By Jacob Katel
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Before being given the go-ahead to speak with Eric Prydz, the London-based Swedish DJ-producer, we are told that any questions about his fear of flying are "off the table." This is somewhat disappointing, considering his phobia is well known. It is perhaps what has kept him from performing live in North America since 2007.
That's why when Identity Festival announced Prydz as this year's headliner, it made for really big news, followed by plenty of skepticism. Would he get on a plane and make the journey from London to the States, or would he cancel? After all, he has described the ordeal of flying to DJ Mag as "akin to being put in a coffin and buried alive."
Rest assured, though, Prydz is already on U.S. soil, traveling across America with Identity while also promoting his first proper album, Eric Prydz Presents Pryda, a disc of unreleased material that characteristically mixes the underground with the mainstream, whether teetering into trance territory or blending electro and progressive house.
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And if there is one thing that Prydz has been able to do as a mainstream act, it's maintain his cred as a serious artist. While EDM continues to infiltrate popular music, peers such as Swedish House Mafia, Tiësto, and Deadmau5 have all been called sellouts. But talking to Prydz, it's easy to understand why he's still so beloved by the underground.
Despite the current wave of pop divas and hip-hop superstars looking to established DJs for source material, Prydz doesn't seem all that interested. "I get approached all the time," he says. "It's been happening since I put out my first record ten years ago... I always do what seems right to me at the moment. And to be honest, I haven't really been that interested in collaborating with artists from other genres. It's not really where I come from or what I set out to do."
That's not to say he isn't keen on working with other artists. Just don't expect to see his name plastered all over the release. He's sticking to what he does best — producing music. "I can't tell you names right now, but I'm producing and writing for other people at the moment, which I always think is a fun thing to do. I like being in the background, you know, writing and producing... and not really performing. That's something I didn't do five or six years ago."
Prydz has always preferred to let his music speak for itself. So when the infamous "Call on Me" video — featuring buxom beauties doing aerobics and pelvic thrusts — was released, he wasn't too pleased.
"For both 'Proper Education' and 'Niton (The Reason),' I was involved in the video," he explains. "I wasn't involved in the video for 'Pjanoo' or 'Call on Me.' I think you need to see your videos as a vehicle for your track to be played on the TV stations. And obviously, by the time I saw the 'Call on Me' video, I didn't like it at all. When I heard that track, that was the last thing I was thinking of — you know, dancing and girls and feeling loose."
"Proper Education" is perhaps Prydz's best-known track and one of his personal favorites. But he claims it was an unintentional hit. The track, which heavily samples Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)," received Roger Waters's blessing and then became a massive club hit in the States while reaching number two on UK charts. Its four-to-the-floor beat and recognizable hook made for a hypnotic update of the original prog-rock release.
"It was never meant to be released at all," he insists. "But I started playing that record out, and I gave it to a few DJ friends of mine as well. The reaction tore down every festival and every club."
With a hit of that magnitude, it must've been tough to plot a followup. But Prydz's subsequent releases have proven he's capable of pleasing EDM aficionados while also keeping the party people dancing. And the deluxe, three-disc edition of Pryda provides the most comprehensive retrospective of the DJ-producer's career to date, demonstrating in detail how far he's come since his "Brick in the Wall" days.
For Identity, Prydz will likely play all the hits — plus works in progress, as he's been known to do — because he wants to capitalize on this particular festival experience, connecting with fans as well as his peers.
"One of the things that I really like about festivals is that you get a chance to see so many other acts and listen to other DJs. Normally, for all these festivals in Europe, I play and then I need to wash up for the next show somewhere else. I don't really get the time to hang out, which I will this time around. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone."