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Poll 2015: Armin Van Buuren

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“I think it’s a really odd phenomenon,” Armin van Buuren says matter-of-factly down the phone line. We’re talking with the legendary trance producer about ghost production — an issue that Armin feels strongly about.

“For example, everyone remembers the whole Milli Vanilli scandal, how cheated people felt. I think it's wrong if someone puts a name on a track they had nothing to do with, that they weren't even in the studio for. I've never used a ghost producer, I can firmly say that,” he states.

It’ll come as no surprise to any Armin fan that the industry champ crafts his own tracks. He’s been releasing music for nigh-on two decades through his imprint Armada and radio show/label, A State Of Trance. It’s not just with his tunes that Armin has garnered fans worldwide — he’s adored for his spectacular stage shows too. His 2014 Armin Only tour took 35 people on the road, including a theatre director, trapeze artists, dancers, singers and musicians, with this year’s Intense tour going even bigger.

“It was probably the worst decision for me to do this tour financially,” he says, ruefully. “But the best choice for me personally. It was the best time of my life!”

“It's so sad when it’s over because I won't get to see my Intense family anymore, we’re a really close team,” he finishes, passionately.

Armin’s Intense tour crossed the globe from corner to corner, with the DJ visiting the Ukraine, India, Russia, the USA, South Africa and Australia — phew! As if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Armin also held down his usual residency in Ibiza this year, spinning every Thursday to his loyal legion of White Isle trancers. “Ibiza is always fun, this year was really excellent. It feels like a home-coming when I play there,” he says of lush Ibiza venue Ushuaia, which he moved to following many seasons at Privilege.

So after another successful year as trance’s leading man, with his sixth studio album ‘Embrace’ set to drop on October 29th, is Armin van Buuren still in love with his day job? Absolutely! 

“To be a great DJ you need to be able to read the crowd, to read the room, and track selection is obviously the most important thing! That's why it's so special to be one. I’m still really excited every time I play a set.”

CHARLOTTE LUCY CIJFFERS

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-09 16:37

What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“You will probably not expect me to say this, but I think it's probably the ability to produce your own tunes.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
“Well firstly, I don't think it's really a relevant term, because I'm not sure what EDM even stands for anymore — no one can strictly define its sound. People forget that music is always a progression — listen to The Beatles' first album and listen to their last album. Of course, things change, sounds change, an artist progresses. EDM is just a stage in dance music’s latest progression, it gets a lot of unnecessary hate.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“Yes, of course. I think it does on everyone, but I've definitely had times when I felt like I'm going totally crazy. I’ve combated it by going to speak to someone, a counsellor, someone objective. It really helped and he also recommended a few books for me to read: Daniel Kahneman Thinking Fast & Slow and Ian Robertson The Winner Effect.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“Cancer, a lot of my family is really affected by it. I have a lot of history of it in my family and it's a terrible disease. There's lots of things wrong with the world, of course, but this is the one most in my mind at the moment.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“I think Turnmills in London, I remember first going there in 2000 and it was insane! I first played in the UK at Cream in Liverpool in 2000 though, and then went to Turnmills a few months later. It was pretty dark and grimy in there, but iconic! Gatecrasher was amazing too!”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
"I really think there needs be more girls out there. When I did A State Of Trance, I did a room called A State Of Pink where I highlighted some of the women on Armada, the great female DJs out there!”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“I think it's wrong if someone puts a name on a track they had nothing to do with, that they weren't even in the studio for. I've never used a ghost producer.”

Poll 2015: Martin Garrix

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It’s incredible to think that Martin Garrix isn’t legally allowed to drink alcohol at the EDM festivals he's been a fixture at the past few years. Garrix, who’s aged 19, wouldn’t even have been old enough to get into most nightclubs when he charted at No.40 on the DJ Mag Top 100 for the first time in 2013. But his relative youth, compared to the rest of the DJs who have made this year’s top 10, has not held him back — if anything it’s probably aided his remarkable rise.

