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A Conversation With D.J. Tiesto,

Aired August 28, 2012 - 03:30:00   ET


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: He's been called the world's greatest D.J. With some 18 years behind the deck, the master spinner has hundreds of records to his name, plays sold out concerts all throughout the year and raked in $23 million in 2011, putting him firmly on Forbes list of the World's Most Powerful Celebrities. But it wasn't until 2001, he caught the ear of mainstream audiences with his remake of this song by Delerium. Since then he's worked with some of the world's biggest chart-topping artists including Gotye.


And Kanye West.


This week Talk Asia sits down with the multi-award winning artist and Grammy nominated D.J. Tiesto to find out what's next on his list.


COREN: Tiesto, welcome to Talk Asia.

TIESTO: Thank you.

COREN: You are considered the world's greatest D.J. It's a title you've held for a decade. How do you do it?

TIESTO: I don't know. It's a nice compliment though, thank you. I -- I just do my thing and travel around the world, produce a lot of music and D.J. arenas, clubs and people seem to like it. So, now it's my life.

COREN: For people who are not familiar with your music, how would you describe it?

TIESTO: It's electronic dance music. So it has a fast beat and very melodic. A lot of vocals and it's very happy, uplifting.


COREN: Is that how you find it when you're out there on stage?

TIESTO: Yeah. It makes people smile, you know? It makes me smile and it's happy, like at a party. It's party music.

COREN: Well you're from the Netherlands. And the Dutch are known for their love of electronic music. Where does that come from?

TIESTO: I don't know? You know we almost embrace it from our neighbors. It originated back in Belgium, I think and 1988. It was called New Beat. And I think the South of Holland thoroughly embraced it and then it -- it got totally for the whole country and since then it's been big in all of the '90's and still -- still going strong.

COREN: I believe that you had started D.J.-ing when you were like 14- years-old at -- at house parties, is that right?

TIESTO: Yeah, that -- you know parties for the students and, you know, birthday parties, played for my friends. But really when I was like 19, is when I went most to clubs.

COREN: So when did you decide that this was no longer a hobby and that you would make it your career?

TIESTO: I think like probably 15 years ago. And then I was like, you know, I can make money with this because it's crazy, because it's (inaudible.) And if I can make money with it Then I started my own record label and started to sell CD's and it went pretty well. With my first release, I sold more than 30,000 copies. And it was, for me, phenomenal you know? And then from then on, everything got bigger and better.

COREN: So what do you think sets you apart from the rest? I mean what's the difference between a D.J. and -- and you?

TIESTO: Well I think the big difference is that I am a real D.J., you know? I know -- I know -- I can read a crowd pretty well. I know what to play and know how to keep it interesting for them and for myself as well. Most of the other D.J.'s are more like producers so they become famous because they make hits and then they start D.J.-ing. But I'm more from the other way around.

So, you know I -- I was a D.J. first. I started producing later. So for me, it's easier to, I guess read the crowd and adjust to the crowd wherever I am. I can play in Hong Kong. I can play in New York. It will be completely different sets, but both crowds will be going home happy.


COREN: What is it like when you look out at the crowd, at the sea of people? And everyone is flocking to the music that you're playing?

TIESTO: Well first of all, I'm thinking like, "These guys are all here for me? Wow? This is amazing." And you know I always look around, who's in the crowd? And I really try to interact. I really see the people who I play for.

COREN: Tell me, where do you draw your inspiration from?

TIESTO: It's just a lifestyle. It's -- it's not one thing. You know it's just like you life this life, traveling around the world, staying in the best hotels, eating at the best restaurants, playing at the best parties. You meet so many interesting people around the world. And I think that all together it makes you make this kind of music. And then you play a set where you're like, Wow! This part of the set went really well so I want to make something in the style that it fits there. And I always try to think about tracks I can use in my sets.

COREN: You're in Hong Kong tonight, Korea tomorrow.


COREN: God knows where after that.

TIESTO: Like (ph) Ibiza?

COREN: Right. OK, you've played for a thousand people up to several hundred thousand people. What do you prefer?

TIESTO: That's what I love about it. You know, it's never the same, you know? I can play sometimes for 500 people at a very exclusive party or a guest party or, you know a private party. And then sometimes you play for 60,000 people in Miami or even more. And that's what I like about it, it's always different. And I like -- I like both. It's a very different setting, different energy. But it's both, very nice.

