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Poll 2016: Dash Berlin

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Backed by his loyal legion of self-styled Dashers, Dutch DJ Jeffrey Sutorius continues to dominate the EDM global premiership with his seventh consecutive year in the Top 100 — most of them in the top twenty. 

He’s been a prominent headliner for all of mega-festival brand Ultra’s global shows from Croatia to Chile via Miami and Korea. Plus he’s executed high-profile appearances at EDC, Creamfields and many more key festivals. In fact, Dash’s schedule seems to be a jet-set blur (even by the Top 100’s standards) as he breaks new ground in Asia and South America and maintains a weekly residency at Las Vegas’s high roller nightclub Marquee.  

DJ activities aside, Dash Berlin productions have also played a key role in his presence this year. With his studio partners-in-vibes Kalberg & Molijn, Jeffrey has delivered some of the act’s biggest releases to date: the velvet pop cut ‘Gold’ with DBSTF, Jake Reese, Waka Flocka and DJ Whoo Kid was a head-turning twist in their repertoire and was followed by the more club-focused nod at their trance roots, ‘Without The Sun’. The unavoidable twist on Alan Walker’s massive chart-buster ‘Faded’ and an equally popular take on The Chainsmokers’ ‘New York City’ ticked the biggest of big league remix boxes, too. All of which highlight how slick the trio’s operation is as Jeffrey plays the consummate frontman and Kalberg & Molijn help to ensure the productions fit his trademark trance-infused performances. DAVE JENKINS

What have been the new frontiers for you this year?

“Doing more yoga and even more workouts, it’s all about the health for me.” 

Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?

“Depends on who you ask.” 

What’s the best new bit of DJ/production technology, and why?

“Roland TR-09, maybe not the best, but a lot of fun, looks like a baby 909.” 

If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?

“Techno.” 

As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ?

“Depends on how many times I saw myself that year.”  

What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths at dance music events?

“I live a drug-free life and try to inspire people to do the same. I’m high on life.” 

How can we increase diversity in dance music?

“Go offline more and find inspiration in nature.” 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Euan McGraw - 2016-10-14 13:08

Poll 2016: Axwell & Ingrosso

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The former Swedish House Mafia members are now firmly ensconced as a duo, and have enjoyed an especially rewarding summer with a residency at Ibiza’s ruling upscale club joint, Ushuaia.

“It was the best yet. Being outdoors, planes flying overhead, playing to thousands of people within 100 metres of the ocean… what’s not to love?” the pairing tell DJ Mag.

As ever, globetrotting was on the agenda in 2016. They played in Australia, Russia, Dubai, India and the US, and more mammoth festival stages beckon. They’re locked in to play EDC in Orlando on November 5th, and Creamfields Steel Yard back in the UK on the 26th.

The DJ/producers also released another trance-inflected epic in the form of ‘Thinking About You’, full of on-trend breakbeat drum fills and house energy. It was accompanied by an amusing video where each of their faces was superimposed onto various people, singing the lyrics for maximum lols. BEN MURPHY

What have been the new frontiers for you this year?

“Asia has been eye-opening as always.”

Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?

“Yes of course, no question.”

What’s the best new bit of DJ/production technology?

“Serum. Just the sickest-sounding synth in a long time.” 

If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?

Not answered.

As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ?

Not answered.

What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths at dance music events?

Not answered.

How can we increase diversity in dance music?

Not answered.

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Euan McGraw - 2016-10-14 13:05

Poll 2016: W&W

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The Dutch duo of Ward van der Harst and Willem van Hanegem have hit upon a winning formula. In their productions and DJ sets, they combine the trance heritage of their homeland with heavier ingredients, plus on-trend touches of house to arrive at a sound that’s made them festival headliners all over. After another blazing summer, Ukraine, Mexico, the USA and Indonesia are just a handful of the places they’ll play in November and December.

In 2016, their musical output was sparse, but laser-guided. Tunes such as ‘How Many’, out on their own Mainstage Music label, were purpose-built for festivals, and their collaboration with Hardwell and Lil Jon, ‘Live The Night’, unveiled a hitherto unseen appreciation for hip-hop call-and-response lyrical tactics.

