we’d ski and then we’d do apres-ski parties. I really loved it and cant wait to go again. And in the summer time I love to spend time at the lakes, wake boarding and wake surfing.

AFISHAL playing drums at Cape Verde

You’ve said that you get very positive feedback on your shows. But what is the most beautiful feedback you’ve ever got?

Oh, wow. I think it was, I got a message from a young girl from America. She told me that I was the subject of her class third grade project. And that really made me smile. That’s one of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard.

What do you want to achieve with what you do?

I want to achieve some good positions in the charts with some of the music that we’re working on. So getting some big hits out. I want to create some new music and my passion is to collaborate with other musicians. It’s all about bringing amazing artists together. I would like to create my own music and playing it all over the world on big stages. Those are my plans, hopefully big gigs and chart success. And if not, I’ll just enjoy the journey!

We’re really fascinated about psychology. Do you think it is important for a DJ to know a bit about psychology?

Yeah to an extent. I learnt early on in my drumming career that if you smile when your performing on stage, people can’t help but smile back at you. If you dance and move around, people begin to copy your body language if you have a good presence on stage.

I’ve found that most people also appreciate a performance that hits them on multiple levels. Watching and hearing the music being physically performed live in front of you. Rather than just pressing a ’play’ button. People enjoy live music, live bands, and like to see the music being performed. I wanted to be a DJ but after understanding a little bit about what people enjoy, I wanted to be a much more visual DJ.

We got a little present for you. We visited Hardwell and showed him your videos.

No… You really said Hardwell? Haha, that’s amazing!

Yeah. And he said that he already saw your videos, how cool is that?

*laughs* Mate, that it ridiculous, you just made my day! That is epic!

We asked him what he thinks about it and if it will change the way DJs are DJing in the future. He likes it and thinks that it is a really nice idea. He’s sure that it will grab the attention by playing live performances on stage, but he doesn’t think that it will change the way DJs perform in the future. What do you think about this?

I agree, I don’t think that the old ways will change, but a new visual way of DJing will certainly be adopted by a few. You’ve got different ways to DJ already: you’ve got vinyl DJs, serato DJs, DMX champions, and some already utilising MIDI and playing parts live. I think it’s just another new way that a few people will take on. DJ Drumming, Drumming with sounds, whatever you want to call it. It’s really exciting that an idea I had has now taken off, we get hundreds of messages from people want to come work with us and people thanking us for the inspiration to become a Visual DJ. But I certainly don’t think all DJs will change the way they perform, just a small group.

AFISHAL Murder

Today everything is going really fast, peoples attention span is getting shorter. Should DJs be aware of that for the future?

I think that people like Hardwell know what they are talking about. Someone in that position knows what’s going on. What they do works so well on the stage. The shows they give are huge, all the fire and the lighting, it’s music produced at top level. Because of those big productions and epic production, this is something that I think won’t disappear. But of course, people always want more and that’s where I come in to play. People have a different style of music. And I think it’s the same with performances, people will have their own preference of performances. And hopefully a few people decide that they like the way I perform.

Where do you get your energy from?

I just love what I’m doing. I don’t find any day a chore. I made my hobby my career. Every day I do what I want to do that makes me happy. I hope people respond well to that and love what I do. I surround myself with positive people. They are my drive for doing what I do. That’s a big part of it.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully supporting Hardwell on an epic festival stage somewhere. That is my aim, to be working alongside DJs like that!

Do you have any inspirations?

I’m inspired by lots, musically I love Martin Garrix. I’m in love with his production techniques and a lot of his tracks feature in my set. His melodic style works so well with the way I play my set. Creatively I’m inspired by the Australian duo called Mashd N Kutcher. I’m massively influenced by these guys. They make tracks and videos often in a very creative way. Some of my sampling ideas came from what these guys are doing. I’ve got a message from them complimenting my work. How awesome is that?! Just like Hardwell, big artists high up in the game saying things like this, they're really driving me to work even harder.

Is there something in your life that truly touched you emotionally?

Yeah, a friend, Mike, believed in me. Basically my best mate from university, we went traveling together, traveled around France, the Philippines. But then he went to Australia and I didn’t see him for three years. He came back for a week to the UK to see his family. That’s just when I launched the AFISHAL DJ drums. I said: ’Oh mate, it would be great to see you, I’m doing a gig in Austria, it would be cool if you could come along and give us a hand, do some tour managing’ and he was like ’yeah sure man’ and he came and we both loved it.

He ended up being so useful I couldn’t have done it without him. This guy then completely left his job in Australia and just believed in what I started, what I was doing, and moved back to the UK and started working with me. He was a high end photographer, and he left that job to come and work with me. Now he works with me every day, he’s my tour manager, business partner, graphics designer, everything! And he’s helped build this new Visual DJ Rig, The TREMOR.

We started off with nothing and just believing in the fact that I had something that could become something bigger. Mike is a big part of the reason why I managed to get to this point today. I’m so happy that his faith and belief in what we were creating has paid off. I was really pleased that he made that decision to come onboard. So yes that, Mike touched me. I’m also really overwhelmed with this week and the amazing response that we’ve got from the video going viral. Everyones been so incredibly supportive, big big thanks for that!

Wow, what a beautiful anwser! When will you perform in the Netherlands?

We’ve actually got a load of festival and club enquiries from the Netherlands. I’ll let Mike work that out and post it on Facebook - hopefully soon!

Feel free to come around then to visit our office. Thanks for having us and good luck with your career!

Oh mate, I would love that. Absolutely! When I’m in the area, I’ll visit the North Collective office! You’ve got a deal! Thanks a lot guys!

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