Garrix, who was born Martijn Garritsen in 1996 in Amstelveen, just outside of Amsterdam, is, in many ways, the embodiment of the generation that have grown up with EDM. In 2004, Garritsen had a musical revelation after witnessing fellow Dutchman Tiësto DJ during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games held in Athens.

(The soundtrack to the event was the first CD he ever bought). The setting in which Garritsen was exposed to dance music is significant: a decade on, he would be playing to packed-out stadium-sized venues before having even set foot in a club.

Like many of his fans, Garrix’s experiences with dance music have been largely mediated through festivals rather than clubs; the sound and spectacle of such large-scale events have no doubt shaped his own productions.

When recently asked in an interview with SPIN which artists inspired him, Garrix cited Dillon Francis, Bauuer, Flosstradamus and, of course, Tiësto. He belongs to a generation for whom the progenitors of house and techno mean very little — and who can blame them.

Instead, they subscribe to a different canon altogether: one in which the faces of Daft Punk, David Guetta, Diplo and Skrillex might make up its Mount Rushmore.

Garrix’s success rests partly on being an EDM everyman. He looks like he could have been picked out entirely at random from the crowd at TomorrowWorld. In a parallel universe he might have been a YouTube vlogger in the mould of Alfie Deyes.

Tiësto described Garrix as an “inspiration” in 2013. He’s right: in a way, Garrix is an inspiration precisely because he’s an ordinary and unremarkable 19-year-old in a lot of respects.

His favourite song of all time is Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ because, as he explained to EDM.com, it “makes me happy... every time I play it”; his favourite food is a cheeseburger without any tomatoes or onions; he describes Ed Sheeran as a “genius”.

When Playboy attempted to see if Garrix had a more mischievous side by asking him what crime he would commit if he could get away with it, the youngster answered: “Drink a beer”.

Garrix’s plainness has allowed him to become a blank slate onto which thousands of white male teenagers have projected their ambitions of DJ superstardom onto. He makes EDM fame look like it’s just one Beatport-charting production away — a wet dream recently played out in Zac Efron’s dismal EDM film We Are Your Friends. 

Following the release of ‘Break Through The Silence’ in July, Garrix is back in the studio hard at work on a full-length. When asked in a recent interview about his plans for the future, he replied: “Conquer the world”.

Of all the inflated personalities that he’s shared a bill with in the last few years, Garrix’s propensity for hyperbole is low. In a genre full of overblown characters, his earnestness makes him an oddity. Earlier this year, Garrix starred in the music video for his Usher collaboration ‘Don’t Look Down’, playing an attendant at a country club handing out towels to guests.

His attempts to court a woman lounging by the pool with a hip-thrusting, walking-on-water dance routine fail spectacularly. Naturally, he’s more comfortable in the role of the towel boy than the bicep-flexing jock.

Poll 2015: Shogun

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What sets Shogun apart from other US DJs is his work ethic; Andrew Chen is known to spend 12 hours a day in his studio, and that hard work and dedication brought him to the attention of some of trance’s biggest names including Ferry Corsten, Above & Beyond, Paul van Dyk, Markus Schulz and Nadia Ali.

Despite falling in love with the industrial sounds of Nine Inch Nails, Filter, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, Chen was eventually drawn to the epic melodies of Armin van Buuren and Gouryella in the early 2000s. 

Fast-forward to 2015 and Shogun has become a permanent fixture in the Armada family, featuring heavily on Armin’s A State Of Trance radio show.

But it’s been his own productions that have really propelled him into the upper echelons of the trance world, including his recent album ‘Dragon’ – which took four years to complete. This saw the producer touch on a range of styles including trance, progressive and electro — ranging from vocal bangers like ‘Underwater’ to fierce, beat-driven tunes like ‘Laputa’.

