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Poll 2021: Black Coffee

Black Coffee
From: South Africa
Nkosinathi Maphumulo’s star continued to rise in 2021. The artist, better known by his stage name Black Coffee, released his sixth studio album, ‘Subconsciously’, in February to glowing reviews. The 12-track record was packed with music heavyweights, including Pharrell, David Guetta and Usher, reviving the SA house legend’s signature smooth and subtle sounds, with a few more radio-friendly cuts thrown in for good measure. He took to the road following the release, playing at venues in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Zurich and Ibiza and even revived his world-renowned Deep In the City nights. 
South Africa’s top DJ also gave an NPR Tiny Desk performance in March, becoming the second DJ to do so and in September it was revealed that his No.1 single ‘Drive’ was the most-streamed South African song in Apple Music history, proving Black Coffee’s staying power after many years in the game. “I’ve been in the studio this year working on new music, gearing up for the launch of Sensorium Galaxy’s PRISM, composed the soundtrack for Amiri’s SS 2022 runway show and focussed on Gallo Music, as well as my angel investment company Flightmode Digital,” he tells DJ Mag.
How was your first gig back after lockdown?
“My first show after having been in total lockdown in South Africa for most of 2020 was just such a revelation. There is very little that can top performing to a live audience. Human connection is not over-rated.”


How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?

“The pandemic has allowed me to spend real-time at home and to really rest and replenish, something I haven’t been able to do in about five or six years. It was a joy to have extended quality time to devote to my kids and to be able to sit and do nothing, just listen to my inner voice and reconnect with myself. This past summer I’ve made a point of breaking touring into chunks and returned home to South Africa every four-to-six weeks.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-12 10:05

House music
Best known for: 
Ibiza residency, being Africa’s most well-known DJ

Poll 2021: Nora En Pure

Nora En Pure
From: South Africa/Switzerland
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Paradoks.”
When Nora En Pure polled in the DJ Mag Top 100 for the first time in 2020, the Swiss-South African DJ and producer was presenting her style of orchestral-leaning melodic deep house at festivals like Ultra and Coachella, at residencies like Privilege Ibiza and on her weekly broadcast, Purified Radio. During the pandemic, she spent time in the Swiss Alps and South African wilderness working on new music, continuing Purified Radio and preparing for a return to clubland. “I finally spent more time with my family and friends, then touring picked up again, especially in the US, so I was quite busy on the road during the summer months,” Nora says.
Propelled by this year’s EP ‘Oblivion/Thermal’ and single ‘Won’t Leave Your Side’ featuring Liz Cass — both on her long-time label Enormous Tunes — Nora En Pure has come back with style, playing a special live-stream set for Beatport from Switzerland’s stunning Lake Arnen and readying performances for Mexico’s Kygo’s Palm Tree and Departure festivals (this December and January 2022 respectively). Tapping into her life-long love of nature, she’s also teamed up with Beneath The Waves, a non-profit organisation for ocean conservation; another summertime single of hers, ‘Aquatic’, is inspired by this collaboration.
How was your first gig back after lockdown? 
“I had some really special ones that meant a lot to me and where you saw the crowd is in the same place. Others I had high expectations that it would feel very emotional, which they did to me, but that market was having events already for months.”
How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?
“I definitely have a healthier balance now, which I was already aiming for though before the lockdown happened."
What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?
“I think there are other industries and huge companies that carry a much more heavy and impactful responsibility for this topic, which could make the real change we need. While it's rather unrealistic that we all stop driving cars, taking planes and get rid of our electronics, I think we should all try to stay informed on current issues and what solutions can be, also on a political level. In daily touring life, my rider states to avoid any sort of plastic – bottles, cups, packaging etc – I think this is something festivals and clubs could easily adopt, though many already do this.”
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?
“A Roland Juno-60.”
What’s the best album you’ve heard this year?
“I'm waiting for the new ABBA album.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-12 09:59

“Melodic house.”
Best known for: 
“‘Come With Me’.”
Tune of the year: 
“Claire feat. Delhia De France ‘Anyma & Janus Rasmussen’.”

