Swedish House Mafia's legacy: greats or fakes?

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If you expected DJ Sneak to silently notch up a victory after the weekend’s news…well, you don’t know DJ Sneak. “TODAY HOUSE MUSIC WINS!” the Chicago vet trumpeted through his Facebook channel following the Swedish House Mafia’s parting message to fans. In his self-appointed role of house music’s gatekeeper, Sneak is nothing if not persistent. What started as refreshingly candid criticism, though, has now started to sound more like sour grapes. For months, the DJ’s Twitter feed has been congested with swipes at the Swedes. Their primary offence? Misappropriating the term ‘House’ for their name.

Sneak laid out his position in a recent interview with online portal Meoko. “The difference between me and them is very simple,” he said. “While I’m organic, they are synthetic. While I do this for love and homage to the music and DJing craft, they constantly figure out ways to make it the most commercial noise they can make. Their main focus for creating is to make some hit. It is not about creating something original and soulful, it’s about following the calculated steps to come up with a hit for the purpose of their own success. What they are making and playing is not house music! Listen to the classics, look back at the history, it sounds nothing like the crap they are selling as house.”

There’s no doubt Sneak takes undercutting the Swedish House Mafia very seriously. But to what end? Were they really sullying the ‘true’ house scene? In a recent interview with ITM, stalwart UK producer King Unique argued that it’s not always easy to shut out the big guys and carry on. “It’s why you’re hearing DJ Sneak bitching on about the Swedish House Mafia,” he said. “When people feel like their value is being completely sidelined, they start bitching. But ultimately, it’s immaterial; if every single last person in house and techno denounced Guetta tomorrow, that’s a tiny voice compared to the people who think he’s fantastic.”

Sunday’s announcement wasn’t entirely unexpected. The three DJs have made no secret of the fact that their solo careers take priority, and certainly no Swedish House Mafia album was imminent. The expectation that they’d make an album seems to have irked the Swedes for years. “It’s very, very, very hard to make it happen,” Steve Angello said in the 2010 Take One documentary. “You know, Axwell’s working on his album, I’m working on mine, Seb’s working on stuff.” We picked up the topic with Angello again in 2011, when he took over inthemix as Guest Editor for a week. By that time, the guys had taken an extended break from the Swedish House Mafia following a frenetic Northern summer. “I hate to say that we’re working on an album, but I would say that we’re working on a lot of music,” he wrote. “I just hate this thing of: Let’s do an album.”

The Swedish House Mafia’s production output has hardly been prolific: a small suite of blockbuster records, a set-opener released as an Absolut Vodka tie-in and a collaboration with Knife Party. Of course, their studio handiwork extends beyond what you see on Discogs. Each Swedish House Mafia show features a roll-out of the trio’s custom edits, mash-ups and remixes. However, as Billboard has noted, the trio’s cachet lies in its ‘brand’ (now, there’s a term sure to rankle DJ Sneak).


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fivegrand said on the 26th Jun, 2012

That tosser Deadmau5 talking shit about the art of DJing is like someone writing a travel review for a place they've never been.


newitt said on the 26th Jun, 2012

^But he has a point..

David Guetta

David Guetta said on the 26th Jun, 2012

Sweet I might be able to pick up some cheap unused mixers. Not to mention all those 1000 thread count white Egyptian cotton shirts they bought of Paul Van Dyk.


angy said on the 26th Jun, 2012

DJ Sneak loses 10 respect points from me every time he opens his mouth to piss and moan about SHM. King Unique was absolutely on the money. Axwell and co took dance music to a massive audience. How dare they! Whether people realise it or not, their impact is already trickling through to the underground, I have zero doubt about that.


cheechvda said on the 26th Jun, 2012

Electronic music is slowly turning into the WWE. Nice write up!


Bumpy said on the 26th Jun, 2012

I'm hoping this means we'll see more of Axwell oldschool style come back!