“We enjoyed making that record in general, and having Lil Jon on it was just really cool. When we had the track, we felt like something was still missing and Lil Jon just nailed it!” BEN MURPHY

What have been the new frontiers for you this year?

“We definitely stepped outside our comfort zone with our remix for The Chainsmokers feat Daya ‘Don’t Let Me Down’.”

Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?

“The only thing that matters is that the people who love it can enjoy it as much as they want and in the way they want.”

What’s the best new bit of DJ/production technology?

“Splice really upped the game in production. It’s just perfect to keep up-to-date with all the new plug-ins and sample packs.”

If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?

“Probably trance or euphoric hardstyle, we just love the big melodic feelings in those genres.”

As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ?

“That’s really hard to say about yourself. We used to spend a lot of money on festival tickets and concerts before we were DJing ourselves.”

What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths at dance music events?

“Put drug-test points at festivals. The more you make it a taboo, the more incidents will happen.”

How can we increase diversity in dance music?

“We think the diversity within dance music has already increased massively. Now people actually complain that line-ups are too diverse.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Euan McGraw - 2016-10-14 12:51

Poll 2016: KSHMR

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Last year KSHMR (pronounced ‘Kashmir’ and taken from Kashmir, the northern state of India) was one of a few new entries to storm the upper half of our Top 100 poll, and now he is back once again — rising eleven significant places. 2016 saw the California man keep up his busy work-rate, having previously been active as one half of The Cataracs until 2014. 

Chief amongst his achievements has been a new EP, ‘The Lion Across The Field’, which was a conceptual effort with spoken word narratives adding a Jungle Book-style storyteller feel. The sounds themselves are lavish and dramatic, with lots of Indian melodies and instruments pinned to big beats. It came on Spinnin’ Records and was surely one of the more interesting and expressive EDM releases of the year, taking influences from such a wide sphere as it did. 

On top of this, KSHMR — who could not be contacted to take part in this year’s interview — co-wrote and co-produced 'Tsunami' by DVBBS & Borgeous, as well as 'Stampede' by DVBBS, Borgeous, and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, so is a well regarded and go-to writer for many of his peers in this poll. 

Gig-wise, he headlined mega-fests like Tomorrowland and has also collaborated with female EDM star Tigerlily just last month, putting out ‘Invisible Children’, a new song also on Spinnin’ Records with big beats, sawtooth synths and more shades of Indian traditionalism in the Bollywood vocal chants and acoustic guitars.  The song is a comment on the forgotten children of India and immediately climbed to the top of a number of Beatport charts, including making the No.2 spot for electro-house. 

Only 28 years old and with a new collaboration with Bassjackers on the way, KSHMR runs and updates his own Spotify playlists with all his current and future favourite hits and continues to tour across America, Asia and South America in the next few months. KRISTAN CARYL

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Euan McGraw - 2016-10-14 12:47

Poll 2016: Skrillex

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Oh, my, things have changed. It seems like ages ago when Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore) was first making global waves with wobbly, searing bass tracks (an admittedly unfriendly sound with mainstream music), doesn’t it? Now, in 2016, he’s standing next to Justin Bieber at the Grammys accepting numerous awards for infectious crossover pop done in conjunction with Diplo under the Jack Ü umbrella. 

Times have changed, and Skrillex, who was once homeless, is now one of the most popular acts on the planet — and one of the most influential. With labels OWSLA and Nest HQ also under his belt, and two side projects (the aforementioned Jack Ü, and Dog Blood with Boys Noize), he has worked with everyone from Bruno Mars to The Doors.

While some of his work as of late does appeal to the mainstream listener, Skrillex has always found success in creating what felt right to him, rather than chasing current trends. His breakout hit ‘Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites’, for example, was an organic success, existing in a niche of its own when audiences were hungry to find something diametric to the popular Avicii/Afrojack sounds at the turn of the decade. And though there might be lighter fare in Jack Ü’s soothing, tropical-inspired and crooning pop, Skrill still finds the time to dip into the sounds that made his fan-base originally fall in love. 2016 saw him collaborate with Rick Ross for ‘Purple Lamborghini’ on the Suicide Squad soundtrack, an intense mix of hip-hop with blasting horns and metallic, womping synths. Skrillex finally has found a way to make the mainstream come to him, instead of the other way around.

