Brennan Heart, née Fabian Bohn, released his first record in the early 2000s, he had no idea he was standing at the genesis of a hard dance movement. At the time, there was no classification for a sound that fused the emotionally charged melodies of trance with the aggressive power of hardcore. He became a pioneer, and in a career that spans nearly two decades, he remains one of hardstyle’s most enthusiastic voices.
Brennan’s love for euphoric, melodic bliss, catchy vocal drops, and intense energy has led to landmark tunes like “Imaginary” and “Lose My Mind.” And even though he has a catalog that numbers well beyond 100 tunes, he is in no way limited to releasing genre-specific music. In 2010, he stepped outside the box and brought a full symphony orchestra onstage with him, a unique move for a dance music artist at a major festival. In 2013, via the feature-length documentary Evolution of Style, he became the first artist to fully document the evolution of the sound that was quickly gaining worldwide acceptance. And in 2014, he became the host of Sirius XM’s first-ever hard dance show, We R Hardstyle, signaling the genre’s stomping entrance into the American scene.
Heart continues to be an enduring champion of the hard sounds, using multiple platforms to ensure it holds a rightful place among dance music’s sea of genres. Through his events, record labels, releases, and radio show, he keeps finding new ways to keep that heavy bass kickin’.
Brennan Heart put together an exclusive mix ahead of his appearance at EDC Las Vegas this June. Listen below while you get a little history lesson from the don of hard dance himself. Find out what inspires his poignant and emotionally charged music, and hear what started his long-standing friendship with his brother from another mother, Don Diablo.
You were one of the originators of the hardstyle sound. What was the driving force behind the creation of a new sound?
Hardstyle didn’t exist yet—there was hard trance, trance and hardcore. It basically became a fusion of these different styles. In Germany there were hard trance artists, such as Cosmic Gate and Kai Tracid, and in the UK an even harder sound had come to life. From that fusion, hardstyle came to existence, and I made my first hardstyle track in 2000. I was one of the first people to make hardstyle, but in that particular moment, you’re not saying, “Hey, now I’m going to make hardstyle.” It grew into hardstyle gradually. At a certain point, hardstyle started becoming more melodic, and later, other influences were added, such as trap. EDM and trance influences have always been around. But did I consciously start to make hardstyle? No. I found an energy in certain genres that I really liked, and that turned out to be hardstyle in the end.
Do you feel that the sound has grown more mature and focused as it has evolved?
I once made a track about this: “The Motherfucking Point of Perfection.” In 2008/09, we reached a point in hardstyle where the ways of creating melodies started to become almost perfection. More and more, producers started to figure out that trick, so to speak. The consequence was that it kind of numbed hardstyle altogether from further evolving for a short while. 2009 was one of the best eras for hardstyle, according to a lot of people, and I agree. But from there, hardstyle evolved further. Nowadays, you can pretty much do anything. The genre has evolved with influences from rap, dubstep, trap, and even pop music. The audience seems to have grown more open-minded. I think it’s good that people also go back to the older sounds they still like. But what I like most about hardstyle these days is that you can combine pretty much anything. The audience has grown, just as the genre itself. A recent example is the psytrance influences in hardstyle; this is very refreshing.
“What I like most about hardstyle these days is that you can combine pretty much anything.”
How has the US helped drive the current worldwide boom in hardstyle?
The US has become a very important player in dance music. It’s a very large country with lots of music lovers, great clubs and music festivals. I’ve had the honor to play in quite a few different clubs and festivals already, and EDC has become one of my favorites. My sets in the US are different than in Europe, because the audience likes different things. This has been very useful to me and other European DJs, because you bring this back home with you to the studio when you create new music.
“We Come and We Go” has a very poignant story attached to it. How important is storytelling in your process?
“We Come and We Go” is about a DJ who played before me once; this was really his last set ever, because he was terminally ill. The words just came by themselves when making that track… Whether I create a track with an orchestra or vocals, I always try to tell a story. Making music is great, but it’s even better if you can trigger a certain emotion. There is also a meaning behind “Hold on to Tomorrow,” for example; I think the lyrics are very clear to anyone who hears it. When you write a track like that, and you can convey a universal emotion in which anyone can find meaning, that is a beautiful thing. Sometimes music is about just letting go and being in the moment, but it is also good if it makes you think about life.
You and Don Diablo have a very close relationship. How did you two meet, and what role did he play in your introduction to dance music?
Don and I go way back! We’ve known each other since 2000, when we were both on the same record label. He was actually like my mentor and coach. When we called each other for the first time, we spoke for like six hours; there was an instant connection. Later I went to visit him, and we realized we shared a lot of the same passions and visions about music. From there, we started making crazy collabs in all sorts of music genres—even techno and crossover tracks. It is amazing when you can share the same passion with someone like Don; I have this with only a few people. Don has become family to me, like a brother. When my daughter was born, it was like he was part of the family. He had to be there. Both our careers have been going very well, and pretty often, our paths cross. I hope we both grow very old and can look back on a great friendship and successful careers, because life goes fast!
- Brennan Heart — EDC Las Vegas 2017 Mix Track List
Brennan Heart & TNT “Hard Knockin’ Beats”
Brennan Heart & TNT “It’s My Style”
Audiotricz “Let There Be Light”
Brennan Heart “Hold on to Tomorrow”
Code Black ft. Elle Vee “Wild Ones”
Toneshifterz ft. Insole “Rise Up”
Brennan Heart & Jonathan Mendelsohn “Imaginary” (Live Edit)
Adrenalize “Where Ever the Light Ends”
Diplo “Revolution” (D-Block & S-Te-Fan Remix)
Brennan Heart & Far East Movement ft. Casey K “Novacain”
Brennan Heart & Jonathan Mendelsohn “Be Here Now”
Brennan Heart & Toneshifterz “Don’t Stop Rockin’”
LNY TNZ “Burn It Down” (Cruel Intentions Remix)
Audiotricz “F#cking Wild”
Galactixx “The Starlight”
50 Hz “Out of Focus”
Catch Brennan Heart at EDC Las Vegas 2017, taking place Friday, June 16, through Sunday, June 18, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Tickets are available now. For more information, visit the official website.
Alexander Dias likes his bass hard. Follow him on Twitter.