COREN: Do you get nervous before you go on stage?

TIESTO: Yeah. Yeah. Not really that crazy nervous, but you do get like, you know the -- the adrenaline pumping. Like you feel like, OK you know, I've go to deliver.

COREN: What is the greatest gig that you've played?

TIESTO: I think one of the greatest gigs I played and we've had many, but to play the opening ceremony at -- at the Olympic games in Athens 2004 was pretty special, you know? Because it's such a big deal for the whole world. And the whole world's watching. So that was definitely one of the special ones. But, you know like I said, I had many.

COREN: You were the first D.J. to play at an Olympic games. I mean that must have been amazing recognition.

TIESTO: Yeah. Not just for me but for our scene. And I think we definitely started something there, like in 2004-2005, people recognized the dance music more than before. And especially with me playing at the Olympic games it was a big story. You know it was a headlining story everywhere, so. And it was amazing to be part of that.

COREN: I read that you once performed a -- a set for 12 hours in Amsterdam.

TIESTO: Yeah, it was an experiment, you know? You know in Amsterdam people party from 10:00 in the evening till 10:00 in the morning so I just wanted to give them the -- the whole journey. But -- so, I wouldn't do that again.

COREN: No? Why not?

TIESTO: It was pretty tiring. It was a lot of fun, but you know playing for 12 hours straight is -- it's very tough.

COREN: You have a lifestyle that people only dream of. You travel around the world in your private jet. You hang out with the beautiful, the rich and the famous. Describe a day in your life?

TIESTO: Well like I said, every day is different, you know? In one week I did three or four parties. I played at Medisa (ph.) I played in Bulgaria on the beach. I played Nicosa until 7:00 in the morning. I played at Carnegie West, you know on a private party. I met super model Kate Upton. So many -- I forget their names, but that's just one week, you know? Every week something else.

COREN: I mean did you come from a privileged background? Or is --


COREN: -- is it something that -- OK.

TIESTO: The opposite, actually.

COREN: Right.

TIESTO: I came from a pretty poor background so to make it all the way here is pretty spectacular. It's like a mad dream.


COREN: There are plenty of women who -- who throw themselves at you. Or at least they -- they throw their underwear at you on stage?

TIESTO: The girls just throw their bra at me. I mean what are you going to do with that? "Oh, thanks. Let's get married now."



ANNOUNCER: The greatest D.J. in the world!

ANNOUNCER 2: He is your Led Zeppelin. He is your Bon Jovi. He is your U2.

TIESTO: Today we play in two different continents. We play in Europe, Paris, and Marrakesh and Ibiza. This one ends at 12:00 so we meet here on the jet at 1:00 and it's a three hour flight and it's a two hour time difference so we arrive there at 2:30-3:00 in the morning.


COREN: You (inaudible) series in the booth, and your life certainly looks very glamorous, is it?

TIESTO: Yeah, I think it's very glamorous. And -- and it -- but most -- I think in the booth shows you how much fun I have. You know it's all very natural, just travel around and have fun and play parties and --

COREN: But is there hard work involved?

TIESTO: Of course, you know? I work day and night. I mean I'm always on the road, always traveling. Always working in the studio or working on doing my gigs, so there's not much spare time indeed.

COREN: You must be nocturnal. Because it is 10 to one in the morning and we're doing this interview.


TIESTO: You know for me, I came from Spain so I tried to stay on European timezone. So I went to bed today at 2:00 pm. and I slept till 9:00 so for me it's technically morning. So, good morning.


COREN: But for you we are willing to -- to stay up.

TIESTO: Thank you.

COREN: How often do you see daylight?

TIESTO: Pretty often. I play till daylight sometimes.


COREN: Drugs, obviously are a big part of the dance music scene. Has that been a part of your life over the years?

TIESTO: No. It's never been. So I mean, it's never been a big -- big deal. And I must say though, I think the drug scene was more in the '90's I think like in the beginning of 2000's. Because there's a lot of hip-hop kids taking ecstasy when I go to a hip-hop show. So it's kind of a rock -- in rock people take cocaine probably. So I think it's the same with our genre. It's probably part of it, but it's not the upper tone anymore.

