Charles Darbyshire caught up with a third of the Swedish House Mafia, superstar DJ Axwell, to discuss his music, his latest single ‘Nothing But Love’, the current kit in his DJ booth & of course… ‘sexy parties’ in Ibiza.
For those of us who might know nothing about you Axwell, how would you describe your role within the global dance project. What makes you Axwell?
I’ve been one of the guys responsible for uplifting energetic vibes over the last 8 years, doing a lot of remixes and a lot of my own tracks such as ‘I’ve Found You’, ‘Kill The Vibe’ and ‘Watch The Sunrise’. Basically trying to create my own vibe in house music over the last couple of years.
Every year Ibiza becomes a haven of cross genre experiments for the most prestigious DJ’s in the world, and this summer was no different. Were there any particular stand out moments for you this year?
Well we play every Monday in Pacha, and we have our own night there called ‘Masquerade Hotel’ and this is the second year we’ve been running this, and it’s been amazing to see how energetic and educated the crowd is. The great thing about Ibiza is you have these different people coming together from different countries, but what makes it special is the essence of all these different countries coming together. And although this may sound cheesy – but it’s all about this celebration of house music, combined with this crazy hedonistic vibe…I mean, I think I really get what Ibiza is about now.
I don’t think that’s a cheesy way of putting it all. House music is a long historic tradition and there has to be a hot spot to celebrate the cause, and it just so happens that Ibiza is the place to do it. In terms of hedonism which you mentioned briefly – what’s been the most hedonistic spot on the island?
Well it’s got to be night time in Pacha. People come to our party ‘Masquerade Hotel’, and they enter this kind of eyes wide shut mode. It’s as if when they put on their masks that they fall into this state of being whoever they want to be. And with all our dancers create a sort of sexy hedonism which excites the people on the dance-floor. It’s funny as I see so much lust in people’s eyes, which spawns this kind of getting together. It allows people to meet each other freely in the club, and no-one quite knows what might follow after.
No doubt, I’m sure your parties have been catalysts for many obscene antics, which we probably can’t go into too much detail about in this interview! But long may your lustful influence continue, I’m sure those who have experienced it will agree with that…
So obviously you’re part of the trusty trio ‘The Swedish House Mafia’, which is recognized as one of the most successful renegade house outfits on the planet. This comes as no surprise with the likes of Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello backing you in the booth. Can you tell us what binds the ‘Swedish House Mafia’ together? What’s the secret to your global appeal?
The secret is that it’s not something that we planned, the whole thing was created organically and developed out of fun – and it was kind of like a joke, where we just wanted to make music together and see where it took us. That’s what was great about the whole thing – we didn’t try to manufacture or force the experience, it just came very naturally…
That’s cool, so you kind of gave birth to this bastard child that ran out into the wilderness which has just gone and done it’s own thing…
Yeah, it’s exactly like that.
Now Axwell, your a man that has achieved considerable success through perseverance and hard work, but the universe is such a place that such success never comes for free. Those of us who have seen 2005’s ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’ will remember it’s hard hitting tag line inspired by the mythical Frankie Wilde – ‘When you can’t hear, things look very different.’ Although you are certainly not deaf Axwell, it is a relatively well known fact that you suffer from the early stages of tinnitus. However tinnitus as a medical symptom is becoming an ever more common plight for the modern DJ, due to devastatingly loud club systems and badly arranged monitoring in DJ booths. For those of us who are worried about the future of our hearing, do you have any sound advice as to how we can protect the state of our ears?
Yeah this is an important issue. I have these custom made ear plugs, which I obviously started to use a little bit late, as I had this idea that my ears are made of steel. And I was like ‘no worries mate, I’ll be fine’
Then I did get early stages of tinnitus and I had to use ear plugs. But now I love them, it makes the sound better, it takes away all the bad frequencies that hurt you, so I totally recommend them. The club environment is very rarely perfect, and is never the same as listening to music in your own home or a perfectly treated acoustic studio. So to all DJ’s I would recommend investing in custom made ear plugs and get used to playing with those for sure.
I think that’s a really good point. This is an issue that really needs to be addressed and put across to DJ’s around the world, as a lot of our readers will already know that it’s a very different story when your playing in a big room, compared to the bed room environment. I think it’s really cool that your promoting stuff like using ear plugs, as I know far too many people including myself, who are destroying their ears on the sound system.
You only have one pair of ears, so you’ve got to look after them.
Most definitely agreed.
Right, if I had to pick one of your productions to take to a desert island it would probably be your remix of ‘Axtone – Rotterdam City of Love’. Can you tell us a little about how this track came about in the studio? As a tastemaker, are there any secrets you care to share with us?
