Courtesy of Tiesto
Now, as dance music in North America continues its inexcorable takeover of the mainstream, Tiësto is preparing to enter the record books by concluding his current College Invasion tour with the biggest single-DJ headlining event in the U.S. ever when 26,000 will get their collective groove on at his October 8 concert at the Home Depot Center in L.A.
AOL spoke to the superstar Dutch DJ in between tour stops to discuss the dangers of big parties and government crackdowns, how Britney made dance music mainstream and what it means to DJ yourself into history.
I first interviewed you in 2001 for a Mixer magazine cover and since then the popularity of electronic dance music in North America kind of collapsed before recently surging back. What has that been like from your perspective on the other side of the tables?
Well, for me it never really went away. I've been in North America since 2001 and every year it's been great; always the shows were sold-out and getting bigger. I played Coachella twice and other festivals like Bonnaroo. But I know what you're saying, it wasn't played on the radio and now it's just all over. When I started here, a certain amount of people knew about dance music, but now I guess everybody knows it.
Obviously there's been a core audience that never went away, but have you noticed momentum-building in the last year or two?
It's a totally mature genre now, like it is in the rest of the world. It's just as big as rock music or hip-hop -- you have commercial dance, underground dance, dubstep dance. It's a very mature scene.
In the late '90s there used to be 20,000-person raves and then for a bunch of years you were lucky to find 500 people in a warehouse. And here you are about to play the biggest single-DJ headliner show ever.
Yeah, in Los Angeles. It's amazing that it's become so good now. It's a solo Tiesto show. We have a special production because it's a moment in history. I can't say exactly what it is, but it's going to be a really spectacular show. Better than anything I've ever done before.
So what does that mean to you as a person to realize that you're able to get 26,000 people to come out to dance to the music you spin.
It's amazing. I never really think about it like that but it's really nice, of course. It's a big compliment. I never take that stuff for granted; I'm very grateful for that.
In 1997, the music industry tried to market "rave" as the "new grunge" and failed. But now R&B, hip-hop and pop all sounds like electronic dance music. What do you think about how other genres have absorbed the sound that you've been playing for the past decade?
It's completely different now. Back then, dance music wasn't ready for what is happening now. There were not enough producers and DJs so it was very underground still. Now it's so accessible and so easy to produce that everybody gets really into it. Even 16-year-old kids are producing [and DJing] great house music. That was unheard of in the '90s.
So you think part of it is getting away from vinyl?
Totally. A vinyl was $15 back then. Now, you download stuff for free; you can find anything you want on the Internet. If you don't want to pay, you don't have to. It's so accessible, it's like, you like this track, you Google it and you have it for free on your laptop. That helps a lot, makes it more popular around the world.
Everybody thought the death of vinyl was going to kill the skill of DJing which is rooted in the actual playing of two albums side-by-side. And what you're saying is that the death of vinyl actually is what brought dance music, at least in North America, back into existence?
Totally. Because there's nothing more frustrating than when you hear a track and you can never find out what it is. It was very anonymous back then, dance music, and now it has more face.
Do you think that because it is seeped so thoroughly into popular music that this current revival is going to last a lot longer than the last one?
Yeah. I don't think you can really call it a revival because it's never been at this level. So it went from straight underground to a mature music genre. It's here forever now. The style, the electronic sounds, they are so hot now and so energetic, there's no way of escaping from that.
Are there any concerns about having such a big show after what happened at Electric Daisy Carnival? (At the 2010 EDC in L.A. there were 120 hospitalizations, one of whom later died).)
Of course. We try to make it as safe as possible for everybody. I think the government and locals are very, very scared of that stuff. It's a lot smaller, as well. It's only 26,000 people, not 100,000 like EDC. That's so big, it's a lot harder to control. I've been very lucky because I never had accidents like that happen at my shows. In general, I think my audience is a little less rave-y, or more responsible. They drink and they have fun, but it's not like that.
Do you think that the dance music community is unfairly targeted? If there's a big rock show and there's a couple incidents and maybe a death, the whole genre wouldn't be blamed in the same way that happens with dance music.
Yeah, definitely dance music has more hype when somebody dies. But it happens at all kinds of shows. It's a little unfair, I have to agree with that. I think that dance music is so much
more than the drug culture it's always dripped in.
North American authorities don't seem to understand the scene in the way that the European authorities do.
No, no chance. But they will get it, in like a couple more years, I guess.
I know that your remix of 'Piece of Me' is on the new Britney Spears remix record. Tell me a little bit about that and how you think the experimental electronic music that's been on the last few Britney records has helped push this genre into the mainstream.
The remix of 'Piece of Me' I did four years ago. But it still sounds great, it's a great remix, I love that one. The melody I put in there is really special. It's funny to see that they put it on her mix compilation now, but it sounds kind of timeless. I'm pretty proud of that. I recently just finished a remix for Coldplay, as well.
But the whole Britney thing and also Lady Gaga, it all helps -- and David Guetta, as well. They make awareness for dance music bigger in the U.S. And a lot of people start with that kind of music and then go, "What other electronic arts are out there?" And then they come to people like me or Diplo or Skrillex or Deadmau5.