New York City— As people scurry to avoid the bitter chill of a Manhattan winter, one specific block teems with activity. Hundreds of clubgoers fight their way into M2 Ultralounge, which (until its recent closing) was one of the trendiest and largest superclubs in the Northeast. The crowd is a healthy mix of the NYC “bottles-and- models” crew and fun-loving European partyfolk. But really, this mob of humanity is no surprise: Tonight marks the area premier of three superstar producers turned quasi-rockstars—the Swedish House Mafia.
Inside the club, it’s packed wall-to- wall. A sea of hands wave in unison to the upbeat sounds of the Stockholm trio—Steve Angello, 28, Sebastian Ingrosso, 27, and Axwell, 32.
It’s no wonder that these guys can sell out some of the largest events on the planet including London’s Brixton Academy, Amsterdam’s Sensation, and Miami’s Ultra Music Festival. The sound system pumps with rolling basslines, catchy melodies, and a ton of familiar vocals that dangerously skirt the line between commercial and underground. From the DJ booth the threesome exude confidence, incredible focus, and they still party like there’s no tomorrow.
Tonight is the culmination of years of hard work, a symbiotic friendship, and pure raw talent. The story of the Swedish House Mafia began almost a decade ago when two childhood friends, Angello and Ingrosso, came together and bonded over the love of house music. Since then, Steve and Seb have gone on to produce huge electro club hits including “Body Crash” and “Not So Dirty.” Their remixes of tracks like “Sweet Dreams” and “Call On Me” became immediate staples for DJs across the globe.
In 2007, the duo teamed up with another incredibly accomplished producer, Axwell—and their motto “Made In Sweden” was born. Axwell (aka Axel Hedfors) brought amazing remixes to the table, including Nelly Furtado’s smash hit “Promiscuous” and Madonna’s “Jump.” In 2007, they dropped a bootleg of Robyn S’ “Show Me Love” that has become one of the most played house remixes of the decade. Together the trio began pushing out show-stopping productions and gained a reputation for throwing some of clubland’s craziest parties.
Now the Swedish House Mafia is busy touring the world individually and collaboratively. They also run their own successful record labels: Size, Refune, and Axtone. Together they have built an unstoppable momentum and keep pushing closer toward their goal of global musical domination.
Just before their new single “One” began to hit, DJ Times caught up with the three members of the SHM to talk to discuss their rise to fame, their thoughts on house music in the U.S., and the future of the Mafia.
DJ Times: Let’s start from the beginning. What artists have had a major influence on the Swedish House Mafia sound?
Axwell: Definitely what Daft Punk and what the French producers were doing back in 1998.
Angello: So many producers and DJs have influenced us—from Quincy Jones to The Chemical Brothers. But we find
inspiration in the strangest places, like old radio stations to sampling the sounds of car doors shutting, in tracks like Kid Sister’s “Right Hand Hi.”
Ingrosso: We are also so inspired by new artists coming through all the time. We are constantly listening to new music and being blown away by the fresh sounds.
DJ Times: Do you have any formal musical training?
Ingrosso: I can play keyboards and some bass, and I am not afraid to pick up an instrument and try it out.
Axwell: I used to play the drums when I was a kid, but that’s pretty much it.
DJ Times: All three of you have established your own reputation as talented producers. How did you transition that into becoming world-class DJs?
Angello: We just work really hard! When we are not on the road, we are in the studio—and now with our laptops we are in the studio when we are on the road.
Ingrosso: We were careful not to take every opportunity we were offered. In terms of our DJ careers, we really researched what shows we played and didn’t rush. We think that had an impact on how people see us now.
Axwell: It happened pretty much by itself to start with. When you make a lot of productions that people like, at one stage they will want to see you perform somehow, and in our case that is DJing. Then one thing led to another.
DJ Times: When you get together now in the studio, what is the creative process?
Axwell: We feed off each other really well. When all three of us work together it’s very exciting. One idea can be thrown out in the air and then we all three buzz about where we want to take it. We usually have the arrangement on one computer and then all three make stuff on our separate computers and throw that on the main computer. It’s amazing how fast it can go, instead of getting stuck sometimes—when working by yourself—you have two more brains that come up with ideas on how to proceed. Then we mix it together on the main computer. And that’s it.
DJ Times: What is the one piece of studio equipment that you couldn’t live without?
Axwell: That’s easy—the Mac.
Angello: My ADAM monitor speakers and my Solid State Logic XLogic G-Series compressor.
DJ Times: Was it hard to move away from the studio and focus on touring across the world?
Axwell: That part is not really hard. It’s the coming back and focusing on the studio that is hard—especially when you are touring every weekend. It’s hard to switch back and forth, which is why we are trying to do it in longer sections these days.
Angello: We are in the studio all the time, probably more than we are on the road.
Ingrosso: And the road becomes our inspiration and our vehicle to road-test the music we have made.
DJ Times: The Swedish House Mafia events have gained a reputation for elaborate parties with a lot of production and preparation. What should someone expect when they show up to one of your events?
Angello: Every time we do a gig, our team speaks to the venue to find out how it all works and what’s been done at that venue before. Then we come with a brand-new show to blow that venue up. We work closely with our production team, as we want our fans to leave feeling that we gave them 100-percent.
Ingrosso: We want to create the perfect experience for people to hear our music. I want them to feel the love, care, and appreciation that we have for them. Our way of giving back is to create a perfect experience to hear the music so they become part of the music.
Axwell: Definitely something exciting and slightly crazy.
DJ Times: You’ve used sites like Twitter and YouTube to really hype up these parties. Has that been successful?
Angello: Yes, massively. All the feedback and posts on YouTube and Twitter make our fans a part of the shows. In turn, that creates the demand for more shows. The fans give us the feedback that we absolutely must carry on. Plus, it’s a vital source of marketing.
