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Poll 2019: Alok

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Alok
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“Well, 2019 started for me with my wedding with my beautiful and beloved wife Romana,” explains Alok when DJ Mag asks how the last 12 months have been — congratulations! From then on it was all go for South America’s highest-ranking DJ; over the course of what he describes as a “very intense but productive year [for] me and my crew”, Alok played shows such as Rock In Rio, Tomorrowland, DJ Mag’s Miami pool party, and performed for an “unimaginable crowd” in Japan. One particular highlight, he says, was a “remarkable stopover at Burning Man where we spent a few days experiencing the unknown and unseen” — very mysterious! 

Alok explains he’s used his extensive touring time to develop his performance to the benefit of both the crowd and himself. And to top it all off: “We found out that we were expecting a baby and he will be due in January. So much information and feelings combined, it all made my year of 2019 more than priceless and unforgettable so far.” We believe another congratulation is in order...

 

Do you submit your DJ setlists to the relevant royalties collecting society?

“Yes, and a very good piece of advice is: pay your debts while you can and ask for your rights while you can too. There are several rules that apply when [talking about] royalty. And the more we sell music, the more we owe to someone or the more we are owed by someone.” 

What more can we do to combat the mental health crisis in our scene?

“First of all, you need to know how to distinguish what is lifestyle and profession. Being a DJ as a profession is often linked to lifestyle with endless, unmissable and incredible parties. Being aware that this can wear your mind and body apart from all [the] travelling can contribute to a healthier profession.” 

Are you personally doing anything to improve the gender balance of line-ups?

“Absolutely! I think the whole world is asking now for more equality in all possible areas and fields, not only connected to music but overall globally. I would even go beyond in saying that the current and next hypes will probably be the female headliners that are taking over the scene, especially the underground one. That is very powerful and beautiful to see and witness.” 

What changes have you made this year to be more environmentally friendly?

“I have been sort of going vegetarian for a while now, but in 2019 I have become more conscious about food and the environment. It is a choice and for some a daily sacrifice, but each of us must do something within our powers to contribute more to the planet we live on.” 

What was your favourite toy when you were a kid?

“I know it will sound cliché but trust me… it was a pair of CDJs that my parents had back then.” 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

“Pre-workout powder [laughs]. Coffee.” 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2019-10-16 11:24

Style: 
“Pop.”
Best known for: 
“‘Vale Vale’, ‘Hear Me Now’, ‘Fuego’.”
Tune of the year: 
“Lee Foss ‘Crawl (CamelPhat Remix)’.”

Poll 2019: Steve Aoki

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Never one to stand still, Steve Aoki embarked on several new ventures in 2019. Alongside his DJ and production work, and his label Dim Mak — plus the endeavours of his Aoki Foundation, raising money for brain research — Aoki began to expand his chain of restaurants, Pizzaoki. Following in the footsteps of his late father Rocky Aoki, who founded the popular Japanese eatery Benihana, the DJ launched Pizzaoki outlets in San Diego and Oakland, with further restaurants opening in Las Vegas, Chicago and Long Beach too. 

Aoki also published a memoir this year. Blue: The Color Of Noise looks back at the early stages of his career, and writing it was, according to Aoki, “extremely cathartic”. 

“It’s therapeutic for me to dive back into my past to discuss my present, and somewhat foretell a bit of my future,” he says. “The memorial really explores the beginnings of my life, how I moved from point A to B, and I think there are a lot of people that can get their takeaways from this book.” 

Naturally, music took up a significant part of his 2019, too. Amid an intense run of gigs in which he played everywhere from Chile to Romania, Ibiza, Australia and Indonesia, Aoki worked on the fourth volume of his ‘Neon Future’ series of albums, a record which will see the light of day early next year. 

“It’s similar to the previous ‘Neon Future’ albums, in that it’s heavily weighted on collabs across genres,” Aoki says, “and also outside of music, I will have features with people that have inspired the way I think about the world and the future. It is looking like the biggest ‘Neon Future’ album to date. There’s more songs on this one, and some unexpected features as well.” 

