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Axwell has firmly established himself at the forefront of contemporary music over the last few years. Recognised globally by the media, his peers, and most importantly the paying general public for what he does best. Entertain. Be it as an artist, DJ, remixer or label mogul, the one constant is that Axwell never fails to deliver.
He is one of the few dance artists who can reach the Top 10 singles charts, and still retain a credible cache within the underground world. In political terms, he’s never lost – or forgotten – his base, and in many instances, he’s taken them forward.
His chart hits, including ‘Feel The Vibe’, ‘Watch The Sunrise’, ‘What A Wonderful World’ (with Bob Sinclar), ‘Tell Me Why’ (his Bronski Beat sampling collaboration as Supermode with Steve Angello) and the No.6 UK smash, ‘I Found U’ featuring Max’C, have all begun life as underground anthems, spearing through into the mainstream via daytime radio playlists and heavyweight DJ support from across the electronic spectrum, be it Pete Tong, Zane Lowe, or Annie Mac.
His latest single ‘Leave The World Behind’ is a collaboration with his fellow Swedes Steve Angello & Sebastian Ingrosso, Dutch maestro Laidback Luke and Canadian vocalist Deborah Cox. Such a collection of talented artists on one record was quite rightly dubbed electronic music’s dream team and the song they produced didn’t disappoint anyone - it was one of the biggest dance tracks of 2009 and officially the 2nd best selling dance single of the year on US download site Beatport.
When it comes to remixes, Axwell is no slouch either, with a discography of transforming pop hits into clubbing essentials reading like a who’s who of contemporary popular music: Madonna (‘Jump’), Nelly Furtado (‘Promiscuous’), N*E*R*D* (‘Maybe’), Moby (‘Slipping Away’), Bob Sinclar (‘I Feel For You’), Adele (‘Hometown Glory’), Pharrel Williams (‘Angel’), and of course, Hard-Fi (‘Hard To Beat’). His versatility to be able to change from out-and-out disco to rock-infused indie beats, and then wordy hip-hop rhymes, helping propel him to most major label’s first port of call, in the process providing DJs with essential tools for their trade.
His most recent remixes have both been for Australian artists and together they’ve provided the soundtrack to the Summer of 2009 and beyond. Axwell & Dirty South’s remix of The Temper Traps ‘Sweet Disposition’ has become an anthem over the last 6 months and helped propel the original version into the Top 10 of the UK charts. Axwell signed TV Rock’s ‘In The Air’ to his Axtone Imprint and reworked the track into one of the biggest tracks in Ibiza last summer. It’s now been picked up by Ministry Of Sound UK and is set for an assault on the pop charts in the next couple of months.
Having risen 6 places to Number 14 in DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJ’s poll it’s safe to say that 2009 was another momentous year on the DJ’ing front. He and his cohorts in the Swedish House Mafia, Steve Angello & Sebastian Ingrosso, ruled Ibiza this year with their Monday Night residency at Pacha Ibiza being one of the most talked about nights on the Island. Axwell once again travelled the globe to bring his unique brand of music to the masses. 2009 saw the unstoppable Swede perform in America, Canada, Egypt, Puerto Rico, all across Europe and Asia and finally seeing the year out with a bang in Australia as one of the headline acts on the Stereosonic Tour. Axwell showcased his new stage show at these festivals in Australia in the shape of his 5 meter high LED heart as well as airing a few new tracks that are set to feature on his long awaited debut album set for release on Axtone Records in 2010.
Axtone has built a reputation as one of the most in demand independent dance labels with both DJs and clubbers alike over the last 5 years, having put out quality releases by artists such as Axwell, Dirty South, Sebastian Ingrosso, Steve Angello, Laidback Luke, TV Rock, Abel Ramos and more. Axtone looks to build on that reputation in 2010 by not only releasing Axwell’s new material but also showcasing new tracks by the UK duo Prok & Fitch & new Swedish sensation Adrian Lux who delivers a very special track called ‘Teenage Crime’.
