The scene goes a little something like this: The stakes are high and the time is ticking. Crowds will be inevitably affected by your next move. It feels like life or death. Clip the wrong wire and things will surely blow up in your face; but clip the correct option and watch time stand still in a suspended state of grateful euphoria. Might sound like a bomb squad in a blockbuster hit film but really it’s the best description I can come up with to help you better understand how, for those who live for the music, the world’s top DJ’s quite literally hold your lives in their hands. And as these ring leaders of the circus that is night life, control the show, it takes a special kind of DJ, one with their finger steadily placed on the pulse of the audience, to continue crowd pleasing for some two decades. Enter: Tijs Michiel Verwest, the 47-year-old Dutch DJ and record producer, otherwise known as Tiësto.
On a beautiful, sunny day in Miami, Toys for Boys spent a day on set with who just might be the world’s best DJ. Not to be confused with his other, Forbes-dictated title, the world’s highest paid DJ, who at around $250,000 a gig is said to have cleared $22 million in years passed. Of course in his case, this includes the cash from recorded music sales which he has created as a Grammy Award winning music producer. Given the afore mentioned notches on his belt, Tiësto is refreshingly down, participating actively in the photoshoot and expressing his particular interest in wardrobe. Did you know that if Tiësto weren’t spinning he’d be designing a fashion line? Favorite brands include the likes of Saint Laurent and Balenciaga–uppity labels that he likes to pair with yet-to-be-released [Nike] Jordan’s that he brought with him because clearly, they’ve yet to be released.
He’s only in town for one night before bouncing to Canada, but the evening’s plans include dinner at Komodo with the new restaurant’s owner and Tiësto’s personal friend, David Grutman, followed by a set at Miami Beach’s well-known club, Story. Tiësto is no stranger to Miami. His fan base is strong in this international hub where people the world over come to party at the nightclubs and music festivals. Particularly Ultra Music Festival and Winter Music Conference which take place annually in March. But before swarms of fans were enjoying Tiësto’s sounds from Bayfront Park, there was the development of an industry that needed to happen.
A trip down memory lane brings to bear the idea of a 1988 Belgium New Beat genre. Holland embraced it in the nineties and continues to do so still. The appeal is simple according to Tiësto, “It’s happy, it’s a party; it’s dance music!” So he started to DJ. It turns out that he’s really quite good, in no small part because he can read a crowd, and he knows what to play.
You see, traditionally, DJ’s are mostly producers, they make some hits, thus becoming famous, and then they start DJ’ing for the sake of the performance, but with Tiësto is was the other way around. He was a DJ first, taking the temperature of the crowd and understanding what they wanted, what they needed even, before he started to produce. He could read them like a book. He can play in Miami, New York, even Hong Kong and the sets will be entirely different, the experience similarly polar opposite, but the crowds, the crowds go home happy.
What was a hobby and a natural talent was clearly a money-maker when Tiësto found that his first ever release sold over 30,000 copies. He really broke the mold. In 2004, he was the first DJ to perform at the Opening Ceremony of Olympic Games, at that time, in Athens–a huge nod to his relatability even in mainstream. When he released his famed remix of Delirium’s Silence some 16 years ago, the track rose to the number one spot in over 49 countries. It was with that song that he was introduced to the mainstream audience. And there was no slowing down since. The super star king of the night has done the same for several songs including Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know,” which after topping charts in it’s original form shot back up to number one post-Tiësto remix for a second chance to stand in the sun. He won’t do it with just any song, however; there’s a selection process that’s not flexible–he has to love it. It’s clear that he knows how to control the movement of a crowd and similarly has an innate ear for choosing the right songs to work on, but it’s not all about the ebb and flow of the night. The work put in is serious and the glamour is secondary.
Many might think that someone of that stature and with that lifestyle can be reckless in the way that we see too often with celebrities, but Tiësto stands firm in his stance that the EDM scene, for those who are serious players in the game, is not about party favors of the recreational drug use type. In fact, he’s been vocal, on record explaining that this is a one-chance industry where if you don’t take advantage of your shot because you’re using, you will let it all go to pieces. And let’s be clear, there’s a lot at stake. Private jets, endless exploration of the world, performing for millions of adoring fans, globally; it’s not to be taken lightly. And for female readers who are interested in capturing the attention of the handsome Dutchman by perhaps throwing undergarments in his direction, you should know, he says: “I could never date a girl who would throw her bra at me. What am I going to do with that? [Say] Oh thanks, let’s get married, now?”
Marriage is not out of the cards, he’d love to have a family one day–hopefully an army of music-making mini me’s to serve future generations. Perhaps he’ll make the time when he slows down. Something he has discussed will happen when he decides the time is right. And crushing as the idea of a festival without Tiësto might be, he’s not going anywhere quite yet; make sure you catch him headlining at Ultra Music Festival March 18-20 2016 in Miami.