Still under 30 but already twice voted the best DJ in the world according to you lot, Hardwell has had another non-stop year in 2016. In demand by promoters on every continent, the last 12 months have seen him enjoy a great run of festival shows — playing everywhere from Ultra Music Festival in Miami to Creamfields to EDC Las Vegas to Flying Dutch Festival in his native Holland.
He also made a big impact in Ibiza, with a third successive season as a resident at Ushuaïa. Almost single-handedly he has turned the White Isle onto big, glossy, main room dance sounds and has made the famous hotel and pool his own. “I love the vibe at Ushuaïa and the crowd are always wild, “ he says, before adding: “Same goes for Hakkasan in Las Vegas too. It’s one of my favourite clubs in the world to play, and one of the reasons I’m a resident there is because their booth is such a joy to DJ in.”
The year has also been a busy one for his label Revealed Recordings, which did another North American Bus Tour earlier in the year and in the summer it hit, incredibly, its 250th release, which is a big milestone for any label.
“I took a few months away from the studio to put more time into my DJ sets,” reflects Robbert van de Corput. “I’ve worked on a lot of exclusive edits and remixes and generally invested more hours in exploring more genres and sounds. I’ve been going all over the place to get a feel of where I want to take myself musically, and I’ve definitely become more inspired because of it.”
As he says, Hardwell is playing with a wider remit of sounds at the moment. Though he is known as an EDM DJ, his own productions have often been rather different. That was the case again in 2016 when he put out a more pop and garage-tinged record with Craig David and a remix of Moby’s ‘Go,’ but all the while not forgetting his own original sound with big hitters like ‘Going Crazy’ with Blasterjaxx. “As both a musician and a producer, it’s really crucial for me to not become imprisoned by one style,” he explains, before adding that it was a totally random meeting in Ibiza that saw him working with Craig David. After discovering they were fans of each other’s work, they eventually bounced ideas over the internet “and it just naturally came together from there. He’s a really cool dude and I had a great time working with him.”
As well as sharing weekly musical discoveries and playing some of the music that doesn't quite fit in his DJ sets on his radio show, Hardwell OnAir, this year the young star was looking for a way to communicate with fans in a new way. He decided Facebook was the best way, so teamed up with creative agency We Make Awesome Sh and together they created what became the first ever fan-focused Bot for an electronic artist, and won a Golden Award for most innovative idea as a result.
Given that one of his peers on the circuit, Avicii, has quit this year, you wonder if this 28-year-old ever feels like he is burning out playing so many shows and doing so much travelling. “I work out a minimum of three times per week with a personal trainer, which I feel is an essential part of being a touring artist nowadays,” he outlines.
And there’s an unexpected twist to the Hardwell success story too. “The last year has seen me immortalised not just as a waxwork at Madame Tussauds, but also as an action-figure — which is really cool!” he tells us.
Hardwell recognises that with all the travelling, you need to be at the peak of your mental and physical powers if you want to give the fans the show they expect. “So I make sure to eat healthy and, as much as I love to party, I know when to stop — I never overdo it.”
Now back in the studio and inspired by a busy summer of shows, Hardwell reckons he has 20 to 25 tracks waiting to be finished, but what he will do with them he doesn't know. “A second album, an EP, I’m just not sure but there’s definitely a lot of music coming up!”
What have been the new frontiers for you this year?
“Above everything that has happened in the past 12 months, the biggest standout moment for me was launching my United We Are Foundation. We held an aid concert in Mumbai titled ‘World’s Biggest Guestlist’ where I opened up my personal guestlist to fans to join me in raising money to help educate young children living in the slums of the city — it was my way of giving something back. We had over 75,000 people in the stadium that day, with another 10 million tuning in via the live stream, and we raised enough money to send over 18,000 kids to school for the next 10 years.”
Is electronic music taken seriously enough as an art-form?
“I believe so. You only have to look at the rich history of artists that all fall under the category of ‘electronic music’ to realise our scene’s impact on the world of music.”
What’s the best new bit of DJ/production technology, and why?
“I love the new CDJ-2000NSX2, which is the latest version in the Nexus range from Pioneer. In a world where laptop DJing is ruling, Pioneer have managed to breathe new life into the CDJ — creating a fully-fledged digital media player.”
If you had to switch your style to another genre, what would it be?
“Probably back to my early days of playing hip-hop. I still dust off my old vinyl for a mix at home from time to time.”
As a fan, what is the top price you would pay to see yourself DJ?
“Hmm, or can I get guestlist for me +1?”
What can be done to prevent drug-related deaths at dance music events?
“More awareness and better support at the venues. Closing down clubs isn’t the answer!”
How can we increase diversity in dance music?
“Less haters, more lovers!”