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WRITTEN BY DAN CARTERDan Carter is a British journalist and professional writer to the Dance music industry.
In the age of easy access and limited longevity, the life and times of 24-year-old Progressive House titan Hardwell have unfolded into a surreal series of dreamlike properties for artist and industry alike. But as the ferocious Dutch heavyweight continues to scale the ladder of EDM efficiency and tectonic studio style, the robust nature of his premature explosion has made him as inherently indispensable as the genre to which he so dutifully serves. Now exceeding any conspiracy of a three-year lucky streak with his impending empire of Revealed Records, Dan Carter caught up with Breda’s Robbert van de Corput to discover the art of self-made fortune and the value of heartfelt passion amid a fashionable resurgence in Electronic music.
The date was October 21 and the venue was Amsterdam’s Passenger Terminal. Sat among some of the industry’s most prestigious players and watching the DJ Mag Top 100 poll count down its victors in descending order, Hardwell knew only that his name was one among 100 of the globes most popular DJs to date. As he passed such esteemed peers as Porter Robinson, Sebastian Ingrosso and Daft Punk, the 23-year-old hopeful would finally find himself pitted at number 24 of the often controversial but increasingly prominent doctorate of industrial achievement. That night was all it took to set the sizeable ambitions of Hardwell’s Progressive Empire to an infinite high. ‘The numbers kept passing and I was thinking to myself “Oh shit! Maybe I didn’t make the list”’, laughs Corput. ‘I had no idea that I would sit that high and when I finally saw my name emerge I was speechless, it was one of the most emotional moments of my life and career that I can remember.
But counting three-years to date of his potent industry offerings, Corput’s streak of much-deserved accession began long before his inauguration to the DJ Mag Top 100. Sharing the same passion and area code as homeland clubbing icon Tiesto, a simple tweet of support from the unfathomable club presence would see the duos joint creative flames take shape in the form of ‘076’: Hardwell’s invariable break past the shutters of EDM integrity. Never one to play down the relevance of hus hometown peers ardent, there is still a spark of disbelief in the young producers voice as he recalls his first physical encounter with the Dutch icon. ‘He asked me to play alongside him at Privilege Ibiza and despite the high-stakes surrounding, it became immediately clear that we had the same taste, thoughts and ambitions as artists. You cannot fake the level of professionalism and enthusiasm he breathes upon this industry and ‘076’ was the perfect track for me to break the mould on the industry with. Having him on my side has definitely been a career definer for me.’
Star-studded supporters aside, the road to universal appraisal has not been one without its hitches. Tormented by the frustrations associated with the anonymous realms of A&R snobbery as he continued to drive passionately towards recognition, the launch of Revealed Records would see his determination turn a middle-finger to the oversimplified process of signing music and embrace the earlier can-do attitude of the forthright Dutch contender. ‘To me, these A&R guys tend to be old people behind a desk judging music they don’t understand,’ he explained. ‘Half these guys probably haven’t walked into a club for 10-years and as a result, I simply didn’t trust the people whose hands I was putting my fate into. As my style developed, I could tell that few people were as open-minded to my sound as I wanted and so three years ago, I took it into my own hands with Revealed. The concept was simple: my sound and a whole load of young talents.’
Under the guise of Revealed, the young Dutch visionary has shined a blinding light for the next generation of his homeland talents. If his brave yet worthy investment in such fresh homeland talents as Dannic and Dyro wasn’t not enough, his radio friendly revisit of instrumental sensation ‘Spaceman’ alongside Dutch tunesmith Mitch Crown would further the progressive nature of this heartfelt industry manoeuvre to a controversial yet coherent high. Despite the nature of such a mainstream remodel, Corput stands by his decision with the utmost pride. ‘I was longing to take ‘Spaceman’ to that next level and make that big energy more approachable to the wider audience. Mitch’s vocal was futuristic and strong enough to fit the criteria and rather than buy in to the obvious mainstream elements it felt like we balanced it perfectly.’
But when your market is expanding by the hour, such charges of creative flare become something of a necessary lifeline. Already boasting more festival experience and big-time events than the vast majority of peers double his age, Hardwell’s charm has not been wasted on the vast American shores that opened to the industry some two years ago. From UMF Miami to EDC Las Vegas, the young producers stateside accession comes to the avail of his proud European roots. He explained: ‘It is weird because In Europe we grew up with the scene and watched it progress steadily over the years. In America, the sound and culture was only rediscovered two-years-ago, yet it just keeps growing.’
As proud as he is hungry for EDM’s ongoing fortune, the collective integrity of his European peers is one that the young Dutch sensation does not take for granted. Outside of America’s positive overnight explosion, Corput believes that without the European explosion, that bigger picture would have considerably shrunk for the now dynamic genre. ‘I don’t think the genre was ever really out there until Europe kicked in. Holland certainly led the field with euphoric Trance and the Swedes have made a huge move forward with Progressive House, DJs have become such prominent artists within modern music now and a whole new culture has opened to world of Electronic music. The energy and attitude of Electronic music speaks for itself and the world simply cannot ignore it.’
In the same vein, Hardwell’s more recent movements behind the scenes look set to extend that hysteria indefinitely. Pitted alongside Electro-headed peers Porter Robinson and Wolfgang Gartner for respective collaborations, his fearless approach to his studio endeavours promises to raise the roof on his already tectonic arsenal while driving further from the one-track genre label than ever before. ‘The stuff I have been doing with those guys is very different, but at the same time there is still a big chunk of my energy throughout. With porter, obviously things went very heavy, because that is just what he does, but the fact that I can be doing stuff like this and still dropping Techier sounding stuff such as ‘Three Triangles’ for Toolroom is just incredible,’ he explained.
‘It feels like I have the best of all worlds and while there is the opportunity to engage in exciting new avenues without compromising on the energy and quality of my work, I am always willing to push my sound to the next level. Without Progress, the whole thing is pointless.’
His sound and style may be rife with new school enthusiasm, but at the heart of Hardwell’s tangible club styling’s lies one of most heartfelt approaches to his craft that could be accumulated by an artist as young as Corput. Despite his premature inauguration to a very global explosion in sound and culture, the rising Dutch contender’s evangelistic optimism translates fluidly throughout his studio endeavours. ‘ I believe Everything is possible to those with the right heart and attitude, but good music will always be the best currency in Dance music no matter what the industry speculates. Love and passion for what you do cannot help but translate into your music and I like to think that the reason I have been so successful so far is because of that real approach to the music I make.’
He may be miles from the fertile Dutch underground that gave him rise, but the young and inspiring force that is Hardwell makes for by far the more organic success story in modern Dance music. While Corput’s legacy remains the matter of time and it’s often-unforgiving hands, the present spells a world of promise for the overdue frontier of Progressive House and it’s deepest fantasies.
Hardwell Presents Revealed Volume Three is out this month on Revealed Recordings.
Catch Hardwell in a city near you by clicking HERE!