We sit down with revered Belgian DJs and producers, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, whose electro and big room house music recently took them to the number one spot on DJ Magazine's annual Top 100 DJs poll. These talented siblings (real names Dimitri Thivaios and Michael Thivaios) chat to us about their humble beginnings, the Ibiza transition, and the evolution of the Belgian scene.
How did it all begin for you guys?
Dimitri: From a very early age, we were both into music, but I was the first to really get into buying records and DJing. Seeing music as much more than a hobby: as a career. I started DJing when I was 13, and really pushed myself from very early on to try and make a career out of it, which led me to moving to Majorca, and then later, Ibiza.
Mike: I was always into hip-hop; it took me a few years to really catch up on the whole electronic music scene. But then around 2003, I visited Ibiza, and everything really changed for me then.
The scene has changed dramatically since then, right?
Dimitri: Yeah, it’s become a bigger, more global scene since those days. It’s evolved into something so wide reaching with so many new genres and artists. It’s exciting.
Mike: It's definitely evolved for the better with so much on offer nowadays, yes.
What do you bring to the table that perhaps some other DJs don't?
Mike: I think it's a spirit and a relationship with the crowd that’s hard to rival.
Dimitri: For us, we’re just doing what we love; we’re not trying to compete with anyone. What matters when we’re on stage is what the crowd is reacting to: are they enjoying it, and how can we improve the gig for their benefit?
Your music tastes must be pretty eclectic - what are your main influences?
Mike: For me, it's hip hop, early electronic music... It's really varied, actually.
Dimitri: As a DJ, it's important to always be searching for new music, discovering new sounds and ideas from what’s out there, whether that’s new or old. So our tastes come from all the years we’ve put in, as well as all the digging we do for new music.
What is a current 'day in the life' for each of you, if there is such a thing..?
Dimitri: We focus heavily on our music whether we’re touring or at home. The days are enormously varied because we’re always travelling, or in a studio somewhere, or having meetings with our team. The art of it all is to stay focused, and set targets.
Mike: I think we’re very good at finding our own space, actually, which helps a lot, because we both like to work on ideas separately when it comes to making music, and then come together in the latter stages.
How do you guys prepare for the rigorous schedules both mentally and physically?
Mike: It’s about eating well, looking after yourself, and giving yourself time to relax and unwind in between shows. On show night, we’re ready. We’ll enjoy a good meal and some light drinks with our tour team and friends before the gig, then to the venue where we will both prepare for the show. We like to enjoy the occasion just before the show, and soak up the atmosphere.
Take us through your main setup...
Dimitri: We have a number of places that we work in, so we have different bits of gear in each studio. The biggest thing for us is having a good monitoring setup and acoustic environment, so I would say the most important part of our studio is our monitors. We like to use the Grimm Audio LS1s with the Trinnov Audio Pro Acoustic Optimizer. Our Workstation is Logic.
Mike: We like to get hands-on in the studio when we can, so we have a few hardware synths we use a lot. The Moog Minimoog Voyager is great, as well as the Korg MS-20 mini for those dirtier sounds.
What are your go-to plugins?
Dimitri: We’ve been using Waves plugins for a while now; it’s not a question of why Waves, but really why not? They’re the premium plugin, and so a must for any producer. You know you’re using quality when the likes of Abbey Road Studios are collaborating with Waves.
Waves are some of our favourite plugins for audio processing, and are most often the ones we reach for first. The CLA-2 compressor is great on basses as it gives it so much richness and character. And the H-Delay is a great delay plugin also; and using the paramaters like the modulation, filters, and analogue settings, you can get a lot of movement and some crazy effects. The ping-pong helps to give a sound a lot of depth, too!
Mike: We use the Waves S1 Imager a lot too; if your track is sounding a bit narrow, applying it to a select number of elements can really help to give the track width, and make the mix come alive. We find that if we have go-to plugins we can rely on, when we want to process a sound in a certain way, this really improves our workflow, as we're not wasting time going through different plugins.
How has the Belgian scene evolved since you guys started out as a duo?
Dimitri: The reach of dance music has gone global, and of course this has been felt in Belgium. Seeing tracks of ours like The Hum and Higher Places reach number one in the Belgian singles chart is something we could only have dreamt of when we started out. It’s great to see the music we love and live for having such success in our home country.
Mike: You only have to look at the impact Tomorrowland has had on the world scene to see the benefits it has back home in Belgium. It’s so global now; we’re reaching so many people with our music, it’s amazing. It’s incredible to see how far the festival has come since it first started in 2005.
Who in the industry do you look up to the most?
Mike: For me, Dr. Dre is a figure that you have to give huge amounts of respect to. A game changer!
Dimitri: Yeah, anyone who has ridden their own wave and been successful, really: guys like Tiësto and Carl Cox are great examples of inspirational figures from within the dance music world.
What is your most memorable show to date, and why? Big question, I'm sure...
Dimitri: [smiles] Yeah, that’s a tough question, because we play so many great and memorable shows! Tomorrowland is always a special plus for us; it's our home, and the place we always give something truly magical at. It’s what Tomorrowland is all about. We love to play big shows, and festivals are the perfect setting for that.
Mike: Selling our solo arena show at Antwerp's Sportpaleis for our Bringing The World the Madness is definitely up there. It's an incredible venue, and a big homecoming show for us. We have another two events there this year in December at the arena which we sold out in less than 40 minutes - something you only saw with people like Michael Jackson and Beyoncé... Now that’s mad!
Dimitri: Yeah, those shows are definitely our favourites, too. We had such an amazing time, and this year we’re going to do it all again, but only bigger and better.
Finally, guys, what's the most noticeable change you've seen in the industry since you started out?
Mike: It has to be the production around the shows, and the experience the fan gets from not just the DJ, but the entire set up and stage. It’s amazing, and great to see this finally happening.