It’s calm behind the Silver stage, is this really where the Artist lounge is supposed to be? A few benches and a security guard are the only indicators that there might be something about to happen in a few minutes. Our press contact greets us nicely and we sit down at the artist lounge. Colleagues are filming, others are chatting, Headhunterz is sitting on one of the benches. Mr G-Flow stands in the back, eyeing us journalists. “Welcome to this Press Conference, great to have you all here”, chit-chatter and introductions flow before the biggest news of the year drop. Headhunterz seems calm, at peace – but excited. He’s back.
He starts telling his story and almost everything we wanted to know gets answered before we even get a chance to ask our questions. “I mean, we all know what’s been going on”, he starts “For the last two and a half years I’ve been taking a new route in my life. Hardstyle was the music of my youth, my success came very quickly in the Hardstyle scene. That was great, of course, but sometimes I also didn’t know any better.” He tells us of what made him explore the world outside of Hardstyle. “At a certain age and point of my career I started to wonder what else is out there. I started to ask myself why I am not exploring any further. I was basically doing the same parties every year, even though all of it was so awesome, I started to become a bit too comfortable in my comfort zone. So I started looking for new challenges.” Looking down, he broke a smile. “But everything I found was a longing to come home.”
“Everything I found was a longing to come home.”-Headhunterz
No other scene had the unity, the energy and the profoundness in music that he loved so much about Hardstyle. He tells us, he didn’t allow himself to doubt any of his own intentions. So when the time came and he was about to play Defqon.1 last year he just treated it like any other gig, not knowing what the outcome of that experience would be. “When I left [Defqon.1. 2016], it changed me. I left as a completely different human being.” Since that day, something was different for Headhunterz but he just didn’t want to give in to it yet. “But from the moment we did Project One at Qlimax it just felt so good to be working together with these people again, so I was like ‘Screw It’.” It was a difficult decision, but for Headhunterz it was the only one that truly felt right. So what can we expect now? “The typical Headhunterz sound!”, Headhunterz says and explains to us how there is a mini album planned. The label is still to be determined. A fellow journalist asks why he never took his Shilo alias more serious instead of leaving as Headhunterz. “At the time when I made the switch, I had a manager who thought this might be a good idea. On the business side of things it made sense. (…) I wanted to keep the soul of Headhunterz and bring something new to the EDM table. (…) Sometimes I doubted it was the right decision, but that was just how we did things. (…) Leaving the name ‘Headhunterz’ would have also meant leaving everything I built up here behind for good.”
We wanted to know more about his tattoo as well. “Well, ever since I got a sleeve tattoo about spirituality a couple years ago I wanted a second about music, about Hardstyle. (…) So when I decided to come back, I wanted to make it special. It was going to mean a lot for people as well as for me.” And the flatline? “For a lot of people it came along as teasing, it wasn’t really my intention to do that, to be honest. It was the only thing I was thinking about all day, every day. I had to hold back, but I wanted to just go out there! (…) The flatline was for ‘Destiny’.” We got to know how it was designed to be a distraction, creating confusion rather than be a teaser.
“Ever since I got a sleeve tattoo about spirituality a couple years ago I wanted a second about music, about Hardstyle.” – Headhunterz
We talked about the philosophy of Hardstyle for a bit. Our colleagues and us remained absolutely silent when Headhunterz spoke, the respect and genuine thankfulness is felt by everyone. “It’s intangible. There’s something about it. Hardstyle is very lucky to not have been touched by the mainstream consumer market and therefore still has a kind of purity that allows for longevity. It has grown so strong because so many people have put so much hard and genuine work in it for so many years. It is a very stable scene with strong roots. (…) It has a very rich culture and history that allows people to relate to it. (…) Also for the artists – it just becomes a part of you and hard to escape. It becomes a part of your life (…) and it goes beyond the music alone.”
“The essence of Hardstyle is not to be completely mainstream. It’s right beneath the surface and it’s here – If people wanna find it they are going to, if not then they won’t.” – Headhunterz
Will you bring Hardstyle to the mainstream? “That is not my mission anymore. What I saw didn’t excite me. I had a great time out there, but I also saw that the mainstream market is very contaminated with business. Everyone’s just in it for themselves. There’s just a lot of things that I’m not excited about there. I hope that does not come to Hardstyle. If Hardstyle stays the way it is, I’m happy with that. (…) It’s also, I would think, one of the reasons why Hardstyle is here to stay. Other genres get picked up by the mainstream, consumers eat it up and then throw it away. That is not what the scene wants and it’s not what I want, and I’m grateful I have discovered this. (…) The essence of Hardstyle is not to be completely mainstream. It’s right beneath the surface and it’s here – If people wanna find it they are going to, if not then they won’t. (…) My mission now is to keep it pure.”
And Project One? “The whole Project One vibe, I still love it. I’m looking forward to continue that as well!” And a Project One album too? “Maybe, haha! But at the moment I’m more focussed on finishing my own album at the moment.” He tells us the Headhunterz mini-album will most likely be out before the end of the year and will contain 6-8 tracks. And the people who damn him? “Since I’ve been making music, there were people who criticised me. These people will always be there, I can defend myself as much as I want. But what for? It just takes energy. There are also a lot of people who are very happy and grateful – These people deserve my attention. You do not have to listen to my music, there are enough other artists whom you can share your positivity with.” And what about Hard With Style, now that ‘the Headhunterz is back’? “The podcast was always very natural to me. We’re gonna make HWS a 2.0 version, it’s going to be a whole new thing. There will be video and much more, but the first episodes might bring back the nostalgia bit!”
We chat a bit more about the unity of the scene in the last minutes. “There’s separation, people create islands and that’s ok, but I definitely want to bring a message of unity back. (…) I’m grateful people left the door open for me and I want to contribute to the unity of the scene.”
True dragon blood never dies. Welcome back home Headhunterz.
We thank Q-Dance, Headhunterz & the entire Headhunterz team for this interview opportunity!
Pictures: Luna Ellinger