Poll 2021: Deadmau5

From: Canada

It’s been 16 years since Joel Zimmerman hit the ground running via his debut LP, ‘Get Scraped’— and we’re beginning to think that he might want to trade in his rodent persona for a hard-charging racehorse, as he shows no signs of slowing down. In just the past 12 months, he’s released five singles ranging from the lighter-than-air ‘Bridged By A Lightwave’ to the strutting ‘When The Summer Dies’, and launched a pair of new labels, hau5trap and beathau5, the latter specialising in providing music for film, television, advertising and digital media.
That’s just the start. On the live front, Zimmerman’s been revving back into gear, first via drive-in events and, later, full-scale outdoor gigs, perhaps most notably a massive party at LA’s SoFi Stadium with Kaskade. He’s partnered with Richie Hawtin to launch the direct-to-avatar gaming venture PIXELYNX; he’s teamed with game developer Manticore to create Oberhasli, a virtual world that’s just kicked off with an in-game deadmau5 concert; he’s on the advisory board of the emerging streaming platform Audius; and almost needless to say, he’s dived headfirst into NFTs. We could keep going, but you get the idea — Zimmerman is one busy house mouse.

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-12 09:55

Best known for: 
Wearing a mouse head

Poll 2021: REZZ

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “fknsyd.”
After breaking into the Top 100 DJs poll as the highest new entry in 2020, REZZ continues to hypnotise her cult of fans with her electro-powered productions and swirling LED glasses. This summer was a breakneck one for the Canadian whiz who picked up her postponed tour right where it left off. She hit massive venues like Brooklyn Mirage and Red Rocks Amphitheatre along the way, the latter of which hosted her REZZ Rocks series which has become a highly-anticipated annual tradition for her mile-high family.

Though the prodigy says as of late she's been "relaxing and living a very normal life with close friends", 2021 has not been without notable releases. REZZ joined forces with her champion and label mate Deadmau5 on ‘Hypnocurrency’. The two stormed the stage together at this year’s Electric Zoo Festival in New York City to perform the churning and menacing track which may be one of the best Mau5trap collaborations yet. In September, REZZ teamed up with Deathpact on ‘Chemical Bond’, a true snarler of a cut that pushes the bass to new boundaries, and to be honest, we’re all about it. All hail Space Mom.
How was your first gig back after lockdown?
“My first USA festival back was Sunset in Tampa and it was fucking amazing, and made me realise how much I missed playing shows.”
How has the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?
“It's been nice to slow down and tour less. I've been able to get my life more balanced and work on music, which has been great.”
What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?
“Would be great to see single-use plastics not being used at events or clubs.”
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?
"Haven’t added anything new. I like to keep things simple.”
What’s the best album you’ve heard this year?
"Billie Eilish 'Happier Than Ever’."

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-12 09:50

“Mid-tempo hypnosis.”
Best known for: 
Tune of the year: 
“Kasablanca 'Hold Me Close’.”

Poll 2021: Boris Brejcha

Boris Brejcha
From: Germany
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Moritz Hofbauer.”
In the summer of 2019, Boris Brejcha played his first shows on the White Isle, at Ushuaïa and Hï Ibiza; his trademark, Carnival-inspired mask and self-styled “hi-tech minimal” sound framed the German as a unique prospect for Ibiza’s packed calendar. Later that year, he entered the Top 100 DJs poll for the first time at No.85; in the 2020 edition, he climbed 25 places to No.60, and this year he’s up a further 18 places. 
Throughout the pandemic, Brejcha has released music by Deniz Bul, Theydream and Ann Clue (among others) on his FCKING SERIOUS label, and plenty of original music, too. Alongside several singles and EPs, his debut album, ‘Space Diver’, was released on Ultra Music last year. As clubland gradually returns for millions worldwide, Brejcha is charting his own path back to the dancefloor, with shows in London, Prague and Berlin this winter. And with his hi-tech minimal – that twisted blend of minimal techno, melodic house and rough electro – Brejcha is set to charm old and new fans alike.
How was your first gig back after lockdown? 
“It was a bit like going back in time to 2019 and you couldn't believe that you were back at a party with so many people. You had been waiting for this moment for so long, and then it quickly felt like you had never been away.”
How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?
“I have realised how nice it is to spend ‘normal’ time at home and now I put even more emphasis on my health. I also have to say: I enjoyed this time in a way. I've rarely been home so much at a stretch — that was very nice.”
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?
“Since I only use software in the studio, I have everything digital. But I bought a couple of plug-ins from the company UJAM.”
What's the best album you've heard this year?
“I honestly don't listen to much music other than my own and my label mates, so I guess I'll have to pass.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-12 09:44

“High-tech minimal.”
Best known for: 
“My joker mask and my own music.”
Tune of the year: 
“Of course, one of mine: ‘House Music feat. Artic Lake’.”.

