Willem van Hanegem and Ward van der Harst's mix-up of trance, electro and progressive house elements have seen them reach out and connect to a wide audience of dance music fans across the world.
“There are not a lot of people who mix different genres the way that we do,” they tell DJ Mag, before modestly adding “we can imagine that for someone who isn't into dance music so much it sounds similar to other artists’ music, but then again that goes for any artist in any genre.”
As well as having a fierce live DJing reputation, the duo also host their own popular radio show. “Our radio show and our live sets are two completely different worlds,” they explain. “In our radio show we play all the new music we like that came out during that week.”
Next year they plan “to enjoy more of what we do!” and with a gig rider that includes “champagne, a bottle of vodka for our agent, some beers and coconut water, ever since Tiesto told us it's the best cure against hangovers”, W&W look like they're enjoying themselves quite a bit already.
Another new entry into the Top 100 this year, Russian trio Swanky Tunes have been producing together for a decade, collaborating for years with heavyweights like Afrojack and Kaskade. However, they’ve achieved plenty in the past 12 months to warrant the extra attention, and they don’t need much prompting to start rattling off their achievements.
“The past 12 months have been the most busy and successful year of our artist life and music career,” they say.
“Firstly, we hit the charts in Russia with our single ‘Fox Me’, which also became a real crossover international radio and club hit in the UK and the rest of Europe. And our single ‘Wherever U Go’ got amazing support from US dance stations and generated more than 1.5million streams on Spotify in the first couple of months after it was released on Dim Mak.”
The trio also relaunched their label imprint SHOWLAND and teamed up with Armada Music on distribution, and well as renewing their publishing deal with MusicAllStars and Spinnin’.
“We’ve actively toured all year round with a three-continent tour of the USA, Europe and Asia, leaving only Australia and South America uncovered. On top of it all we sold 4000 tickets for our show in our hometown of Smolensk, that’s an all-time record for a solo event by a DJ act hailing from the Russian Federation.”
Alesso obviously puts as much time and effort into making EDM/pop tunes as he does his hair. However even his mentors — Steve Angello and the now-paired Ingrosso & Axwell — can claim to have half a foot in the past — within dance music's underground roots — while embracing pop modernity to move forward.
Perhaps it's an age thing, but for Alesso — considered the protege of Swedish House Mafia — it's about hits, plain and simple. His 2013 track with Calvin Harris 'Under Control', featuring Hurts, is a manufactured major label super-collab of Grand Canyon proportions, while anyone hoping for last year's 'Heroes (We Could Be)' to be influenced by Bowie's '77 anthem can think again. The only consolation for Bowie fans is that he didn't attempt to cover it.
Still, the numbers don't lie. With 3m+ followers on Facebook and almost 95m plays on YouTube for a single song, this guy is the modern face — and hair — of pop music. After refusing to answers Qs for the poll this year and no sign of a campaign, Alesso appears to have turned his back on dance culture in 2015. But, would you blame him? Pop hits are far more lucrative.
The ushering in of 'future house' as the “saviour of EDM” last year felt a little premature, but a 22-place climb for Oliver Heldens (Highest House DJ) following his Top 40 new entry placement in 2014 suggests that the future is, in fact, bright for EDM.
The larger-than-life sounds of DV&LM might have taken the crown this year, but the sight of Heldens flirting with the Top 10 (and Aoki dropping tech house) is a sign that mainstream EDM is no closed shop.
'Shades Of Grey' (out October), featuring Delaney Jane on vocals, is a nailed-on hit; a 125bpm house tune with a candy-floss pop hook and a garage skip closer to Disclosure than David Guetta, and further proof that — if given the right twist — house can still compete.
Sellable records aside, it's Heldens' hard work in 2015 that's contributed to his rise. 200 shows all over the world's big stages — including Ultra Miami, EDC Vegas and Tomorrowland — a sold-out UK tour and four Beatport No.1s, he's also launched his own Heldeep label/radio show and bassline alias HI-LO. Heldens is a busy, busy boy!
Sometimes it's hard to know if an artist's 'people' are making the decisions on their behalf, or if they choose for themselves to keep a distance from their fans. In either case it's an outdated approach for an interconnected world in which communication of all types is more vital to an artist than ever before.
Whoever is responsible for making the choice here, the upshot is that Galantis have declined DJ Mag's invitation to answer our questions or talk to us about their inclusion in this year's Top 100 DJs Poll.
Christian Karlsson (from Miike Snow) and Linus Eklöw (Style Of Eye) have between them worked with the likes of Madonna, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry and Icona Pop and created massively successful international chart pop hits.
So as the duo Galantis you wouldn't exactly expect them to be at the cutting edge of any underground movement, or maybe even be that bothered about featuring in a Top 100 rundown where they find themselves rubbing shoulders with the world's greatest DJs.
Still, there are plenty of dance fans who like the duo enough to have taken the time and effort to vote for them in this year's Top 100 DJs Poll. Sadly, although most of the biggest, best and most successful personalities in the global dance scene take the opportunity to thank their fans for voting for them, we'll never know what Galantis themselves think of it all.
Every year someone, somewhere, declares the death of trance music, and every year they’re proved wrong — trance is in just as rude health in 2015 as it was in 1999.
Trance’s ability to survive is testament to its passionate fans, and the scene’s biggest players — like German veterans Cosmic Gate — staying true to the trance sound, whilst others have jumped ship (yes, we’re talking about you, Tiesto).
German trance duo Cosmic Gate have been plying their melodious trade for well over two decades, and have featured in the Top 100 DJs poll numerous times. Claus Terhoeven and Stefan Bossems — better knows as Nic Chagall & DJ Bossi — have released six studio albums as Cosmic Gate, with their latest, ‘Start To Feel’, released on Armin van Buuren’s Armada imprint last year.
