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Poll 2021: Nicky Romero

26
Nicky Romero
Up
5
From: The Netherlands
 
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Tim van Werd.”
 
 
Nicky Romero used the extra time at home during the last year to work on giving something back. He launched Demo Drop sessions on Twitch, where he sits down with Protocol's A&R Director Jorik van de Pol to give feedback, live on the spot. “It allows me to flex different muscles in production and music discovery, as sometimes the process of explaining things to others can be the best way to reinforce your skills and discover new ones,” says the Dutch star, who admits to being an avid gamer. “I’ve really enjoyed jumping into the gaming community and making so many incredible new friends across the world.”
 
Next to this, he's enjoyed spending extra time with friends and family as well as in the studio. A result of that is his new side-project Monocule, for deeper sounds. “Experimentation is part of growth and it’s always good to try something completely new to stay inspired,” he says. Next year is all about the 10th anniversary of his Protocol Recordings label, so keep your eyes out for lots of celebrations. 
 
 
How was your first gig back after lockdown? 
 
“It was an amazing feeling to be back on the road for my US tour back in July. Performing after that long hiatus initially felt a bit unusual, but at times it was better than ever.”
 
 
How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance? 
 
“I spent a lot of my time working out, gaming, and focusing on my personal relationships.”
 
 
What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change? 
 
“Touring artists and their teams should always pay attention to smart planning of their tours, ie. to avoid unnecessary back-and-forth flights.” 
 
 
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year? 
 
“Dangerous BAX EQ. Studio gear nerds know what is up with this beast.”
 
 
What’s the best album you’ve heard this year? 
 
“Bicep's ‘Isles' is off the hook!”

 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 12:14

Style: 
“Melodic progressive house.”
Best known for: 
“Founding Protocol Recordings, ‘Toulouse’, ‘I Could Be The One’ with Avicii.”
Tune of the year: 
“Elderbrook ‘Numb (Joris Voorn Remix)’.”

Poll 2021: Luminn

96
Luminn
New Entry
0
From: China
 
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Fsho and Doppenberg.”

 

Luminn, it seems, loves his trance. “Trance, to me, is a language,” the DJ and producer, who hails from Beijing, has said. “It’s the one language that I know speaks from and to the soul, the one language that speaks from mine.” That quote dates back to 2018, when he had just released his debut single, ‘Phosphene,’ on Armin van Buuren’s A State Of Trance label. At that stage he was already one of China’s biggest trance exponents — and in the years since, his trajectory has continued to soar, with dates at pretty much every major Chinese club and festival and a string of extravagant releases à la the near-operatic ‘Shapeshifters’. He’s working hard to keep that trajectory going in the right direction — among his other projects, he’s spent the past year working on his new event brand, Resurgence, as well as readying what he describes as “a ton of new music” for release. Bring it on.
 
 
How was your first gig back after lockdown?
 
"Fortunately, our country did a great job managing the Covid situation in 2020, so the lockdown didn’t last that long in China. I got my first post-lockdown gig on July 25th, 2020 for a Transmission official club tour. I was very emotional at the moment when I was standing behind the decks again.”

 

How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?
 
"I spent more time in my studio and my home alone, and I put together what I believe is the strongest team in China to officially launch my new product named Resurgence.”

 

What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?
 
“I guess the best thing we can do as public figures is to speak up more!”
 
 
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?
 
“I got a new synth plug-in and found a preset from Audiotent, which inspired me a lot with my new sound — this was how I created ‘Shapeshifters’.”

 

What’s the best album you’ve heard this year?

“'A State Of Trance FOREVER’.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 10:32

Style: 
Trance
Best known for: 
“Resurgence, the number-one brand in trance and progressive in China.”
Tune of the year: 
“Luminn & Natalie Gioia ‘Shapeshifters’.”

Poll 2021: Will Sparks

56
Will Sparks
Up
2
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Shortround.”
 
 
Like so many people in the electronic music industry, for Will Sparks, lockdown offered a rare opportunity to reflect, recharge and put things into perspective. The result is a re-energised return to the touring circuit, ensuring first-class performances that offer more than adequate payback to his famously loyal fanbase after spending more than a year apart. 
 
