It's easy for EDM snobs to hate on Tiësto.
The Dutch DJ-producer's house and trance records are nuggets of music easily consumed by the masses. They aren't always risky or forward-thinking, but they seem to get the job done and, more important, make a lot of people happy.
Sure, Tiësto didn't do himself any favors when he joined forces with Guess last year to launch a collection of men's and women's apparel as part of the iconic brand's Capsule collection. (Critics quickly tried to label him a sellout.) But if pop tarts like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga can slap their visage on goods, why can't Tiësto?
And even with all the success Tijs Michiel Verwest has achieved, he still seems pretty humble. Talking with him is almost like conversing with an old friend — he's personable, cracks jokes, and speaks sincerely. So how about we all give the man a break?
While on the road for his College Invasion Tour, Tiësto opened up to New Times about what it's meant to have his career blossom at Ultra, why he hasn't been able to enjoy his Miami pad, and how far he's willing to take the Tiësto brand.
New Times: How do you look back at your time at Ultra?
Tiësto: It's become a yearly tradition. The whole world of EDM comes to Miami. I feel that week, it's also special to be part of it. Ultra is one of the best festivals in the world.
How many years have you performed at Ultra?
I don't know. Maybe ten to 11 out of the 15. Most of them.
How important was Ultra to your career, especially when you were starting out?
Pretty important. Like I said, I think it's one of the most important festivals in the world. To be a headliner there, and to be on the main stage with a big production, it's been very good to my career.
Do you have a specific edition of Ultra that you remember being your favorite?
I think the last few years Ultra has gone to another level. It's become bigger and bigger. Last year was amazing. I think it was one of my best sets. There were 60,000 people, and I had my DJ friends onstage with me. Last year was a memorable one for me, definitely.
What can we expect at Ultra 2013 from you?
At Ultra, I always release a lot of new tracks. I have a track I'm going to debut, and I'll have a new opening for my set — a new intro, an all-new track. Lots of new music.
You've recently taken the Tiësto brand and applied it to things outside of music. How far do you want to take your brand?
I'd like to do other stuff with my brand name. The fashion line with Guess was just an amazing opportunity for me to be creative on a different level. I love fashion and to design stuff. It was nice for me to get a little more involved in the fashion world.
In the future, I would work with other brands, but only if it fits. I would never work with a brand that doesn't suit me or what I stand for. I would never work with a brand that doesn't fit me as Tiësto.
A few years ago, it was almost unheard of for a DJ to do arena tours in the U.S., and you've played the Staples Center in L.A. How does it feel playing arena shows?
It's amazing. The dance music scene has come a long way in the last couple of years. It's really great to see that you now can fill an arena as dance music continues to get more popular here.
Baauer's "Harlem Shake" debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. Do you see that as a sign that EDM has arrived?
The Baauer thing is a separate story, and I don't think it has much to do with EDM in general. The videos helped it. It almost was like a gimmick. I actually almost put that song on my charity compilation that I released last year. I think [the track] is part of the EDM world, but it being number one has more to do with the video and the fun people had with it than a sign that EDM is big now. Still, we have other great songs that have hit the Billboard Top 10 — like Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child." That's a good example of how big EDM has become in the U.S.
You have a place in Miami, right?
Yes, I do.
Do you enjoy spending a lot of time here?
[laughs] I'm never there. You know, I'm always traveling and touring around the world. I'm not very often in one place. I wish I had more time off, and I would spend more time there. But the last couple of years, I really haven't had much time.
Your last studio album was 2009's Kaleidoscope. Are you working on new material?
I didn't realize it was that long already. Time just flies. But the Club Life albums, I consider them albums too, because almost 80 percent of the music on them is my own. It's not that I didn't release any new albums; it's just that I haven't released anything as a solo artist. Hopefully, this year, I can finish the new album. It's a lot of work.
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Do you compose and record on the road? Or do you need to be in a traditional studio setting?
Both. Sometimes you start something on the road and you finish it up in the studio. Sometimes you go back and forth with other artists. But to really write songs, I have to be in the studio. To write lyrics and vocals, you have to be in the studio; you can't be on the road.
A lot of your peers, like Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta, have been working with pop artists lately. Can we expect any pop collaborations from you when you get around to releasing a new album, or will it be purely Tiësto?
It's going to be purely Tiësto. I don't see the need to work with other artists in general. It might happen depending on the song, but I'm not looking for that. I'm just looking for great songs.