Teenage ass cheek. There was lot of that at the beginning of last week at the Pacific Coliseum. It was the long weekend, and Monday was the evening that progressive house DJ Hardwell, born Robbert van de Corput, was in Vancouver for his I Am Hardwell tour. Opening for him was Dannic, another popular Dutch DJ. A sold-out, all-ages rave event that opened its doors at 8 PM, the night was diverse, colourful, and very crowded. The line for coat check was discouragingly long, and as one observer put it, “You’re never going to see your jacket again.”
Before Hardwell went onstage to play three hours of music timed to confetti explosions, light explosions, and interstellar monologue interludes, Vancouver Weekly went backstage to talk to DJ Mag‘s #1 DJ for the second year in the running for a full eight minutes, which turned out to be three more minutes than originally promised. (Thanks Patricia!) While Vancouver Weekly shot out question after question at a smooth-skinned Hardwell, we definitely did not think about his documentary crew filming the entire thing.
Vancouver Weekly: Every time you come here, shows are sold out. What’s the vibe in Vancouver? Do you like coming here?
Hardwell: I love being in Vancouver. Canada was one of the first countries outside of Europe that support[ed] my music, and every show I did so far in Vancouver has been an amazing experience. The first time I came out with Tiësto back in 2010, and I think this is my fourth time in this venue… Played New Year’s Eve last year, so I’m happy to be back with my own show.
VW: You’re coming out with a new album [United We Are] in January. Why do an album instead of singles?
H: I never did an album. I only released singles, and everything I’ve achieved over the last three years was DJ-minded. I’ve been voted #1 DJ several times now, and it’s time to take the next step for myself as a producer as well. That’s why I came up with the idea to do an artist’s album, and I’ve had so many songs laying around.
VW: In a couple of years, you went from #24 in DJ Mag to #1 consistently. How have you dealt with the journey?
H: I never felt I had to deal with it. It came naturally. It’s not about being famous. It’s about my passion for music, and that’s appreciated by my fans, and they’re the reason I’m #1, because they voted me #1. I’ve never been in this job to be famous. The only thing I aim for is to be able to put out my music for a big crowd. I was already playing the big festivals when I was #24.
VW: What do you like about playing in big venues?
H: My music fits better on bigger systems and bigger festivals. It’s the energy of the whole crowd, you know? Everyone is united and singing along. It’s just such an emotional feeling and incredible unity.
VW: What’s your creative process like, and how do you know a hit when you’re in the studio?
H: I always make music that I like, but the official test is when I play it in my DJ set. The crowd is the judge. Actually, that’s how I decide what tracks are going to be released and what tracks are never going to be released. I can make music I like, but if the crowd’s not reacting to it, then I am aiming in the wrong direction. If the crowd reacts to it, I’ll finish it up. Otherwise, I’ll trash the song.
VW: What do you think then will be the reaction to your album? Will fans be pleasantly surprised?
H: I don’t think they will be surprised. I think they should just enjoy the album. It’s exactly what you should expect from a Hardwell album. It’s a dance music album. If you like my old songs, you’re definitely gonna like my new ones as well.
VW: Dannic’s your supporting act. Was it a no-brainer choosing him to be with you on tour?
H: Yeah, definitely, since we’re best friends for a long time. He’s doing so great. He’s one of the highest climbers this year in DJ Mag, and besides that, he’s putting out so many great songs right now. If someone deserves to do the opening act for me, he’s the right person.
He can play amazing sets as a primetime DJ but also as a warm-up DJ, and that’s really important and rare nowadays because a lot of guys can only bang out major hit records instead of know[ing] how to build a night up. He’s one of those guys that understands music and how a DJ should play his set.
VW: This tour you’re playing three hours. You’ll have time to build.
H: That’s the whole thought about the tour. Sounds old school, but I believe a DJ has to take people on a musical journey, and you can’t do that in an hour, hour-and-a-half. You need those three hours to take the crowd to the high-note and end the night out with a bang.
Hardwell’s debut album, United We are, comes out January 23 on his label, Revealed Recordings.