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Willem Rebergen, better known by his stage name Headhunterz, is a Dutch DJ and music producer. He also done voice-acting for several movies and TV series. He kicked off his career in 2005, and grew into one of the biggest names in hardstyle music, becoming a major contribution to its growing popularity worldwide. He has performed at major events and festivals, including Qlimax, Defqon.1, Q-Base, inQontrol, Decibel and Hard Bass and has performed at popular electronic music festivals Electric Daisy Carnival and Tomorrowland. For the majority of his career Headhunterz has released his work on Scantraxx through his own sub-label, Scantraxx Reloaded, but in 2013 he started his own record label, HARDwithSTYLE. He signed with major North American electronic dance music label, Ultra Music in 2013 and left his own label in 2015, heading for a different musical direction.
Early Life & Career
Willem Rebergen was born on 12 September 1985 in Veenendaal, Netherlands. From an early age Rebergen had an interest in music. Having struggled with bullying at school, Rebergen looked for a distraction to make himself happy and so joined a local kid's choir. From here it was where he had his first exposure to a professional studio, recording Christmas albums with the choir. This experience left Rebergen interested and inspired by the process of creating music from the other side of the studio. In 2003, while working at a clothing store he was offered tickets to Qlimax from friends who could not attend. This was his first exposure to hardstyle music. This experience gave him the impetus to forge a music career and in his own words from then on he was "devoted to hardstyle and from that point interested in how to make the music. I wanted to make that kind of music."
He purchased some turntables and connected them to his mixer practicing his DJing, while also simultaneously making music in FL Studio, a digital audio workstation. Rebergen began sending demos out to labels under the alias Nasty D-Tuners, a duo project he formed with close friend Bobby van Putten. In 2004 Nasty D-Tuners entered and won the 2004 Defqon.1 DJ contest, winning a spot on the lineup.
Following the continued success of their DJ career's, Rebergen and van Putten heard of a new hard dance music label "Hardcontrol", that was opening in Veenendaal. In 2005, a year and a half after their performance at Defqon 2004, Nasty D-Tuners were signed to Hardcontrol Records having two successful releases, with their work being played by then major Hardstyle producers/DJ's. Also in 2005, Rebergen and van Putten began attending a DJ class at the Rock Academy in the Netherlands. Rebergen found his time at the academy frustrating, due to a lack of encouragement towards producing Hardstyle and negative responses to the genre as a whole. Alienated by his experience at the Academy, Rebergen continued to send out Nasty D-Tuners demos to respective labels, one eventually reaching Scantraxx founder, Dov Elkabas aka The Prophet. Seeing promise in the exciting young duo, having heard of their performance at Defqon.1, 'Nasty D-Tuners' were signed to Scantraxx in late 2005. Unable to keep the alias 'Nasty D-Tuners' due to disagreements with the former label, the name Headhunterz was chosen. By the end of 2005, Rebergen and van Putten had performed at major hardstyle events including Defqon.1, Q-Base and The Prophet's X-Qlusive, all of which increased their profile within the Hardstyle scene.
2006-2007: Scantraxx & the beginning of Headhunterz
2006 saw the first Headhunterz release "Aiming for Your Brain/ Left Some Answers", on Scantraxx Special. Their debut release was soon followed by a second "The Sacrifice/D-Tuned", again on Scantraxx Special."The Sacrifice" was the duo's best hit to date, Rebergen since stating his fond memories of the positive reception that The Prophet gave him the first time he heard it. However, problems soon began to emerge when Rebergen came to the conclusion that he would be unable to perform and record for Scantraxx while simultaneously completing his course at the Rock Academy. Rebergen told van Putten of his decision to leave the Academy and hoped he would join and commit himself to Headhunterz and Scantraxx. Bobby van Putten then made the difficult decision to leave Rebergen, Scantraxx and Headhunterz and continue with his musical studies at the Rock Academy. Rebergen's first solo performance as Headhunterz was the 2006 edition of the Q-Dance event, Defqon.1. Following the final release of van Putten credited Headhunterz work, Scantraxx gave Rebergen, his own sub label Scantraxx Reloaded which he would administer. Headhunterz first release on Scantraxx Reloaded was the three track Vinyl EP "Victim of My Rage" released in late 2006. The Prophet continued to nurture the young talent, inviting Headhunterz to perform alongside him at the popular annual Q-Dance event, Qlimax.
2007 proved to be an incredibly successful year for Headhunterz. He had his first collaborations with fellow Scantraxx artists The Prophet and Abject(A.K.A DJ Frontliner). Along with the collaborations Headhunterz also released several successful solo tracks such as "Forever Az One" and "Rock Civilization". Headhunterz continued to solidify his reputation as one of the biggest headline DJ's in hardstyle by performing at the 2007 editions of Q-Base and Qlimax. He was given the privilege of creating his first major Anthem for the 2007 edition of Qlimax, "The Power of the Mind". Headhunterz subsequently had his first solo performance at Qlimax and played alongside his DJ heroes, Technoboy and The Prophet.
2008: Headhunterz & Wildstylez Presents: Project One
In 2008, Headhunterz had his first collaboration with fellow Scantraxx label artist, Wildstylez. Their First release "Blame It On the Music / Project 1" released in March, proved a success and provided the impetus for the launch of a new project and debut album for the pair, Project One. Finishing in under three months, producing an average of one track a week, Headhunterz and Wildstylez completed their 13 track debut album, Headhunterz & Wildstylez Present: Project One. The album was planned to be debuted at In Qontrol in a special 1 hour set, showcasing the album. This performance was cancelled when Headhunterz suffered a bout of Appendicitis. The Album was then debuted at Defqon.1 2008. It was officially released shortly after in both CD and Digital formats on July 25 with Dutch graphical designer, Ruud van Eijk providing the artwork. Project One was extremely well received in the Hardstyle community with tracks such as '"Life Beyond Earth", "The Art of Creation", "The Story Unfolds", "Best of Both Worlds" and "Fantasy or Reality" all proving to be successes on the dance floor. The Album was a defining influence on the direction Hardstyle would take in the years to come, with its emphasis on synth based trance influenced melodies and heavy use of pitched kicks. A Project One Tour followed along with 6 full-length album samplers and 1 remix sampler, all released on Scantraxx Reloaded. Along with Project One, Headhunterz had three solo releases that included popular tracks "Just Say My Name", "Subsonic" and "Reloaded Part 2" all on Scantraxx Reloaded, along with a first collaboration with Italian Hardstyle DJ Tatanka, "Call It Music".
2009-2011: Studio Sessions & HARDwithSTYLE
2009 saw Headhunterz release seven new Singles/EPs. Amongst these releases was the 2009 Defqon.1 Anthem, "Scrap Attack". This opportunity to create the anthem, saw Headhunterz close the Mainstage of Defqon.1 for the first time. Speaking about the moment, Headhunterz stated that he achieved one of his long-term goals within Hardstyle that night and felt "complete happiness". Along with the anthem, 2009 was a notable year in regards to collaborations for Headhunterz. He again teamed up with Wildstylez and along with Noisecontrollers created the incredibly popular, anthem like, "Tonight". In a Q-Dance top 1000 harderstyles poll held in late 2013, "Tonight" was voted into second place. "The Summer of Hardstyle", made with The Prophet, proved to be an instant hit at events. Gaining inspiration from older Hardstyle DJ, Zenith, the track was a break from recent Headhunterz work with its emphasis on Reverse bass and simple scratching sounds from vinyl. The Project One Tour reached its finale with a first time visit to Australia. The duo making multiple appearances at the final editions of "Transmission", a popular music event that was held in Sydney & Brisbane.
2010 reflected Headhunterz and Hardstyle's growing popularity around the world, in his own words 2010 was "a year where my international bookings overtook my national ones." At the beginning of 2010, Headhunterz was offered the chance to host his own X-Qlusive. Held on the 30th of January at the Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam, X-Qlusive:Headhunterz featured Wildstylez, The Prophet, Noisecontrollers & Brennan Heart joining Headhunterz on the main stage. Headhunterz described X-Qlusive as the highlight of 2010 as "It was an amazing night - a milestone in my career and personal life. I could have never imagined getting so far." In the buildup to X-Qlusive, Headhunterz revealed he was planning the release of his second studio album, Studio Sessions. Released on the 8th of March, Studio Sessions was a 15 track album containing a mixture of new unreleased tracks, collaborations, edits of older Headhunterz tracks and remixes done by Headhunterz and others. The Album release was followed by a world tour visiting The United States, Australia, Russia, Canada and many performances across the Netherlands. For the second year in a row, Headhunterz was asked to make a Defqon.1 Anthem, this time for the Australian edition, "Save Your Scrap for Victory". Along with the anthem, Headhunterz' other releases in 2010 was the "psychedelic" EP, which featured the popular title track along with "Dreamcatcher" and "Emptiness" and an EP with Noisecontrollers. 2010 also saw Headhunterz make his first appearance in DJ Mag's yearly top 100 DJ list, coming in at 36th, the highest Hardstyle DJ in the list. It was the first year Hardstyle artists were featured on the top 100 with Noisecontrollers, D-Block & S-te-Fan and Showtek all ranking in the top 100 alongside Headhunterz.
