With Swedish House Mafia, Steve Angello proved that dance music could sell out American arenas. Since the trio parted ways, he's been headlining the biggest festivals in the world. Now, at age 31, he's ready to release his first album. "I've been working on it for almost the past two years," he tells Rolling Stone. "It's been more like a self-discovery than just been going into the studio to satisfy consumers." That result of this self-discovery, Wild Youth, won't come out until the fall, but here you can stream its lead track "Wasted Love" (release date: July 22nd) and read Angello tell the story behind it, recall collaborating with Pharrell and discuss the dissolution of his old group.
Why did you decide to work with Dougy from Temper Trap again?
I met Dougy back in L.A. I think it was a year and a half, maybe two years ago. We just wanted to have a song where our worlds collided a little bit, something that speaks to all of us, so I wanted to create something that was different but also honored the Temper Trap style. I also wanted to find a great balance between dance and indie, and I kind of held back a lot just to create that moment where it's about the melodies and the songs.
He's rewritten the song three times, until it was perfect. It was just a fun thing to do because I've been really interested by in the live music perspective – rather than just electronic – because I want it to feel alive. That's why there's some guitars and strings in the songs.
A lot of DJs in your world have been moving toward live instrumentation, and a lot of people in my world have been attributing that Avicii's recent crossover. Was that as influential it seems?
It depends on which kind of generation you're looking at. My generation grew up looking at Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Apex Twin, Moby, Fatboy Slim, we grew up with all of that. Then we had Masters at Work and Frankie Knuckles, you know? We grew up with that, and they've always done songs. For me personally, when we did the single "One" and we worked with Pharrell, that opened up a lot of doors. From there we worked with Tinie Tempah [on "Miami 2 Ibiza"] and then we went into "Save the World," which was a real indie type of song that we turned into dance music.
It used to be harder to collaborate with artists because dance music wasn't accepted and a lot of writers didn't want to write to dance music or didn't know how to write to dance music. And dance music has developed from being monotonic beats and just beat-driven songs – that didn't leave much space for a songwriter. So I think, getting back to the question, some of the young guys that just got into dance music, yeah sure, they might be really inspired by that. But for the older guys in the scene that have been doing it for quite some times, we've always looked into other sources of inspiration.
What was it like working with Pharrell? You really got him right before he blew back up.
Pharrell is an amazing visionary. He's always been open-minded about anything when it comes to design and music, architecture and fashion. We've always been fans of N.E.R.D., and they've always been such a good production team. So we bumped into each other on tour and jumped in the studio and said, "Hey why don't we just do something?" And there it was. He was extremely into it, and he was really open-minded when it came to dance music, which really surprised us because that was out first encounter with somebody that was really up for it and already a successful artist. So he was really early on that boat.
Have you heard any of the album that your former DJ partners Axwell and Sebastian Ingross have been working on?
No, I heard some of the songs, early stages of the songs that they've been playing out, but I haven't heard a lot.
Is it weird for you that the two of them have gone on to work on a new LP together?
Not at all. Me and Axwell had a group called Supermode back in 2004. Me and Sebastian have had five different group names in the last 20 years, so not at all. We had a great run with Swedish House Mafia and it didn't work out. It is what it is. At the same time, I'm really happy they're doing their album. They're super-talented producers and writers, both of them, so I think it's really important that they did this because I need more music and I'm really happy that they're doing it.