DANCE MUSIC AND DJ culture has evolved and taken over the world in the past two decades. During that time, one man has embodied that change more than any other: Tijs Michiel Verwest, better known as Tiësto.
After emerging in the 1990s, the Dutch DJ came to dominate the commercial spectrum of the electronic music world in the following decade, riding the wave of the early-noughties trance explosion to become one of the best-known and most sought-after performers.
Born in the Dutch city of Breda, Tiësto (the stage handle is a twist on his childhood nickname) started playing in his homeland in the early 1990s, and released his first single in 1994. He gradually built a following throughout that decade, but really hit the big time around the turn of the millennium.
The pivotal moment was his 2000 remix of Silence by Delerium with Sarah McLachlan, which helped to turn a mid-tempo dinner party pop track into a monster trance smash. His popularity reached its peak in the next few years: he was voted "best DJ in the world" by the readers of the influential DJ Magazine three years running between 2002 and 2004. Only fellow Dutch trance pioneer Armin van Buuren has won the accolade more times.
And with his unique crossover appeal to dance music fans and mainstream audiences, Tiësto's popularity has never really waned since - as Hong Kong audiences will get to see on October 1, the National Day holiday, when he spins at AsiaWorld-Expo. He will be lining up alongside a collection of other big-name DJs, which for Tiësto is not the norm. He is famous for playing extremely long sets that can last up to 10 hours, often without a support act.
"While this is my career, I DJ out of love for the music," he says. "So I never really thought about the time of the set but rather wanted to create an environment where the fans will have the best time possible. The DJ set is like a story and sometimes that story is quite long."
Those sets are mainly known for a particular brand of arms-in-the-air trance, but Tiësto has always dabbled in a variety of genres - his early recorded work was hardcore techno and, in recent years, house and even rock influences have found their way into both his recorded output and his DJ sets.
But he prefers not to think in terms of labels. "I like to call it dance music," he says. "I try and play a set that encompasses my whole career and the music I personally like. A lot of people like to use labels and sub-genres, but I just call it dance music."
Whatever it is, it got the attention of the organisers of the biggest party on the planet. Specifically, it was his instantly recognisable Adagio for Strings, a euphoric reworking of the eponymous piece by American classical composer Samuel Barber, that persuaded the organising committee of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens to invite Tiësto to play a 90-minute set during choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou's opening ceremony.
It made him the first DJ to play at the Olympics, prompting a minor kerfuffle when the Dutch athletes started dancing in front of the DJ booth and had to be moved on. His set was later released as an album, Parade of the Athletes. "It was the most unusual place I've played," he says. "It wasn't scary so much as it was surreal. To know you are playing for all those athletes, in a packed stadium and with the world watching on TV - wow."
Tiësto has also been in demand among other artists. He formed a celebrated partnership as Gouryella with fellow Dutch trance producer Ferry Corsten, while stars of other musical genres he's worked with include everyone from Katy Perry to Kanye West. "I'm about to go on a tour of Europe with Calvin Harris and that should be awesome," he says.
But his favourite musical partner is a surprise. "In terms of collaborations, I enjoyed my time working with Bono."
A regular visitor to our shores, Tiësto has long spent much of his time travelling the world. These days, he says, he spends more time in the world's biggest music market, the US, which has finally caught up with the explosion of DJ culture after a couple of decades of resolutely not getting it.
"I think dance music in the US, as a whole, is in demand and, certainly, I'm a big part of that. I decided to start a residency in Las Vegas this summer instead of going to Ibiza as in years past. So the US has become a big part of my life."
Hong Kong audiences, he adds, "have been great. There's a very interesting history in this city and it makes for one of the more unique places on a cultural level. And I can say you guys definitely know how to party."
Tiësto, October 1, 5.45pm, AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong International Airport, Lantau, HK$980-HK$1,800. Inquiries: 2146 8000