Known as much for his personality both online and onstage as he is for his massively successful productions, Toronto native Joel Zimmerman, aka Deadmau5, maintains his place in the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll for another year.
Deadmau5 continues to showcase his endless musical versatility, tantalizing fans with previews on his Soundcloud account, like the melodic rework of last year’s hip-hop track ‘Are You Not Afraid’ and a powerful ballad of slowly building synths in a yet-to-be-released collaboration with Grabbitz called ‘Blood For the Bloodgoat’.
Always one to speak his mind about the state of electronic dance music, the year has seen no shortage of Twitter Mau5-traps — artists and fans alike may unwittingly step into one at any moment — but 2015 also saw the artist on line-ups across the globe.
A headlining act for the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, Deadmau5 also appeared at the fabled Austin City Limits, the Reading and Leeds Festivals in England and debuted a new stage at Governor’s Ball in New York City, where he prevailed despite technical turmoil.
Of course, entertaining audiences in the digital ether and on the live stage aren’t the only places you can find him; those who follow his work are well aware that the Mau5 is no stranger to the world of video games.
Earlier this year he released a unique series of sound clips featured in Dota 2, a game developed by the Bellevue, Washington-based Valve Corporation. At the close of the Dota 2 competition — TI5, the largest ever eSports tournament to date — Deadmau5 surprised the crowd at KeyArena in Seattle with a live performance, reminding everyone yet again that his persona is synonymous with large scale entertainment... no matter the mode or method.
We think Zedd must have been destined for success from an early age; born to a guitarist father and pianist mother, young Anton was classically trained in several instruments. Having a deeper understanding of his craft results in Zedd leaning far more towards musicality and groove than many of his Top 100 comrades.
Last year, dance-pop poster boy Zedd — real name Anton Zaslavski — clocked in at No.22 in our poll, but had decided to shut himself off from the musical world (it is a job after all) and couldn't answer our questions. Now charting again, DJ Mag were hoping to hear from the Russian-German producer, but alas, this year he's in similar predicament — although for a contrasting reason. Unfortunately for us (although thoroughly exciting and exhausting for him, we're sure), Zedd is deep into his US tour and a strict time schedule requires his full focus.
Zedd's year hasn't just been all about touring, however; back in May, he dropped his second studio album, ‘True Colors’, via internationally renowned label, Interscope. The record features the likes of Jon Bellion and Selena Gomez, the latter of whom appeared on lead single 'I Want You To Know'. The song won Choice Theme Song at the Teen Choice Awards and secured the No. 1 slot in the Billboard Dance/Electronic Songs chart — a feat the album would later go on to replicate in the Dance/Electronic Albums rankings. In fact, despite what some might call a mixed critical reception, ‘True Colors' made it to No.4 in the overall Billboard 200. Not bad for a 26-year-old who's only been producing since 2009.
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.
Fadil El Ghoul, aka R3HAB, has been on a quick ascent to join his EDM colleagues at the festival main stages, and for proof of his studio prowess, you only need to glance at the tracklist for his recent ‘Inspired’ mix for Ministry Of Sound. The upfront disc contains no less than 12 of the singles, remixes and collaborations that he’s put his name to this year.
“The past 12 months have been an absolute whirlwind,” he told DJ Mag. “The most memorable personal highlight for me was playing Coachella. Two weekends with 25,000 people per show, and we even had Ciara come out and do two songs. It is something that you dream about as an artist, and it could not have been better.”
In addition to Coachella, he also launched a new residency in Las Vegas this year, played across two different days at Belgium’s Tomorrowland in July, and otherwise toured and performed all around the world, from Tokyo to Dubai to Ibiza.
In the studio is where R3HAB has really made his mark this year though, with his production partnership with Calvin Harris resulting in ‘Burnin’ and a collaborative remix of ‘How Deep Is Your Is Love’, in addition to high-profile collaborations with Sander van Doorn, NERVO and Headhunterz. He’s also remixed everyone from Axwell Λ Ingrosso to Rihanna.
“I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months have in store!” he enthuses to DJ Mag.
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).
It's official, Axwell and Ingrosso are married. Not legally of course — even if civil partnerships (unlike some US States) are accepted in Sweden. No, the marriage of these two ex-members of the Swedish House Mafia is purely of creative convenience. Not just so they can double up on votes, enter the Top 20 and score an award for Highest Collaboration in the process.
Instead, the Axwell 'n Ingrosso axis is one hinged on amalgamation; dedication to a cause, they say. “The big difference now,” says Axwell, “is that when we did Swedish House Mafia, everyone was also being individuals and doing their own thing.
But now we buried our own things a bit. It’s more of a commitment. That’s what it came to feel like with Swedish House Mafia: it was a side project. But it wasn’t fair to treat it like that. That was the big problem.”
The boom in dance music in America, adds Ingrosso, was one of the motors driving Swedish House Mafia’s success. “It helped us become big,” he acknowledges, “but that meant it couldn’t be a side-project. The culture was demanding more.”
For these two, then, the past 12 months have been about drilling down and focusing more on music as an art — something more personal — rather than as a response to mainstream expectations.
While the intention was to avoid the booth as much as possible, it's a partnership that's seen them close both weekends of Coachella, headline Ultra Miami, sell out London's Alexandra Palace and enjoy a successful season at Ushuaia in Ibiza.
