INTERVIEW: W&W (2013)
Meeting online in 2007, the team of W&W (William van Hanegem and Wardt van der Harst) started working together and achieved quick recognition when Armin van Buuren played and signed their first production, “Mustang.” The big room monster launched a succession of big records like “Dome,” “Our Plan,” and “MainStage,” which became the name of their record label distributed through Armada. Rising stars on the trance scene, their recent remixes of Zedd, Dash Berlin, Cosmic Gate, and Armin van Buuren/BT are just signs that there are even bigger things to come.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: How long have the two of you been working together?
Willem van Hanegem: For about 5 years.
RS: How did the two of you meet?
Willem van Hanegem: We originally met through the internet, there is a program where you can chat and share music with other beginning producers and in 2007 we met in person at Trance Energy.
Wardt van der Harst: It was through a mutual friend who was there as well. We started hanging out and after 6 months we started working on our first track, as we got closer we started working together more.
RS: How did you get found by Armada?
Willem van Hanegem: We knew about the Armada server where you could upload music and Armin would download it and play it on the radio show. We decided to try it, uploaded a tune, and waited around for about a week and he played our tune. The day after we got a message from Armada that they wanted to sign our tune and that is how it all started.
RS: What was the first song that Armin played of yours?
Willem van Hanegem: “Mustang”
RS: Is your stuff vocal-based or mostly instrumental?
Willem van Hanegem: Mostly instrumental, we have done a few vocal tunes but we are known for our instrumentals and our easy, catchy melodies.
RS: Are you guys working on an album now right?
Willem van Hanegem: We are always working towards an album, but at the moment we don’t have anything planned, we did a mix compilation album this year and and artist album back in 2011.
RS: When you two DJ do you do one song after each other?
Willem van Hanegem: We mostly do one song after each other, but sometimes he is better at some mixes, so he does two or the other way around.
Wardt van der Harst: We both have some favorite mixes that we do well.
RS: When you are in the studio, are you using Logic or Protools?
Willem van Hanegem: We are actually using Ableton.
RS: Do you use that to make your tracks?
Willem van Hanegem: Yes
RS: How do the two of you collaborate?
Willem van Hanegem: I usually have a general idea of what we are going to do and start it, and Wardt takes it from there.
Wardt van der Harst: Sometimes we start with beats and sometimes melodies; it just depends on what inspires us in the moment.
RS: Are you two in the same room together or collaborate over the internet?
Willem van Hanegem: We are always in the same room and always together in the studio.
RS: What are you in the studio working on right now?
Wardt van der Harst: A lot of stuff, we have had a lot of good studio time over the last two weeks. We have done some collaborations and new tracks.
Willem van Hanegem: We have a lot of new tunes and a couple of really cool collaborations, but unfortunately we can’t name any names.
RS: Do you prefer your fans to follow you on Facebook, Twitter or your website?
Willem van Hanegem: Twitter is the easiest way to reach us, but we are also on Facebook.
RS: What is your Twitter?
Wardt van der Harst: Twitter.com/wandwmusic
RS: I notice that you guys travel a lot. Do you play ADE often.
Willem van Hanegem: Yes, we play every year and come here to meet our colleagues and all the dance people from across the world.
RS: What effect do you think the ADE has had on the Dutch dance scene?
Wardt van der Harst: It is like the whole global dance industry comes together on one square kilometer for a few days. It is really cool because you get to meet people from all around the world in this tiny space.
Willem van Hanegem: All of the big DJs and big players in the scene are here for one week
RS: When you got on the DJ list did you notice that your bookings went up or what effect did it have on your career?
Willem van Hanegem: We don’t really notice it too much.
Wardt van der Harst: We can see that everything is going up, I am not sure if it has something to do with the DJ Mag though.
Willem van Hanegem: You can really see that the fans support you because they are the ones that are picking you. We love our fans.