This year has been amazing!” Shogun enthuses. “I released my album 'Dragon', and the response has been incredible. I toured in different parts of the world, and had a blast playing at festivals like Stereosonic.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-16 10:43

Style: 
“Progressive house.”
Best known for: 
“'Skyfire'.”
Tune of the year: 
“Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike vs Ummet Ozcan 'The Hum'.”
From: 
Orange County, California
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
“Ummet Ozcan.”
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“Track selection. DJs should know which tracks to play at certain times to get the crowd amped up.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
“Yes, I believe it's just starting and will only get bigger.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“It takes a toll, but after a while you get used to it. It's kind of like a boxer taking hits, eventually you adapt to it a bit.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“When words fail, music speaks.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“Ministry Of Sound — Taipei. It was one of my favourite clubs in Asia.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
“I believe there just aren't as many women making EDM, but the stage is open for both.”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“Good music is good music, but I feel DJs should make their own music to represent themselves artistically.”

Poll 2015: Alok

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Alok is a poster boy for Brazil's love of deep mid-tempo forms of house and techno — albeit with a pop twist. It's a subcultural penchant often outshone by the garish lights of EDM. 

Son of the founders of Universo Paralello, a huge dance festival set within the Brazilian mountains 15 years ago, electronic music exists in Alok's DNA. And in 2015, there's a sense his life-long aspirations are finally getting fulfilled. A main stage set at TomorrowWorld (US) and sets at festivals in Germany, Las Vegas and Portugal reflect a DJ taking things global, while his record label Up Club is helping to cultivate local talent. He has Alok to offer! (Sorry...)

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-16 10:36

Style: 
“Techno/electro/deep.”
Best known for: 
“Brazilian mid-range bass techno (new design).”
Tune of the year: 
“Alok & Dazzo 'Winter Play feat. Ellie Ka'.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
“Jeremy Olander.”
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“To be able to read the dancefloor and be in sync with the crowd’s flow.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
“Electronic music is full of surprises these days... it’s a very unpredictable area and the market is fed up with repetitive and tiring formulas.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“Long flights, delays, being everywhere but never being able to be home makes me really tired and sometimes physically and mentally drained. However, all the effort becomes worth it when you’re out there doing what you love.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“Giving and caring for the universe is something that not only makes us receive back and learn, but also allows us to achieve knowledge and wisdom.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“There was this club called Fiction, located in Goiania, in my hometown. I played since the first days until its end. It would be great to re-live those moments.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
“There are a lot of great and remarkable female DJs/producers out there. Every year they seem to get better at what they do. It is just a matter of time.”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“I think that it is the same as lying to yourself... and one day or another the truth comes out. We should never outsource our dreams!”

Poll 2015: Showtek

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The past 12 months have seen brothers Sjoerd and Wouter Janssen, aka Showtek, capitalising on their hard work over the past few years, as they transitioned from their early dominance in the hardstyle scene into a broader main stage EDM act.

They've now worked with some of the industry’s biggest names, including their collaboration with David Guetta this year ‘Sun Goes Down’. They point to the launch of their 'Crazy Collabs' project a few years ago as the start of what pushed them towards where they are today.

“We started 'Crazy Collabs' back in 2012, because it was a great way to work with other artists from different genres in the studio,” they say. “It’s really cool to create an opportunity to work with artists like Tiesto or Hardwell, especially because a lot of people wouldn’t expect it from Showtek.”

The duo say the greatest compliment is that these artists want to work with them, and in 2015 they’re widely respected as elite studio magicians.

“Showtek has always been a music-driven act. Producing music made us who we are, and working with names like David Guetta allowed us a broader spectrum. Our music is well known throughout the industry, and looking back on the past, we've always been shifting styles and implementing different kinds of genres. We plan on continuing to surprise people with new ideas.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-13 15:52

Style: 
“Fusion.”
Best known for: 
“Our style.”
Tune of the year: 
“Fetty Wap 'Trapqueen'.”
From: 
Eindhoven, Netherlands
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
“All those who reached a higher level of creativity.”
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“Creating the vibe and reading the crowd.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
“Depends on what light you shine on it. But yes! There is always room for growth.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“Yes it does. But you have to go through it in order to realize its effects.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“We lead a healthy lifestyle. Factory farming and human consumption is something that we take seriously.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“Hollywood, a club in Eindhoven where we started our connection with the nightlife.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
“The fact that this is a question being asked, separating them from men, already makes it an issue.”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“Some singers use help from songwriters, some DJs use help from producers. Music is more than just a song, and it's the bigger picture that matters.”

