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Eric Prydz: EPIC

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In an era when many of the big-name DJs performing the festival mainstages have gotten there pushing a heavily commercialised sound, Swedish titan Eric Prydz has pulled off a formidable feat indeed. He’s now bigger than ever in 2014, simply by the virtue of doing his own thing. It’s a measure of how just how skilled he is at creating an explosive atmosphere on the dancefloor.

“I’d say it’s not something that I would say I’m necessarily trying to do, just for the sake of being different. I’ve always done my own thing,” Prydz told Data Transmission from London.

“Maybe I stick out because a lot of the others, they’re all kind of playing the same thing… But I think my fans would be very disappointed if I started playing a sound or style that somebody else was already playing, if I was trying to jump on that train.”

Prydz reached somewhat of a personal milestone in 2012 with the release of Eric Prydz presents Pryda, an amazing three-disc retrospective compilation that truly did demonstrate what a huge impact he’s had on the dance music landscape over the past decade.

This was also around the time he launched a full-force attack on the US market, which led to his eventual relocation to Los Angeles. Several years later, and he can declare the strategy a winner, as he’s now a headliner at some of North America’s biggest and successful festivals. Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival and beyond. And coming up in September is perhaps his biggest milestone yet; he’ll be bringing the 3.0 iteration of his EPIC (‘Eric Prydz In Concert’) show to one of the world’s most iconic venues in September, in the form of New York City’s Madison Square Gardens.

If you look to this year’s European summer though, we haven’t been neglected. Prydz will make his return to London this weekend for an exclusive appearance at the SW4 festival (as well as headlining the afterparty alongside Deadmau5 directly afterwards).  When we got him on the phone, he was taking some downtime in London, not long after performing at both weekends of the Tomorrowland festival in Belgium, where he opened the mainstage with a three-hour set on both Fridays. So it seems Europe has hardly been forgotten.

Prior to his sets at SW4 this weekend, we chatted to Prydz about his latest EP, an upcoming secret album project later this year, as well as staying on top by doing his thing.

Tomorrowland is one of the world’s biggest festivals. What was it like to open the mainstage with an extended set on both weekends?

It was this really crazy thing that was on the table, if I wanted to it. And I thought it was a very different idea for a festival, to do a warmup set, except at the mainstage. It was definitely something I’d never done before. Basically, with the first record that I put on, there was nobody actually there at the mainstage, it was absolutely empty. And then they opened the entrance to the festival, and people first started streaming in. It was really cool, and it gave me the chance to play records that I normally never could at a festival, where you typically have only a one-hour set. You go in there, and you smash it. But there, I could really take people on a journey. The sun was out, and I played from midday until three in the afternoon. 

What was the energy like for those sets?

You know, Tomorrowland is crazy, but I didn’t go on there and play it banging from the start. I’d begin with 120BPM and build it and build it over the three hours. Maybe something more along the lines of what I would play at Café mambo in Ibiza or something like that, to kind of lure people in. It was very cool, I really enjoyed it.    

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You’ve just released your new EP, which went to #1 on Beatport straight away, after the teasers sent the web into a frenzy. It really made a big impact on the web.

I know, it really did. It kind of surprised me to be honest. To give you an example to put you in my mindset… It was two years ago or so, we had a new release and we put it up on Souncloud. I was reading through the comments, and one of the things that a listener said was, I really like it, I can see it going off, blah blah… but it’s not really groundbreaking. And I thought, hang on a second. Does every new record that I release need to break new ground, to create a new sound, a brand new genre? Every release? I feel like there is a lot of pressure whenever I release stuff, because people expect it to split the ocean in half. I guess we’ve had some really successful records with our Pryda Friends label, though with that kind of pressure, it can take away from the fun of it sometimes. When you sit down and say, I’m gonna produce a new record, you also ask yourself, how am I going to split the ocean in half this time?

With this new release I said fuck it, I’m going to release the tracks that I really like. It’s going to be tracks that I really enjoy playing in my sets, it’s not going to be something that’s going to be played on the radio. it’s just for the clubs and the DJs. I’m gonna make an EP out of it, I’m gonna put four tracks on there, and it’s going to be my rules and I don’t care what other people say about it. Looking back at that decision, it was a really good one. It’s a true EP, with music that is really true for me. And I think that’s why the EP has really connected. It’s not trying to be anything in particular; it just contains tracks that I’m playing a lot in my sets at the moment, which I decided to release as an EP. And the response has been amazing, absolutely amazing, people are loving it. So I’m really happy and excited to be able to share this music with everyone. 

