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Poll 2015: Zatox

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“It was a very busy year,” Zatox tells DJ Mag, but from what we can see, that's a big understatement. The Italian hardstyle don — real name Gerardo Roschini — has been globetrotting throughout 2015, celebrating his debut long-player, New World Order, which dropped via Holland's Q-Dance imprint this time last year.

Taking the album tour to down under at Easter, Roschini (and partners in crime, Audiofreq, Toneshifterz and Kronos) brought his musical revolution to the likes of Sydney and Melbourne, before heading home to tear up more European festivals than you could shake a glowstick at.

Unsurprisingly, Roschini names his personal highlight as Qlimax — Q-Dance's long-running, annual extravaganza dedicated to the harder end of the electronic spectrum.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Roschini has been back in studio this year too. He not only dropped a host of collaborations as Zatox via his own Unite Records, but also returned to his Wild Motherfuckers project with Tatanka for the duo's first release since 2013, 'Knock You Down' — and, after hearing it ourselves, we might not be getting back up again.

BEN HINDLE

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-16 16:15

Style: 
Hardstyle
Best known for: 
The F-word! ‘F*ck The System’
Tune of the year: 
Zatox 'Rumble In The Jungle'
From: 
Italy
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
Kronos
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
Passion for the music.
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
For sure! There are still many new talents out there.
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
Sometimes it is tough to travel a lot, but whenever I get on stage and see my fans it’s all forgotten!
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
My family.
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
O6 Centrale Cassia Bis Roma
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
Female artists are a rare thing, probably because producing attracts more guys then girls.
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
Obviously it is best to do it yourself, but it is fine as long as DJs don’t pretend to produce themselves whilst they have a ghost.

Poll 2015: David Guetta

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It's not easy tracking down David Guetta for his Top 100 DJs interview this year. It's not that he's fallen out of love with the poll that crowned him No.1 DJ in 2012 — we cannot imagine Mr Guetta has eaten a single sour grape his entire life — or that he's too busy or can't be bothered.

No, David currently has a far graver issue on his mind. In September of this year, his production manager (ex-Cream employee) Alan Green passed away tragically. “Respects to him and love to his family; he helped change the game and built #teamguetta which continues in his memory. RIP mate,” he eventually tells DJ Mag in an email.

 All this aside, life is still hectic for the king of EDM/pop. Since dropping his last artist album 'Listen' last November (which hit No.1 on iTunes in 75 countries) — “I try to balance the hits with club beats, so have been releasing them too,” he says —

he's done a three-month residency in Vegas (XS and Encore Beach Club), curated parties in Ibiza (Ushuaia and Pacha) and toured Europe and South America, where he sold out arenas in Germany and Brazil, before returning home for three months.

Not forgetting, of course, Ultra (Miami and Japan)... the usual, yes, then David? “OMG. Where didn’t I play?” he adds. “This year live has been the best yet.”

In 2016, we can expect more of the same from Camp Guetta — “more tours, more music,” he says — but most notable is his appointment by UEFA as official musical ambassador for Euro 2016 in France. “I will be making the anthem and playing the opening party at the Eiffel Tower,” he adds. “Another wish coming true.”  

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-10 12:22

What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“Reading the crowd, playing with them and producing great records.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
“Over the years, I have played funk, disco, house, hip-hop, techno, electro and EDM. It doesn’t matter what you call it, people are always going to want to dance.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“Being a DJ is a dream; but it’s not always an easy life. I love feeling free, but any human needs roots, so sometimes it’s difficult. On an exhausted day, if I have to pack my suitcase one more time, I feel like I want to throw it out of the window. Once you get to the show and see the crowd, all that is forgotten. I chose this life, so I’m not complaining. Just being honest.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“UNICEF. I’ve worked with the UN Humanitarian team and UNICEF for the past three years. It’s important and humbling for me to give back and lend my voice and social reach to people who are on the ground during natural disasters, war and famine. They know what to do; how best to help those in need. My part is just to share their message.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“Turnmills! When I was new to London, I would play this sweatbox until the sun came up. So much energy, passion and hedonism. You wouldn’t know it was daylight though until you climbed the stairs and went outside. It was dark, literally underground. Like a secret society getting lost in a musical time-warp.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
“I don’t do the voting, so I don’t know! There are some amazingly talented female DJs killing it — Maya Jane Coles... Annie Mac is an education to millions. Many more. Great to see my friends NERVO smashing it. They wrote 'When Love Takes Over' with me and put in the graft. They are super-talented DJs; not because they are girls.”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“There’s a big difference between having 'ghost producers' or working as a team. It’s totally cool to work as a team and everyone should be credited. And paid. Bit like being in a band.”

