John Dahlbäck on Why Sweden Owns the DJ Scene
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 13:04
Swedish DJ and producer John Dahlbäck has a theory about why the Swedes have taken over the world of electronic music.
“We get music as a subject in school, starting in the first grade and the teachers really [encourage] us to learn an instrument,” he explained in an email. “Second thing is that we live in Sweden; it's dark eight months of the year here so we need to be creative.”
If Sweden’s school system and dark days are to credit for EDM geniuses like Avicii, Alesso, Swedish House Mafia, and Dada Life among many, many others, then for that we are thankful, because with the rise of electronic music came a surge of talent from the land that supplies us with affordable, flat-packed furniture. And, among the most famous is Dahlbäck himself.
But pursuing a musical path didn’t rise simply out of boredom for Dahlbäck. He was a prodigy of sorts. With two parents heavily involved in the music scene – his mom was a singer in a jazz band and his father was a drummer – and various other members of his family that were musically inclined, Dahlbäck’s career path happened naturally.
Growing in that kind of environment, Dahlbäck never lacked inspiration, he said, and said the music his parents listened to – ranging from Miles Davis to Joni Mitchell – was his biggest influence.
It was on his dad’s Atari computer that the DJ first learned the basics of electronic sound and at the ripe age of 15, his highly jazz-influenced house track “Night Flash” earned Dahlbäck his first record deal with Route 33.
From that point on, the young DJ’s career became a flurry of gigs and recordings. While most of his peers where only just discovering clubs, Dahlbäck was playing at them .
Fast forward a few years and Dahlbäck not only has releases on major labels but he has owned a few of them. After five years of successfully running his Pickadoll imprint, Dahlbäck broke away to launch his newest label, Mutants.
“There is [a lot of musical freedom] that comes with owning your own label,” he said. “I can experiment however much I want and that’s a huge deal for me.”
More important is the fact that he can sign music that he loves from people that he loves, he said.
“I had a real vision about the label,” Dahlbäck is quoted in his bio. “I can hear within a couple of seconds whether a track will fit, and I love doing this kind of organized work – sending out promos and looking for licenses – otherwise I’m just a slave to the studio.”
His most recent release, Toolroom Knights, showcases the DJ’s work over the span of his career in 38 tracks and two remixes. The inspiration behind the album, Dahlbäck said, was to show his audience two things:
“First, my own personal development,” he said.
The DJ started his career spinning deep house music, which combines elements of jazz-funk and soul music. Eventually, his sound went in the direction of electro house.
“Second, I wanted to create the perfect night,” Dahlbäck continues. “It starts laid back and then ends in craziness.”
Dahlbäck’s music has no boundaries. His latest single, “Start Loving U,” is a disco-influenced track that strays from what you would expect from the DJ, but the song still carries those infectious and groovy beats that explain why Dahlbäck is among the top-ranked Swedish DJs in the world.
John Dahlbäck, Wild Knight, 4405 N. Saddlebag Trail, Scottsdale, Friday, April 27, 10 p.m., $10