Tijs ‘Tiësto’ Verwest has had a busy year. Not only has the Dutch DJ/producer released his ‘A Town Called Paradise’ album, he’s also been executing gig after gig, travelling the world while fulfilling his residency at glitzy Las Vegas superclub Hakkasan — alongside Calvin Harris.
These days, Tiësto’s sets are filled with tunes that fall into the poppier, housier side of EDM — a far cry from the hard, fast, hardcore trance sound that made his name.
The 45-year-old former Top 100 DJs poll winner started out his career DJing at a small club called The Spock, playing hardcore and gabba, while producing similar sounds under a string of monikers including Stray Dog, Tom Ace and TB X-Press.
It wasn’t until he released the first of his Magik Muzik live-mix compilations ‘Magik One: First Flight’, on the Magik Muzik sub-label of his own Black Hole Recordings (started in 1997 as a vehicle to release his music), in 1998, that people outside of the underground trance scene started to take note.
Tiësto's first solo album ‘In My Memory’ was released a couple of years later, in 2001, also on Black Hole, and produced the trance hits (such as ‘Dallas 4pm’ and ‘Flight 643’) that launched his career. He produced the album with Dennis Waakop Reijers, who he’s been working with ever since.
Several years later, in 2004, just after the release of his second album ‘Just Be’, Tiësto managed to draw a crowd of 250,000 to Ipanema Beach in Brazil, where he DJed and they danced their hearts out.
A remix of Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Silence’ followed and became the first trance track to ever be broadcast on daytime radio in the USA, heralding the beginning of the EDM wave that’s since swept America.
Talking of America, Tiësto moved to New York last year, where he worked on his recently-released ‘A Town Called Paradise’ album. It was about this time that he started diversifying his sets, playing house, trap and hardstyle mixed with EDM.
Tiësto reportedly started DJing aged eight. Growing up in Breda, a small city in the south of Holland, his childhood obsession for playing records turned into a hobby he’d practice at local youth clubs.
Later, while plying his trade as a DJ in small clubs across Holland, Tiësto also worked at local record store Magik Muzik (now closed), immersing himself in the sounds he loved.
He’s come a very long way since then; in the process blazing a trail for the tsunami of Dutch DJs who now dominate the DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs poll.
Hardwell (like Tiësto, also from Breda) called Tiësto’s 2001-released ‘Flight 643’ — with its hard, fast, building beats and explosive rave horns — “the tune that made me want to first start DJing”.
As an unknown teen, Robbert van de Corput bought records from Magik Muzik, often eyeing Tiësto working behind the counter. In those days, Tiësto was already making music and Hardwell admired him from afar, avidly waiting for each new release to add to his collection. Later on, Hardwell produced music with him — tunes such as ‘076’ being the perfect example of the big room potency of their collaborations.
Tiësto has, over the years, collaborated with a string of top trancers. His late-noughties-released, uplifting trance productions with Dutch DJ/producer Ferry Corsten, as Gouryella, served to spread the global trance movement to even further corners of the world.
And Tiësto’s newest label, Musical Freedom, is yet another vehicle for him to get the music he loves out to the masses. The label recently unleashed John Dahlback feat Little Boots’ ‘Heartbeat’, a progressive houser that’s been played excessively by Nicky Romero, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and R3hab, to name a few. Tiësto plays it when he DJs too. And the crowds are still coming in the thousands to watch him.
Last month, in New York’s Central Park, he DJed to a vast ocean of people, all dancing and smiling in the sunshine. Wind back five years and your average New Yorker might have asked “who?!”, if you’d said a DJ called Tiësto was going to do a gig in the park. If DJs weren’t the new rock stars before, they certainly are now. And one of the gallant, nightlife-riders leading the charge is the well-groomed Dutchman who remains, unarguably, one of the biggest DJs in the world.