Steve Angello discusses spinning vinyl, selling out and more

Peace, he’s out: Über trio Swedish House Mafia is on its way out, but Steve Angello isn’t done making music.
Sam Glaser @sammyglaser


Steve Angello
With Third Party
December 29, doors at 10 p.m., $50 men, $20 women.
XS, 770-0097

As Swedish House Mafia prepares to “leave the world behind” after a final world tour, fans are hungry for one last glimpse. This weekend brings Steve Angello, one-third of the über trio and “musical chef” at Andrea’s, to XS for a solo spin to send off 2012. Angello is scheduled to release his Wild Youth album when SHM’s tour ends next year, and Weekly caught up with him to talk selling out, spinning vinyl and DJing on the moon.

How will your life look different after Swedish House Mafia breaks up?

We’re all still gonna be pushing our solo careers like we’ve always done. We’re all individually gonna build labels, and build all the guys we’ve signed, and just continue to do whatever we love, and whatever we feel like doing. I think it’s really important to keep that passion, because when you lose the passion, you lose everything.

You’ve mentioned helping the artists you mentor avoid the mistakes you made. What are some common mistakes?

I think signing your rights to the wrong publisher, the wrong record labels, having manipulative A&Rs telling you to do sh*t you don’t want to do—that’s really important to dodge. I think low self-esteem can crush many artists, and I’ve seen that happen too many times ... I never gave my life away to anybody, ever. It didn’t matter how big of a check you came with. I had a lot of sh*t happen to us when we were kids; we could go months without even having a penny to eat. We were believers that our art would somehow make money, and we would be able to survive off that.

Any lessons for future supergroups?

We never listen to any criticism. We never listen to what people have to say about the music. We always went with the heart. ... If you work something really, really hard, and you believe in yourselves really, really hard, nothing is impossible.

You said, “We reached a point where we didn’t know what the next move would be.” How about Swedish House Mafia “Leave the World Behind” livestream from the moon?

Oh, wow. Yeah. I would say it’s a big show DJing on the moon. If anybody would help us put that together, I think we would do that show. You should do that. If you do that, I’m in.

You’ve also said, “It’s not hard to make electronic dance music, but it’s really hard to put on a good show.” What does it take?

You can’t just show up. You have to produce the show and then DJ. ... You’re renting a space. You’re talking to authorities. You get alcohol licenses. You work with local promoters. You’re working on a marketing campaign. You start working with a social team. You’re selling tickets; hopefully you sell out the show. Then you have money. So what do you do? ... Every show that we do, we do it from scratch. … If you create the music that you play, and that shows in sales and big crowds, I think you’re doing something right.

How have you embraced commercial opportunities without selling out?

The sellout is an artist that gets picked up for being really cool, and then they change their whole vibe because they have writers making the music. But I find it really hard for a DJ to sit in a studio and actually do something to sell out. I wouldn’t ever put my name or work on a record unless I liked it. … Anything that becomes very successful becomes called a sellout. But I’m not doing anything different today than in 2002. I probably did more commercial music in 2002 than I do now.

How do you foresee American EDM maturing?

I think a lot of DJs are gonna put on solo shows more often, and do bigger productions and then tour America. There’s a lot of festivals coming to America now. … I’ve always believed in brands. I’ve always believed that if you work really hard with a brand, you create a culture. ... So I think it’s up to the artists at the end of the day, to just maintain their strength, creativity, to just push it forward.

You’re the music curator for Steve Wynn’s new restaurant, Andrea’s. What are you doing there?

I have to create the environment and experience throughout the whole space. When I got asked to do that, I was extremely excited because I’m a huge foodie. I love food; I love good restaurants; I love good surroundings. ... It’s so different from my usual day-to-day, but at the end of the day, it’s also connected to it.

You were the target of some “plug and play” controversy. How do you balance using the latest technology and staying true to the craft of DJing?

I was a part of vinyl, so for me, vinyl’s in my blood from Day 1. I’m trying to find ways to keep that going somehow. Now we’re starting a sub-label that’s called Size X, and on that label we’re gonna put out vinyls. There’s no art about DJing in today’s technology. I think a DJ today is a guy who puts on a great show and who plays the right music. … You just gotta embrace the technology, and make it your way. And if that’s not art, I don’t know what art is.

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