Culminating in an album later this year, they've also released a series of tracks, including 'Sun Is Shining', picked up as the soundtrack to H&M's summer campaign, and 'Something New' used by Beats.
There's also been various collaborations, including one with Swede musicians Vincent & Salem, and an electro mash-up featuring vocals from Pusha T. If Swedish House Mafia were about capturing people's attention, the Axwell ^ Ingrosso combo is about casting the net out further.
Before trying their hand at dance music, Canadian duo DVBBS (pronounced ‘Dubs’), made up of brothers Alexandre and Christopher van den Hoef, were members of a local rock band.
During their formative years, the two had been part of Ontario’s underground punk scene. At the age of 16 and 17 respectively, the van den Hoefs started making electronic music after having a dance music revelation prompted by seeing Dutch hardstyle act Showtek perform, who also happen to be brothers.
In 2013, the brothers finally broke through on an international level with the release of ‘Tsunami’. Initially released anonymously, the pair eventually revealed that they had collaborated with label-mate Borgeous on the track after scoring No.1s in the Netherlands, US, Belgium and Poland.
The brothers have gone on to tour the EDM circuit extensively, clocking up some 300 gigs last year including Ultra Music Festival and Electric Daisy Carnival. The van den Hoefs have shared a stage with acts like Tiësto, Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix and, perhaps most significantly for the two, the Dutch artists who inspired them to start producing back when they were teenagers — Showtek.
Dash Berlin have been everywhere this past year. DJ Jeffrey Sutorius, the Dutch trio’s frontman, has had one heck of a packed touring schedule with dates in Chile, Japan, Las Vegas, Paraguay, Peru, Canada and London over the last few months.
“I’ve had a lot of memorable gigs all over the planet, which makes me realise every time, what a privilege it is to be a DJ,” he tells DJ Mag.
As well as DJing, Sutorius performs another particularly important role in the three-man group, which also includes Eelke Kalberg and Sebastiaan Molijn: testing out material with audiences and relaying feedback to his studio-based colleagues.
It’s this creative relationship that’s made the trio a formidable production outfit as well as a much in-demand live act. Outside of music, the group have also been supporting an Indonesian children’s charity by donating proceeds raised from merchandise sales. Good on you, lads!
DJ style: “Emotional, energetic dance music.”
Best known for: “Dashing things up.”
Tune of 2015:
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: “DJ Isaac.”
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?
“It will always be about selecting the right music at the right time, so that people can enjoy themselves on the dancefloor.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?
“Lots of creative minds out there, fantastic music is being made, the future is very bright for music in general.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?
“I was already a bit crazy before I started DJing, so it’s hard to tell really, ha ha!”
What cause is closest to your heart?
“Thanks to my success I’ve been able to help, feed and send a lot of kids to school via the foundation that I’ve been supporting for many years now.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?
“The Index in Groningen, the Netherlands.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?
“Good question to ask them! Come on girls!”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?
“I work together with other producers all the time and I am very open about it. What others do is their decision.”
Since bursting onto the scene as a young teenager with epic hardcore tune 'Valley Of The Shadows' under the name Origin Unknown in the early '90s, Andrew Clarke has been immersed in breakbeat science. He started RAM Records in 1992 after borrowing £1000 from his uncle, and Ram 004 — 'Shadows' — contained the moon landing-sampling “31 seconds” snip and the “long dark tunnel” phrase culled from a BBC documentary about near-death experiences.
As drum & bass grew in the '90s he became one of its key playas, smashing into the Top 100 DJs poll at the start of the noughties and remaining there for the next decade and more. Usually the Highest Drum & Bass DJ in the poll, he's been voted back in again by his legion of fans — plenty of whom again were raving at his All Night Long sold out 02 Brixton Academy show at Halloween just the other day.
So what's been the highlight of 2015 for the drum & bass don? “Probably playing the Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea!” he tells DJ Mag. “When you're growing up and dreaming of being a DJ, you can never imagine playing a gig like that. I was just dreaming of playing at my local club!”
Tujamo has the rare distinction of actually having commercial chart success with his productions in the UK, Germany and Holland, something not a lot of dance artists can say. DJing since 2006, Tujamo — real name Matthias Richter — got his break by winning a DJ competition, which then saw him cut his teeth as resident DJ at Schuttorf club, Index.
But it was his chart-topping success with sleeper hit ‘Dr Who’ – which grew from a Miami Winter Music Conference hit in 2012 to a chart-topping hit in 2014 — alongside Plastic Funk, and featuring grime vocals from Sneakbo, that saw Tujamo thrust into the collective consciousness of the European charts.
With remixes for the likes of Deadmau5, Jack U and Bob Sinclar, releases on Laidback Luke’s Mixmash Records, and Dutch goliath Spinnin’ Records, and collaborations with veterans like Chris Lake, Steve Aoki and Laidback Luke, Tujamo’s skills and versatility are clearly in high demand. The German is just as at-home putting grime raps over big-room bangers as he is creating full-throttle club smashes like ‘Boneless’ alongside Messrs Aoki and Lake.
“It’s been an absolutely amazing year for me,” he tells DJ Mag. “All my summer festivals dates and club shows were off the hook, and the feedback for all my productions has been out of this world.”