Koen Bauweraerts, better known as Belgian producer Coone, is one of the elder statesmen of hardstyle. It’s been over a decade since Bauweraerts put out his first single, ‘Protect The Innocent’ on Hardball Records, making him one of the longest-running DJs in the scene.
In 2006, Bauweraerts launched label Dirty Workz, which has since become one of the foremost outlets for jumpstyle and hardstyle in Europe. By the age of 24, he was already commanding a devoted following in his home country, drawing a crowd of several thousand fans to his Coone & The Gang events.
He’s since become an evangelist for hardstyle, helping to spread the genre around the globe — his last album, released in 2013, was aptly titled ‘Global Dedication’.
“Every year I’m trying to convince more people of my style. And it’s working, I’m playing at the world’s best clubs and festivals this year,” he tells DJ Mag. Recent collaborations with Steve Aoki and remixes of Linkin Park have no doubt exposed new audiences to hardstyle and won him new fans in the US and further abroad.
In September, Aly & Fila made history. They performed a show within the grounds of one of the last-standing wonders of the ancient world, The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. Only a small list of select names, including Sting and Kyle Minogue, had previously had the honour.
And what a fitting venue it was! The Egyptian duo who created a sub-genre of trance dedicated to their homeland have had another storming year. They've celebrated 400 episodes of their Future Sound Of Egypt (FSOE) radio show with eight big gigs — including that one in Giza — and played everywhere from Canada to China.
As ever, the tracks and remixes have come thick and fast and they've released two compilations ('FSOE Vol.3' and 'FSOE 400') all in 2015, so it's no surprise that their loyal fanbase have voted in full force once again.
This year, Paul van Dyk released the third in his popular 'Politics Of Dancing' LP series. A risky move, considering number two came out way back in '05, but van Dyk is actually stronger than ever over a decade later. “A great number of things had changed,” says Paul, about the gap between then and now. “The way we make and produce music, how we promote and release music and, of course, how we consume it,” he says.
The producer/DJ also staged his fourth We Are One Festival in Berlin earlier this year — a day and night party that kicks off on Rummelsburg Beach on the banks of the River Spree.
Finally, van Dyk tips his 2016 set at Aquanario as one of his best ever, saying, “I performed new versions of many of my tracks choreographed to a water, light, laser and firework show — backed by singers and an orchestra.” Impressive!
CHARLOTTE LUCY CIJFFERS
Trance might have lost its grip on the top-end of the poll to EDM, but nobody can deny the ongoing tenacity of its following. This enthusiasm, of course, is helped in no small part by the DJs and producers who've also stayed loyal to the sound — and Andrew Rayel is one of those leaders.
Speaking of (and at) Armin van Buuren's label and festival in Utrecht earlier this year, he said, “A State Of Trance, to me, is like my second family.” And while his music — as witnessed on his recent collaboration with Jonny Rose ('Daylight') — is increasingly taking on a harder, EDM-influenced “progressive” edge with pop vocals, there's no escaping the classic trance backbone running through its core.
2015 has seen him have another busy year, with gigs at both Tomorrowland and TomorrowWorld as well Ushuaia, Amnesia and Creamfields. However, it's one event in particular that sticks out in his mind. “EDC Las Vegas weekend with my whole team,” he remembers.
“It was truly an unbelievable experience, from event production to crowd, everything was superb.” And what about the year ahead? “For sure, more music, bigger shows and something very special for next year! Stay tuned.”
Ummet Ozcan's techno-influenced trance made something of a seamless transition to gain huge popularity amongst EDM fans, but that's come as no surprise to the man himself. “I am not bound to any musical conventions, I just produce whatever I like. People tend to put things in boxes. I personally don’t do that,” Ummet tells DJ Mag.
Of course, not every DJ or producer actually has a hand in creating the things that make the actual noises that are used to create tracks either, but Ummet is famous for providing softsynth and soundbank designs for some of the biggest music software houses too.
When it comes to making your own music, Ummet has a tip or two for aspiring producers: “There are certain elements that work better for your song than others, but the magic appears only with the right parts that fit the puzzle… but let’s say it helps to have a festival mindset before you start producing,” he advises.
Citing Tomorrowland 2015 in Belgium as one of the highlights of his past year of playing out, plans for 2016 look likely to see Ummet spending more time in the studio. “Producing is sometimes hard to combine with tour life,” he explains, before quickly adding: “My records are equally important. So that is one of my aims for 2016.”
A Belgium EDM hitmaker with a close link to newly crowned Top 100 kings Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and their Smash The House label, Yves V kept the hits coming in 2015.
In addition to the turbo-charged main stage thrills of ‘Memories Will Fade’ earlier this year and his new single ‘Octagon’, he’s penned collaborations with the likes of Sidney Samson and Don Diablo.
He’s continued his residency at his country’s goliath Tomorrowland Festival, with his V Sessions Sound brand regularly hosting arenas at the three-day party in addition to his main stage performances, and he also took the brand to SupermartXe in Ibiza this year.
