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Spinning to the Top

Tiesto enters lofty realm of world's most popular DJs


Among the brand name DJs whose globetrotting success has elevated them to near-mythic status -- such as John Digweed, Paul Oakenfold and Paul Van Dyke -- DJ Tiesto stands out as the youngest, newest addition to the canon. His ascendance began just seven years ago, well into Trance's emergence as a major European musical movement, and at least five years after those other DJs had begun making names for themselves.

Tiesto's emergence was quick once he started putting out albums with his friend Arny Bink on Black Hole Recordings, a label they started together. But Tiesto started much earlier, playing residencies in clubs around Holland beginning in 1985 at the tender age of 16. According to Tiesto, though, his interest in DJing began even earlier.

"I've always been attracted to music since I was a little kid," Tiesto says. "One thing that got me into (it) is I've always liked to share music with other people. When I was a little kid I was playing records for my friends, and if they enjoyed it, I enjoyed it as well. I was always the one at the birthday parties who would change the music and put something on. It's just always been very important to me."

It took almost a dozen years for Tiesto to release his own music, but once he did, things began to take off with stunning alacrity. In '97, Black Hole released his Space Age and Magik series of vinyl remixes that established him and Dutch peers Ferry Corsten, Johan Gielen and Armin Van Buuren. Those albums helped Tiesto, a.k.a. Tijs Verwest, to secure an American deal with Nettwerk, who released his 2000 Summerbreeze album to coincide with his first US tour.

The album included a remix of Delirium's "Silence" featuring Sarah McLachlan, which Tiesto reworked into a choppy synthetic sea of swooning, swelling electronics, nestled around McLachlan's angelic vocals, ringing like a siren call over the choppy churn of the music. It became a huge Trance hit, rocketing up the UK charts and peaking on the Billboard dance charts at No. 3. According to Tiesto's bio, it's also the first house track ever broadcast on daytime radio in North America.

"I heard the track in Holland, and I asked the record company if I could release it," explains Tiesto, recounting the origin of his signature tune. "There was a dance mix out of it, and I didn't really like it, so I wanted to improve the mix, and that's how I came up with the idea, and then it blew up everywhere around the world."

"Silence" made the native Dutchman an international star and sold vigorously, but, to Tiesto's apparent disappointment, it never engendered a call from the artist.

"I've never met her. I made the mix for her, and she never even called," Tiesto complains.

Of course, it did make him as an artist.

"Yeah, okay," Tiesto admits, "but it certainly would be nice to get a call, like, "you did a great job.' It'd be nice but I guess she's too busy."

It's something Tiesto can relate to. For the last four years he's been one of Trance's most sought-after DJs, regularly playing Ibiza and just about every country under the sun, performing every night of the week and selling out venues, even here in America where the embrace of dance music has been more measured.

"In the US everything is very underground compared to Europe. I see it like Europe 10 years ago, without the radio or television where the music gets promoted. So it's a big difference," Tiesto offers.

Despite his undeniable success, Tiesto expresses shock at the acceptance and love he's received everywhere he travels. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be named the world's No. 1 DJ, as he was by influential UK rag, DJ Magazine, in 2002 and 2003, the first time a DJ's ever won the spot two years in a row.

"It's still blowing my mind every week. I'm always going to new places, and every tour is getting bigger and bigger. Like this US tour, on the average night they have to send away 200-300 people. All the gigs are sold out. In Atlanta on a Wednesday night -- it's usually dead -- there were 3500 people. And the night before in Boston also sold out -- on a Tuesday night. So I'm still shocked every week," Tiesto avers.

As for what Charlotte might expect from Tiesto, he says it rests resolutely on the audience's shoulders.

"It depends on the vibe," he says. "I'm always influenced by other sounds, so I'm not afraid to use some Techno or some progressive. I like to mix it up a little bit. But the main line is still Trance."

Judging from the response of crowds so far, he's already accumulated enough followers to surpass the famous the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

DJ Tiesto plays Velocity Thursday, Dec. 9, at midnight; Scott Modie and DJ Swirl will spin beforehand. Doors open at 9pm, tickets are $20

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