Considered by many a dance music legend, Eric Prydz has produced hits that have satisfied the mainstream and underground in equal measure. We met up with the DJ and his manager Michael Sershall at the Refinery Hotel to talk to them both about the EPIC 3.0 show that makes its way tonight, Sept. 27, to Madison Square Garden, a blow out the two say will feature elements heretofore unseen in any other EPIC production (or any other show in general, for that matter).
So, let’s begin with the EPIC show itself — what is it all about? What makes this EPIC 3.0 MSG show so special from your previous EPIC shows?
Eric Prydz: EPIC stands for Eric Prydz In Concert, and it’s something we’ve been doing since 2011. It’s this evolving thing, so every show is different, and it’s kind of reached its pinnacle with EPIC 3.0, now that we’re doing it at the MSG, where it’s just the biggest and by far most advanced production I’ve ever taken on, ever. We’re all super excited, you know, MSG is such an iconic venue, and I think it will look really, really, really good in that venue. And obviously, the technology that’s going into it…like, the hologram we’re bringing in? It’s the biggest one in America ever.
Michael Sershall: It’s 20 meters wide. We can’t just go and say it’s the biggest one ever known, it could exist somewhere, but in electronic music, in music in general, no one’s ever used it.
And I read that you had your entire body scanned by lasers for this hologram… Are you going to be giving Coachella Tupac a run for his money? What else can we expect?
EP: Well, we did the scan [of me] like a year and a half ago, so we have all that material that we can use to make really cool stuff. And I think one of the biggest differences is the length of the actual performance. Because normally we’ve done like an hour and a half, I think a few of them have actually been two hours. But this time we are stretching it out making it a three hour show.
And this three-hour show is going to be an entirely live, 100% in-the-moment production, right?
EP: Yeah, everything is live.
MS: One of the important things as well, the reason why Eric’s doing three hours is because a lot of kids online at the scene have said ‘Oh but it’s only an hour, it’s only an hour and 15.’ So he’s listening to what these kids have got to say, and the support that we get…[people] want to see Eric play, right? Three hours, it’s a journey…we’re doing live, we’re absolutely insane.
EP: Hopefully we’ll pull it off!
MS: What we want to try and get across with this is that it’s a freestyle, it’s almost Reggae-like, right? You’re freestyling, you want the crowd to come and be part of it, do you know what I mean? It’s not just a staged event where you press play, you want the crowd to kind of give us feedback, Eric can feed off the crowd, play. That’s the idea behind it really. And it’s a real finger-up to all the other EDM guys who just press play. It’s part of everyone being there and feeding off each other, right, that’s what makes it really exciting. You’ve got the LED and lighting operators, you’ve got the VJs who are controlling the graphics, you’ve got the laser operators, so everyone’s like, running this shit live, which is crazy, but it’s fun.
So how do you mentally, and even physically, prepare yourself and your team for a show this massive?
EP: Well, I mean obviously it’s all the technical stuff and it’s all the physical stuff of it. As you said, the set up is massive, it’s bigger than a jumbo jet. And with this added hologram to it, it’s just this beast. There’s so much work going into getting that whole thing working, and to be able to get it to a stage where you can actually do a performance where everything is done live and it’s not like pre-recorded and pre-programmed and stuff like that, so…crazy. It’s just crazy.
And what about musically? How did you prepare for this show in the studio?
EP: Music-wise, for me, this year it’s also the 10-year anniversary of Pryda recordings, my record label. So I think this is a great way for us to kind of celebrate that and, you know, celebrate the sound that Pryda has kind of developed and had over the past 10 years. So, musically, I feel that I want to try and incorporate as much as possible from the label, you know, old classic ones but in brand new versions. And we’re also releasing a Pryda album, it’s called Pryda 10, and it’s part of the celebration of the 10-year anniversary and there’s loads of new material on that album that’s also going to be included and be performed for the first time ever at MSG. Every time we do EPIC, I always try to make special EPIC edits and EPIC versions of all the tracks [specific to] just that show, so musically it’s going to be very exciting for everyone, especially for the hardcore fans.
You have many record labels, including Pryda and Mouseville, all of them likely to be featured in this three-hour set I would imagine. What differentiates these labels and sounds?
EP: I think I’ve never really cared much for labeling music. That’s just something other people do because it’s convenient for them to put stuff in a box and call it something. I just make the music that I would want to hear if I was in a club standing on a dance floor, you know, and that’s how I think when I make my music. Obviously I do have different labels, like Pryda has always been progressive, kind of more experimental, very melodic vibe, and then you’ve got the Cirez D. stuff on Mouseville which is more stripped down, kind of techno, harder-edged, dark stuff, and then you’ve got the Eric Prydz stuff, which I guess it’s the more kind of Big Room. You know, a lot of it has become a very big and successful singles, selling millions and millions of records, and for me it’s a formula that really works cause I have an outlet for everything that I do, and I think it would be confusing if I released all this music under just one name because it’s all very different.
You’ve described yourself as both a control freak in the DJ booth, but also as having creating and completed a track just moments before playing it on stage. How do you know when a track is finished and ready to be performed?
