Hardwell: ‘My friends help keep me grounded’
“Shall we start?” Robbert relaxes back in to his cream armchair, takes a drink and smiles. For an instant I forget that I’m sat opposite the man, voted for by DJ Mag readers, as the best DJ in the world right now.
Better known to the general public as Hardwell, Robbert van de Corput is again preparing for another sell-out event, this time in Manchester. As his only confirmed UK tour dates for now, there’s no surprise then that this 25-year-old is playing to a sold-out crowd for the second night in a row.
“It’s incredible,” Robbert says staring straight back at me with a smile on his face. His raw passion for dance music exuberates around the room as he tells me how he feels taking the crown from trance legend Armin Van Buuren and beating the likes of Avicii, Tiësto and David Guetta to this year’s top spot.
“It really is a dream come true for me and I feel really blessed for it. It came after an amazing 12 months as a producer and although it’s been really exhausting, I can’t complain!”
Tucked away, in a secluded room across the road from one of the biggest clubbing venues in the North West, the atmosphere is a complete contrast to the intensity that is building no more than 50 yards away. As four hotel guests gather round a plasma screen to watch tonight’s episode of Match of the Day, they are completely unaware that the best DJ in the world is sat in the next room. But that’s exactly how Robbert likes it.
As he avoids smothering amounts of bodyguards or entourages, the young superstar is just as comfortable sitting at home eating a sandwich with his dad as he is playing to thousands of people across the globe. What strikes me most about someone who has been thrust into the limelight at such a young age is just how down to earth he is.
“Hardwell is the DJ who works hard to produce great music but Robbert is just a normal guy having fun with his friends,” he says shrugging his shoulders.
“My friends help keep me grounded and I can always really on them to tell me the truth. If a song sounds crap they’ll tell me and that’s the same philosophy I use in my life too.”
Despite only a few hours sleep the previous night, Robbert’s energy is infectious and his love for the genre and DJing hasn’t faltered since his first gig back in Holland. While many underage teenagers would rely on fake IDs or an unlocked fire escape in order to get into a nightclub, a young Hardwell would casually stroll past the bouncers on the front door.
Fast forward to February 1st 2014 and the youngster from Breda has left his much loved Hip Hop tracks at home and is getting ready to unleash another 120 minutes of ‘Hardwell Music’ to more than 5,000 people.
“Every record I produce is dance-floor minded rather than for the radio,” the Dutch DJ claims. “It’s the music that I feel and that I want to play in my sets which is why I’ve always called my sound ‘Hardwell Music’. I hate being categorised in one particular genre like ‘EDM’ because my sound can be either electro, progressive or whatever else I feel like playing.”
And it’s the explosion of ‘EDM’ worldwide that has catapulted acts like Robbert from tailor-made gigs to sell-out global Arena tours. As I take a walk around Victoria Warehouse, situated between Old Trafford and MediaCity, the ‘EDM’ influence on the UK scene is plain to see among the clubbers.
And it’s this crossover that’s adding to the pressure for producers to keep evolving Robbert says.
“EDM has never been so big worldwide and I still think it’s just the beginning. As long as we as DJs and producers come up with new and good electronic music, I think it will stick around forever, which is easier said than done,” he chuckles.
“So who’s doing it well at the minute?” There’s a brief moment of silence in the 3rd floor room as other journalists and Robbert’s PR manager wait to hear what he says.
“You can look at it in two perspectives,” the ‘Dare You’ producer begins. “The first guys like Disclosure are still making great dance floor music that is then picked up by the radio. Then you have people like Avicii and Calvin House who are aiming for the radio and their music then gets played out in clubs. In my opinion I think it’s still important for DJs to focus on the Beatport charts because if you can make a proper club record it will definitely cross over to the radio and Martin Garrix’s track ‘Animals’ is the perfect example of that.”
As close friend and warm-up DJ Dannic builds the atmosphere up in Room 1 and closes in on his final track, the interview continues on the move as we take a walk past the 12 police search stations and through the secret passages that transport the DJ to the stage.
“I like to play a part in everything that goes on in my sets,” Robbert says authoritatively. “From the visuals, to the lights and all the technical things in between – everything goes through me”.
Tonight is not about the fancy firework shows or televised sets. It’s about one man playing the music he loves in a warehouse that has all the trademarks of the early raves in a way the forefathers of the genre designed it to be – a mantra that can only come from someone who lives and breathes music on a daily basis.
Through his label ‘Revealed Recordings’, he mentors a handful of lucky up-and-comers, as well as enabling him to keep ahead of the musical curve by listening to unsigned producers and DJs alike. His influence on contemporary electronic dance music is undeniable.
But his reach also transcends traditional musical boundaries. The Hardwell brand means that his production, and in particular remixing, services are regularly sought after by the mainstream pop music industry too. And while some of his contemporaries may be all-too-willing to ‘sell-out’ when presented with lucrative terms, Robbert chooses his projects more carefully.
“The most important thing for me is to check the original track. I need to feel the original track – I can live with it if I don’t play it in my set, that’s why I need to do a remix.”
“I once got a remix request from Justin Bieber,” Robbert continues as if what he had just said was an everyday occurrence. “I really love that guy, but I’m never going to play a Justin Bieber vocal in my set. If it doesn’t fit in my set, then I won’t do a remix.”
Turning down one of the biggest popstars in the world seems to be just one small part of a non-stop jet set life that includes DJing around the world, producing, remixing, managing a record label, and mentoring the stars of tomorrow.
With the sound of thousands of adoring fans screaming his name and the smile beaming across his face as his bespoke introduction begins there are only three words that come to mind. The phrase ‘living the dream’ is often carelessly banded about nowadays – but in Robbert’s case he has every right to use it.Tagged in: Hardwell, Robbert van de Corput
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