Don Diablo: Next Big Thing

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Text Sofea Shah

The Netherlands is home to the biggest names in EDM, ranging from the likes of Tiesto, Ferry Corsten to Armin Van Buuren, but here’s another name to add to your Dutch superstar DJ list – Don Diablo. Garnering an archive of heavyweight tunes, this is the man behind party anthems like ‘Animale’ with Dragonette, ‘Make You Pop’ with Diplo and ‘Hooligans’ with Example. Before allowing the man himself to fire up your neurons on a night of exploding euphoria, here’s a little get-to-know him session.

In these past few years, EDM has really exploded into the mainstream, what do you think has led to this sudden evolution?
Well, I guess you said it right there, it was an evolution, not a revolution. The genre itself has slowly developed, the artists have developed and the events have become more professional and better structured. Daytime radio across the globe playing more and more dance records has definitely contributed as well.

How do you think bedroom DJs contribute to the music scene. Is their existence vital in the structure?
Good music and innovating artists are the most vital supplements for any genre of music. Today’s bedroom DJs are tomorrow’s superstar DJs. Injecting fresh ideas into a growing scene and in that sense, they are definitely vital.

What feelings or emotions are you trying to evoke with your music?
I am a bit all over the place, I like creating riots on the dance floor but I also love the more emotional side of music. That’s why I love creating bangin’ tunes for my DJ sets as well as orchestral music for movies and other visual media. My forthcoming EP is called Lights Out and it’s definitely an EP for the dance floor and the next EP will include more tracks for home listening and is not really intended for the dance floor. The variation of music and exploring different emotions is what keeps it exciting for me.

How do you keep yourself humble despite the never ending media attention, which keeps honouring you with titles such as the best dressed man?
I just remember where I came from and how I grew up. I was a 15 year old fat kid with a computer as his best friend; all I wanted to do was create new and exciting music to build my own self-confidence and to prove to myself that I wasn’t a total loser. Nothing much has changed since then to be honest, I am still fighting those inner demons in a world filled with millions of competitors.

How do you like to party when you are not behind the decks?
The short answer to that is: I don’t! When I am not out DJing, I like spending quality time with the people who are dear to me. I am also a big movie addict so whenever I can, I try to see as many movies as I can. To me movies are like a short holiday in my head.

Are you a risk taker and if so, have you taken a risk that has changed your life completely?
If you don’t take any risks in life, you will never win… It’s as simple as that! I take personal risks on a daily basis, some bigger than others, but I am always fighting boredom and the inevitable Groundhog Day feeling. I get bored really easy, which explains the fact that you will find a plethora of different activities on my curriculum vitae. My latest adventure is leaving my life in Amsterdam behind, signing a record deal with Columbia Records and moving to London away from everyone and everything I am familiar with.

Most of a DJ’s life is spent on tours and on flights. How do you manage that year after year?
I try to live as healthy as possible, make sure I have the best possible flight times and take enough time off to be creative in the studio as well.

What qualities does a DJ need to keep surviving and evolving in the industry?
A clear vision, skills, a thick skin and a bit of business sense as well.

How would you like to retire from the scene and if you ever plan to do so later, how will you form your own exit?
I would go out in a blaze of glory. Throw a big party, invite all of my friends and hardcore fans, do the final show and then disappear to another country after that.

Name 3 of your favourite desserts?
Dr. Oetker is the best: Gries Intens and Wolkentoetje Vanille are my favourites. Danio luchtige kwark strawberry is also up there in my top 3 though. Oh, and you can always wake me up for a nice panna cotta.

If you can change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
Better warm up DJs at events would definitely be at the top of my list, it seems like a lost art. Nowadays, DJs, who are on early, are already bangin’ it out like no tomorrow even before the doors open. This doesn’t contribute to the night as a whole and makes it hard to build a decent musical attention span throughout the whole night.

You have a bachelor’s degree in journalism, how do you make use of it?
I interview myself in my sleep. Besides that, I’ve learned how to edit videos during my study, which comes in handy now for music videos and video diaries.

You are one of the first ambassadors of Dance4Life, an international UN-supported action campaign to fight against HIV and AIDS. How has the experience served you on a personal level?
Going to South Africa, visiting aids orphanages and hospitals filled with people who were literally at the end of their (short) lives have helped me to put everything in perspective. We are blessed to live the lives we are living right now and we should never take anything for granted.

You have been releasing songs on your blog; the response from your fans has been overwhelming. How do other DJs appreciate what you do and do you think others should adapt to the style as well?
I have been releasing tracks through my own blog, but also through a heap load of other blogs across the globe. I have been very fortunate with their support, as it has basically brought me to where I am today. All my collaborations with Diplo, Example and Dragonette happened thanks to the fact that my tracks and remixes were popping up all over the Internet. My music even ended up in several episodes of CSI thanks to the fact that the US music supervisors also pay close attention to what’s going on at popular music websites like The Hypemachine. For me it has never been about the money or having a top 10 record at Beatport, I just want to share my music with as many people as possible and in that sense I can advise any producer to do the same, in the end you will always get what you deserve.

This will be your first time in Kuala Lumpur, what can the fans expect from you?
They can expect a big mash up of musical styles, a lot of exclusive unreleased music and a lot of energy.

You have the floor, any shout out to your fans?
I am looking forward to playing in Malaysia for the first time and want to thank all the Malaysian fans for sending me messages, tweets and homemade cookies to make sure I would come over to Kuala Lumpur one day! Let’s make it a night to remember!

Tell us that you’re ready for this mammoth of an event on 10 August because we’re ecstatic! Win a pair of invites to the event by joining our contest here. For more information on the event, click here

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