Oliver Heldens interview: Future Retro

We caught up with the Dutch DJ prior to his huge SW4 set.

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 21st Aug 2018

Image: Oliver Heldens (source)

Dutch DJ Oliver Heldens is remarkably down to earth in conversation. This, despite the fact that, aged just 23, he performs on some of the biggest stages of any electronic music artist.

His recent Tomorrowland set showed him as a master of entertaining such large audiences and like several other festival appearances of late, it came under the banner of his Heldeep Records label, which hosted a tent at the monster rave. 

Such achievements have marked Heldens career since he emerged in 2013 with his 'Gecko' track, which DJ Tiësto signed to his Musical Freedom label. Heldens has since gone on to have considerable success with follow up tracks like 'Koala', on labels such as Spinnin Records and with releases under his relatively recent HI-LO alias, such as 'Renegade Mastah', 'Wappy Flirt', 'Steam Train' (with Chocolate Puma), "WTF" (with Sander van Doorn) and "Love Vibrations" (with Dada Life). Oliver is regarded as one of the leading exponents of the Future House genre, alongside Tchami and Don Diablo. 

Hi Oliver! Why did you decide to create the HI-LO alias?

Hi! I started with HI-LO three years and the thing was, at that time, I was making a lot of different kind of music at the same time. It was more appealing to release the more melodic stuff first, but I also wanted to release my more dark, more underground stuff. I decided that I was going to do that under a different name. It gave me more freedom, musically, it just felt better to do it that way.

I watched your recent Tomorrowland set. You played some of the material you produce as HI-LO. So is there now a certain crossover between HI-LO and Oliver Heldens that maybe wasn't there before?

Yeah, definitely there is a crossover. But, it was there before too. Those HI-LO tracks work really well in the Oliver Heldens sets too.

Would you ever play a set exclusively under the HI-LO alias?

Yeah, actually I've done it a few times. It's really fun.

How different is the sound to an Oliver Heldens set?

Well, it's more focussed on bass line driven stuff, it's darker, more techno influenced.


How would you describe Future House?

For me, Future House is just a mixture of deep house and electro.

When I listen to your sets, the music you play seems to be more linear than the music which a lot of the big headlining DJs play on such big stages. Would you agree?

Yeah, it's true. Definitely. There's more flow to it.

With your music being more linear than EDM, with less huge breakdowns and bass drops, how do you try to create the same amount of tension and release and theatre as the EDM DJs do so successfully on big festival stages?

Well, I also mix it up a little. I make lots of edits, mash ups and remixes, using vocal samples. But, still, I'm always trying to keep it with a nice flow.

There is also a large part of  the music you play which I recognise as being more like traditional house music than EDM. Is it perhaps ironic that the music you play is called Future House when it actually sounds more retro?

Yeah, ha! It is very housey, that's true.

Where do you think that retro/traditional sound in your music comes from, because you are too young to have been around at the release of some of the older music you're referencing?

Yeah, that's also true. But I guess a lot of that music has always been coming back in cycles. About 11 years ago, before I was even a teenager, I started getting into house music. I was listening to people like Fedde le Grand, Laidback Luke and Axwell and they would play reworks of classics, and even some originals, so I guess that's where I got a love of that older music from.

Remaining with the topic of success at a young age, can I ask if the sad passing of Avicii brought more into focus the dangers within the industry for you? He similarly experienced great success at a young age.

Yeah. But I think what's different between him and me is that for him, every show seemed to be really hard. He seemed to have a lot of anxiety. For every show he seemed to be super nervous. He seemed to need to drink before he went on stage. Whereas I'm not really nervous or stressed before shows.

Have you never been nervous before shows? Are you just not a nervous kind of person?

When I first started I was definitely nervous before shows, But, once I'd started, that nervousness would fade away pretty quickly. From what I understand about Avicii, he was very stressed and nervous for every show. It must have been very difficult for him. 

If you could have your pick, who would you most like to collaborate with on music?

Ooh. Disclosure. I'd love to work with them. That would be great. They inspired me a lot too.

What are you looking forward to doing in the near future? 

I guess just making new music and to keep on touring everywhere.

Do you have any releases coming imminently?

Yeah, I currently have this track which has a lot of African influences. It's called 'Fire In My Soul'. It has a Zimbabwean singer/songwriter featured on it, called Shungudzo. I'm really excited about it. Also, pretty soon I have a remix coming out for David Guetta and Anne-Marie, 'Don't Leave Me Alone'.

SW4 takes over London's Clapham Common on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th August. Check below for any available SW4 tickets.

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