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  • [INTERVIEW] Vikkstar Talks Branching Out To Music, Imposter Syndrome, And More


    Ravebot

    We recently sat down with the latest sensation in Dance music, gamer and YouTuber Vikkstar.

    We’ve had numerous people of the Dance spectrum in our space for a chat, from established legends such as Hardwell, Ferry Corsten and Carl Cox, to soon-to-be heroes of their niche, photographing their words at that particular point in time. But we’d never had a Sidemen with us! There’s a first time for everything, they say.

    Vikkstar

    Vikkstar made an appearance on the internet quite a while ago, founding his YouTube channel all the way back in 2010, in long-gone times when Lady Gaga was topping charts worldwide, while we all blasted DJ Earworm’s ‘United State of Pop 2009‘ mix — did I just unlock a memory?

    Starting out as a gamer with his highschool friends, he increasingly grew larger and larger on the platform as YouTube itself got more and more traffic. Eventually, once he graduated from Highschool, he decided to pursue YouTube full-time. And he made it, we could say. On the road towards 8 million subscribers, over 5,000 videos uploaded, and being a part of one of the biggest YouTube channels out there, Sidemen (21M+ subs), Vikk’s life became what he envisioned over 15 years ago.

    That’s why he made headlines not long ago, when he started exploring the musical world on his own, on another branch independent from what the Sidemen themselves had done. In particular, and as quite a shock to the entire world, he teamed up with Alan Walker and Dash Berlin halfway through 2023 for their own rendition of Alice Deejay’s ‘Better Off Alone’, one titled ‘Better Off (Alone, Pt. III)‘.

    Off the heels of his latest collaboration ‘Know Me Better‘ alongside Masked Wolf and JME, we sat down and had a chat with the man of the moment. Prepare for an in-depth, fruitful conversation between EDMTunes and Vikkstar.

    The Interview

    (Please note, the bolded text represents a question, while the paragraph(s) following it represent Hardwell’s answers.)

    Thank you so much for coming. We are happy to have you, me in particular, because I’ve been following you and the Sidemen for a while, ever since Highschool.

    Oh, amazing, thank you!

    It’s interesting to have you on a different plane, you know? So, you’ve done a whole range of things in your life, Minecraft servers, of course the Sidemen and all the products that come with the brand, like the YouTube channels, XIX Vodka, Sides, and so the question that comes to mind is, why music? Why did you decide you wanted to branch out to making music?

    Music for me is always something I’ve enjoyed. I grew up playing the piano, the drums and the violin. So from a very early age, I was involved in music, playing music, and I guess I lost sight of that in my other career, which was creating content online. 

    Vikkstar3.jpg

    But actually, funnily enough, as a content creator, music is a hugely important part of the content itself. You could say I had experience with music in that sense, from a more creative point of view, but using it more as a tool for storytelling rather than my own tool for expression, so to speak.

    Throughout all of this time, I was very fortunate. In 2015, I was invited to Ultra Miami by Spinnin’ Records, who basically flew me out there to meet all of their artists, enjoy the festival, and make some vlogs, which I put up on my YouTube channel. And I fell in love with EDM. 

    I would say at that point, seeing it in that capacity, the big festival with the lights, the experience, and also being able to meet some of the people behind it, some of the DJs and producers and getting on with those guys, that was where I discovered how amazing and impactful American EDM can be, being that I am from the UK. 

    From then onwards, for the next eight or nine years, I was just a massive fan of the genre and Dance festivals. So I would continue to go to EDC Vegas, Ultra Miami several times, Tomorrowland, and a bunch of other big festivals, and absolutely loved them. Just from being there and sharing the experience on my social media, posting clips of artists when I enjoyed their sets, and getting to know a few of them, I would end up backstage meeting other producers and DJs and got along with them. 

    A lot of them are actually gamers, which is fascinating. For example, I did some filming with Call of Duty, which Afrojack was part of about ten years ago. We met through that, he plays a lot of Call of Duty. Then during lockdown, I was playing Warzone with the likes of Alan Walker, and Steve Aoki, as a fun, casual thing. I have a lot of respect for these guys and what they’ve done, and I’m a fan of all of them too.

    This is the world’s longest answer, but it all will come to a point where it makes sense. 

