It’s no secret the Dutch are a serious powerhouse when it comes to producing electronic hits taking even over mainstream radio.
Showtek, consisting of brothers Sjoerd and Wouter Janssen, are one of those defining duos from Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Growing up in an urban neighborhood, their eclectic mix of 90s house and even reggae has created a unique sound that put them on the map for festivals all around the world. In just two weeks they will step into the 8,000-acre horse farm in Chattahoochee Hills in Georgia to headline TomorrowWorld, just one of the many larger EDM festivals they will show face at.
Between their two-year residency at OMNIA in Vegas, a super insane summer of touring in Europe and now a 6-week stint in the U.S., you could say it’s hard to keep up with them.
“We practically live in hotels,” Sjoerd said laughing.
I was able to catch up with the charismatic, super down-to-earth duo before their set at EDC Las Vegas this summer. We talked their new track “Satisfied,” their hip hop influences and what they really like to do after a huge show. Hint: It involves a lot of R&R and tea.
How does it feel to be No.1 in the electro house chart?
Sjoerd: Honestly we have been doing a lot of releases over the last two years, and some were high and sometimes the lower ones ending up becoming the bigger hits. So it’s a nice indication of where you’re at musically, but it’s not always like the perfect point where you’re like, “Okay this is the biggest one” but it’s always a great honor to be in the first position.
What is it like being a duo as brothers? Is that challenging sometimes?
Sjoerd: Uh, for us it’s a big sigh.
Wouter: Big Sigh. [Laughing]
Sjoerd: No for us we are definitely two individuals in one name, so we both have different kinds of views on how we do stuff but it works together. It’s actually really nice and we went through a lot when we were younger and so we actually know each other really well.
Wouter: We had to find a dynamic a little bit so we decided, “Okay Sjoerd is more hyping the crowd and MCing” and I’m doing more the technical side and it works perfectly. We both have fun.
Sjoerd: Not even just on the stage but in the studio we have different inputs on tracks and sometimes we’re like, “Really you think so?” We always try new stuff out though. But the good thing is we always give each other space, so even if we are in the studio working together and he’s really convinced this melody is going to work I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and the chance to do it. It’s nice to have each other when you finish a show and you’re on the road — you always have a buddy. It’s like even in the studio when you’re working there is always someone next to you.
Where did you guys get inspiration for your track “Satisfied?”
Sjoerd: Actually I found a clip on my phone I always play the riffs when I record them. And I was like, “When did I make that riff?” And I remembered it and I was in a very good mood and I was playing some uptempo stuff, like 90s house music which I love. I think the melody reminds me of an old song, “Two Can Play That Game.”. The chord progressions were a little similar and I was singing that song…
Wouter: I think the reason why you like 90s house music is because it’s urban with a little bit of dance, and that’s also why we like reggae and other stuff. We always have a weakness for urban music. If you listen to “Booyah” it’s very reggae and urban.
Sjoerd: Yeah and I was talking to our vocalist Sonny Wilson and I was like, “Uh I want to do another song.” I asked her, “Can you do something like, super 90s more like CeCe Peniston kinda vibe?” We were sending some stuff back and forth and then I made a riff on it and we finished the whole track. It’s like EDM with a house vibe or something. We wanted to get that house vibe but we didn’t want to not have our sound or touch. I think we managed to combine Showtek into the deep house vibe without going too deep into it.
Wouter: I think a big thing is you don’t want to do the same thing always. Even if it sounds like you’re using the same tracks you want to add something fresh to it.
Sjoerd: It’s almost a waste that we can only play one hour because we have so much stuff. Some songs you wanna play in a two hour set because it will really represent its self at its fullest. Now we have to squeeze some stuff in a little bit.
What was your first experience with Playboy?
Sjoerd: I had a friend actually and they had their car car garage in Holland. And their dad’s whole garage was full of centerfolds from Playboy and I was like seven-years-old.
Wouter: I found the Playboys in the attic in my house. And I was like, “What’s this?” And my mom was like, “Oh nothing, just leave it there.”
Sjoerd: Our dad couldn’t get rid of his old loves.
What was the first song you knew all the words to?
Wouter: “No limits” by 2 Unlimited.
Sjoerd: Oh that’s a good one.
Wouter: I tried Michael Jackson’s “Bad” though, but I was too young.
Sjoerd: I think Wyclef Jean “Gone Till November” was the song I remember singing.
What’s the biggest misconception about being a DJ?
Sjoerd: That it is just DJing. It’s like a whole thing— you’re working in the studio. It’s like DJ and producer, people mix it up, but we’re both. So some people just DJ and they don’t do their own music, but we actually compose, arrange and write music and we create a whole mood and energy when we’re in the club. When it’s dead everyone is staring at you like, “Okay you have to make sure it’s going to be fun.” But to deal with that pressure and actually deliver is tougher than most people think.
Wouter: Yeah, I compare it to being a professional soccer player. It looks easy on the field, but to become a professional soccer player requires a lot of talent, effort and hard work. It looks easy but behind-the-scenes it’s a lot of hard work.
What are your favorite after-hour things to do in Vegas?
Sjoerd: Well we are not the classical crazy party DJs…
Wouter: We invest in our future, which is sleeping.
Sjoerd: Yeah we have very old fashioned habits, like drinking tea and hanging out with the boys for 15-20 minutes. We’ll just talk about the show.
Wouter: Yeah and just watch like a TV show and come down a little bit. So much adrenaline after a show! If you still need to go somewhere else after there is something wrong with you.
What’s the sexiest song ever?
Sjoerd: I have to say “Nobody” by Keith Sweat.
Wouter: A Blackstreet song. What’s the name of the song again…
Wouter: It’s that one song…
Sjoerd: Yeah I don’t know.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Sjoerd: Sometimes yeah. For a big show like EDC we sit down for a few hours and discuss and go through what tracks we should play and we’ll talk about the show and any ideas we have.
Wouter: I don’t like planning though. I’m very spontaneous and impulsive so imagine if we prepared the set and the whole energy is different in the crowd. It feels so manufactured when you go on. Of course we know our intro and maybe the second track but then we just see and go with how we feel.
What did you guys do with your first big paycheck?
Sjoerd: I never had a huge paycheck, but I think I bought a car.
Wouter: Yeah I think I also bought a car.
Sjoerd: I didn’t even move out of the house yet, but I think I bought a car. A 5K BMW, like old school, kinda a white trash car, but I thought it looked so cool.
Wouter: Yeah I still lived with my mom and brother. We don’t come from a crazy rich family — we grew up with two sisters and a mom who raised us and we were the only white kids in our neighborhood. It was cool though. We didn’t have any money, but it made us who we are.
Nicole Theodore is an editorial assistant at Playboy. Follow her on Twitter.