He’s taking the world by storm with his live shows, but at 41 DJ Tiësto prefers a decent night’s kip in favour of wild after-parties, he tells Katie Byrne.
In 2007, he played to some 200,000 people on Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, making it one of the largest outdoor concerts of all time.
Last summer, he became the only DJ to sell out a three-month residency at Privilege in Ibiza. He’s even been nominated for a Grammy. Trance DJ, Tiësto, doesn’t do things by halves. His epic concerts have gained renown for their staggering turn-outs, hypnotic light shows and anthemic sets. Even those oblivious to the dance-music genre would be rendered awestruck at the throbbing tribal gatherings that one man and a set of decks can command.
He is one of the few electronic DJs to crossover into the mainstream music market, pulling in audiences on a par with Madonna and the Rolling Stones. In the ego-led world of dance music, DJs and their promoters are quick to lash out the superlatives. Tiësto doesn’t need to. His CV speaks for itself. He is undoubtedly the biggest DJ in the world.
It’s a tag that intensifies the already obsessive hero-worship he receives. Visit his gig this Friday and you’re guaranteed to spot at least one sycophantic fan waving a poster reading: ‘Tiësto is God’. Scour the internet and you’ll find pictures of him signing women’s breasts.
Add to this an equally epic pay packet, VIP treatment and a string of brands vying to sign him up and you can imagine that Tijs Michiel Verwest likes being Tiësto quite a lot.
But does it go to his head? Is it difficult to ‘keep it real’ (the roundabout phrase I choose to ask him if he ever acts like an arsehole)?
“Sometimes it is, yeah,” he concedes. “You’re staying in a presidential suite in a hotel. They come every ten minutes checking you and bringing you all the food you like.
“It’s hard to stay down-to-earth, to keep it real. It’s so crazy that I ask for this and I get it.”
While he does have a tendency to self-mythologise — he brands his new album Kaleidoscope “a mark in time” — it comes from a love of his music, not himself. Otherwise he’s polite and, occasionally, quite charming.
I’m talking to him ahead of next Friday’s gig in Dublin, another coup for him in that he’ll be the very first DJ to headline at the O2 arena. It’s a gig he’s looking forward to, given his love for the Irish.
“I’m not saying this because you are Irish, but whenever the press ask me, I always say Ireland and Argentina are my favourite places to play. I love to play for Irish people — they go crazy.” High praise indeed, when you consider that he’s played all over the world.
His peripatetic lifestyle is also a nocturnal one. He once deemed himself a “party boy”, but his approach must be excess in moderation, at least according to the 41-year-old’s post-show protocol.
“I stay for an hour. Sometimes when it’s crazy I stay for two hours, but that’s about it. I go to bed one or two hours after my show and the next day I do it again.
“I eat very healthily; I drink a lot of water; I try to stay in shape. I’m not the crazy party DJ like some of them are. I don’t do drugs either, so that helps too. I have a very good body protection inside. When I get tired, I just sleep. I still make a good seven hours a night.”
He admits experimenting with drugs during his teenage initiation to dance music but he gave them up when he decided to carve out a career as a DJ. He does admit that drugs go hand-in-hand with dance music, but he reckons that fans are using less of them.
“In general, when kids go out, they love to experiment with drugs, whether it’s Marilyn Manson or Tiësto. Everyone takes drugs, everyone tries it, whether they smoke marijuana or take a pill.
“I’ve played gigs where there wasn’t even alcohol sold. I played at Disneyland in Paris a couple of years ago and there were just families with children and everyone was just sober as hell. No drugs, no alcohol. It was freezing cold and ten degrees and everyone was screaming and going crazy and having the best time.”
His no-drug stance has to be at least partly responsible for his success. Regular drug use dulls ambition and drive, traits that the Dutch DJ has in spades. Neither has he rested on his laurels, which become rather more comfy when you’re on a never-ending bender.
His remarkable staying power is also down to his impeccable timing and ability to predict the next trend. “My timing has been amazing,” he agrees. “I’ve been very lucky.”
He entered the industry two decades ago and he’s lost none of his enthusiasm. “I love my work and I love travelling around the world. You see a lot of artists out there who are not happy with themselves or the position that they are in. They think they are slipping. I feel I am still as popular as I was five or ten years ago.” And probably for another five or ten more.