Poll 2021: Steve Aoki

Steve Aoki
From: California, USA

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Ninja Attack.”
Producer, DJ, published author, label boss, restaurateur, sheet cake-launching showman — with this ever growing list of titles, Steve Aoki proves himself to be a Renaissance man time after time. In April 2020 he dropped his sixth studio album ‘Neon Future IV’, a diverse collection of pop-centric singles with performances from the likes of the Backstreet Boys, Zooey Deschanel, will.i.am, ALOK and Sting, just to name a few. In January 2021, he followed that LP up with ‘60KI — Rave Royale’ EP, a handful of hardstyle bangers crafted in collaboration with names like Timmy Trumpet, k?d and Brennan Heart. This six-track collection kept fans sated until it was safe to catch him in the flesh again.
Though the baking industry likely took a hit when last year’s tour was postponed due to COVID-19, the ovens are heating up once again. Aoki brought frosting-flinging performances to clubs and festival stages across the globe this summer, making stops at Untold Festival in Romania, HQ2 in Atlantic City, and Beyond Wonderland at The Gorge, with a set at the first-ever Electric Zoo Adventures resort party in Cancun, Mexico still to come. These action-packed spectacles were a welcome shift following the forced hiatus brought on by the pandemic, during which the Dim Mak label founder claims he spent focusing on mindfulness, self-reflection and time with family. “We can all use that,” he adds. 
Speaking of which, meditation is especially important to the two-time Grammy nominee. Though his on-stage antics have earned him the reputation of fun-loving stuntman, his contributions to science are noteworthy, too. His charitable 501c3, The Aoki Foundation, “has a primary goal of supporting organisations in the brain science and research areas with a specific focus on regenerative medicine and brain preservation.” Part of the way this is achieved is through in-person and live-stream events, the most recent of which was a record breaking $1 million invite-only Pokemon Box Break Charity Event that took place in October. “Also, NFTs to the moon!” he adds. “Collectible culture has been a fun joyride for me so sports cards, Pokémon, and most importantly (especially if you are even remotely interested in this space) keep your eyes on MetaZoo!"
Steve explores his rich interests, among others, in his two biographical books. In 2019, he published his second, in which he lends a deeper look into the life of the rebellious herbivore turned EDM-blasting pioneer. Aoki revealed the story of his incredible come up in Blue: The Color Of Noise, an introspective and critically acclaimed memoir that details his relationship with his late father, Rocky Aoki, founder of the Benihana empire. Though they didn’t always see eye-to-eye, Steve has since gone on to open restaurants himself, the most recent venture being Kura Kura Pa, a Japanese Yakitori joint he and his older brother Kevin Aoki brought to Resorts World Casino on the Vegas strip this past August. 
Always one to surprise, Aoki unveiled his new tech-house alias Ninja Attack in October with his debut single, ‘Aurora’, which sees the producer meander into darker, minimal territory, a stark contrast to the colourful mainstage sounds many associate with the unmistakable artist. 
Aoki continues to say he's got a new album in the pipeline. “This is going to be much different than what most people will expect,” he says. However, if there’s one thing he's shown us repeatedly, it’s to expect the unexpected. Oh, and also to hang several meters behind the rail, unless of course you want to spend the rest of your festival evening in a sticky-sweet layer of sugary goo.
How was your first gig back after Lockdown?
“The crowd was twice as wild and twice as crazy. People were so excited to be at a live show again!”
How has the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?
“I enjoyed the lockdown. The reset is what I may have needed because I'm always on the go. More mindfulness, more self-reflection, and more family time — we all can use that.”
What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?
“More education creates more action. Education is the key.”
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ set-up this year?
“I haven't changed much in the past few years. If it works, why fix it?”
What’s the best album you’ve heard this year?
“'Go Global' by Global Dan.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-12 09:36

Best known for: 
“‘Music Means Love Forever’.”
Tune of the year: 