Of course, his revered studio work helped keep audiences connected when the world closed its doors and society shuttered itself as the pandemic took hold. Tracks such as ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘My Company’ are rightly considered some of his finest work to date, tangible signs of how much he has developed as an artist in lockdown, building on a highly impressive back catalogue of tracks that had already cemented his reputation as a leading light of the Melbourne bounce and global electro-house scene. What happens next remains to be seen, but it would be nothing short of an understatement to say we expect huge things from the man in question. 
 
 
How was your first gig back after lockdown? 
 
“About 30 people sitting down, so pretty average. The larger-scale ones since have been a dream.”
 
 
How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance? 
 
“I didn't realise how important it was to slow down. I've appreciated every day being able to recharge and focus on bettering myself as a person and in music.”
 
 
What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change? 
 
“Promote and spread awareness.”
 
 
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year? 
 
“Moog Subsequent37.”
 
 
What’s the best album you’ve heard this year? 
 
“Masked Wolf is a great artist coming out of Australia, including his producer Tyron Hapi.”
 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 10:29

Style: 
EDM
Best known for: 
“Melbourne sound.”
Tune of the year: 
“David Guetta ‘Let's Love (Future Rave Remix)’.”

Poll 2021: VIZE

100
VIZE
New Entry
0
From: Germany
 
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “ALOTT.”
 
Since bursting onto the music scene in 2018, German duo VIZE have established their own genre ’slap house’. The term reflects the sound of DJ Johannes Vimalavong and music producer Vitali Zestovskih, aka VIZE, each of whom broke out under the VIZE alias after their interpretation of The Wanted’s ‘Glad You Came’ hit on Kontor Records.
 
Based in Berlin, Johannes leans more towards the DJ side of the project, while Vitali is the studio conductor of VIZE. Combining uplifting melodies with high-voltage basslines, the pair have a knack for stealing the hearts of pop and electronic music lovers alike.As their touring schedule begins to take shape once again, VIZE still live-stream from various locations, including Berlin’s River Spree for DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs Virtual Festival in aid of Unicef in September. Collaborating with Berlin-based singer Anna Grey for their latest single ‘Way Back Home’ on Epic Records, expect plenty more to drop from the duo in the coming months.
 
How was your first gig back after Lockdown? 
 
“It was like the first ice cream after a long winter.”
 
 
How has the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?

“We both got to spend more time with the family but also we had the chance to really focus on new music in the studio.”
 
 
What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?
 
“If everybody reminds her or himself how it important this topic is, we have a chance for big events in the future.”
 
 
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ set-up this year?
 
“Our completely new studio in Berlin.”
 
 
What’s the best album you’ve heard this year?
 
“Felix Jaehn’s debut album.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 09:33

Style: 
“Electronic pop music.”
Best known for: 
“Unexpected collaborations.”
Tune of the year: 
“Shouse ‘Love Tonight’.”

Poll 2021: Breathe Carolina

62
Breathe Carolina
Up
1
From: Denver, USA
 
 
Originally a live band mixing influences from metal and punk with EDM, Denver, Colorado’s Breathe Carolina are now a duo, focused on main room dance music. David Schmitt and Tommy Cooperman have clearly been paying attention to the ’90s nostalgia present in so many club records at the moment if their latest tunes are anything to go by. ‘Get Back’, featuring Titus, combined the retro sound of Korg M1 organ bass with treacly Auto-Tune vocals, while ‘Vibes’, with Raven & Kreyn, had warping electro-house bass, big pianos and that Loleatta Holloway ‘Love Sensation’ vocal rinsed by so many producers over the years. They’re also not averse to pure pop, as ‘Crossfire’, featuring SMBDY, was a stadium-ready singalong with smooth electronic melodies and an ’80s sheen. 
 
With Covid restrictions lifting, Breathe Carolina have been back on the road again for a US tour playing venues like LA’s Avalon, Temple in San Francisco and Area 15 in Las Vegas, plus some lesser-visited club spots in Salt Lake City and Atlantic City. Catch them in New York, Boston and Vancouver before the year is out. 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 09:31

Style: 
House/pop/future house

Poll 2021: Kygo

48
Kygo
Down
20
From: Norway
 
 
Since his meteoric rise in the mid-2010s, culminating in a billion Spotify streams less than two years after his first release, Kygo has remained a formidable figure on the world dance music stage. The tropical house behemoth considers himself a pianist first and foremost, and this year saw him release ‘Gone Are The Days’, a piano-led homage to his earliest musical love. EDM fans needn’t have worried, however, as he returned later in the year with ‘Love Me Now', a typical sun-kissed Kygo track featuring the German songwriter Zoe Wees. The tail-end of last year also saw him revisit his penchant for remixing soul classics, this time from Tina Turner and Donna Summer.
 
