Tiesto and his Elements of Life artist album

Tiesto's career is punctuated by landmark achievements: The first DJ in the world to sell out a solo stadium event for over 25,000 people, he scored a number one hit with his single Traffic, the first instrumental track to reach the top spot in his homeland of Holland in 23 years.

His remix of Delerium featuring Sarah McLachlans Silence was the first house track ever broadcast on daytime radio in North America, (it became an international dancefloor anthem and also spent eight weeks in the UK top 10 chart). He played live in front of billions of people during the Parade Of The Athletes at the official opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Athens. But despite his meteoric success, Tiesto remains grounded about his achievements and clearly loves making and playing music above the accolades it brings.

The future for Tiësto promises yet further success, both as the solo artist he's become and the DJ we know him to be. 'Another album, more remixes, definitely,' he agrees, 'but it's hard to look too far into the future. Every couple of months it seems that something new, unexpected and exciting is happening!'

"If we were ten years further on, I would like people to say Tiësto, back then, took the DJ thing to a different level, he broke boundaries and that's why it is where it is right now.
SCENE 1: A murky club in early '90s Belgium, the launch pad of European techno. Performing at this night are Sven Väth and Moby. Sven Väth, the wild child of German electronic music is busily forging an international reputation with a unique take on Detroit techno incorporating notes of melodic trance with unique classical influences. A young Dutch DJ, Tijs Verwest, is blown away by the music he hears; the ground zero of his burgeoning career.

SCENE 2: The Athens Olympics in 2004. A crowd of 72,000 people watch on as the opening ceremony unfolds. Tribal drummers beat out a propulsive rhythm. Lights leap up skywards. Jets of water shoot hither and thither as lasers and spears of flame dance breathtaking figures in the air. And then a DJ puts on his first record, as the Greek flag bearer parades around the stadium and all watched by a global audience of 4 billion. All in a day's work for DJ Tiësto, as Tijs Verwest is now more famously known.

"It was quite funny," chuckles Tiësto. "I was playing a gig in Greece in September 2003 and this guy walks up to me and says, 'Hey Tiësto I just heard you play; you're amazing. I want you to play at the opening ceremony of the Olympics.' I looked at him, like, sure pal!"

As we know, Tiësto's appearance at the Olympics was no hoax; his epochal performance yet another in a long line of record breaking moments in an endlessly morphing career (Tiësto breaks records like a breakfast cook cracks eggs).

A teenage heavy metal fan his interest was piqued by a sign in a record store proclaiming 'House Music'. He investigated further and emerged with the influential compilation, Techno! The House Sound of Detroit and set the course for the rest of his life. Inspired by radio heroes like eighties giant Ben Liebrand and the lamented Peter Slaghuis, Tiësto's boundless energy and networking skills (aided by a job behind the counter at the Basic Beat store in Rotterdam) brought him residencies in small clubs which eventually paid dividends when, in 1998, he played a career-defining set at ID&T's Innercity rave in Amsterdam (a Tiësto mixed compilation produced for the event went on to sell 100,000 copies in Holland alone).

Tiësto's productions met with similar success. "I thought, it doesn't sound too hard to make," he laughs. "It's just a bass drum and a bassline. So I went to a store bought some stuff and started learning." It paid dividends with a series of genre-classics, including a slew of remixes and productions like Flight 643 a worldwide smash that suggested new directions for trance music.

He is a restless soul; his quietly confident demeanour a clever mask for arching ambitions that go well beyond the admittedly impressive statistics of his career thus far. "If we were ten years further on," he explains, "I would like people to say Tiësto, back then, took the DJ thing to a different level, he broke boundaries and that's why it is where it is right now."

His next moves are all connected to the latest addition to the Tiësto oeuvre, Elements of Life, his third studio album, and one that will be promoted with a year-long world tour. The album extends Tiësto's musical palette towards other territories - house, techno, German minimalism - without forsaking his trance roots or his innate ability to excavate memorable hooks. "It's just going back to basics," Tiësto reveals. "People are so caught up in the Internet life and everything is so fast nowadays. So it's going back to the elements: earth, wind, fire, and water. Back to the old ancient elements of life from where everything comes. It's definitely deeper than the first album."

You can hear it, too. "German minimal was definitely the inspiration for some tracks on my album. I do get influenced a lot by other DJs and music styles. I think that's good; it's the only way you can keep yourself fresh. If I was still playing the same sounds as I did in 1998 then the music would have lost a lot of its charm."

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Tiesto and his Elements of Life artist album

April 1, 2007 at 9:30 PM CEST


Bill Brewster

While Elements of Life is a progression, it's still a Tiësto creation. He is the master of minor key symphonies; one-note basslines that stick like porridge on a toddler's bib. Sweet Things, which features Charlotte Martin on vocal duties, contains a deep house keyboard attack yet still retains that trademark sound, melancholic and yet strangely uplifting; Julie Thompson's voice soars and dives like a swallow at spring on Can You Feel Me, the musical accompaniment little more than percussion and bass; but the effect lingers. There are also established favourites, like Dance4Life his moving collaboration (with Faithless' Maxi Jazz) to the AIDS cause and He's A Pirate, the contribution to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, with its circular keyboard patterns endlessly fizzing into the ether.

The Elements of Life world tour will go on the road for a year, a mammoth undertaking for a DJ tour, which will incorporate a live show, singers, visuals and lighting. Accompanying DJ Tiësto on his globetrotting jaunt will be three giant trucks and a crew of 35. Clearly excited about the plans, Tiësto gushes, like a latter-day P.T. Barnum: "The visuals are definitely going to have a big impact and the lighting show is very special. There's gonna be a lot things that have never been done before on the technical side; it's gonna look amazing. It's going to be the biggest dance show the world has ever seen. That's all I can say about. I don't want to ruin all the surprises." Tiësto will still be keeping his hand in the underground, however, with plans afoot for some proper intimate parties on the side. "It will be the night before or after, and I won't be playing hits, just really deep, experimental stuff; all kinds of other things. Just for myself to keep things interesting."

His latest single, the episodic In The Dark, features former BBMak singer Christian Burns, who Tiësto found on myspace. "He just has this amazing Eighties-sounding voice, so I contacted him to see if he wanted to do a track and he was very enthusiastic right from the start." If U2 made dance music, it might well sound like In The Dark. "I even found a name for this style of music: Rocktronic!".

While Tiësto has plenty to say on the DJ's craft, when it comes to entertaining his crowds, he cuts to the chase. "I see myself as a DJ-crowd pleaser," he asserts. "I play for the people. I'm not an underground DJ like Richie Hawtin who has a totally different kind of art, I think. What Richie does is he creates a painting: 'Ok, people this is my painting whether you like it or not'. What I do is start working on the painting then I see what the people's opinion is and then I adjust it. That's the big difference between me and other DJs. I want to be interactive with the crowd and if I feel they want to hear a big tune then I drop a bomb because I want everyone to go home with a smile..."

Tiësto combines those rare joint qualities of being both humble but also still burning with great ambitions and desires. Tiësto doesn't want to simply get paid; he wants to make a difference. Common for a nurse, maybe, but for a DJ, it's positively revolutionary. "I want DJing and dance music to be just as big as hip hop or rock music is now. It would be nice if dance music blows up in America and I was a part of that." With Tiësto at the helm, you'd be a fool to doubt it.

Exclusive interview by Bill Brewster
Credits: Cypher Press
Foto: Barbubro

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