Interview With Headhunterz: “Master the Rules – and Then Break Them”

When your everyday routine consists of hopping between airplanes, hotels, shows, and gyms, it’s safe to say that you know a little bit about commitment and discipline. Dutch Hardstyle force and recent IDMA winner Headhunterz is also living proof that hard work does pay off in spades. Naturally, we were curious about the man behind the success.
Headhunterz: “Master the Rules – and Then Break Them”
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Sara Mekinc

Ever since he was 20, Headhunterz has been working tirelessly as a producer, voiceover actor, brand ambassador, or performer. A classic case of “doing it before it was cool”, he committed to spinning Hardstyle at clubs and music festivals worldwide before it became more mainstream to do so. He also launched his first label “HARD with STYLE” at 27, worked with podcasts, and generally followed that pioneering “yes we can” spirit in everything he did. Today, he’s one of those multi-awarded artists whose efforts helped Hardstyle break from its “European rave” confinement into an international phenomenon.


Throughout your career, you have been dubbed as the driving force of Hardstyle. Did that put pressure on you, or even made it more difficult to experiment genre-wise? 

Yes, it did. I guess it’s an extra layer on top of what all artists feel as they progress and build up their career. When you take the first steps of your musical career, there are zero expectations from the outside world. And it’s very easy to keep topping yourself as you go. But this becomes harder and harder over time. Personally, I've always tried to look at this as an opportunity for self-reflection. Every career comes with its own challenges, and this is the one that artists have to face. Pressure is a blessing and a curse, because it’s also the force that drives me and helps me reach new creative heights.

With over 11M views, the 2017 "Takin It Back" clip remains one of the most popular videos on Headhunterz's YouTube channel. Just in April 2020, it has been viewed over 30k times per week.

As for the competitive element, I chose to let that go last year. I was never really competitive to begin with, and I realized that voting and various participations were something I needed to let go of, to stay close to myself and the reason why I make music in the first place.

You have a long-lasting collaboration with Wildstylez, from “Project One” to “Art of Creation”. Can you tell us more about the journey you've shared? 

Wildstylez and I have been best friends since the beginning of our careers, and our lives have been intertwined ever since. Working together with him gives so much more meaning to my career, because it feels like we are in this together, and we've shared so many milestones. Continuing the legacy of “Project One” feels very meaningful, and it was a very logical step to start a label together. If it were up to just me, we’d be working together until the very end. 

During the Covid-19 distancing, Headhunterz is using his alone time to practice the piano and, as he puts it, finally produce new tracks for a Project One album with Wildstylez. Source: Instagram

We grew up listening to cassettes and CDs. But the music industry has changed a lot, going from “physical” to digitalization and streaming. How have you experienced this transition as an artist?

I can proudly say that in the very first year of my career, I was still playing some vinyl, right before CDs took over. I must admit that even though it was very cumbersome to carry that suitcase around, it really made releasing music that much more special. Having your first releases printed and holding them in your hands was such a real experience. But that’s pure nostalgia now, and I just embrace the digital revolution with all the benefits it provides.

While on the subject of growing up: “Headhunterz” is in plural because the act started out as a duo. Here’s “baby Willem” with Bobby van Putten, when they were already winning DJ contests in 2004 as “Nasty D-tuners”. Source: Instagram

Gaming and music have always had a close link. One of your biggest tracks “Dragonborn” was inspired by Skyrim, “Reignite” has a Mass Effect influence, and the music video for “Destiny” looks and feels like a first-person combat game. Nowadays, it’s even possible to have virtual concerts inside games. How do you see this new opportunity – playing a virtual venue?

I’m very curious to see if this will become a thing, and if it will, whether it will be able to replace a real event. It would certainly make my life a hell of a lot easier not having to fly all over the world! I’m definitely open to these kinds of ideas, so let’s see where it goes.


To wrap things up, what would be your advice to up-and-coming Hardstyle DJs and producers, on finding your own sound?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that you have to know the rules before you can break them. So master the rules – and then you will be able to break free and play around with them. 

 


Cover photo: Artist’s archive


As Headhunterz puts it: every career comes with its challenges. We’re here to help you with some of those. Your artist profile, automatically updated with all your latest stuff, is probably already on Viberate. You can send it to promoters, talent scouts, and A&Rs, and use the time you'd otherwise spend updating your onepager on making music. Check it out and sign-up to claim it.

 

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Sara Mekinc

Sara Mekinc

Content Specialist at Viberate
Avid concert-goer, a sucker for creative wordsmithery, and 100 % biodegradable. Google "melomaniac".