Summer 2021 also saw the first edition of Kygo’s own Palm Trees Festival in the Hamptons, NY. Also hosting the likes of Frank Walker, Zedd, Gryffin and Forester, the festival added yet another string to the Norwegian songwriter’s already impressive bow.
 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 09:28

Style: 
Tropical house
Best known for: 
His remix of Whitney Houston’s ‘Higher Love’.

Poll 2021: Bassjackers

28
Bassjackers
Up
1
From: The Netherlands
 
 
Dutch dons of bigroom beats Bassjackers have dived headfirst into producing over the last 18 months, despite the tumultuous time following the outbreak of COVID-19. Riding high off a consistent string of super-charged releases on Smash The House, Spinnin' Records and Ultra, it’s no surprise that the fans of Marlon Flohr and Ralph van Hilst have voted the duo, better known as Bassjackers, into the 2021 Top 100 DJs poll once again. 
 
The duo dropped their summer anthem ‘Scream It’ on Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike’s label Smash The House in August, the track a classic example of what the pair emulate as artists; producing fluorescent bangers and collaborating with like-minded artists; in this case, the American DJ, producer and radio host MAKJ. 
 
Fuelled by a yin-yang dynamic, Marlon is the buoyant DJ while Ralph is the studio specialist, resulting in a kinetic bond that defines the sound of the duo. With the first leg of their Back To The USA Tour completed in September, it’s safe to say the strobe-lit energy of Bassjackers continues to burn bright. 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 09:25

Style: 
Bigroom

Poll 2021: Above & Beyond

21
Above & Beyond
Down
2
From: UK (Jono and Tony), Finland (Paavo)
 
 
Celebrated for their immersive take on trance and progressive rhythms, London-based trio Above & Beyond spent the last year merging electronic music with mindfulness — and it couldn’t have come at a better time. 
 
While the pandemic obliterated the group’s touring plans, Tony McGuinness, Paavo Siljamäki and Jono Grant balanced studio time with “writing music, cooking and cycling”, according to last year’s interview for the Top 100 DJs poll. Never too far away from a pair of monitors though, the trio’s Group Therapy radio show has remained a source of transcendental melodies, with guests like Ben Böhmer, Eli & Fur and Faithless building the show’s back catalogue. 
 
Having released the album ‘Flow State: Healing With Nature’ in June 2021, the production showcased a more reflective element to Above & Beyond. Ambient field recordings and orchestral piano strings floated throughout, designed for a full meditative experience and soundtrack for yoga-based exercise. 
 
Currently back on the road, Above & Beyond completed their first US tour post-lockdown in September with their Anjunafamily Reunion tour, marking the next chapter in their evolving story. 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 09:23

Style: 
Trance/progressive
Best known for: 
Group Therapy

Poll 2021: DJ Snake

33
DJ Snake
Down
8
From: France


As slippery and elusive as his namesake when it comes to answering questions, DJ Snake’s past twelve months loom large through the ​​simulacrum of social media. Filmed kung-fu fighting in front of a private jet, the Parisian DJ and producer, christened William Sami Étienne Grigahcine, had plenty of reason to be in an ebullient mood. 
 
He produced ‘Selfish Love’ for actor and singer Selena Gomez, turning out reggaeton and acoustic versions for maximum impact — then adding a Tiësto remix just to make sure. Teaming up with Rick Ross and Rich Brian on ‘Run It’, he channelled Ed Banger, trap and Hans Zimmer into a track so epic and beefy it could only be the soundtrack to a Marvel film, martial arts epic Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. ‘You Are My High’ featured a sunny, filtered soul vocal transposing over a bouncing hip-hop beat, and ‘Ring The Alarm’ went balls to the wall with a future house club banger.
 
Taking merch to its apex, he also released a branded DJ Snake Hublot watch — yours for a cool £21k.