Considering that previous editions have featured such unlikely guests as film director JJ Abrams and One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson, expect the unexpected. 

Beyond the album, Aoki also cropped up on Ultra Records alongside hardstyle artist Showtek and MAKJ with the track ‘Rave’, and worked with Alan Walker, Alok, Timmy Trumpet and even the Backstreet Boys on collaborations. 

Aoki’s Dim Mak label, meanwhile, had a mindboggling run of releases this year — more than many labels put out in their entire histories — with singles by Will Sparks, Bear Grillz, Quix, Riot Ten and many more all bearing its stamp. 

Considering his reputation for philanthropy and various charitable projects, it was unsurprising that Aoki deeply engaged with DJ Mag’s question about how we can improve mental health in the dance music industry. 

“Dialogue and communication are the keys to opening up to people that might not know that there are others that feel the same way, and people that care about them,” he says. 

In 2020, as well as his new ‘Neon Future’ album, look out for more collaborations — and most likely more iterations of his Pizzaoki chain.

 

Do you submit your DJ setlists to the relevant royalties collecting society?

“Yes.” 

What more can we do to combat the mental health crisis in our scene?

“We need to have a more compassionate culture and community, letting everyone know that they are not alone. No more pretensions, no more posturing, no more trying to be cool. Let’s start by being kind to one another.” 

What changes have you made this year to be more environmentally friendly?

“First, being more mindful of the amount of plastic I use to consume food, drinks and clothes — trying to use less of it if possible. I’m talking about it with others and supporting companies that don’t use plastic straws, for example.” 

What was your favourite toy when you were a kid?

“He-Man toys. Micro Machines. And GI-Joes.” 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

“Cinnamon rolls.” 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2019-10-16 11:20

Poll 2019: Afrojack

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Afrojack
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This year, Afrojack somewhat took the power back... again: his now 12-year-old label Wall Recordings started out as a sub-label of Spinnin’ Records, then went independent for a year, then became a sub-label to Armada Music, but in 2019 went independent again. 

That move no doubt gives the Dutch dance legend more creative freedom and control to do what he wants when he wants. As such, he has put out music from Slay, Chico Rose and Buzz Low, who has risen to prominence since winning the label’s first global remix competition last year. The second edition has just ended as we go to press and may well unearth the next Afrojack. 

The boss himself, who recently turned 32 and still spends much of his time traversing the planet on his own private jet, also put out new music this year. A collaboration with DubVision called ‘Back To Life’ is an unashamedly pop-leaning and stadium-pleasing house track, with sing-song chorus and maximal synths. Meanwhile, his ‘Bass Is Kicking’ track also landed as part of the second instalment of his ‘Press Play’ EP series which started last year, and it’s a colourful tune with rave synths that got road-tested at Tomorrowland and electrified the crowd. 

Amongst gigs everywhere from China and Japan to India and all across the United States, one of the other live standouts of his year was his performance at Ultra 2019, which was a visually explosive affair with plumes of fire going off while he dropped all manner of house, prog and electro, Cardi B edits, old school ’90s mash-ups and plenty more popping tunes in between. 

The best place to catch his latest sounds is on his Jack Radio show, on which he explores an even wider range of sounds than in the DJ booth. Whatever he is doing after all these years, Afrojack continues to connect with fans, who have kept him in the Top 20 of our poll since 2010, and the top 10 since 2016.

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2019-10-16 11:15

Best known for: 
Wall Recordings

Poll 2019: Tiësto

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Tiësto
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Tiësto has long been on top of the musical world, but he’s feeling even better than usual when we speak as he’s just got married to the love of his life. “It was pure joy and love the whole weekend,” he says. “It was like an incredible dream. There is nothing better than sharing a special weekend with family and close friends.” 

The pair met through a mutual friend four-and-a-half years ago and the Dutch superstar reports that his wife is “my perfect match” in that she supports him in all he does and understands the demands of being a world-renowned DJ. 

“Neither of us view it as a job. [My wife] loves to travel and party and we get to experience the world and spend lots of time together, so it works really well,” Tiësto tells DJ Mag. 

