Tiësto on His Grammy and the Future of Dance Music | THUMP

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Tiësto at the Grammy Awards. Source: Instagram.

After winning a Grammy for Best Remixed Recording yesterday afternoon
at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, Tiësto did not pound shots of
Jägermeister. “I think I OD’d on Jäger,” he jokes. “It’s an amazing
drink but lately I’ve just had enough. Now I’m on to vodka. Pure vodka
shots.”

More than two decades into his illustrative career, Tiësto only
nabbed his first Grammy last night, reflective, perhaps of the Recording
Academy’s well-documented ambivalence about electronic music than of
the artist’s talent. At 46, he has been DJing longer than several of his
protegés (and fans) have been alive. Still, as he bounded to the podium
to collect his trophy from violinist Hilary Hahn, his energy and
seemingly permanent smile belied his age and experience.

“The fact that I’m still around is crazy as well as how much the
world has changed in 20 years,” he admits. “I just always followed my
heart and never got stuck in a certain sounds. Not just to be relevant
but because I wanted to change. I think people see that as coming from a
good place. It still comes from the same heart. The music is just in a
different outfit.”

While he was nominated for a Grammy in 2008 for his album Elements of Life,
this year’s prize, for his remix of John Legend’s “All of Me,” comes at
an interesting time in the DJ’s career. By almost all measures, Tiësto
is at the top of his game. He has a lucrative residency at Hakkasan Las
Vegas, where he plays roughly 30 nights a year, and he headlines the
majority of the world’s major festivals, including several that aren’t
dance music-only. In addition to “All of Me,” he enjoyed a worldwide hit
of his own in 2014 with the Matthew Koma-featuring “Wasted,” taken from
his album A Town Called Paradise. The track came replete with a
confection-colored music video and now Gold-certification in the US.
Despite these successes, he is an artist hungry for more and empowered
with the resources to pursue it.

As one would imagine for one of the wealthiest DJs in the world,
there is a substantial team of people who manage the Business of Tiësto.
Part of that maintenance includes creating space for the artist to be
himself and operate somewhat spontaneously in his own musical world,
even as the whole world (including his over 3 million Twitter followers)
wants a piece of him. From inside this fiercely protected sphere lies
the practically accidental origins of his Grammy-winning record.

“I was in Holland for Christmas in 2013 and someone played me that
song and I right away heard a house tempo,” Tiësto explains. “I heard
the piano and I was like, ‘maybe we should try it with a beat,’ and then
just started experimenting.”

As described in his acceptance speech, he posted the track online for
his fans as a free download and then watched it explode. Legend reached
out and asked to formally release it. Thanks to the radio-friendly
remix, Legend’s formerly sleepy ballad worked it’s way to No. 1 in nine
countries, including the US, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands,
finishing at No. 3 on Billboard’s year-end singles chart.

But that was last year.

Before the 2015 festival season is in full throttle this summer,
he’ll release a remix of The Weeknd’s “Often” (described as “very deep
house-orientated but with a Tiësto punch”) and another installment in
his Club Life mix series, which he promises will feature both the
familiar and unexpected. Despite potential backlash, that may include
some deep house.

“I’ve been playing deep house since 2011,” Tiësto says. “It’s not
that I’m jumping on the bandwagon. I’m still going to play big room
stuff because I love the energy but I like the combination [of styles],
especially when I play a club. At a festival, I don’t think you’ll hear
me play deep house anytime soon, but when I play Hakkasan, from 1 to 3
AM I play big room and then the last hour I play deep house. It’s an
amazing combination to see the whole crowd mellowing out.”

His
three-hour sets have become sort of a prized possession for a DJ who is
perhaps more widely known for limiting performances on festival stages,
much to his own chagrin. “DJs don’t want to take risks anymore. They’re
going for the safe bets,” he explains. “It doesn’t help that you only
get 45 minutes or an hour. What are you going to do in an hour? Every DJ
should go back to playing two hours and make it really interesting
again. You can vibe out to different styles and sounds. That’s how it
used to be.”

“The whole EDM world is going back to be more musical,” he continues.
“It’s been very technical in the last two years: vocal, break, drop. I
felt like the soul got a little bit lost. Thanks to deep house and
future house, people are reminded [that you can have] energetic,
uplifting tracks but with soul in it, instead of just concepts.”

Anyone who has followed Tiësto’s non-musical profile knows his
affinity for trendcasting isn’t limited to music. In years past, the man
has had fashion partnerships with Armani Exchange and Guess, though now
his tastes have evolved from the mall to the runway, as last night’s
Balmain suit indicates.

“To have a successful fashion brand is one of my goals, but it’s a
long way,” he admits. “I love guys like Olivier Rousteing and his
Balmain stuff. I’ve been wearing a lot of Skingraft lately. I love HBA.”

He says a capsule collection could be in the near future as a prelude
to his own line, though it would be hard to imagine him finding the
time. With near constant touring, he’s rarely in the same place for
long, bouncing primarily between homes in Sweden and New York City. It
was actually his tour schedule that prevented him from attending Grammys
the first time he was nominated. Now, he’s ready to enjoy the moment.

“It’s icing on the cake,” he says of his award. Adding with a smile: “I think I deserve it.”

Zel McCarthy also loves Balmain and is on Twitter.

 | THUMP

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