Ben Royal

Ben Royal said on the 26th Jun, 2012

More articles like this and less articles about Paris Hilton pls.


sarahanne said on the 26th Jun, 2012

Mad read. Nice work JackT!


xtigga said on the 26th Jun, 2012

I really hope that all three can go back to making the music they used to make around 2005, but I've got a feeling that isn't likely.


i_have_ADD said on the 26th Jun, 2012

such a great and well articulated summary of the whole icky mess


mlirosi said on the 26th Jun, 2012

nailed it here, "their studio handiwork extends beyond what you see on Discogs" they wont be remebered for their music genius but they will be be remembered


fivegrand said on the 26th Jun, 2012

Why should we be impressed with how big the audience is if the music sucks? Jim Jones brought poisoned Kool-Aid to a big audience; it doesn't make him worthy. Sneak could be more gracious, but he's just saying what's on a lot of people's minds. (And if he didn't, then maybe you guys would be accusing all Americans of trying to ruin dance music.) House is not just any old "dance music" - you can't just play anything at 125 BPM and call it house. Like hip hop, it's also an important grassroots social movement that has to do with peace and love, creative freedom and breaking down the barriers of racism. Go and read the history of the Paradise Garage and the early days of Chicago house. The stuff these people churn out is NOT house, in fact it's kind of anti-house - it's part of a consumerist society of interchangeable cheap thrills that fans of house are working against. The stuff sounds like it belongs in a strip club or an energy-drink commercial. Seriously, it sounds like a dystopian science-fiction version of what dance music is in a fascist society with no soul. If they called it Swedish Pop Mafia, which is what it is, then we could all ignore it and get back to business.


fivegrand said on the 26th Jun, 2012

Or put it this way: say someone came along and called themselves something like Belgian Punk Mafia, only their music was the most generic, sold-out corporate rock possible, something like Nickelback (which is what SHM is for dance music anyway). And they made millions with it, and filled up stadiums, and people said, "At last punk has come of age." The people who lived and died for the *real* punk and all it stood for (which is far more than noise coming out of a speaker, get it?) could either keep silent, or say something about it to educate the young people who don't know any better, and thus risk getting labelled humourless geezers. But there's no way they wouldn't be angry either way. It's kind of lose-lose.


mlirosi said on the 26th Jun, 2012

@5k..SHM are not holding any claims of producing genre moving, ground breaking records, they produce pop music that can be loosely tied with EDM, its why people liked them. You never heard steve, seb or axwell compare themselves with carl craig or st germain (or any ties with a rich history the genere brings) they were there to make people raise their hands and they did it well


Codi said on the 26th Jun, 2012

DJ Sneak is a tool to complain about what genre of music someone is producing. If he really cared about "real" house music, he wouldn't bitch and moan over something so petty as a genre.


412nv said on the 26th Jun, 2012

Fivegrand maybe you should go cuddle up to Dj Sneak and you to can cry about how SHM "ruined house music" IMO fix my sink ruined house music LOL. fact is they will be missed by alot of people. They were 3 guys that knew how to put on a show. I loved some of their songs and im glad i caught them at future As @mlirosi said, they never compared themselves to a house DJ, they didnt even come up with the name, it came to them and they ran with it, who wouldn't.


412nv said on the 26th Jun, 2012

Also Sweet article, loving ITM as of late.


JackT said on the 26th Jun, 2012

The punk comparison is interesting...fivegrand has a good angle.

special ed

special ed said on the 26th Jun, 2012

SHM are what they are. and tall poppy syndrome is as prevalent as its ever been. they make throw away dance music for a generation with small attention spans. the problem is people get very precious about music (which is a good thing) and find it hard to accept when people become successful by watering down something into easily digestible fodder.
I personally think the music SHM make is rubbish, but millions of people around the world will disagree with me, and thats fine.
I think if people spent as much time focusing on what is important to them in music, as they do complaining about what is not, then we would have a much healthier "underground" scene.


misterg said on the 26th Jun, 2012

It should be noted that they didn't give themselves the name Swedish House Mafia, it more or less evolved after Pete Tong used the term as a way of describing the 3 of them. I wonder what might have happened if Pete simply called them the Swedish Mafia. Would so many people be bitching about what style of music they push?


JackT said on the 26th Jun, 2012

^^^ Good point actually, Steve Angello talks about that in the recent feature we put up, 'How big can dance get?'


fivegrand said on the 26th Jun, 2012

Hmmm, I wasn't trying to "bitch" or trash someone else's good time, so peace. I've done a lot better job than Sneak has at totally ignoring this pop stuff - when this controversy broke out a while back I had to look SHM up to see who they were. I was just trying to explain A) why Sneak has a right to be upset about use of the term 'house', which is very personal to his generation and B) why I fail to be automatically impressed with anyone just because they're massive in certain circles. Mind you when I first got into the scene way back in the day I was into some pretty daggy Belgian rave music, along with stuff like the Prodigy that I would consider pretty mainstream now, so I totally understand why kids like certain sounds before they get deeper.


fivegrand said on the 26th Jun, 2012

And you're probably right, the terminology probably doesn't matter. When rock 'n roll first came out in the early 50s it was really revolutionary and the word meant something. Now it means nothing - little girls wear sparkly pink T-shirts that say 'Rockstar'. So I'm sure that's happening with house - it's just happening sooner. The underground will go on, maybe under a different name.