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: Sander Van Doorn

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“Maybe you won’t believe it, but it’s my 10-year anniversary in the DJ Mag Top 100!” gushes Sander van Doorn. We can believe it alright. Sander is worldly-wise. While some of his contemporaries get stuck in a rut musically, van Doorn knows just when to switch it up.

Never content with one genre, he’s made a name for a shape-shifting sound that flits between big room electro-house and trance, collaborated with such diverse names as Underworld, Robbie Williams, Mark Knight, The Pet Shop Boys and Martin Garrix, and had a prolific hit-rate with his label DOORN, as well as with many other imprints.

In 2014 he minted the fresh tech house track ‘This’ alongside Oliver Heldens, and has six new releases out in 2015 already. There’s no standing still for Sander.

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-16 15:59

Style: 
Blended styles between progressive house/techno/electro.
Best known for: 
'Gold Skies', 'This', 'Guitar Track'
Tune of the year: 
Watermät & MOGUAI 'Portland'
From: 
Eindhoven, Holland
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
KSHMR — he has a very different sound.
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
I think it’s very important to be able to read the crowd and always renew and develop yourself as a DJ.
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
Definitely, especially in Asia it’s becoming a big thing.
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
Not so much mentally, because with my great team we can control everything. But physically, yes.
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
Music, because that was my first love and will be my last!
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
That would be the club Guvernment in Toronto. I did some gigs over there before it closed, during my Canadian tour. I will never forget the amazing atmosphere and great vibe in that venue!
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
I think in the future more and more talented women will come into the Top 100, that would be great, right?
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
I think the difficulty with ghost producing is that you can’t create your own sound. For me, it’s very important to produce my own music and it’s my mission to always stay true to my sound.

Poll 2015: Kaskade

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Last year, Kaskade’s management made a song and dance about him answering a few simple questions for our poll. This year, they went one step further — insisting the main man was too busy on tour to answer the questions we put his way.

He’s not the only one, but all things considered this LA-based DJ/producer is fast becoming as notorious for his potty-mouth as he is his musical output. Last year, for example, he famously told us that “Anyone over the age of 30 is suspect in a nightclub” (Kaskade is 44), while this year he’s been taking pop-shots at rock royalty in the shape of Sir Paul McCartney.

To give you a bit of background, at this year's Lollapalooza Festival, the sound bleed from Kaskade’s stage meant that it interrupted McCartney’s acoustic guitar during a tribute to John Lennon.

“I intended this,” McCartney joked as Kaskade’s bass crossed over to his stage. “It's like a crazy mash-up of this song and whatever they're playing over there.”
Kaskade’s response? “I love that!

There’s something irreverent about electronic music, that it’s very young and youthful, so the fact that I pissed some old guy off is very funny. Life achievement unlocked.”

Douche. He might be big business in Vegas and a regular fixture in the Top 100, but with this sort of outspoken carry-on it’s surely only a matter of time before this man’s antics relegate him to a bin marked ‘obscurity’. Kaskade, please, stick with the day job, mate.

STEPHEN FLYNN

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-16 16:20

Style: 
EDM, progressive
From: 
Los Angeles, California

Poll 2015: Major Lazer

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While at one time Major Lazer seemed destined to be a Diplo side-project devoted to futuristic versions of Jamaican dancehall, made alongside UK producer Switch, it’s become very much the Mad Decent founder’s primary concern these days.

