On stage Willem Rebergen, better known as Headhunterz is revered as a hardstyle demigod who's bringing this unique genre of EDM to the masses with sets on the main stage of EDC Las Vegas to the Sahara tent these past two weekends at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. After closing out a sold out show with Adventure Club at Club Nokia in LA in-between, Willem has proven his musical talents reach much further than the walls of the hardstyle genre. We caught up with Heady (as he's known by his die hard fans) right after his set Saturday afternoon to talk about this new evolution in his sound as we explored the breath taking festival grounds.
As we walked from the backstage artist trailers to the open grass of the main stage, we made our way to the Reflection Field art instillation in the middle of the grounds to take a selfie. Heady says he's been doing a lot of reflecting lately including thinking about how he first got into hardstyle. "I grew up with hardstyle in the most important period of my youth when I was developing my personality," he says. "They played it at the local teen disco and I remember it was that kind of music you have to really know how to dance to, so I started looking at myself in the mirror to learn new moves." Though the hardstyle dance moves have changed drastically throughout the years, the sound has been perfected and stayed the same for a while now.
Over the past decade Headhunterz has released three albums, various chart topping singles, and his own HARD with STYLE podcast. The hardstyle genre was relatively unknown in the states however, but today it celebrates a good foundation for growth with events like Q-Dance and pioneers like Heady. "I think promoters are starting to feel that if you only listen to what the crowd wants you end up with the perfect track that goes 'everybody fucking jump, do do do do do do' and then every track starts to sound like it," says Heady as we sit and relax under the shade of the Caterpillar while listening to CHVRCHES at the Outdoor Theater. "If organizations want to survive they have to keep challenging their crowds and give them something different or they will go back to rock and hip-hop once they get tired of the 'one, two, three jump' anthems."
Today, Headhunterz is taking these opportunities to appeal to new fans by stepping out of the way he's made music for the past seven years. "In hardstyle we've had this perfect sound for seven years," he says. "We've gotten to a point just like the 'one two three jump' song, so it's time to break it open again." His recent remix with Flosstradamus is already ten BPM's lower than the 150 he used to produce at and he's looking to take that even further and produce at whatever BPM he feels like as he gets out of his hardstyle comfort zone saying he looks up to artist like Skrillex and Knife Party because of their talents as producers and freedom to make whatever music they want. "You see a lot of new music which is obviously directed to what the crowd wants," says Heady. "But there's also people that keep making new music as an art form and not just a means to get the crowd going."
We make our way towards the Do Lab because Headhunterz mentions his interest in Burning Man. He lives a pretty healthy, socially conscious lifestyle and agrees with some of their principles. "I love anything that brings awareness and connects to people in a good way," he says. "Not just to party and destroy the vicinity."
As we approach the Dr. Seuss looking pillars, Patricio is DJing an eclectic blend of deep house grooves with entrancing sounds. "Ah this is great. I totally love this," Heady says, smiling as his tour manager cracks open Heinekens from their artist trailer and pours them into red cups for us. "I keep improving myself throughout the years and keep finding out what's best for me in the long term," he says. He allows himself one or two beers in moderation, but stays consistent in his workouts. "This open mindedness [in the states] is really refreshing," he says. "That's great for an artist. It stimulates you to stay creative and not feel imprisoned in your style."
The Five Must See EDM Acts at Coachella, Weekend 2
Talking to U.K. Export Gareth Emery at Bob's Big Boy
Johnny Shockey's LED and Goldenvoice Bring a New Era of EDM to Indio
Like us on Facebook at Heard Mentality, follow us on Twitter @OCWeeklyMusic and follow the author @kittysnake.