“Yesterday, we crashed a boat,” Tiësto says with a mischievous smile.
While the Dutch duo emerged unscathed, David Guetta’s dock didn’t fare as well.
“We were speeding up the boat right at his dock as a joke,” he continues. “Then we pushed the brake, but the brake didn’t work. No one got hurt. David can afford a new dock. He has a lot of money.”
The two artists relax in director’s chairs against a 7UP emblazoned backdrop to promote their new joint track, “The Only Way is Up.” While the artists have flirted with collaboration for more than two years, they only recently finished the release in a Vegas studio session.
“It’s the first track we both really liked,” says Tiësto. “It’s original, it’s new, and it has deep house elements and some old school trance elements. It’s the best of our worlds colliding together.”
“The idea came from an acapella,” says Garrix. “We liked the voice of the guy, but not the words. So we chopped it up and put some chords under it.”
With an exaggerated chopping gesture, Garrix drops his soda bottle. Tiësto confiscates it like a patronizing father, drawing laughter from those assembled. All joking aside, the decorated veteran has become a trusted mentor for the young upstart.
“Tijs and I literally talk about everything,” says Garrix. “Not just music. If I feel like shit, I can call him. I receive a lot of hate. I’m very sensitive. Tijs will be like ‘there’s one negative comment and 100 positive ones.’ He really helped me a lot.”
“It’s very rare in this industry that you are really good friends in a very genuine way with other DJs,” says Tiësto. “You know, there’s always like an agenda or something going on. But I feel Martin became a really good friend of mine. He inspires me with his energy. We inspire each other.”
A few floors up at the same hotel, one of Tiësto’s other friends is reminiscing about the set of his life. Wearing thick shades and a black print tee, Hardwell sits in the shade and shields his pale skin from the sun’s overbearing rays.
“I never expected that set to be that big,” he says of his Ultra 2013 set, which beat Swedish House Mafia’s live stream record. “The December before Ultra I had a burnout. I was completely done from working too hard and touring too much.”
Drained and bedraggled, Hardwell took January and February off to focus on producing new material. That fateful Ultra set was simply the first opportunity for him to unveil the new tunes to his fans.
“Nothing was planned beforehand — everything happened in that moment,” he says. “It started in daylight and ended at night, which was so emotional as well … The moment I was playing it, I didn’t even realize. But an hour afterwards, I was like ‘wow, what just happened?’ I was so focused on technically mixing, it took me an hour, two hours — even a year afterwards — to understand.”
Hardwell describes watching Miami Music Week become bigger and “way more professional” over the years. While the Dutch artist sees some parallels between Miami’s Winter Music Conference and his country’s Amsterdam Dance Event, he believes they remain two different beasts.
“In the beginning, WMC was only for the businesspeople, and now it’s more like spring break plus business,” he says. “More business gets done at ADE because of the weather. We don’t have any pool parties. You’re not distracted by beautiful women. Amsterdam is different. It’s a bit more serious.”
Six blocks away at the Sagamore, Nicky Romero scarfs down a sandwich with uncanny speed. The Protocol Records boss has been working on a number of new tracks, most notably, in collaboration with David Guetta and Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers.
“Niles was just tuning his guitar and he played a riff,” he says. “I used the MIDI notes to make chords under the actual melody, and that was the song. It’s really different than anything else I’ve ever produced.”
Romero hits play on his MacBook Pro. Guiding Rodgers’s guitar lick through a rock-oriented arrangement with less overt electronic drops and escalating percussive urgency, the producer’s approach is an audible departure from his main stage anthems “Toulouse” and “I Could Be the One.”
“I was downloading albums from other DJs in the industry, and while I found some really good records, I also found that most of it sounds like each other,” says Romero. “I tried to change the approach of the song. I’m not sure if it works, but I wanted to try at least. You can play it safe, but if you take no risk, you will never achieve anything amazing.”