Raised by a family of musicians, Swedish house producer and DJ, John Dahlback, found his niche in electronic music in his early teens. Along with topping international charts, his tracks have appeared on Pete Tong’s Essential Mix and Tiesto’s In Search of Sunrise 6: Ibiza album. He is the founder and owner of Pickadoll Records (which has released tracks by artists such as Dada Life and Robbie Rivera), and he has played at Belgium's Tomorrowland Festival five times. John is also no stranger to Miami, spinning at the city's biggest EDM-fueled clubs such as Amnesia, SET, and Mansion, amongst others.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Dahlback at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami on his day off from performing for Miami Music Week and the Winter Music Conference and get the the scoop on the latest. Read on!
Amanda Mesa: You came from a very musical family…what drew you to the computer as a way to create music?
John Dahlback: I played guitar and piano and drums for a long time, but then my dad had a recording studio in our home so I used it. I did hip-hop at first and went on to house music because my cousin was involved in house music. I started doing that when I was 14.
AM: What drew you to hip-hop?
JD: I was terrible at it, but I loved it. I wrote my own lyrics and recorded it. I hope it never gets out because it was terrible.
AM: A lot of artists now are bringing hip-hop and house music together. Would you ever consider producing music like that or do you want to stick to your current style?
JD: I’ve done [tracks] with European hip-hop. It's not house hip-hop, it's more pure. It's great fun. I think for some reason many house artists get involved in hip-hop early on.
AM: Did you start off on turntables or have you always been digital?
JD: Turntables. I did that for six years and it’s a pain in the ass. You have these huge boxes that weigh a lot, and I have to carry that all around and it was a nightmare. And then I moved on to CD’s.
AM: There seems to be a kind of rift sometimes between turntablists and digital artists. Having done both, how do you feel about either end of the spectrum?
JD: I learned to play on turntables when I was 15. I had them in my home and it was great fun. For me, it was just more that if I did a track in the studio, I wanted to play it now. With vinyl, I had to wait a couple of months or half a year to play it. Now I can make a track and I can play it on the same night.
AM: What do you find is the biggest difference between the crowds in Europe and the crowds in the U.S.?
JD: Well the European crowd is quite…not boring, but they’ve had DJs coming there for 15, 20 years. Americans haven’t had that sort of culture as big as Europe has. Everyone’s been going to Holland for like 20 years and playing, but now…I think people [in Europe] aren’t really that interested anymore.
AM: Electronic music is becoming huge in the states right now. What is the biggest trend currently overseas?
JD: It [EDM] is still big, but people just don’t go out. I think in Europe it’s more underground because house music got so big and commercial that they want to hear more underground techno.
AM: What is your favorite genre to produce and what do you most enjoy listening to in your spare time?
JD: I love doing vocal house. When I went to Ibiza the first time I just thought it was amazing…I love house that is happy and has emotion. I hate flat stuff, stuff that just goes on without a purpose. But besides house, when I’m listening in my free time, I always listen to hip-hop. I’m very old school with hip-hop. I like the old Jay-Z, Gang Starr…stuff like that.
AM: How are you as a DJ? When you’re behind the decks at a club or at a festival, what is your persona like?
JD: I’m quite laid back as a person, but when I’m DJing I get energy from playing my stuff and from the crowd, because you get feedback and I love it.
AM: Do you ever go on some nights after you’ve had a long day and you just don’t want to do it?
JD: Yeah, but at the same time, just because I have a bad night doesn’t mean everyone else should.
AM: If you lose the energy of the crowd when you’re up there, how do you get it back?
JD: I just try to play something completely different. At some clubs in Europe people tend to just stand there and listen. They’re not dancing. That’s the difference—sometimes when I play in Europe I wish I were in the U.S. instead.
AM: Which track have you had the most fun working on?
JD: I did a track called "Everywhere" a couple years ago, and I had the vocal for ten years just laying on my computer and I pulled it off and it took me 45 minutes to complete the track. It's one of my biggest tracks, it was top 40 in Europe. It was crazy; all it took was 45 minutes.
AM: Do you ever get musical writer’s block?
JD: Sometimes I’ll go a week and not do anything in the studio, but then I’ll be super quick. I can make a track in two or three hours. If I make something in the beginning that I don’t really feel a hundred percent, then I’ll throw it away and move on.
AM: Where do you find inspiration?
JD: Just being in the studio. I have a super small room…it's ugly, and it's just dark and in the basement. We’re ten other studios in that complex and I hear sounds from everyone.
AM: I read that you’re a little bit of a control freak. How do you deal with people trying to push their opinions on your music?
JD: I try to deal with it as best I can. If someone says, ‘Your track sucks,’ then I can’t do anything about it. But if they say, ‘That’s off,’ or something…if I agree then I’m going to change it, but if I don’t agree I’m not going to change it.
AM: Is there anything coming up in the near future that you’re excited about?
JD: Just touring the U.S. I’m here once a month now doing tours, and it's great. I love being here. I thought about moving to L.A. as well.
AM: It's a lot sunnier than where you’re from.
JD: Yes. I mean…I like the winter as well, I like skiing. But its nice to have this [weather] all the time.
AM: What has been your favorite place to play?
There’s a festival in Europe called Tomorrowland. It's an amazing festival; I’ve played there five years now. It's just huge and it has an amazing vibe. For some reason there’s always good weather as well.
AM: I know it’s a broad question, but what are some little known facts about the man behind the music?
I’m such a game freak, even when I’m in the studio. I bought a gaming computer for my studio as well, which is super dangerous when I’m doing music. Sometimes I will go a day just playing instead of doing what I should be doing, but it's fun. Call of Duty is great. And I hate shorts. I don’t think guys should ever wear shorts. The worst things are those three quarter pants, I just don’t get it. Either wear shorts or jeans.
AM: Favorite food?
JD: Lasagna. That’s the best food; it's meat, it's cheese, it's everything.