He is identified by his trademark mask and hoodie, yet behind the mysterious character is 22-year-old Norwegian DJ and producer with an impressive run of more than 500 headliner and festival shows, including Coachella, Tomorrowland and Lollapalooza. Alan Olav Walker, better known as Alan Walker, has gone from learning music production via YouTube and posting music online for free, to performing to sold-out crowds with the likes of Rihanna and Justin Bieber.
Alan Walker was born on 24 August 1997 to a Norwegian mother and English father. By birth, he was granted dual citizenship for both countries. He grew up with an older sister born in England, and a younger brother born in Norway. When he was just two, the family moved to Bergen in Norway.
Having no idea of cassettes and knowing a fraction of what CDs were, it was a digital era that faced Walker in his early days. He found companionship in computers, something that would rule his life. He learnt programming and graphics without anyone helping him. YouTube was a source of information when it came to learning music and with no musical background, he taught himself music production sitting in his home.
While working on his computer one day in 2012, he was listening to a song by Italian DJ David Whistle (a.k.a. DJ Ness). Walker was so taken up with the sound that he contacted the DJ to find out how he produced his music. He started tuning into EDM producers such as K 391 and Ahrix, and film composers like Hans Zimmer. Backed with sufficient knowledge, he started producing music on his laptop. He decided to make his music public and in July 2012, began posting music to YouTube and SoundCloud. The ‘bedroom producer’ started making waves with fans who watched his YouTube videos. Soon a record deal came to his doorstep and before anyone knew it, he was releasing his debut single. Titled Fade, the single was released in August 2014 and gained attention after its re-release via the record label NoCopyrightSounds a few months later. The song was picked up with MER Musikk under Sony Music Sweden and released in December 2015 as a brand new single featuring singer Iselin Solheim. The music video on YouTube crossed 2.2 billion views and 15 million likes placing it among the Top 10 Most Liked YouTube Videos. The single also received official remixes from DJs such as Tiesto, Dash Berlin and Hardwell. His rating shot up to 17 among the best DJs of the international level and he was on DJ Mag’s Top 100 list of 2017, 38 positions higher from the previous year.
Much before he made it big, Walker designed a logo for himself in 2013 which consisted of the intertwined letters A and W, and began using a hoodie and face mask resembling the concept of black bloc on stage to create the rest of the image. His background as a gamer inspired him to hide his face behind a mask. He says he wears the hood “to keep a low profile, while maintaining the mental image that people have given me. I think it’s pretty cool. A little twist that makes people ask themselves questions about who really is the person behind Alan Walker”. On an episode of his Unmasked vlog series, he said: “The mask is more of a sign and a symbol of unity and being alike each other, rather than me being different.”
Verus Ferreira is a freelance music journalist for over three decades, contributing articles to various newspapers and magazines. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book. Besides being a music aficionado, he is also a photo-journalist. He contributes to Musicunplugged.in.