COREN: And what about D.J'.s? I mean other -- other D.J.'s that you've worked with?

TIESTO: I think the new generation of D.J.'s is very clean and very focused on their work and focused on their careers. And you -- you can't afford to do drugs on stage, you know? There's always the exception I guess of an Amy Winehouse of the D.J.'s somewhere. But I think in general it just doesn't work like that, you know? People -- D.J.'s know they have one chance and one chance only so they have to make the most out of it. And, yeah you can't let that go to pieces with drugs.

COREN: Now, you mentioned a little bit earlier that you don't have a lot of spare time. So I'm wondering how it's affected your -- your social life? You've dated some beautiful women. You were engaged briefly. What is your relationship status at the moment?

TIESTO: That's the only part -- downer about it, you know? It's very hard to -- to have a social life. And -- yeah I focus -- I focus on my career so everything else got off for that. So, yeah. Hopefully in the future I can get it together, my social life. But at the moment it's very off.

COREN: Is -- is marriage and children part of the plan for you?

TIESTO: Yes. For sure. I mean I would love to fall in love and get married and have beautiful children. I mean that's one of the goals in life, I think to have and it's a beautiful thing. My sister has kids and all my friends have kids. They show me their, you know their report cards. And I can show them my sports car.


COREN: Well I know that there are plenty of women who -- who throw themselves at you, at least they throw their underwear at you on stage.

TIESTO: Yeah, bikini underwear for sure.


TIESTO: Yeah, but you know what, that's just a different thing. I mean that's just more fun and I couldn't see that as -- as something realistic, you know? I could never date a girl who just throws her bra at me. I mean, what are you going do with that? "Oh, thanks. Let's get married now."


COREN: Keep it as a souvenir.


COREN: And the other question that I -- I'm intrigued to know the answer, obviously electronic music is -- is what you do. But what do you listen to other than dance music?

TIESTO: I listen to a very -- variety of music. Like, I love Kanye West for example. But I love rock music as well like the Maccabees, or I love Secret Rose, very beautiful music. Anything that comes in my path like Santigold? I love Santigold's new album.

COREN: Now, according to my research, you earn something like $250,000.00 a week. Forbes claims that you earned $23 million last year and that you --


COREN: -- that you're at the top 100 list as far as world's highest earning celebrities going. That's not bad for a D.J.?

TIESTO: That's not bad, right? Yeah it's great. I mean I'm glad I can make so much money with -- with what I -- with what I love to do, you know? I would do it -- if I made 1 percent of that, I would still do the same thing, you know. It's -- it's a nice bonus. I mean I guess it comes with the job, but it's amazing.

COREN: But how have you made it so lucrative?

TIESTO: I -- I don't really -- I have a management who does that for me. You know I -- I have very good people around me who see business opportunities and they bring it to me. But I -- I'm very, very strict with that, you know? I always say like, it has to come very naturally. I could not do like an endorsement deal with something I don't care about or something that doesn't fit me as a person.

COREN: So tell me, what do you spend your money on?

TIESTO: I don't.

COREN: You don't?

TIESTO: Well I don't have any time to spend money to be honest because I'm always working.

COREN: But, if -- you know nice things. You -- you have a private jet? You have your own jet?


COREN: That's not bad.

TIESTO: That's not bad.

COREN: What about cars? Yachts? You know --

TIESTO: You know, cars --


TIESTO: Yachts -- I think yachts you always need to rent. I rent yachts.


TIESTO: That's easier.

COREN: Expensive ones?

TIESTO: Expensive ones, yeah. And clothes. I spend a lot of money on clothes. And houses, but --

COREN: How many houses do you have?

TIESTO: I have -- I don't know. A lot. I should count them.

COREN: You should.

TIESTO: But the -- the best part about being in this position is that this year I'm going to start my (inaudible.) And it's my foundation for charity. And we're going to connect the clubbers with the less fortunate and you know, try to grab people and raise as much money as possible. And then every year I'm going to take a few different projects to help and I think that's really the nice thing I can do finally to give something back to the community.


COREN: You say that you can only remix songs that you like. Are there any big artists out there who have approached you and you've had to say, sorry?


COREN: I can't do business with you?