Poll 2015: Diplo

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Like the prom queen that snubs her most persistent suitor year after year, Diplo has declined DJ Mag’s gracious advances yet again, opting instead to let us speculate on his feelings about making the Top 100 DJs poll and his ongoings for 2015.

With regard to the former, we refer readers to Twitter, where Wesley Pentz’s rants under his Diplo alias are immortalized for all eternity. With regard to the latter, it’s hard to deny that his efforts warrant him a seat among the world’s DJ elite.

The Mad Decent label boss has been busy making music and signing names — such as bold new trio Bad Royale. If that act’s melodic, soca-infused productions are any indication, there is hope for the future of trap yet... and we have Diplo to thank for turning up the volume.

Keeping his Major Lazer collaborative moniker alive and well, a third LP titled ‘Peace Is The Mission’ was released in June. The album includes collaborations with pop stars that span the musical spectrum, from Ariana Grande to 2 Chainz and Ellie Goulding.

Never one to shy away from the names people love to hate, Diplo and Skrillex, via their Jack Ü alias, paired up to create EDM’s most maligned cameo of 2015 when they featured Justin Bieber on their hit track ‘Where Are Ü Now ’. Say what you will about that one; the charts tell a different story. The question to ask Diplo now is, how do you top that in 2016?

ERIN SHARONI

Poll 2015: Steve Angello

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Flying solo and loving it, former Swedish House Mafia man Steve Angello has mostly positive things to say about the state of the scene as he sees it. He’s particularly glad of the mainstream’s shift away from panel-beating big room sounds towards something more rhythmic.


“The whole movement right now is shifting in the right direction — which makes me happy,” Steve says. “Loads of new stuff is getting played, and yes, I am trying to play more groovy house stuff.”

Steve’s had a big year, crowned by the release of his three-years-in-gestation ‘WILD YOUTH’ long-player, but he’s also remixed electronic music legend Jean Michel Jarre and M83’s ‘Glory’, rinsed out Las Vegas club Omnia on a regular basis, and played everywhere from Green Valley in Brazil to Creamfields in the UK and Ultra Europe in Croatia. Leaving SHM has clearly done him no harm. 

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-13 10:57

Style: 
“Dance music.”
Best known for: 
“Being the only Steve Angello out there.”
From: 
Stockholm, Sweden
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
“Kölsch.”
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“Know the crowd, adapt, tell a story.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
“It depends how you define ‘EDM’. If you mean the big room sound, I would probably say that it's moving away from that completely.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“Not really, egos do.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“Anything that has to do with kids.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“Studio 54, but I’d rather bring back the era.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
“Dudes spend more money on marketing.”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“I think it's lazy, but music is not the only profession that has lazy people.”

Poll 2015: Dyro

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This year, Dyro (real name Jordy Van Egmond) has gone big. He started his own imprint, WOLV, that's allowed him to expand his own catalogue, saying, “We went down on the bpms as I was getting bored of 127/128 bpm, I wanted to show another side to myself and the label”. 

In fact, keeping things fresh is very important to the Dutch EDM don — that's why he started his imprint in the first place. "I did it to have my own outlet that I could control completely and just to release cool tracks that I dig,” he says.

Aside from his new imprint, Dyro's already lined up hotly-anticipated collaborations with Headhunterz and Milo & Otis for next year, as well as promising his fans “lots of exciting new shows and, of course, WOLV material for 2016!”

