‘There are no DJs anymore’ Hardwell reflects on EDM, his debut album and more
When Hardwell released his artist album, United We Are, the stakes were high and with the title of two-time DJ Mag #1 DJ of the year, how could they not be? The album was met with initial criticism despite its climactic rise to number 2 of the Dance/Electronic Albums. To discuss his magnum opus, Hardwell recently opened up in an interview with Billboard to not only describe the creation process of his album but to also illustrate what being a DJ means to him.
Hardwell begins by explaining his intentions for the album to represent his artistic image and states he was thrilled with how it came out. Billboard leads into questions about whether he felt an initial pressure to change his sound while also delving into the creation of the album and his inspiration not long after.
With an album, I wanted to show the diversity of my love for dance music.
From studio sessions in Ibiza, to collaborating over Skype, to producing in his home studio, every track on the album embodies the method through which it was crafted. While each cut on the album tends to have its own soul, Hardwell makes it clear that his home city of Breda is where he wanted the spirit of this album to stem from. Billboard then asks why he didn’t move to LA, like main stage colleagues Avicii and Calvin Harris, to capitalize on the vast resources available to him on the West Coast.
Everything that made Hardwell popular came from my studio here in Breda, and I didn’t want to take myself out of this environment and change things up. I felt safe here and still feel safe here. I knew exactly what I wanted to hear.
Delving into a serious analysis of current dance music A&R, Hardwell explains how his Dutch home allows him to feel comfortable and produce the music he is meant to make. This album is intended to represent the 10 years of tireless work that allowed him to make his dream a reality. If he had jumped aboard the “deep house train,” United We Are would not have represented the sound that Hardwell had built his career from. His artist album symbolizes the creative alcove that he carved with his music – not to be dictated by current trends that will evaporate in the future. His debut album was intended to encapsulate his journey thus far as a musician.
There are no DJs anymore. Well just a few, and I’m talking about the older guys. The newer guys are always producers that made a big hit record and now DJ all of a sudden
A little known fact about the EDM frontrunner is that he originally started out DJing hip-hop in clubs before crossing over into the dance music side. Over the past couple of years, the term “button-pushers” emerged to describe main stage DJs that grew into the title after achieving initial success as producers. Hardwell has been lumped into this category without context.
His subsequent thought-provoking statement on the same topic comes about when he acknowledges his support for the growing separation of the underground and mainstream. In his eyes, the scene seems to be shifting towards the melodic, styles that have recently become mainstream after arising from the so-called underground. This observation makes sense with certain dance music acts appealing to wider audiences while others happily remain confined to the boundaries of the underground. The separation is imminent and becoming more apparent with artists like Kygo and Oliver Heldens pushing their respective genres onto radio waves, while underground veterans like Dixon or Damian Lazarus steer clear of commercial endeavors typically taken on by their more mainstream counterparts.
No matter your personal judgement on Hardwell’s music, he undoubtedly has a keen sense of the industry and stands his ground on every career move he has made thus far.