Time Out NY: I can remember talking to Erick Morillo years ago, when he was getting ready to open Pacha. He was raving about these guys called the Swedish House Mafia—how they were going to play the club’s opening weekend and how they were going to be huge. He was right!
Steve Angello: I remember that opening weekend really well. The fire marshals had come and shut down Erick’s night, so of course we were worried; we were playing the next night and we thought the same thing would happen. But they didn’t, and it was lot’s of fun.
Time Out NY: And now it’s five years later, and you guys are ruling the EDM world.
Steve Angello: Ha! I like that. But it’s all from hard work and dedication. It’s hasn’t been overnight success at all. I first met Erick back in 2000; I’ve been deejaying since I was 12. And I’m turning 30 now, so it’s definitely been a while. But it’s been a blast, and we’ve had a very, very good time. I’m just happy all this is happening now, especially in North America. It’s been a long walk.
Time Out NY: But for people who haven’t been intimately involved in the whole EDM thing, it probably seems like it’s happened overnight.
Steve Angello: Yeah, that’s probably true in North America, even though in the rest of the world it’s been bubbling for a while. I mean, we used to sell a million records back in 2004. But I knew this would finally happen here. I chose to move to L.A. in 2008 because I saw it coming. You could throw these amazing parties and you could fill big venues. But it hadn’t hit the mainstream. In the past two years, though, it’s really started to build—and the last year has been phenomenal.
Time Out NY: And now you can’t get away from it.
Steve Angello: It’s everywhere! It opens up a lot of opportunities. Like last year, Swedish House Mafia did Madison Square Garden; if I had walked up to Madison Square Garden three years ago and asked if we could book it, they would have laughed in my face and said , “Get the fuck out of here.” So, yes, it’s getting very commercial, but it’s opening up a lot of doors for us. We can all now play places that we’ve only seen on TV. We need to embrace it, and just go with it. But we also need to take care of it and make it better, so we don’t kill it.
Time Out NY: I was going to ask you about that. With mainstream success, there’s often a backlash.
Steve Angello: Oh, there’s always a backlash. With every genre of music, we’ve had this stage. And really, it’s not hard to make electronic dance music. But it is really hard to put on a good show. I don’t think everyone can put on a really good show. And not everybody can sell 20,000 tickets, either. It’s really all about focus, hard work and dedication. We work with this 24/7, and just keep pushing, pushing and pushing. At the end of the day, quality wins over quantity, and as long as people are aware of that, I think things will be okay.
Time Out NY: At the moment, your situation definitely seems okay. Still, I doubt if you’re ever satisfied.
Steve Angello: Of course not. I’m a typical human being; I’m never satisfied. Nobody ever is, I don’t think. Everything’s going well right now, but that just makes me hungry and want to push it even further. Every show has to be bigger, every venue has to be bigger, we have to sell more tickets, and on and on. If you want to be the best, you have to try to be the best. You have to practice, and you have to go out there and get your hands dirty. Nobody’s gonna knock on your door and tell you that you’ve won the lottery.
Time Out NY: They’re not?
Steve Angello: Not if you’re not playing it!
Time Out NY: Do you ever miss the days when you were spending your nights spinning in regular clubs, instead of being up onstage for these massive kinds of theatrical shows you do nowadays?
Steve Angello: Of course. We do play a lot of these big venues now, and I do miss the smaller things. But I try to always do an after-party as well. I like to get back in there, where I came from. I just did the North Coast Music Festival in Chicago, and it was great; there were like 15 or 20 thousand people. But then we did an after-party at the Mid, where there were maybe a couple of hundred people, and I had a blast. I played for hours and hours and hours, really dirty, with no judgments. I try to keep one foot in the clubs. Like after this Central Park show, I’m playing a show at a club in New Jersey at a place called 4Sixty6, and then heading over to Pacha after that.
Time Out NY: I guess Pacha counts as an intimate venue for you.
Steve Angello: [Laughs] Yes, I guess it does. As a DJ, it’s important to keep that connection to the clubs. It’s not enough to play two hours of big records at the big shows. I want to get dirty, too—I mean, I’m a DJ. I want to get in there and work it!
Time Out NY: Speaking of big records, your new single, “Yeah,” sounds like it could be a huge one.
Steve Angello: It has been so huge for me so already; it’s been working in my sets pretty well. And it’s not that overly commercial; it feels chunky and clubby, with a little 303 in there. I’m actually working on a vocal version of that, with an amazing artist…but I can’t really say too much about that until it’s done. I’ll just say it’s a pretty big collaboration.
Time Out NY: You don’t want to give a hint?
Steve Angello: I can’t! The record executives would call me up tomorrow and say, “Why the fuck did you tell him?” But it’s a really nice collaboration, with an artist who I’ve wanted to work with for years.
Time Out NY: A lot of your songs have a rock dynamic to them, but with “Yeah,” the rock vibe is really brought to the fore. Is that a bit of “Do You Want to Touch Me” by Joan Jett that I’m hearing?
Steve Angello: Well, with the first version of “Yeah,” which might be what you heard, I got really inspired by those guitars and stuff. But I then replayed them, and recorded the vocals differently. I actually did a cover version. Then I decided to remove all the guitars and just keep the vocal thing. Otherwise, I was dealing with too many people; I was getting CCed in e-mails, and there’d be like 60 names. I just wanted to make a record!
Time Out NY: I don’t think people realize how complicated making a simple record can be for people on your level.
Steve Angello: Sometimes it’s a fucking nightmare! Especially when you use something, and you don’t really even know where it’s coming from. I have a very big record collection, and sometimes I’ll sample something like a rare disco record. Then you’ll get a phone call: “Hey, man, you used one of our samples!” All you can do is say, “Okay, just file a lawsuit and we’ll sort it out.” [Laughs]. But I really try to avoid situations like that. But anyway, yes, I’m very excited about that record.
Time Out NY: Let’s talk about the Central Park show itself. What can the thousands of people who will undoubtedly be there expect to see and hear?
Steve Angello: First and foremost, it’s the music. There’ll be a lot of new music, since I’m working on my album. There will be a lot of stuff getting played that nobody has heard before. And the visual concept is brand new; it’s basically my new show that I’m going to tour with in 2013. This will be the first time we’ve used these visuals, and it’s been a lot of work to make sure that everything is how it should be. There are a lot of restrictions at the park, though, so we can’t use absolutely everything we wanted to. But it’s going to be a great show, and I’m super excited—especially because the show is in New York. I’m such a big fan of New York, and it’s always been close to our hearts, so to be able to come here and do something like this feels fantastic.
Steve Angello plays Size Matters: Size in the Park (and an after-party at Pacha) on Sat 22
MoMA PS1 Warm Up 2012: The grand finale
Photos: Electric Zoo 2012 on Randalls Island
Interview and DJ mix: Jus-Ed