King of spin does the biz
It's hard to find a DJ whose career has been punctuated by so many landmark achievements, but Tiësto is the exception.
Not only did he become the first DJ to play live at the Olympic Games, the Dutchman was also the first to sell out a solo stadium event for over 25,000 people two nights in a row, and the first to hit number one in the Netherlands with an instrumental track, Traffic. His remix of Delerium featuring Sarah McLachlan's Silence became the first house track ever broadcast on daytime radio in North America and then went on to become an international dance anthem.
He is now one of the world's most famous figures on the electronic dance music scene and was declared the world's number one DJ by DJ Magazine from 2002 to 2004. Most recently, he received a Grammy Award nomination and was voted Mix Mag's number one DJ of 2008.
To top it all off, when he's not working on his music, Tiësto dedicates his time to charity (he's an ambassador for the Dance4Life foundation). The DJ also runs his own production business and has endorsements with companies such as Armani Exchange, Reebok and Microsoft.
But despite his success, and immense popularity in the Middle East, Tiësto remains grounded, and when Emirates Business chatted to him ahead of his two appearances in Dubai tonight – an in-store performance at Armani Exchange in Deira City Centre from 6pm, followed by a gig at Dubai Festival City from 9pm – it is obvious his love of music was the catalyst for his success.
You're back in Dubai for your biggest gig in the city to date – 15,000 people at Dubai Festival City. Is it good to be back?
It's always great to be back. It's like a little holiday for me; I get pampered and I always stay in an amazing hotel. Plus the weather's nice and there is always a good crowd. I also have gigs in Doha and Beirut in the same week, which is exciting. People in Beirut really know how to party.
You've been called the most popular DJ in the world. What is your secret?
That's up to the fans to decide, but I guess it's because my music is energetic and happy, and people can really have fun. There's something for everyone – girls like the tunes with vocals, while guys prefer the harder, more trance tracks.
But you're not just a DJ. Besides the music and gigs, haven't you also got business ventures?
I've set up a company called Unlimited Productions with a friend of mine. Basically, we produce tours for other DJs. You can call it a vertical investment.
Media reports say that you're working on your new album. Can you tell us more? When will it be released?
I'm working on the tracks now, and I think it will be out by the end of 2009.
What is it going to be called?
I know what it's going to be called, but I'm not going to tell you. It's a secret.
Will you release a new single before the album comes out?
Yes, I think I'll release a single in the summer. I haven't decided what though, because I haven't finished all the tracks. I need to finish them to see which one I like best for the first single.
What else have you been up to?
My latest release is a remix of Spaceman by The Killers, and at the moment I am working on the new single by Calvin Harris. I am obviously doing a lot of gigs too.
So where would you say your money comes from? Brand endorsements, albums or touring?
Touring is a good source of income for any DJ, and when it comes to endorsements, I do things I believe in, like with Armani.
But in a time when anyone can buy individual songs over the internet, do album sales still bring in cash?
Yes. My last album, Elements of Life was my biggest-selling album of all time.
What do you think of those who download your music for free?
I don't mind at all. When I started DJing, I did it because I love music and wanted to share it with the world. If I produce a track and somebody downloads it, then I am honoured: That's one more person listening to my music. To be rich, is to be rich with what you have; not the number in the bank.
So you don't know how much you're worth?
Nope. My manager does my accounts.
With all the gigs, how many passports do you go through in a year?
Two, but one is extra thick: 64 pages.
What are your favourite destinations?
I like Argentina and Lebanon.
Where in the world haven't you performed but would love to go to?
I'd love to do a tour of India, because I've only been there briefly. I want to play in the country's real cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
What's your opinion on those who claim that the era of the DJ is fading?
I don't agree. If DJs are fading, then I think it will happen slowly over the next 100 years. I think it's easier for DJs to tour. We can do live or semi-live sets, we can mix tracks. Plus, I can do a gig every night and I don't have to play the same set, whereas bands are stuck with a certain set-list. Even bands who have had 10 albums will still be stuck with a set-list. I think those who claim that really do not know what a DJ does. They don't realise that DJs play their own tracks and can create something new.
How do you like being described?
I'm definitely electronic, but I like the terms rocktronic and maximal.
Which DJs do you rate?
Sven Väth, DJ SvD, Virtual Vault, Ricky Rivaro and Steve Aoki.
Do you listen to other genres?
Yes, there's a little bit of everything in my MP3 player. At the moment, I'm listening to Bloc Party, The Killers, Muse and Moby.
What kind of club nights do you like going to when you're not working?
I prefer going to parties where the music is different, because if it's the same style of music, I end up spending the night thinking about what I could do with the tracks. Technically I end up working. So going somewhere like a hip-hop club is better.
Do you get recognised a lot?
Yeah, I do. You'd think I wouldn't, but people come up and say hi.
How do you cope with the "celeb" aspect?
It's just part of the job. People want to dream and read about their favourite stars in magazines, so the paparazzi thing comes with making music. I've read some ridiculous things about me – once I apparently died in an accident, and another story claimed I drink 31 energy drinks per gig. It's just ridiculous and I ignore it.
When Tiësto met Armani
Last year, Tiësto teamed up with Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani's young fashion brand, Armani Exchange, for a partnership that included major tour sponsorship and enhanced in-store experiences.
The DJ also released a special three-CD set only available at stores and online at www.armaniexchange.com
Additionally, the duo collaborated together on a limited edition Tiësto t-shirt, with 100 per cent of the profits from the sales going to the charity, Mercy Corps, which aims to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive communities. The DJ has raised over $300,000 (Dh1.1m) from sales so far.
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