Cosmic Gate’s unflinching dedication to the trance sound has seen the German duo tour the world playing on average 130 shows a year. The duo are in as high demand now as they were when they penned scene-classics like ‘Be Your Sound’, ‘Fire Wire’ and ‘Exploration Of Space’. ANDREW RAFTER
“It's like you're driving a Ferrari at full speed, and that's fun and I love that energy; that adrenaline,” Steve Aoki tells DJ Mag over the phone from his car, but not while driving (we hope). He's speaking about the difference between EDM/electro sets and playing deeper, mid-tempo stuff to people.
“With house, it's a different kind of energy,” he continues. “You're not going full force, you have a really great groove that you can stay in; that can keep you in the same place and it's continuous, it lasts longer and it's a different kind of flow. It's nice to change it up. You're not speeding down the freeway the whole time.”
The reason for this discussion is not because DJ Mag is contemplating buying a new sports car — or considering what to listen to while driving it. It's because the Dim Mak boss plans to release a series of four house tracks early next year; each inspired by another season on the White Isle.
“Being in Spain for four months, there's a lot of English people who go there — and from mainland Europe — you really get a sense of what people are accustomed to.”
Tracing his roots back to DFA and LCD Soundsystem, it was the dawn of Ed Banger that heralded Dim Mak's natural disposition towards distorted big-room sounds. However, it was a tipping point reached two years ago that prompted EDM DJs/producers to sprout out into different directions, he says.
“Sounds became about, 'How much bigger can you get?'. 'How much louder can you get without it becoming too distorted, too saturated or whatever?' And we got answers to those questions two years ago.”
Since that point, we've seen future house, trap, tropical and garage/bass seep into the mainstream world of EDM and it's all part of its evolution, Aoki points out. “Nobody wants to do the same thing over and over again,” he says. “It's very rare to find an artist that does that.”
As part of his evolution, Steve has on the one hand found himself reverting back to the underground. On the other, however, the second instalment of his sophomore artist album 'Neon Future' earlier this year saw him working with various vocalists — the likes of Snoop Lion, Linkin Park and Rivers Cuomo — to make a series of crossover party/pop tracks.
Followed by 'Neon Future Odyssey' — a deluxe version featuring five new collaborations with the likes of Headhunterz, Borgore and Marnik — last month, it might not be a pathway to more radio play across The Atlantic — something which has been an “uphill struggle” due to “stigmatisation,” he believes. It remains to be seen if his upcoming house stuff will be.
Forget collaborations with the likes of Usher and Bieber. Forget the six Grammys and the 19 million Facebook fans. You know you’ve infiltrated pop music’s front lines when dads are shimmying their shoulders to your beats while driving their pre-teens to football practice.
Sonny Moore, the California native who has brought bass music to both festival stages and fathers in minivans under his musical moniker Skrillex, is a force to be reckoned with.
Like his sound or not, there’s no denying that he is among the most influential artists in music today. And whether Skrill likes it or not, his inherently non-commercial productions now sit squarely in the mainstream.
Of course, that’s the way things have always gone. When punk rock emerged as a rebellious answer to the limp Top 40 of its day, detractors presumed it was a spike-studded phase that would ultimately dissipate into the angst-ridden oblivion from which it presumably came.
While Sonny has said he doesn’t necessarily consider his music “dubstep” — eschewing genre classifications is a luxury afforded to the famous few who straddle sonic sectors — he does not blame people for dubbing it as such.
After all, definitions do change. To his credit, his own sound is constantly evolving, noisy as it may seem to some. Collaborations with artists far apart on the musical spectrum aside, Skrill has yet to become mired in any one set formula, and that is a refreshing reality in the world of commercial hits.
As he points out himself, his Grammy-winning breakout hit ‘Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites’ was an organic success, pushed to the front edge of trending releases by an audience that craved a whole new trend in and of itself.
The record was decidedly non-commercial at the time of its peak, and ignited a revolution for the genre. Skrillex has helped to birth the sound that launched a thousand screaming synths, but he has also embraced and supported music that sits on the opposite end of the irritation spectrum.
While his OWSLA imprint features the menu one might expect from an artist of Skrill’s ilk, his Nest HQ website showcases everything from groovy house to psychedelic jazz and aims “to nurture and encourage the growth of artists of all genres and all mediums, heralding their works through positive journalism, engaging, unique content, and genuine support.”
For Skrillex’s devout fanbase, Nest is just another reason to love him more — but for those who remain dubious, it’s a peek into who Sonny Moore might actually be.
Knife Party don’t do interviews. It’s their thing... well, along with Daft Punk and, err, Burial. So we're still in the dark as to what their top track of 2015 was, or why they think there aren't more women in the Top 100 DJs list. But fair play to them, they're busy guys.
The duo, made up of ex-Pendulum alumni Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen, dropped their first EP as Knife Party (the name comes from a Deftones track, they're not actually knife crime advocates) back in 2011 after leaving their strictly drum & bass days behind, and have since been dropping growling 140bpm beats for headbangers to lose their shit to.
Their first studio album, 'Abandon Ship', arrived late last year after being leaked on iTunes (whether accidentally or on purpose, we’re not quite sure), and the Australian duo gifted their followers with a handful of more aggy mid-range cuts.
And the productions keep coming: at this year's Ultra they announced that a brand new EP was done and dusted, premiering three new tracks for their army of fans: 'Parliament Funk', 'PLUR Police' and 'Kraken feat Tom Staar'.
While at Kingsday Festival they premiered new track 'ID' featuring Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine fame — complete with battering-ram bass and all guns blazing. May 2016 herald even more fist-pumping moments and musical accolades for the gruesome twosome. FELICITY MARTIN