2016 also saw great expansion in Skrillex’s labels, showing goals for an empire-building future. July’s OWSLA pop-up shop was a resounding success, and he’s in the middle of constructing a creative hub he calls The Nest. The building, located in downtown Los Angeles, already houses all OWSLA dealings, but is currently expanding to also include a high-end recording studio and various interactive spaces (he recently mused in an LA Times article about a reception area with giant colouring books). It’s a marker for how Skrillex sees his impact beyond his own dealings, and is consistently looking to see how different parts of the industry (and different genres) can co-mingle to make something unexpected. 

We saw this with 2014’s SuperJam at Bonnaroo, a performance he co-ordinated that included himself alongside Zedd, Damian Marley, Lauryn Hill, Big Gigantic and members of The Doors and the Grateful Dead. We saw it when he played a random b2b set with the then-unknown Mija at Burning Man and recognized her talent, scouting her for OWSLA. We even recently saw it when he was the only electronic artist to grace the line-up for Chance The Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring Day festival. We see it on a smaller level with his Nest HQ platform, which often takes chances on lesser-known artists and fringe genres (think Ducky, Cosella and Wheez-ie).

 

At the end of the day, Skrillex is still now what he was when he started, a good dude always with a smile who stops to say “hello” and is ever curious about the “what ifs” of the world. Even with all his current accomplishments, he takes time to pass the torch, or even share it, and recognises that that’s where magic can truly happen. DANI DEAHL

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Euan McGraw - 2016-10-14 12:35

Poll 2016: Steve Aoki

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He’s among the most popular EDM DJs in the world. Still, Steve Aoki’s not just sitting back and surveying his empire. He’s got where he is through application and above all, enjoyment of his work. In 2016, the Japanese-American DJ, producer and label boss is celebrating 20 years of his Dim Mak imprint, which has released everything from disco-punk to dubstep. He’s also been putting in plenty of studio time.
Collaboration has been the name of the game, with 4OKI the banner under which he’s worked with artists including Autoerotique, Shaun Frank and Reid Stefan. In addition, Aoki’s found time to produce beats for other artists, with a notable emphasis on hook-ups with the current rap cognoscenti.

“The new collaborations I’ve been working on are coming out soon, with Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, Lil Yachty, Wale, 2 Chainz, DVBBS, Yellow Claw and more,” he shares.

Naturally, he’s been doing what he’s most famous for too, touring, playing festivals all over and caking crowds left, right and centre. Earlier this year in a DJ Mag cover feature, Aoki admitted he was over the whole confectionery trajectory lark, but also knows that it’s an expectation. “I did a couple of shows where I didn’t throw any cakes and it was awesome!” he said. “But I’m necessitating a demand. You want it, I’ll give it to you.”

Aoki’s sometimes-controversial live persona was the subject of a Netflix original documentary in 2016. The well-received I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead chronicled the on the road shenanigans of Steve, and explored how his late father, restaurateur Rocky Aoki of Benihana fame, pushed him to succeed.

When not locked in the studio or entertaining crowds with high-octane beats, Aoki raises and contributes money to his Steve Aoki Charitable Fund. Set up to help combat degenerative brain disease, fuelling research into new medicine, it’s also pumped cash into causes such as disaster relief and developmental disability.

“As an artist, I have a voice and a platform,” says Aoki. “I can do a lot more than just pound out beats for the masses. There are a lot of different issues that move me or inspire me to raise awareness and money towards helping different charitable causes reach their goals and essentially save the world.” BEN MURPHY

What have been the new frontiers for you this year?

“Producing music for other artists, not necessarily for my own releases but for their projects.”

Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?

“Whether it is or isn’t doesn’t really matter to me, because it doesn’t stop me from pushing my own boundaries and trying my best to evolve the culture.”

What’s the best new bit of DJ/production technology?

“Serum. In just a short time it went from being Steve Duda’s experiment to the most widely-used sound design tool in EDM.”

If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?

“Jeet kune do. A style that takes on any form that suits your needs.”

As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ?

“I would do it for a trip to go swim next to a whale shark, like in those epic photos you see from Nat Geo [National Geographic].”

What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths at dance music events?

“I’m no expert, but I would say more education on the repercussions of drug usage as well as more regulations of narcotics. More safety and security efforts need to be implemented to stop the drugs from entering festivals.”

