Trapped on the house dance floors in Asia. Interview with top DJ on global circuit
On a Thursday evening in late April, 2010 it was impressive to see how the helicopter pad on the top of Southeast Asia’s tallest hotel, Swissotel The Stamford, was filling up with guests in large numbers. Enjoying the welcome drink and inviting Singapore night skyline, they had come for an event at level 71’s New Asia where Sweden’s most prominent house music producer and DJ (and therefore known to many), Stonebridge, was back in town as the night’s guest entertainer. The last time he played the same venue was during the Formula 1 weekend in 2009.
Stonebridge is one of those disc jockeys who have been in the game for over 20 years, working hard to entertain with his infectious sexy house music style and who recently launched his third album containing club anthems for the global club music crowd.
He has got one of those jobs you cannot really apply for, but which is entirely based on inspired and persistent hard work in the studio and in the DJ booth of nightclubs. And for the rare few who really gain success it can pay off big time, which eventually it did for Stonebridge around six years ago. Thus his career is rather different since he had his big breakthrough after more than 15 years in the music business.
Clearly, by now Stonebridge is also a draw in Singapore, since the night attracted a huge crowd and the club promoter told him afterwards that it was their “best night ever”. His reputed ability to move a crowd and the third artist album 'The Morning After', which had just been released probably also helped to attract attention.
Having gained worldwide recognition as a “name DJ”, Stonebridge is nowadays a frequent visitor to the clubs all over Asia, coming here on tour at least twice per year, and also playing perhaps less apparent cities such as Surabaya in Indonesia. The Swedish ‘beats-chef’ is in particular a fan of the crowds in that country.
It all started with the Swemix crew back in the 1980’s in Stockholm and he has been producing and remixing other artists within dance, pop, R&B and soul every since.
Often he was referred to as the remixer of Robin S and the track 'Show Me Love', and a Q&A with Sten, or Stone, as he prefers to call himself, starts with a clarification that this is different from Robyn, a Swedish music export success.
“This is a common mistake in Sweden as they both have a 'Show Me Love' tune. Yes, it has been my name tag or it used to be until I had my first hit under my own name, 'Put 'Em High.’ I would say I'm often introduced as that or something related to Hed Kandi [‘The world’s most glamorous house music and lifestyle brand’]. I'm very pleased that my three albums and the label are gaining recognition as the Robin S thing was so long ago. I made it in 1992.”
Since you started releasing own tracks and albums, how significant was that to boost the career?
It changed everything and the world opened up after 'Put 'Em High’ was a big hit. I got bookings in Australia, Asia and the US as opposed to UK and Sweden only before. Every time I release a new album, I get lots of bookings across the globe. I notice this when I do my mix albums as well and I think people are coming to my gigs to see and hear me play the singles and other music I make.
Which are the recent known, top selling artists you have remixed that most people would recognise?
The last two years have been great for remixes. I've done Ne-Yo, Paradiso Girls, Pussycat Dolls, Jennifer Hudson and Jazmin Sullivan. Right now [May 2010] I'm remixing Taio Cruz' new singe Dynamite and did Basement Jaxx and Yoko Ono recently.
Is it a correct description that you started getting DJ-gigs worldwide "only" some 4-5 years ago, while previously you played perhaps mostly in Northern Europe? And what are the main factors for you becoming a name DJ - and specifically also so in Asia?
I would say I got busy around 2002 when I started to do Hed Kandi gigs and that the real madness has been on since 2004 so 6 years on the international circuit.
You have been to Singapore numerous times. Was Ministry of Sound the first gig here?
Yes, that's right and so far I've done two in New Asia. Never did Zouk here, but in Kuala Lumpur. The same goes for Attica, which I did in Shanghai, but not Singapore. I've grown to really like Singapore actually.
You are also playing frequently in Jakarta. Which is your favourite DJ destination in Asia?
Tough question, but I think Seoul is my favourite as the crowds there are phenomenal.
How would you describe the development of the nightclub scene here?
The first time I played in Asia, things were totally different and people didn't know how to act in the club. It was more like a concert, but now it's pretty much the same as all other places as it's a global thing. Mainly because of the internet and the way people can follow DJs and music.
How would you describe the significance of Asia for you as an internationally touring DJ compared to other parts of the world?
It's very important and placed in between Europe and Australia. It's also a place where the recession didn't hit as hard so I'd say very important.
How do you specifically find Singapore's nightlife in international comparison?
Very similar to Dubai and Moscow as it's a business city, but I see things moving towards a really healthy scene.
Where in the world do you find the most vibrant club scene today?
Oh, another really difficult question. South America is probably the continent where you will find the best crowds even though Australia in their summer can be totally mad too. Europe is waiting for something new it seems. House music and clubs have been around for over 20 years so it's not as exciting anymore, it seems. I think the recession also took a lot of fun out of the equation.
How do you personally find the development over all of House music and all its sub-genres, and now when more tracks than ever before are being released thanks to online download stores?
It's crazy and really hard to find the good stuff as it gets lost in the 2000-tracks-per-week flood. It can take one or two years to build a really big hit now, but I also think it puts more pressure on us to produce better music, so it may be a good thing.
Do you think the club scene has seen some important milestones since entering the new Millennium or has it been stagnant or so?
We need to put the fun back in clubbing and I see this happening more now. Miami [Winter Music Conference] was fantastic this year and pretty much all parties played a more uplifting sound.
How is the Internet affecting dance music and the club scene, do you think, and do you utilize it with good results?
It was amazing in the beginning, with MySpace and Facebook as phenomenal tools to promote music and parties. As things progressed, clubs stopped doing flyers and posters and used Facebook only, which in turn has resulted in less promotion as people tend to delete the hundreds of invites they get every week. I think we need to go back to old school promotion, especially word of mouth, but also new ideas like decor, themes and festival-like parties.
For your recent gig at New Asia, the helicopter pad was filled with guests apparently invited to your party? It seems the promoter did a good job and you attracted many to come! And how was the night this time, did you think?
He said it was their busiest yet, which felt great. I love when I build a fan base in a new city.
Why not playing live with singers?
I do occasionally, but it's all the extras that make it difficult. Very few clubs think it's worth the extra flights, fees, hotels etc.
Have you played on all continents?
I have actually, South America was the last one to join the party. I've only been to Africa once and India is still a place I haven't played yet.
What is the most exciting thing in the pipeline for you as producer and DJ in 2010?
I'm working on a few songs for artists in LA and I would love to do more of that in 2010. The other most exciting thing is of course my new artist album 'The Morning After' from which I will release two or three singles.
If living in any of Asia’s big cities or when visiting one and keen on nightlife, scan the entertainment calendar and you might find Stonebridge visiting!
For a review of the venue in Singpore see: New Asia with parts of Southeast Asia as backdrop
Text and photos: Joakim Persson