Another year, another number-one spot atop the infamous DJ Mag Top 100 rankings. Another headlining spot at the main stage of Ultra Music Festival. Another absurdly successful set at Tomorrowland. So goes the life of young, Dutch DJ Hardwell.
He has become one of EDM's biggest mainstays at 26, and the brand is strong. He is releasing his debut full-length album, United We Are, in January. He pilots a terrifying EDM robot in the video for lead single "Young Again," and he recently announced a collaboration with W&W on the new record.
Which brings us to Hardwell's I Am Hardwell show at the Klipsch Ampitheater at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami, where Crossfade was able to meet up with him before the three-hour set for a one-on-one chat.
Crossfade: How does it feel to be back in Miami after your main-stage show at Ultra?
Hardwell: It's supergreat to be back in Miami. Miami's been supportive of my music since the very beginning. I'm really happy to be back here.
How do you feel about next year's Ultra Music Festival being over 18?
Ultra knows what they're doing. They've been around for such a long time, so they know exactly what they are doing. I trust them; they're not messing around. Maybe it's a good thing. They're little kids. They're drinking for the first time or using drugs for the first time. It can cause a lot of problems. So I can understand it. With that said, the 18-plus crowd is more educated, so they know what dance music is, and they've been around for a longer time. It's better for the DJ and for the EDM atmosphere to play for a more educated crowd.
Do you see the DJ Mag number-one spot as an accomplishment? Or do you not care about stuff like that?
I see it as a big accomplishment. It's a fan-based poll. It's not like 100,000 votes; it's like 1.5 million votes.
What do you think is the biggest accomplishment of your career so far?
It's my album that's coming out. I've never released an album. So whether it's going to flop or whether people like it, I love what I did. I took the time to do it. I'm finally happy that I've been able to make the music that I want to make. It's completely different from a hard DJ set.
See also: 13 Richest DJs of 2014
You come from a music background. What kind of music would you be making if it wasn't dance music?
Definitely hip-hop. I did a lot of hip-hop production back in the day. I was a hip-hop DJ first. I was always fascinated with the way they scratch the records and vinyls and the really quick mix-ins.
Can you rap?
No, I can't rap! Of course not. I can't sing, and I can't rap. That's the only thing that I can't do.
Why does Holland breed such successful DJs?
Holland is so unique in a way that they always supported dance music, even 20 or 30 years ago. When I was a kid, I grew up to dance music. I saw dance music everywhere -- in supermarkets, on the radio. So it was all very natural to me. When I told my mom at the age of 12 that I wanted to become a DJ, she was like, "OK, go for it!" In another culture, it would be weird, because parents don't know what dance music is and just think about it as this underground, druggy rave scene with a bad image.
In your documentary, there's a scene where you're upset because you're forced to make a few stops on the tour due to exhaustion.
We all scaled everything way better this year. We were on the rise and everything just happened. The DJ Mag thing and my main-stage performances all came out of nowhere. Now we know what we're aiming for. This year, that was definitely the album and the festivals. We played way less than we did before. I only played 150 gigs this year. The year before, 250. We're better with each other. And I'm feeling better than ever.
What do you want people to take away from this show?
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That people had the best night of their lives. When you are at your gig, there is such a unity. I always say that dance music is the most universal music on Earth, because when you play a popular dance song, everyone can relate to it and sing along to it. I want to create that united feeling when I'm on the stage.
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