Vice Magazine recently ran an interview with Al Walser, the DJ who nabbed a Grammy nomination for a less than stellar performance on his song ‘I Can’t Live Without You,’ scandalizing the mainstream Electronic Dance Music (EDM) circle. If anything, his nomination sheds light on the disoriented state of the music industry. But, I would argue that the industry’s turning of (black) dance music (BDM) into a ready-made commercial genre for Las Vegas pool parties did that pretty well already anyway. If anything, with Al Walser the industry is getting what it deserves.
Interesting for our purposes, in the interview he reveals himself as a proud child of mixed African-European parentage. We see this most clearly in moments when he’s rubbing shoulders with some pretty big movers and shakers. On his hitting it off with President Obama, he says:
I don’t know if you know, but I happen to be from one of the smallest countries in the world, Liechtenstein. And I happen to be the first bi-racial from that country. I met Obama the first time at a fundraiser and we hit it off. He couldn’t believe I was from Liechtenstein, and you know, my mom was white and my dad is black, just like with him, and I grew up with my white family, just like him. There was a connection over being bi-racial. We hit it off. We had a really cool chat. It was great, he’s a great guy, I loved him.
And on his relationship with the Jackson family:
The first time I came to L.A., I stayed at Katherine Jackson’s house. Whenever they were in Switzerland or in Liechtenstein, they would stay at my place. Be it Jermaine, some of the kids… there’s tons of family footage, and we’re going to release it maybe one day. Originally it was my father who met Joseph Jackson in Africa, in Congo, like 20 years ago or so. And they talked about their sons and they invited us over. And Jermaine came to Lichtenstein many times, and we traveled around the world together. And because Jermaine at the time was living with his mom, at Katherine’s house, I automatically was “inside.” Michael would call in and I’d be at the table with Katherine, alone. Believe me, it was a very interesting time for me and I learned a lot. I’m forever thankful to the Jacksons.
These stories intrigued me so I did a little searching. His flickr page is filled with photos of him and various celebrities, including the following photo of him “in the Congo with government officials”:
It gets perhaps even a little more surreal in a video of Walser with Snoop Dogg, where he is helping the rapper collect a lifetime achievement award from a festival in Brazzaville. He’s obviously connected in some pretty high places, which makes me wonder what his relationship to the Congolese government is.
I also found a video for his song ‘African Queen’ which has many different versions, including the original below, a Euro Dance version, and a “Summer Mix” which approximates to the prevalent Afropop sound today.
Is his aim to market himself strategically to various niche markets, with the goal of dominating awards shows worldwide? There’s no question this guy’s been hustling.
I support his nomination 100 percent.