“It’s time to go back to basics”: Tiësto on the future of dance music

If there’s one DJ whose very name is synonymous with dance music, it’s Tiësto.

The Dutch DJ and producer born Tijs Michiel Verwest has dominated and defined the dance industry for the better part of two decades, effectively pioneering the idea of the Superstar DJ. He’s won almost every accolade the industry has to offer — including being named the Greatest DJ of All Time in 2011.

At age 49 he’s showing no sign of slowing down, and over the last few years Tiësto has dedicated himself to his CLUBLIFE series — a concept which sees him pushing away from the stadiums and arenas and back to the clubs of his youth.

Tiësto is currently touring the country with his CLUBLIFE tour; inthemix recently spoke to him about the past, present, and future of dance music.

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.

Tiësto at Hakkasan nightclub, Las Vegas, in 2013. Photo via Facebook/Jordan Loyd

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!

How do you handle the DJ life these days? Do you party as hard as you used to?

For me the DJ life is a lifestyle. Do I party as much as I used to? Probably not every night anymore, but I still go pretty hard on the weekends.

You’ve got a new single out, called ‘Boom’. Can you talk us through how that track came together?

When this single ‘Boom’ came together pretty special. I met with Alok in LA, February last year, he played me a couple of tracks and one of the tracks he played me was the track by Sevenn called ‘Boom.’

“I think some people in the dance music scene move too much into the pop world.”

He was like “This track is great what do you think?”, and I said “Yeah, it’s really good but it can sound better, and we need to make some changes!”

He introduced me to the guys from Sevenn and all together we finished the track in LA. It happens to be one of my biggest instrumental tracks of the last year and now we’ve taken ‘Boom’ to the next level by adding Gucci Mane on top and I think it sounds great.

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.

Tiësto will play Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion this Saturday; tickets are on sale now. His new single ‘Boom‘ is out now.