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Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike

Poll 2019: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike

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“I was caught off guard with the news that we’re No.1 again,” an excitable Dimitri Vegas tells DJ Mag from Ibiza, having just finished 14 weeks of a residency at Ushuaïa with his brother Mike. “For us it was unreal, it was a big surprise, to be honest. We’re super-happy.” 

The Greek-Belgian duo of Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike (real names Dimitri and Michael Thivaios) have returned to the throne after first being crowned No.1 in 2015, deposing Martin Garrix from his three-year reign. 

The brothers had another banner year in 2019, with an exceptionally busy gig diary. Taking their distinctive blend of EDM, trap and other genres to huge venues across the world, they mention South America as being a particular highlight, with festival appearances in Chile and Argentina standing out. 

“We did the Lollapalooza tour there,” Dimitri says. “We used to play South America so much, so that was like coming home. Next year we’re going to play there way more. We really miss the people, and the shows were so crazy.” 

While the tag team also enjoyed shows in Asia and around much of Europe, their DJ residency in Ibiza was special for another reason. With Ushuaïa occupying nearly the same spot in Playa d’En Bossa as a hotel Dimitri Vegas played at 16 years ago when he was just starting out as a DJ, the duo’s appearances over the summer at the world-famous club illustrate just how far they’ve come from humble beginnings. 

“It was at Club Playa D’en Bossa, which was a cheap 18-30 hotel,” Dimitri says. “I was doing the sound and lights, and I was DJing at a small spot next to the pool every day. Fast forward all these years, and there I am at the same spot, but it’s been turned into one of the biggest clubs in the world — into Ushuaïa — and instead of my shitty DJ booth by the pool, we play in one of the coolest spaces in the world. Coming back to a sold-out Ushuaïa, that’s something surreal. We’ve done our residency at Amnesia too, we’ve been doing this thing for many years and Ibiza is super-special to us, but I realised that technically, I’m DJing at nearly the exact same place, but seeing what has happened to the whole world in 16 years — you know?” 

Despite their hectic schedule, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike managed to spend plenty of time in the studio, with a host of tracks and collaborations surfacing through Epic Amsterdam, Protocol, Armind and their own Smash The House label. These ranged wildly in style from the vocoder-led, raucous EDM of ‘Repeat After Me’, made with Armin van Buuren and W&W, to the slick R&B pop of ‘Selfish’, with singer Era Istrefi. They also worked with reality TV star, socialite and DJ, Paris Hilton, on a track entitled ‘Best Friend’s Ass’. 

“She’s a very good friend,” Dimitri says. “She was with us in Ibiza and at Tomorrowland, and she did a song with my wife [MATTN]. She’s a great artist, a lot of fun, and a very good businesswoman, so we have a lot of respect for her.” 

Collaboration is something that the duo very much enjoy, and something they’re used to; as Dimitri points out, their own project is a musical partnership, which requires compromise and patience. 

“Being brothers, we hardly fit in the studio together because we end up arguing,” he says. “We both have a very strong opinion or idea of what something should be, and we’ve found over the years that it’s more constructive if one of us starts a project and then sends it to the other. The other will immediately say, ‘I like it’ or ‘I think it’s terrible’, and if the other one likes it, he’ll continue working on it. From the start Dimi and Mike has been collaborative, and we love to blend our own sound together with the sounds of other people. We’ve seen some amazing things happen by working with other artists, and we’re a fan of that — we think music gets pushed a lot further with the more influences you put in there.” 

Perhaps the duo’s biggest single of late was ‘Instagram’, a tune that has taken on a life of its own beyond the Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike fanbase. “‘Instagram’ has been going crazy all over the world,” Dimitri says. “It’s now the theme song of one of the biggest shows in Latin America, so it’s been amazing to see.” 

In addition to their Smash The House label, which saw releases in 2019 from Wolfpack, Danny Avila, MATTN, Chuckie and others, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike focused on developing their Garden Of Madness tour concept. An audio-visual spectacular designed for sizeable venues, in November it will commandeer New York’s capacious Expo Center for the first time, before moving on to venues in Liverpool and Antwerp. 

“It’s the seventh year we’re doing these concerts in Belgium,” Dimitri says. “We’ve done more than 80,000 fans in one year. We’ve beat some of the biggest acts to ever tour Europe [in terms of gig attendance], and for us, after seven years to still fill those concerts is unreal. It’s become our winter Tomorrowland. “To expand this thing, and do our first New York Garden Of Madness, and to do our second one in the UK, it’s amazing. For next year we’re planning a couple more all over the world, to see our brand become a worldwide event.” 

