YOU WON'T FIND DJ Tiesto jumping up and down shouting, "I'm number one! I'm number one!," even though the world's top-ranked DJ has much to crow about.
After all, he's been ranked No. 1 in DJ magazine's Top 100 DJs poll two years running, the first time that has ever happened. In 2002, Tiesto, who's from Holland, became the first non-U.K.-based DJ to reach No. 1. Last year, 62,000 voters from 120 countries decided he deserved a second term.
Tiesto, whose real name is Tijs Verwest, is surprisingly mellow about the politics of polls and the possibility of a three-peat.
Calling in from St. Laurent on France's Cote d'Azur, Tiesto insists, "I felt more pressure before I became number one, because then you're really eager to get in that position because it's the most impressive position you can be in. But once you've made it, it's all right because no one can take this away from you anymore. A lot of people can become equal but never higher. I actually feel more relaxed now than I felt a couple of years ago, but I still want to be number one, of course. To stay number one is my main target for this year but it's a little less pressure because of being number one twice."
His secret? "I concentrate on good tunes and play good sets."
Ah, the DJ-producer-artist credo encapsulated!
Tiesto, dubbed Lord of the Trance for his mastery of that electronic/dance idiom, will do a little Nation-building Friday night to celebrate the release of his second "artist" album, "Just Be."
"I made it for myself and for the dance floor," Tiesto says, calling "Just Be" "a DJ record for me to play out in my shows" (Tiesto usually spins as much as 75 percent of his own tracks and has suggested that the future of DJ-ing is to include as much original material as possible). It's full of his chronically upbeat progressive trance tracks, including "Traffic," a current club favorite, and "Love Comes Again," a transatlantic collaboration with Maryland-bred progressive house king BT.
But there's also the down-tempo chill-out of "UR," and "Sweet Misery," a goth rock-trance hybrid by Nashville songwriting duo Jo Lloyd and Dan Muckala.
"I see myself as a DJ but also as a producer, so I sometimes make something different," Tiesto explains. The aptly titled "Sweet Misery" came about when his manager, Maria Egan, was in Nashville and hooked up with Lloyd and Muckala after they'd failed to interest Evanescence in the goth-rock song. She suggested they give it to Tiesto, "see how I rework it, see what happens. I wanted to do something different just for myself. It's still electronic but it sounds kind of rock-y, and I really like the outcome."
If "Sweet Misery" is a way for Tiesto to show he can produce something beyond the dance floor, he's not about to abandon what brought him to the dance: trance, the sometimes disdained wing of the electronica, where house and techno reign. "I just play beautiful melodic music, and very original music, and there's not many DJs out there who play the same as I do," he says proudly. "I think I have my own sound."
It's a sound the 35-year-old Tiesto has been working toward since age 12, when his father bought him a used dual turntable deck. In his home town of Breda, about an hour south of Amsterdam, "I used to listen to the radio a lot and there was a mix show," Tiesto recalls. "I was already mixing records on a tape deck and one turntable -- without pitch control -- and then he decided to give me a deck . . . A very good investment!"
The budding DJ started playing at parties, school events and eventually, Breda's top club, Sprock. By the early '90s, he'd started to build an underground profile in Holland with a series of mix albums and in 1997, launched the Black Hole label as an outlet for his productions and mix albums. The ongoing "Magik" series is named after Tiesto's record store in Breda, where, he notes, his work is always discounted.
But not by fans, of course. What catapulted Tiesto into the spotlight was his 2000 remix of Delirium's "Silence," an epic anthem built around Sarah McLachlan's majestic vocals. It became a huge international hit, one of the most influential tracks in the annals of electronica. Remixes for Moby, Paul Oakenfold and Dave Matthews eventually led to Tiesto's first "artist album," 2001's "In My Memory," a sterling collection of melodic but hard-hitting Euro-style trance.
By 2002, Tiesto was king of the DJs.
Which is why, in May 2003, he was able to draw 25,000 people to the dance genre's first solo stadium show, an event captured on the recent "Live in Concert" DVD. Filmed at a soccer stadium in Arnhem, Holland it offers 200 out of the 540 straight minutes Tiesto played that night. Already famous for his six-hour sets, Tiesto elevated his game by playing from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Anyone resistant to trance at midnight would surely have surrendered by sunrise as Tiesto, working from a booth in the middle of a circular stage, made a spectacle of himself with the help of guest vocalists, costumed dancers, videos, a light show and the occasional fireworks.
And, yes, there were some brief pit stops in the otherwise nonstop performance. Contrary to rumors, and legend, "I can take a bathroom break," Tiesto says with a laugh. "The stage was two meters high and in the crawl space below there was a restroom for me."
And this time, Tiesto didn't have to clean the restroom, as he did after his first-ever gig as a DJ.
"I had to clean the club after I played -- the dance floor and, in my case, also the toilet," he recalls. "Only the floor, though, not inside the toilet!"
Already known for a predilection for playing his own music, Tiesto travels light on the 'round-the-world circuit. Usually, he brings little beyond a laptop computer and a few records and CDs. He's convinced that eventually, computers are all that any DJ will bring to work. Even now, because of problems getting new music out on vinyl quickly enough, many DJs burn MP3s on CD-Rs, adapting to get the music heard before it becomes outdated.
"In the next few years, vinyl will play out. Then we'll let go of the CDs and in the future it's going to be all laptops," Tiesto predicts with a trace of sadness and an acknowledgement that the romance of DJ-ing is tied to its old tools. "I am a vinyl DJ, I love my vinyl -- the crispy sound, even when it bounces sometimes, that's part of the charm, I think. It's 2004 and maybe it's time that vinyl moves over. But they should invent a CD player that sounds just as warm as vinyl, and it doesn't as of yet, I think."
Things change, of course, though perhaps not as quickly as you'd imagine. For instance, when Tiesto won his first No. 1 DJ award, it was presented to him by Sir Jimmy Saville, a British eccentric he'd never heard of before. What Tiesto learned was that Saville, the first host of England's legendary "Top of the Pops" television program, was also the world's first club DJ and the first to mix two records together -- back in the early '40s!
Saville did it in 1943 in the upstairs room of a pub in Otley, West Yorkshire, after having an epiphany that people might be willing to dance to records (big-band swing was the choice at the time). A few years later, looking to cut down on time gaps between playing records on a single turntable, Saville put two of them together. Given the limited technology at the time, his mixing skills were likely minimal, and Saville surely could never have imagined the kind of show Tiesto put together in that soccer stadium 60 years on, or the myriad opportunities afforded the world's top DJ.
"You get a lot more work, and a lot more requests for collaborations with other people, as well as sponsorships, equipment, everything," Tiesto says, adding that he had to parcel out his energies carefully to finish "Just Be."
"Now it's all good. I'm doing my tour in the U.S. and after this, I'm going to take an easy summer, take a few months off and then get back to the studio."
And that vacation isn't all rest, Tiesto points out: He'll be spending it in Ibiza, the Spanish party island favored by the Euro-young and beautiful. Last year, no matter where he was DJ-ing around the world, Tiesto would fly back to Ibiza every weekend to DJ at Ibiza's version of Liverpool's world famous dance club, Cream. This year, he won't have to fly, he'll just have to roll over.
"You play once a week and the rest of the week you can lie on the beach," Tiesto says, sounding like he's already there.
DJ TIESTO -- Appearing Friday at Nation. * To hear a free Sound Bite from DJ Tiesto, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8101. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)