EP: Sometimes, very rarely, maybe two out of 10, I can honestly say, ‘It’s done. It’s perfect. I can’t add, I cant take anything away, it’s just perfect.’ A lot of the times, it’s just a question of me having to say ‘OK, it’s not 100% like I want it to be, but…’ Mixing music, and arranging and making, composing music, it’s a very strange process, and you have this sound-image in your head of how you want it to sound, and sometimes it’s almost impossible to actually put that idea into the music, and you have to settle with whatever is closest. I’m talking about minor, minor, minor things. Either I feel, ‘Well, it’s finished,’ or either my manager’s say ‘Well Eric, yeah, it’s finished, thank you,’ and he takes it away from me, and I’m like ‘Ahh!’ And sometimes it could take me two, three hours and it’s done, and it could take me two, three months, hundreds of hours in the studio and hundreds of versions.
Something I admire most about your music and your presence is that you have reached the status of a superstar DJ, closing festivals like EDC and Ultra, or playing a massive venue like MSG, but you are also still able to perform at dark, tiny club venues and play deeper tracks. How did you do this and how do you maintain this truly impressive duality?
EP: It’s where I come from. I come from those dark, 500-capacity clubs. I started out playing gay clubs in Sweden, doing residencies where I played six-hours every Saturday and Friday, and it’s a very different thing. Playing a club like that where you can really take people on a journey, the music you can play in smaller clubs you can’t play on a main stage…it’s two very different things, playing a one-hour festival set or playing like a four or five-hour club set in a really dark, kind of no-ceiling, I don’t know, warehouse, or whatever it may be. I don’t know how to answer that, I just think that I love doing both, and I can do both. And as I said, you know, the spectrum of the music [that] I make is very wide and I have the music to play at the big festivals and I can do that thing very successfully, but I can also kind of go back to my roots and do the smaller clubs, which we love doing. And I make sure that I get plenty of those shows put in my calendar every year ’cause they really feed my interest and I really feed off it, like the energy and the way I get to play when I play clubs like that, and its super important to me to still have that. I’m very fortunate that I can do both.
Do you find that when playing these very different venues and very different shows, you go about it differently? Perhaps a more structured track list for one over the other?
EP: I don’t really have track lists. When the other DJs are around enjoying themselves I’m in my dressing room like ‘What the fuck am I going to play?!’ What’s the first track?’ I never really plan, which is kind of a stressful way of doing it, but I just feel that… I would know the first track I’m going to play, if I know that then I’m good. Then I just improvise. Cause, I mean, that’s how you DJ. You start with your first track ,you then get the vibe off the crowd, and depending on what mood you’re in, you can play what you want! When you go on these festival tours that I’ve done, cause then you see them every day, it’s the set, the same track, exactly the same mix in the same place and the same tracks, and I’m like ‘Wow!’ I’m surprised people get away with it! That would be nice…just turn up and (he turns an imaginary equalizer and yawns), and I’m stressing to the point where I’m breaking down cause I’m like ‘Wow I need to do a totally new set today, I’m going to do this, that…’
So, as someone who has a foot in both arenas, superstar DJ and underground maverick, how has it been for you to watch this massive EDM craze take over the US over the past few years? What do you think of this new EDM scene?
EP: I know a lot of people, they’re moaning and complaining, and I think people need to try and separate it a bit more, they shouldn’t see it as all of a sudden, this scene, as it were before EDM, has changed and it’s now about this…I just feel that the EDM thing is a separate thing that’s happening along the side of what’s been going on since when it all started, what, back in ’88? And it obviously goes hand in hand at festivals and stuff like that. [But] I don’t think it’s changed the progressive house — and when I say progressive house I mean real progressive house, not Avicii, because they kind of hijacked that name for some reason. But I actually think it’s been good, even though musically it’s kind of cheap music. It’s like McDonald’s. Kids love McDonald’s. And then they grow up, and they’ll be looking for something a bit more fancy. [EDM] is a way into the whole Dance Music scene as a whole. If you’re into EDM, or if you’re into like Loco Dice and Adam Beyer and like the Techno scene, it’s a way in. But I think that a lot of people who kind of started out with EDM when they were 17 or whatever, they’re now 21, 22, they’re looking for other things. It was a way in. I think it’s a good thing that it exploded. I mean it absolutely exploded in America.
There’s a lot of people who are very negative about it, but I think it’s because they need to separate and see that it’s a new genre of music…its not something that’s happening to your scene, it’s a new scene that’s right next to yours, kind of thing. It will have its days, and it will go away, and something else will come along, and that’s how it works! But it opened up the world of Electronic Dance Music for a lot of kids, and I think it’s a great thing. For me… [EDM] is just noise, energy. Which in some aspects is good, to have energy like that, but people who produce that music, they don’t try to say anything with their music. There’s not any meaning or any thought or anything behind, it’s just making something that’s noisy. And every track sounds the same, they’re all copying each other, so it’s basically just one track that’s being produced over and over and over again, and it’s full of these clichés, the way its arranged. But there is a demand for it, and that’s what I’m saying, it’s a different genre from where I am…I don’t know, Eric Prydz music. I don’t know what to call it!
So it’s clear that you are super invested in and dedicated to your fans and creating a unique musical experience for them. Is that kind of the idea behind the EPIC tour and EPIC 3.0 show?
EP: Yeah! I think, for me — you know, when I was younger I used to go to a lot of clubs and used to go see my favorite DJs like Jeff Mills and Carl Cox and the Swedish guys like Adam Beyer… and these guys, and for me, back then, I wanted to go and see something special just for that night, and I went to see them for who they are and for what they do and their sound and all that. And I’m just trying to do the same but reverse. I think that the people who are really into what I do as a DJ and as a producer, they just wouldn’t take if I turn up and just play the same set every time. The EPIC show, it’s more of a passion project, giving something back to the fans.