At the beginning of 2011 Headhunterz was recognized for his achievements in the past year at the 8th annual Hard Dance Awards, claiming best European hard dance DJ, best international DJ and best track, "Psychedelic". Speaking on social media he stated "Thanks so much for all the nice congrats. I can't describe how good it feels to get so much recognition for my work. Respect to all of you!". 2011 saw the start of the monthly podcast, HARDwithSTYLE. First released on the 27th of May 2011 through iTunes, Soundcloud and YouTube, the hour-long podcast was promoted with the tagline "Bringing you the music that comes from within!" and was aimed at showcasing Headhunterz's favorite tracks of the month, from both established and up and coming producers. With many unheard and new tracks getting their first broadcast on HARDwithSTYLE, the podcast quickly become one of the most popular electronic music podcasts. Headhunterz again was ranked in DJ Mags yearly top 100 DJs list, coming in at 17th, the highest of any Hardstyle DJ and confirming his place as one of the most sought after Hardstyle DJs. 2011 had significantly less releases from Headhunterz compared to past years mainly due to a large amount of time and effort being put into what would become his 3rd studio album which was planned for a release in 2012. Nevertheless, Headhunterz had his last solo release on Scantraxx Reloaded, with the EP "From Within / The Message is Hardstyle". "The Message Is Hardstyle" had a mixed reception, many disliking the track due its soft kicks and perceived ironic lyrics given the nature of the song. The track "Make it Loud (Headhunterz Remix)" popular for its reverse bass intro, also finally gained a release on Blutonium Records. Headhunterz also had many notable performances in 2011, performing at Decibel, The Qontinent, Defqon.1, X-Qlusive: D-Block & S-te-Fan & Thrillogy. Headhunterz also had a major tour of the USA and Mexico visiting 18 cities along the way and also performed at the first Mysteryland to be held outside of the Netherlands, in Chile.
2012-2015: Sacrifice & Ultra Records
In 2012 Headhunterz released his 3rd studio album Sacrifice on the 15th of March. The 10 track album was the culmination of work done in 2011 and Headhunterz donated all profits to Dance4Life, an international initiative that mobilises and unite young people (13–19 years old) to push back the spread of HIV/AIDS. The album was a collection of new tracks, edits and collaborations. Amongst the track list were standouts, "Dragonborn", a previous freely released track inspired by the game, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim featuring the popular "Fus. Ro. Dah" sample. "Doomed", a track that was produced in response to the significant criticism of his musical direction and track "The Message is Hardstyle", feature lyrics that make light of the many 'haters' that feature on an artist's webblog. Other highlights were the early hardstyle inspired, "Back In the Days", the 2012 Hardbass Anthem, "Eternalize" and a collaboration with Psyko Punkz, "Disrespect".
Along with Sacrifice, Headhunterz recorded and released a number of remixes for popular House artists stating, "Doing remixes for other genres makes so much more sense than remixing stuff in your own genre...it gave me a whole different approach in producing hardstyle and I hope the same fans will benefit from that." He had his first song release on Ultra Music with one such remix, "Lessons in Love" by Kaskade. He remixed the Hardwell song, "Spaceman" which saw a release on Hardwell's Revealed Recordings. Two remixes for German House producer, Zedd, "Spectrum" was released for free through Headhunterz's social media and "Clarity (Feat. Foxes)" was released on the Clarity Remixes EP released through Interscope Records. Lastly he remixed Nicky Romero's popular 2011 track "Toulouse". All these remixes proved to be incredibly popular and increased his exposure outside of Hardstyle, being played by many House DJs in their sets.
Headhunterz, in collaboration with Wildstylez and Noisecontrollers, produced the 2012 Defqon.1 Anthem for the Dutch edition of the popular festival. "World of Madness" was released on the 16th of August with the intro of the song featuring elements of the three previous Defqon.1 Anthems that the three had produced consecutively, "Scrap Attack" in 2009 by Headhunterz, "No Time To Waste" in 2010 by Wildstylez and "Unite" in 2011 by Noisecontrollers.
Headhunterz again climbed up the ranking in DJ Mags top 100 DJ list, coming in at 11th reflecting the further influence hardstyle was having within the dance music scene. In October 2012 Headhunterz hosted and performed at another Q-Dance showcase event Q-Dance presents: Headhunterz - HARDwithSTYLE. Held at the newly opened Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, the event was a sellout featuring artists such as Code Black, Adrenalize, Isaac, Ran-D and Adaro who all had featured prominently on the HARDwithSTYLE podcast since its beginning. Along with this Headhunterz performed at both the Australian and Netherlands editions of Defqon.1, both editions of Mysteryland, The Qontinent, Tomorrowland, Electric Daisy Carnival, Q-Dance Presents: Scantraxx 10 Years, Reverse & X-Qlusive: Noisecontrollers.