Poll 2021: David Guetta

David Guetta
From: Paris, France
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “My friend MORTEN and Joel Corry.”
“I’m so proud to be a part of this amazing industry and can’t express my gratitude to everyone who voted me your No.1 DJ for the second year in a row. It means so much."
The big news from this year’s Top 100 DJs poll results is that David Guetta has retained the No.1 spot that he claimed last year — a decade after he was first crowned the world’s No.1 DJ back in 2011. The Frenchman now joins an elite grouping of Dutch DJs — Martin Garrix, Tiësto and Armin van Buuren — who have won the Top 100 vote three times or more. So it’s a big congratulations to David, a global ambassador for the electronic dance music scene who keeps on innovating and reaching the parts that few others can.
“It’s wonderful, I’m so happy,” David exclaims to DJ Mag. “To do it two times in a row as well — it’s the third time, but two times in a row is pretty crazy. It’s been an incredibly busy year for me, but it’s always nice when you work hard to feel like people can see it.
“I’ve been doing this for so many years since I was playing funk records as a teenager. It’s amazing to be able to pursue your passion, and I just hope — cos I also started from nothing — that being No.1 after all these years is an inspiration to kids that are bedroom DJs like I was.”
Guetta’s first Top 100 DJs victory in 2011 was a definitive marker for how EDM was replacing trance as the dominant bigroom/festival sound at the time. “It was the beginning of that EDM era in the festivals,” Guetta said. It followed his string of dance-pop hits where he effectively — finally — broke down the doors of mainstream America for dance music virtually single-handedly. 
‘When Love Takes Over', featuring the vocals of ex-Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, was his first multi-platinum international smash — a UK No.1, it was also the single that made US radio stations start playing dance music in the daytime. ‘Sexy Bitch’ with Akon, ‘Memories’ with Kid Cudi, ‘Who’s That Chick?’ with Rihanna, 'Titanium’ with Sia, and ‘Turn Me On’ featuring Nicki Minaj and others followed in its wake, Guetta making a feature of collaborating with hip-hop/R&B artists and crossing over into the mainstream charts. He also produced ‘I Gotta Feeling’ for the Black Eyed Peas — another global smash.
His move into the pop world was essentially a calculated transition to cross dance music over into the mainstream. “I was always feeling strongly about the quality of our music, and thinking ‘Why are we not as big as hip-hop or rock or pop,” Guetta told DJ Mag last year. “Why is the music industry looking down on us? I think all those hits made us more respected in the music industry. And also everybody got more money!”
In truth, Guetta has always had a yearning to make things more accessible. “That was always my thing since I started,” he said. “Even as a DJ, my thing was always to take my inspiration from the underground and find a way to make it more accessible, and more melodic, with harmonies and stuff. I’m a musical person, I like melodies and harmonies.”
Guetta had certainly paid his dues by the time he hit mainstream paydirt. Originally a hip-hop DJ, he started running clubs in his home city of Paris as house music swept Europe in the late ’80s/early ’90s and steadily built up his rep through singles, DJ gigs and his own club-nights such as the prophetic F*** Me I’m Famous parties in Ibiza. Two decades of activity in the house music scene, and he switched it up to become the most famous DJ/producer in the world thanks to his run of pop hits.
A natural-born collaborator and empath, David spent the 2010s consolidating his position as a top DJ/producer, but in recent years he’s started to seek out more underground credibility once again. In 2011 he released ‘Nothing But The Beat’, a double album where the first half was collabs with people from the hip-hop/R&B and pop worlds such as Lil Wayne, Taio Cruz, Nicki Minaj, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Timbaland, Jessie J and Sia (the epic ’Titanium’).
The second side was stuffed full of instrumental dance tracks. He then created the Jack Back label in 2012 for electronic music releases that weren’t EDM pop, and towards the end of the decade started using the Jack Back alias to play more underground shows and to differentiate the house music he was creating from the more commercial material.
