In the world of electronic dance music, there is perhaps no name bigger than Tiësto. Recently named the No. 1 DJ in the world by Rolling Stone, he regularly headlines music festivals and plays at sold-out venues. But it’s not all about flashing lights and packed gigs for the veteran Dutch DJ—he also has a charitable side. Teaming up with (RED) and iTunes, he will be raising money and awareness for AIDS prevention in the days leading up to World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. He and some of his fellow DJs are putting out an album titled DANCE (RED) SAVE LIVES on Nov. 27, with all the proceeds to be donated to AIDS relief via (RED). He also will perform in Sydney on World AIDS Day along with Avicii and Calvin Harris, and the performance will be streamed live on (RED)'s website. Tiësto says his main goal is to use his music to inspire change, and he shared the songs that have influenced him throughout the years with The Daily Beast.
Lil Louis, ‘French Kiss’
One of the first dance/house songs I listened to is from Lil Louis, and it’s called “French Kiss.” It has a crazy break in the middle, and the music slows down and it’s totally repetitive. When I heard that track the first time, I was really blown away. I was like, “This is so weird!” Suddenly you have an instrumental track which has a really weird drop in the middle. That got me into dance music.
Sigur Rós, ‘Untitled #1’
Eight or nine years ago I was watching the MTV Awards when I heard this song from Sigur Rós. I only heard that song for five or 10 seconds, and the piano is so beautiful. That’s how I fell in love with Sigur Rós. I began downloading all their music and buying all their albums. I’m a big fan of their sound. For me, because I’m always listening to dance music, it’s like going to the spa for an hour. You get fresh ears from listening to them. It’s so beautiful and so different from everything else out there.
Santigold, ‘L.E.S. Artistes’
Her first album was really mind-blowing. Her second album, too, actually. Her voice is so big—she has such a great voice. She makes it sound so easy to sing. It sounds bigger than life when she starts singing. That song just makes me happy.
I’m obviously a big U2 fan. Who isn’t? There’s a song called “Gloria” from U2, and it’s a really beautiful song and very euphoric. It’s a really special song for me. That’s how I discovered U2. I went to U2 concerts probably 10 or 15 times in my life.
Eurythmics, ‘Sweet Dreams’
It’s just so mind-blowing to me that you can write a song in the ’80s and today you can play that song and everyone goes crazy. Everyone knows the song no matter how old you are. Everyone knows “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics. I think that’s a really amazing achievement that you can write a song and it stays relevant for so many years. It’s seen all different generations and all different remixes. It’s really, really cool.
Tiësto and Diplo, ‘C’Mon’
I have to put a track in for myself that’s been special to me as well. I put a track together with Diplo, and the track is called “C’Mon.” For me it’s a special track because it was a sign that my career was changing. When I made that track I made the transition from being an underground DJ to a more progressive house and electro DJ. That totally changed my style over the last couple of years.
I was friends with Avicii before he blew up, and I invited him to come to a beach house and we spent the whole summer together. It’s so amazing to see that when I met him, he had never played and never DJ’ed and now he’s become one of the biggest DJs in the world. I’m really proud that I’ve been a part of that in my own way. That was the beginning of the takeoff of his career—he made it before “Levels” and all of the other hits. That’s the first big hit he made. When he gave me that song, right away I said, “Wow, this is amazing. You’re going to go a long way.” And he did.
Jay-Z and Kanye West, ‘Ni**as in Paris’
I was in Paris and they played a show, and it was an amazing show to see Jay-Z and Kanye live. I’m not really big on hip-hop and R&B, but I love Kanye West. He’s the best. And they played that song like 15 or 16 times in a row. They kept playing it over and over again. It was hilarious. The people did not get tired of it, either. Nobody I know can play a song 15 times in a row. You would think one time was enough, but every time they started all over again the crowd went crazy. I will never forget that moment.