Three albums deep, the most recent of which ‘Peace Is The Mission’ dropped this year, Major Lazer may have lost Switch along the way but have since become a fully-fledged band, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire now permanent fixtures.

Diplo’s restless inquisitiveness has seen him explore many forms of the world’s electronic music, and similarly the sound of Major Lazer has expanded in recent times to take in fizzy EDM, more contemplative sounds as on the quietly anthemic ‘Get Free’, and the pure pop of ‘Lean On’ with DJ Snake and MØ, lifted from the new record ‘Peace Is The Mission’.

That record also has guest spots from mainstream chart-pop singers like Ellie Goulding and Ariana Grande, as well as former Clipse MC Pusha T. Clearly on a creative run, Major Lazer have already suggested that 2015 might yield a second release with the title ‘Music Is The Weapon’. 

The fact the band have hit the Top 100 in addition to separate showings from bossman Diplo and also Jack U, his duo with Skrillex, suggests that they’ve become a hugely popular entity in their own right. Diplo might generate headlines for his controversial comments, but Major Lazer have clearly got it going on. 

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-16 11:13

Style: 
Dancehall mixed with EDM, pop and bass music.

From: 
Los Angeles, California

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: 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: KSHMR

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With releases on Dutch imprint Spinin’ Records, remixes for the likes of Avicii, and a huge collaboration alongside Tiesto, American EDM producer and DJ KSHMR has had quite a productive 2015 to say the least.

His ascension to the top is even more impressive considering Niles Hollowell-Dhar has only been releasing music under his KSHMR alias since 2014. Before then he was one half of hip-hop production duo The Cataracs alongside David 'Campa' Benjamin Singer-Vine.

2015 finally saw the LA-based producer breakout from his hip-hop roots and into the world of EDM, and it was his collaboration, ‘Secrets’, alongside Dutch heavyweight Tiesto that was the catalyst to putting his new alias on the map. That success then saw the LA-based producer play his first live show at the Fonda Theatre in LA alongside Bassjackers and newcomer Yogi.

“This year has gone better than I ever hoped for,” KSHMR tells DJ Mag. “'Burn' with DallasK really opened the door for me, and from there I had the honour of collaborating with Tiesto on 'Secrets', which became the biggest release of my career so far.”

“Music aside, Tiesto introducing me for the first time at Ultra 2015 in Miami was one of the most surreal experiences of my life,” he continues.

As well as high-flying collaborations and remixes, KSHMR also found time to release 'Jammu' — his most personal track to date. It pulled in a host of influences, including those from his Indian heritage, into a giant EDM melting pot. 

With support from the scene's biggest names, KSHMR is showing all the signs of becoming one of the US’s biggest EDM stars to date.

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - Jon Dommett - 2015-11-13 10:14

Style: 
“Progressive/electro-house.”
Best known for: 
“'Jammu', 'Secrets', 'Burn', 'Karate', 'Memories'.”
Tune of the year: 
“Of my own, 'Secrets'; overall, 'Flicker' by Porter Robinson."
From: 
Berkeley, CA
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
“Probably Kygo.”
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
“Preparation. It's important to give people an experience they couldn't get just by listening to your tracks online.”
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
That's up to the artists, and if we can continue to innovate.”
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
“No. But then again, I've only played one show.”
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
“I want to show people that dance music is a genre capable of evoking the same full spectrum of emotions as any other. That it can reflect culture, and have a soul. I want to give people an artist in dance music that isn't laminated in a glossy film of private jets and penthouse suites.”
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
“I don't know enough clubs to answer this.”
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
“I'm not sure. I haven't met many female producers but I'm happy to help any who want to learn.”
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
“I think it's acceptable to get help. Ultimately, it is up to the artists to decide at what point they are no longer being honest with their listeners.”

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

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