Al Walser: Our Interview With a Beguiling Grammy Nominee
The DJs also nominated in his category -- Avicii, Calvin Harris, Swedish House Mafia and Skrillex -- are quite famous, but the 33-year-old Walser, who is from Lichtenstein and now lives in Hollywood, is not. Or wasn't until yesterday, when he was tagged the next Rebecca Black due to the dubious melodicness of his nominated track "I Can't Live Without You," and the fact that the production qualities of its video (below) are comparable to The Room.
The folks at the Grammys haven't returned our calls, but Walser is apparently a member of the voting committee himself, so we caught up with him last night to see if the fix was in.
Were you surprised to get the nomination?
I was absolutely surprised. I am humbled by my nomination and couldn't be more thankful.
How do you think this happened?
I have always made commercial music. The people who vote for the Grammy nominees are mostly in their 40s and have other jobs or are musicians themselves. They like music that they can relate to -- they like commercial music.
I have worked hard to nourish my relationships with everyone I have come into contact with. There are a lot of events that are held, and I have met a lot a lot of voting members that way. I talk to them about what I am doing musically, and get their input -- that's all you can do. I always made an active effort to maintain my relationships. I worked hard to be someone that was real -- like, someone they could actually touch -- instead of ignoring them and spending all my time trying to make money, like others do. I knew that I connected with a lot of people who voted, but I did not think that it was going to get me nominated.
People have been comparing you to Rebecca Black. Do you think that's fair?
The only thing I know about Rebecca Black is that she became famous from a video that went viral. I could care less what people have to say about that. If you become a viral star, that is terrific! People like Rebecca Black are doing the best they can, and to hate on someone because they have become viral sensations is not right. There is nothing wrong with that. I root for them! What, is making a sex tape better? People can say what they want.
For how long have you been a Grammy voter?
Since 2007 or 2006. I am one of 18,000 members and 15,000 voters. It is really a great community thing and a great way to get involved.
Do you think being a voter helped you get nominated?
Being a Grammy voter was only helpful to the extent that I had access to the other voters, and they could see what I was doing on a regular basis -- so, in that way, yes. But at the same time you need to have music that connects with them, or they won't be interested. You can't just put a gun to someone's head and tell them to vote -- it doesn't work that way. [Laughs.]
Did you vote for yourself?
I don't want to get into that. Everyone who votes, votes for people who are worthy of winning and being nominated.
What do you say to those who speculate fraud?
if anyone ever owns up to or accuses me of these false claims, we will absolutely sue them. Are you kidding me? I didn't use the big corporate machine as a means of promoting; I used it on an emotional basis. Nor did I do anything aside from work hard to get where I am. Also, you don't need that many votes in the "Dance" category as you would in the "New Artist" category because it is not a main category. It's not even considered to be even one of the top five and It's not a category that is that crowded!
There is absolutely no fraud whatsoever, so people really need to be careful when they write stuff like that. Furthermore, I will personally go through the Grammys in Santa Monica and tell them about people doing this because it's not right. That's why I say it's a rendezvous with destiny for the independent-minded because it is an independent artist thing. All I would want for people to do is to at least reach out and get our side of the story, instead of make things up. But these people already have an agenda, obviously. They purposely leave things out -- like the fact that I am on the radio and do self-promotion that way -- because it would make too much sense. It would contradict their agenda, which is why I believe they don't reach out, because they wanted to fulfill their agenda. But at the end of the day, It's not my business to worry about other people's problems are when it comes to this. It is what it is.
Any idea how many voters need to sign on to score a nod?
I have absolutely no clue. I mean, the best you can do is guess: There are 18,000 members and 12,000 voters. So maybe you can break it down that way, but aside from that I have absolutely no clue.
How long have you been making EDM?
I have been making EDM on and off since '98 -- since I started with the Fun Factory.
Tell us about coming up in Lichtenstein.
Lichtenstein is the smallest country in the world made up of villages and towns. The population of the entire country is 35,000 people, and many people who live in Lichtenstein are from the surrounding countries (Austria and Switzerland).
I started from nothing in Lichtenstein. The country is so small and the only "celebrity" type people who are from there are skiers. There is a huge skiing tradition in Lichtenstein, and there is a lot of money in it. Aside from that, there is no market, or money, in anything else. Telling people that I wanted to make dance music, or be on the radio, they looked at me like I was crazy because there was nothing like that in Lichtenstein when I was getting started. That's why I went to Germany, because there is industry there.
When did you move to Hollywood?
I moved to L.A. officially in '06, but I've been coming to L.A. for many years. I first started traveling here back in '97 and was lucky enough to have a relationship with the Jacksons, and I learned so much when I was close with them from '98 to '03. [Editor's note: His biography says he encountered Michael Jackson when the singer was looking for a home in Lichtenstein.] Every time I would come here, I would stay with them. It went the other way as well: Whenever they would come out to Switzerland or to Europe, they would come and stay with me. I heard and saw a lot being around them. I asked all the right questions and even got to ask Michael questions about the business. I am no longer in contact with the Jacksons, unfortunately, but I am so thankful for all the time I got to spend with them. They are great people.
How long have you been playing the keytar?
You know, I have been in the game forever. I toured in Japan back in '99, I've DJ'd in Lichtenstein and have had my hands in multiple projects over the years. I started playing the keys when I was around 6 years old, so that's when I learned how to play. I incorporated the keytar into my music when I started making pop and dance music in '97.
So, when can we expect your artists the Glamour Girls, aka the "sexiest DJs alive," to get a Grammy nod?
[Laughs] That's a good question! I will focus more on the Glamour Girls right after me. They're always in the back of my mind. I shoot a lot of stuff for German television here in Hollywood, and I always try to incorporate the Glamour Girls somehow. It's a really fun project that's a combination of Chippendales and the Spice Girls. It's a very fun project, but my attention is not 100% on the Glamour Girls at this point. Right now it's more like if there is a club that's opening, and they want to have a really cool show, they book the Glamour Girls. But they're definitely going to be a bigger, more elaborate project in the future.
Do you expect to win the Grammy?
[Laughs.] I don't know. I have no clue! But what I will say is that it is a rendezvous with destiny.
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