He is an enigma. A mystery wrapped in wires and circuits, cloaked in a shroud of palpable bass, adrift in his own ambient soundcloud. He is the biggest DJ in the world, and yet remains a shadow, spinning digital magic amid a thousands-strong throng of beautiful, sunkissed people, like an electronic Dionysus culling together the young and the bold for a modern-day bacchanalia. He is both known and unknown, and thanks to his cross-country College Invasion Tour, Tiësto (né Tijs Michiel Verwest) is coming here. As preface to his Sept. 25 date at the Classic Center, this Dutch dancefloor juggernaut, this giant of modern music, was kind enough to answer a few questions for Flagpole, and leave just as many unanswered.
Flagpole: What drew you to include Athens on the College Invasion tour? Have you played here before, or is this the first time?
Tijs Michiel Verwest: I have never played in Athens before, but I know enough about the town to know it has a great passion for music and that the college students give the town a great energy.
FP: Your career has taken you all over the globe, playing for millions of fans on every continent except Antarctica. Without playing favorites, could you talk about a few of the unique or memorable venues/shows you’ve played?
TMV: Every show has its own unique qualities to it that make it special. I’ve played at brilliant shows in both intimate, smaller clubs and shows as large as Ipanema Beach with 250,000 people. What makes a show memorable for me is the crowd, and each city has a different crowd for me to remember.
FP: What is your process like? How much composition do you do on your own, and how much of your shows are pure improvisation? Where do you feel you draw inspiration from?
TMV: I like to do a little of both with my shows; I have a basic plan for each show, but I see how the crowd reacts to what I’m playing and then I take it from there. I draw inspiration from everything and anything around me because I am always open to new things. The different cultures of each city I play in are great sources of inspiration, but it can also come from seeing a piece of art or even having a simple conversation with someone.
FP: With the meteoric rise of dubstep and the ever-growing dance and jamtronica scenes, electronic music seems very much to be the wave of both the moment and the future. How do you see the genre evolving and growing in the coming years, and who are some of your favorite young talents on the scene today?
TMV: This genre is booming right now, and I think it’s here to stay for a very long time; most music genres are cyclical and can go out of style, but I really think electronic music won’t be going anywhere and will only continue to get better and better. I’ve got to give props to my boys Dada Life; they have been doing some amazing things, and they are the guys that people need to look out for now and in the future.
FP: You recently sponsored a contest for DJ/producers to remix one of your tracks online, a truly remarkable opportunity. How did you come up with the idea, and what do Athens DJs need to know?
TMV: The remix contest came about from seeing how much producing has progressed in the past few years and how many talented people could be found so easily by just searching through places like Soundcloud or YouTube. I wanted to give aspiring producers a chance to put together a great remix of the “Work Hard Play Hard” track and have the chance to have that song be released through my label, Musical Freedom, to be heard on an enormous scale by music fans everywhere. Unfortunately, the Remix contest has ended, so we won’t be taking any more mixes. But the fans and I have picked an amazing winner, and look our for the release of the remix soon!
FP: You’ll be ending this tour at Home Depot Stadium in Los Angeles, before a crowd of 25,000: the largest single headline DJ show in U.S. history. It’s both a historic personal accomplishment and a milestone for electronic music in America. What’s next for you? How will you top it?
TMV: I plan on taking some time to work in the studio on a new album for 2012, and I’ll also start planning the new tour that will blow my past tours out of the water!