“My year has been amazing, I’ve been very lucky to return to some of my favourite places in the world,” Yves tells DJ Mag. “We went to Brazil for our first Tomorrowland event in Sao Paulo, visiting Thailand again was a lot of fun, and playing to sold out crowds at Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike’s House Of Madness night at Amnesia was crazy!
I’ve pushed my releases this year more as well with more original tracks, but I have a feeling 2016 is going to be bigger and better!”
For a new entrant into the Top 100 last year, DJ Snake’s had a pretty wild year. Which is presumably why he was otherwise engaged when being hit up for interview (probably, y’know, in Chile or Japan or something).
Born William Grigahcine in Paris, the viral hitmaker cites arty French film La Haine as an influence on his sound as well as Cypress Hill and KRS-One, and earned the name 'Snake' due to his effectiveness at hiding from the police after graffiting the Parisian ghetto.
Nominated for a Grammy as part of his productions on Lady Gaga’s album, the producer’s name blasted into the minds of the public after his 2014 track with Lil Jon, ‘Turn Down For What’, meant that you could barely step onto a dancefloor without hearing it.
But this year the DJ/producer proved to have even greater success, with the Major Lazer and MØ collab ‘Lean On’ raking in the plays (it scooped Best Dance/Electronic Song at the Billboard Awards and, more importantly, is a Top Tune of 2015 among a fair few of these Top 100 DJs...).
With recent appearances at TomorrowWorld, EDC, and an India tour scheduled for November, it’s fair to say that this Snake will soon be on another plane.
Dannic is an artist who needs little introduction. One of the Dutch crop of EDM stadium-fillers, the DJ/producer has been playing out for over a decade now, and just recently collaborated with 2014's No.1 DJ, Hardwell, on ‘Survivors’.
His saccharine synth-filled tunes have been scaling the lofty heights of the Beatport charts, girls are getting his lyrics tattooed on their backs, and the producer seems to be constantly hanging out by a pool. “My year has been amazing!” he nods.
“I released my ‘Dear Life’ documentary, played the Tomorrowland main stage and now I’m back in the Top 100 list! 2016 looks set to be bigger and better as I’m getting ready to launch my very own imprint, I can’t wait.”
That label is looking to be a place for his own work as well as other fresh faces. “That’s exactly why I wanted to launch my own label,” he explains. “So that I had a platform for my own sounds that I could fill with the grooves I wanted, but also support new talent that doesn’t have a specific home yet but a sound that would fit.”
Though he’s riding high on the waves of the industry, he’s aware that it would benefit from some feminine input. “I think there is definitely a space for more female DJs and producers to step up and equal it out!” he concludes.
Over the past few years, the world of EDM and hip-hop have grown ever closer. Waka Flocka Flame and Lil John have featured on singles produced by Steve Aoki, Borgore and DJ Snake; while duo TNGHT, a collaboration between producers Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, inspired a whole sub-genre with their super-charged hip-hop productions.
But few have enjoyed the fruits of this cross-over more than Diamante Blackmon, better known as DJ Carnage. Blackmon, who was inspired to start producing EDM after being introduced to hardstyle by a friend, has bridged the gap between hip-hop and dance music by introducing elements of trance and EDM into hip-hop instrumentals, creating a festival-ready hybrid that picks up where TNGHT left off and runs with it.
Carnage has made beats for Theophilus London, A$AP Mob and Riff Raff but it was a trap remix of Hardwell’s ‘Spaceman’ that propelled him to EDM superstardom in 2012. He’s since become a staple of the festival circuit, despite occasionally landing himself into trouble for overrunning his sets. Blackmon drops his debut album, ‘Papi Gordo’, this month with a headline tour to follow in 2016.
German crowd-pleaser Robin Schulz enjoyed an absolutely huge 2015 that’s catapulted him into the Top 100 DJs poll and transformed him into a genuine crossover house music star, with the rich vocal house appeal of both ‘Sugar’ and ‘Headlights’ translating into highly-addictive pop hits that were propelled into the charts of more than 30 countries around the world.
“They even reached #1 in some countries,” Schulz says of the hits, which came off the back of a Grammy nomination earlier in the year for his breakthrough remix of Mr Probz ‘Waves’. It all drew together with the release of his sophomore artist album ‘Sugar’ shortly before the Top 100 announcement, which saw his knack for pop collaborations extending to further guest appearances from Akon, Disciples, Moby, Moguai and beyond.
“It was a long journey,” he says of the album. “It took nearly a year, but now I'm more than happy. And the feedback is more than great, I'm happy, as I was able to produce with a lot of talented people. Some of them I was following for a long time, and some are newcomers.”
On top of that, Schulz grew his profile as a DJ significantly in 2105, joining an impressive number of festival bills as well as his first Ibiza appearances, DJing at flashy hotspots like Ushuaia alongside Axwell v Ingrosso and David Guetta (who are also both artists he lent his remix skills to this year, naturally).