"I've DJed in nearly every single country in the world this year," says 24-year-old progressive and electro house DJ/producer Hardwell. "And I really feel as if people - both the crowds and the DJs and producers too - are becoming more open-minded about dance music." After the year he's had, Hardwell should be tired. But, he says, it's the raw energy he gets from the music that keeps him going - pushing the boundaries for that next gig, and that next studio session.
Since he first started DJing aged just 14-years-old - "I decided to do it myself after I was out in a club and heard Tiesto's 'Flight 643'" - the Dutch DJ hasn't let up. This year his DJing stepped up a notch. Gigs all over the world have included more than a few in Rotterdam, home to the first-ever venue he DJed in - a club called Hollywood.
"It really was unbelievable to play in a club like that when I was so young," says Hardwell, aka Robbert van de Corput. "But I have to admit that I still feel that excitement now, every time I DJ. It's amazing how that hasn't worn off for me. There's something about the energy you get from a crowd, then give back to them in that same instant that is just magical." This year, he says, Hardwell has been focusing on his own productions (his 'Spaceman' single has had huge success) and his Revealed Recordings label. He was a newcomer in our Top 100 poll last year and, now, he's hot-footing it up the ranks. "I never expect to get recognition for DJing or my productions," he says. "For me it's just about doing what I love."
Hardwell started learning piano as a child and quickly moved onto playing keyboards. Around the same time as he started DJing, as a teenager, Hardwell began to experiment, combining keyboard music with computer-generated beats and blips. His Bubbling Beats parties and CD releases won him a Dutch music award in 2005 and he went on to do an 'Electric Beatz' compilation series.
Hardwell's first production success came via 'Guess What', a massive, stompathon of a house tune he co-produced with homeboy DJ Chuckie. But that's all in the past. And, like most burgeoning young DJs, Hardwell's got his eye firmly fixed on the future. "I've got so much stuff going on in the studio at the moment," says Hardwell. "I can't really talk about it but there's a lot of new stuff coming next year."
If you want to catch sneaky tasters of what he's working on, as well as just getting a dose of pure electro-progressive-energy-fused Hardwell magic, then checking into his 'Hardwell On Air' weekly show on Mixjunkies.com is a good idea. On there, he's as likely to drop his own remix of Example's 'Say Nothing' as he is to play a new Avicii tune or the new Benny Benassi mix of Bob Marley & The Wailer's 'Jammin''. In dance music, variety is what keeps things interesting. And with his wide-ranging tastes and ability to distill these influences into his own unique productions, Hardwell proves he's no one-trick-pony. "Dance music aside, I'm loving the latest Kanye West album too," says Hardwell. "I listen to all sorts of things, really."