RS: There are a lot of DJs that are getting really big and crossing over and selling out very commercial, how do you stay true to your fans as you get bigger and bigger?
Willem van Hanegem: It is about finding balance, it doesn’t always have to do with selling out; sometimes you get bored of a certain sound and want to include new elements or new styles in your sound. You always have to capture the main element from your old style to keep your fans satisfied, I think it is mostly about finding balance.
Wardt van der Harst: You can approach your style from very different corners and extend it.
RS: I see a move back to faster trance and away from the dirty Dutch sound, do you hear that also or is it two separate worlds?
Willem van Hanegem: They are two separate worlds for us, because we don’t play fast trance, we are all about trance 2.0 and the new sound with trance as infused with electro, house, dubstep, and even hardstyle. Whatever is cool is what we are aiming for.
RS: Is the term trance 2.0 that you are refereeing to a name that is being accepted by others or is it something that you came up with?
Willem van Hanegem: I think that it is just a general name.
RS: Is it trance that is incorporating other styles?
Willem van Hanegem: Yes, it is a slower trance but it is hard-hitting.
Wardt van der Harst: It is very big roomish and energetic.
RS: So it is like 128/130, but more aggressive than the previous generation.
Wardt van der Harst: Yeah, it is hard sounds, yet very danceable.
RS: I am just trying to wrap my head around trance and dubstep being together, I just don’t see it.
Willem van Hanegem: It is pretty easy actually, you can use sounds from dubstep in trance and also dubstep rhythms and breakdowns so there are a lot of possibilities.
RS: Tonight you are playing after Armin, is it a challenge coming on after the headliner?
Willem van Hanegem: Yes, it is definitely a challenge, because most of the people are coming here to see Armin so you have to keep the energy going. Armin is a really amazing DJ so it’s always hard but a good challenge.
Wardt van der Harst: We have to step up our game.
RS: Do you have a strategy of what to start with, something big to keep their attention?
Willem van Hanegem: We always start with big tunes and try to step up our game.
RS: Do you know which one you are starting with tonight?
Willem van Hanegem: Our new tune called “Lift Off.” We just did an intro mix and it has been working well and we have played it over the last couple weeks. We decided to do an intro and start with the new mix special.
RS: When you are in the studio working on your tracks are you mainly thinking about what is going to sound good in the club, what is in your head when you are making a track?
Willem van Hanegem: We are always thinking about how the track will sound in the club and if it is listenable. It needs to have emotion, we also like drops that are really hard and really clubby, it is all about finding the right balance.
RS: Do you ever find yourself going too aggressive or too pretty, and what brings you back to center?
Willem van Hanegem: We always look at the crowd, if we play too trancey or too pretty we know that we can play harder, if we play too hard we notice that the crowd doesn’t enjoy themselves and we gauge our sound from the crowd. We try to combine the pretty sounds of trance with the aggressive hitting sounds of a big room progressive, electro house elements.
RS: Do you notice a difference between American crowds and European crowds?
Willem van Hanegem: Definitely, I think that America is a little more “house-y” because the bigger guys in America are more house- and commercial-minded DJs. We play a little different set when we are in America.
RS: Do you ever make tracks with America in mind?
Willem van Hanegem: Not in mind but we sometimes say “if we drop this in America it will go off.”
Wardt van der Harst: We don’t produce it especially for the American crowd but while producing we know if something will work in America. We imagine being at a big festival in America and dropping the track and how the crowd would respond.
RS: Which up-and-coming trance artist do you see as the new big name?
Willem van Hanegem: We just signed two new guys who we think are great to our label, MainStage Music. One guy named Husman, who does a new kind of sound, and another named Rick Mitchell who is a hardstyle producer but does trance now. They are two really cool new names and we really have faith in them.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Willem van Hanegem: Thank you for all of the support, we are really grateful that we can live our dream; it is all because of our fans.
Wardt van der Harst: It is all thanks to you guys, thank you!
Interview conducted during Amsterdam Dance Event 2012.