    At that point, I’d just always been a fan of the music, but never considered getting into it myself until I became good friends with Alan Walker. I of course already have an audience of people that I’m so fortunate will support everything that I do. I love taking on new challenges. He saw the potential there and motivated me to get into it. He was the first who encouraged me to start DJing.

    The summer before last, he took me out on the Mainstage at Tomorrowland with him as his one special guest for that show. Being there, having previously been in the crowd for Tomorrowland four years in a row, just behind the decks at the Mainstage at night, all of the lights… it was the most unbelievable experience ever. 

    FYwuOQNXEAMGQSB-914x1024.jpgAlan Walker & Vikkstar, Tomorrowland 2022.

    We came off the stage and Alan was like, “Well, you’ve seen it now, now you know what you’re working towards and what you could achieve“. That was amazing for me. So I went home, learned to DJ as quickly as I possibly could, started playing shows in the UK. Even through that, I enjoyed being able to use music as a medium to connect with my audience.

    Previously, we would meet a huge number of fans at once. There’s not a lot we could do other than try to chat to as many of them as we could, but it would have to be short amounts of time to get through everyone, try to take as many pictures as possible. 

    So it was eye-opening for me when I started playing shows at Ministry of Sound, and in different universities around the UK, realizing, “Okay, now I can offer something to thousands of people at the same time, create a shared experience, play the music I love as well“, which is big, Progressive, House, melodic EDM, which I find harder and harder to listen to in the UK nowadays. It’s not really a genre that’s played much here.

    So, all of the above is a very long-winded way of explaining why I am now doing music myself and loving the experience.

    Excellent. Well, as an interviewer, I always love to know the story behind everything. So you’re making it easy for me, mate! [laughter] So let me understand, the Alan Walker show at Tomorrowland ’22, was it? 

    Yes, it would have been 2022, yeah. 

    So that was when it kind of sparked, when it truly clicked inside you that you wanted to get to know the music business in-depth.

    Yeah, that’s correct. That was quite literally one of the most eye-opening moments of my life. The energy at Tomorrowland, the shared experience, there is something magical about Tomorrowland and being able to have it all facing towards you was a real point of, “Okay, now I need to go and make this work. I’ve been given such an unbelievable opportunity here, I’d be a fool to throw it away and not use it as an opportunity to learn and grow myself“.

    Mhm. And so, now the question that comes to me is, why would you like to go into the scene as a producer and not follow, say, the path of JJ (KSI), where his focus is his own voice instead of the instrumental going underneath?

    One of my favourite parts of EDM is the production of the tracks, the big, the melodies, the instruments used. I’ve always had certain tracks that resonate with me, not so much because of the vocals, but the actual production itself. If you think about it, one of my bigger inspirations has been Alan Walker and well, when ‘Faded’ was just ‘Fade’, it was an incredible instrumental before it became a huge hit. 

    340189882_177230775202730_39860082973301

    That has always been one of my favourite things about EDM, the big sound. I love big-sounding EDM. So being able to get involved in the process of that myself, is the thing that I really enjoy. On the other hand, it would take a lot of work for me to get my vocals to a point where they could shine, but I can work with fantastic people to put together music that sounds exactly how I like it in a much more progressive way. 

    It also comes hand in hand with the DJing, and I’m really enjoying the art of DJing. A lot of that is selecting the right track for the right moment. It’s easier when I’ve got something I’ve already spent months making that I can bring out in the first place, it makes it much more personal. I get to have a great connection with my audience through that.

    Great. About the audience, now that we’re talking about that, do you feel like being a YouTuber kind of helped migrate skills over to your musical self? Not necessarily the audience and the numbers but, I don’t know, perhaps the confidence, the knowledge of how the internet works, how digital marketing works and such.

    Yeah, I’m in a very lucky position from the perspective of, I’ve been creating content online for as long as content online has existed. Within a short time of YouTube being born, I was on there creating content. So I’ve seen this huge, huge arc in development from YouTube to Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, all of these content platforms. 

    So I have a relatively good understanding of how to work around them. I also have the experience of trying and failing for over a decade. That’s important in any industry. YouTube has been particularly cutthroat for all of us over the past decade, in the sense that we’ve seen so many channels rise, so many channels fall, we’ve seen our own channels rise and fall, and had to innovate and adapt. 