After experimenting with deeper club sounds in recent years, Tiësto says he is now focused on the “groovier, housier side of things and just great songs. I try to stay as wide as possible with the variety in my sets because for me that’s the ultimate freedom for a DJ. That you can play whatever you want and like, and the crowd follows and understands you.” 

This year those hardcore followers saw him play on the Lollapalooza tour for the first time in South America earlier in the year, as well as at his residency in Las Vegas. Playing so many different countries and crowds is what keeps Tiësto on his toes, he says, as every gig is completely different. 

After so many years in the game, you might wonder what motivates someone who has achieved as much as Tiësto. He says it is his passion for the music, as well as the people he meets along the way and the artists he is always learning from, that keep him inspired. This year alone he has worked with Mabel on ‘God Is A Dancer’, with Swacq on ‘Party Time’, and Rita Ora and Jonas Blue on ‘Ritual.’ “The balance between radio and Spotify tracks and festival banger hits is where I like to be,” he says. After a huge writers camp in London in February, Tiësto says a new album, lots of interesting collabs, and fresh new sounds are promised in the year ahead. 

“My sound is always changing slowly,” says the big man. “Especially in Las Vegas — where I play longer club sessions — I can play a lot more variety in my sets. A lot of groovier stuff as well and deep house. At the festivals, when you get to play 60-to-75 minutes, it’s harder to change because you don’t have enough time to build your set. That said, I do like to play these festivals because it’s a different kind of energy and feeling. So for me, it’s all finding the balance between what gigs I play and what music I am gonna drop. I love to ‘wing it’, and that seems to work for me.” 

Given his continuing high placing in this year’s poll, it must also be working for his fans.

 

Do you submit your DJ setlists to the relevant royalties collecting society?

“Yes.” 

What more can we do to combat the mental health crisis in our scene?

“Continue to give attention to the issue and support those that do so like the Tim Bergling Foundation, which I’ve also personally contributed to.” 

Are you personally doing anything to improve the gender balance of line-ups?

“If you’re a good DJ/producer I’ll support you no matter what gender you are. ‘It don’t make a difference in our house’.” 

What changes have you made this year to be more environmentally friendly?

“An easy thing that I’ve done and encourage others to do is make their touring rider as ‘green’ as possible. No single-use plastic. No plastic bottles, etc. [I] flew mostly commercial airlines, and try to take electronic cars and Lime through the cities.” 

What was your favourite toy when you were a kid?

“My football and my sampler.” 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

“I never feel guilty about things I enjoy!” 

 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2019-10-16 11:12

Style: 
“Eclectic dance music.”
Best known for: 
“My varied range of musical tastes and selections.”
Tune of the year: 
“Regard ‘Ride It’.”

Poll 2017: Mike Williams

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Make way for Mike Williams: the latest young firebrand to be catapulted from The Netherlands’ ever-bubbling EDM volcano. After a series of remixes and bootlegs in 2015, he broke through on Tiesto’s label Musical Freedom in early 2016 and has rocketed up the ranks ever since.

This sweet-spot debut in the Top 100 marks another hectic year for the 20-year-old. Now signed to Spinnin’, he has hammered us a consistent flow of bouncy, uplifting EDM anthems that often come with their own acoustic covers and modish videos. Hits include such things as the classically-informed dynamics of ‘Don’t Hurt’, the hyper-infectious hooky hit ‘Let’s Go’, the much darker, dramatic chugger ‘Step Up’, the warm euphoric ‘Bambini’ (on Tiesto’s label) and the soul-surging jet-setter DJ anthem ‘Jet Lag’…. Something Mike can definitely relate to, having performed extensively across Europe, Asia and America throughout the year.

Beyond the gigs and releases, Mike also launched his new radio show on Dutch national channel SLAM. Entitled Mike Williams On Track, his show represents Mike at his most diverse and eclectic. With a clear nose for a strong melody and big riff theatrics in both his broadcasts, DJ sets and productions, Mike is most definitely on track right now.

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2017-10-17 12:53

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