That track was something I heard in a club in Madrid which the DJ before me had played, and I was like – ‘What’s this track? I really like the hard groove of that.’ So I found the guy and then I signed the track, and it was pretty much perfect as it was, but I felt like I wanted to add some spice. To be honest I did fairly little on the track when I remixed it – I just added some sprinkles and sparks here and there, and made the breaks a little bit longer and added a few more beats. So I really just tried to complement the track, keeping one foot in the club and one in the computer. And I try to keep an idea of how people will react to the track, and how I would react to it if I was in a club – these are important aspects to consider when making tracks for me.
What are your favorite technologies in the studio at the moment? Are there any pieces of equipment that are helping you evolve your DJ sets and productions?
My main thing is the Apple Logic program. It’s the main thing I use, as I can do everything with that, it’s the key to everything. But DJ-ing wise it’s the new CDJ players from Pioneer. As now I don’t even have CD’s, I just use the USB sticks which organise all my tracks very neatly and make them accessible on the fly, which just make things much much better.
These seem to be the technical weapons of choice these days, and I’d have to say that I agree with you on all fronts…
Okay for the sake of argument – say I just built a time machine, which I haven’t quite figured yet, but I’m getting there.
And I said to you, that you could DJ during anytime time period since the dawn of time. For instance, you could DJ to the dinosaurs, or you could rock a set for Caesar and the Roman Republic. There are many options and I know this is a hard one, but where would you do it?
Well there’s a lot of factors to consider here. One being if the dinosaurs knew any of my tracks! You know…
Did the Romans have a good sound system?
So there’s a lot of factors like that. But to tell you the truth – now is the time, now is where I want to be DJ-ing, because house music is now. But as you have nearly developed this time machine, I would really want to go back and feel the vibe of the 50’s and 60’s in The States. It seems back then there was all this happiness, and not a worry in the world kind of thing. As these days we seem to live every day with this constant message – that it’s the end of the world / no wait a minute, it’s almost the end of the world / oh and now it’s the end of the world. With all this bad stuff every day on TV. Back then people didn’t care where gas came from, they just filled up their big cars and went to the dinner and had fun!
I’ve always been into that care free vibe that they have portrayed in those old American movies…
Yeah I know there’s something kind of glossy and comforting in that Capitalist glaze of the 50’s, which you see in films like ‘Dazed and Confused’…
Yeah exactly, it all seemed so happy and careless back then, or maybe that’s just how they portrayed it. Never the less, I would love to go there and check it out. As it would be interesting to come there from an age of electronic music, and see how they would react to my music! Maybe they would be like – what are these aggressive sounds? What’s wrong with you?
And I would be like – ‘Well that’s my most happy record!’ I think they might find a lot of the sounds very dark and aggressive, and would probably wonder what the hell is wrong with me, but I would love to see the reaction on their faces!
Ha! Nicely said – I like that a lot!
So your off to Electric Zoo in New York tomorrow, for an all star line up of dance music’s finest. Who’s going to kill it over there in the Big Apple?
Well my boy ‘Dirty South’ is going to be over there, I think he is going to kill it. He always has secret edits of bad ass tracks that I’ve never heard before, which is always really cool. Otherwise I’m just looking forward to playing a festival in New York, as I’ve played festivals in L.A and Miami, but never in New York. So it’s going to be really interesting to see how New Yorkers react, I mean is it going to be like that T.V show ‘Jersey Shore’? Is it going to be like how they do it on there? I don’t know but I’ll find out…
Well I was lucky enough to be in New York last summer doing some work experience for a label. And one weekend ‘Boys Noize’ and ‘Drop the Lime’ did a free show in Central Park, and I can safely assure you that the New Yorkers know how to rock it!
Perfect! That’s what I like to hear.
Okay I know this is always a hard one. But what are your top 3 tunes in clubland at the moment?
Definitely the ‘Nothing But Love For You’ track I just did. Especially the ‘Remode’ version, which has been working really well. Hold on a minute just let me check my drop box…
I can never remember tracks off the top of my head!
Tell me about it! There must be something wrong with us here! I just can’t either!
Oh here we go…there’s this remix of ‘Swedish House Mafia’, and the track’s called ‘One’. It’s actually the ‘Congorock’ remix which really destroys the place. Oh and there’s this one track called ‘Reaver’ by ‘Marco V’, which is really working well too.
Cool, I’ll be sure to check those out…
And lastly, any sneak peaks into new tracks, remixes and collaborations that are coming out way in the near future?
We just finished a new single with Tinie Tempah, which is called ‘Miami to Ibiza’. I’m also working on some ‘Axwell’ stuff with the singer from ‘Fenech-Soler’…so that’s all the collaborative stuff at the moment.
How things working out with ‘Tinie Tempah’? You down with your London town urban dictionary?
For sure man, for sure. I cannot pronounce everything as cool as you guys, but I’m working on it!
Ha! Nice one!
Well thanks for your time Axwell. Good luck with everything, and maybe speak to you sometime soon…
Alright then, thanks man.