“It was the best choice we’ve ever made”: Showtek talk life beyond hardstyle
When Dutch duo Showtek stepped up for an Essential Mix over the weekend, BBC Radio 1 host Pete Tong made a pertinent point. “From Kings of Hardstyle, they’ve grown into one of the biggest EDM duos on the planet, and they’ve hardly been out of the Beatport Top 10 this year.” Sure enough, the last time the boys provided an Essential Mix, they were going live from the 2009 Hard Dance Awards, where they’d just picked up the gong for Best DJs. Now, you’re more likely to find their music on the electro charts. As they explained it to inthemix: “We needed a change”
The change has sure worked for them. Since moving away from hard dance, the brothers have seen their Facebook fan count balloon to over half a million, they’ve sold out many an arena show, co-produced an EP with Tiesto and Angger Dimas and watched their latest single Booyah top charts everywhere from here to the UK. Now, they’re just a few weeks out from touching down in Australia for their very first Stereosonic tour. In the lead up to the festival, we got brothers Wouter and Sjoerd Janssen on the phone for a catch-up.
How does it feel to be on the bill at Stereosonic when a few years ago it would have been more likely to see you on the bill at a festival like Defqon.1?
It’s really nice. We’ve always wanted to play at Stereosonic but our sound from a few years ago didn’t really fit in, but once we made the change to our sound that we did last year, I think we fit in perfectly. We’re really happy to be part of such an amazing festival. Especially since people all over the world are appreciating the change we’ve made to our sound. It’s really great.
This is the first time you’ve played Stereosonic, isn’t it?
Yes, this is our debut. We’ve always wanted to play at the festival – it’s been on our “to do” list. We’ve already had really good feedback via social media. We can’t wait to finally come back to Australia – it’s been a while!
You’ve spoken about making a change to your style. Is the word “hardstyle” still a relevant term for the music you make?
Well, some of our tracks still have a harder edge, but not every track. However, if you listen to the tracks we made back in 2001 and 2002, there was already a small resemblance between our style and electro. The sound we’re creating now is more “edgy” and different, but the signature aspects of Showtek are still there on every track. I think we’ve matured. I think when hardstyle was really big back in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, we already had our own sound within hardstyle: we weren’t really that hard. We were a bit more melodic and accessible. After working behind the scenes with guys like Tiesto and Marcel Woods doing a lot of house tracks, we accidentally stumbled onto this new sound which we love. And it turns out others love it – this change has been a positive thing for us.
How do you feel about the decision to change? Are you glad that you mixed things up?
Absolutely, we are really happy. We didn’t really feel at home anymore in the hard scene, and in fact we hadn’t for some time. We needed a change. Now, it feels like we’re doing the right thing. When you play music for a long time, you want to do something else every now and then. Maybe in ten years we’ll be making deep house! Who knows! Ultimately, we just want to feel at home with whatever we do, and right now we feel very comfortable. And if we’re happy, the fans can be happy. We definitely made the right choice.
As an artist you want to express yourself, but if there comes a point when you can’t express yourself anymore in a certain style, then you need to move on. We knew there was something bigger for us coming. It wasn’t easy making this change since we had built up a big following, but as mentioned before, there is still that Showtek signature on every new track we make, such as Cannonball and Get Loose. Those tracks are still typical Showtek. And 80% of our old fan base still love what we do, and we also gained a lot new fans, so it was definitely the best choice we’ve ever made in our careers.
Do you think that there is a lot less emphasis on genres now anyway? Are the boundaries blending more than before?
Yeah. I think it’s been easier since America came across dance music with artists like Porter Robinson, who didn’t really care about sub-genres, they just liked dance music. It wouldn’t have been possible to be so varied four years ago.
How do you feel dance music is tracking in the US? Is it in a good place?
It became really huge in the last few years, and sometimes we even ask ourselves: can it get even bigger? I think the quality is just getting higher and higher. The festivals and parties are getting bigger and better. But, I think even though EDM is really big in America, if you look from a distance, it looks like the music is going back to Europe. I think it’s going to be big everywhere. Actually, it’s already big! The parties are huge and the people are so enthusiastic, all over the world.