The 1990s saw the rise of the superstar stadium DJ. Paul Oakenfold, John Digweed, Carl Cox and Fatboy Slim are just some of the names that come to mind as jocks playing to unfeasibly large audiences.
Yet remarkably all their achievements seem to pale into insignificance alongside those of Breda’s own Tijs Verwest, or Tiësto as most of the outside world knows him. Here is a man whose air miles are the stuff of legend, his world tours taking him to increasingly far flung areas of the globe.
musicOMH managed to get him pinned down to a single room for five minutes though, long enough for him to briefly talk about his music and the live juggernaut that has recently come screeching to a halt in Europe.
Given this big-venue tour, is the music chosen accordingly? “The Elements Of Life tour is based on my latest artist album, so these songs are coming back each show. For the rest I choose the songs I think the crowd likes most.” The crowd are a varied bunch, these days. “Often at my shows now, half of the people are die-hard clubbers, but the other half are people who know me from the radio, or from more mainstream gigs,” he says. “It’s more like they’re going to a concert, so now I get a great mix of both worlds.”
Although he’s now known primarily as a stadium DJ, he does still enjoy smaller scale events. “I sure do and I definitely also enjoy these smaller gigs. These gigs are perfect for me to experiment a little.”
“I think the only way forward for DJs now is to play a diverse mix of sounds” – Tiësto on his new music policy.
The tour touches down in the O2 arena, though when asked about the appeal of playing in the venue the DJ goes for the promotional pluses. “It’s special because it’s the release of the DVD Elements of Life, a show that’s recorded in Copenhagen.” The implication being that Copenhagen and other Northern European cities are where Tiësto enjoys gigging the most, though he does note that “I am going to finish my Elements of Life tour in Asia within a few weeks.”
Playing live clearly gives him a big rush, and when the DJ talks about the second night of his ‘In Concert’ in Holland in 2004, the satisfaction is evident. “I was really aware of what was going on, the music was just right – a mix of all my big tunes and new track, everything just felt perfect that night. I played for nine hours straight, and it was my favourite gig ever.” And, of course, he was chosen by the readers of DJ Magazine as the Number 1 DJ in the world. “The first time it happened it was so amazing, I was overjoyed. The second and the third time were also fantastic, but the first time you’re on the cover of that magazine that is so respected by other DJs – it’s like winning an Oscar!”
With such an emphasis on live performance Tiësto would seem to have little time for production work – but no. “Of course I travel a lot, but during the year we reserve time to work in the studio. Besides that I can also produce on the road a little.” Yet despite a long list of collaborators that includes Sarah McClachlan, he’s comfortable concentrating on solo studio work for now. “I have done remixes for Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Seal in the last few months but do not have anyone specific I would like to work with at the moment. I always do like to work with young new talented singers. I’m not looking for any big collaboration right now, I’m more interested in a burgeoning talent – someone whose voice is good, and that really touches you. A voice should sound like an instrument to me. A good example is Christian Burns who is the singer on the hit single In the Dark; also a track from Elements of Life. I met him through MySpace; the actual proof that the internet is the medium of choice when it comes to musical developments and careers.”
In that time it’s noticeable how his style of music has moved to incorporate outside influences. “There is a big difference between my productions back in the ’90s and now. They have become more diverse and you hear influences of different musical genres in my productions nowadays. Trance, house, techno – it’s the best of all that the dance world has to offer. In 1998, I was really a trance DJ, but now I’ve travelled round the world so much, different influences have seeped in and I play a bit of everything. I think the only way forward for DJs now is to play a diverse mix of sounds.”
Finally we ask him to name two mix albums to date that give him the most satisfaction – both of his own and someone else’s. “For my own, the most recent In Search Of Sunrise, and of someone else’s, Paul Oakenfold’s Travelling,” he says. How apt – the DJ who’s always on the move has his own themed compilation – but in that comment and his own general demeanour are signs of the continued humility that keep Tiësto’s feet firmly on the ground, regardless of where he is.
Tiësto’s studio album Elements Of Life is out now through Magik Muzik.