First he told fans to “Put Your Hands Up” for your favorite city. He then encouraged us to get “Freaky,” among other lushly saturated electro-goodness offerings. Dutch dance-music maestro Fedde le Grand still has a handle on keeping it fresh in an often formulaic world. Coming in at No. 14 on DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs poll, and with two new International Dance Music Awards, he’ll be rocking it next at Electric Daisy Carnival on June 8 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Going way back, one of your first singles was titled “Las Vegas.” Now others have gotten on board with Las Vegas-related tracks, but what inspired you back in 2004?
A lot has changed—not so much the city itself—but music-wise. When I first started traveling, I’d hardly been anywhere. The first few times going to Vegas was what it is for most people: You have imagined it, you have this excitement about it. I walked around so long I had blisters on my feet just because I liked it so much.
You seem to have an ear for a hook before it catches on. Your 2008 track “Wild and Raw” drew from Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.” That catchy “Oh, sometimes I get a good feeling” hook also appeared in 2011 on Avicii’s “Le7els.” What are your thoughts when you hear something you already did a few years prior?
That’s true, but I think in the case of “Le7els” it’s more a sample that he found and fit well, or probably based the whole track around the sample. So in this case, I don’t think he meant to copy something. I’m totally fine with it.
Do you ever hear something and go, “Wait a minute? I’ve been there, I’ve done that”?
Yeah, here and there. It’s very funny sometimes, especially because I work with some of them as well. I know this kid who is literally 16 years old, he’s starting to produce and they sometimes think they’ve invented something, but you’ve already been there—not necessarily by me, but in general. House music’s been around for so long, but it’s cool when stuff gets reinvented and has new life to it.
You also worked with artists such as Will.i.am before others jumped on that bus. What do you think about the direction EDM has taken as of late?
It’s good and it’s bad. I think it’s very good, because I can only be happy for the fact that more people get exposed to this music, because I love it and the more the merrier. But on the other hand, when something gets really commercial, it kind of loses its soul a little bit, you know what I mean?
There’s more business involved, people don’t always tend to make music from their hearts, but it’s more likely to sell so, “Let’s make this 15 times over again and at least we have a nice [bank] statement at the end of the year.” So that’s what I regret a little bit. On the other hand, the main thing is that there will always be room for underground. I’m lucky because over the years I’ve conquered my own spot, people accept me for what I do, who I am. That’s actually a blessing and why I am a bit more free, maybe, to do whatever I want in comparison to some other artists.
Your set at Nocturnal Wonderland last September in San Bernardino, Calif., stood out as one of the best I heard all year. What is your approach to festival sets?
You always want to come prepared and bring something new to the table instead of—how should I say this politely—just do what you normally do. That’s very important, especially now because music is available to pretty much everyone—as soon as it’s out you can get it. So you have to put in extra effort to make sure that you have the latest tracks, the newest tracks that you made a few extra edits yourself. That’s very important, to distinguish yourself from everyone else.
When can we look forward to another artist album?
At the moment I’m working on a new album. I have the first four tracks pretty much ready and we’re probably going to do the first single end of this year, beginning of next year.
Thanks to the Internet, EDM artists are increasingly focusing on releasing single tracks or EPs rather than full-length albums. What do you think is the best thing about having an artist album for fans?
Actually, exactly for the reason that you say. Because everything is available and you can access it so quick and there’s a unlimited amount, I think an album in general is one of the few things that you’re actually willing to really own—physically not only digitally. From an artist point of view, it’s just great because, in general, if you do an album, people don’t think it’s weird if you do one to four tracks that are different from what you normally do. Creatively it has more options than when you just do singles. It’s cool because you can do an album tour, you can do an album show, connect more things to it than when it’s a single release.
You haven’t done an FLG TV episode in a while. Will that be coming back?
Yeah, for sure. It’s actually funny because the camera guy I do it with, I connected him to Ultra—which is great for him. He did the last Ultra movie which is great, but that’s kind of why he didn’t have that much time for a whole new episode. But he will be with me this summer so there will probably be a new episode finally. It’s been a while, you’re right.
What music inspired you when you were younger?
I remember when I was really young and I wasn’t allowed to go out yet. I had this friend that lived a few houses away from me and he told me, “Okay, I have this pirate radio station and I tape it every night, it starts at 2 o’clock until 4 and you have to listen to it, it’s the coolest music ever.” So that was the first time I heard of [electronic music] and was like, “Whoa! What is this?” and was very interested. Then later on when I was a bit older, I had friends who were really into dance music and they took me to my first party because before that I listened to a little bit of everything, a lot of hip-hop as well. But I kind of got fed up with hip-hop a bit when it was too much about all this gangsta B.S. and “I have 15 cars and 60 women” and whatever. So I didn’t really know what I liked so they took me to this party where at that point one of the best Dutch DJs was playing and I was hooked right away. I was like, “What is this? It’s amazing and everyone’s so friendly and artsy!” I felt right at home, so after that it never let me go and I started to play and later on started to produce.