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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Wouldz

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.