Link to our Facebook
Link to our Instagram
Link to our TikTok

Hardwell Reflects On Legendary Career Ahead of Ultra Australia Headline Set

13 April 2023 | 2:11 pm | Cyclone Wehner

The Dutch DJ is ready to get the dance floor pumping when he heads Down Under for Ultra Australia.

More Hardwell More Hardwell

The Dutch superstar DJ Hardwell (aka Robbert van de Corput) made a triumphant comeback to the EDM scene in March 2022 as the buzz headliner at the Ultra Music Festival (UMF) in Miami, Florida after going on hiatus in 2018. Now, he's finally returning Down Under to play Ultra Australia.

Hardwell was last here in 2014, hitting the Future Music Festival, only to fly back months later with his arena spectacular I AM Hardwell.

Hailing from Breda, home to Tiësto, Hardwell was a child prodigy. The teen produced bedroom tracks and DJed – family members chaperoning him to clubs (his come-up was chronicled in the doco I AM Hardwell). Initially into hip-hop, he emerged as a purveyor of big-room house. 

Hardwell built his rep off massive original tracks like Zero 76 (with Tiësto) and Apollo (featuring Australian dance vocalist Amba Shepherd), not to mention a clubby remix of Rihanna's Where Have You Been. 

In 2013 Hardwell, then 25, became the youngest winner of the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll – the same year he rocked the UMF main stage in a record-breaking broadcast for its live stream, as well as DJed Coachella. 

Two years later, Hardwell presented an album, United We Are, with Jason Derulo featuring as a guest on the single Follow Me. 

Plug into the latest music with our FREE weekly newsletter

The DJ/producer showed entrepreneurial flair, too. Aside from running Revealed Recordings, he'd launch "a woody spicy fragrance", ECLIPSE.

But Hardwell struggled with the demands of maintaining his #1 status. In 2018, the super-DJ announced that he'd, "decided to clear my schedule indefinitely." 

Hardwell explained that "being Hardwell 24/7 leaves too little energy, love, creativity and attention for my life as a normal person," adding, "I've always dealt with all the pressure that comes with the heavy touring schedule, but for now, it felt too much, like a never-ending rollercoaster ride".

Still, Hardwell continued making music, airing the tropical house How You Love Me with English popster Conor Maynard and Snoop Dogg. Some four years into his retreat, he rematerialised to close UMF. 

Hardwell has long ventured beyond big room, reinvigorating hardstyle but also dabbling in future bass. In September he released his second album, REBELS NEVER DIE, previewed at UMF, reinventing himself sonically with a style variously proclaimed "future techno" or "future rave".

And Hardwell has been on a roll, returning to UMF last month. Consistently embracing collabs (he's cut tracks with Aussies Timmy Trumpet and Will Sparks), Hardwell recently worked alongside Brit Olly James on The Seduction EP and has teased a remix of Calvin Harris' Miracle, featuring Ellie Goulding.

PS: You're coming back to Australia – and headlining Ultra Australia. You have a strong relationship with the Ultra crew, even playing Ultra Miami for your big comeback to the circuit in 2022. What was that show, and experience, like for you?

Hardwell: It was such a surreal moment. I was extremely nervous before taking the stage, especially because this wasn't going to be a familiar Hardwell show for the fans. But I had no hesitation about what I was about to do – and the reception from the fans was just fucking amazing! 

I've played countless shows in my life, but you can't prepare for an event like that. It was like nothing I've ever experienced at a show before. 

Ultra is like a second home for me, so it feels good to be back playing for the Ultra family, but this time in Australia. I can't wait!

PS: You have achieved a lot in your career as a DJ and producer. But what are you most proud of?

Hardwell: Of course winning awards, playing dream shows, and so much more are all hugely proud moments. But, honestly, I'm just super proud about the scene and community we've created. 

All those years when I was trying to break through – making music in my studio, hoping people were going to like it – now we're here talking about a global community of dance music fans; the energy and love, both at the shows and online, it's incredible. 

I missed that energy so much during my sabbatical, so I'm super happy to be back and a part of it again.

PS: As a DJ and producer, you are very diverse, having moved from early EDM to hardstyle and lately techno. But you have also collaborated with artists like Craig David (No Holding Back) and Snoop Dogg. Where is your head at stylistically in 2023? What sounds or styles are you into?

Hardwell: I've always believed that, if you like an artist, then why imprison them to one particular style – instead support the direction they're going, because it might gift you something new that you like. 

I have a love for all kinds of music so want to be able to bring in a lot of these passions into my sound and sets. Right now I'm exploring a hard-edged sound, but I'm also working on a more radio-friendly sound, too, as well as playing around with a new vocal track, and [doing] many other projects in the studio. So there's a lot still yet to come.

PS: You famously took a four-year hiatus, starting in 2018. How did you spend that time – and how important was it for you to step away from the scene?

Hardwell: It was super important. I was terrified of taking a break from the scene because I thought it would mean the end of my career. 

But, honestly, knowing what I know now, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I'd really grown as an artist, more than I had ever expected, but I never grew as a person because I was always in Hardwell mode, 24/7; always working on music, on the road touring, flying over 200 flights each year, but would never really take time out for myself. 

So I made a bold decision to step away and just go and be me again – to live a normal life as Robbert and recharge myself. I continued to make music, but I also got to spend a lot of time with family and friends – something I'd not really done for over 10 years with the touring I was doing.

PS: Many in the electronic/dance scene admired you for taking time out as it led to conversations about the importance of self-care and well-being. Do you think there is now a greater understanding of that issue in the wider music industry?

Hardwell: I do – and I'm happy to see that this issue is being addressed with much more understanding now. 

We are all guilty of pouring pressure on ourselves, but being in your creative artist mode 24/7 leaves too little time and energy for anything else to be a normal person – which over time will be detrimental to your health and well-being, especially when you're doing over 200 flights a year. 

So, yeah, I think it's really important this issue is being addressed more now. Whilst I look back on that time with fond memories, I'm happy that I decided to bring my touring schedule down and find a better balance to be able to spend time at home in my studio and on the road.

PS: Last year you released an album, REBELS NEVER DIE. Not many electronic/dance artists still do albums, so we love that you did that. What can you tell us about the album?

Hardwell: I knew that, when I was ready to come back, I had to make a statement. I didn't want to return and go back to playing the same music, or even 50 per cent of old and new. 

I needed it to be 100 per cent fresh. I never set out to make an album but ended up with so much music it made sense to do it as an album. 

Plus, I still love the album format so releasing a new album was an exciting project that would tie in nicely with the concept of the REBELS NEVER DIE live show.

PS: Do you see yourself as a rebel?

Hardwell: People always tell me I'm a rebel when I'm on stage and in the decisions I make music-wise so, yeah, I guess I am!

PS: There is an epic mash-up of F*CKING SOCIETY and Metallica's Nothing Else Matters on the album. What was the feedback from Metallica on it? Was it hard to release officially? 

Hardwell: Thanks – glad you like it. F*CKING SOCIETY was a project which took me forever to finish. I think, in total, it was a little over three years to complete the song. 

I played around with countless ideas but just couldn't find the right chords to fit the break. So the mash-up idea kind of came out of this period of writer's block, as I was constantly thinking of other ideas for the track. 

Eventually, I managed to nail it, on version 72 – but, man, for a track with a simple hook, it took me so long to finish it. Thankfully Metallica and their publishing company Creeping Death Music liked the track and cleared the track for the official release – which was a great moment because I love their music.

PS: During the pandemic, a lot of people became nostalgic for older music. I wondered if you felt the same – and what music you like to revisit?

Hardwell: Well, the premise of REBELS NEVER DIE was me reconnecting with the music and styles that first got me into the scene. 

As a kid first experiencing dance music, I discovered the sounds of tech-trance – so, for example, early Marco V and Mauro Picotto tracks. 

There was a fusion of trance and techno in there that I always loved – and this led me to dig further into my music collection. As an artist known for big room, I kind of sheltered my appetite for the techy, harder-edged stuff, which is what fans are hearing me create now. 

I was already exploring old sounds and music I was into before the pandemic hit, so it's the way things were evolving for me anyway. I knew in my mind I wanted to rekindle that side of my musical taste – both as a fan of the music I like and the music I make.

PS: The music scene is always changing with new hybrid styles – and other sounds making a return. Do you have any predictions for EDM? Are there any changes you would like to see happen?

Hardwell: I think the whole electronic dance music scene is in a positive place right now. It's not been an easy few years for the scene. 

Sadly, we've lost some good clubs and events because of the pandemic. But the scene has been resilient, with many more events and parties coming back stronger. It's good to see a more inclusive culture happening in the scene and, as a music fan who loves all types of electronic music, it's great to see so many new artists and genres getting the spotlight they deserve.

PS: What can we look forward to when you hit Ultra Australia?

Hardwell: A lot of new music and many surprises. I'm super pumped for this show. It's been so long since I've been back in Australia and had a chance to connect with the fans there. 

I've put a huge amount of work and effort into this set, so it's going to be something incredible. 

PS: Lastly, do you have any new music or projects coming up that we can look forward to?

Hardwell: Because of the REBELS NEVER DIE album, which was obviously made before my comeback show at ULTRA Miami last year, I have so many new songs and collaborations ready to come out. 

But, because it takes a while to release all the music, I have so many exciting solo and collaborations projects just waiting to go. 

A few I played during my show at Ultra Miami last month, but there's still a lot more to come. What's coming up next is my Judgement Day single with [fellow ULTRA Australia headliners] Sub Zero Project.