Interview with Axwell: ‘There’s no point in everyone doing the same thing’
“It was like your last day at school,” Axel Christofer Hedfors tells me as he reminisces about Swedish House Mafia’s final ever gig. “It was really emotional, tears were not too far away because it was scary to think it was so definite.”
For almost a decade, Swedish producer and DJ Axwell was known as one third of the world’s biggest electronic dance music group. Countless hits, endless tours and at the forefront of creating mainstream dance music.
At the Ultra Music Festival in Miami this year, the group played their final ever gig as a trio and went their separate ways – well, kind of.
Less than six months after their gig in March, Axwell has already teamed up with Sebastian Ingrosso for Roar, an original track for Disney Pixar’s latest movie Monsters University, and their new ‘Departures’ residency at Ushuaïa in Ibiza.
“We were all working together in different constellations before Swedish House Mafia and will continue to do so after,” he says. “We see it more as we finished one thing, rather than ending it.”
But despite working together, Axwell tells me he’s determined to do something different to what people might expect from him. Having already played the biggest venues and shows, he’s after it all again just not under the ‘Swedish House Mafia’ umbrella.
Announced as one of the headliners for TomorrowWorld, the 35-year-old will be joining more than 300 top acts at the event just outside of Atlanta this September. Playing at the first-ever American installment of Belgian festival company ID&T’s massive Tomorrowland festival, Axwell will be alongside not only mainstays like Tiesto, Calvin Harris and Armin Van Buuren but also underground stars like RiFF RaFF.
“TomorrowWorld will be great,” he tells me enthusiastically. “I haven’t been in the States much this summer, so I can’t wait to go out there with a bang!”
As electronic dance music (‘EDM’) explodes across the world, the I Found U producer acknowledges how festivals like these are popping up all over. But, he admits the genre has lost its way a bit as DJs are put under the microscope more and more. His fellow Swedish House Mafia colleague, Steve Angello, knows this more than anyone after a video surfaced back in 2011 of him suppossedly ‘mime DJing’.
“I’m sure there are people faking DJing, as with anything,” Axwell retorts as he defends one of his best friends. “I haven’t seen it though and I doubt that anyone at a high level would fake that.
“An interesting question I always ask is, if you’ve made an edit, mash-up or bootleg and you play it, what’s that? Is that fake DJing?”
It’s becomes quickly apparently that the four-time Grammy-nominated DJ gets a little infuriated by these types of questions. Rushing to move the interview on he explains that when they’re on stage they are beat matching and mixing every time but that during Swedish House Mafia tour gigs they did have a set list to ensure everything happened as they had planed it.
“When you’re not playing in a dark cellar for 100 people, rather an arena for 20,000 or so, I would like to put on the best possible show to the people buying tickets – to give the crowd the best experience. To me there is only one option when incorporating visuals, lights and fireworks and that is 100 per cent tight, not 50 per cent tight. If that means rehearsing with the crew and having a set list then I’m sure the crowd would appreciate that more than all of us winging it just for the sake of it.”
But it’s not just the ‘Fake DJ’ saga that Axwell is trying to distance himself from. Despite knowing the importance of appealing to a mass market, the Axtone Records founder is trying to break down the boundaries and go a different direction musically.
“In a way I miss the times when not every track had to be a number 1 hit but it’s up to me to combine those days with the ones of today!
“I think that a lot of people are focusing on working with big artists,” he says, “but I just like to do things differently. I always try to keep myself stimulated that way as there’s no point in everyone doing the same thing.”
Citing his recent track Centre of the Universe, Axwell tells me this remode is the best example of his new take on the EDM phenomenon.
“I’m really happy people got what I was trying to do,” he says with a smile on his face. “This is a bit of a nod towards the older progressive house vibes that I love so much.”
He’s not the only one trying to shape up the industry though, as he admits the new Daft Punk album will help get dance music back on track.
“First, I was terrified about it probably because of the hype leading up to it, then I started to listen to it in the background while doing other things – such as taking a sauna,” he says laughing. “I really started to appreciate it for what it was and now I love it. I think it will inspire a lot of our people.”
Despite years of touring and countless months in the studio, Axwell isn’t planning on slowing down.
“If I ever stepped out of the music industry completely, I think I would consider it as a huge mistake only hours after doing so,” he says. Keeping true to his word the producer, who appeared twice on last year’s DJ Mag Top 100 chart, has got a lot in the pipeline.
“I’m finishing a lot of tracks right now including mine and Seb’s We come, we rave, we love. Plus I’ve been doing some additional production on a few upcoming Axtone tracks from Sick individuals and Hook N Sling, as well as a track going by the working title of Feel the pressure.Tagged in: Armin Van Buuren, Axwell, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, DJ Tiesto, EDM, Monsters University, swedish house mafia, TomorrowWorld
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