Why Tiësto Became an Indie-Inspired Electro Chameleon

Tijs Michiel Verwest is more than just an electronic-dance-music (EDM) DJ and producer. He is the quintessential originator of the iconic brand Tiësto, which has continued to revolutionize itself and change the game for dance music artists all over the world for almost two decades. With Grammy nominations, numerous awards, collaborations with Guess Clothing, a Sirius XM Club Life Radio Channel, the No. 1 podcast on iTunes, his own Madame Tussaud's wax statue, residencies all over the world, and headlining every major festival including Coachella's main stage, plus being the first DJ to play at the Olympic Games in Athens, as well as the highest paid DJ on the Forbes list, Tiësto has proven to be larger than life, with no signs of slowing down.

Though he suffered a minor touring setback due to back problems on his 2012 College Invasion Tour, he is making up the missed dates this winter, including a stop at the Staples Center March 2. Presented by Goldenvoice and Insomniac, this performance marks the second time a DJ will play a show at the Staples Center — Kaskade was the first DJ to sell it out with his Freaks of Nature Tour last summer. So in honor of Tiësto's Los Angeles comeback (he was last in LA in 2011 as a part of that year's College Invasion Tour, which hosted 26,000 fans at the Home Depot Center), we chatted with Verwest right as he hit the tour bus with fellow DJ friends Tommy Trash, Quintino and Alvaro. The Dutch artist covered everything from cultivating his sound to impromptu gigs to what's currently on his iPod.


“[The Staples Center show is] going to be a little more intimate because it's a lot smaller [than the Home Depot Center], but I'm really excited to play this legendary venue and reveal my new amazing production,” Tiësto says. “I'm very lucky I have the biggest fan base in LA compared to the rest of North America, so I will be playing lots of new music for you guys.” This will mark the first and largest EDM tour to hit the American college market and will feature a state-of-the-art show complete with a raging musical journey and audio visual experience that is out of this world. With production similar to the Tiësto In Concert series, which was ahead of the times in the early 2000s. At the time he played mostly melodic trance anthems and his glorious In Search of Sunrise sets.

Today, Tiësto has evolved in to his current sound, which is all over Tiësto's Club Life. “When I was in Los Angeles in 2008, for six months, I went out to the clubs a lot and realized I was ready for a change. I was playing the same tracks for a long time, and I got kind of bored with it,” Tiesto says. “American DJs were playing lots of mainstream hip-hop and groovy beats at the club, incorporating a lot of eclectic stuff, and house music was getting more and more popular.” So in the beginning of 2009, influenced by what he heard in the LA scene, Tiësto re-invented himself to the uplifting, big-room, progressive/house/indie-inspired electro chameleon who has collaborated with just about everyone in the music business.

“This year, I was in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, for a friend's wedding, and I decided to play at BPM Festival spontaneously,” he says. “I like deep house a lot. It's kind of like my hobby, and since BPM is known for that style of music, it made sense for me to play something different and try a deep house set.”

The house heads were in for a surprise as they would never expect that sort of set from Tiësto, but he continues to prove he can be innovative and step outside his comfort zone for the love of the music. When asked what's currently on his iPod, he says, “I listen to everything from a lot of deep house to indie bands and dance acts such as Passion Pitt. I also like to listen to a lot of chill melodic music on the road. It's a good break from the crazy stuff you hear at shows all night.”

Just because he is listening to chill music, don't expect the tour life to be chill as well. “We have lots of after-parties since the shows are done early every night. The DJs and I hang out, talk about deejaying and new tracks,” he says. “Nothing too crazy yet, granted this was only the third gig on the winter leg of the tour, but I think maybe we will get crazy after the Staples Center. I may even play an after-party if we have the right venue and I'm in the mood for it.”

His favorite part, however, is the crowd and their energy. “You feel the difference when they pay attention, singing along and responding to everything you do,” Verwest says. “Last night [in Amherst], they screamed and sang along to every track. That's when you have the crowd in the palm of your hand and deejaying is the best job in the world.”

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