Hardstyle music’s growing influence

As raves and music festivals have come into the mainstream over the past several years, more and more young people are listening to Electronic Dance Music. Contrary to popular belief, the term “Electronic Dance Music,” or “EDM,” is not synonymous with “dubstep.” Rather, dubstep is a subgenre within the EDM genre, where it is joined by dozens of other subgenres, including house, trance, drum and bass and hardstyle.web crowdjpg

Most EDM festivals feature artists who primarily play dubstep, house and sometimes drum and bass. Hardstyle, with tracks typically around 150 beats per minute, usually features reversed bass lines and a kick drum sound. The subgenre is notorious for inspiring an irrepressible urge to dance. Hardstyle is relatively new to the U.S. EDM scene, but has been gaining popularity over the past several years.

On Saturday, March 8, USC students will have the opportunity to experience hardstyle just five minutes away from campus. Q-dance, a Dutch hardstyle event organizer, is putting on a show at the Shrine called “The Sound of Q-dance.” The show boasts a lineup of hardstyle DJs and producers including Brennan Heart, Frontliner, The Prophet, Lady Faith, Sylence, Mr. Skeleton and MC Villain.

Fabian Bohn, a hardstyle producer and DJ from the Netherlands, produces most of his tracks under the name Brennan Heart. In terms of the type of music he produces, Bohn emphasized that he is interested in thinking outside of the box when it comes to new tracks.

“Since the first day I wrote music, I always wrote stuff between trance, techno and a lot of other subgenres, and I think it’s really interesting to combine that stuff with hardstyle,” Bohn said. “It’s not just a hardstyle track. I always try to write something next-level to bring something else.”

Bohn also felt that the word “hardstyle” might give people the wrong impression about what the subgenre is all about.

“I don’t like the word ‘hardstyle,’” Bohn said. “I don’t like the name by itself because it sounds like it’s ridiculously hard and really a bit dark or something, but the genre by itself could be quite interesting if you think out of the box.”

Thinking outside the box includes making crossover tracks that combine other subgenres and adding vocals to hardstyle tracks. Bohn set a trend for vocals in hardstyle in his track “Lose My Mind” with DJ Wildstylez. Since the track was released in 2012, vocals have become more frequent in tracks within the subgenre.

The subgenre has evolved in other ways as well. The hardstyle scene has been popular in Holland and Europe for the past decade, but Bohn has noticed some recent changes.

“In the last few years it got more euphoric, more mixed with pop and vocals,” Bohn said. “For example, my latest track with Jonathan Mendelsohn, ‘Imaginary,’ that’s like a pop song with a hardstyle kind of production.”

He predicts that the subgenre will continue to evolve in this way.

“These days it’s really important to make a good overall song, and five to six years ago it was more about the kinds of sounds and the build-up and the drop, so in my opinion, it’s gonna evolve even more, and I think hardstyle will grow up to a sound that’s between house and what it is right now,” Bohn said.

Bohn also noted some differences between the hardstyle scene in the United States and in Europe. Since hardstyle has been popular in Europe for the past decade, audiences there expect hardstyle performers to play a familiar kind of sound, based on the traditional hardcore sound that originated in Holland. On the contrary, audiences in the United States tend to be more open to variations in hardstyle’s typical sound.

“[Americans] are all so open. When I want to play in the States I play crossover stuff — sometimes house remixes and some dubstep influence,” Bohn said. “In a certain way people in the States are still pretty new to the genre, also to the EDM genre, and it brings a lot of good opportunities to explore the boundaries of the genre.”

For those interested in learning more about the subgenre, Bohn has a podcast  called “WE R Hardstyle,” which features new music every month. In addition, Bohn recently did a documentary called Evolution of Style, which is available on his YouTube channel.

Bohn said that he has had great experiences performing in Los Angeles, so he is very much looking forward to playing at the Shrine on March 8.

“For me, the States is like a new era, a new journey, a new step, and I always love to go there, so I can’t wait!” Bohn said.

Tickets for “The Sound of Q-dance” are currently available online.