    That’s a very essential skill to have. It’s one that you can only become better at by experiencing. You have to wait for things to go wrong to reinvent yourself, to try something new, to learn how to reinvent yourself in the first place. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. So, yeah, I’m definitely in a fortunate position entering this space.

    That’s a great point of view. I don’t think we’d had a YouTuber coming in on an interview before you, so it’s a different perspective. I’m all for that. What’s one moment in life when you suddenly realised you were achieving one of your lifelong dreams? A moment you can vividly recall you became conscious that you were living the dream of a younger Vikk?

    I would say when I turned 18. I left school and I had a year to make it or break it as a content creator online. I remember that being really exciting because I felt, to a degree, I’d been successful online while balancing my studies and my content, but to be able to have a full year ahead of me to put all of my time and energy into what was becoming my craft, was a real wake-up call for me, and it was a real driver and a reason to put my everything into what I was doing and, fortunately, that paid off for me.

    Amazing. Let me ask you this. Out of the other Sidemen, and even outside the group and regarding your closer contacts such as Cal, Freezy etc. Who do you see as someone who could follow your steps and venture out into the world of music production?

    That’s a good question! So actually I remember before I started to DJ a friend of mine called Callux on YouTube who started at a similar time to me, he was actually having DJ lessons before I was! So he was ahead of the curve but, as often is in our lives, I think things got too busy for him. He ended up launching a highly successful shoe company.

    So he found another calling that was right for him. But if he’d have stuck with that from that time, he could also be doing really well in the DJ and production side of things. Actually, he did make some of his own mock songs, he did a Christmas parody song on YouTube, and that was great. He could have been a talented song maker and producer, for sure.

    Incredible. Now, I ask you this because you kind of all have one or two contacts that are involved in music. Of course now they have you, but for example, Simon has Talia, and so on, so it should be easy to think about going into music production in that sense.

    Yeah, for sure. We are fortunately connected to a lot of people who already have an existence in the music space, one thing that is difficult is, there’s almost an imposter syndrome when you try something new. It can be very hard to get out of the mindset of “Okay, I’m a YouTube video content creator, and it’s okay, I can also be a music creator, I just have to change the mindset, I have to really involve myself in it and do it the right way“. 

    sidemen-group-shot-1400x825-1-1024x603.jThe Sidemen. Left to right: Vikk, Tobi, Harry, JJ, Ethan, Simon, Josh.

    That’s the thing that can often hold people back: it’s that fear of the unknown. It’s being out of your depth, out of your comfort zone, which I’ve had to go through a series of times, from being in my bedroom DJing to myself to then moving over later that night to a sold-out Ministry of Sound club for the first time DJing in front of people. 

    I’ll say for one thing: everything you practice at home, when you’re in front of a crowd goes completely out of the window, and that was a terrifying experience, but also the thrill of it and being able to get through that and improve in that sense is what makes it really rewarding, and kind of makes the jump worthwhile.

    But going into anything new, you’re going to be out of your depth a lot. You have to be ready to walk into rooms knowing the least out of anyone and be ready to learn, and you have to have a certain amount of mental capacity ready for that. 

    If you’re too involved in another project, it can be quite difficult to step out of it and step into something new where you’re going from being an expert at one thing to a complete novice at something else. It’s a skill that I’m working on. But no matter what your network is, it is never completely simple, otherwise everyone would do it, I guess.

    I get it. So, back to the music. About ‘Know Me Better’, which is your latest track that came out last week with Masked Wolf and JME, how was it born? Tell us about how it came to be.

    There’s a little story behind this one and it’s a very random series of coincidences, which is what I kind of love about the track: it wasn’t something that was planned or, you know, engineered effectively. I happened to have some mutual friends with Masked Wolf and I was at the Singapore Grand Prix with Lachlan [Power] and some guys from McLaren, and I went to the casino. 

    They invited this guy, Masked Wolf, who obviously I knew had this unbelievable hit, ‘Astronaut In The Ocean’. What shocked me was, he was a completely normal, down-to-Earth guy who was a great laugh to hang out with. We both discovered that we’re both big into our video games and both play a very competitive game called Dota 2, which is one of the highest prize pooled video games. It is the video game with the highest prize pool in the world, I believe. It’s very technical and complicated.

