Ibiza clubbing: Oliver Heldens – Skills, genetics and hard work

It’s never been scientifically proven, however it’s possible that the water in the Netherlands has been laced with some form of magical music dust. No country in the world has produced so many high profile, mainstream DJs in such a short space of time – glance at festival line-ups across the globe or any billboard in Ibiza and one of the Dutch wunderkids will be staring back down at you without a doubt. Among them is Hï Ibiza regular Oliver Heldens, a modest 23-year old from Rotterdam who’s already been making music for over a decade – proof, if required, that the area continues to churn out young superstar talent at an unstoppable rate.

“Commercial dance music has been accepted in the Netherlands since the early 90s,” Oliver explains while hypothesising on what’s behind the boom. “It was played a lot on the radio, there were huge events in trance, house and techno, and that led a lot of people to DJing. That’s when Tiësto, Ferry Corsten and Armin van Buuren arrived, and of course, their success inspired the next generation.” That doesn’t sound like an unfamiliar chain of events – can there be more to it than that? “Well, Dutch people are very critical and always wants to make things better,” he adds. “We’re perfectionists.”

“Commercial dance music has been accepted in the Netherlands since the early 90s,” Oliver explains while hypothesising on what’s behind the boom. “It was played a lot on the radio, there were huge events in trance, house and techno, and that led a lot of people to DJing. That’s when Tiësto, Ferry Corsten and Armin van Buuren arrived, and of course, their success inspired the next generation.” That doesn’t sound like an unfamiliar chain of events – can there be more to it than that? “Well, Dutch people are very critical and always wants to make things better,” he adds. “We’re perfectionists.”

Perhaps then, the propensity for musical success is buried somewhere deep in the Dutch blood – certainly that seems to be the case in Oliver’s ascent to headline status. His obsession for producing music began at the tender age of 10, and by the time he was 12 years old, he was already into house and electro, producing his own tracks and sidelining normal school work in its favour. “I saw it as more of a game back then,” he explains. “I wasn’t really very focused. But by the time I was 15, I became really dedicated and from there it went really quickly – by 17 I was signed by Spinnin’ Records.”

The following years saw his prominence as a producer rise, and after the release of hit singles including Gecko and Koala, Oliver found himself performing at shows around the world, including Ibiza, where he first rocked up as a fresh-faced 19-year old and now holds down multiple residencies, most notably for Cream at HÏ Ibiza. “For the first few years I was just coming in and out but last year I started renting a villa for the season. It’s nice to have a home – the island is a great place to be if you’re playing here a lot.”

Oliver spends rare downtime visiting some of the island’s many beaches or eating at his favourite restaurants – places like Bambuddha, Hostal La Torre and Las Dos Lunas – but his compulsive desire to produce music means the creative process never stops. “This summer I invited a bunch of singers and songwriters to my house and during the days we would head to the studio,” he affirms. “In general, I go to so many places that I get a lot of new impulses I need to lay down. Plus, the shows themselves are always pretty motivating.”

Unsurprisingly for someone with such innate musical flair, constructive criticism on the subject of new tunes comes from very close to to home. “My mum always wants to listen to new music I’m working on,” he laughs. “And my dad is very much into music. I played at a festival in Germany recently so he came to see me but he really liked the line-up so he camped for the whole weekend!” Is it helpful to have a father’s honest opinion? “He’s a sound freak,” Oliver says. “He plays keys and he’s a big fan of analogue synths, so when I play him my new stuff he usually has very specific feedback on certain details.”

Undoubtedly this father-son bond over electronic music has shaped Oliver’s approach to production, and perhaps instilled a confidence that means he remains unfazed in the face of all the pressures that come with the job – including working alongside musical greats. “I’m releasing an official remix of Chic’s Le Freak very soon,” he says. “It’s to mark the song’s 40th anniversary. I’ve also done a song with Nile Rodgers. I never met him but I sent him one of my tracks and he recorded the guitars to go with it – he wrote a whole song on top of my track. Working with him was one of my life goals so I’m very happy.” Skill, genetics, hard work – maybe the secret to Dutch success doesn’t lie with the occult after all.

Oliver Heldens has been a regular at Cream, Ibiza at Hi Ibiza this season. For tickets to the remaining parties at Hi Ibiza plus the official closing party on October 6, 2018 with  Black Coffee visit https://www.hiibiza.com/en