Oliver Heldens has risen to fame on the back of a canny mix of two of the biggest trends in electronic music at the moment, blending big-room bass with the dynamics of deep house (in fact, he topped our recent list of 20 rising stars who deserve the hype). His early tracks Stinger and Thumper favoured the wubs, but his more recent singles Gecko and Koala lean further towards soulful house, with frequent Rudimental guest Becky Hill adding diva vocals to a version of Gecko, re-dubbed Gecko (Overdrive), which topped the charts in the UK.
Heldens is straddling the line between the likes of Disclosure and fellow Dutch stomper Martin Garrix, whose hit Animals he remixed. The 19-year-old is in high demand right now, with plenty of festivals adding him to their bills, including Stereosonic, which secured the rising star for their blockbuster November tour. When inthemix talks to Heldens he’s days away from playing Creamfields UK and South West Four, after which he heads to New York for Electric Zoo.
At the end of the year you’re coming out for Stereosonic. Will this be your first time visiting Australia?
Yeah, this will be my first time and I’m really excited.
That leads to my next question: why did you call your last single ‘Koala’?
Well, because I had Gecko I thought it would be nice to also call my next track an exotic animal. So that’s why it’s called Koala.
The animal names: will this be an ongoing theme with your music or is it just ‘Gecko’ and ‘Koala’?
I think some tracks in the future will also be animal names, but now I also have some collab’ tracks with other artists and those tracks aren’t named after animals. So not every track.
Now that it’s out how do you feel about the reaction to ‘Koala’? Do you pay attention to stuff on the internet?
Yes, and I’m really happy with the reaction. If I look at the support by DJs it’s really insane, bigger than Gecko already, and also the comments are in my opinion really good. Of course on YouTube you always will see also some negative comments, or hater comments, but if I compare a few of those comments to the amount of other comments and the amount of likes versus dislikes I’m really happy.
There’ll always be negative comments but it’s easy to blow them out of proportion, to see a small amount of negative comments and have those be the ones you remember. It’s good you can pay attention to the fact most comments are positive.
Yes, that’s true. Because I know some artists who get a bit frustrated by those comments, because I know that every artist gets some stupid comments on a track. Every track on YouTube, every big track, they get a lot of stupid comments, a lot of hater comments or negative comments, so it’s important as artists to focus on the positive things.
I’ve seen pictures of you wearing your gecko outfit; do you have a koala outfit now as well?
No, and the gecko outfit, someone gave it to me and then I posed a picture for fun wearing it, saying I will wear it at Tomorrowland if it got 15,000 likes and then it happened. But the outfit’s not really practical to DJ with because of the gloves, and also if I want to wear a headphone it’s more difficult.
And a bit restrictive for your dancing. I’ve heard that you like to copy the dance moves that you see people doing in your audience?
Yes, sometimes if I look in the audience and people look at me and they do particular dance moves then I copy them and then they are really happy.
Do they ever have dance moves that are really hard to copy, or are you a good dancer?
No, I’m not a really good dancer in my opinion. Sometimes at gigs or, for example, in the live feed with Spinnin’ Records I shuffled a bit, then there were a lot of comments from people about my shuffling. They called that dance ‘The Heldens Shuffle’ and people wanted to learn it. Although I’m not really good; I think maybe I should take some lessons or something and get really good at it.
I have a theory that DJs and producers are almost never good dancers. Maybe if you were a good dancer you wouldn’t be making the music, you’d be out there dancing to it.
I do both. At first I make music and then I dance to it.