How can we increase diversity in dance music?

“The more dance music embraces other genres of music, the more people from different cultures and walks of life will be enriched by it."

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Euan McGraw - 2016-10-14 12:28

Poll 2016: David Guetta

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David Guetta is a busy man. While this statement may not come as too much of a surprise, to give an idea of what we mean, just in the short space of time we’ve been attempting to pin him down for an interview for this very article, the Frenchman has been locked away in studio sessions in LA and playing gigs all across Europe — and this coming month he’s off to Brazil for a short tour too. That’s a lot of airmiles! In fact, according to one popular ticketing website, he’s played 108 gigs in 2016 already — that’s a lot of music!

The most notable of these, without a doubt, was Dave’s performance under the Eiffel Tower as part of the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. After being announced as the official musical ambassador for the French-hosted event at the end of 2015, Guetta’s track ‘This One’s For You’, featuring vocals from Zara Larsson, was made the official song of tournament. He then performed the track at his home city’s most iconic site; with the tragic Paris terrorist attacks still fresh in everyone’s minds, this was a hugely significant moment for Guetta (and a proud one for the dance music industry as a whole).

While 2016 hasn’t been entirely plain sailing for David — he was accused of plagiarism by fellow DJs Diplo and DJ Snake; a man with a knife broke into Guetta’s Ibiza home (again!) — it’s pretty clear the positives outweighed the negatives. Following a massive show at Ultra Music Festival in Miami and his once-in-a-lifetime gig at the Euros (including the Opening Ceremony, too), the golden-haired superstar spent much of his summer on the White Isle, hosting his weekly F*** Me I’m Famous parties at Pacha nightclub and enlisting the likes of Bakermat, Sam Feldt and Robin Schulz as guests.

Music-wise, Davey-boy’s not exactly been dropping tracks by the bucketload, but what he has put out has at least been varied. Earlier in the year he teamed up with Brit trio Disciples for throbbing house number ‘No Worries’, before turning to a more family-friendly direction for his UEFA track and new single ‘Would I Lie To You?’ with Cedric Gervais and long-time vocal collaborator Chris Willis. Guetta even revisited 2014’s ‘Pelican’, releasing an epic eight-minute builder that serves as a firm reminder that no matter how pop he gets, Dave still knows how to make a cracking choon!

2017 will see Guetta off on the road once again on his Unity tour. The Parisian recently announced his first date, popping over to the Austrian capital of Vienna on 29th July, but fear not if you can’t make it, you can be sure there’ll be plenty to follow. Short of Martin Garrix and Tiësto smashing a boat right through his studio, it looks like nothing can stop David Guetta! BEN HINDLE

What have been the new frontiers for you this year?

“The peak of my year was that I got to produce the anthem for the Euro 2016 [tournament] and perform underneath the Eiffel Tower. I am from Paris and after the terrorist attacks it felt really symbolic for me to be back in my country and to be playing underneath the most famous monument in the world. And of course performing my own record at Stade de France, during one of the biggest sports events of the world, was also great.”

Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art form?

“I think a lot of people are taking it too seriously. We all started DJing for fun, and it should stay like this.”

What’s the best new bit of DJ/production technology, and why?

“When it comes to DJing, I believe that using Pioneer is still the best option for me. They also made me try an incredible machine that allows you to sync drums with music and follow the tempo. This is incredible, because you can do this with samples too. When it comes to production, there is this completely crazy and simple compressor called OTT. It’s like magic. It makes everything sound so loud, and I can hear many producers using it. I think you can even get it for free and it’s really incredible.” 

 If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?

“I love many music styles and I've felt frustrated sometimes because I really wanted to play other styles of music. I wished I could play more underground, for example, because I love underground. But the same goes for hip-hop, because I love hip-hop too. I also love classics, and I wished I could play classics from the ‘90s or classic house music. But I think part of the artistic journey is to understand who you are as an artist and to know what you are best at. So I’m happy with playing the way I play now.”  

As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ? 

“Don’t worry, I’ll be on the guest list!” 

How can we increase diversity in dance music?

