The big Dutch EDM producers pretty much fall into two categories – trance or dirty. Hardwell stands out as one who blurs the lines, combining the aggressive electro of the Dirty Dutch with the pretty, melodic feel of the trancers. We spoke during Amsterdam Dance Event on the day of his massive Revealed label party – which ended up being one of the highlights on the entire week.
RS: Are you excited about your big event tonight?
Hardwell: I am really excited, it is the biggest Revealed night that we have had so far. 1,600 tickets sold out in 1 week, the hype has been buzzing on Twitter and Facebook for a month now. I expect a really good party tonight.
RS: So Revealed is your record label, why did you decide to start your own label?
Hardwell: I started with Revealed Recordings about 3 years ago. The biggest reason why I started it was because I was done dealing with A&R managers who told me that my record was not commercial enough or radio-friendly. I wanted to put out my own records and have a home base, besides that, I always wanted to work with new talent. Managing is fun and it’s inspiring to work with a lot of new talents.
RS: Very cool. Where did the name Hardwell come from?
Hardwell: It is actually my last name translated from Latin.
RS: You have a bunch of dates coming up in the United States, how is playing in the US different than playing in Europe?
Hardwell: In general, dance music is newer to the people in America; they discovered it about 2 years ago and you can tell it is fresher to them. The crowd in America is unbelievable, they are so energetic and educated, and they know every track that I am playing. What I have seen in the US over the last couple years is incredible, I think it is even getting bigger and bigger.
RS: Were you a DJ first or a producer?
Hardwell: I was a producer first.
RS: How did you make the move into DJing?
Hardwell: After I had produced all my tracks I needed a way to play them for more than just my friends, I wanted to have a bigger audience so I started to be a DJ. I started playing at my friend’s parties and school parties then I was invited to play at a club in my hometown, and then look where we are right now, it’s crazy!
RS: Do you consider yourself to be a part of the Dirty Dutch scene?
Hardwell: I think that I am part of the Dutch scene but I don’t like the word “dirty” because I was never a guy that made “get hyped people” music. The whole Dutch scene is typically an energetic sound, so I guess in a way I am a part of the Dirty Dutch sound.
RS: Why do you think that there are so many great DJs and producers here in Amsterdam?
Hardwell: I think that one of the biggest reasons is because dance music has been here forever. I grew up with dance music and have heard it on the radio since I was 6 years old. Besides that, it is always raining here in Holland, the DJs are always in the studio making new music when they are not touring. I think those are the two reasons why there are so many good producers out here.
RS: When you made “Cobra,” did you have any idea that it would become as big as it did?
Hardwell: No, I never know if a track is going to be big or not. I make records because I like the energy in the record and I release it because I like how it fits in my sets. A lot of fans ask me what records I play at the festivals. I make music that I like and it is good to see that so many people appreciate my music and are so dedicated to what I do.
RS: You have also done some big commercial releases lately, how has that transition been for you?
Hardwell: It hasn’t really been a transition but it’s been really cool to see that Rihanna and her management like the Hardwell sound. I think it’s a big compliment that I can do a remix for such a big star. I don’t think that I would never collaborate as Hardwell with Rihanna, not that I don’t like her music, but I don’t want to become a sellout. I just want to make instrumental club tracks and I think that is what I do the best and will stick with it. It is always a great opportunity to work on a remix with your own sound.
RS: Do you ever think that you will incorporate more vocals into your own tracks?
Hardwell: Oh yeah, definitely. I am working on a lot of vocal tracks right now, not with big stars, but just with singers that I really love.
RS: Where do you find the singers that you like?
Hardwell: It depends, sometimes on YouTube or sometimes I receive a demo for the label that I am curious about and I contact them.
RS: You just mentioned sellout, with EDM getting so big, how do you protect yourself from going away from your fanbase to a more commercial sound?
Hardwell: I always do what I love to do. I am really social and do everything by myself, I keep in touch with my fans everyday through Facebook and Twitter and I make music for my fans, and not for the radio. I want to make records that aren’t instant hits but that are for my fans. I am not thinking about scoring a bigger hit than the track before and I hope that my fans always appreciate that.
RS: In your studio are you working with Logic or Pro Tools?
RS: When you DJ live are you on CD or laptop?
Hardwell: I’m working with a flash drive on Pioneer decks.
RS: What are you working on right now?
Hardwell: Right now I am actually working on the soundtrack for my documentary. It is going to be a documentary about me and the years before I entered the DJ Mag list and everything before working with Tiesto. I am working on a soundtrack which is going to be my debut album as well. I think that it is going to be released March/April of 2013, that is what I am focusing on right now.
RS: How has getting on the DJ list so high the first year affected your career?
Hardwell: It has definitely affected it a lot. I don’t think that anyone expected me to come in so high (at #24) last year. It was such an unbelievable thing; it was an achievement for me, since I have always looked up at the list and longed to be like the DJs on it. It hasn’t really changed careerwise since I was already playing at big festivals and on big stages. It was more of a personal thing, a huge achievement.
RS: What are your goals for 2013?
Hardwell: Making music and touring a lot. I want to meet up with all my fans around the world and have a good time.
RS: You mentioned you collaborated with Tiesto, are there any other producers or DJs that you would like to collaborate with?
Hardwell: Definitely, I am working on the new collaboration with Tiesto, but I would also love to do a studio session with Swedish House Mafia, Knife Party, Skrillex, Avicii, and deadmau5. Deadmau5 is one of my favorite artists, I am up for everything.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Hardwell: To all of the fans that are listening, thanks for all of the support, not only today, but over the last few years. I hope to make music and to tour around the world and to see you guys soon.
Interview conducted during Amsterdam Dance Event 2012.