FeaturesWritten by Cyclone Wehner on November 25, 2017
The Dutch duo Showtek ruled the hardstyle scene. But, then, infamously, they latched onto EDM – and today their profile has never been bigger. This weekend brothers Wouter and Sjoerd Janssen are in Australia to headline the Sensation Festival at Sydney Olympic Park alongside Deadmau5.
Showtek have just wrapped a North American tour on the back of their Amen EP – last stop Texas. These days the brothers – from Eindhoven in the Netherlands – are based Stateside, to be close to Los Angeles, EDM Central. “We’re trying to get more of a foot in the American market, so we decided to get a place across the Atlantic Ocean,” says Sjoerd, the younger sibling. “My brother went to LA, [he] moved to LA last year, and I moved to Miami. We both have girlfriends living in the States as well.”
The US offers another allure. Sjoerd sees its music culture as more open – especially for dance acts. “I think, as a crowd in Holland, in our opinion, they love a certain kind of music genre. I think that some people stick to their genre a lot in Europe. I think that in America the music is more all over the place.”
Sensation is a Dutch party brand, started by ID&T (the company behind Tomorrowland), about to make its return to Australia. Though orientated to trance, Sensation has added housers such as Fedde Le Grand and Oliver Heldens to the Sydney bill. Yet the event still has that traditional all-white dress code – and this applies to the DJs, too.
“Yeah, I think everybody has to come in white – even our crew, who normally have to be all in black because they are not allowed to be seen on stage,” Sjoerd laughs. “They have to dress white as well. So we all have to wear some white outfits in there. But normally I wear white on stage, anyway, because everything’s always dark and black, so I’m used to wearing it.” He considers it “classy”.
Emerging in the early noughties, Showtek produced tech-trance before developing into a hardstyle act – hardstyle being an underground Dutch rave genre related to gabber. They released two albums – the last in 2009. The group then collaborated with Tiësto (one track entitled ‘Miami’).
Over time, Showtek grew “bored” with hardstyle. They farewelled the music in 2012 – like Tiësto, adopting an electro-house sound. The shift was creative, but there’s also business strategy involved. Sjoerd uses the word “brand” a lot. “We want to grow and evolve and reinvent ourselves a little bit, because we’ve been doing [hardstyle] since 2003 – or 2001 almost. So we’ve been doing that kind of genre for a decade. We thought it was time for something new and fresh.
“We succeeded in getting our name picked up in the electro big room house scene, where we still had our own signature in our music. Showtek 3.0 will be really different again,” he continues. “But I think my brother and I are always looking for something new and to reinvent ourselves every few years – and, yes, it happened. Every artist that succeeds in doing that is also still relevant – and that’s very important as an artist [and] as a performer.”
Showtek co-produced the 2013 ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ for the controversial R&B singer Chris Brown. “It was a huge song – Chris loved it and he even promoted it on the radio here in LA, a big radio station, KIIS-FM.” Because the track leaked, it never made an album. But the Janssens grew up with hip-hop and are keen to produce more urban.
“Chris Brown was very poppy. I think, for a Showtek song, we would look for a little more of an edge – Chris Brown still has an edge, but the lyrics on the top of the song should have more of an edge.” Showtek brought their toughness to David Guetta’s 2014 album Listen – working on the Australian #5 ‘Bad’ (featuring Darwin singer VASSY), ‘Sun Goes Down’ (with Magic! and Sonny Wilson) and ‘No Money No Love’ (with Elliphant and Ms Dynamite).
Last year Showtek aired ‘Believer’ with Major Lazer – meant to be on the dancehall posse’s upcoming Music Is The Weapon. In fact, Showtek first discussed a collab with Diplo while both were in Australia for Stereosonic. “We met a year after, I think, in the studio, or a few months later, and then we talked about a lot of stuff – about music that we were doing and what they were working on. They gave us this idea of a vocal and they asked us if we want to build a track around it. It took a long time because Diplo is one of the busiest artists there is – he travels every day. So we worked for months, or maybe a year, on that song.”
However, some fans are mad at Showtek for abandoning hardstyle – just read the comments on YouTube. Sjoerd laughs. “I don’t wanna brag, I don’t wanna compare myself, or ourselves, to any other big athletes or something. But, if I remember, some sport athletes that stopped playing sport – and I’m not comparing myself to, for example, Michael Jordan – but, if you follow somebody you really adore or you really are a fan of [somebody] and that person, and it might be an athlete or an act, stops on their high, on their peak, you also leave that behind. I think, when we left hardstyle, we left so much quality behind that people almost didn’t want us to stop.”
Rumours have circulated of Showtek re-embracing hardstyle. But, satisfied with their legacy (“a nice polished disco ball”), Sjoerd is adamant that Showtek have moved on. Nonetheless, they do close festival sets with their hardstyle tracks – “to show the respect to a fanbase that still loves us for who we are.”
Ironically, in 2012 Diplo’s trap homies Flosstradamus, now defunct, sampled Showtek’s old hardstyle track ‘The Colour Of The Harder Styles’ for their ‘DEAF’, without clearance, sparking a Twitter war over copyright.
These cheap @flosstradamus cunts are stealing our tunes and putting it online for free!! this is the second time!!!! How low can you go?!!
“It was a little tricky, but I think we buried the hatchet. That’s all in the past.”
In 2017, Sjoerd talks of “Showtek 3.0” putting their own take on “a more crossover American sound”. They recently dropped the dancehall-flavoured two-track Amen EP – making an unusually strong political statement with ‘Don’t Shoot’ (featuring GC).
Showtek’s next key release will be a remix of Moby’s ‘Natural Blues’, from his 1999 classic Play, on their fledgeling label Skink. Expect to hear it at Sensation. “The management hit us up, and Moby himself – ‘If you could remix it or do another version of it.’ We’re so happy with it that we’re wanna make it official with a collaboration between Showtek and Moby.”
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