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Poll 2021: Dexter King

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From: China

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Luminn, Carta, Pink Panda.”


Hugely popular in China and rapidly becoming an international draw, Dexter King (real name Longwen Wang) mixes influences from EDM, hip-hop and pop into his chart-friendly productions and club-filling DJ sets. Discovering dance music through the work of Don Diablo and Avicii, he got into DJing in 2008 when his friend let him have a go on their CDJs in a bar, and he’s since been on an upward trajectory. 

King was recently signed to huge Canadian EDM imprint Monstercat, and has been providing the label with a succession of hits. ‘Only You’ with Alexis Dunn, released in 2020, was a disco-licked, bright and breezy pop house track, while 2021’s ‘Unbroken’ with Danyka Nadeau was an earworm piece of synth stab stadium dance in the vein of his inspiration, Avicii. 

This year, he’s been busy with lots of new ventures, including an intriguing AI collaboration. “I’ve been working with an amazing project called Alice,” he says. “She is a virtual influencer made with artificial intelligence and a lot of cool new tech stuff by a company called GLA.”

He also worked with Pink Panda on a more club-oriented track, ‘Bassline Sound’.“We had a lot of fun making the track — I think it’s a great combination of both our styles,” he tells DJ Mag.


How was your first gig back after lockdown?

“It was right after I moved back to Shanghai from Beijing. Every drop hit different, every song I played sounded more vibrant, and made me cherish this community, this industry and music itself more than ever.”


How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?

“I spent much more time in the studio not just making new songs, but also listening to everything I’ve missed — realising that I simply can’t live without music.”

What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?

“When the world is able to dance again after COVID, we should find a way to generate power from all the dancing people.”


What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?

“A new Mac Mini with the M1 processor, and my mini-golf course.”


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

“Vicetone ‘Legacy’.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 09:11

Style: 
“Energetic vocal house, or as I like to call it, urban ghetto rave.”
Best known for: 
“Being the first Chinese Monstercat artist, and my bun.”
Tune of the year: 
“‘Unbroken’ by me. I was depressed, but making this song healed my soul.”

Poll 2021: Alexso

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From: China

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Maddix.”


Echo Stage Records label boss Alexso hasn’t had much time to stand still this year. In March he released ‘Mu Lan’, a high-energy thumper, with drops and stabby synths a plenty, following this up in April with ‘Hit Em’, a bassy, groove-laden cut made with Skemaddox, and the warbly electro banger ‘Cardi’ in July. ‘Disruption’, perhaps his most theatrical release to date, landed in September and made good use of traditional Chinese instrumentation alongside his signature drops. The stompy number is a great example of glitch-hop, a sub-genre the electro DJ continues to champion at his label. 

Alexso was quick out the stable when China re-opened its clubs, with his first set at the Dreamland Music Festival in October last year, followed by a slew of performances across the Republic. Since then, he has kept busy with a ring of tours, studio sessions and even a collab with Fatman Scoop. Over the next few years, he plans to grow his international base, bringing his euphoric and vocal-heavy sets to the wider world.


How was your first gig back after lockdown?

“It was in October 2020, at Dreamland Music Festival in a desert. Due to the impact of the epidemic, the audiences dropped by at least 70% this time, as many people were still worried about the risk of infection brought by crowd gathering.”


How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?

“I had more time to spend with my family and completed more work in the studio. I started my TikTok account, and it racked up more than 30 million views in three months. Five months after the outbreak, performances in China began to return to normal, and I became even busier than before.”


What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?

“Feasible environmental protection measures should be taken when planning a music festival, such as the use of recycled environmental protection materials for the stage, booth and tent construction, the use of recycled paper for tickets, brochures and other paper products…”


What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?

“Pioneer DJ CDJ-3000 and XDJ-XZ.”


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

“ALOK ‘Don't Say Goodbye.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 09:07

Style: 
“House/electro/EDM.”
Best known for: 
“Alexso feat.QIQI ‘跟着感觉走’.”
Tune of the year: 
“Skemaddox & Alexso ‘Hit Em’.”

Poll 2021: Florian Picasso

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From: France/Vietnam


Florian Picasso took livestreaming to the next level last year. He’s the great-grandson of the artist, Picasso, and used his relative’s mansion — Villa La Californie — as the backdrop for a 3D mapped extravaganza. 2021 was no different, and he started off the year by fusing his family’s creative background with music once more — this time, playing an exclusive set at Picasso’s workshop in Cannes, while French painter and graffiti artist Cyril Kongo created live art. 

