Overdrive: Oliver Heldens on UK No.1, New Single, and the EDC Main Stage

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Between genre mainstays like Armin van Buuren, Afrojack, and Fedde Le Grand, it’s no small task to break into the upper echelon of the Dutch dance music scene. However, Oliver Heldens flipped the script with 2013’s “Gecko,” his debut single on Tiësto’s Musical Freedom label that blurred genre lines with its combination EDM builds, tech aesthetics, and sassy garage swagger.  The track managed to kick start the 19-year-old DJ/producer’s career, with widespread adoption of the track by fans, festivals, and even his fellow DJs leading to a contract with Spinnin’ Records.

Helden’s innovation even managed to transcend to the pop sphere when “Gecko (Overdrive)”—the vocal reinterpretation of the track featuring singer Becky Hill—debuted at No.1 on the UK Singles Chart earlier this summer. Coupled with his upcoming single “Koala” and a series of high-profile slots at Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival and Belgium’s Tomorrowland festivals, Heldens has kept the momentum going. We connected with the Dutch artist to catch up about his projects, success, and origins.

DJ Times: How did you get started DJing and producing?
Oliver Heldens: When I was going to high school, I went to school parties and Hardwell was playing there, which really inspired me. In that period, I also discovered how to make music on the computer.

DJ Times: How did you first catch Tiësto’s attention to release “Gecko” on his Musical Freedom label?
Heldens: Tiësto was following me on Twitter, and he supported my older tracks. I sent “Gecko” to him in a direct message, and within 15 minutes he replied to me. a week later I met him in Amsterdam during ADE.

DJ Times: The vocal version of “Gecko” recently went to No.1 on the UK Singles chart. What do you think this says about where pop music is heading currently?
Heldens: I think on one hand is pop music is getting more dance and housey, and on the other side EDM is getting more groovy and housey.

DJ Times: “Gecko” was big hit amongst the dance community. What made you decide to record a vocal version?
Heldens: I think it’s really nice to have two versions of one track. The instrumental was really big in the dance community, and it was a great opportunity to put vocals on it to reach a bigger audience.

DJ Times: What went into the process of recording it?
Heldens: We sent Gecko to a lot of vocalists and songwriters. They sent their demos in, and my label and I are really liked the Becky Hill version.

DJ Times: What’s you preferred live DJing setup?
Heldens: Four CDJ-2000 Nexus players and a DJM-900.

DJ Times: What hardware or software gear are a must-have for you currently when in the studio?
Heldens: Fruity Loops. For synths, I use plugins Massive and Sylenth1.

DJ Times: You recently got to play on the main stage at EDC Las Vegas. What’s it like to play on a stage that’s normally known for big room house?
Heldens: I feel honored that I can do my own thing at EDC Las Vegas, especially my music is not like the big room house.

DJ Times: Do you think this says anything about current shifts in the dance music landscape?
Heldens: I hope so, I guess it says something that one of the biggest festivals of America booked something like me on the main stage.

DJ Times: Your new track “Koala” is out soon. What’s the story behind the track?
Heldens: I produced the track at the end of 2013, and it’s scheduled for the 4th of August. I think it’s a good follow up of my latest release Gecko. I’m really happy with the support on Koala so far.

DJ Times: What else is in the pipeline for Oliver Heldens fans throughout the rest of 2014?
Heldens: I’ve got a completely full schedule for this year, so a lot of Oliver Heldens music is coming up.

Listen to “Koala” ahead of its August 4 release via Spinnin’ Records below.

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