One-on-one with Number One: Hardwell speaks on EDM candidly and casually in rare pre-Ultra moment
On this not-so-average Wednesday in March, the W Hotel is flooded with dance music artists and industry personnel. By noon, the toast of Miami Music Week is in the building…
Doors haven’t yet opened to general admission, but the day’s greatest presence is already being felt. Hardwell is mingling around the SiriusXM pop-up (where he’d be performing hours later), chatting up peers from W&W to Dannic yards away at a pool-side porch, and making his way up to a balcony for some rare pre-Ultra relaxing time. Joining the world’s number one DJ in a setting as intimate as they come during Miami Music Week, Dancing Astronaut and Hardwell let loose for a candid and casual catch-up session.
Side by side, and witnessing the ascension (and explosion) of Hardwell as an electronic artist, we take a moment to acknowledge how far things have came. Followed by a moment down memory lane. Robbert recalls playing events before even touring internationally, and his first ever festival in Holland at age 17 — a far stride from closing the Main Stage of Ultra, which was only days away.
“What are the three factors that made Hardwell what he is today?”
In a manner more deliberate than our half-playful question, the DJ responds: “His passion, his dedication, and his love for the music.”
Small talk follows, that is, If you’d consider chatting about Las Vegas residencies and traveling the world “small talk.” After catching up on Hakassan stories and the emerging fan base in Asia, we visit one of the industry’s hottest topics.
“A bit sick of what’s going on in EDM right now.” It took one statement on Armin van Buuren’s ASOT 650 broadcast for Hardwell to join a handful of his peers in criticizing the modern dance landscape. It doesn’t take much brain-picking, Hardwell was eager to elaborate on the aforementioned vision when asked.
“I’m not hating on the sound,” he continues, “but there are too many copy cats right now.”
More formula, less authenticity floods the Beatport chart and, subsequently, the dance world. It’s no secret. In fact, it’s more a topic of discussion that’s beginning to become as stale as the issue at hand. So we ask Hardwell the question that few voices of the debate fail to progress towards: “What are you going to do about it?”
Without hesitation, he alludes to material in the works for his upcoming artist album; “What I’m going to do about it — the new songs I’m working on. You can call it EDM, but it’s different from what’s going on,” asserting that it will be his conscious effort to make changes for dance music. “Focus on the basics, that’s music.” The timing couldn’t have worked out better, as Hardwell even acknowledges, looking forward to releasing his debut artist album during this period of needed-change for the sound.
His confidence, convincing. His plan for change, to lead by example. It’s the same self-motivated Hardwell we knew from day one. It’s the same musically-driven artist Robbert remembers himself as at age 17.
We didn’t stay on the topic of more serious matters for long; his pledge was promising enough. Within moments he cracked a joke about renaming Dancing Astronaut, Dancing Spaceman — an ode to his “Spaceman” mega-hit. We revisited stories of last year’s Miami Music Week, played hype man for one another about the week ahead, and began looking forward to his return to Ultra.
Hardwell claimed to be feeling some pressure in his closing role at this year’s festival, but his ability to address major concerns and make jokes with his usual sense of humor within the same minute would of had us fooled. So we wrapped up formal talk, basked in one of the few non-hectic moments of the week, and eventually powered through our favorite time of the year. And, as the story goes, Hardwell concluded Ultra with a bang; kicking his initiative to change the game into high gear.