Not a Dirty Word

Not too long ago life was much simpler for Tijs Verwest (a.k.a. DJ Tiesto). He was a household name among Holland's night crawlers, had achieved industry distinction with his small but potent label Black Hole Recordings, and headed up collaborations with fellow Dutch trance star Ferry Corsten in addition to doing remix work for Paul Oakenfold. But then a funny thing happened. The music press got buzzed by Tiesto's deeply layered productions: the seven-volume Magik compilation series, the Nettwerk release of Summerbreeze, and his critically acclaimed artist album In My Memory. A supernova was born.

Last year DJ magazine ranked Tiesto a startling number six on its annual Top 100. In May of this year URB magazine included him on its list of the "Next 100 To Watch." At the 2002 Dancestar Music Awards he took home the prize for best club DJ. Add to this a prestigious residency at the swank Ibiza club Cream along with gigs at the massive U.K. summer festivals Homelands and Gatecrasher, and it's easy to see why his profile is on the rise.

"I've always been going my own way, no matter what magazines thought about me," Tiesto tells New Times via e-mail. "I didn't come up that sudden, although I must admit that the last two years everything went pretty fast."

Almost overnight Tiesto went from Dutch treat to international phenomenon, culminating with an invitation to perform alongside Moby, Busta Rhymes, and David Bowie on this summer's Area2 tour.

"I haven't seen them yet, but today was only my second gig so it's still early," he jokes of his inclusion in this elite if eclectic music club.

Tiesto shares the undercard of this neopalooza along with fellow turntablists John Digweed and Carl Cox. The chance to break his beats for such a mixed group stirs excitement.

"Even though I have the earlier set there still seems to be a super energy circulating through the audience," he boasts. "This crowd has a good vibe [in] their openness to hear new music." Considering the lineup, they don't have much choice.

For his part, Tiesto hopes to show love for the banging drums and sustained hooks that define trance music. "I consider myself a DJ who takes people into trance," he says of his sound. "Yes, I play trance, but [I] also play techno and progressive house and all other styles combined. Without trance, though, dance music wouldn't be as popular as it is today."

Love it or hate it, trance broke dance music. Radio stations, television commercials, film soundtracks all have tapped into the European-forged style that Tiesto twists skillfully both live and in the studio. The repetition induces a detached, almost narcotic state of electronic submission to the sound. That hypnotic power is in Tiesto's hands now.

"I feel I've taken some of the leadership role since I am in the position to share my music with thousands of people," he says. "It's great, but I don't feel any pressure at all."

If anything, Tiesto welcomes the challenge. Not afraid to lay down his own tracks, he's convinced this is where the future lies. "If DJs produce the music they play out, their audiences may be more receptive," he explains. "I think the future of DJing is to include one's own original material in his or her set."

Feeling completely satisfied with In My Memory, Tiesto is already working on new tracks for a followup album that he claims will be even better than the first. A careful working of the trance style, Memory won raves for dance-floor anthems "Obsession" and "Dallas 4pm." Tiesto offers no apology for riding at times what sounds like a safe commercial wave.

"Commercially, yes, I think trance has peaked," he admits. "But it will never die. Perhaps it will develop into something better, but the sound has been dominating the scene for so many years, and I think that trance music is actually getting better again."

Consider that fair warning.

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Kevin McLaughlin