It’s no wonder the DJ and producer thinks outside the box for his self-produced shows. Pre-Covid, he regularly played on stages known for their huge levels of production, including Tomorrowland and Ultra Music Festival. He promised to put out more music in 2021, and fans weren’t disappointed when the emotive ‘Get Away’ was released this March, on Martin Garrix’s STMPD RCRDS imprint.
 

How was your first gig back after lockdown? 

“Amazing! One of the best clubs in the world, Amnesia in Cap D'agde, in my home country in August... couldn't have wished for a better return.”


How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance? 

“It changed my perspective on a lot of things — more importantly, there is no time like the present.”


What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change? 

“We can all help with small efforts every day, it's solidarity that is needed here.”


What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ set-up this year? 

“Completely renewed my home studio in Geneva.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-06 09:01

Style: 
“Hybrid.”
Best known for: 
“Innovative sounds.”
Tune of the year: 
“Tiësto ‘The Business’.”

Poll 2021: Blastoyz

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From: Israel

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Dantra.”


A new entry into the Top 100 last year, Israeli psytrancer Blastoyz – aka Kobi Nigreker – has ridden the momentum of last year’s success. Against the odds, he says, he’s still managed to play shows in Israel and Europe, and even got in a two-month tour of Australia.

The biggest news has been the launch of his own record label, WELVRAVE. Setting off with ‘Bali’, a collaboration with fellow Israeli Omiki, it’s a statement of intent that follows recently turning 30 — an event captured on his In Between YouTube series.

What’s to follow remains to be seen, but he promises he’s sitting on plenty of new music, helped by the building of a brand new custom studio. For now, he’s back on the road building his reputation gig by gig. This September saw him play a 2000-year-old Roman amphitheatre in France, joyous dancers forming a rising wave of pumping fists in front of him. Welcome to the psytrance revolution.


How was your first gig back after lockdown?

“It was in April 2021, a psytrance party in Israel with huge energy on the dancefloor! I mostly played my new music for the first time and I was blown away by the reaction of the crowd.”


How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?

“It helped me to look at the bigger picture, to spend more time working on my art and to know how to make a better balance between life and work.”


What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?

“I would suggest changing the paper-based mailing and ticketing system into an electronic one and swap plastic at home and outdoors for solid material that can be reused.”


What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ set-up this year?

“I actually rebuilt my studio this year to add some vibe and comfort.”


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

“There is no specific album I’ve heard this year, but I loved the latest releases from Martin Garrix – ‘Ytram’ and ‘Area21’.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-05 21:58

Style: 
“Psytrance.”
Best known for: 
“‘Mandala’, ‘Parvati Valley’ and ‘After Dark’ with Seven Lions & Fiora.”
Tune of the year: 
“NERVO & Carla Monroe ‘Gotta Be You’.”

Poll 2021: KAKA

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From: China

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Beauz.”

KAKA has been DJing since 2008, so it’s good to see her in the Top 100 DJs list this year. A pioneering female DJ in China’s dance music scene, the artist has spent much of this year on national tours, one of which was with carmaker BMW. Her first gig post-pandemic was at Play House in Chengdu. She’s since performed at Exit China in Changsha and in other major cities including Shenzhen and Jinan — rumour has it she also popped over to Thailand for a one-off set at Future Club. 

KAKA also dedicated time to music production in 2021, collaborating with pop singers and remixing the work of a few artists. She made her international solo debut in September with ‘Needs’, a pulsating future rave-inspired track via the Mixmash Records label, and also released ‘Someday’ on Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike’s Generation Smash sub-label. The DJ has also become a guest judge for Pioneer DJ’s regular contests and most recently ventured into the fashion world, appearing in China’s annual fashion week this year. 


How was your first gig back after lockdown?

“I haven’t felt nervous during a performance for quite a long time. That show was at the Chengdu Play House, it was also the first party for ravers after the epidemic. Everyone's enthusiasm was doubled. It feels like fresh blood has been injected into my career.”


How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?

“The key word for me is ‘cherish’. Cherish every reunion with family and friends, and cherish every moment on the stage.”


What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change? 

“I would like to convey the awareness of environmental protection through music, including lyrics, music videos etc. Music has the super power that can make people understand quickly, empathise and remember deeply.”


What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?

“The DJM-V10 from Pioneer DJ. It has six channels, so I can add live effects to the set and perform with a synthesizer, sampler or musical instrument.”


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

“I really like ‘Future Nostalgia’ by Dua Lipa.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-05 21:55

Style: 
“Mainstage, house and dance music that makes you happy.”
Best known for: 
“‘Beijing’.”
Tune of the year: 
“‘STAY’ by The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber.”