This journey away from the pop mainstream coincided with Guetta finding that there weren’t enough big EDM tracks that he liked to fill a big festival set. He needed more bigroom tunes for his big room shows, so set about creating more of his own. “I took two years to dedicate all my efforts into DJ culture, without trying to do any crossover records,” he said. “I went a little bit against the grain — when a lot of DJs are trying to make pop music, I did it the other way around.”
Hooking up with Danish pal MORTEN, he came up with the ‘future rave’ concept via the ‘New Rave’ EP. Characterised by techno drums, a trance sensibility and EDM dynamics, tracks such as ‘Never Be Alone’, ‘Make It To Heaven’ and ‘Detroit 3AM’ came out just as the pandemic was about to shut down the planet.
His renewed focus on DJ culture led to his 2020 victory in the Top 100 DJs poll, and following on from his fundraising United At Home live streams in Miami and New York in 2020 he pulled off the Paris edition of United At Home by playing a virtual concert from the French capital city’s renowned Louvre Museum on New Year’s Eve 2020, in aid of Unicef and French food package charity Restos du Coeur. He then took the concept to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and raised almost $2million in all from the United events.
He had his first ‘in real life’ gigs back in Florida from the end of May 2021 onwards. He soon moved onto Las Vegas before playing EXIT in Serbia, Creamfields in the UK, Untold in Romania, and then back to the UK for the Isle Of Wight festival at the end of September. “I did like [the lockdown] but I love performing and the energy it gives me,” Guetta says. “My whole life has always been about music, it’s my passion, so for me, it doesn’t feel like work.
I’m so happy I was able to play again this year but I’ve also been enjoying plenty of studio time.” 
Guetta put out a tonne of new music this year. “I’ve released more music than ever,” he says. “The fact that I was not touring, I had so much time and energy. I’m a bit of a hyperactive person, and I gave everything to music. It gave incredible rewards.”
He kept one toe in the pop world by dropping ‘Heartbreak Anthem’ with Little Mix and Galantis, which reached No.3 in the UK charts in the summer. He also released singles in 2021 with Afrojack, Rita Ora, Becky Hill, Sia, Joel Corry and Raye, and MistaJam and John Newman, plus a new future rave numbers with MORTEN, ‘Impossible’, and a future rave remix (again with MORTEN) of ‘Titanium’.
“I remixed Shouse’s ‘Love Tonight’ with a future rave spin, which has been amazing to play out live,” he adds. “It was so incredible to see ‘Memories’ go viral on TikTok such a long time after I released it, this inspired me to release a 2021 remix. I also celebrated the 10-year anniversary of ‘Titanium’, too. It felt like I was covering 100% of the spectrum.”
Somehow, the amiable Frenchman also found time to make a film with DJ Mag to showcase his production chops, demonstrating how to create a future rave edit of ‘Titanium’ that’s primed for festival action. And he starred in a How I DJ video for DJ Mag too; Guetta came to DJ Mag's London HQ to share a host of DJ tips and techniques including a demo of his hybrid setup, how to key sync, creative use of FX, and much more.
“I’m super happy with the Top 100 chart this year, especially seeing my close friend MORTEN finally getting recognition,” Guetta concludes. “We have been having big success together with future rave, I’m really proud - and this is just the beginning!
“We’ve been working on future rave for more than two years now, and it kind of became the leading sound of festivals,” he continues. “We’ve loved that people have been imitating the sound and also doing it in their own ways. Our responsibility as producers is to keep pushing the envelope — the next release [‘Alive’ at the end of November] is completely different; it’s that same spirit, maybe even more underground? It’s still the idea of taking underground music and taking techno and trance influences in an underground way, but to make it accessible to the main stage because of the level of energy. And how phat it sounds. I think we’re going a little bit deeper.”
Congratulations once again to David Guetta: the world’s No.1 DJ 2021.
How was your first gig back after lockdown?
“Incredible! I played one of the first gigs in Vegas when the clubs opened. I always said the first moment when the sound came back on in a club, and we’re together again, was going to be amazing and that night will certainly go down in history for me as one of my favourite shows. The energy from the crowd was out of this world.”

