Steve Angello of Swedish House Mafia: The Future of EDM



It was the purchase of a turntable at the age of 12 that kick started, DJ/producer/record label owner and member of the Grammy nominated Swedish House Mafia, Steve Angello’s love and pursuit of music. Angello has left quite an impression in EDM’s timeline, particularly house music. Currently, Angello is on tour with his two friends and fellow members of Swedish House Mafia, Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso, on their worldwide “One Last Tour” before the trio calls it quits next year. Angello is currently working on his solo album which will include a variety of collaborations. Regarding the album, Angello states, “I’ve had the privilege to work with some of my biggest inspirations of my career.” Without question, Angello has witnessed electronic dance music’s evolution from beginning to current. Despite the critics varying opinions of electronic dance music, denying its chameleon like versatility in regards to its mash-ups with everything ranging from pop to hip hop would reflect outright denial. “Electronic dance music has always been a mixture of everything else. That’s what makes it so special. I can put any subgenre in any country of any culture into dance music and it’s still dance music. I heard a lot of people talk shit about dubstep when it came out and six months later they were like, ‘Oh my god! This dubstep track is so good.’ Those are the people who are very against being open minded. I think that music is all about being open minded,” says Angello. From what angle is this multitasking artist presenting his perspective? Angello gives us his viewpoint of being a DJ in today’s world of EDM.

Life + Times: You have your own label, Size Records and you mentioned before the interview that you have a lot of projects lined up for the New Year. What can listeners look forward to from your label in 2013?
Steve Angello
: I’m going to have a lot more solo time and a lot of time to really work the guys. I’ve been pushing the guys a lot on the label. They’ve been delivering a lot of good music. It’s just about getting the right time and getting the right hype. We’re just going to put it all out there. There’s going to be a lot of stuff coming out on the label. I think we have about ten or twelve releases in the pipelines. I’m very, very, very excited for the New Year!

L+T: It’s really cool too that you’re able to be a mentor to the artists on your label. Did you have a mentor when you first started as a DJ?
: Not really. One guy who was mentoring me every now and then was Erick Morillo. He was a great mentor for me. He showed me how to DJ, he showed me how to party; he showed me how to do everything. It was exciting for me growing up. I think I put more time into the guys in the label than I actually put into myself because I enjoy it more. When you work on yourself all of the time it feels a little bit weird. It’s like a guy looking in the mirror to see if the haircut is good. It doesn’t do it for me. It’s nice to be a part of this. I love to be a part of the guys’ team from when they’re 17 to when they’re 25 and working the big shows. I’ve been a part of that. It feels really good.

L+T: Let’s revisit the past. How are you able to harness the initial excitement you had when you first started deejaying as a teen into the thrill you get now despite the extra pressure you receive?
: I think one of the biggest things for us [DJs], for me myself, is we can tour the world and we’ve been to arenas everywhere in the world and a lot of people ask me if it becomes the same the thing. Every event is different. I’m on top of all of the visuals and interactive stuff. I’m on top of all of the artwork. I look after everything on the label that I’m in control of. I think every single little step excites me because I’m working everything getting closer to the show. I’m involved in ticket sales, I’m involved in VIP, I’m involved in everything. For me, it’s the whole experience that excites me. I don’t think us showing up and just deejaying would do it for me. I think what actually keeps it going is that I’m involved in all of these other things. We have a new artist that wants to come out on the road, then I’m excited they are with me on the road and we end up talking and working on music. I think it’s the whole life experience for me that actually is keeping me excited.

L+T: It’s interesting that you mention that you’re involved in the entire process of a show. The ignorance of some individuals has led them to believe that not a lot of work goes into a DJ set from the artist. What exactly goes on behind-the-scenes?
: There’s two different ways you can see at it. You have when I just show up and DJ and then you have when I put on a show. I think that we just show up there and obviously we prepare a lot. I do bootlegs of edits of every single record that I play. I don’t play any record in its original form, nothing. Obviously I put a lot of studio time into every single record. I actually also master ever record that I play because I want it to sound a certain way. So, there’s extreme amounts of work, even in a regular DJ set because you want to stand out, you want to do something different, you want to do your best. Then, you see the shows where I actually bring production. Then, I work with a VJ for a month to prepare for a show. I go back and forth with a VJ and prepare visuals for about a month and sometimes even longer. Then, we have the stage builds that can take several months. So, it depends on how you see it. It’s like anything. I don’t think anything successful is easy. Look at this interview for example, people think you might just ask me some random questions, but obviously you put some time to it. So, I think that for anything you have to put in time if you want to do it good.

L+T: That is very true. Initially, you started out as a turntablist in hip-hop and now you focus on house music. What was the catalyst for this transition?
: I discovered Daft Punk and Daft Punk changed my life. In those days hip-hop was different than what it is today. Hip-hop in those days was very sample driven and original. Everything was new, everything was exciting. Then Daft Punk came and they were kind of sample based, so I was like, ‘Hold on one second here. This is also sample based and it’s also a little bit electronic.’ For me, that was like a big slap in the face. I was like, ‘What the fuck is that?’ So I discovered that and began to dig into that and discovered all of these other artists. I’ve always had a really big love for hip-hop and all the beats and stuff. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid. I remember the early Nas and the early Gang Starr days. I felt the longer it went, hip hop just slowed down a little bit in developing musically. Good rappers are always going to remain good rappers. I think that the music had a very long pause where nothing actually happened. That’s when I found electronic dance music.

L+T: I’m going to guess that the Daft Punk album was Homework, right?
: Yeah, it was Homework. It was kind of like doing my homework. It was like, ‘Whatever happens in Paris, I want to be there right now.’ It just changed everything.

L+T: I agree! That was the album that got me into house music too. In the States, I’ve witnessed everything from store commercials to interactive online restaurant ads including EDM, emphasis on dubstep, in the feature. Does EDM have the same commercial hold in Europe?
: I think dance music has always been around here (Europe). The difference with America is the second the genre is successful in America, every brand in America wants to be associated with it. America is very brand driven. Then all of a sudden you hear dubstep in a McDonald’s ad. That’s typical America. I lived during the winters in America the past five or six years, that’s exactly what it is. You have no idea how many weird requests I’ve had. I’ve had everything from oil to butter to coffee. I was like, ‘Yeah, I use butter on all my records.’ (Laughs) It’s America. They just kind of go all in. The second Ke$ha is super successful, she’s on every cover in the world. The people (advertisers) that are sitting there are super uncreative. It’s good that they embrace it (EDM), but I’m not going to sell it with butter.

L+T:Do you think a DJ is a musician?
: I think that a DJ is a composer. I wouldn’t use “musician” because a musician is playing instruments, so I would probably use a composer.

L+T: I haven’t been told that one before.
: I am different.

L+T: I’ve been told everything else but that. On a side note, some of the DJs that I’ve spoken to walked me through their past when they initially deejayed with Technics and vinyl records. Then, the transition to software, controllers and other electronics was a bit of a hurdle for them. Was it a challenge for you?
: No, I’ve always been extremely geeky. I want things, I love things. I love the latest watch, headphones…I want all of the latest software. So, it wasn’t that hard. I do miss vinyl. I miss the way it sounded. I miss the process of making a vinyl. I love to go to the room where they did all of the mastering. I kind of miss having something in your hand. I like to hold an artwork or a magazine. I liked holding a vinyl. Now, it’s only files and folders. That part of it is really boring. You have to figure out what you have to do to create stuff. I have a sub label that I’m starting now, it’s going to be called Size X and we’re going to start doing vinyls again. I want to bring it back.