The story of 25-year old Dutch electronic titan Hardwell has rolled out like a feel-good Hollywood flick. From growing up in the city of Breda watching MTV as a pre-teen, to becoming an established DJ headlining magazines and stages the world over, to running his own Revealed Recordings and a roster of successful artists. Hardwell has it all.
The best part? The story isn’t done.
His boyish charm and faith “if you can dream it, you can do it” is slowly stealing the world’s attention and restoring its starry-eyed belief in heroes. And now – hot on the heels of his documentary premiere (I AM HARDWELL) at the Amsterdam Dance Event, his number one spot in DJ Mag, and near 14 million views (and counting) of his Tomorrowland set on YouTube – he’s coming to South Africa this summer. Thanks to the kind folks from Electric.
During his time at ADE, Hardwell and I chat about his 3-city visit to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. We start on how he takes it all in. His demeanour is friendly, focused and – very much like his Afrikaner brethren – extremely down to earth.
“One of the best parts about being a travelling DJ is that every show is different, each crowd has its own personal feel. No two shows are ever the same.”
“I try to keep myself grounded and focused,” he says. “I’ve been working towards these goals since I started out over 10 years ago, so it isn’t an overnight success which offers me experience with the touring and setting up new projects.”
Whilst he seems to be taking success in his stride and is incredibly proud of what he has achieved so far, it’s his fans he pays tribute to; “I’m immensely grateful for them – for their continued support, love and energy they bring to both my shows and online.”
Hardwell is a firm believer in the reality of his desires; his eye is permanently on the ball. “I’m really excited about the future and what I’ve got coming up in 2014, plus, I’m looking forward to announcing the next round of I AM HARDWELL Tour dates.”
Coming up in 2014…? He’s no doubt restless and loves to keep secrets. Like anyone, Hardwell’s life comes with its own set of unique challenges. Having exclusivity is just one of them.
“One of the best parts about being a travelling DJ is that every show is different, each crowd has its own personal feel. No two shows are ever the same. I’m lucky that most fans coming to my shows know my music and respond so passionately to it.”
To him it doesn’t matter what the destination or language barrier is, every time he gets up on stage he loves the thrill and energy of connecting with people the most. When pushed to reveal details on why his Durban set will feature a “unique production,” he gives me the value of keeping a secret.
“I would love to, but I can’t. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but I want people to come and experience the tour without any preconceptions on what to expect. I want to keep every detail of the production and music under wraps.”
It goes without saying Hardwell has given journalists a reason to ‘find the story behind the story’ again. I enquire what we can expect from Revealed Recordings artist Dannic, who will be joining Hardwell on all three of his shows in sunny SA.
“He’s like a brother to me. We’ve been friends for a very long time and I’m really proud to be able to work alongside him on this tour and in the studio. I think he is one of the best in the scene. His selection is always excellent; he knows how to build-up crowds better than most, as well as rocking those mainstage festivals and headline club shows.”
And without making it seem like a PR pitch, he delightfully adds “Dannic’s latest track Blueprint with Sick Individuals is fantastic and has been a big record for me lately.”
Having won 6 consecutive #1’s on Beatport, to running a prolific label with a stellar line-up of artists (Dyro, W&W, Joeysuki, amongst many others), to keeping direct communication with fans through online channels (like his Ask Hardwell Q’nA series on YouTube), the melody maker’s life isn’t easy. Luckily for Hardwell ambition exceeds any negativity that might come with experience in this ever complex and expanding global EDM industry.
We get onto the hotter topics, starting with the relevancy of traditional music media in this era of social networking. According to Hardwell, online is just an easier way of connecting with fans. “It will be a shame if we ever lose radio or printed press because these components are so powerful and whilst they are also good for the established artists out there, they also offer such a rich and influential avenue for new artists.”
When queried on what’s the next big step for electronic music, Hardwell looks to America. “The expansion of the US scene is still the hottest subject right now. It’s refreshing to hear more focus being put on places like India and Brazil. South African duo Goldfish have also made an impact in Holland. It’s great to see other nationalities flying the flag for their native homes, exporting those creative ideas and sounds to other dance scenes and ultimately bringing the international scene closer together.”
Amidst all this rush and rubble in EDM, DJs have become world celebrities by taking on the 21st century with technology and all its glory – both in their working and social lives. However, the question should be asked, can a DJ or a producer be influential outside the limits of the electronic scene? Hardwell doesn’t seem fazed.
“To be honest I don’t feel famous within the boundaries of dance music. I’m happy my music has reached so many people and the past year has really pushed my profile into a bigger audience, but I still feel like the same person from Breda. My life is still very normal. I do this for the love of the music and not the fame.”
Whether he admits or not, Hardwell is famous. And with the rising importance of EDM worldwide and the arrival of his tour plus the likes of Ultra Festival, Sonar and Heineken Star Club, South Africa is becoming part of a movement. It’s time to stop and realise: a significant era in dance music has begun. As part of our I AM HARDWELL competition these lucky readers (and winners) got to ask their favourite DJ a question…
Alicia Scheepers asks: what is the most outrageous and random thing a fan has ever asked you?
“I was asked to sign my name in thick lettering, not knowing the fan would go out and get it permanently tattooed. I was totally blown away.”
Raeesa Govender asks: “Music in the soul can be heard by the universe” is a quote you made not too long ago. How do you create a track with the hope of it speaking to a diverse crowd?”
Always believe in your own judgement and ideas. Try to think of the dancefloor when making music. Let it speak. Just feel it. Taking an idea and building it into a track and living it on the dancefloor is a slow process, one that I find really exciting.
Catch the I AM HARDWELL tour in Joburg, Cape Town and Durban this December. Click Here for full details.