The brothers have plenty of new projects in the works, including a lot of new singles. But their top priority is making sure they cater to their original fans, by continuing to make the hefty dance tracks that got them noticed in the first place — in addition to more commercially-minded material. “We’re not going to forget our roots, so we keep releasing a lot of club songs,” Dimitri says. “It’s super-important to keep on making that club music, even if it’s just for our show. When people come to our show, they can hear music that they can’t find online. There’s always that aspect of giving uniqueness to your show, but we also find it important that we support the scene by keeping the vibe of club music alive.” 

Like Mike has been busy working on solo material, which Dimitri says is very different from what fans might expect. 

“It’s focused on Mike’s voice, it’s him really experimenting for himself as an artist and a singer,” he says. “I’m impressed by the whole thing. I love it and it’s important that he does his own vision there. I support and watch from the side-lines, and I’m super-proud.” 

Dimitri, meanwhile, has embarked on his own new venture into movies, and promises that we’ll be seeing a lot more of him on the silver screen soon. 

“I’m focusing on my acting career. I’m writing movies, producing movies. I’ve done a couple of very cool movie parts this summer, and there’s a lot more coming, so I hope to be able to announce a lot more next year.” 

 

Do you submit your DJ setlists to the relevant royalties collecting society?

“Yes. Otherwise, things will be divided and not really in favour of electronic music artists.” 

What more can we do to combat the mental health crisis in our scene?

“It’s the responsibility of your work surroundings, the people you work with, and also your own responsibility to try to find the right balance.” 

Are you personally doing anything to improve the gender balance of line-ups?

“Our line-ups at festivals and events that we do have always been very balanced. One of the artists on our roster is my wife MATTN, we’ve just done a track with Paris Hilton, we’ve worked with NERVO. For us it’s not what gender somebody has, it’s a matter of, ‘Does this person fit on the line-up and do we think he or she is a great artist?’” 

What changes have you made this year to be more environmentally friendly?

“At Tomorrowland, we try to do as much as we can. We try to reduce the footprint that we make as a festival, there are more steps towards biodegradable straws and cups.” 

What was your favourite toy when you were a kid?

“For me and my brother, what was a big change was when we got our Nintendo. It came with a set of rules from my parents, who were terrified by the machine, and we would sneak out in the middle of the night to play the thing.” 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

“I can only speak for myself, ’cause it’s really not Mike’s thing, but I’m a gigantic comic book and pop culture fan, so I have a collection of movie replicas, props, all that kind of stuff.” 

 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2019-10-16 13:06

Style: 
“We don’t like to pin ourselves on one style. We play for the crowd.”
Tune of the year: 
“DJ Snake ‘Loco Contigo’, one of those songs that became an immediate classic.”

Poll 2018: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike

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From: Belgium/Greece
DJ style: “Smashin’ The House.”
Best known for: “Ambassadors of Tomorrowland.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Fisher ‘Losing It’, Travis Scott ‘Sicko Mode’.”
Breakthrough DJ/Producer of 2018: “Murda Beatz.”

In the No.2 slot of our poll for the third year in a row, Belgian brothers Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike sure have come a long way since growing up in the tiny Flemish town of Willebroek.

“When I started, the biggest you could dream was being a DJ in a big club in Belgium,” remembers Dimitri Thivaios. A quarter of a century later, he and his brother have clocked up hundreds more shows in 2018, as well as having collaborated with some of the biggest hip-hop artists in the world. In the last year alone, they’ve made everything from downbeat 80bpm jams to 160bpm hardstyle bangers.

One of their biggest, ‘When I Grow Up’, has nearly 30 million views on YouTube. The pair actually wrote the track with the line “When I grow up, I wanna be like Wiz Khalifa” and then got in touch with the hip-hop giant to ask if he would guest on it. He liked it, so did, thereby making one of the year’s biggest crossover hits.

“It’s a metaphor for looking up to someone,” explains Dimitri of the song. “Kids today might look up to Drake, Martin Garrix, whoever, but it is a song with meaning, a song for adults to look back and see what you achieved so far and where you are today.”

Highlights of the pair’s own year include their second summer residency at Ushuaïa in Ibiza, which saw them break attendance records right from the off. They also played across Europe, the States and Asia, and now really understand what preferences each crowd has and reckon that people’s taste are much more open and broad than they were a few years ago.

“In America there is a lot more hip-hop influence, whereas in Asia people really love EDM,” explains Dimitri. “Then Europe is a bit of everything, but also in Europe there are more house influences that work. Our show at Ushuaïa is divided into different segments, so we play different stages, we do a throwback set with classics, then do a back-to-back which can turn into a more deep sound, and it all works, even hardstyle, which no one was really playing when we first started.”

