John Dahlbäck is an artist with a defining past and a clear cut future. Since signing his first record at the age of 17, the Swedish dance music veteran has established himself as a label boss, a radio host, and a dynamic-yet-balanced DJ and producer. On the heels of releasing his smash single, Raven, we sat down with John to discuss his workflow, upcoming plans, and views on the current dance music climate.
Congratulations on Raven’s success. What do you think it is about today’s musical landscape that made this track such a hit?
It’s just a fun track. There’s something with that piano that when I played it, I just couldn’t stop. I moved right into it. I think the drop is very straightforward too. There’s no bullshit from the track, which people respond well to.
It’s a great balance of melody and electro. Is there one type of sound that you’re particularly drawn to when producing?
No, I actually get bored very easily when I’m doing music. I can do this sort of sound, and then do a very melodic, progressive track the next day. I just love everything. Especially with this track, it was very fun to make. It came together very quickly, within a couple of hours.
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You have an album on the horizon. What can we expect from it?
It’s very different from what I’ve done in the past. There are a lot of very musical songs on it, and a lot of vocals as well. I think we have four downtempo songs on it. It’s very mixed. There’s one track like Raven, that’s it. We don’t have many club songs like that.
What is your workflow like when you’re collaborating with other artists?
I’ve actually always preferred to work alone. So when do I collabs, I just do it over emails because I don’t want to be in the studio. The only person I’ve been in the studio with was Avicii because he was just close by. But, other than that, like Kaskade, Dash Berlin, we were all emails. It makes it very easy.
You had your first record signed when you were a teenager. Did you kind of know from that point on that this would be your career path?
No I didn’t. That’s why I tried to be a good boy in school, so I had some sort of backup if things didn’t work out. Then, I studied radio a lot with DJing. I think I had my first lesson when I was 15, and then I had my first show when I was 18. I had no interest in DJing whatsoever. But, after a while, you sort of have to. So I did and it worked out.
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Which do you prefer now – DJing or producing?
Producing is always close to my heart, but DJing has grown on me a lot. I love to do it now.
The two go hand-in-hand now.
Yeah. I mean before you could actually just be a DJ if you wanted to. Like there were a few names that became good names by just DJing. That’s very different than it is now.
You have aliases that you’ve gone by in the past. Can you tell us about those?
Well, I haven’t done those for like five years. But back then it was easy – if you did another style of music, you could just pick a random name and no one would know it was you. And it was a sort of test, if the stuff was good or not. So, if you released under a different name and you still get support from the ones you usually get from, that’s a good sign.
What was the feedback?
It’s always been very good. When it was the most, I had six names running at the same time and every one of them got support from the key DJs. I was doing minimal house as something called Kaliber, for example. That got support from Sven Vath, Richie Hawtin, those people. By that time it was vinyl, so the distributor used to send out promo packages. So, no one would know who’s the secret name. And they just fill out the forms, and send it back.
If you could change one thing about the industry today, what would it be?
I think I’d want all the subgenres to be as big as the EDM sound, if that makes sense. I used to hate the music that, when you listened to it, you’d feel like no one cared about the actual music. They sort of did it because of the hype.
What subgenres would you want to see grow?
I come from deep house and house, which is growing a lot in Europe now. I think U.S. too maybe. So, that’s always good. Even though, if I’m not actually playing it, it’s just good for the whole scene.
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