How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?
“I had a lot of time to reflect, refine and create music that has inspired me like never before. With no shows, I was in endless studio sessions and had the time to start the next chapter of my ‘Future Rave’ sound together with MORTEN. I had a normal sleeping routine during the pandemic for the first time in 20 years, waking up at 8 am, going to the gym and heading to bed at the same time every day.”

What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?
“I know a lot of DJs, including myself, are off-setting their carbon emissions, which is great, as we’re travelling so frequently.”

What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?
“I got two crazy new plug-ins! One is a sidechain plug-in called Kickstart by Cableguys and Nicky Romero, and also the new VolumeShaper by Cableguys too.”

What’s the best album you’ve heard this year?
“Nowadays it’s not really about albums, there are so many great releases coming out every week. It was really exciting to see the Swedish House Mafia return. They’re good friends of mine and we released two tracks together, ‘It Gets Better’ and ‘Lifetime’. Also, I love all of Joel Corry’s records, and Tale Of Us!”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-12 09:29

“Future rave.”
Best known for: 
“‘Titanium’ with Sia!"
Tune of the year: 
Fave tune of 2021: “‘Love Tonight’.”

Poll 2021: Carl Cox

Carl Cox
From: UK

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Franky Wah. He is coming at ya!”


Carl Cox: maestro, legend, genius — he’s been called it all and that’s probably why he’s never left the Top 100 DJs list ever since it began. If our figures are right, in this year alone Coxy has remixed five tracks, featured on one single and played on three continents — not bad during a pandemic. To top it off, he began his BBC Radio 1 Residency, published his autobiography Oh Yes, Oh Yes! — which made the bestsellers list — and announced his first album in a decade. All good reasons for him to make the 2021 list.
But perhaps what’s kept Coxy at the top all these years, aside from his mastery of the craft — across all DJ formats — is the pure joy he exudes when playing, even up to this very day. Anyone who watched one of his Cabin Fever sessions online over the past year would have noticed this. It’s the kind of passion you can’t fake or maintain unless it's coming from a real place. He really does embody the spirit of the rave: peace, love, unity and respect.
How was your first gig back after lockdown?
“I’d already been playing big shows in Australia but my first gig back in the UK, to 5,000 people on Brighton Beach, was beyond amazing."



How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?
“Probably by learning what balance was! Of course, I was working just as hard but without touring. I used to fit everything around the shows but now I can see how to let everything flow together."



What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?
“As an industry we are on the whole mindful of the environment, but we also have a loud voice and a huge global reach and can make sure that industrialists and politicians listen to us."



What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year? 
“I started to use the Pioneer DJS-1000, it’s such a powerful piece of kit, I love it.”



What’s the best album you’ve heard this year? 
“London Elektricity ‘Building Better Worlds’. I just cannot stop playing it.” 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-11 12:36

“Techno and house – played with passion.”
Best known for: 
“Sharing the love of all music styles, bringing a positive energy to the dancefloor and still known as the People’s Choice.”
Tune of the year: 
“Dubfire & Flug 'Rubber'.”

Poll 2021: Marshmello

From: USA
American helmet-wearer of mystery Marshmello, otherwise known as Christopher Comstock — and for those that know him better still he is affectionately just plain old Mello — is as fierce a genre-bending producer as he is a crowd-pleasing DJ. In recent years he's been moving away from his saccharine pop EDM sound and working with hip-hop artists — glimpses of hip-hop have been appearing in his music since he first started out. But it's not just the obvious solid A-listers, Marshmello has been pushing forward songs that his counterparts might not have considered. Recording with Roddy Ricch, 42 Dugg, Migos and Meek Mill, and working through the night, it's almost like he has a point to prove. 

2021, with its worldwide lull in touring and gig activity, has given the Mello one the chance to go deep and spend some serious quality time in the studio. Known for his ability to switch up genres, Marshmello's anticipated 'Shockwave' album came out this summer, released on his own Joytime Collective label, embracing his roots both in electronic dance music, country, rock and rap.

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-11 11:29

Best known for: 
His helmet

Poll 2021: Oliver Heldens

Oliver Heldens

From: The Netherlands

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “There are many! I’ll name a bunch of them, including some that are pretty much ‘stars’ already. Eli Brown, Franky Wah, Artbat, Ben Böhmer, Tinlicker, Fabrication, Nora En Pure, Sofi Tukker, John Summit, Vintage Culture, Shermanology, Guz, Sosa, Cloonee, Michael Bibi, Martin Ikin, Wh0, Dombresky, CID, Leftwing & Kody, James Hype, LP Giobbi, Fred Again.., Kungs, Imanbek, Topic, Purple Disco Machine, KUU, Shouse, Anabel Englund, Rebuke, Ronnie Spiteri, Will Clarke, T78, Deborah de Luca, Joyhauser, Wehbba, Layton Giordani, Ramon Tapia, Space 92, Lilly Palmer, Drunken Kong, Metodi Hristov, Reinier Zonneveld, Klangkuenstler, TRYM, DYEN, Nico Moreno, Alignment, Mike Cervello, Funkin Matt, MorganJ, SKIY, and PBH & Jack. But there are many more! Check out my radio show Heldeep Radio or my label Heldeep Records to discover more of them.”