Many years ago, Dimitri had a residency in a small club on the Greek islands that saw him play six-hour sets, six nights a week. He says he doesn’t miss those days and prefers the huge spectacle of the supersized sets he and his brother now play at places like Tomorrowland and Creamfields.

Another pinch-yourself moment for the pair this year was working on a forthcoming collaboration with Snoop Dogg. “We remixed him really early on in our career and thought back then we had made it, so to work with him has been really huge,” says Dimitri, who has also taken acting classes and continued to work on writing “a bunch of films and TV scripts” this year, while Mike has worked on his songwriting and vocal-focused solo project.

But fans need not worry: the pair are not going to be leaving the dance music spotlight any time soon. “Everything has evolved so much,” he beams. “But everything we do — Mike’s solo career, my acting career — it all adds up to what we are as Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike.”

Words: KRISTAN CARYL

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2018-10-12 11:34

Poll 2015: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike

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Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike’s ascent to the top of the Top 100 DJs poll will be forever intertwined with their role at their country’s Tomorrowland Festival.

The iconic Belgian party has itself grown over the past decade to become one of the world’s most popular events, though it was in 2010 when brothers Dimitri and Michael Thivaios were first selected to pen the festival’s anthem. World domination slowly but surely followed, for both the brothers and the festival. 

Tomorrowland is for sure the biggest pillar of our success,” says Dimitri, speaking to DJ Mag just after returning from the festival’s North American cousin TomorrowWorld, where they’d played to jubilant vibes on Saturday prior to it notoriously being washed out by rainy weather.

Even in the early days it was a local legend, it was huge in Belgium and the countries around it. I mean, we grew up just a few hundred meters from the site where it takes place! It’s been amazing to watch it turn into such an international phenomenon.” 

Both DV and LM have roots in dance music that stretches back to their teens, when they both made the pilgrimage to live and work in Ibiza; first Dimitri, followed by his younger bother Mike, and both effectively changed forever by Erick Morillo’s Subliminal residency at Pacha (“You come to this island where everything is about love and peace… For us it was such a game-changer”).

Returning to Belgium around a decade ago to launch their musical partnership (“I said to Dimitri, move in with me and my girlfriend, we’ll build a studio in one of the rooms and you can sleep in the studio,” Mike laughs), their first big break came when their remix of ‘Work That Body’ caught the attention of Axwell.

 

However, it was their role in shaping the soundtrack for the 2011 Tomorrowland after-movie that really marked the turning point for Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. 

We spent weeks making the perfect soundtrack,” Dimitri tells DJ Mag. “We all sat together with the team of Tomorrowland and said, ‘OK, this year we’re gonna do something next level’.”

The extra effort paid off, as the after-movie chronicling the extravagant spectacle of the three-day festival was magnificently producer — enough to attract the world’s attention. All those sweeping aerial shots, the ecstatic punters, the insane stage designs, the emotion and excitement. It represented somewhat of a dance zeitgeist moment, racking up over 70 million YouTube views to date.

The pair had several of their tracks featured on the after-movie, and their party-ready sets have since become synonymous with Tomorrowland’s main stage bombast. Mike hyping the crowd on the mic, spraying champagne from the stage, and this year stopping the music to part tens of thousands of punters in the amphitheatre, before drawing them together into a heaving moshpit. 

However, their residency on the main stage of their country’s flagship festival only tells part of the story of what’s elevated Dimitri and Mike into the #1 spot of the Top 100 DJs poll.

To give an idea of the sort of crowds they’re drawing, their annual Bringing The Madness stadium shows during December in Belgium are set to shift an unprecedented 60,000 tickets across three evenings this year.

And while they’ve run their own Smash The House label (and associated Smash Artist Services booking agency) since 2011, they took things independent last year after a long-running association with Spinnin’ Records. They since enjoyed their biggest hits yet. 

Artistic control is the most important thing, and we wanted to keep it in the family,” says Dimitri, pointing to the success of Armin van Buuren and Steve Aoki, and their respective Armada and Dim Mak empires, as examples of how successful this approach can be. 

It bore fruit this year with their Ummet Ozcan collaboration ‘The Hum’, a killer main stage anthem (helped a little by a suitably excessive video featuring notorious Hollywood actors Charlie Sheen and Jean-Claude Van Damme) that perfectly captures the hard kicks and heavy drops they’ve been using to blow up the main stages in recent years.