    We started playing the game together just randomly, just as a fun thing to do, and then a few months roll on by, maybe nine months or so, and he saw that I was working on music, he saw that I’d released a track with Alan Walker [‘Better Off (Alone, Pt. III)’] and said, “Hey, we should work on something together! Check out this demo that could be some sort of Dance track“, and he sent it to me. 

    At first, it was a bit outside of what I love in EDM, but I thought I could bring it towards that, and turn it into something so unique and, you know, it almost felt like I could make it my style. Then I showed it to JME while we were filming a Sidemen video, he thought it was cool, he’d never really done anything to do with Dance records before so he said, “Let’s do it, I’ll come into the studio, I’ll put a verse on it“, and he did that, and the track was done! 

    What I quite like is that it is a unique combination. You would never expect to see that, even moreso, released on Monstercat. A lot of people were thinking “I remember when Vikk used to use Monstercat songs on his Call of Duty videos, now he’s played a video game with the guy who released ‘Astronaut In The Ocean’ which has a billion streams, and then he’s also friends with one of the most respected Grime MCs in the UK, and he’s brought them together!” 

    That’s what I like. Everything about it is unique and, in a way, it echoes in the song itself in the vocal because the chorus goes “You don’t know me better // you don’t know me better than me“. It’s almost a sense of what you think any of us might do in music, you actually don’t know, because you don’t know us in the way that we know ourselves. It all ties together in that sense, if that made any sense at all.

    It did! Well, things pop up randomly in life, I’ve learnt that. Have the three of you planned something else for the future now that you’ve seen the result of the collaboration?

    We do not have any plans for the future. This may be one of those things where roads come together, they cross each other, and then they continue off. Or maybe this song will be astronomical and we’ll have no choice but to work on something else together. But there’s no expectation. There’s no pressure. At the end of the day, I’m very good friends with both of them, and that’s the magic of it. 

    It was a “Hey let’s get together, let’s do this and then crack on” kind of thing. It wasn’t really planned. We don’t have any targets for it, so on and so forth. It’s not part of a bigger vision. It was just a “Let’s get together, let’s make some music, let’s put it out, let’s see what happens“, and that’s a real fun way to do music, and from everything I’ve been learning from the music industry. 

    Perhaps what I’m hearing is that’s a lot of what the music industry has lost, and everything now seems to be very structured and formulated. So, yeah, I like the idea of being able to come in from a different industry, shake things up, do things in my own way, experiment, make mistakes, make huge successes, and just see where the road leads me.

    That’s incredible. Well, you kind of anticipated this question a little while ago: How has it been working with Monstercat? In my eyes, back when I was in Highschool, Monstercat got to me because of YouTube, and YouTubers, in my case Spanish YouTubers like ElRubius and WillyRex, but also Anglo YouTubers like yourselves and Kwebbelkop and his GTA stunts compilation, and so on. So, does working with them now on the other side of the story, as an artist providing the content, feel like a sort of full-circle moment to you?

    Vikstarr2-683x1024.jpg

    Yeah. Working with Monstercat is a very full circle moment because I’ve been working with them already for a decade, but on the other side of the business, which is the distribution side. They have been an absolute wonder, a joy to work with from a content creator side. They’ve very quickly understood who I am, how I want to do things, and are flexible to work with things in the way that I want to. 

    So, if anything, I’m just very impressed, and I’m very happy that what effectively started as a YouTube channel in the same way I started my career as a YouTube channel, it’s grown to be so much more. Now I’m working with them to help them continue that vision, they’re working with me to do the same thing: expand that vision and show that YouTube is a powerful platform, a great place to learn things, and a great place to grow a business.

    Now this one is a bit more like food for thought in my opinion. Do you sometimes feel the need to leave something on this Earth for people to remember you? As a gamer, a producer, a mentor even, whatever, or are you more the type of person who does what they do for themselves and only themselves and the rest are just side effects?

    I am very lucky to have fallen into the career path that I’ve fallen into, because I am able to be a creator, to create, to put things out for other people to enjoy, and that may be one of the most rewarding parts of the whole process. It is those human connections, getting those human responses from real people who enjoy whatever it is that you’re making. 