Though live performances have only just become possible again in many countries, Oliver Heldens had a busy summer and early autumn of gigs. He toured the US, played at SAGA festival in Romania and at Creamfields in the UK, before a triumphant headline show at London’s massive Printworks.

“In the US I was blown away by the energy of the crowds,” Heldens says. “Same goes for the few festivals I’ve played in Europe recently and my own headline show at the legendary Printworks, it just feels really good to be playing shows again!”

He also spent lots of time in the studio during the last 18 months, developing the sound of his more techno and progressive-driven HI-LO alias. Released this year, ’Balearic Mornings’ with Reinier Zonneveld was a euphoric pumper built for (hopefully) 2022’s Ibiza season, while ‘Saw Of Olympus’ (another Zonneveld collaboration) was an acid-propelled chugger with strident kicks and hats.
“I’ve found myself doing more progressive or even trance-influenced stuff than before,” Heldens says. “Also one of my upcoming HI-LO tracks, ‘Hera’, on my Drumcode debut EP, is quite proggy and euphoric. It’s a real crossover techno anthem.”

Heldens, though, has always drawn from various different dance genres, and in 2021 he reached for the rave lasers too, tapping into the pervasive ’90s revival that is sweeping all areas of the scene. ‘Ma Luv’ with MorganJ was all diva vocals and big synth stabs. “True,” he says, “that kind of music has definitely been an inspiration for me recently, you can also hear that in my track ‘Rave Machine’ featuring Rowetta, but I’m influenced by a lot of different styles and sounds.”

Heldens is still working on a track with a specially recorded guitar line from Chic’s Nile Rodgers, channelling the disco sound, another musical passion. “He laid down some of his signature funky guitars, but I just couldn’t find the right vocal for it,” Heldens admits. “I must’ve written at least 12 toplines with several songwriters, but I now finally found the right vocal sample for it and I’m having a choir re-sing that vocal now. I really can’t wait to release that one!”

This year, Heldens also got the chance to remix one of his all-time favourite tunes: Roger Sanchez’s evergreen ‘Another Chance’, dialling up its epic sensibilities and adding a trance tinge.
“‘Another Chance’ is one of my favourite dance music records, so it was a huge honour to work on this remix for the 20-year anniversary,” he says. “I feel very grateful to be able to work on such awesome projects, same as when I got asked to remix Chic’s ‘Le Freak’ for its 40-year anniversary. I’m really happy how these turned out.”

As the night-time industry begins to open up again, Heldens is looking ahead to a brighter future. “I truly want to thank everyone who has supported me in my career so far,” he says. “It’s been an insane journey already, but at the same time there’s so much more musical territory to explore, so I’m super excited for what the future holds. Bring it on!”


How was your first gig back after lockdown?

“It was early July this year under my darker alias HI-LO at a Filth On Acid party here in the Netherlands, and it was amazing! It felt really good to be on stage again and I came well-prepared with lots of new tracks that I made during the pandemic, which made it extra fun.” 


What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?

“I have my carbon footprint from flying calculated every year and have that footprint compensated by some projects that plant lots of trees all over the world. This is probably not enough, though. It would be good if events/festivals have their carbon footprint calculated and have it compensated through these kinds of projects.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-11 11:26

“Mixing future house and dance with tech/deep/bass house, techno, electro, progressive, disco and more. Bridging the mainstream and underground.”
Best known for: 
“Pioneering the future house genre since 2014, my weekly Heldeep radio show, running Heldeep Records, my darker alias HI-LO, and my eclectic/versatile sets.”
Tune of the year: 
“This mash-up I made for my sets of Christian Smith – ‘Stratosphere (Ronnie Spiteri Remix)’ vs Shouse ‘Love Tonight’ – has been crushing it for me.”