Interview with the Swedish DJ/producer Bjorn Akesson. Swedish native, Bjorn Akesson has taken the Trance scene by storm ever since the success of early productions like Havannah and Perfect Blue which both received huge support from big players such as Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Ferry Corsten as well as radio play on some of the most listened-to stations in the world.
Shortly after, Bjorn was signed to the world renowned Armada Music and Future Sound of Egypt imprints, and began to tour the globe with appearances at high profile clubs and festivals such as Privilege Ibiza, Space Sharm and Global Gathering, to name a few.
Work in the studio continued to produce high quality hits which were all picked up and supported heavily across the scene. Painting Pyramids, in particular gained critical acclaim and raised Bjorn's profile to the higher echelons of the Trance scene. Bjorn has also been remixed by a wide range of artists across the spectrum, including Orjan Nilsen, Porter Robinson, W&W and more. Once again showing the diversity of his music.
Now well respected amongst his peers, Bjorn has experimented with new styles of Trance and has been successful in pioneering his own blend of Electro-Trance, with tracks such as Gunsmoke and Breathe in particular receiving great support.
Bjorn's stock continues to rise globally, and now finds himself touring the world and playing alongside some of the most respected artists on the Trance scene, including Armin van Buuren, Markus Schulz, Aly & Fila, as well as many more of his peers.
With more genre-bending productions in the pipeline, and an ever growing tour schedule, the future looks bright as Bjorn paves the way for new artists within the scene.
After checking out his bombastic Breathe, I felt that I had to request an interview with this top producer, to find out more about his past, present and future moves. I’m glad he accepted the painful challenge of replying to twenty questions with so much detail and depth. Breathtaking interview without doubt.
Dimitri: It would be so cool to go back in time and tell us when and under what circumstances you decided to get involved with EDM, and particularly trance?
Bjorn Akesson: Basically, when I was still in elementary school I was exposed to trance music, and a friend had a programme on his PC where you could make your own music. As a very tech-interested boy, who was addicted to creating everything from office software, to full computer games, I was very excited about trying to make music. Of all the music that was going on at that moment, trance was my favourite, so that’s why I started making it. Somehow, music has always been a huge part of my life, whether I was aware of it or not, the future as it looks today was bound to happen. Dimitri: Is there an all time classic track that inspired you in your decision that still gives you shivers all over your body when you hear or play it?
Bjorn Akesson: There are many, one of them is “Flutlicht – Icarus”, just never gets old. I really love the way the chords are constructed, it’s different. I really like that! Dimitri: Please choose for us the top 5 producers/DJ’s that have been a big inspiration in your career (productions/style of DJ'ing)
Bjorn Akesson: Ferry Corsten, Porter Robinson, Skrillex, Armin van Buuren and Tiesto.
Dimitri: Have you attended music school to learn how to produce, or are you totally self-taught?
Bjorn Akesson: Completely self-taught, although I’ve learned a lot by speaking to other producers online. This has been mostly from the technical aspect; I don’t know anything about music theory or chords etc. I just feel them.
Dimitri: On what label was your first ever release and how did you manage to attract their attention for them to sign your track? Was it an easy or difficult goal to achieve?
Bjorn Akesson: It was collaboration between me and an artist called “Dreas”, and our collaboration was called “Havannah - Havannah”. We sent it to all the big labels in the scene and everyone turned us down, which made us sign it to a brand new label called “Trance Revolution Recordings (TRR)”. The lesson to be learnt is that record labels don’t always know best, as the track ended up being a massive success, selling thousands of vinyl and being played by every big DJ at the time.
Dimitri: You are closely associated with Aly & Fila and their top record label Future Sound of Egypt. Is it possible to tell us how you felt when they contacted you for the first time to sign you on their label, and when did you meet them in person for the first time?
