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!”