Early 2015, Headhunterz goes on a 6-week North-America tour, as part of Steve Aoki’s Neon Future Experience Tour. ‘Once Again’, Headhunterz’ solo track, gets released on Hardwell’s Revealed Recordings and the Headhunterz remix of Armin van Buuren ft. Mr. Probz – Another You is released on Armada Music. At Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Steve Aoki invites Headhunterz on stage to premiere their collaboration, yet to be released. Headhunterz’ collab with Crystal Lake, ‘Live Your Life’, is released on Spinnin Records in May and reaches #3 in Beatport’s overall charts. In interviews, Headhunterz says that his changes in style have to do with him claiming his creative freedom. Despite committing to his creative freedom, he continued to play hardstyle in his sets. On 26 June 2016, Rebergen made a surprise appearance at Defqon 1 2016, alongside Technoboy and The Prophet. The reaction from the crowd left him emotional and he has promised to never forget his roots. That same day, Headhunterz and KSHMR released “Dharma” on Spinnin’ Records. Ending 2016, Headhunterz returned with Wildstylez as Project One and played their new track called Project One – Luminosity.
So how you doin’?
Good! Good. I’ve been very busy in the studio, which has been very fruitful and gigs are going well too, so nothing to complain about music-wise.
Cool. I wanted to asked about when you were growing up — it was in a pretty small area of Utrecht, right?
Yeah, near Utrecht. It’s a relatively small place. Maybe 70k population.
What was the first show you went to that got you into the hardstyle sound?
At the time I was working part time at a clothing store and studying. I was just beginning to go out. I was maybe 17 years old and there was a club — can’t even call it a club — it was 14 and older and they were playing hardstyle there. In my hometown it was really cool to listen to that music — the very first things like old Showtek and Isaac.
Within a year I received free tickets for Qlimax, 2003. I went and completely fell in love. The whole night I didn’t drink because I was afraid to get tired. I just stood there in the front. Just watching what the DJ was doing and looking to get eye contact (laughs). That’s where my real dream was born.
When did you get to play in that first club?
Man, I had to almost force the staff to let me play. This local DJ didn’t really like me or something. I was all the time trying and trying and then they would let me do the lights (laughs). I’d keep trying, y’know, “Can I play one record?! Can I play two records?!” And sometimes they would let me.
I got to play there a few times, but at that point I didn’t care so much because all my attention went to producing.
Since this was probably before Youtube tutorials, did you have someone showing you the beginning process of producing?
That’s a funny question. I hadn’t really considered that, but it’s true, there was no Youtube. No tutorials. The only thing you had was a couple forums. The rest I figured out all by myself.
I just took a lot of reference from tracks I liked and tried to replicate them. Then I got in contact with people like The Prophet, who signed me to his label, Scantraxx, and started giving me a couple tips, and from there I developed my sound further.
And The Prophet is one of the first originators of that sound.
Yes. He came from the hardcore scene. He was one of the first people in the 90s to revolutionize hardstyle.
Did you ever have a moment where you were like, “Oh my god I’m working with The Prophet!”?
Yeah, totally. I’d get all these automatic emails, like, “Oh, your demo is not good enough,” and then at one point I got this message like, “Call me on this number.” I got him on the phone and I was like, “Ahh, this is so unreal!” He invited me to his studio and — that was unreal. I just saw my dream unfolding right in front of me.
From that moment on, it was the point of no return. I quit my school and just went for it.
I feel like your style especially draws from different cinematic and melodic sounds. Did you have a drive to do something different from the what was being released back then?
The funny thing is, I wasn’t even really thinking about that. I heard a record at that time called “Immeasurably” by Donkey Rollers and I was so inspired by that, I made my impression of that sound, which became “Sacrifice”
From that point on, I have taken a lot of reference from other producers, but somehow it always had this touch where they recognized it was mine. And I don’t even know how I did that.
Listening to music is very personal. Everyone listens in their own way, so when you try to make your impression of something you hear, then automatically it’s in your own style.
It seems like hardstyle is creeping its way into the American scene through things like that. Are you noticing the sound in more setlists outside of the hardstyle world?
Well, yes, there has been a positive increase going on, and a better understanding for some of the American crowd about what this sound is about. Because a lot of them, when they first hear it, just don’t understand it. They’re all used to hearing drops and hardstyle has a different energy to it.
They have to kind of get used to it first. There was some chatter going on about, “Hardstyle is the next best thing in the states.” I dunno about that. There’s not really new names carrying the sound and taking it to the next level. It’s kind of stable where it is…
That’s my trigger, again, to say to myself, “Walk your own path. Don’t stick too much to the scene,” y’know. Even if that would mean stepping out of the hardstyle restrictions so-to-say.
I think a big part of the reason hardstyle has become such a big thing is the crowds. I feel like the Hardstyle scene is 100% about the music and the culture of going to a show. It’s almost like a cult following.
It’s a niche thing, yeah. It’s more intense than the dedication even of trance fans and that’s its blessing and its curse.
But, one thing that is very beautiful, when they go to parties, they go for the music and the music only. There’s no showing off going on. Not a lot of chit chat. It’s just really music, music…
What’s the criticism?
They say it’s too close to the EDM sound. Because it has some slow parts in it, and then it speeds up and then drops hard. I think it’s very good. It’s very musical — y’know, that’s just the same people that are afraid of change. They want things to stay the same.
A lot of fans who are interested in the EDM world are hearing this sound for the first time and getting used to it.
Yes. I think as far as speaking to criticism, the people who criticise that, are also the people who I am outgrowing at this moment. And I’m not saying in terms of being popular, but in terms of personal taste and also age, maybe? My personal growth, in my life, I see that people go about their lives and they have a phase where they listen to hardstyle, and then they go on and listen to something else. Usually the crowd that sticks with hardstyle sticks for about three years maybe, going to those parties, and then, y’know, they go on to something else.
My personal taste is also changing, and there’s just a group of people that can’t really handle that. They want the old Headhunterz to stay where he is. But of course, I’m always changing. Everything is always changing, y’know?
You can’t stop that, and if you wanna still enjoy the old Headhunterz, well then the music is there to listen to, you can still enjoy it!
Do you see yourself looking toward more collaborations like that, where you’re reaching out to different artists from either the U.S. or U.K.?
Totally. I don’t see really a lot of reason to collaborate with people that do the same stuff at the moment. I wanna cross breed. I wanna explore. The best of both worlds things, y’know? I think that’s where you get original stuff and where you get inspired because both parties learn new things.
Do you have anything to say to people that are new to the sound, that might not really get where it comes from, or what it’s doing?
The best description I have heard for hardstyle is from a guy on twitter: he said “hardstyle would be best defined by saying, ‘hard on the outside and soft on the inside.’” And I don’t think I need to add anything else. That’s just the way it is.
What can we expect in this mix?
Definitely a couple things from the Hard With Style label, my Flosstradamus remix also. If you’re a self proclaimed hardstyle purist, don’t listen to it (laughs). If you’re open minded, do listen to it.
Anything else you want to big up?
The most exciting thing for me at the moment is the collab I did with W&W, which will be out soon.
Awesome. Thanks so much man
Thank you for the interest. Thanks man. Goodbye!