SANDSLASH said on the 26th Jun, 2012



SANDSHREW said on the 27th Jun, 2012


taylor williams

taylor williams said on the 27th Jun, 2012

fivegrand is 100% on the money with this one (pardon the pun) and I can understand why DJ Sneak is annoyed. He was obviously a big fan of Chicago house and then himself became a legend within the genre and felt it very important its roots and legacy be honored. So when a few chancers come along and basically dirty up its name he's not happy with it.

I play house/techno and DJ'd a party a few weeks ago, a girl asked me if I had any house music while I was playing Marshall Jefferson - Move Your Body. When I said this is house, she rephrased, do you have any David Guetta or Pitbull. Now obviously she just had very bad taste in music but this is whats getting labelled as house these days and this is why Sneak is mad.


JackT said on the 27th Jun, 2012

taylor williams, that's quite a story, haha. Woah.


Timmac said on the 27th Jun, 2012

Marshall Jefferson - Godfather of House. Nice write up, Jack.


twistedbydesign said on the 27th Jun, 2012

That vid from the house party is pretty funny after the 'take our lives' comment.


Wouldz said on the 27th Jun, 2012

@mistert @JackT Their name would have little bearing on the way I perceive them if they hadn't used that name to create the brand and image that they spoke about themselves in the documentary. My issue with it is that it has generalised and dumbed down the house genre for the kids that are getting into EDM now.

My fear is if you look at the artists on the fore-front of the EDM scene (in terms of mainstream popularity) now like David Guetta, Skrillex & SHM they all grew up with their influences being in the real infant stages of the scene (maybe not so much Skrillex). Fast-forward to today and think of this current generation of kids growing up seeing EDM become massive and seeing these flashy productions with thousands of people going crazy for a set that's poorly mixed (if mixed at all) and features songs using a few repetitive, unoriginal chords.

What hope does the EDM culture have in 20 years if that's what the masses consider DJ'ing these days?

It's not about beat-matching, that's not the issue that needs to be brought up here with pre-mixed sets. The issue (for me anyway) is that these big artists are dumbing down the art of DJ'ing by going against what DJ'ing should be in essence which is choosing tracks to create an atmosphere for the audience or crowd.

These guys are what is killing our club scene in Australia. You spin for two hours on a Friday or Saturday night and you're considered a bad DJ by the punters if you don't play the flavour of the moment tracks from these commercial sell-outs. So the DJ's that want to create a mood or play new music then get snubbed by promoters and club owners when they can get someone else in who will play all the Party Rock Anthem/Sexy Bitch mash-ups the drunk WOOOOO girls can handle.


Wouldz said on the 27th Jun, 2012

Oh and this is just going to leave the door open for "REUNION SHOWS" at twice the booking price and half the schedule strain in 10 years time.

Swedish House Mafia is probably Axwell, Ingrosso and Angello's retirement pension.


jengkay said on the 27th Jun, 2012

for me Dutch and Swedish DJ are the best in the world. they never fail to kill me. hahaha


damdamodam said on the 28th Jun, 2012

SHM are entertainers. Create the product & bring it to the people.. Some people start on the music side, some people start on the business side.. for most people music is a hobby first & a career 2nd. Most people don't have a sustainable long career at the top of the field. Can't blame them for wanting to aim high & go large. People will vote with their feet based on whats on offer. If everyone starts playing the same music (aka how it feels a little at the moment) then the future will belong to the innovators.


Original_Beats said on the 29th Jun, 2012

...and that's not house , or maybe you could call it crap house


Original_Beats said on the 29th Jun, 2012

...and that's not house , or maybe you could call it crap house


justo87 said on the 29th Jun, 2012

They did what they did, and they did it extreemely well... unfortunatley what they did was make super crappy, boring music...


SoulGroove said on the 30th Jun, 2012

Fake or great?? ... I say they're instant cakes!!


DMC76 said on the 1st Jul, 2012

Is it just me but I never really considered their name to be anything to do with the music they created I always thought it was just a name much like Daft Punk doesn't actually play punk music


ArmySniperDan said on the 1st Sep, 2012

nothing House about this group, seeing as their music is played on top 40 stastions