When it comes to EDM, the Dutch rule. Following in the footsteps of his world-conquering kinsmen Tiësto and Armin van Buuren, last year Hardwell placed first in DJ Mag’s celebrated Top 100 DJs poll. At just 26 years old, Hardwell (otherwise known as Robbert van de Corput) is the youngest DJ to hit number one in the poll’s 18-year history – and the significance of the accolade isn’t lost on him, as AUGUSTUS WELBY discovers.
“A lot of times it feels surreal,” says van d Corput. “It’s weird to achieve the dream that was always so impossible, even like three years ago. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.”
While he’s still relatively young, by no means is van de Corput new to the art of DJing. The upbeat Netherlander started DJing in clubs at the age of 14, before gaining international recognition in 2009 with the breakthrough production, Show Me Love vs. Be. “It was always my dream to be a DJ on a high level and tour around the world and show my music to the world,” he says. “So at this point I’m living the dream and I couldn’t be more excited than I am right now.”
Backing up his hedonistic headline sets on this year’s Future Music Festival tour, Hardwell returns to Australia in October with the outdoor dance spectacular, I Am Hardwell, which kicked off early last year. He describes it as “the biggest Hardwell experience you can get”, which far surpasses what’s permissible at a festival.
In the meantime, van de Corput will be hard at work on the debut Hardwell album. Over the last five years he’s proven himself a capable artist by unleashing a string of club-ready single releases such as Spaceman, Dare You (featuring Matthew Koma) and Everybody Is In The Place. Combine this collection of hits with several years of touring and remixing, and it’s safe to say Hardwell’s first LP is hotly anticipated.
“I’m really enjoying making the album, but it’s so hard,” van de Corput admits. “When I look back over the years I only did four or five songs a year and now I have to do a whole album. [It] takes a lot of time. But I’m really enjoying doing the project.”
Although the greater productivity requirements of a full-length record can be stressful, it’s not a lack of material holding things up. “There are more than 20 tracks. I have to decide which tracks I really want to finish off and which tracks will never make it. The album needs to be perfect. I want to be 200 per cent satisfied. Even when I listen to the album in ten years I still want myself to be proud of what I did.”
“If I think about the pressure and what people think of me and the album, it will never be done. Avicii is the perfect example. When he played Wake Me Up for the first time last year at the Ultra Music Festival everybody was laughing at him like, ‘Wow, he’s playing country music,’ and ‘It’s the biggest shit I’ve ever heard.’ Six months later it was a worldwide number one hit in over 70 countries.
“You can never satisfy everybody,” he continues. “That’s what I’m trying to say. Good music is good music. That whole Avicii album is so good, it’s almost unbelievable. Every single song is so well produced.
“People ask me, ‘What kind of music do you play – is it big room? Is it progressive? Is it electro?’ I always like to call it ‘Hardwell music’,” he says. “That’s exactly what the album’s going to be. It is a full dance album, but I want to make beautiful music instead of only the big club bangers. When I look back at my single Apollo – the one I did with Amba Sheperd two years ago – I still play it every single set because it’s a good song. I think a good song will always last.”