Ibiza clubbing: Hardwell – Change is constant

Still only 30 years old, but already with a decade-long career that’s whisked him all across the globe, Robbert van de Corput – aka Hardwell – speaks with a wisdom beyond his years. Having witnessed first-hand the wax and wane of EDM and the music scene that surrounds him, he had the foresight to stand back and take stock, undergoing a personal and musical evolution that kept him heading up line-ups at many of the world’s biggest festivals and most celebrated stages.

These days he extends his hand to humanitarian projects in his personal downtime, while still continuing to draw crowds like a magnet wherever he performs. This summer, Hardwell branches out from the Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Club residency he’s fronted for the past few years, playing at the Playa d’en Bossa club on just two dates this season – 28 June and 6 September, 2018. He’s spearheading the charge over the road at HÏ Ibiza, where his euphoric-infused electro will contribute to the all-new Cream Ibiza soundscape.

You’ve been involved with Ushuaïa for many years – how does it feel to also be playing across the road at Hï Ibiza in summer 2018?
For me, it’s very exciting to be a part of this new Ibiza. Space Ibiza held a place in many of our hearts but like anything in life, you have to keep pushing forward. That’s what dance music has always been about for me – progress. I love the new set-up at the club and it’s a great venue to really flip the experience for those clubbing who are crossing the road once Ushuaia shuts down, as well as those heading straight to Hï Ibiza for a night out.

Will your appearances at Cream Ibiza demand a change for you musically?
I know the musical territory with Cream and what the fans there expect from the guys playing under that iconic club banner. From Cream to Creamfields, I’ve always crafted a special set to fit the occasion and this will be no different. I’ve always felt very free in my musical expression when playing a show for Cream. It is an iconic part of the club culture on the island so I’m really happy to be a part of what I consider a very special party.

Did your relationship with Cream and HÏ Ibiza blossom naturally?
I’ve known both teams for a very long time. They’ve supported my career at many different points along the way so teaming up with the pair of them makes it the perfect partnership for me. I like working with teams who are passionate about what they’re doing and believe in the music and put the clubber at the centre of all of that.

What are you looking forward to most this season?
Seeing how the island blooms. We’ve had a huge rush of EDM of the years gone and the last few years the underground has grown to impressive status, too. Ibiza is the place where magic happens and with so many new parties and a huge array of talent on offer each night, I am truly excited to see how the season evolves, what the musical highs of the season turn out to be, what tracks really resonate with the crowds, and the overall vibe. I think this season will be an Ibiza season like we’ve never seen before. A lot of us were very worried it may turn into a VIP exclusive culture and lose that loose, spiritual connection it has, but I think that worry is lessening. Last season ended very positively and that set us all up for what could possibly be the most exciting summer we’ve ever seen on the island!

Did you know much about Ibiza before you played here? Had you ever visited as a tourist?
No, my first trip to the island was for a DJ show back in 2010. I was invited by Tiësto to join him at Privilege for his residency. It was an incredible experience. My first time on the island playing for the DJ who inspired me (and would later become a really good friend) to start DJing, at the biggest club in the world. I can’t think of a better way to start your first experience of Ibiza!

What changes have you witnessed since you’ve been coming here?
The infrastructure of the island is so much better now. I think the options on offer for people visiting whether you’re a family or a clubber is so much better too. The old Ibiza was a lot looser and in many ways it felt more spiritual, I suppose. Those elements still exist except now the island is just a lot more rounded in what is available from the transport links to the improvement in the venues and increased number of restaurants and hotels. VIP culture did creep in but it’s just been an added element to the overall offering on the island.

Do you feel like you now have a personal connection to the island?
Absolutely! Ibiza is great for downtime as much as for nightlife. I’ll usually stay an extra couple of days around shows if I can, although my schedule doesn’t often allow that to happen, so I’ll make sure at certain points of the summer I can squeeze in some time purely for rest. I love to have my family come over to spend time enjoying the island with me. I brought my grandmother over a couple of years ago. It was her first time on the island and she was blown away by the beauty of the place.