As it turns out, it’s a sound influenced more than a little by Dimitri’s early days in the Belgian hardcore scene (not unlike how Mike’s trademark antics on the mic during their shows was informed by his own early adventures in Dutch hip-hop). 

“‘The Hum’, it went crazy,” Dimitri says of the track, which has inspired hearty chest-beating responses since its debut at Tomorrowland in 2014, rushing to #1 both on the Beatport and the Belgian national charts upon release. “We expected it to be a big record, but we didn’t expect it to go that crazy. We’d had the idea a few years ago to go back to my past, and we thought if we brought back the hard kicks, people will go nuts for it. And it seems we weren’t wrong.”

Otherwise, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the gentle piano house of their collaboration with R&B star Ne-Yo saw them locking down a crossover radio smash, which spent a whopping ten weeks at the top of the Belgian charts. The pair say the idea for the track had gestated for over a year, before a studio session with Ne-Yo saw it nailed down swiftly. 

We were showing some tracks to Ne-Yo, and he heard that hook and said, ‘I’m gonna do this’,” says Mike. “And boom, an hour later…”
“He wrote this amazing topline on the top of it, and the rest is history,” says Dimitri.

“For us, it was the chance to do something different, and mainly to show people again that we release music that we love, music that we believe in… And the most important thing about ‘Higher Place’ is that it’s a song; we decided against going with a drop, because we wanted a song.” 

It’s a sign of things to come — in terms of their long overdue artist album, they’ve given a tentative release date of early next year. They’ve spoken often of the experimental directions they’ve been taking in the studio, with more than a couple of mystery records sneaking into their sets, though they’ve been intentionally keeping their cards close to their chest. 

We’ve written over 70 tracks, we’ve basically finished over five albums but never released them,” says Mike. “One or two tracks survived from each of those, and we’ll make the final cut soon.” 

We wanted to do a diverse collection of music that we really love, that we’re 100 per cent behind. Is it gonna be a downtempo album? No,” says Dimitri. “But there’s a couple of tracks really out there, not linked to anything, they might even start a new genre.

And we want to have the whole story that we wanna tell completely ready. “The downside is that a lot of fans get a little frustrated because they might hear some of this music in our sets, and they want to see the music released,” Dimi continues. “But we also have this secret box of tracks, and that’s gonna be the album.”

The duo’s sound has certainly evolved in sync with the main stage during their ascent, their early remixes sporting a groovy electro-house flavour, in contrast to the EDM mayhem that characterises their sound today. While Dimitri concedes his main stage compatriots have been “playing it safe” this year, he says the next evolution is always just around the corner. 

In a sense, it’s only one track away,” Dimitri tells DJ Mag. “There’s still a lot of artists experimenting, and at a certain point there’s gonna be that track that turns everything over again. But it doesn’t come on demand. It’s the responsibility of the DJs and producers to challenge themselves into doing something different, and keep on making original tracks with the dancefloor in mind.”

Riding high at the top of the pile, party-rockers Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike are going to continue smashing the house for a long time to come. 

Words: Angus Paterson

Questions Top100 DJs 2015 - admin - 2015-10-19 14:27

Style: 
Whatever we want to play.
Best known for: 
Smashin’ The House.
Tune of the year: 
Major Lazer ‘Lean On’.
From: 
Tomorrowland
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2015: 
Lost Frequencies.
What’s the most important skill a DJ should have?: 
Feeling a crowd and entertaining them.
Is the future still bright for EDM?: 
For sure. We feel the interpretation of this term is too narrow, let’s just call it electronic music.
Does the constant travelling and DJ lifestyle ever take its toll on you mentally?: 
The travelling does get old, it’s an intense life sometimes, but we’re very happy that we get to do what we love.
What cause is closest to your heart?: 
Both human and animal rights, and environmental conservation.
Which club would you like to bring back from the dead?: 
Cream at Nation [in Liverpool, UK]. It’s a clubbing institution that will sadly close its doors after more than 20 years. We’ve had so many great nights there!
Why aren’t there more women in the Top 100 DJs poll?: 
It’s great to see more and more female DJs taking up the challenge, we actually just signed an amazing talent called MATTN who we expect to do great things in the next few years.
What do you think of DJs who use ghost producers?: 
There seems to be a lot of confusion around the topic. Sometimes artists get help in mixing, songwriting or additional production; it’s not exclusive to electronic music or any other genre for that matter. Ultimately, if that extra pair of hands makes the final sound of the record better, then it’s in everybody’s best interest to go down that avenue. But what’s important is clarity around how that collaboration works, and everybody involved properly credited and paid for their efforts.

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