Axwell: We can reach people that haven’t been to our shows yet, and show them what their missing!
Ingrosso: Also, in terms of our solo careers, it’s essential for feedback, promotion and awareness.
DJ Times: Which tracks never leave your box?
Ingrosso: I’d say, “Be.”
Angello: For me, “Leave the World Behind.”
Axwell: “Tell Me Why.”
DJ Times: What are you favorite venues to play?
Angello: Avalon in Los Angeles feels like home now.
Ingrosso: Sensation Amsterdam was a massive deal. I headlined to 40,000 people.
Axwell: Swedish House Mafia at Brixton Academy in London and Pacha Ibiza was huge!
DJ Times: So how do you three break up the booth responsibilities?
Angello: We don’t have responsibilities in the booth [laughs]. Well, we need to rock the crowd. You know what it’s like—I always drink more when I have these two with me. That way I know that if I get really wasted, they’re going to kick my ass or save my ass. We just play track-to- track. Axwell will play one, then Seb, then me. Unless I need to run to the bathroom, then they might play two tracks.
Axwell: We are so incredibly unorganized, but still we pull it off every time. That’s the magic with the Swedish House Mafia.
We don’t really know what happens. Sometimes we don’t see each other for months. But that’s the real magic with these guys
and me. We don’t really plan anything. Well, maybe we plan which song will be the first song, or last song.
DJ Times: How do you guys keep a balance between partying in the booth and keeping the dancefloor moving?
Axwell: It’s all about balance. Life is just a big balance. You need to balance how much you DJ, how much time you spend in
the studio, and how much you party.
DJ Times: What exactly are you guys using in the booth? CDs? Vinyl? DVS?
Angello: CDs and no plans to change it in the future.
Axwell: Four Pioneer CDJs—that’s all. We just all go crazy together.
DJ Times: How much of your own material do you play during a set?
Angello: A lot actually. A lot of our own productions. A lot of music off our own labels. Most of it’s new music that’s unreleased at this point.
Axwell: I would say it breaks down to about 50/50.
DJ Times: Still shopping for music?
Angello: Yes! Of course! The easiest way is to talk to friends. Someone is out there listening to everything, ya know?
Axwell: That’s really the biggest quest these days—to find good music, to filter through all the shit and try to find something
DJ Times: How do you like playing in the United States, as opposed to Europe?
Axwell: We love it. The scene feels kind of reborn here. People are really excited and into it!
Angello: I live in L.A., and I love America. I tour every weekend, so I feel that I’m collecting a real fan base. I love the crowds here. They support electronic music of all genres. The idea of playing Ultra Festival’s main stage and the Electric Daisy main stage is mind-blowing for me.
Ingrosso: I love touring the United States. I don’t come over here so much, but I am planning a big tour in the winter. But I will say that the Ultra tent we did last year as the Swedish House Mafia was one of the best gigs we have ever done. The energy and dedication of the people really inspired us and took our energy as a group to another level so we have a lot to thank America for.
DJ Times: How do you see house music affecting mainstream/commercial music here in the U.S.?
Axwell: You can definitely see how house is used in a lot of pop music worldwide these days. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t get watered down and people get really tired of bad house-influenced pop tracks, thinking that “that must be house music.”
Angello: I hear so much influence from electronic coming into pop music and into daytime radio in the U.S., and in so many ways that’s a good thing. Labels are now investing more and more in new electronic artists to try and find the next big thing, but it does make me nervous about quality control and how this is done. It’s already led to some examples of watered-down bad electronic pop translations, which could lead to a backlash against the genre and in turn hurt the underground.
Ingrosso: I agree with Steve that we need to make sure wherever possible that the influence of electronic music on pop is as creative and credible as possible. I just want everyone to behave responsibly about how much we compromise on what a dancefloor loves in order to create a radio record.
DJ Times: There is a lot of crossover success from artists like David Guetta. Could you see yourselves going in that direction?
Axwell: We would hope so! We wouldn’t mind if we got some massive hits over here.
Angello: I personally wouldn’t mind having five Grammy Awards at home! We are working on a lot of projects right now, but we really can’t talk about those things.
DJ Times: You each run you own labels. What do you look for when signing new tracks or new artists?
Angello: Basically, something we would play out. When we hear it, we know it would tear up a dancefloor.
Ingrosso: It’s not about who sent it to us. It’s all about how it sounds on the dancefloor.
Axwell: Something different and a little bit unique, something that excites you.
DJ Times: What are the plans for the future of the Swedish House Mafia? Do you plan on adding more members?
Angello: No, Swedish House Mafia is the three of us and will always be the three of us. There are artists that we nurture using our profile as a group. There are artists that we just love having with us on the road like Dirty South, AN21, Max Vangeli, Kim Fai & TV Rock and many more.
Ingrosso: We always encouraged new talent, we thrive on it and it inspires us.
DJ Times: Are there any new albums or events that fans should look out for?
Angello: Yes, of course! There is our partnership with EMI as Swedish House Mafia, which will see a range of musical experiences coming out over 2010 and beyond.
Axwell: We are probably doing a compilation together this year.
DJ Times: Do you have any particular artists that you would love to collaborate with in the future?
Axwell: Chris Martin from Coldplay would be nice.
Angello: We love the whole creative process of acts like Lady Gaga and Gorillaz, who take it to another level as to how they present their music. They create a story that people follow, and we think that’s amazing.
DJ Times: What advice do you have for up-and- coming DJ/producers?
Ingrosso: Be smart. Use the internet wisely. If you’re good you will break through!
Axwell: Keep it up! With hard work, everything is possible!