Although EDM is still fairly young as a musical genre (compared to rock or jazz), it still has its legacy acts. One of the toughest things to do in the music industry is to find lasting longevity, and there are a few DJs who have 10-15 years of experience under their belt like Tiesto or Armin van Buuren. One of those luminary artists who helped to first expose dance music to a more mainstream audience is Fedde Le Grand.
2016 has been a huge year for the Dutch DJ/producer; not only did he release his first album in seven years, Something Real, the industry veteran also celebrated the ten year anniversary of one of his first hit songs, “Hands Up for Detroit.” Fedde took some time out to talk to us about what makes his new album so special, how he’s managed to stay relevant, his tastes in music and other insights into the dance music industry.
Hey Fedde, first off, congratulations on the album. It’s been seven years since you last put out a full-length EP, what was the approach you took to making the album and what have you learned as an artist over that time?
“Thank you! During the making of this album I tried to stop myself from getting placed in a box too much and I actively stepped away from normal rules that I tend to adhere to while producing. I really wanted to challenge myself, being as open-minded as possible. I’m already accustomed to not letting myself get pigeonholed too much, but I think this album definitely has some stuff on it that was more surprising for my fans. The whole process of stepping away from any expectations and just listening to what I feel to be great music felt really liberating and inspiring, I hope my fans will get that and appreciate that. It definitely made the album turn into ‘something real’ for me….hence the title. As well as focusing on opening up and challenging my own creativity, my taste in music has also evolved a lot since my previous album. So I think as a whole the album might just be covering a broader spectrum of my musicality, which to me is actually what an album is all about. So I’m really content with how it turned out!”
You’re a legend in the dance music industry, however, it’s changed quite a bit since you first burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s. Which changes have you noticed the most, for the better and for the worse?
“It definitely has both good and bad aspects about it, but for me personally I think it’s great. There are so many more fans of dance music now than I’d ever dared to dream about when I started out. Which means there are now so many more people to share my love and appreciation for the music with. So many DJs that are out there nowadays wouldn’t have had a stage without the fan-base and with dance music growing as exponentially as it has over the recent years. I even think it will give room to a bigger variety of sub-genres to have a healthy existence. The most important thing for me personally would be to try and move away from the boxing in and let everyone enjoy dance music the way they want to. Being judgmental just shouldn’t be part of the culture in whatever shape or form.”
You just recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary of your classic single “Hands Up for Detroit.” Tell us what that song meant to you when it first came out and what it means to you today as the dance music industry has changed so much?
“Well originally I wasn’t going to release it! I had to be convinced by my friends to put it out there, and I’m so glad I did. It got such an overwhelming reception when it came out on Flamingo Recordings, it just completely blew me away. It was at a time when dance music wasn’t really breaking into the main top 40 charts so I’m humbled that my song was one of the first to do that. Also the fact that it’s still such a requested track just goes to show that dance records can stand the test of time.”
The younger audience probably knows you best for “Rhythm of the Night.” Have you ever felt pressure to adjust your sound as trends have changed? How have you stayed true to yourself as an artist over the years?
“That song holds just as much artistic value to me even though it is considered a newer sound it still holds true to my foundation and influences as an artist. Trends and sounds will always change, they have to change if you want to stay relevant in today’s world – which is why I continue to innovate and enhance my sound, all while staying true to my origins. Luckily I’ve never let myself be boxed in too much so to me it just comes naturally.”
Over your long career, you’ve played at all the biggest festivals across the globe, you were at Ultra Miami and Ultra Korea earlier this year. Do you have a favorite festival to play or favorite place to visit and why?
“I think the longer you’ve been doing this, the more impossible it becomes to pick any favorites. Sometimes it’s a great party when you least expected it that makes a play turn into a lasting memory, sometimes it are the usual suspects that absolutely blow your mind by turning into being more amazing than you could’ve expected… Anything that has the element of surprise is always good I guess, aren’t the best nights the ones that started with ‘well let’s just go out for one drink then…’ “
What’s one record or album you’re listening to right now that you’re fans would be surprised to hear you listen to?
“One of the songs I like a lot at the moment is ‘7 years’ by Lukas Graham. I mean, it’s not brand new anymore, but I think it’s an amazing song and I even created a bootleg to incorporate in my sets (although it’s not too surprising though I think….). Recently I played out ‘Gaan Met Die Banaan’ at the end of my set at a big Dutch festival – long story, it was a bet kind of thing – but I guess that definitely was something surprising…you’ll have to look it up!”
If you could give advice to artists in any genre about career longevity, what would it be?
“It would be to never stop trying new things and innovating. Once you develop your signature sound that the fans love, you have accomplished the first step, but that doesn’t’ mean you shouldn’t try new sounds out – if your heart is in a certain style of sound, go for it. I think a lot of artists are scared to change because they don’t think their fans will like it, but if the quality is good and the talent is still there, no one can deny it. So continue pushing boundaries and just keep working on your craft consistently.”
You also recently debuted your new “GRAND” show at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, which is a combination of your set and and live acrobatic performance. Tell me a little about this and where the idea came from? Is this something we might see here in the States one day?
“It’s actually a combination of theatre arts with dance music really. We even had an army of ballerina’s being part of the GRAND show this past March. I think the show is definitely something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I’ve always been looking for ways to push boundaries and keep things interesting for myself by always trying to create something new. This event in particular is really all about giving back to the fans. The production is crazy expensive and so extremely time-consuming in figuring out all acts and what will work well with which track, you really don’t wanna know how complicated the production is… But when you see so many people from different backgrounds and ages, some probably visiting a dance event for the first time even, and all just having an amazing time and enjoying the music together. That’s really what it’s all about!! And yes, I can’t wait ‘till the day we’re ready to announce the international dates :)”
European fans can find Fedde all over the continent this summer including an appearance at TomorrowLand this weekend. Check out this awesome Something Real mini-mix to get a taste of Fedde’s first album in seven years.