Skip to main content

Tiësto, less better-known as Tijs Verwest, is a hard man to pin down. It takes DJmag three attempts to get hold of him, thanks to a series of delayed flights, extended stopovers and overrunning meetings. Finally, we track him down in Glasgow where he's playing the Braehead Arena as part of his Kaleidoscope World Tour, which has so far spanned a whole year and dates all across the US, Canada, central and south America, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Jordan, Israel, South Africa, Lebanon, Egypt and Europe more or less in its entirety.

But it is, of course, entirely understandable. His record for consecutive gigs this year has been 21. That's 21 gigs in 21 days. It is, astonishingly, not his personal best. Once he managed 27 gigs in 25 days, a superhuman effort whichever way you slice it. Next time a rock star checks in to rehab citing exhaustion, have a think about what Tiësto has to deal with.
"It just gets me into a special zone," he says, when asked how he prepares himself for the almost constant rigours of touring. "I like to go fast."
Fast is right. A throwaway gag about how fast his BPMs tend to be might have been appropriate at this point, but not this year. Of all the Top 100, Tiësto has put the most on the line. Since we spoke to him last year, much has changed, notably the fact that he has turned his back on the music that has made him one of the most successful, in-demand DJs on the planet. Those heading for a Tiësto gig expecting a night of frisky euphoric trance will now be exposed to something quite, quite different.
"The biggest thing to happen for me this year is my change in style. I play more eclectic, much more house-driven, and like, indie pop music. The whole trance part is deleted from my set now. It is completely gone. It was a revolutionary thing for me."

When you're used to commanding crowds of anywhere up to 50,000 people (and occasionally more), such a volte-face could have posed a colossal risk. The impetus for change came with the release of his fourth album, 'Kaleidoscope', in late 2009, a departure from anything he had made before, setting up the label Musical Freedom on which to release it, as if to compound the fact that things had changed. Luckily, the risk has proven to be calculated.
"The crowd loves it. But you lose some, you win some. Some people love it, some people hate it. Now I have a whole new fanbase. But it's been great for myself, because I can still play what I believe in, and I'm really happy about it. It's a process, you can't change overnight, but it's exciting.
"I just didn't like the old trancey sounds anymore," he continues. "It just all started to sound the same to me. Already in Ibiza last year, I had started to play like that, and I saw that the people were up for everything, and it felt great. I'm still learning, experimenting with where to drop which tracks. But everyone's very supportive."

That it's out with the old, in with the new doesn't seem to have affected his ability to draw mammoth crowds, which is surely an indication that his change in style is working. He recently played an outdoor party at Red Square in Moscow to 25,000 people at the foot of the Kremlin, a gig broadcast live on MTV.
"For me it was a legendary gig, for a western European DJ growing up with the Berlin Wall. To go to Russia and play Red Square was pretty intense." It was doubtless equally intense playing house music and electro indie-pop to 25,000 Russian fans, a fair percentage of whom would have been expecting trance, and pulling it off. Good skills.