If we had to pick the DJ's DJ of EDM, few names would fit the bill better than Oliver Heldens. Someone who prides himself on creative tune selection, he's just as likely to play tech-house as he is future house and disco in an EDM set. And that's just when he's playing as Oliver Heldens. His more underground alter ego HI-LO is strictly driving tech-house and techno. “I play tech-house but I'm not a techno DJ. I play mainly house — future house,” he tells DJ Mag. “I play anything that's groovy, old house stuff or electro-house.”
While before he felt a little out of place dropping his tunes on EDM's main stages, over the past 12 months he found himself playing slots at crossover festivals like Lollapalooza and Glastonbury, and it was as if something clicked. “Now I can rock the main stage,” he adds. “A lot of commercial stuff mixed with cool club records and it goes off, and I'm happy with that.”
However, he's not bothered about working on a live show or becoming the next EDM pop star. It's as a disc jockey that his heart lies. “I prefer to DJ. As a DJ you can play a lot of different stuff and you can play on the fly — but with live stuff, you're really bound to what you can do live.”
It's his appreciation of all types of dance music — something borne into him since the age of 10, growing up in Rotterdam listening to hard dance — that marks him out as one of EDM's leading selectors. He's someone who appreciates disco and the groove of classic house as much as he does drum & bass and prog. “I've always been into club music, stuff with rhythm and bass. In the future, I'd like to add some drums or loops [into my sets] but mainly it's DJing I love.”
Meanwhile, the HI-LO project and his Heldeep label have allowed him to explore darker, more stripped-back dancefloor sounds and his first ever HI-LO pool party in Miami was a huge success. Even his mum agreed. “She said she had more fun at my HyLO set than at an Oliver Heldens set,” he explains. “She said, 'I couldn't stop dancing, and suddenly found myself in a trance'.”
Sounds like the woman has taste! ADAM SAVILLE
What have been the new frontiers for 2016?
“I finally feel ready to play on main stages. My music is more ready than two years ago.”
Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?
“Yeah, I think so. In Holland dance music is taken way more seriously than in other countries.”
What's the best new bit of production technology, and why?
“I like the new Pioneer mixer. It has new filters, which I like.”
If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?
“Drum & bass or disco or really fast techno.”
As a fan, what's the top price you'd pay to see yourself DJ?
“It is an unfair question to ask me, because I earn some money to play shows, so I also have a lot of money to spend on DJs. I would pay a lot to see my favourite DJs.”
What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths?
“I wonder if ecstasy and MDMA was legal there would be less bad pills and less deaths, but I am no expert when it comes to drugs.”
How can we increase diversity in dance music?
“Even though the music industry looks like a guys' world, once you are in as a girl you are more special than if you're a random guy, so you can climb to the top perhaps a bit easier.”