Just how busy is Tiësto these days? Plenty, thanks to EDM’s ongoing Stateside surge in popularity. For example: After playing a mainstage show Friday as part of the Paradiso Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre near Seattle, Tiësto boarded a private jet that brought him to Chicago Saturday to perform again, this time at the posh Windy City nightclub Studio Paris. He calls the show a “lifestyle gig. You come to the city, nice dinner, meet nice people, nice intimate crowd to play for. It’s more like a high-end fashion kind of crowd.”
Hopping from massive festival stages to more tailored events has become a way of life for the DJ, who’s among the biggest names in dance music. Last month he performed before 100,000 people at Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, and today he’s scheduled to headline the Escapade Festival in Ottawa, Canada. He also recently inked a 20-month deal to be a resident DJ at the hot new Vegas nightclub, Hakkasan, in the MGM Grand Hotel. “I think Las Vegas can be the new Ibiza,” he tells Rolling Stone, minutes before taking the stage in Chicago.
Still, despite performing several nights a week (“I don’t do it every night,” he says with a laugh. “But I do it a lot”), Tiësto remains passionate about his craft. “Every gig has its own character,” says the DJ and producer, born Tijs Verwest. Over two hours, Tiësto unleashed choice cuts off his recent mixtape Club Life: Volume 3 Stockholm, including tension-building remixes of Zedd’s “Clarity” and Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” for a crowd that included several members of the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks – not to mention the Cup itself. (“It’s the first time the Stanley Cup comes to see Tiësto,” he cracks.)
Stockholm is the latest city to serve as the title and inspiration for Tiësto’s Club Life mixtape series. In 2009, the DJ moved to the Swedish capital to escape his native Netherlands. “I wanted to get out of Holland,” he says. “I’ve lived there all my life. I wanted to change it up. And I wasn’t ready to move to the U.S. yet.” The DJ was enamored with the city’s upscale trappings. “Everything is a little better [in Stockholm]: better food, better air, more space. It’s a city I really enjoy being in.”
It was always his intention, he says, to produce music while living in Stockholm. “There’s great DJs to work with. Great products. Great musicians.” Yet unlike some of his peers, including David Guetta, Calvin Harris and Diplo, Tiësto is wary of relying too heavily on collaborations. “I don’t want to produce for other people just for the sake of it or just to make money,” he says. “For me it only works when it adds something to the song.”
In fact, the massive mainstream success Guetta has achieved by working with acts like Usher, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj doesn’t much interest Tiësto. “He really likes the R&B-pop stuff. He enjoys producing those tracks. So it’s good for him,” Tiësto says of Guetta. Tiësto, on the other hand, is more interested in teaming with artists such as Jónsi from Sigur Rós and Florence and the Machine. “If somebody comes up to me, a big pop artist, and they’ll be like ‘I need your songs,’ I’m gonna be like ‘No thanks.’ Those pop artists, I don’t have a connection with them.”
Tiësto is currently hard at work on a forthcoming as-yet-untitled new full-length album, the follow-up to 2009’s Kaleidoscope. Though he’s getting songs together, he’s keeping details quiet for now, apart from saying that unlike the remix-laden Stockholm, the “album is gonna be more just me.”
That probably means an album of dance-inspired music, intended to please an audience of one: himself. “I’m always polite . . . but I don’t give a shit what people think of my music,” Tiësto says. “I need to make what I like. I can’t just make stuff for other people. I need to like it myself.”