For The Record: How Tiësto's 'In My Memory' Crowned A Dance Music Superstar 20 Years Ago
Like any self-respecting star during the early 2000s, Tiësto offered up a tour DVD to the world. Released in August 2003, Another Day at the Office follows the DJ's world tour the previous year, which culminated in a New Year's Eve set at Times Square in New York. The film captures the 33-year-old on the ascent—popular enough to be flown around the world, but still able to circulate a US festival mostly incognito.
The footage captures Tiësto jumping between international flights and limos, signing t-shirts and flyers for fans and playing gigs with a bag of vinyl records and a binder of promo CDRs. "My life in general is pretty hectic," he says early in the film, framed against New York's icy East River. "On Christmas Day, I played in Ireland and London, then the day after I flew to Hong Kong, and then a day later I'm here in New York." As he lists this sleepless schedule, the smile on his face suggests he wouldn't have it any other way.
Tiësto's newly hectic life coincided with the arrival of his debut album, In My Memory. Released in April of 2001 on the Black Hole Recordings sub-label Magik Muzik, the album confirmed the hotshot trance DJ's clout as a producer. Featuring the anthemic trinity of "Flight 643," "Lethal Industry" and "Suburban Train," In My Memory cemented Tiësto as the biggest name in his genre. Confirming his new status, he went on to win DJ Mag's Top 100 DJs poll for three years running from 2002 to 2004. The album also marked a distinct phase in Tiësto's production career as the new trance wunderkind before his evolution to a more polished sound on 2004's Just Be.
The DJ born Tijs Verwest was never idle in the years leading up to In My Memory. Starting out in the early '90s in his native Netherlands under the hardcore and gabber aliases DJ Limited and Da Joker, he soon broke through as DJ Tiësto. His marathon sets around Europe covered the trance spectrum, from delicate and uplifting to dark and enveloping. Early in his production career, he formed partnerships with fellow Dutch producers Ferry Corsten, as Gouryella, and Benno de Goeij, as Kamaya Painters.
As his career accelerated in the late '90s, he founded Black Hole Recordings with Arny Bink, launched the Magik and In Search of Sunrise mix series and collaborated twice with trance newcomer Armin van Buuren as Alibi and Major League.
In the late '90s, Tiësto also became known as a prolific remixer for BT, Signum and Balearic Bill. However his true breakout came in 2000 with the "In Search Of Sunrise Remix" of Delirium's "Silence," featuring Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan. Tiësto spent three weeks getting his version just right. "Everything has to be perfect or [McLachlan] doesn't approve," he told Canada's bpm:tv in 2001. After his take on "Silence" blew up, Tiësto put a pause on remixing to focus on his debut album.
Tiësto worked on the tracks for In My Memory at the Black Hole Recordings studio in his hometown of Breda. "Lethal Industry" was already a mainstay of his sets in 1999, guaranteeing its spot on the tracklist. (Tiësto's other big tune of that year, "Sparkles," was featured in the Ibiza-set comedy movie, Kevin & Perry Go Large.)
While the album promised purist, club-ready trance, Tiësto set out to showcase different shades to his sound with the help of British vocalists Kirsten Hawkshaw, Nicola Hitchcock and Jan Johnston. The DJ then created the Magik Musik sub-label in 2001 as a home for the album, while also finding time to put out a pair of mix compilations, Magik Seven: Live In Los Angeles and the double-disc Revolution.
Tiësto structured In My Memory as a journey towards the sure-fire trio of "Flight 643," "Lethal Industry" and "Suburban Train." Album opener "Magik Journey" expands on the classical work of Tiësto's collaborator Geert Huinink, with swelling strings and ghostly vocals driving to an explosive conclusion. The same drawn-out energy returns on "Obsession," a collaboration with Dutch producer Junkie XL, now best known for scoring Hollywood blockbusters like Mad Max: Fury Road and Deadpool.
Working together in Junkie XL's underground cellar in Amsterdam, the pair produced the ideal nine-minute track for an all-night Tiësto set. (On his YouTube channel, Junkie XL recalled taking the "obsession" soundbite from a Calvin Klein ad on TV: "The beautiful thing about the [year] 2000 is you'd get away with things you'd never get away with now.")
Not all the tracks on In My Memory floored the accelerator. The warm pads of "Close To You," featuring seasoned trance vocalist Jan Johnston, evokes a hazy Ibiza sunrise, while the instrumental "Dallas 4PM" finds Tiësto in expansive progressive trance mode. Title track "In My Memory" features Nicola Hitchcock's brittle vocals over a radiant melody, while the trip-hop-influenced "Battleship Grey," featuring Kirsty Hawkshaw, is the album's most surprising deviation.
The album saves its biggest hitters for last. "Flight 643", named after the non-stop service between Amsterdam and New York, is built around an unmistakable synth stab that never lets up. Following the propulsive tech-trance of "Lethal Industry," the album closes with "Suburban Train," which builds steadily over ten minutes to all-out euphoria.
The composition draws heavily on "Re-Form," a 2000 track by Dutch producer Kid Vicious (that Tiësto also remixed). While "Suburban Train" became a staple of Tiësto's sets for years to come, he occasionally reached for the vocal version featuring Kirsty Hawkshaw, "Urban Train."
In My Memory ensured Tiësto rarely slept in his own bed. In addition to his residency for Cream at Amnesia in Ibiza, he ticked off early editions of Ultra Music Festival and Coachella in 2002. That summer, Moby booked Tiësto for his Area2 festival tour of the US, which features prominently in Another Day at the Office. With trance at the peak of its popularity in 2003 (led largely by Dutch talent), Tiësto drew 25,000 fans to the Gelredome in The Netherlands for an eight-hour set captured on the Tiësto In Concert DVD.
Despite his good fortunes, Tiësto was wary of being labeled as just a trance guy. "I am definitely a trance DJ, but I try to bring people into trance," he said backstage at the Global Gathering festival in 2002. "I think of it as a journey, and in that journey, I visit the warm and harder stuff, and different kinds of music."
In his 2001 interview with bpm.tv, he shrugged off the suggestion that he was moving to a more progressive style. "I got a little bit bored about all the same epic stuff that's coming out," he reasoned. "I just like to play music from the heart, that has some sensitive elements and some powerful energy."
That wariness of being pigeonholed informed Tiësto's vocal-heavy but still trance-focused 2007 album, Elements Of Life, which earned his first nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album at the GRAMMYs. In 2009, his new label Musical Freedom and electro-pop album Kaleidoscope clearly signaled a new era.
As the EDM boom took over the US in the early 2010s, Tiësto's sets moved towards big-room electro-house, which in turn attracted a new audience. "I think some of the old trance guys still have their following, but it doesn't feel like anyone really cares," he told DJ Mag plainly in 2014. While the occasional trance classic still turns up in his sets, the sound of In My Memory is firmly in Tiësto's past.
In Another Day at the Office, Tiësto describes the pay-off for his punishing work hours. "I love what I do," he says simply. "It's still my hobby. When I DJ, I love it." Two decades later, after thousands of shows and a few musical evolutions, the hobby is still paying off.