“I love many types of music and I think that it’s so terrible that a lot of people only listen to one specific style. It’s something I really don’t understand! Music is also about being curious and discovering new sounds by different influences. When it comes to festivals these days, I’m really happy about what they are doing. They are back to programming different types of artists, which gives a greater overall experience. Right now, it is really exciting that different scenes and styles are emerging, which is beautiful.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Euan McGraw - 2016-10-14 12:14

Poll 2016: Armin Van Buuren

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Perhaps Holland's most famous DJ export ever, it's tough to find something to write about Armin van Buuren that hasn't already been said. Winning the Top 100 a total of five (yes, five!) times, he's also been voted into the top five a record 14 years in a row, plus retaining his No.4 spot from last year in 2016. 

Aside from wracking up tens of thousands of votes in our annual poll, 2016 has seen the trance star continue his Armin Only: Embrace tour, which centres around original tracks, collaborations and remixes from his sixth studio album, 'Embrace'. A true showman, Armin has always been passionate about pushing boundaries with his big-budget stadium shows — this year he's focused on “involving more live elements, like the Toraiz SP16 drum machine, plus embracing sounds like the trumpet in my tracks”. 

Van Buuren has also become a patron of the arts this year — he's spent the last few months developing a unique multi-media guide that allows fans to discover his fascination with, err… Vincent van Gogh. He's teamed up with Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum for the project, where visitors will be able to rent an audioguide narrated by Armin which discusses 11 of the artist's works, soundtracked by music from the Armin Only: Embrace world tour. As if that wasn’t random enough, the music used in the guide will also be released as a separate album, entitled 'Club Embrace'. “After… getting to know more about the museum, I was blown away,” says Armin. "The paintings come to life, it’s hard to get them out of your head. And I instinctively linked the paintings to music. Van Gogh is inspirational, and he certainly inspired me."

Release-wise, Armin's A State Of Trance radio show is still going strong, alongside a new ‘Old Skool’ mini-album that dropped via his label Armada back in August to widespread acclaim from original trancers. Revised versions of classics like ‘Dominator’ and ‘Ping Pong’ both feature in Armin’s Embrace show, plus a new remix of ‘Old Skool’ by Vigel. Phew! We feel exhausted just thinking about it — here we catch up with the unstoppable Armin Van Buuren... 

Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?
“Yes.”

What’s the best new bit of DJ/production technology, and why?
“Toraiz SP-16 and the Allen & Heath DB4 mixer.”

If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?
“Techno.”

As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ?
“Depends on what kind of show and what venue. For the Armin Only show I would pay more perhaps, since I'm bringing six live acts and a full band.”

What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths at dance music events?
“Make people self-aware of the dangers of alcohol and drug misuse — just imposing heavy fines isn't enough.”

How can we increase diversity in dance music?
 “I don't think you can even speak of ‘dance music’ anymore, since electronic music has spread through all kinds of modern-day music ranging from pop to classical. It's not separate from other genres anymore.”

WORDS: CHARLOTTE LUCY CIJFFERS 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Euan McGraw - 2016-10-14 12:06

Poll 2016: Hardwell

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Still under 30 but already twice voted the best DJ in the world according to you lot, Hardwell has had another non-stop year in 2016. In demand by promoters on every continent, the last 12 months have seen him enjoy a great run of festival shows — playing everywhere from Ultra Music Festival in Miami to Creamfields to EDC Las Vegas to Flying Dutch Festival in his native Holland. 

He also made a big impact in Ibiza, with a third successive season as a resident at Ushuaïa. Almost single-handedly he has turned the White Isle onto big, glossy, main room dance sounds and has made the famous hotel and pool his own. “I love the vibe at Ushuaïa and the crowd are always wild, “ he says, before adding: “Same goes for Hakkasan in Las Vegas too. It’s one of my favourite clubs in the world to play, and one of the reasons I’m a resident there is because their booth is such a joy to DJ in.”

The year has also been a busy one for his label Revealed Recordings, which did another North American Bus Tour earlier in the year and in the summer it hit, incredibly, its 250th release, which is a big milestone for any label.

“I took a few months away from the studio to put more time into my DJ sets,” reflects Robbert van de Corput. “I’ve worked on a lot of exclusive edits and remixes and generally invested more hours in exploring more genres and sounds. I’ve been going all over the place to get a feel of where I want to take myself musically, and I’ve definitely become more inspired because of it.”

