Tiësto is a name that no longer needs an introduction. He is synonymous with the best of electronic music, and continues to inspire a generation of up-and-coming young artists. In addition to two Grammy nominations and a Grammy win in 2015, Tiësto has been named the #1 DJ by Rolling Stone, voted “The Greatest DJ of All Time” by Mixmag, ranked the #1 DJ in the world three times by DJ Mag, and was recently awarded the Edison Pop Oeuvre Lifetime Achievement Award (an honor he shares with David Bowie, Quincy Jones and U2 among others). After conquering the house and trance worlds, the superstar producer led the charge in helping electronic music crossover into the mainstream with his last album, A Town Called Paradise in 2014. His single “Red Lights” is now certified gold in the US, Sweden and Canada, while “Wasted” with Matthew Koma recently went platinum in the US and is his highest-charting release to date. Clearly a taste of what was to come, Tiësto has recently dropped new tunes with the The Chainsmokers, Martin Garrix, and pop sensation Natalie La Rose.
Hi Tiësto! So let’s start with ‘Jackie Chan’ – it’s very different to what you’ve done before… how did the collaboration come about?
It’s another very different track for me, and I got to work with the coolest artists in the world – Post Malone is the hottest artists right now, so that was great.
I was already friends with Post and we were together in the studio in LA. Preme had a different version of the track, which is also on his album, and when Dzeko and I heard it we thought we should make something fun out of it. Post Malone’s voice is so cool, and we found this guitar riff underneath, and it gave the whole track a completely different vibe.
What do you look for in a vocal feature?
Something powerful – effortless. With guys like Aloe Blacc, Post Malone… they don’t seem to have to try very hard. Post’s voice carries the track, it doesn’t really matter what he’s singing. You just have to add a couple of layers.
You’re turning 50 next year and are showing no signs of slowing down – how are you feeling about that?
I’m not thinking about it at all! I was on stage the other day and from the second I went on to the last moment, the crowd was going crazy, it went off, and I was like… “I feel like I’m still 25!” If I look at my life for the last 25 years, I’ve been partying and hanging out in clubs, and everything looks very young, so I guess that keeps me young too. And I look after myself… I try to eat healthily. I still drink too much. But when you do what you love, you never really get tired.
You’ve fulfilled this reputation as the ‘Godfather of EDM’ in more way than one – younger DJs like Martin Garrix have praised you for being a great mentor… but do you ever feel competitive with new talent?
I feel like I’ve proven myself so I don’t have that pressure, but I know the younger guys can be really nasty to each other. All DJs, really, it’s the same as with other musicians, but I think for me it’s different because no one sees me as a competitor- It’s become a pretty crowded field in the past five year. Yeah, and to keep your identity is hard because there’s so much competition, more than ever, and it seems to be easier now to break as a DJ.
It must be hard to form any identity at all as a DJ when you’re behind a deck the whole time?
Definitely, yeah, but then the beauty on the other side of that is you can reinvent yourself much more quickly than if you’re a band, where if you evolve too much then fans complain. If you look at my career, ‘Jackie Chan’ is different to anything I’ve done before, and I have a few tracks like that. Albums are not that relevant anymore, I don’t think people have that attention span, so I like to release singles and EDM festival bangers, things that aren’t really radio friendly – but they’re great for my live sets. It’s been a while since I had a hit like ‘Jackie Chan’, it feels good!
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in dance music over the last 20 years?
The biggest change I have seen in dance music over the last 20 years is probably the change from vinyl to SD cards. As a DJ that’s a huge difference. Also in the studio a lot has changed — it’s a lot easier to make music nowadays, back then everything was analog. Now you can just download FL Studio and make music.
Which city or country do you think has the strongest dance scene now?
I don’t think there is one city or country that has the strongest dance scene right now. I think it’s pretty strong everywhere, I travel around the world all the time and I see the same happy faces everywhere. From Australia to Asia to America, all over the world.
Do you prefer holding down a residency or touring globally?
I like both actually, I like a residency and I like touring globally. The good thing about having a residency is that it’s more relaxing, you can spend more time in studio and you only play on the weekends. So that’s why I really love playing in Las Vegas! Another great thing about the residency there is people come from all over the world to see you there so it’s great because I stay in the same place and they all come and see me. But once a year in the summer, I like to go to Europe and I like to tour around the world as well.
Your Clublife series is meant to be a return to the club — do you think dance has moved too much into the pop world?
The Clublife series is definitely meant to be played in the clubs, I think some people in the dance music scene move too much into the pop world. I think it’s time to go back to the basics and just release great, banger tracks. Because that’s what it’s all about, when you play at a festival or you play in a club, that’s what people like to hear and that’s what I like to play just great dance music!
You’ve said that Sven Väth first inspired you to DJ. Which artists inspire you now?
Sven Väth was definitely the first DJ that inspired me. A lot of different artists inspire me now but for different reasons. I like to hang out with the younger DJs because I feel like they have their whole future in front of them, they’re so eager and always have a fresh new look on how to produce and how to mix. So I can’t really say I have one person that inspires me nowadays, it’s more the scene in general and it could be anybody from Martin Garrix to Jauz to Madeon or trap DJs, it’s a bit of everything that inspires me now days.
Who would be your ideal artist to collaborate with?
I always want to work with someone who’s talented and can add something different to the track I’m working on. It doesn’t really matter to me if they are famous or up-and-coming.