There’s little that can be said about globe-trotting Dutch DJ Tiësto that hasn’t already been said. Career at the top table of trance. Check. Career at the top table of EDM. Check. 15 years at the top of the charts. Check. In that time, he’s also racked up a Grammy Award for his remix of John Legend’s ‘All Of Me’, performed at the Athens Olympics’ Opening Ceremony in 2004, and even has his own waxwork in Madame Tussauds. Now, having established himself as a fan favourite in India and Asia, it’s clear his sights on world domination know no bounds.
Speaking to DJ Mag in 2013, Tiësto – born Tijs Michiel Verwest – said: “As a lifelong fan of dance music, I’d want people to know me as a tireless worker who played some really tremendous landmark live shows and helped define modern dance music.” And there’s no arguing that that’s what he’s done. In 2001, his remix of Delirium’s ‘The Silence’ was the first house track ever broadcast on daytime radio in North America. Two years later, he also became the first DJ to sell out a stadium solo performance for over 25,000 people, both paving his own way as a chart-topping EDM superstar.
Having been active as a DJ for over 20 years now, 47-year-old Verwest set up his first label in 1997, Black Hole Recordings, releasing mix compilations from artists including Ferry Corsten and Armin van Buuren. In 2009, coinciding with the release of his ‘Kaleidoscope’ album — which featured contributions from Calvin Harris and Nelly Furtado and marked a huge shift in sound for the Dutchman — he parted ways with Black Hole in order to set up Musical Freedom Records. The label, which now has numerous gold and platinum releases under its belt, has since gone on to put out work by Diplo, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Hardwell, Oliver Heldens and DVBBS.
This year, Verwest launched AFTR:HRS, the imprint he uses to push deep house artists, and at five releases in has featured music from Nungwi, Florian Paetzold and Jolique. Holding firm at No.5 in the Top 100 for a third year running, he’s also continued his Musical Freedom residency at Hakkasan Nightclub at MGM Grand and, after collaborating with superstars like Martin Garrix, The Chainsmokers and Don Diablo last year, he’s worked on music with Mike Williams, Jauz and DallasK in 2016, as well as rekindling his partnership with John Legend on smash hit ‘Summer Nights’.
Forbes estimated that Verwest’s annual income was $38 million earlier this year, but that didn’t stop him bemoaning the state of the industry in an interview with the Deccan Herald at India’s Sunburn Festival in December. “EDM used to be a term for all of electronic dance music,” he explained. “But now it just means all the music that you’re not supposed to play. It became the new trance. It got popular, so now we’re all into deep house. And soon we’ll be over that. You can’t win. I wish we could have just stuck with EDM, honestly, because we finally had a term that captured everything in one big family, like jazz. But no, we had to be hip.”
But that doesn’t seem to have stopped his vivacity for the scene. “Martin Garrix really inspires me,” he explained in the same interview. “I feel he is blessed with talent at a very tender age, and I love fresh new talent. Also, my fans. The joy on their faces makes me want to improvise every second,” before concluding with his mantra for life: “Live. Love. Dance.” ROB McCALLUM