As he says, Hardwell is playing with a wider remit of sounds at the moment. Though he is known as an EDM DJ, his own productions have often been rather different. That was the case again in 2016 when he put out a more pop and garage-tinged record with Craig David and a remix of Moby’s ‘Go,’ but all the while not forgetting his own original sound with big hitters like ‘Going Crazy’ with Blasterjaxx. “As both a musician and a producer, it’s really crucial for me to not become imprisoned by one style,” he explains, before adding that it was a totally random meeting in Ibiza that saw him working with Craig David. After discovering they were fans of each other’s work, they eventually bounced ideas over the internet “and it just naturally came together from there. He’s a really cool dude and I had a great time working with him.”

As well as sharing weekly musical discoveries and playing some of the music that doesn't quite fit in his DJ sets on his radio show, Hardwell OnAir, this year the young star was looking for a way to communicate with fans in a new way. He decided Facebook was the best way, so teamed up with creative agency We Make Awesome Sh and together they created what became the first ever fan-focused Bot for an electronic artist, and won a Golden Award for most innovative idea as a result. 

Given that one of his peers on the circuit, Avicii, has quit this year, you wonder if this 28-year-old ever feels like he is burning out playing so many shows and doing so much travelling. “I work out a minimum of three times per week with a personal trainer, which I feel is an essential part of being a touring artist nowadays,” he outlines. 

And there’s an unexpected twist to the Hardwell success story too. “The last year has seen me immortalised not just as a waxwork at Madame Tussauds, but also as an action-figure — which is really cool!” he tells us.

Hardwell recognises that with all the travelling, you need to be at the peak of your mental and physical powers if you want to give the fans the show they expect. “So I make sure to eat healthy and, as much as I love to party, I know when to stop — I never overdo it.”

Now back in the studio and inspired by a busy summer of shows, Hardwell reckons he has 20 to 25 tracks waiting to be finished, but what he will do with them he doesn't know. “A second album, an EP, I’m just not sure but there’s definitely a lot of music coming up!” DAVE JENKINS

What have been the new frontiers for you this year?

“Above everything that has happened in the past 12 months, the biggest standout moment for me was launching my United We Are Foundation. We held an aid concert in Mumbai titled ‘World’s Biggest Guestlist’ where I opened up my personal guestlist to fans to join me in raising money to help educate young children living in the slums of the city — it was my way of giving something back. We had over 75,000 people in the stadium that day, with another 10 million tuning in via the live stream, and we raised enough money to send over 18,000 kids to school for the next 10 years.”

Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?

“I believe so. You only have to look at the rich history of artists that all fall under the category of ‘electronic music’ to realise our scene’s impact on the world of music.”

What’s the best new bit of DJ/production technology, and why?

“I love the new CDJ-2000NSX2, which is the latest version in the Nexus range from Pioneer. In a world where laptop DJing is ruling, Pioneer have managed to breathe new life into the CDJ — creating a fully-fledged digital media player.”

If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?

“Probably back to my early days of playing hip-hop. I still dust off my old vinyl for a mix at home from time to time.”

As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ? “Hmm, or can I get guestlist for me +1?”

What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths at dance music events?

“More awareness and better support at the venues. Closing down clubs isn’t the answer!”

How can we increase diversity in dance music?

“Less haters, more lovers!”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Euan McGraw - 2016-10-14 10:56

Poll 2016: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike

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In the opening moments of last year’s annual Bringing The Madness show, which saw the brothers return to their home turf of Antwerp, Belgium for a spectacle-filled headline arena concert (this year’s upcoming shows have sold a whopping 80,000 tickets across four sold-out evenings, no less), Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike are shown striding dramatically towards the stage in slow motion.

As the arena is bombarded with flashing lights, and one of their unreleased jams ‘Action’ rings out over the speakers, the record’s drop is greeted with the requisite fireworks explosion. With older brother Dimitri settling in behind the decks, it isn’t long before hype-man Mike is reaching out to the crowd with a bottle of vodka in hand, urging them all to “drink it up”.

It’s a quintessential Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike moment. It’s excess and theatre that’s brimming with showmanship, and unambiguously focused on providing entertainment. Nonetheless, there’s none of the emotional distance that you’d associate with a typical pop star performance, as their sets are very much about connecting with their crowds. It’s this down-to-earth attitude that shines through when DJ Mag gets Dimitri on the phone to talk about the Top 100 DJs poll.