Poll 2021: 22Bullets

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From: Bangkok, Thailand

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Topic.”


Not many producers could have a club hit via a despondent mouldy-oldie made famous, decades ago, by both Nancy Sinatra and Cher. But then again, 22Bullets, the artist who collaborated this year with Fedde Le Grand on that addictively bouncy version of ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’ is not your average artist. (Yes, Guetta’s covered it as well.) It’s all in a day’s work for the man born Varun Sony, who’s made something of a speciality out of working on big-ticket collabs, with recent work with Timmy Trumpet and Dash Berlin also making waves. They’re just two of the latest entries in the Thailand-based DJ’s burgeoning discography, and they won’t be the last: he promises more “mega-collabs, especially with Asian pop stars.”
 
 
How was your first gig back after lockdown?

“It felt amazing to be able to reconnect with all the fans and to share with them the labours of love that were done during the lockdown.”
 

How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance? 

“I started to get into proper exercising, and that really helps me to focus with the studio time.” 


What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?

“We should always be prepared for whatever is coming because we can never be sure what is going to happen. Learning from the past is the way to step into the future.”
 

What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?

“I recently got into hardware synths and picked up a Novation Peak. It’s so hands-on, not like VSTs. It feels great to touch something or twist something and give it some action.”
 

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

“Porter Robinson's ‘Nurture’ is so good!”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-05 21:51

Style: 
“Electro-house.”
Best known for: 
“Collaborations with Timmy Trumpet, KSHMR, Fedde Le Grand.”
Tune of the year: 
“Tiësto ‘The Business’.”

Poll 2021: Christina Novelli

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From: London, UK

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Siskin.”


Christina Novelli’s music manifests itself in many guises: her vocals, DJing, songwriting and production. Darting through trance, EDM, big room and back again, it’s probably this holistic approach that makes her work so emotionally multi-textured; live performances oozing with an extra layer of excitement as her voice holds as much magnitude as her hardware skills.

But for the past year, the English artist’s shows have been few and far between. Embracing the imposed time off, Novelli has been enjoying life at a slower pace, indulging in writing and making a new album. Due for release early next year, it will follow a catalogue of releases that boast several stellar collaborations — including the catchy 2019 anthem, ‘Symphony Of Stars’ with Markus Schulz, and A State Of Trance’s 2018 Tune Of The Year, ‘The Air I Breathe’ with Richard Durand.

More recently, she’s teamed up with fellow trance star Talla 2XLC to release a new 2021 showstopper, ​​‘I’ve Been Gone So Long’, and is about to embark on a US tour. 
 
 
How was your first gig back after lockdown? 

“Incredible, because it had been so long it felt like one of my first ever shows. I took performing regularly for granted and when it all just stopped it was heart-breaking.”
 

How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?

“They reminded me that it is super important to just slow down, take it all in and enjoy every moment of it. I was able to work on some other projects and finally be able to launch my record label, Muse Music Records.”
 

What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?

“We can all definitely start by minimising our carbon footprint and re-assessing how we plan live shows and tours. The whole world should be doing a hell of a lot more to combat climate change, before it’s too late.”
 

What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?

“I got myself a Roland SPD-SX pad that I've been playing around with in my sets. I have just redone my whole studio, and my new sE Gemini II microphone is an absolute game-changer.”
 

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

“Siskin ‘Dopamine’.” It blows me away."
 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-05 21:45

Style: 
“Vocal trance anthems.”
Best known for: 
“My angelic voice.”
Tune of the year: 
“Christina Novelli & Richard Durand ‘My Guiding Light’.”

Poll 2021: Giftback

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From: China 

Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Andrew Rayel.”
 

As Covid restrictions have gradually lifted, there are DJs who have revved back into gear gradually, taking a few small gigs to get back into the swing of things. GIFTBACK is not one of those DJs: the Beijing-based artist’s first date back was at October 2020’s massive SAL Music Festival, where 30,000 revellers packed themselves in front of the stage to soak in his supersized sound.

With a full-throttle style that’s one-part trance and five-parts hands-in-the-air stormers, it’s no wonder the fans love him, and he’s been spending the past few years — minus a pandemic-dictated break, of course — broadening his fanbase by spinning most of the major EDM-friendly fests that East and South-East Asia have to offer. But he’s still had plenty of time for music-making — with tracks like the soaring ‘Rave Nation’ and his recent collaboration with Mexican duo ANG, ‘Heart Of A Champion’, coming out in recent months, his upward trajectory seems bound to continue.
 

How was your first gig back after lockdown?

“It was at SAL Music Festival in Suzhou. It was surreal and you could tell that the crowd was so ready to party.”
 

