Oliver Heldens was signed to Spinnin’ Records at only age 17, which is one of the most renowned label in dance music. His hit record ‘Gecko’ propelled him to stardom as well as his follow up with ‘Koala’. When Oliver is not producing in the studio he is performing at his residency at Omnia in Las Vegas or at festivals around the world. HI-LO is his alter ego who was responsible for the debut release on his very own Heldeep Records. Oliver is well known for his unique approach on refreshing techno, house and everything in between underground and mainstream. We got a chance to meet with him before his sold out performance at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco this past weekend.
How did you get started with music in the beginning?
At a very young age I was into dance music. Like 10 or 11, I was into hard dance like jump style and hard style. In high school there were really big parties with some Dutch DJs who were back then really small like HARDWELL, FEDDE LE GRAND, CHUCKIE, etc. They all played house and electro which I got hooked on but I also wanted to play my own music. My neighbor and also my friend who was two years older made music in FL Studio. I already knew about producing and so was my brother and his brother as well. When I was 15 I really wanted to develop myself more and read tutorials and produce every day. It all happened pretty quick, after I signed to Spinnin' Records I released “Gecko” and “Koala” which blew up.
Who or what would you say is your biggest musical inspiration?
So the tracks that broke my through like “Gecko” and “Koala”, I was inspired by house and electro in 2008 like Fedde Le Grand, Chocolate Puma, BINGO PLAYERS, etc. But the thing was that at that time I was also inspired by garage and deep house in UK like Disclosure, Shadow Child, MK, etc. It was very refreshing for me. Since then I started making more house again and bring the 2008 sound back.
Describe to us your sound.
Most of my music is pretty groovy and funky. At the same time it's very catchy and energetic. It's very danceable. What you see is that when dance music gets to be high energy then it gets less groovy and funky. I guess with my music what made it so different was both funky and groovy while still being very energetic for the main stage.
Talk to us about your recent record “King Kong” (HI - LO Touch).
I made it in Ibiza last summer. I was in a villa there all summer for residency. One day I made a track and started playing it.
What is exactly is HI - LO?
So HI LO is an alias of mine or what you call an alter ego. It's more darker and club sound for techno and underground. It's more bass heavy. The HI - LO stuff goes really well with my sets.
Talk to us about Heldeep Radio. You’re almost to Episode 200!
I started doing Heldeep mixtapes right before “Gecko” like once every two months. They did really well on SoundCloud. We've been getting so many requests from radio stations to do it weekly. At the time I was pretty scared to do it because I was afraid there wouldn't be enough good music to play every week. In the beginning it was difficult to find solid tracks but since then there's many labels that are releasing house music. This also complements Heldeep record label and sometimes I have too much good music to put into the radio show! It seems like there has been this whole wave of music with more house influences. Episode 200 was made this week with a special 2 hour episode.
Listen to all the episodes for free on iTunes.
Do you have any upcoming records you can share with us about?
So I just released “King Kong” and a remix of SOFI TUKKER's “Best Friend”. I have a really big track coming up called “Fire in my Soul” that I also played in my Ultra set. It's something different for me. It has some African influences. I also did a re-work of SIDNEY SAMSON's “Riverside”. So those are some releases for the next few months. There's also so much stuff I'm sitting on that I'm collaborating with singers.
How was Miami Music Week this year?
It was great! I played Ultra again after 3 years. It was fun and really good. The set is online so check it out! With the Heldeep theme I did this year there was a boxing ring, ropes, etc. It was a Heldeep vs. Monstercat event. It was different than usual.
Festival season is already upon us - what festival are most excited to perform at this year?
I'm really excited for all the Heldeep stages that I'm going to do at the festivals. In June like Spring Awakening there's a stage with a sick lineup with A-TRAK, MERCER, AC SLATER and CLAPTONE. Also, in Europe I have my Heldeep stage at Tomorrowland and also in Amsterdam's We Are Electric festival like Martin Solveig, Chocolate Puma, etc.
Bonus - What is one thing you are currently obsessed with?
The crowd. They're more open-minded. The people react really well with techno. I would edit it with vocal chops. I also really like old disco.