Evening falls in Hamburg, Germany. Tiësto finishes up his last set of interviews with local television reporters to speak about his new album "Just Be" (iTunes).The superstar DJ (alias Tijs Verwest, ) is on a whirlwind tour of European cities to promote the highly anticipated record and its the first single "Loves Comes Again."
Earlier this year, at the trend-setting Winter Music Conference in South Beach, Tiësto received the "Best Global DJ/Producer" award, beating other favorites such as Paul Oakenfold and Peter Rauhofer. Also, the respected DJ Magazine put Tiësto miles ahead of the DJ rat pack by naming him the world’s No. 1 DJ for 2002 and 2003.
While Tiësto is larger than life in Europe and Asia, he is mostly unknown stateside. But he doesn't think that's necessarily a bad thing. "I'm always recognized by people in Europe when I go out," he tells Arjan. “But it is sort of cool that I’m still very underground in the States and considered very cutting-edge to a smaller number of fans."
Tiësto's uneven popularity exposes a key difference between American and European music taste. It is virtually unthinkable in our country that a techno act like Tiësto would surpass Usher, Hoostabank or Beyonce in the Billboard rankings. Fact is that this is a nation of rock, country and R&B, and dance music remains mostly an underground affair for a small number of aficionados.
It is evident that Tiësto can no longer be considered your run-of-the-mill club DJ. He is a remixer, composer, producer and a true pop idol. "You can say that I'm a new type of pop medium," says the Dutch native. "It does not happen often that a DJ not only mixes and produces, but also writes so much of his own music and lyrics."
"Just Be" is Tiësto's second non-remix record that includes almost all original tracks. He combines relentlessly hypnotizing beats, mesmerizing vocals and seductive synth hooks to create his signature blend of mind-altering pop trance.
The album features two distinctly different production perspectives. There are a number of instrumental, climatic trance tracks, but Tiësto has also included more accessible, radio-friendly songs that feature guest vocalists, including the progressive dance guru/singer BT.
The opening track "Forever Today" is a good example of how Tiësto likes to make music. It kicks off with a classical string section that lasts for almost two minutes before it breaks down into a pulsating dance track.
Surprisingly, Tiësto does not have any musical education. Most of his songwriting is intuitive and based on his experience spinning music and listening to others. "I often just play around with a keyboard in my studio to come up with melodies," says the DJ heavyweight. "I also work with a classical composer to play and fine-tune the parts."
Unlike many DJ albums, "Just Be" is a very personal affair with many autobiographical stories. "I’m still growing as a DJ and producer, but I felt the time was right to move beyond the work I do at the turntable," he says. "Most of the ideas for the songs came about when I was touring last year. The lyrics in particular are very special to me."
The song "UR" is the undisputed centerpiece of the record that shows off Tiësto’s potential as an artist/producer. Its alt-synth arrangement and haunting male vocals resemble the early sounds of electronica heroes Radiohead.
The lyrics of this song are taken from his own life experience and appear cathartic. "It is about the flipside of love, the overwhelming fear of loosing that special person in your life," Tiësto explains.
The song "Walking On Clouds" with guest vocalist Kirsty Hawkshaw also deals with love and relationships. "It was very important to me to write songs that were honest and from the heart," he says. "So many dance-oriented music is very superficial and cliché."
Now that a large part of his European promo tour is wrapping up, he is gearing up for a hectic summer schedule with a lot of long haul jetting to meet fans and make many new ones.
"I’m really excited about coming to the States," he says. "I have a lot of fans in Atlanta, Miami and San Francisco. Those cities are always a lot of fun to play, because there is a great club scene."