Is the album still on the horizon at some point?

Yes of course. 2014 is the 10th anniversary of the label, and we are doing a very special album release that’s going to coming out later this year. Towards the end of the year I think, after the summer. I don’t really want to give up what’s going to be on it, because I want to make it a surprise. Watching things online, it’s funny to see some of the fans who follow me, and follow the label’s music, they’re so passionate. It’s almost like it’s fun to pinch them sometimes, and to not give them the info until the very last second. I think they actually like it that way, as it keeps the excitement there. It’s no fun if you give everything up straight away, and then five months later the album arrives, and people know exactly what’s on it. So I’m gonna keep it all a bit of a secret, but I can assure you I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised. 

Beyond the European summer, you’ve got your Epic 3.0 show coming up in NYC. That’s obviously a huge, huge milestone for you as an artist.

Yeah, I’m fairly excited about that one. If you asked me a few years back, ‘Eric do you think you’ll ever play at Madison Square Gardens at New York?’ I would have just laughed. Because with me and the music I make, back then it would have felt too far away. But that’s what we’ve taken on. EPIC has been this audio and visual show that we’ve been doing for a few years, and back when it started out, me and my team sat down and said we want to do something different, rather than just turning up to the festivals and doing the whole confetti and C02 cannons thing, the big LED walls… All that stuff is cool, but we really wanted to take it above that, or even one, two or three steps above that. The EPIC concert was what we came up with. And we’ve been developing it for every show, and it’s now going to be EPIC 3.0, which will be the most advanced, flipped-out version of EPIC so far.

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You’re having a huge impact with the American festivals at the moment, it really seems like you’ve cracked it, even though you’ve stayed true to your sound.

Yeah. I think with playing festivals, I guess there’s a trick to it. People could say, ‘oh this generation, they’re all into the cheesy dance music EDM thing’, but it’s actually not true. In some respect, the crowd can’t really tell the difference. When me and my friends where young, producing techno and stuff, we would listen to the tracks and say, ‘oh that’s not a real 909 hi-hat, it’s from a machine that’s trying to be a 909’. And we thought that mattered, and we thought the track sucked simply because of that. Which is absolutely silly, and really immature, but that’s the way we thought. I think that’s the way a musician listens to music.

But these kids going to a festival, they just wanna enjoy the music, have fun and meet people, and they don’t really listen to the music in that way. They listen to the energy. And this is really important. You can have the most underground techno track ever, but if it has the right energy, it will move them in exactly the same way as a #1 Hardwell record. When you come to the point where you realise that, and if you play records in a way where things will happen in the way the way the crowd expects it to happen, where exactly there will be a drop and that kind of stuff, then you can pretty much play anything you want, as long as you have the right energy.

That’s why I can play what I do at the mainstage of a big commercial American festival, and people will still be hanging from the ceilings. It’s a bit of a challenge, but it’s fun. You have to rethink. You have to say, this is the kind of music that I play, but now I’m going to play a big mainstage for hundreds of thousands of people. How are you going to play the music in a different way so that it makes sense for them? With maybe Hardwell playing before, and Steve Aoki playing after. You have to put some thought into it, but it’s worked so far for me anyway.

There was a bit of a funny moment during your set at Ultra Music Festival in Miami this year, where at one point the flamethrowers went off, and you could see that at one point you had to back off quickly from the heat!

Oh man! That freaked me out. I had no idea they were going to have fucking fire on the stage! I’m standing there, and all of a sudden these fire cannons go off and I’m like ooh… and then the heat comes, and I’m like ‘oh that’s a bit hot’. And then it got really hot, and I’m like fuck… and it actually burned the hair off my arms. I had to run for cover [laughs]. I kind of ran away and ducked, and I was like ‘fucking hell’… and I had no hair on my arms after that. It was crazy. I don’t know if it was the wind, as it was quite windy that day. Maybe it was the combination of the flames going off and the wind blowing against me at the same time. I didn’t get burned or anything, but it just took the hair off my arms.  

In London this weekend? Then catch Eric Prydz playing alongside Deadmau5 at the official SW4 After-Party South West More at Brixton Electric Sunday August 24. For more information and tickets head to www.southwestfour.com/main/after-party

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