Does Tiësto even need an introduction? As the godfather of EDM, the Dutch superstar is probably one of the first people who comes to mind when you imagine a DJ playing to a festival crowd of hundreds of thousands of people. He’s been committed to the art of DJing since he first listened to live mixes from DJs on the radio as a teenager while growing up in a small town in the Netherlands. The ubiquitous high-energy sound that we now know as EDM is indebted to Tiësto, who started out playing acid and new beat, which gained momentum in the late ’80s and early ’90s, before moving on to trance and progressive house.
He was the first DJ to host a solo concert in 2003, a previously unheard of phenomenon. These days, selling out stadiums is par for the course if you’re a mega-famous DJ. He was also the first DJ to play live onstage at the Olympics, delivering such an energetic performance that the Dutch athletes went mental, dancing in front of the booth so hard that officials hosting the ceremony had to move on.
He also recently released the fifth instalment of his CLUBLIFE mix series, which pays tribute to the nightlife of international destinations that the DJ has connected with in one way or another. This time around, he’s set his sights on China, a country with a relatively young dance music scene that Tiësto describes as glamorous.
Dig into our interview with the one and only Tiësto below, where he discusses his early DJ days, his worst set, his love of streetwear brands like Vetements and YEEZY, and his new CLUBLIFE: China compilation and accompanying tour.
Who inspired you to start DJing?
Growing up, I listened to the radio every Thursday and Friday evening. DJs from all over the Netherlands played 30-minute guest mixes. So many DJs from Holland! I decided I wanted to try my hand at it.
What advice would you give to your teenage self?
Don’t stress about the future, just live in the “now”. Enjoy yourself to the max but also work hard and focus on what you want out of life!
Do you think much about what you wear when performing?
Always! I consider the kind of venue, the kind of crowd, the setting indoor vs. outdoor. I give it a lot of thought and always try to wear something special for each show I play – I never wear the same outfit twice while performing.
We noticed you flexing an adidas x Palace robe recently. What other streetwear brands are you into?
I like Vetements, specifically the more wearable designs. Raf Simons is great. The adidas x Kanye Calabasas collab. In general, I have favorite pieces from many different designers, and can appreciate pieces across a lot of brands. I could be into anything from Gucci to OFF-WHITE to Acne to Urban Outfitters.
Favorite sneakers as of late?
I love my adidas EQT Support 93/17 pair in off-white, with the pink accents.
What’s the best advice you’ve received for dealing with the demands of being a touring DJ?
Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
I work on my set constantly and am always finding new mash-ups/edits right up until I go on, often playing tracks I’d heard minutes before during that night’s set. I’ll have a nice dinner before the show, then have a few drinks backstage with my friends and listen to the DJ playing before me. To me, every gig is a party so I try to make sure I’m on the same level as the crowd’s energy!
What’s the worst gig you’ve ever had?
I block out the negative in my life, which helps with perspective. So, I can’t remember any bad gigs – I only remember the good ones and I’ve had many of those.
You recently released the fifth installment of your CLUBLIFE mix series. Could you tell us a bit about it?
Since a lot of DJs have gone into pop lately, I decided to do the opposite and make an album full of big room, energetic bangers. This album was designed to be played at a festival or in a club. I made it for myself because I couldn’t find enough energetic, up-tempo music. No easy listening tracks on this album!! I focused a lot on every track, and this is the first time I made almost an entire album with two producers from Holland, John Christian & SWACQ. The only track that was different was “Boom” how could I not add that track to the album!?
What first intrigued you about the nightlife and music scene in China?
I love the club scene in China, it’s very glamorous and it’s growing so quickly! Given that China only recently really opened up to dance music, there’s such excitement everywhere you go and with every crowd you play for. It’s a fresh, new scene.
Who are some of your favorite up-and-coming DJs or producers from China?
I can’t narrow it down to favorites, but it’s great to see Chinese producers being picked up on labels outside of China. Artists like Carta and Curtis who are on Spinnin’, Unity on Mixmash, and Chace on Barong Family. These artists played the main stage at Tomorrowland this year, they’re all doing really well. Hope to see a lot more of DJs from countries with growing, fresh dance music scenes.
You’re set to embark on a Chinese tour. Do you have any special merch planned for it?
Yeah, we made some special pieces for my CLUBLIFE China tour – T-shirts, hoodies, accessories. All designed with the Chinese dance music community in mind. In general, I’m working on some exciting, limited-edition pieces and collaborations. I can’t give too much away, but it’s going to be an exciting end of 2017 and 2018 for all things merch.
For more of our interviews, check out our exclusive Q&A and editorial with emo rapper Lil Peep right here.
- Photography: Courtesy of Tiësto