    So I would say that that is my favourite part and, fortunately, as a result of that, I’m able to have a lot of freedom and effectively double down on that and create stuff that’s hopefully in everyone’s eyes, which is even better than the original thing. So, yes, I do benefit from everything that I create, but the better the stuff I create is, the more people that enjoy it, the more that I benefit from it. 

    I find it to be a happy positive cycle where I can bring an entire community of people along with me. In my head I see it as, altogether, it’s not for them, it’s not for me, it’s for us. It’s a community, and Monstercat has built their own community, I’ve built my own community, and that’s also fun to combine the two.

    Yeah. Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? What are your personal life goals that you’re growing and rowing to right now for the future ahead?

    For me, for my entire career, the future has always been heavily unpredictable. If you had told me two years ago I’d be releasing music and playing sold-out DJ shows, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had told me 15 years ago I’d have more than a thousand subscribers, I wouldn’t have believed you.

    So the whole beauty of this journey has been, every six months it’s something new, so it’s very difficult for me to project where I’m going to be in several years. I would love to still be making music, though. By that time I’ll have so much more experience. 

    I’d love to still be performing music and playing shows, and I really do believe it takes, you know, five to ten years to become a master at anything, so if I continue these pursuits, it will take me into this five, ten years into the future until I’m truly great at it. But yeah, my focus is to enjoy the journey, and hopefully, that happens and I’m able to do that.

    ab676186000010161e934560f10cf4b3cc3e72e1

    Second to last question, and I always love to ask this one. If you could go back in time and meet your past self from 10, 15 years ago, what would you tell him? Was there anything he worried about much more than what was really necessary?

    If I had to go back to my past self, I would maybe go just a year earlier and push myself into music. That’s what I might do, because everything I did online on YouTube, I wouldn’t change. It was difficult, it was stressful, but I’m glad I did it, and everything going on around me was the reason that I did it. With music, I was, for quite some time, a little afraid to dive into it and get fully involved with it. I was pretty apprehensive at first to go into studio sessions and start making my own music. 

    I felt like, in a way, I didn’t have the right to be making music, which is a weird mindset to get to, but as soon as I got involved I realised I could help a lot of people within this space and, actually, I would have a lot more input than I originally thought I would. I was worried I would walk into the sessions as a novice and slow things down and give the wrong ideas, but I quickly realised there isn’t so much of a right and wrong, so long as I have a good idea of what I want my vision to be. 

    I have a lot of fun exploring that whole process. So, I would push myself into the studio a little earlier, maybe even six months earlier, when I started DJing. I probably would have started trying to make music at that same time. But, well, things happen when they’re supposed to happen.

    Yeah, I believe in that as well. Lastly, on that same note, let’s suppose there’s someone in our audience who truly admires you. They’re like your ultimate fan and look up to what you’ve done out of the time you’ve had in life. What would be the one piece of advice you would tell them to achieve the success you’ve been up to in the last years?

    My one best piece of advice would be, as much as you can, and it is impossible to do entirely, try not to fear failure. That holds so many people back from doing the things that they want to do. I’d say it’s two things, it’s fear of judgment, and fear of failure. 

    If you get past those fears and accept that these things are going to happen regardless, and when both of these things happen you can — and will — learn from them, that would be my advice. Just try to squash the fear of failure as much as you can and learn to enjoy the process, and learn to learn from your failures. It will make you a better person.

    (End of the interview)

    Final Words

    And that was a magical way to end the interview. Thank you so much Vikk, thank you for your time, for the in-depth answers, everything. It’s always really interesting to dive into the thoughts and views of someone who’s done so many things in life, and one who knew what he wanted out of life from very early on as well. Stopping time nearly, and looking back to address how those plans turned out, leaves me in particular in a super humble place. I’m glad we could make this interview as deep as it finally went.

    Eager for more Vikk? Check out his YouTube channel, Vikkstar123, and also his work as a Sideman. Also, be sure to check out ‘Know Me Better‘. And stay tuned to our page for the latest news and views from our beloved Dance industry.

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    The post [INTERVIEW] Vikkstar Talks Branching Out To Music, Imposter Syndrome, And More appeared first on EDMTunes.


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