Keeping up with the ever-changing world of dance music can be exhausting; creative energy burns out as quickly as fresh trends become stale hype. That’s why Tiësto, Dutch DJ and dance-music icon, is such a legend. He has topped DJ charts since he reached stardom in the early ’00s, and continues to max out venues with a 15,000+ capacity. He kicked off another Tiësto “era” on September 24, to launch his highly anticipated album Kaleidoscope, out tomorrow.
“They can definitely expect [the music] to be different,” he says of his tour. The album, appropriately named after its fused-genre theme, is the product of Tiësto’s initiated collaborations with several disparate artists, such as Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, Sigur Rós’ Jónsi, Tegan and Sara, Nelly Furtado, and electro-pop sensation Sneaky Sound System.
The production and launch of the album may be Tiësto’s biggest risk yet, as he takes a huge leap outside the box of his acid-house/trance-music zone to explore a wider variety of sounds and styles. In conjunction with the production of Kaleidoscope, Tiësto recently founded his own label, Musical Freedom, a fitting metaphor for his new direction as dance-music figurehead. “These days, I want to play whatever I like,” he told Flavorpill, “and I hope people like it!”
We caught up with this man-in-demand and chatted about his new album, and why life behind the decks keeps him going.
Flavorpill: Kaleidoscope approaches progressive dance music from a really unique and risky perspective; what exactly inspired you to take this on?
Tiësto: I felt that I was ready for a new challenge in my life. I’ve been playing the same kind of style for quite a few years and it was time to take some risks and play something different. It really felt pretty natural, so I just went for it.
FP: How was the experience?
Tiësto: Very inspiring for me, and it was great to work with bands. It had a lot of influence on my DJs sets, because I feel they are changing. It has been quite a process, but it feels good.
FP: Your music has evolved a lot over the course of your career. How would you describe your artistic vision at this point, and how has it changed since you first started out producing and DJing?
Tiësto: When I first started DJing, I was more into playing trance and instrumental music, and nowadays I feel I’m more into songs. I like songs; I write songs, lyrics, vocals. These days, I’m more open to playing whatever I like, and I hope people like it!
FP: Can you elaborate on the production of Kaleidoscope? How did you approach the artists involved? Has the making of this album changed your perspective towards music and production in general?
Tiësto: It worked pretty naturally. I liked all those bands, so I already know a lot of information about them. I mean, when I approached them to do a song together, they weren’t like, “Who’s this guy? What does he know?” Every band had a different approach. It was a pretty hard process to get everyone together, get their head around it, and have people get creative on the dance floor; it’s not an easy process but I learned a lot.
FP: Can you give us some background on your label’s establishment and how you envision its near future? Has founding your own label been something you’ve always wanted to do?
Tiësto: I didn’t want to be stigmatized to just one corner of the dance world, and my old label [Black Hole] is into that type of crowd. And with the [production] of my new album, it was time for a change and Musical Freedom is part of that.
FP: Did you always want to start your own label?
Tiësto: No, not really. I feel like everything has been a natural process, this whole changeover and the way I play now. People love it, especially in Europe. I plan to sign new artists to my new label and even a couple of electronic bands.
FP: I still can’t get over the number of people that come to your shows. How does it feel to be behind the deck looking over a sea of people?
Tiësto: What do you mean? [Laughs] It’s amazing. It’s amazing to play in front of so many people, even if it’s 500 people. That’s what my life is; you know, it’s amazing that you can be so creative and people care.
FP: Your tour schedule is pretty much back-to-back. How do you handle it? What motivates you to keep going? Do you ever get tired of the music?
Tiësto: I don’t get tired of DJing; it’s every day. If I were to be in a band, like the Rolling Stones, I don’t know how they would do it. I think it would be very boring for me, personally, to be on stage every night and play the same songs. For me, one night, I could play all my old songs or all my new songs. With DJing you can change it every day; you never get tired.
FP: Do you prefer DJing or producing?
Tiësto: They are very hard to compare. Both are essential for me. I prefer DJing, I think, because you see directly the result of what you do. You live in the moment. You’re there, the crowd is there, the energy is there, and it is a lot more fulfilling than just a couple people drinking coffee making tracks!