Music Interview: Burning Down the House

Axwell talks to Conor O’Nolan ahead of the release of Swedish House Mafia’s new album later this month.

Axel Hedfors, better known as Axwell, has been producing house music for the best part of the last ten years. His impact on the dance music industry was reflected in DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJs poll last year, where he was placed at number 14.

His first international success was seen in 2004 with the release of ‘Feel the Vibe’. From there he continued to produce successive hits and started to take his collaborations with two fellow DJs under the guise of Swedish House Mafia more seriously.

With twenty million and counting views registered on just one of their tracks on YouTube, Swedish House Mafia are an undeniably huge entity in the world of dance music. With the release of their debut album, they are sure to make even more waves in the music industry.

Swedish House Mafia consists of three DJs: Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso. They met when Axwell moved to Stokholm in 2000: “We were just the few people up here who made house music and you know, it’s a small city and we got sort of together, as friends, and then started to do small bits together.”

Axwell initially collaborated with Angello and Ingrosso separately. He recounts: “We started to do small gigs together and then the word kind of grew and somebody started to call us Swedish House Mafia.”

Despite being active together for so long, their first official single was only released earlier this year, and their first album will be a compilation of the trio’s output from the last few years. “It won’t really be anything people haven’t kind of heard before, but it’s been stuff that people haven’t been able to get before.”

Axwell has been producing remixes for a huge array of artists, ranging from Usher to Hard Fi. As a self-professed huge fan of Pharrell Williams, he remixed the N*E*R*D song ‘Maybe’, but this year he had the chance to properly collaborate with Williams on the track ‘One (Your Name)’. Axwell cites this as a personal highlight in his career.

Another recent collaboration with Tinie Tempah is proving to be a huge success, having attracted over half a million YouTube views in just over a week. “We didn’t have any idea what it was going to be, or what was going to come out of it, and he was really nice and interesting to work with. He started writing lyrics to our very sparse beat. We had at the time and just came up with these incredible cool vibes.”

Tinie has mentioned that Swedish House Mafia was a huge influence on his new album, and Axwell holds a similar level of respect for him: “He’s just a true professional,” he remarks. Axwell enjoys producing house with a hip-hop crossover and feels his latest effort with ‘Miami 2 Ibiza’ brings something entirely new to the table, claiming: “I haven’t heard anything like it.”

He is, however, keen to try some new things. When asked what artists would he like to collaborate, he immediately stated that “Chris Martin, or Coldplay in general, would be a dream come true” and “Kings of Leon, that kind of rock vibe, or Beyoncé for that matter”.

There have been whispers in the music industry that the house music scene has become stagnant and lacking in creativity, Axwell agrees with this. “It’s [house] been so exploited lately that people are trying to get as much stuff out at the moment and it’s hard to take the time to reinvent oneself or take the time to discover new sounds for people.”

He continued: “First of all, there’s no money in music, so if you want to make a living, you have to tour all the time. So yeah, you don’t have like two years to invent a new sound.”

This, according to Axwell, in combination with technological advances, make musicians more likely to produce derivative music. However, all is not lost, Axwell is eager to persevere: “I think that we will have to work hard to make things sound even more interesting.”

Axwell also has plans for some solo material in the near future, “I’m kinda working on my album continuously and I hope that one day it will be ready,” and it will be in a relatively similar vein to his previous output: “Not sure, but of course it will be house, because I want it to be stuff that I can play out, but I’m sure there might be some more experimental stuff on there as well.”

Aside from the plans for a solo album, there are plans for Swedish House Mafia to continue progressing at a similar rate. “We’re gonna try and make up some new stuff, make up some new music, some new interesting sounds. We want to keep developing this and this year has exceeded any expectations we’ve had. We’ve achieved more than all the goals we’ve ever had.”

Swedish House Mafia’s album Until One is released on the 25th October.