So what does a typical Ibiza day look like to you?
On show day I’m usually arriving straight from another gig, so quite often I’ll land a few hours before my set. I have a little time to relax and share a meal with my tour team. We often cook in Ibiza as we don’t always get the chance to do that whilst on the road. It’s a fun way to invite friends over, either DJs on the island or local friends, and share some downtime together. After food, we’ll make our way to the club. I like to arrive a little early, so I can get a sense of the place. Ibiza is a very music-focused island, so I like to know how the vibe of the room is and what the crowd are responding to before I go on. I don’t plan my sets but with Ibiza I like to make sure I have some idea before I step up to the decks. Often I’ll prepare music in advance of the show and have it ready in my collection for the night.  After the show, sometimes we’ll have a little after-party or go check out another party and see what the night leads us.

If you have time, where do you hang out?
I mostly like to use my time in Ibiza to relax. So when I’m not playing or checking out a party, I’ll often have some friends over for a BBQ, relax by the pool and generally unwind. Sunset Ashram is cool for the sunset. I also really like to go up to Benirràs and that whole area. My family really enjoyed the night market at Las Dalias last time we were over. Cala Carbó was actually the last beach I visited; it has a really chilled vibe that I love.

How has your personal relationship with Ibiza changed over the years?
I’ve become more in-tune with the island beyond just the clubs in the last couple of years. I love it now for its beauty and for the countryside and natural elements as much as I do for the nightlife and restaurants culture. It really is an island that offers absolutely everything you could ever want or need in life. Whether as a DJ or just as a person visiting, I can’t really imagine a summer with Ibiza in my life now, it’s like a home from home in many ways.

Ibiza is an island that never stops changing, and that’s representative of music in a way. How would you say your style has changed over the years?
It’s always evolving. What started out as hip-hop led to electronic music, and from there it had elements of euphoric and trance before becoming more housey, and then finally electro/progressive. But my sound has always involved other genres, taking inspiration everywhere from hardstyle and trap to moombahton and bass – I love to mix it up and surprise the crowd. Whether it’s a big room sound or a little more underground, my focus is on bringing something different to the set.

With than in mind, who do you look up to musically?
I have respect for a wide range of artists whether it’s a band like Limp Bizkit or artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, or James Brown. I’m also a fan of rappers like Dr Dre, Tupac and Pharrell or electronic artists such as Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, Steve Aoki and many others. I love artists that stick to their own ideas, don’t chase trends and believe in a vision that only they can see. People often criticise an artist of this nature, not understanding that the person or the band know what they’re aiming for, but when you look back at their body of work you can see they had a plan the entire time.

All those guys you mentioned reached their pinnacle many moons ago – do you feel like you still have much to achieve?
Yeah, a lot! One of my main ambitions is to expand my United We Are Foundation to help more children in different communities. Last year, we managed to raise enough funds to school 100,000 children from the slums of Mumbai with our ‘World’s Biggest Guestlist’ festival concert, in collaboration with the Gueslist4Good team in India. It was a very special occasion and I’d like to build on that achievement. Musically I have a lot more goals and ideas which I am working towards, so there is definitely a lot more to come from me in the future, both in the studio and also on the road.

How do you stay grounded when you’re touring?
I like to surround myself with friends and family. They help to keep me grounded. It’s very easy to get caught up in the bright lights of it all but the reality is you are still you. So, it’s important to remember why you’re doing this and what got you into it. For me it has always been about the music and sharing that with the fans. I’m not interested in being famous or a celebrity. I just wanted to make music and party with music loving fans.

Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. I have always wanted to give the best I can to this career and at some points I would become my own worst enemy. Trying to make a track too perfect or reviewing my DJing with too much attention. I’m a perfectionist at heart but then I want to ensure everyone who comes to see me play walks away with a memorable experience. I am still that person but I’ve probably eased up on the pressure, I now focus on improvement rather than looking for faults and over-analysing them.