Melding together a mixture of trance, electro and big-room house, Dutch duo W&W are dominating dance-floors and festivals worldwide with their affinity for hard-hitting performances. Ascending 11 spots on the DJ Mag Top 100 list to land themselves the number 14 ranking this year, Willem van Hanegem and Wardt van der Harst have solidified their status as an unstoppable pair of production aces. We had a chance to chat with the guys after their TomorrowWorld performance about their recent collaborations, their distaste for remixes and the evolution of their sound.
You two just came off of an incredibly energetic set. How was your experience playing the Main Stage at TomorrowWorld?
Willem: Even though it was early the crowd was good, it filled up a lot. We saw flags from Brazil, from Israel, from America, from every country really. It was crazy. TomorrorWorld and especially the main stage is an amazing production. We all want to get up there so it was really great to hear that.
Tell me about how you two first met and when you decided to put this musical project together.
Willem: Back in the day there was a program called Windows Live messenger.Everybody was on that and I think he added me. We were both into music but we sucked big-time. We started hanging out and after about four weeks we recorded a tune finally. We were like "okay, this is good, let's send it to our manager." He was still doing his own music and I was still doing my own music but after about a year we realized that everything we did together worked way better than the stuff we did alone. So after a year we felt like we should just give up the rest and give this a go. In the end it worked out well.
Your recent collaboration with Hardwell "Jumper" shot to number one on Beatport the week it came out. What's the story behind the track, how did it come together and is there a meaning behind the track title?
Willem: I think we worked on it since November. We had the set-up since November and we showed a bit to Hardwell and he was like "I love this, let's work it out." And then we were on tour in Australia, I think it was in February and we finished it in a hotel room. When he played it at Ultra we hadn't even listened to it at home, it was just the finished version from the hotel, only from the laptop speakers. I was like "dude don't play it like this, maybe it's not that good!" But Hardwell was like "fuck it we're gonna work it out."
Wardt: The story behind it is probably because it says "1, 2, 3 JUMP" before the drop. It actually wasn't on purpose, he was like "I'm just going to put this here as a sample" because people don't know the tune and when you put samples in they'll like it better for the first time. And in the end it just stayed in there.
Willem: There are like six tunes a month called "Jump" so we called it "Jumper" because nobody calls it that, maybe because it's not a good title like "Jump."
Wardt: People jump when you play the tune.
How would you guys describe the evolution of your sound from earlier tracks like "Mustang" all the way through "Jumper?"
Willem: We always try to have the big-room sound and at first it was more trancey because when we started there was only house, trance and everything else. There was nothing in the middle, no combination of trance and house, but in the last couple of years we saw them combined and we tried it. When we were making more trancey stuff we wanted to be more combined but nobody really got it the first time.
Wardt: Nobody found a way to do it.
Willem: We saw that it was coming so we said "let's just do it." We always loved to do it so about a year and a half ago we started and it's worked out pretty well. We love trance, we love house, we love hard-style, we love techno, we love everything. And we always want to get the best things out of all the genres.
Wardt: Back in the day everything was in separate boxes, you either played trance, techno, house or hard-style but not everything together. But now that's finally possible.
Awesome! Well you guys obviously have a close relationship with Hardwell but you're also inextricably linked to Tiesto and Armin van Buuren. How do all of the Dutch DJs keep such a tight-knit circle? Did you guys all come up together or have you just taken each other in like a family?
Willem: When we meet each other on the road it's great because we don't have to talk in English, we can talk in Dutch.
Wardt: When Dutch people in general meet it's more like home. If a Dutch group of friends go on holiday and they meet other Dutch people they always have this click. It's the same for DJs I think.
Willem: And Tiesto has played our stuff since the beginning, Armin did as well. Hardwell we're really good friends with. We're pretty easy guys to hang with, we all just get along very well. It's very natural.
You guys had two standout remixes during 2013, Krewella's "Live for the Night" and Armin van Buuren's "This Is What It Feels Like." How does the concept of remixing a song originate, do you approach the original artist or do they come to you? What do you try to accomplish when you rework a track?
Willem: We actually hate remixes, hate them. I don't know why. We went to Armin's studio because we did a track together with him and he showed us his new single and said "I'm looking for a club mix of this single, I want you to do it." He's like our family, we couldn't say no. At first we thought "no we hate remixes, we don't want to do any" but we heard the song and it was good so we did the remix in a couple of days. We sent it back to Armin and he was like "yeah I love it!" It worked out pretty well in the end, we were happy with it.
Krewella approached us and told us "we like your sound, can you do a remix for us?" We heard the song "Live for the Night" and we loved the song.
Wardt: We heard it in Ibiza for the first time actually.
Willem: We felt like "we love this song, let's try it." And it worked out.
The last twelve months have definitely culminated into your biggest year yet. Was there a point where you guys just looked at each other and said "we made it" or one defining moment when you realized what you had achieved?
Wardt: I think we just had that actually on stage, after the set I felt that. But we still have a long way to go.
Willem: There are more things we can achieve and we always aim bigger. Next year we want to keep going with it.
Wardt: We always enjoy the things that happen and we always try to move forward.