Just a few years ago, Dutch superstar DJ Hardwell, real name Robbert van de Corput, would listen to the big-room trance sounds of his fellow countrymen Tiesto, Ferry Corsten and Armin van Buuren and dream of the day he’d join them at the top of the EDM world.
That day arrived more more quickly than he could have imagined, as for the past two years, Hardwell was crowned DJ Mag’s No. 1 DJ in the world on the strength of his legendary live sets.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Catch Hardwell headlining the Main Stage at Ultra on Saturday.
You’ve had a busy year – looking forward to WMC?
Always, man, always – I love Miami, and I love the Winter Music Festival. You know, it’s like an escape week for DJs, to hook up with all the other DJs, we have fun, have a drink. It’s always great fun, and there’s a lot of business going on, and it’s the best week of the year.
How many times will this be for you performing at Ultra?
2011 was my first time on a smaller stage, and 2012 was my first time on the Main Stage, so this is gonna be my fourth time on the Main Stage.
What’s it feel like out on the Main Stage?
It’s crazy, man [laughs]. You have so many festivals worldwide with the main stage and the whole cityscape in front of you, and Miami is one of the best crowds to play for. Ultra is the best – you have such great energy. It’s one of those festivals where I actually take a week off to plan for it and work on new stuff. I have a lot of new music – I think 90 percent of my set this year is unreleased. It’s not only my solo stuff, but also stuff from my label. I’m definitely gonna bang out some newer tracks.
Do you plan differently for a big festival like Ultra as opposed to a small pool party or night in a club?
What’s different from Ultra and the rest of the parties is that at Ultra you’ve only got the chance to play for an hour – at all the other shows I play for two hours, so you have the opportunity to build the night more, and at Ultra, of course, you only play with the headliners, the big boys in the business [laughs].
And on my label night, we all have fun, and I think that’s the most important thing. Besides them all being great DJs, we’re all really good friends – we’re like one big family. It’s so much fun – it’s a conference party and nobody really knows what’s gonna happen and there will be a lot of surprises during the night.
Do you like to party during your off time at the Conference, or use it to rest?
In Miami, there’s no time for rest, no way [laughs]. There’s too much partying, and I always want to meet up with all the other DJs when I’m out, visiting their parties. It’s a week of fun, and Miami has great weather. We’re basically all Dutch guys, so we’re used to s—-y weather, so we’re always enjoying Miami. Great crowds, great parties, great vibes – it’s the time of year where everybody’s playing new music, so that’s really refreshing to hear as well.
What’s been your wildest Miami moment?
I think the first time I went to Miami was in 2010. I didn’t play any gigs, but I was just there. And it was the third time for me in the United States, in Miami, spring break. I was there with Ferry [Corsten], Fedde le Grand and Funkerman, and – whoa, what can I say? It was one of the biggest inspirations in my life, to see all those parties outside of Europe. It was definitely a moment I’ll never forget.
How did you come up with the name Hardwell?
Actually, I have a Dutch last name, van de Corput, and [translated] in English you get “Hardwell.” My dad came up with the name when I was 12 years old, and I never stopped using it.
Is there anything you would change about WMC?
Nothing at all, man, I think the Conference is great in every single way. It’s a big opportunity to do business, and everyone keeps traveling there from all around the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of dance music, if you’re a manager, a label manager – whatever you do in the music business, everybody is there, connecting with each other. And it’s great to see each other in a different environment, having fun. It’s been a great thing for EDM in general, and really important for the whole industry.
You’ve been DJ Mag’s top DJ for two years in a row now – how does that feel?
Yeah, that’s amazing, man. You just have to pinch yourself to actually realize that everything is real, what’s happening. I was just that little kid playing records in his bathroom when I was 11 or 12, dreaming of a day when I’d be on top with Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, all my role models. And, well, it happened – I’m living a dream right now.