Once recognized by Tiësto as an "artist of the future", and now one of the biggest up and coming DJ's in the world; meet 23-year-old Mike Williams. Besides being a loyal Ekster user, he's also a global nomad who travels from continent to continent on a weekly basis. We sat down with him to find out what it takes to travel daily for a living. He’s no stranger to the Netherlands, and he’s quickly become fast friends with the rest of the world (he played three different countries in 48 hours last year). He’s been playing the piano since he was 6 years old, and he’s been a bona fide DJ ever since he turned 12.
In between jet-setting to different continents and changing the face of future house, Mike found some time to chat with us about his international gig experience, an insider story about airport mishaps in India, and his newly-released fashionwear line, Milliams. Check out one of his performances and our interview with him below.
You’ve been traveling for a few years now. Is there anything that still surprises you about being on the move?
MW: It depends, every country is different. Luckily I always have a tour manager with me so he always takes care of all the travel things, flying and hotels and everything, and so far everything has gone really well, to be honest. But sometimes, you work with other people as well - like drivers, or if a flight is delayed - something that you can’t really change so yeah.
So we’ve been following you since we worked with your sister, Michelle Willemsen, on Ekster’s first promotional video four years ago in Rotterdam. Not sure if you saw it but she’s the main act…
MW: Yeah yeah, I saw it, it’s crazy! Super cool that she was there when it all started.
Since then we’ve been following you on Instagram, watching you grow online and travel all over the world. What are some differences about traveling through the US on tour, compared to traveling in Europe, or in Asia?
MW: I think there is a clear difference, because in the US everything is really big and exaggerated and that's how Americans are. I like it though, their way of doing things. But for example, at airports, it’s always different. It’s difficult to get in the country - there’s always a huge line - but in Asia it’s quite easy to get in and it’s nice because after a long flight you always just want to go to bed really soon. I think another main difference is also food. In the US it’s really difficult to get some healthy food, and in Asia of course you have all these noodles, rice, always vegetables with it. So I think food is easier in Asia, and in Europe, but in the US it’s difficult to get your vitamins.
Totally, not about that fast food. About the US, what do you think of being on tour there? What are the parties like, which cities do you like best?
MW: We always try to do a couple of tours in the US every year, and I’m always really excited to go because the people are super nice and the parties are usually really good. Of course Vegas is always good but all the other cities, San Francisco, we do Phoenix a lot, also LA and Miami, people are always so energetic and there’s always a good vibe. I really love to tour in the US. My favorite cities to party in are Miami and Vegas, both are really different.
So when you’re travelling like this, what do you carry with you to keep it easier for you all these countries? What are your essentials?
MW: Probably my laptop. Cos that’s like, everything is in there, basically my whole life, all the projects, all my music. And I even have two laptops now, because a couple years ago one got stolen.
So does the stuff you carry differ a little bit per country, or is it always kind of the same?
MW: Honestly it’s kind of the same, although we always check the weather before we go on tour. And then yeah sunglasses, shorts, I mean that’s more like clothing that’s gonna make the difference in your trip.
Have you ever lost something that’s been crucial to you on the road?
MW: This is actually a story that not a lot of people know, not even inside management. It was in India, when we arrived at the hotel and we found out that we had lost one bag at the airport. There’s always people like drivers, they want to carry your bag when they pick you up from the airport and that’s fine but sometimes you lose control. You don’t know where every bag is, and in this case that’s what happened: he loaded all the bags in the car, and he thought we had one bag to do ourselves, and we thought he had all the bags. So there was one suitcase still left behind and it was a two-hour drive and we found out we didn’t have it at the hotel, but there was some really expensive stuff in it. So my tour manager went back to the airport, two hours, and it turns out that the local police found it because they thought it maybe could be a bomb or something, and they were really angry, like really angry - and then he had to fill in some forms and it was alright at the end.
Damn, that’s crazy! But super lucky that you managed to find it quickly. Have you ever lost something that you didn’t manage to find, or have you always been good with your stuff?
MW: I think so far we’ve been lucky but I mean there’s probably gonna be a moment when I’m gonna lose something, probably my phone. I have lost my earplugs a lot of times though, haha.
So another question about your carry! We know you’re using an Ekster, but which one is it and how do you like it?
MW: I don’t know which one it is exactly haha, it’s the Italian black one. I really like it honestly, really like that it has so many pockets to put your cards, also on the backside. The cards are super easy to grab with the button feature which is great on the road.
Nice! That’s our Vachetta line, definitely a favorite. So with all this different stuff, how do you keep track of all of it? Is it like, is it chaos, or…
MW: I mean, yeah, it’s part of the job, like traveling, you have to really pay attention to your stuff, and sometimes we check in baggage and things can go wrong, we don’t have tracking devices on our stuff.
We could actually help you there! Our trackers have a cool feature where they send your phone a notification if you’re leaving them behind. So that could be a cool addition to your carry.
MW: yeah, sick! Love that feature.
We also saw that you released some really cool clothing. From an entrepreneurial perspective, how do you find time for this while also working on your music?
MW: So I’m doing this project with my sister and she’s actually designed pretty much everything. So we have the whole clothing brand called Milliams, we have the merchandise, and we’re also gonna release more from the fashion line. That will be a bit far away from Mike Williams, not like the merch. A lot of people wanna walk in clothes that have my logo on it and I get that, so that’s why we’re trying to do something more fashion as well. And yeah, my sister is pretty much doing 80% of everything, and I’m helping with a couple of things. So we work on it together.
Heads up for Milliams fans: his new fashion line debuted during Amsterdam Dance Event, and you can check it out here!
Super nice that you get to work together. You were also playing ADE recently, right after you got home. What’s your favourite part about playing in Amsterdam?
MW: Well of course for one, it’s really close to my house, haha. Especially during ADE, people were really in party mode and I mean, people are normally not that energetic when they’re in the crowd or festivals. So ADE I think was a nice exception because you could see a lot of people with a lot of energy going to a lot of parties, and of course a lot of tourists were here as well. It’s always just one big party in your own city.
Yeah, ADE is definitely something special. Do you find that your friends also come more often than, let’s say, in Thailand or Indonesia?
MW: Yeah definitely. Also great to see all the fans traveling for hours to get to ADE, and also the DJs, all these big DJs that you only see when you’re touring. And they come to Amsterdam and they join all the parties too.
You're gonna do bigger and bigger things in the coming years, and we're super excited to see where life takes you. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us!