Eric Prydz on the need to have fresh music to keep things interesting when he's on the road
Eric Prydz's biggest hits so far have both incorporated famous work by other musicians -- 2004's "Call on Me" samples Steve Winwood's "Valerie," and his '06 track "Proper Education" is a remix of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2." However, he released a number-one track on Beatport this year, "Power Drive," that's a purely Prydz creation.
And in a live setting, Prydz plays whatever he thinks will keep the dance floor moving -- he's not afraid to pull out tracks no one's heard of while playing at a major festival, and his unpredictability is part of what make his sets so vibrant and energetic.
This year, Prydz is heading up a new residency in Las Vegas (his first) and releasing a plethora of new music on his label. We caught up with him to talk about Vegas and how "Proper Education" exploded on him.
Westword: How is Black Dice different from a typical Vegas residency?
Eric Prydz: When we got interested in Vegas, it was obviously a big challenge for us because Vegas is Vegas -- it's very different from where I come from, musically. It's very commercial; it's very Vegas. So it was a big challenge for us. We sat down, and we talked about what we could do with where I come from musically and incorporate that into a Las Vegas kind of style, and what we came up with was the Black Dice concert. It's something I do every month. I would say it's much more about the music than the normal parties in Vegas would be. We're trying to bring that European dark club feel to Las Vegas.
I did see that mentioned at one point that Black Dice is supposed to bring European sensibility to electronic music in the U.S. What's different about the European scene that you want to bring Stateside?
I think because there's been a big electronic dance music boom over the last four years, it's been growing bigger and bigger and bigger, and I think it's all because there's a new generation of kids that decided that EDM, like you guys call it here, is the coolest thing ever, and it just blew up almost out of proportion. You have it in the Billboard Top 10: It's bigger than R&B and rap music, and I saw the same thing in Europe fifteen, sixteen years ago.
If you compare the two, there's much more enthusiasm in America, and people are very hungry, and it's all relatively new to them, so you have that excitement -- which is amazing, it's great. Europe is a bit more snobbish because they've been spoiled over the last fifteen, twenty years with electronic music.
Some of the tracks that put you on the map used samples or remixed songs that were already very popular -- what's it like to put your own spin on someone else's legend?
I think with dance music and house music and techno, it all started using old snippets of music from old disco or rock records, and those elements bring new life into them and take them from one side of the spectrum and put them in a brand-new light -- you hear it in a different way and it becomes a part of something new.
Using samples can be fun. I would have to say that maybe one track out of ten that I make contains a sample from other people. Every now and then, I do use a sample, and obviously I've done the thing with the Pink Floyd song, which, you know, it wasn't really my intention of making that record my own. I make music that I want to play out, and it was like a DJ tool.
It was more something that I could play, and I knew that everyone was instantly going to recognize that, but all of a sudden the whole thing changes and the bassline comes in. I made it in the back of a car on the way to a show in the U.K.; it took about two and a half hours to make, and I played it at the show -- and me and my tour manager looked at each other after seeing the reaction it got and said, "This one is special."
The track just blew up. We just thought it would be stupid not to ask Pink Floyd, I'm using pieces of your music, and the people love it, we should put it up. That's what we did, the band members really liked it. We were really surprised but also very happy. And we ended up getting an American Grammy nomination as well.
You've been playing music for a long time. How do you keep your live sets fresh for you while still engaging the dancefloor?
I make the music that I feel is missing in my record collection at the moment. So for me to have fun when I'm out touring and playing new shows every day, I need to have fresh music to keep me interested and to keep me excited about it. I'll be playing such-and-such festival tomorrow and I have all these new tracks I made today, and I'm so excited to try them out and see if they make people feel the way I felt when I made them.
Although you clearly have a taste for what's popular, you've also been known to mix tracks in your sets that are off the beaten path, so to speak. How do you feel that influences your sound?
I always, in terms of, I'm not really a DJ-DJ, like a DJ who will turn up and say, "This crowd wants to hear banging trance music," and will play banging trance music. Maybe I'm more like a performing artist. I use record players, I have a specific sound, I play the music I like in the way that I like, and I always try to please myself, not only as a DJ but as a producer. I make music that I would like myself. I'm not really making music for other people.
It's the same thing when I DJ. Obviously I'm in a position nowadays when I do come to a show, people will come because they know what I do, they know my music and they want to hear the stuff that I play. But I don't think I've been influenced by either the European or the American market to go in a specific direction. I make and play the music that sounds good to me.
You've got two different personas under which you produce and play music, Eric Prydz and Pryda. What made you decide to create an alias for yourself, and how do you think that decision influences your different sounds today?
I just think that releasing music under different names is a great way for someone like me, who enjoys a very broad spectrum within dance music -- I like everything from very very hard and stripped-down techno to some vocal melodic stuff, as well, and everything in between -- and releasing all that music that's very different from each other under the same name, I think, would be a bit confusing.
And it's nicer to have another name, like my Pryda alias, for example, where I make a more techno sound. It's nice to build a separate brand around that thing, and it gives you another name you can hide behind, and you don't have to have all the pressure -- "this new track needs to jump into the top ten" -- so I can release a stripped-down techno track.
What's coming up for you?
In 2013, we really put in the next gear in terms of getting music out on both Pryda and also the Erik Prydz stuff, because I've been so active in the studio and also making music while touring for the last six months. There's so much music! We're planning a very big release schedule; a lot more music is going to come out this year than usual.
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