Armed with a slew of new CDs and enough confidence to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall, Steve Angello totally destroyed the Space terrace at the inaugural Ibiza opening on May 31st – but in truth, the momentum has been building on Steve Angello’s music for some time now. First up was arguably his globe-straddling Moby remix of ‘Raining Again.’ Then it was ‘Tell Me Why’ with Sebastian Ingrosso and ‘Be’ with Laidback Luke. And then ‘Be’ returned in spirit (and b-line) for ‘Show Me Love’ with original vocalist Robin S and Laidback Luke in tow, smashing clubs and Top Ten charts into tiny pieces everywhere it was dropped. “It’s a huge track as we all know,” says Steve Angello. “It’s just one of those tracks. It’s done a lot of good stuff for me so I do a new bootleg of it every six months. The best thing about it is everywhere I go, it’s the one track that everyone wants to hear. I may have played it 60,000 times but people still want to hear it!”
Since we last looked, Steve Angello decamped to Los Angeles where he’s been living at least 50% of the time, boosting his creativity and inner confidence to all-new levels. “I love playing in The States, it’s a scene that’s ready to explode,” he states. “They’re getting kind of bored of American DJs so I go one week a month to keep them interested in us. The scene in LA is huge – we used to play to 1500, now it’s closer to 4000. I play at Mansion and Avalon in LA and Pacha in New York. I love Pacha New York too – it’s Erick’s club! – they got the place up on its feet and it catches that typical New York feeling. You also remember every face on the dance-floor.”
But L.A. is Steve’s new home and despite having played pretty much every club on the American circuit, he says Avalon remains his favourite club spot. “The vibe in there is just ridiculous! It’s the only club that goes past 4AM. When the light comes in at 6AM, I still have 4 hours to go. And then I can jump in my car and go home.” Needless to say, music is Steve’s main priority in 2009. “You know, I think if you come to LA and want to work, it’s important… they’re tired of producers doing one track and disappearing – I’m a workaholic!
But when he’s not spinning or driving, there’s still much to do. When he wakes up, Angello is still very much the A & R supremo for Size Records, wherever he lays his hat that night. The label is now firing with releases by himself, Kim Fai, Funkagenda and Marcos Schauss upcoming this year alone. “Marcus is doing well, he’s a great DJ and he plays a little darker than me which is great,” says Steve. “I also signed my brother Antoine to the label. He’s 19, he’s young and fresh- he’s like me when I was 19, he’s really determined – I gave him a taste of the DJ life and he loved it!” Well, who wouldn’t? “At least I can steer him the way I want him to go,” reasons his big brother. He’s also working with Funkagenda – “such a great producer! He’s already done a couple of pieces for the label,” states Steve. “I love having him at my parties.” Steve is ready for the Mafia summer to begin. Mondays at Pacha with Seb and Axwell – what more could he ask for? “It’s so good to be having our own night and finally we got it. Every Monday will be like New Year’s Eve!"
And what about Steve’s own album? “I’m doing the Mescal kid album which is more techno – I have a Mescal kid track coming out on Sci- Tec, a dark techno track I really love but you know, I’m still making three new tracks a week! But my album is going to be really house and techy…. I got a couple of vocals in the bag but it’s too early to say." And then of course there’s the small matter of the upcoming N*E*R*D* collaboration they’re about to finish. “We met in Sydney. We started to talk and ‘Be’ was playing in the background and Pharrell said he loved the track. We had four days off and that’s when we nailed it. I think everything is moving towards electronic dance music. Everybody is interested in what we are doing.” And what of the song, Steve? “It’s a very simple vocal – there are some really nice harmonies and then it has a banging bassline.” And what did Steve learn from N*E*R*D*, we wonder? “The guy is a workaholic and you can definitely tell. He doesn’t drink or party, he works 24/7… I was surprised how hard he could focus. And I thought I worked hard.”