In February 2013, Headhunterz signed with major dance music label Ultra Music. The signing was a landmark in Hardstyle reflecting the growth of the genre both inside the Netherlands and internationally, growth of which Headhunterz had been at the forefront of. Speaking on his signing, Headhunterz stated:
The deal with Ultra Music is a turning point in my career as an artist and producer. Having complete creative control in every aspect of what I do as Headhunterz will no doubt allow me the space and creativity to be true to hardstyle whilst being able to spread my music on an even larger scale backed by their resources, I am thrilled to get started on this exciting new adventure.
On August 30, Headhunterz had his first official solo release on Ultra Music with his track, "Colors (Feat. TaTu)". It entered the Dutch iTunes Top 100 at number 5 and number 2 under the "dance" category. A remix of "Colors" by trap group Yellow Claw followed, also released on Ultra Music. In November he had his second release, the collaboration with fellow label artist, Krewella for their track "United Kids of the World". The track was launched in November by Ultra Music in partnership with DoSomething.org, a non-profit organization with the goal of motivating young people to take action around social changes, with a campaign focusing on the problems of cyber bullying.
Along with his signing to Ultra Music, Headhunterz launched his own record label HARDwithSTYLE Records. Not connected to Ultra, the label focuses on promoting the harder styles of dance music from both established artists and new, fresh talent. The label aims to be as non-restrictive as possible, "Different from the standards in our scene thus far, we are not being restrictive with the artists who give the label music. We want to sign singles, no options, no commitments other than artists giving us great music we love and we push, no agenda, no nonsense, no bullshit. Just music. For artists which have contracts with other record labels, no problem, if your label will give you a 'pass' then we would love to have a record from you." The first release on HARDwithSTYLE was The Leaked EP by Headhunterz, featuring tracks "Reignite", with vocals from Malukah and "The Power of Music", a track which Headhunterz rates as one of his best and most complete tracks of his career.
Headhunterz first release for 2014, "Breakout", is his first collaboration with Australian Hardstyle artist, Audiofreq and was released in March. In the Spring of 2014, Rebergen announced he was working with Breda Duo, W&W. Rebergen then released 'Shocker' a 132 BPM track with Hardstyle kicks and synths and choppy vocals faced with W&W's image of house. When W&W performed at Tomorrowland they brought Headhunterz as a guest and they played Shocker and premiered another song. The other song was released in November 2014 and the title was called 'We Control the Sound.' The message in We Control the Sound states "There is nothing wrong with your sound system. Do Not Attempt to adjust the Volume." In late December, The Worlds #1 DJ Hardwell announced he would be working on a track with Rebergen for his album United We Are the track was called 'Nothing Can Hold Us Down.' The track also featured Dutch Vocalist, Haris and the track ended with Hardstyle Kicks and a 138 BPM variation on the drop. Rebergen announced he was also working with Rotterdam Deep House artist, Oliver Heldens. Rebergen is currently in the studio with Dyro which fans name their track 'Cyborg'. Beside this he premiered a new solo track on Slam FM radio show Bij Igmar.
Despite the negative response of his fanbase, Rebergen commits to his creative freedom and heads for a new direction. In September, the Origins project kicks off on his HARDwithSTYLE label, a collection of 8 years worth of Headhunterz classics. To Willem, the re-release of his old tracks is his way of honouring his past in the hard dance and hardstyle scene.
2015: Creative Freedom
Early 2015, Headhunterz goes on a 6-week North-America tour, as part of Steve Aoki's Neon Future Experience Tour. 'Once Again', Headhunterz' solo track, gets released on Hardwell's Revealed Recordings and the Headhunterz remix of Armin van Buuren ft. Mr. Probz - Another You is released on Armada Music. At Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Steve Aoki invites Headhunterz on stage to premiere their collaboration, yet to be released. Headhunterz' collab with Crystal Lake, 'Live Your Life', is released on Spinnin Records in May and reaches #3 in Beatport's overall charts.
In interviews, Headhunterz says that his changes in style have to do with him claiming his creative freedom.
It was time for a change, to go back to experimenting and rediscovering my own, artistic boundaries. I was doing the same thing in hardstyle for more than 8 years and I needed a fresh breath of air. Not being limited to whatever style has given me lots of inspiration.
Voice acting career
Rebergen is also a voice-over actor whose work includes both films and TV series.
Other performers at this event: