As an ‘indie label’, EDM is not something we cover often on the Killing Moon blog, yet when I was presented with the opportunity to speak to dance duo Showtek, it was an offer I could absolutely not turn down. Formed by Dutch siblings Sjoerd and Wouter Janssen, Showtek have not only taken the dance world by storm, but have also ventured into the pop world with huge tracks like ‘Cannonball‘ and ‘Booyah‘. With their techno and trance roots still forming the core of their creative output, the duo’s success is part of a larger narrative of EDM infiltrating the mainstream pop psyche, with more and more DJ’s taking their act outside of dance festivals and contributing to the growth of an industry that is now worth an estimated $7.2 billion. I spoke to the brothers about the transition from producers to DJs, reggae music, and working with Major Lazer:
KM: Have you always made music together?
S: Mostly yes! As brothers we use to live in the same house, live in the same city and we shared the same passion. We also had our side careers, by working on other projects but for Showtek we always used to work together. Nowadays, Wouter lives in NYC and LA, Sjoerd lives in Miami and comes to LA very often so we have to plan our days together. Often we have ideas and talk about it, work on it and go back and forth, then we go into the studio together to work on the idea and finish it. Luckily these days we can work on the road a lot too which is very convenient cause we travel together all the time.
KM: What first drew you to dance music?
S: Crystal Waters, Faithless, Underworld… All the music from the early 90’s was very influential. In The Netherlands we grew up with this on the radio and later on in clubs, so you can almost say it’s in our blood. Big hooky dance riffs, combined with beats and catchy vocals. We loved it from the beginning.
KM: You’re well known for creating explosive tracks that do well commercially. How did it feel to make the top 5 in the UK charts?
S: We never aimed to be DJ’s. We always wanted to be producers. So to hear our music on the radio all around the world is huge achievement, especially in the UK which is one of the most influential musical countries in the world.
KM: Why thank you – we like to think so too. Your most recent offering ‘Believer’ came about as part of collaboration with Major Lazer (Made up of Diplo, Walshy Fire and Jillionaire). What was it like working with them?
S: Knowing that they really wanted to work with us was such a great thing to hear, we were big fans of their sound. After our smash ‘BOOYAH‘ they were into getting in the studio together. It happened in 2015 in LA, we sat down and talked about some ideas we had for a collaboration. It took a while, it took us over a year to work on this collab, but the result is worth it.
KM: That’s an awful lot of producers and musicians creating one track. What was the song-writing process like? Did you have to make any compromises artistically?
S: No, not really. Major Lazer exploded the last two years so to get the song done was not that easy, they travel a lot and so do we. Mostly we went back and forth on the email and telephone. Diplo was very much involved in the way the song should be structured but there was no struggle.
KM: It’s a pretty uplifting track – was that the mood you were going for?
S: Diplo came up with the vocals, which are very intense. The lyrics are very powerful and also reflect on our own career, you gotta keep fighting and believing. The song needed that energy to make you believe it! You can hear the pain and emotion in the voice of the singer and it’s such a strong element in the song.
KM: There’s a definite reggae flavour to this track – I heard you discovered the original song whilst in Trinidad. Was that a bit of a light bulb moment for you?
S: Diplo was in touch with the singer. We wanted to keep it authentic and the good thing is that Major Lazer and Showtek are more than just Dance music. For example, ‘Booyah‘ has a reggae / dubstep vibe so we wanted to implement that again.
KM: Exactly – it’s not the first time you’ve been inspired by Caribbean music traditions. What led you to that music scene?
S: We love hip-hop and reggae, it’s just so real and authentic. And it’s just so much more interesting to try to use different kind of genres in our music.
KM: Having listened to some of your previous albums, it’s clear that you like to use retro/low-fi sounds in your work. Why is that?
S: Yeah, we come from a different planet. Our music was just driven on different emotions and it was in a different time of our life. Even though, most of it has been very melodic but it has always been very energetic and heavy. Hard hitting bass drums was something we always liked, we still like it though, but just do it a little different nowadays.
KM: I’ve heard ‘Believer’ was pretty well received at a few big festivals this summer, including Lollapalooza and Burning Man. What was that like?
S: Having support from other artists is very good, it’s like free radio play. You need that kind of support to push your song into the world.
KM: It seems support is in huge supply for you guys. What’s next for Showtek? Are there any more collaborations on the horizon?
S: Our newest single will be out very soon and it’s a collaboration with another producer named Brooks. The song is very big, the drop feels very Showtek but the groove and vibe is a little different. We love that song! More info soon!
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