How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?

“I am very fortunate to have been able to get back to shows since last year. The year has been full of normal work, making music and trying to make more surprises in my live show.”
 

What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?

“CO2 is actually very harmful for the atmosphere so I always try to minimise the use, especially during festival shows that are outdoors.”
 

What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?

“As a kid I was a drummer and this year I started incorporating live drum elements into some of my sets, with my trusty Roland TD-50K2 V-Drums. It really adds the kick!"
 

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

“Armin van Buuren ‘A State Of Trance FOREVER’.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-05 21:39

Style: 
“Honestly, I love to play in all music styles.”
Best known for: 
“Being able to captivate and energise large crowds with powerful music, and playing more than 1,000 music festival and club shows in Asia."
Tune of the year: 
“Will Sparks ‘Kids These Days’.”

Poll 2021: Tungevaag

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From: Norway
 
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Max Adrian.”
 
Norwegian DJ and producer Tungevaag was a newcomer to the Top 100 DJs poll last year. In 2021 he cemented his position, rising three places. Though known for breakthrough hits ‘Peru’ and ‘Play’, his 2021 anthem ‘Miss You’ made a global impact, landing at No.1 in the Netherlands radio charts. He has also collaborated with the likes of Alan Walker, Lucas & Steve, Bassjackers, Jay Hardway, Sick Individuals and Raaban.

The ambitious producer reached a landmark four billion worldwide streams and downloads at the end of 2020. Spurred on by the success, he hit the ground running in 2021, collaborating with Bassjackers, Blasterjaxx, Brennan Heart, Retrovision and Lucas & Steve. “There are also two unreleased tracks coming up with some Top 20 DJs,” he says. “And of course, shows in Europe this summer — festivals are back!” 


How was your first gig back after lockdown?

“Unbelievable.”

 
How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?

“It has shown us all how thankful we need to be for what we have.”
 

What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?

“Clubs and festivals with solar panels.”

 
What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?

“PMC IB1S speakers for my new studio. They are insane.”
 

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

“‘Harmonica Andromeda’ by KSHMR.”
 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-05 21:35

Style: 
“Uplifting house and bigroom.”
Best known for: 
“‘Peru’ and ‘Play’ (with Alan Walker).”
Tune of the year: 
“‘Love Runs Out’ by Martin Garrix & G-Eazy.”

Poll 2021: MaRLo

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Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “AVAO and MatricK. These guys are so consistent and have absolute top-notch quality releases.”

International trance star MaRLo is no stranger to the Top 100, and it’s thanks to the enduring loyalty of his fans that he’s making an unsurprising return this year. With a trail of releases under his belt, a sprawling list of festival appearances at the likes of Tomorrowland and A State Of Trance, and his consistent fostering of promising talent on his own Reaching Altitude label, life is normally non-stop for Marlo Hoogstraten. But the forced quietness of the last year has led him to invest his energy into more surprising things — like koi pond fish keeping and making 3D printed figurines.

Tied to his adopted homeland Australia as the country endured a yo-yo of lockdowns, MaRLo said that “family, gym, and surfing” helped him to get through (despite dislocating his shoulder while hanging ten). But time off from touring has, of course, also provided the Dutch-born artist with more time to make music: he’s produced two years of upcoming releases, with 20 songs and remixes polished off and ready to go.


How was your first gig back after lockdown?

“Absolutely incredible! The vibe, the energy and the whole sense of relief was amazing. I'm unfortunately now in a long four-month lockdown again, but my first show back will be my own ALTITUDE tour which I just know is going to be so powerful to come back with.”


How have the last 18 months changed how you view your work/life balance?

“It's put in perspective just how important home life is, but also just how much I miss doing my life's work in music! I am hungrier than ever before to perform, but the key now is to balance my time better rather than just to tour non-stop.”


What further steps should the industry take to combat climate change?

“Every individual can make everyday changes towards a better future. We need to keep our oceans clean, our forests green and clean up after ourselves.”


What’s the best bit of tech you’ve added to your studio or DJ setup this year?

“Working closely with Denon DJ this past year, it's been really great to play on all their new gear at my shows. I use the Denon DJ SC6000 decks and X1850 mixer almost exclusively now.”


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

“Billie Eilish ‘Happier Than Ever’. It’s a very different approach to vocal production and songwriting, I dig it.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2021-10-05 21:31

Style: 
“Trance/tech energy.”
Best known for: 
“My ALTITUDE shows, Reaching Altitude label, and ASOT Tune Of The Year.”
Tune of the year: 
“MaRLo & Frontliner ‘Hook’.”

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