Sebastian Ingrosso is that rare thing in dance music: a musician who understands the world of melodies just as much as he understands the power of the kick drum, a producer who loves Gui Boratto and The Field but also dreams of working with r n b icons like Quincy Jones. And why not? Because 2009 already looks set to be even more momentous than 08 for Sebastian Ingrosso: although crucially he promises that the killer hooks and melodies are set to stun harder than ever this year. "I already do music and if it comes to pop, it comes to pop," he says. "What I mean is if it comes, it comes: I don't want to miss the melodies and the harmonies. When you go out, the song you always remember from the night is the simplest one."
One of two key announcements for Ingrosso in 09 is his brand new slot at Sensation, where he is the main resident, playing to 25,000 people per week in May and June alone. Consequently, Sebastian himself is super excited about the summer of 2009. "Musically, this year has been number one," he smiles. "The MGMT 'Kids' bootleg I did just got cleared and it's going to be released officially on Refune now. Plus we did a record with Pharrell Williams - it doesn't have a name yet, I'm not finished with it! - but it's going to be good and not what people expect. When the breakdown comes it’s still very N*E*R*D*! You know, it's the biggest thing for me in my career ever, I never thought I would be in the studio with them, those guys are great." Anyone who knows Ingrosso will tell you this collaboration is a dream come true.
And if you're wondering why the song came out so well, again it's simple: having performed at the same series of festival dates in Australia in winter, the Mafia boys and the N*E*R*D*s bonded over a basketball game in Sydney. "It's true!" laughs Ingrosso. "We fought together against hooligans and then worked together!" Could you please clarify? "We had a fight - we were playing basketball together against another team and one of the guys on the opposition scrapped Chad so I knocked this guy out. And a slap turned into a friendship." Luckily, Chad and Pharrell taught him something a little deeper. "It was one day of work and of course you learn every day - but they reminded me that melodies are still number one."
Sebastian has been behind many smashes in the past five or six seasons. Leave The World Behind on Axtone, Umbrella on Data, Laktos on Refune, an amazing re-edit of Swimming Places from Julian Jabre on Defected, Royksopp and Hard Fi's 'Suburban Knights' and of course the searing remix of 'Jack You' with Steve Angello for Diddy and Felix which was approved by Sean Combs himself. But aside from the dark energy, there's another side to Seb. And if there's one song that sums up the sweet melodic soul of house music, it's Kings Of Tomorrow's 'Finally', sung by US gospel-soul vocalist Julia McKnight. "I've been working a lot with Dirty South," explains Ingrosso. "But me, Dirty South and David Guetta just
did a record called ‘How Soon Is Now’ with Julia McKnight and that's probably the biggest record I've worked on. Julia McKnight sings directly from her heart. We all know that she sung 'Diamond Life' and 'Finally' - but this song is CRAZY. For me, this is one of the top 3 songs this summer." Also look out for another Seb collaboration with Kid Sister. "I worked on the first single from Kid Sister's album 'Right Hand High' which is a really good record - it's an honour to work with such an innovator."
There's been one more seismic club shift this year. Since Sebastian's epic Mixmag Cream Terrace cover-mount last summer, the Swedish House Mafia have upped sticks to Pacha, where they will be holding down a weekly residency all season long. Are you excited, Seb? "OOOF! That's the biggest, the BIGGEST! I am so happy that I got this thing and that we have SHM at Pacha, that's the biggest. We have some really great guests
- everyone from Funkagenda and Dizzee Rascal to Basement Jaxx and Bob Sinclar. It's a really cool line-up and that's hard when everyone has their own night. We've managed to come up with something weird but wonderful as a concept too: Dark Forest, come on in!"
And what vibe can we expect to hear from Sebastian and the Swedes in their Dark Forest, we wonder? There now follows a mission Statement from Sebastian Ingrosso. "Dance music is growing and growing and it already took over America. Dance music is definitely taking over as an influence in hip hop and r 'n' b. Like I've been saying for a while now, trance and melodies are coming back and they're also combining. I think people are tired of big breakdowns and then it comes back to nothing... Everybody loves a great kick-drum and a killer bass-line but people also
want to hear pianos stabs! Plus, vocals are definitely coming back! But not cheesy vocals - they have to be real."
Melodies - and memories - are made of this.