Saturday Night Session 029: The Showtek brothers reflect on the importance of musical versatility and the benefits of working with family
Few moments are more sacred than the reprieve Saturday night provides from the daily grind of school and work. Its importance is meant to be emphasized, and thus, a feature dedicated to “doing the night right” was born. Saturday Night Sessions are set around energizing mixes meant to get the party started. New or old, each episode has one cornerstone thing in similarity: they serve as the perfect backdrop for the weekend pregame.
Showtek is a moniker that means different things to different listeners, and their creativity has undergone different iterations over their 20-year music career. The Dutch electronic duo, who also happen to be brothers, started producing music in 1999, and they haven’t looked back since. Sjoerd and Wouter Janssen have an aversion to complacency, and this is what has allowed them to continuously strengthen their career despite the constant change of what is considered ‘popular’ through the passage of time.
As Showtek, the brothers have produced a few of electronic music’s most influential tracks, including the iconic “Bad” with David Guetta, which has reached over one billion streams. Before they became a commercial powerhouse, they paved the way for hardstyle, helping to define the genre itself. The brothers describe their sound as “melodic, accessible and global,” but they create this sound under the influence of a wide range of genres including Techno, Trance, and House.
Many artists feel pressured to keep a mainstream moniker consistent in terms of the style of music they put out, but the Janssen’s have taken their creative liberties and done their experimentation unapologetically as Showtek. They have taken their fans along for the ride, and this means their listeners aren’t simply interested in hearing Pop or Progressive House or Hardstyle. Showtek fans have proven that they support the creativity of Sjoerd and Wouter given their commitment to the duo despite their wide variety of past productions.
The brothers talk about how they have kept themselves inspired creatively as Showtek, saying, “As Showtek we have always thrived to reinvent ourselves, try new things, and break boundaries. That’s the only way to survive as an artist. You have to be able to be free and try new things.”
A 20-year career has allowed for the brothers’ to witness different popularity cycles, which has ultimately helped to give them perspective in their own musical journey. They comment, “Every genre starts from the underground, reaches the mainstream, and goes back to the underground again. This happens even in hip-hop. It doesn’t mean it dies or doesn’t come back; it means that it needs time to reinvent itself into something new.” Their observations are retrospective, and retrospective thought is a luxury in an industry where careers are so fleeting. The Janssen’s admit that a contributor to their longstanding success is the fact that they are brothers working together versus friends.
They explain how being brothers impacts their working dynamic, saying, “There are more layers in the relationship than you have with friends for example. We can speak our minds without being offended easily, and we know when to give each other space. There is just a difference when you’re blood related. When you know your weaknesses and strengths, it is easier to optimize that, focus, devise tasks etc. We both share the same vision of where we want to go, and even though we have different ideas of how to get there, we always end up where we want to be.”
The duo have crafted an hour long Saturday Night Session that they hope will get listeners in the mood for wherever they would like their night to take them. The brothers close with, “We hope we can get people in the mood- to work out and burn a sweat; to get ready for a party; or to test their subwoofers in the car! We wanna thank everybody for listening and supporting, without our fans we nothing! Enjoy!”
How has the Hardstyle scene changed since you started producing music, and what do you think the future for the sub-genre is as the electronic music industry continues to commercialize?
We started producing music in 1999/2000 and Hardstyle didn’t exist yet. Our music style was formed by many different genres that influenced us; Hard Trance, Techno, Hardcore and House Music that have been around way longer. We have been in the forefront of the genre, our style was melodic, accessible and global. We were able to bring the sound outside of Europe towards Asia, America and Australia. It was around 2011 that we’ve realized it was becoming harder, faster and more aggressive and we felt like we wanted to shift into a new direction. As Showtek we have always thrived to reinvent ourselves, try new things, and break boundaries. That’s the only way to survive as an artist. You have to be able to be free and try new things. In 2013 we used everything we thought ourselves and decided to create our new path, a new sound that would bring us further in our career. Every genre starts from the underground, reaches the mainstream and goes back to underground again, this happens even in hip-hop. It doesn’t mean it dies or doesn’t come back it means that it needs time to reinvent itself into something new. Listen to David Guetta and Showtek – “The Death of EDM,” which you shouldn’t take too seriously, but it does refer to this matter.
Do you feel it is an advantage to be brothers as a DJ duo in this tricky industry? What is unique about the situation compared to traditional groups of artists who are not related, from your observations?
Being brothers means you know each other really well, there are more layers into the relationship than you have with friends for example. We can speak our mind without being offended easily, and we know when to give each other space. There is just a difference when your blood related. When you know your weaknesses & strengths it easier to optimize that, focus , devise tasks etc. We both share the same vision of where we want to go, and even though we have different ideas of how to get there, we always end up where we want to be. See it as like we are racing in an M5, the guy who steers the wheel is relying also on the guy sitting next to him telling him where to take the corner. It’s harder to drive it yourself as long as you rely on each other. Besides that, we have been hanging out with the same friends all of our lives, we share the same humour, love the same food, so when we are on tour we have a lot of fun because we have been doing things together since we were kids.
Do each of you have a release you are most proud of? And why did you choose the respective release?
Guess we are proud of all our work, so it’s hard to pick one but we think “Bad” with David Guetta has been such a big song for us. With over a billion views and streams, it became one of the biggest EDM bangers of this century and everywhere we play it people go crazy. It became an international dance hit and even your grandpa might have heard the song. We do want to say that “FTS” was our biggest Hardstyle song, and it is still considered to be the biggest Hardstyle anthem of all time. We literally have seen people cry to this song. That’s the beauty of music, it’s an international language. Music can reach to your heart or touch a nerve. It can create a moment where it brings memories back to life, and it can make you happy or make you cry.
You have produced so many genres of music over the years- what do you feel resonates most in a live setting? We would be curious to know what you feel resonates most as a performer and then what you feel gets each of you going most personally when watching a performance.
It’s a mixture of everything together that makes our career successful. We used to go to Techno raves, going crazy on 3 hour DJ sets by Marco Bailey. We bought all the albums of D-Trance by Gary D but we also used to listen to Dutch Hardcore while Wouter also played classical tunes on the piano. So Hardstyle might have been the backbone of our career, it’s not Hardstyle that influenced us. It goes so much deeper. Now a days we do a little bit of everything and again, it can be any track that make a crowd go wild. It’s the connection that they have with the music, so we really think outside the box, in the studio while we produce or on stage while we perform. And for our personal preferences, it’s mostly about the vibe. For example, Tove Lo came to Los Angeles once, just after she had released her song “Habits.” She performed in a small venue for like 150 people, and it was amazing. Nobody knew her really, but we went to see her, and it was incredible. Very intimate, but the effect she got on us was insane! But again, we also had the same experience in a rave, when Marco V played “Satisfaction” by Benny Benassi at Sensation White. It was a new and unreleased song, but the moment he dropped that track it got stuck in our brain. Such an inspiration! So it doesn’t matter what genre, what song, as long as it get to us it can influence us.
What is your ideal Saturday Night?
Going out to a restaurant and have a nice dinner, going home and watching a movie after. Just simple stuff! Hang out with family and friends and enjoy life.
What kind of a Saturday Night is your Saturday Night Session getting listeners ready for?
We hope we can get people in the mood- to work out and burn a sweat; to get ready for a party; or to test their subwoofers in the car! We wanna thank everybody for listening and supporting, without our fans we nothing! Enjoy!