Swedish House Mafia Talks "Save the World", Breaking Boundaries, Queens of the Stone Age, and "American Dad"
Fri, 13 May 2011 10:53:54
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"You can always trust London," exclaims Axwell of Swedish House Mafia shortly after touching down in the UK. "You know what you're going to get. It's a classic."
Swedish House Mafia's brand new single "Save the World" is also a classic. The song rises with a timeless house beat into a magnetic, marvelous chorus sung by John Martin. The track showcases the hallmarks of Swedish House Mafia—propulsive production, elegant energy, and a spark that could ignite any dance floor from Miami to Ibiza. Swedish House Mafia are electronic music's new kings, and "Save the World" firmly entrenches their place on the throne. This is bound to be remembered as the anthem of 2011 for a myriad of reasons, mainly because it'll make you move.
Axwell of Swedish House Mafia sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about the story behind "Save the World", smashing through boundaries in dance music, why he loves Queens of the Stone Age, and what animated shows he's a sucker for. He also gives a little insight into the band's next full-length…
Is there anywhere you always have to stop in London?
I love the general vibe of the city, and it's always good to pop into one of the Nobu restaurants here as well.
What's the story behind "Save the World"? What does it mean to you? How did it come together?
We wanted to make something that sums everything up after a two- or three-hour DJ set. It connects everybody to something pretty emotional and uplifting. We wanted our own end of the night track, and that was the idea behind "Save the World". We got this vocal from John Martin, and it was awesome to work with. It was a pleasure structuring the track with all of the parts. The challenge that we had was to make it energetic enough. Sometimes, when there are so many melodies, instruments, and vocals, it's hard to make the track uplifting. However, we managed to get the energy in there.
Was there anything you wanted to try with "Save the World" that you hadn't tried before?
We wanted to combine a lot of vocals and piano. We actually aimed to get them to work together in a house track. It's kind of hard to make a song bangin' with a lot of vocals and musical parts, but that was what we set out to do.
Is this a fitting prelude to the next album?
We have another song with the same singer. We never really what we're doing; we're just following the musical experience and journey. We never want to repeat ourselves. We want to keep it interesting for ourselves and the listener. There might be some more songs on the upcoming album that sound similar to "Save the World", but there will be some other stuff also. There's definitely one more with John Martin, so if you liked "Save the World", you'll probably like that. There will also be loads of other shit that sounds completely different.
Do you approach an album with a vision for all of the songs or does it come together track by track?
We start by looking at everything track by track. When you come to the decision-making process of putting them all together, you try to structure them in a way that makes sense. It may follow the energy level pattern of a live show.
Does anything go in a Swedish House Mafia song? Do you view music boundlessly?
Yeah! We really want to do that because that's what keeps it interesting for us as writers of music. You want to be able to follow your own impulses and be inspired by new stuff. This musical style has a lot of boundaries. You have to say true to the "four on the floor" beat and be within a reasonable tempo for it to properly work on the dance floor. There are a lot of boundaries within dance music. We try to stay within them but break out of them at the same time. That's a little bit of a challenge.
Is it important to perceive music visually?
I think that's inevitable. You try to visualize something when you write music. Sometimes, we visualize how this track would work in our live show. I'll visualize flashing lights for a particular part or a blackout at another.
Is it fun to spread Swedish House Mafia into other media such as the documentary, Take One, and the iPad app?
It's a lot of fun! It's interesting. We try to do things that we like. At the end of the day, that's what it all comes down to whether it be designing a car, a chair, or an iPad app. We just want to do shit that we like and that excites us.
What do you like to watch?
I'm a sucker for Family Guy and American Dad!
Who are some of your favorite rock bands?
I would have to say Queens of the Stone Age. The production is so tight. We can appreciate the production, and it's pretty advanced music. We're massive fans of Coldplay. Then there's the old stuff. There's a lot you can learn from The Rolling Stones. Anything can excite us. Of course, we get influenced by rock, hip hop, and classical music. We love everything that's good—as long as it's good.
Where does a Swedish House Mafia song typically begin?
They can begin anywhere from creating a beat with just some drums to finding an interesting bass sound or finding some nice piano chords. We can start in any direction. Sometimes, we'll actually merge songs. We take the best part of one song and the best part of another and merge them. That's why some of the new songs we're working on are pretty intense and interesting. In some cases, we merge three different ideas.
Have you heard "Save the World" yet?
Check out our recent House Music roundup here!