 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 09:18

Style: 
Trap

Poll 2021: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike

5
Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike
Down
3
From: Belgium
 
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Azteck."
 

Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike’s Top 100 story is well-known by now, rapidly rising up the ranks after their debut entry in 2011 to top the poll in both 2015 and 2019. World events might have stopped their dynamic DJ show for a while, but a decade down the line from cracking the upper echelons of EDM, the Thivaios brothers are still proving they’re adaptable to whatever challenges life throws their way, adopting new technologies and partnerships to keep their brand in the ascendancy.
 
After racking up 50 million views in just 24 hours on TikTok last year, thanks to their track ‘Do It!’, they began 2021 as Belgium’s most streamed artists, recording 520m plays on Spotify. Small wonder then that the big brands came knocking: they formed a partnership with McDonald’s, releasing the single ‘Feel Your Love’ and DJing through the fast-food giant’s app; worked with Coca-Cola curating tracks; and even became ambassadors for the World Wildlife Fund, talking about issues such as the use of plastic. 
 
They continued to explore the virtual spaces opening as computing evolves. Signed up to Prizm, a virtual reality world released within Sensorium Galaxy, they’re set to perform alongside other world-famous names, including Carl Cox, Armin van Buuren, David Guetta and Charlotte de Witte. The duo also appeared as characters in Free Fire, the most downloaded mobile game in 2019, and wrote the theme to its new campaign, ‘Rampage New Dawn’. 
 
Given 2021’s unprecedented time and space, it also welcomed a move into solo projects, a process of individuation that highlighted their contrasting tastes. Dimitri’s debut single ‘Pull Me Closer’ explored a poppier vein of house. After bagging a role in the film Jurassic World: Dominion, he’s also been filming his first leading role in Hazard, a film by Belgian director Jonas Govaerts. To top it off he’s launching a graphic novel, Alien Samurai Dino Warrior, which comes accompanied by the year’s biggest buzz, unique NFTs.
For his part, Like Mike explored his love and rap and trap on his debut album ‘Pain, Love, & What Comes After’, a string of singles, including the recent ‘Silence’ featuring Lil Baby, and ‘W Hotel’ with Smokepurpp and Blueface.
 
Both dropped clothing ranges: Dimitri a Mortal Kombat capsule collection, Mike his Green Room Capsule Collection, available in London’s Selfridges.
 
If that already sounds like a heavy workload, they still found time for a hectic release schedule of high-profile collabs. ‘Reunion’ had them team up with ALOK and KSHMR for another Free Fire theme track, they linked with German hard dance heroes Scooter for ‘I Love Hardcore’, got jiggy with Bassjackers on ‘Drop That Beat’ and even had time to write a Christmas track, ‘Christmas Time’, as part of festive mix ‘Home Alone’, released via their own Smash The House label. 
 
Accompanied by the ultimate highs and lows of life, the death of their father and the birth of Dimitri’s son, London Takis Thivaios, the Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike juggernaut shows no sign of slowing.
 
 
How was your first gig back after lockdown?
 
“It was a great feeling getting back to business again with our headline slot on the magical Island Pāpiliōnem for the Tomorrowland virtual festival. We’re looking forward to doing it for real and in person next time in summer 2022.”
 
 
How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?
 
“The time off the road gave us a lot of opportunities to spend more quality time with family, which has been amazing. In many ways, it was like a reset for what we want to achieve with our careers. The time away also proved to us how much we miss the shows, how much we miss the fans and the buzz of the scene.”
 
 
What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?
 
“Ending fossil fuels is the only way to combat climate change. Whatever can be done within our scene to transfer to renewable energy is going to help this urgent quest to combat climate change. Also, the complete removal of plastic waste in the festival scene should be top of the list.”
 
 
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?
 
“We actually just focused more time on the gear we already have. The newest bit of kit we’ve added recently would be Pioneer DJ's CDJ-3000.”
 
 
What’s the best album you’ve heard this year?
 
“‘Donda’ by Kayne West, and if you haven’t heard Mike’s debut album yet, you really need to listen to ‘Pain, Love & What Comes After’.”

 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 09:16

Style: 
“It still and always will be about the crowd.”
Best known for: 
“Smashin’ the house!”
Tune of the year: 
“Suark 'Take It Slow’."

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