Tiësto Unleashes AFTR:HRS Compilation, Reflects on 2016: Exclusive
What does an electronic heavyweight listen to when he’s not busy making his own smash hits?
Today (Dec.23), Tiësto is letting us into his world in a new way with the release of a brand new compilation album comprised of 14 highlight releases from his sub-label AFTR:HRS, which launched earlier this year. In an exclusive interview with Billboard, Tiësto spoke about the passion project, his label and reflected on dance music’s (very busy) 2016.
What kinds of changes and trends have you seen in the dance market over the past year?
The biggest change we’ve seen this year is that it went a little more pop. In Europe, what I think you see in trends over there is everything went a little deeper and progressive -- so like deep house and groovier I think, and slower.
Aside from the artists on your label which young artist are you excited about?
I’m excited about a lot of artists. Like, there’s a lot of cool artists coming up from America like Slushii who is getting very popular, and Jauz and a guy from Poland called Sikdope. There’s so many. I mean, the world is full of DJ talent from everywhere.
I know that you were an early supporter of The Chainsmokers as well. Were you surprised by their success this year?
Well, I wasn’t surprised because those guys are very talented. But I guess I was surprised how big of a hit it was to be within a year. So yeah, I was surprised in that way -- pleasantly surprised of course! Yeah but I’m very proud of them because I’ve known them before all those hits, and they were always looking for cool stuff to do and looking for great songs.
What was the process like in putting this compilation together?
It’s not necessarily music that I’m going to play out but I like to listen to it when I’m on the beach, or on holiday or in my car. It’s more like a mellow kind of dance music, but it still kind of has a bit of a beat so it’s still kind of uplifting in a way. So that was like my first thought, like, “I want to put out a compilation like that because no one really does that.” And it’s always been my hobby so it’s like a little side project for me. It’s been like a process for a year. Just every month I find a new track and sign them on to my label and that’s the stuff I’ve collected over the last year I think, so it’s like an ongoing process. And it reminds me a little bit of like the older trance tracks I used to make back in the day -- the same melancholic feeling in the tracks and it’s like more a little bit emotional and warm. So yeah, more melancholic music I think.
What motivated you to make a new label for deep house and how did the label come about?
The motivation is that this is so different than what I normally do on festivals. I feel like when I play a big festival or a big concert, I play musical freedom. And musical freedom stands for everything I can play, but everything is still very uplifting and it could be an indie track or a rock track and it’ll still be that uplifting energy. And for AFTR:HRS I really wanted to make a mellow, chill kind of vibe, so more like warmer and relaxing house music.
There have been multiple reports about a possible Swedish House Mafia reunion. Do you think that would be a good thing for dance music?
I think it would be great for dance music. The guys are doing pretty well solo but together they are pretty special so I would think, yeah if they can make more tracks like they did -- like “One” and the “Don’t You Worry Child” it would be great for dance, absolutely!
We’re coming to the end of the year, so for you personally what has been a highlight and a lowlight for you in 2016?
Well, the low, most negative thing for me this year was that I had to cancel my show in Peru this year. I was already backstage and then there was all the trouble with people climbing the fences and stuff. So it wasn’t a very safe environment to play so we had to cancel that show. But you have your high and low point, and that was my low point for sure, to cancel that show. I just hate cancelling shows, you know? It’s the worst thing ever.
The highlight, you know, I’m so lucky I can name like ten things that happened. I played a lot of major festivals this summer. You know when you play a festival like Electric Daisy Carnival and you’ve got the whole crowd with you, or like Ultra Miami. Those are two amazing festivals for me to play. This year was really great, I made a lot of great remixes, like with Calum Scott, “Dancing On My Own.” I did a mix with DJ Snake and Justin Bieber, “Let Me Love You,” Calvin Harris “My Way.” For Niall Horan, “This Town,” so I remixed a lot of big artists. They all asked me for a remix like that was definitely a big honor for me as well, that all these big guys asked me for remixes.
What else do you want fans to take away from the compilation?
I can just say I’m very proud of the compilation, it really came together well. It’s been a very nice journey and I think it’s a very cool Tiësto compilation. I think people who like me from the beginning — who liked me when I first started DJing and was playing all trance — they will appreciate this compilation as well because it has a lot of melodic sounds. And I think the people who used to like that style will appreciate this compilation as well, as well as the new people.