25 years of dance music in The Netherlands: Hardwell
Now in its 25th year, Amsterdam Dance Event continues to draw artists, professionals and fans from across the globe to celebrate the electronic dance music industry. To commemorate 25-years of dance music in the Netherlands and the ongoing relevance of the annual conference, DA turned to some of the nation’s finest musical assets to tell the unique story of Dutch dance music from the mouths of the artists that have kept in such high esteem. At the tail-end of his most prolific year to date, Hardwell tops off our series with his take on the global overhaul of Dutch dance music.
Describe growing up in The Netherlands and when electronic music first became apparent to you – was it easily accessible?
Very much so, but obviously not as much as it is nowadays but certainly guys like Tiësto, Armin and Ferry were huge and had a big impact on my friends and I. Growing up with such a rich electronic culture at that age was inspiring and definitely shaped my ‘career’ path in life. I’m so proud to be Dutch and to be a part of this scene – one that I believe Dutch artists have played a big part in pushing forward.
How have you seen dance music culture develop within The Netherlands within your own career and has it always been an easy / positive route of progression?
Well today my name is at a different stage than where it was several years ago but I’m still a young artist trying to make his way in this scene. Dutch people are used to names like Tiësto and the legacy he has created and continues to add to is incredible. I’d like to reach the heights of what he and others artists such as Armin have created but I’ve still a long way to go. I still remember playing gigs in the early years in the Netherlands when nobody turned up. So it was such an incredible moment in my life when I staged my first ever I Am Hardwell at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam and sold out with 6000 Dutch people showing up.
How have you seen the national authorities respond to the culture for electronic music / clubbing within the Netherlands and has it ever had the same love/hate relationship as we see in North America / certain European countries.
No, dance music is far more embraced by Dutch people. Perhaps not so much in the early years, long before I ever tasted it, but since my early teens through to today the acceptance of dance music in the Netherlands has always been more positive than negative. Of course we still have many barriers to break down but that’s the beauty of the evolution we’re going through right now in the scene.
What do you consider to have been the key differentiator between Dutch club culture and its European peers – was it as obvious as the history books would have us believe or was it more subtle to your mind?
I can’t say for sure but I think as a nation we just matured quicker to dance music. We stage some of the most amazing festivals you’ll find anywhere on the planet and have done for many years, and national radio station that play dance music any time of the day since I can remember. Alongside this we’ve been fortunate to have inspiring artists like Ferry Corsten and Tiësto to push the scene in new and exciting directions and export Dutch dance music to the world.
Who do you consider to have been one of the most influential innovators where the Dutch dance music community is concerned and why?
I think the answer has to be Tiësto. No one can really argue you with that. What he did was push not just the Dutch scene forward but the entire global scene forward. Before him artists like Paul Oakenfold opened up dance music to a whole new world but for me Tiësto took it to another level.
How do you feel about the prospects available for the next generation of talents from The Netherlands?
Having the success I’ve had now allows me the chance to work and help bring through other artists. This was one of the directions I wanted to take with Revealed Recordings, giving me the ability to use the label as a platform to bring through new artists and push new music. We have so many young and amazingly talented artists in The Netherlands like Dyro, Dannic who had an amazing year and new names like Kill The Buzz and Julian Calor. Bringing them to the label and giving them the freedom to grow as artists is something I’m really happy that we’ve managed to achieve with Revealed. As Dutch artists go I think we live in very exciting times, the music and energy coming out of The Netherlands right now is some of the best in the world and I’m proud to be able to showcase this to the world through my DJ sets and through Revealed.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being an artist within the Dutch market / circuit and why?
There aren’t really any major challenges I can highlight except that the level of competition in the Netherlands is exceptionally high and so breaking through and being noticed in your own home country can be a difficult task. The advantage is the network, it’s a small scene so when your in, everyone will notice you. But this is what makes all of us better artists; the push to improve and optimise your skills as a DJ and producer.