“We feel that the interaction with the crowd is vey important, we want the crowd to party as much as we do,” he says, pointing to their House Of Madness residency at Amnesia Ibiza this season as a prime example of how the duo break down the barrier between DJ and crowd.

“At our shows this year, there would have been as many as 50 people standing with us behind the DJ booth. We’re not the kind of DJs who like to be isolated from the crowd, on an island alone and doing our thing. We try to connect with the crowd as much as possible. I think they feel this, and it’s the sort of thing that can really create a magical vibe at a party.”

It’s certainly a formula that has been working magic for the brothers over the past few years. Speaking to DJ Mag during their downtime after a show in South Korea where they played to a crowd in excess of 30,000 people, they’re gearing up for similarly huge shows in India.

The appeal of Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike is now definitively global, though it all began in Belgium a decade ago after the pair returned to launch their musical partnership following a stint of living and working in Ibiza. Ascending alongside their country’s phenomenally successful Tomorrowland Festival as it developed into a bona-fide dance culture phenomenon, curating the soundtrack for its ubiquitous after-movies and helping define the festival’s trademark main stage bombast, it was a rise that took the brothers all the way to the very top of the Top 100 poll in 2015.

“We were already fully booked, and we were touring every day of the year before that happened,” says Dimitri. “Winning the No.1 was more like a cherry on the top as far as that goes. It was such a wonderful surprise, though, how much recognition came from that. We always knew it was a big deal, but the way people reacted to it was really amazing. It really felt like a prestigious thing to achieve.”

The brothers rode out the success of their crossover hit ‘Higher Place’ for the remainder of 2015, collaborating this year with W&W on ‘Arcade’ for an anthem that was designed specifically for the main stages over the summer. Keeping an eye on connecting with a wider audience, Mike for the first time provided some rather sultry vocals for ‘Stay A While’. As DJ Mag goes to print, the duo’s debut collaboration with Diplo, ‘Hey Baby’, is just on the horizon.  

“We’ve been trying to balance out doing club tracks alongside more radio-focused stuff,” Dimitri explains. “The big difference this year is that there’s a widening gap between what’s playing in the clubs and what’s playing on the radio. In the past, one of our anthems like ‘The Hum’ might have grown big enough to cross over, but the radio is looking beyond EDM at the moment, so you’ve got to keep an eye on two worlds. It offers an interesting challenge for producers.”

Running concurrent to that, he says this year has finally seen a widening of the kind of sounds that are blasting out across the main stages, after years of EDM seemingly being gridlocked. With all the talk of the EDM bubble bursting, it’s not evidenced in the sizes of the crowds that Dimi and Mike are playing to, and he says they’re hungering for new sounds at the moment.

“I’ve seen a lot of DJs experimenting this year. Some might be playing it safer than others, but you can really tell the crowds are actually receptive to the different sounds. Branching out to different genres a few years ago, you could tell that while the crowd might have liked it, they maybe weren’t fully understanding it yet. Now, it’ll go off as well as any EDM beat. DJs are also developing more as artists, and they want to present this to the crowd. As DJs we still love playing other people’s music, but we’re playing somewhere close to 75 percent of our own productions now.” ANGUS PATERSON 

What have been the new frontiers for you this year?“Asia has been an amazing frontier for us this year, it’s crazy to see how it’s exploded over there — and it’s only the beginning. Meanwhile, Europe and the rest of the world is still going strong.”

Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?

“Yes! Its influence has spread over to virtually every genre; it’s the music of this generation.”

If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?

“We’re not fans of genres or stamps. The good thing about the current scene is borders between genres have been blown apart, you’re free to experiment where your imagination takes you.”

As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ?

“Difficult question as it depends on various factors, we’d want to see it in the best conditions.”

What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths at dance music events?

“Free drug tests at festivals. Even though it’s contradictory to a ‘no drugs’ policy, it could definitely save more lives. What would work even better, though, is less drug-taking at festivals!”

How can we increase diversity in dance music?

“It’s all up to the producers and artists to step out of their comfort zone, experiment with sounds and educate the crowd. They are ready for it!”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Euan McGraw - 2016-10-14 10:13

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