These days, trance music isn’t just about banging it out at 138 beats-per-minute (not that we mind), nor does it make American clubbers wrinkle their noses and go running off looking for commercial house anymore, either. Dutch import W&W, a.k.a. 24-year-olds Ward van der Harst and Willem van Hanegem, are producers helping the cause, with massive support from the trance messiah himself, Armin van Buuren. Thanks to their double album Impact, as well as Beatport chart-topping track “Lift Off!,” W&W’s fan base continues to grow. Catch them next at Marquee on January 26. Meanwhile, van der Harst fills us in on the rise of W&W and what’s next.
Trance has been around for ages and is largely embraced by European clubgoers. How does W&W go about attracting a wider American audience that generally prefer commercial house?
Trance is getting more popular right now in the U.S., which is a very good thing, and you can see that in big festivals as well. But the trance that’s getting more popular is the new-school trance the younger guys are doing. The older [style of] trance is having a little bit more of a hard time in the U.S. House music has become so big, but people are going to search for more in other genres. They are hungry for more music.
What is the key to making legit trance tracks these days without sounding dated, but still preserving the spirit of the music?
It’s very important that we use a slightly slower BPM [beats per minute], which allows more space in between the beats for a groove. Because a groove is not something you find a lot in trance. We try to use house grooves and more danceable grooves in the melody of trance music. That’s one of the key elements that makes our kind of trance music a little bit different than the older trance music.
Legend has it that you and Willem had “a chance meeting at Trance Energy,” but what exactly does that mean? Did one of you drop a glow stick and the other pick it up? Were you standing in line for the restroom together?
We were on this program called Windows Live Messenger, and all the small producers would chat and send each other music. But we didn’t actually meet each other [in person]. At a certain point we were all going to this event called Trance Energy—which doesn’t exist anymore—but we ended up having a [meet-up] with a lot of young producers there. That’s where we met each other for the first time. But we didn’t actually produce anything together for the first six, seven months. We just started to hang out and party. We were both producing our own stuff, but felt like maybe we could do something together—and that first track [“Mustang”] was actually the best track that we ever did. We sent it to Armin, he played it on his radio show, agreed to sign us to his label and that’s how we got started.
Before you two teamed up, how did you fill your days to support your production habit and did you study music at all?
Willem was studying economics. I had some shitty job actually, so I was lucky to do this! My dad is a guitar builder, and that side of the family is very musical, so I kind of got into music because of that. But it’s not that I can read [music] notes and stuff, so it doesn’t really go to a very high level in terms of musical education.
W&W has collaborated with Ummet Ozcan for an as-yet-untitled single. Is that coming out soon?
It’s a collaboration coming up on Hardwell’s Revealed Recordings label in the next month. It’s sought after a lot, and we play it in our sets every time and it’s going off. We’re looking forward to releasing it.
You’ve played Las Vegas a few times. From a Dutch perspective, what are your impressions?
The first time we actually got to Vegas was last year during [Electric Daisy Carnival]. We were supposed to play there, but the whole sandstorm thing ruined it for us. We still had a great time, and went to Marquee to see Armin play. That was the first time we went to Marquee as well—amazing club. First time we played there, I liked it a lot, so I’m looking forward to playing there again in January.
Do you think W&W will get an Electric Daisy do-over?
It’s up to Insomniac [Events; operators of EDC]. They decide. But we would love to play there.
How about an official residency here in Las Vegas for 2013?
That is a possibility; I’m not sure, though. That’s all the stuff that our agency does. We just get the news when it’s all done. Maybe we have to [prove we can] play good first. [Laughs.