Robbert van de Corput, better known as Hardwell, has become the face of EDM for better or for worse. He kicked off 2015 by releasing his debut artist album, United We Are, which received both commercial success as well as a fair dose of criticism. However, one of the things that ultimately led Hardwell to rocket to the top of the DJ list is that beyond pulse-pounding sets and a relentless catalogue of Revealed Recordings, Robbert still seems like a cool guy you would wanna hang out with. He has no problems giving out freebies to his fans, even if it has upset other artists in the past. Further, Hardwell is always down to level with the public and speak honestly about his music, the industry and other topics just like he did in an exclusive interview with us. With so many generic PR campaigns that have surrounded album release in the past year or so, it’s refreshing for an artist to let his or her guard down and address tough topics without spin.
To that end, Hardwell recently sat down with Billboard to discuss his new album, criticisms and his own aspirations with responses that would be refreshing even to those who might look askance at United We Are. In discussing pressure to change his sound, Hardwell mentions that he wanted to bring a variety of styles to his album, but didn’t want music that sounded unfamiliar to his fans. It was particularly interesting for Hardwell to note that his collaboration with Tiesto, which did not exactly live up to its lofty expectations, embraces a sound that was more popular years ago than it is today.
An album is not like an hour-long DJ set, you know, hit after hit and then build up to one big climax. With an album, I wanted to show the diversity of my love for dance music. For example, my track with Funkerman is not a track you’ll usually hear in my DJ sets, but if you know my sound from five or six years ago, you’ll know it’s definitely a Hardwell record. “Arcadia” is more of the current EDM sound, but there’s also “Colors,” the track with Tiësto, that represents the older progressive sound from two or three years ago.
Despite some criticisms, Hardwell remains confident and unapologetic about his style and his skill level. He remarks that he was actually a hip-hop DJ before he was a producer and he wishes his fans could see that skill come into play. Unfortunately, the Dutch producer goes on to say that he feels that in today’s dance music, turntablism is more jarring than impressive and makes it difficult to tell the aural story he wants to tell.
A lot of people always see the EDM DJs as button pushers, especially when deadmau5 came up with that term. Well actually I started out as a hip-hop DJ and I won several awards in Holland for my skills. You can ask “well why don’t you show your skills in your DJ sets?” But it’s not common to scratch and use turntablism in progressive house music. It’s very disturbing. It interrupts the whole DJ set, because with this kind of music you need to tell a story to the people. That’s something I want people to know, that I am a real DJ. I started as a DJ before I was even a producer.
Hardwell also had plenty to say about the infamous ‘Sally’ track and his desire to get much more experimental with his sound now that his album has been released. Check out the full interview at Billboard and you’ll be surprised at how his candor can win over even his most vocal of critics.