To hardcore fans and casual listeners of trance music alike, Tiesto is undoubtedly one of the most renowned and acclaimed DJs on the face of the planet. His legacy knows no bounds as he continues to thrive in his career that spans over two decades. One would imagine that the Dutch-born DJ Tijs Michiel Verwest, better known by his stage name Tiesto, might become just another fish in the vast sea of DJs that expands day by day. Especially during this digital age, when everyone and their mothers have the easy accessibility to roll out music and even have a moment of spotlight. However, Tiesto’s eminence is a testimony to his perennial impact in the electronic music industry who time and time again proves that he is indeed the ‘godfather of dance music’.
Born in Breda, Netherlands, Tiesto’s formative years of DJing began in his hometown as a teenager. He started playing professionally at school parties at the age of 14 and soon moved to become resident DJ at multiple clubs in the Netherlands. Before figuring out his own style of music, Tiesto mostly played hardcore/gabber, acid house, and new beat under many aliases such as DJ Limited and Da Joker. He continued these gigs between 1985 and 1994, during which he was discovered by Basic Beat Recordings where he was later signed to.
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At Basic Beat, he met his future label co-founder – Arny Bink. The duo worked together extensively for years, releasing records on their various labels and sub-labels, before leaving Basic Beat and finding their own parent label, Black Hole Recordings. There on, Tiesto has only been soaring as a pioneer in electronic music. From being the first DJ to play live in the Olympics, becoming ‘a royal appointment as Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau (one of the highest honors in the Netherlands’), to influencing an entire generation to connect with the rhythm of electronic music, Tiesto has solidified himself in the industry with his many accolades!
A Trailblazer in EDM
The establishment of Black Hole Recordings was one of the first turning points in Tiesto’s career. Most of his revered compilation series was released through Black Hole, including the prominent Magik series, In Trance We Trust, In Search of Sunrise, and Space Age. The label also introduced the first DJ mix compilations from the legendary Armin Van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, Johan Gielen, and more!
During these years, Tiesto paired up with Ferry Corsten and created the trance duo Gouryella. Together they elevated the scene of trance music and were highly recognized outside of Amsterdam with the release of their debut track ‘Gouryella’. He marked his debut in the US with the commercially successful remix of Delirium’s Silence from his mix album Summerbreeze. The track was Tiesto’s gateway to mainstream audiences. He soon became one of the most sought-after producers by the early 2000s.
A year after the release of his solo debut album In My Memory in 2001, Tiesto bagged the title ‘The Number One DJ in The World’ by the DJ Magazine – a spot he held on to for three consecutive years. The success of In My Memory made Tiesto a busy and booked artist. He played six to nine-hour sets for tens and thousands of audiences in his solo gigs and toured with Moby, David Bowie, Busta Rhymes across the US all within a few years of his debut album.
As his popularity rose, so did people’s likening to electronic music. Soon enough, chart-topping pop, rock, R&B artists – the likes of Coldplay, Tegan & Sara, Nelly Furtado, Gotye – had their tracks remixed by Tiesto. In a way, we could say Tiesto kickstarted this integration of EDM with some of our favorite pop or rock tracks.
A Mentor to Rising Artists
It is no doubt that Tiesto’s achievements paved the way for EDM to become mainstream. As the DJ continued to create history, he also helped many of today’s prominent DJs we know and love.
His artistry influenced many to try their hand at DJ-ing. Some were lucky enough to be discovered by Tiesto himself! Martin Garrix, the prodigious producer of smash-hit track ‘Animals’, was one of the fortunate ones. Armin Van Buuren, Hardwell, Sied Van Riel, Ryan Shepherd also share the similar fortune of being discovered by or getting signed to Tiesto’s label, as reported by EDM.com. He has also collaborated with these artists in his compilation mixes.
He is also above competition amid the new-found prodigies. In an interview with The Independent, he says, “I feel like I’ve proven myself so I don’t have that pressure, but I know the younger guys can be really nasty to each other. All DJs, really, it’s the same as with other musicians, but I think for me it’s different because no one sees me as a competitor-”
However, Tiesto does more than inspire the up-coming artists. He actively finds rising talents and takes them under his wings, helps them hone their skills, and fosters these newbies in the competitive EDM industry. Certainly, Tiesto’s music will always be a guide for posterity.
Evolving His Sound With Time
When you’ve been in the music business for as long as Tiesto has, staying relevant through the ages is a relentless challenge. Redundancy and stagnation in music could tarnish the image of an artist. But Tiesto’s relevance twenty years later is a testament to the fact that he hasn’t lost his shine and has evolved with time.
The Dutch DJ started out with hardcore/gabber and acid house music. Once he established his brand and fine-tuned his sound, every album explores a myriad of dance music but still cohesively sounding like Tiesto. Throughout his solo ventures, he has broken away from trance music and experimented with progressive house, dance, and electronic music.
More recently, Tiesto released songs from his new alias VER:WEST, a return to his trance roots. He describes the sound as “as melodic house music. It’s a lot deeper and more chill and a very different energy than Tiësto.”
In the words of the DJ himself, “I think I’ve been one to embrace the need to evolve and not get stuck using the same formula over and over again. I like a lot of different dance music and I will play whatever I like in my sets.”
Tiesto is the soundtrack of parties for this generation and the next to come. Before COVID-19, the legend was booked upto his neck performing hour-long shows in cities after cities. He shows no signs of stopping even at the age of 52. His longevity in the saturated industry could possibly be one of the rarest of such occurrences.