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-13 10:44

Style: 
“Big-room, energetic anthems.”
Best known for: 
“'Never Say Goodbye', 'Leprechauns & Unicorns', and launching my own label WOLV.”
Tune of the year: 
“Dyro 'Foxtrot'.”
From: 
Leiden in the Netherlands
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
“Loopers.”
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“Originality.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
“It seems now that everyone wants to be a DJ of this style or put on the latest producer just because they sell tickets, even if they’re not actually the best at what they do. The future is still bright but I think it will also evolve.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“Not me, I can see how it does with some guys, it’s sometimes six or seven shows a week, it can be so tiring. As a DJ you have to not give in or overdo the lifestyle.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“Education. Everyone needs the right to education.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“I heard Mansion in Miami was closing, which is pretty sad, I’ve had some of the best nights there with the Bassjackers X Tour and Revealed.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
“Because there aren’t enough behind the decks!”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“It’s up to them, I wouldn’t use one but I suppose we’ll never know about the rest.”

Poll 2015: Don Diablo

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The dawn of future house in 2014 heralded a new age for EDM, it seemed. It was the sound to nudge the continuum away from garish stadium noise towards the (relatively) deeper sound of classic house reimagined through EDM eyes, they said.

A slew of names such as Tchami, Oliver Heldens and Holland's Don Diablo were found carrying the torch, and it felt (at least) as if 2015 was going to be the year that the nubile, cool-cat friendly sound of future house would usurp the EDM juggernaut. 

And thus, after polling at 82 last year, Don Diablo is this year's Highest Climber. However, after remixing Rudimental, Ed Sheeran and Tiësto & KSHMR as well as teaming up with Khrebto to borrow Candi Staton's 'You've Got The Love' this year, it's not just Don's progressive approach to EDM that you kids love him for — it's his ear for an infectious pop hook! 

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-13 10:55

Style: 
“Electronic music.”
Best known for: 
“Living in a HEXAGON-shaped universe.”
Tune of the year: 
“Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. MO 'Lean On'.”
From: 
The Netherlands
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
“Galantis.”
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“You have to be able to connect with the audience under any given circumstances.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
“People are exploring other options which is a very natural development, there is a lot of great music out there.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“It definitely does, but you have to find a way to push your boundaries and try to survive on pure adrenaline. The absence of a private life is probably the biggest struggle.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“I lost my father to cancer, so I have been working closely with several cancer charities the last two years to raise money for research and education.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“Fight Club.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
“Because women are better dancers than men, they don't need to hide behind the decks.”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“I think they are missing out. Rocking a big rave is an amazing experience, but there is no better feeling in the world than creating your own music in the studio.”

Poll 2015: Borgore

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Asaf Borger, aka Borgore, is something of a musical chameleon. He started his music career young, first becoming a classically trained musician — he frequently lists Bach, half-jokingly, as one of his favourite musicians of all time — before joining deathcore band Shabira in his formative years. In videos of the band performing he looks out of place, a gawky, shaved-headed figure in a group of bearded, long-haired rockers. 

While he might have since left the band and moved from his hometown of Tel Aviv to the US, elements of his heavier musical past have remained a feature of his productions.

Borger describes his music as Gorestep” — a fusion of EDM, dubstep and heavy metal that unites his earlier influences with his newfound passion for brash, in-yer-face electronic music. 

In 2012, Borger collaborated with Miley Cyrus on the single ‘Decisions’ — the song is often described as a turning point in Miley Cyrus’s musical transformation. The single catapulted Borgore into the spotlight and proved he could bring ‘Gorestep’ to the masses. 

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-16 14:23

Style: 
“Gorestep.”
Best known for: 
“Being sexy.”
Tune of the year: 
“Borgore feat. G-Eazy ‘Forbes’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
“Getter.”
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“Good production skills.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
“The future is definitely interesting.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“Yeah, I can’t remember all these chicks names I meet.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“I’m donating $1 to @keepabreast for every #BootyforBorgore post. Their mission is ‘to empower young people around the world with breast health education & support’.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“Barzilay in Tel Aviv.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
“The same reason there aren’t as many women celebrated in top positions in other industries: systematic discrimination.”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“I think they should not be on this list.”

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