COREN: You've collaborated with a number of artists from different genres. Gotye? Cold Play? Kanye West you mentioned before. Katy Perry? How do these collaborations come about?

TIESTO: Well basically they start off as a -- as a remix, you know? They listen to my tracks and they ask me to -- to give my vision on their track. So it's -- it's always very easy because I can only do it with the tracks that I really like. So, yeah I was really flattered when Kanye asked me to remix his song. And the Gotye song is amazing. Because the original was a big hit and then my -- my version went to double gold as well in the U.S. and that's just pretty -- pretty spectacular to have the same song in a different version and both of them work.

COREN: You said you can only remix songs that you like. Are there big artists out there who have approached you and you've had to say, sorry?


COREN: I can't do business with you.

TIESTO: Many. I can't say any names though, that would be unfair. But yes I get approached weekly by artists to remix. But, you know I say -- a lot of times say, no because I want to work on my own stuff. And I only want to do like, you know, nice stuff that I -- that I can play, that helps me in my sets.

COREN: You mentioned you work on your own stuff. You have four studio albums. How do you think your music has changed over the years?

TIESTO: It's changed dramatically. It -- it's a big difference now, like what I play now or even five years ago. Yeah the -- the more quiet groove. It feels like -- it feels like I'm a bottle of wine, you know? Although I get the -- tastier, it's just different for me.


COREN: The mainstream audience was introduced to your music when you remixed Delerium's Silence featuring the amazing vocals of Sarah McLachlan.


COREN: What was that like?

TIESTO: That was amazing. It was one of my groundbreaking moments in my career. You know that track went to number one in more than 40 countries. So that was a special moment. And -- yeah I think after that I think the whole scene went more underground actually. And it only make -- I mean it came back like two years ago. So when I remix now like Cold Play Paradise, the Gotye remix, I feel I'm in that position again.

But what Delerium did back then is what Cold Play and the Gotye release are doing for me now.

COREN: Why do you think it went underground?

TIESTO: Basically because the radio and television didn't support it at all. You know we didn't have any support from radio and television and now we have Twitter, Facebook. The world is so open, there's no censors to stuff anymore. It's -- you can find anything you want musically on the internet and that's what helped our scene a lot.


COREN: Well you are big into social media. You have a million Twitter followers, 12 million Facebook friends, a huge following on YouTube. How important is this to -- to what you're doing?

TIESTO: It's very important. You know it's -- I love it. I love Twitter, you know? I try to read everything I can on Twitter. You get so much nice feedback about stuff, you know you just put out a sentence and everybody laughs or everybody's just sending something back. It's amazing. Same with Facebook, you know? I'm a lot on Facebook and it's just -- it's just amazing. And YouTube, of course as well. You know, you -- you put put out a video and you read the comments and they're neat and it's so strong nowadays. Like -- yeah I'm really happy that I -- that I'm so big in the social media world.

COREN: What would be your advice to up and coming D.J.'s?

TIESTO: It's like becoming a famous model, you know? There's millions of beautiful women out there, but what makes the one more special than the other one? It's a bit of talent, a bit of luck and a bit of dedication, hard work. And the same for D.J.'s, you know? It's not just about being a good D.J. It's about the right music, get -- fight for every chance you get.

COREN: You are 43-years-old. How long do you see yourself doing what you're doing? Can you see yourself doing this when you're 50? 60?

TIESTO: That's a good question. I -- I have no idea. I have no idea. It could be one year. It could be six months or it could be five -- I'm very spontaneous. So I -- I just play it by ear. It could be ending soon, I think.

COREN: Really?


COREN: And why is that?

TIESTO: Well you never know. You never know. I think as soon as I don't like it anymore I will -- I will do something else. Life's too short to do something I don't like anymore and I've had the opportunity to do a lot of different stuff. So I might just change my career soon. But --

COREN: If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?

TIESTO: I would be a fashion designer. Because I love fashion and I love to make clothes and I love to dress people and, you know? I was just in a collaboration with Guess. And we designed a whole line together, Paul Marciano and I. And I really like it. It's so much fun to do.

COREN: It's been lovely to meet you. Enjoy Hong Kong.

TIESTO: Thank you. I will.

COREN: Thank you.

TIESTO: Come and party.