Bjorn Akesson: Fila and I got in touch online where I sent him my unsigned productions which they played in their sets. One day I sent him my new track “Perfect Blue” which he signed to FSOE and licensed to Armada. It was a great feeling as they really believed in the track. I met Fila a year later at Trance Energy where I got the opportunity to meet many other big DJ’s as well.
Dimitri: We notice that you have changed your style from Painting Pyramids to Gunsmoke and Breathe which was latterly released on FSOE. Everybody is talking about that very unique and characteristic ‘Bjorn Akesson’ electro trance sound. Why did you move from the more uplifting trance forms to electro trance. Do you notice the crowds demanding harder tracks in your sets rather than the classic uplifting sound?
Bjorn Akesson: I’ve been making traditional uplifting trance for many many years now, and I felt that it was time to try something new. I’ve made some big tracks that gained a lot of success, and right now that sound has already been made for me. I’m more inspired by the new sound that is currently going on. Creating tracks like Gunsmoke and Breathe has been a great experience for me, and also amazing fun. The classic uplifting sound doesn’t really work that well in clubs anymore; I feel that the new techy sound works much better, and is more fun to play. There is room for classic uplifting tracks in my sets too, but they need to be selected more carefully and not too often.
Dimitri: Breathe is an absolutely shocking banger which has so much energy packed in it. From where did you get the inspiration to produce it, and how long it take you to finish it?
Bjorn Akesson: Basically I wanted to make a follow-up to my track Gunsmoke, and that’s where I got the inspiration to make the drop. The rest of the track just came naturally to me. I guess it just happened. The track took about 1-2 months to make. Dimitri: Can you describe your actual studio set up at the moment? Your favourite piece of hardware & software?
Bjorn Akesson: Just using software at the moment, Cubase 7 with a lot of plugins. I love working with Sylenth1 and V-Station amongst others. And of course, I have a pair of studio monitors plus a midi controller. Dimitri: Can you remember a track that was produced very quickly and was very successful, and one that took you the longest to finish, and why?
Bjorn Akesson: All of them have taken a long time because it takes time to polish the tracks, especially when many of them have a different sound. So no track has ever been fast to produce, maybe it’s time for one?
Dimitri: When you play your unreleased tracks in your sets, if you notice that your audience is not responding well to it, do you usually go back to the studio and do any adjustments?
Bjorn Akesson: Depends, I usually notice what in the track works, and what part doesn’t, so I usually go back and change things depending on the crowds reaction. By constantly trying-out new material, you kind of learn what works and what doesn’t, and the reason for being so. Dimitri: Is there any special person that you trust his/her opinion very much that hears your tracks for the very first time?
Bjorn Akesson: There are a few people I really trust, and their input can be very important. I don’t really seek much feedback though; some tracks have just been shown to the label before signing.
Dimitri: After Breathe, what other productions are lined up to release in the coming months?
Bjorn Akesson: I’m currently finishing two new singles, but I’ve yet to decide which one to release first. Other than that, I have a collaboration with a very strong up-and-coming artist for their debut album, which should be released at the end of the summer, or in the fall. All of the new material I’m working on differs a bit from I’ve done before, I’m really excited about them.
Dimitri: Can you choose for us your Top 5 performances so far, and give us a short comment about them?
Bjorn Akesson: Blue Frog in Mumbai: The crowd was really into the party but had to be read carefully. It was one of those nights where track selection came very naturally, and most of what I played worked out really well.
Caix in Buenos Aires: My first appearance in Argentina which resulted in a completely packed club with about 1000 people. I was nervous but it quickly wore off, and everything worked out really well.
Caix in Buenos Aires: My second time at this club was in a different room; the crowd was more on the commercial side, but once again the crowd was feeling most of the tracks, and I quickly read what they liked and didn’t like. A great night.
Amnesia in Lund: This was my first real club gig which took place in my hometown. It wasn’t one of those super packed clubs, but still lots of people came out. As it was my first real gig, I got to experience the real feeling as a DJ, and it put a smile on my face for many days to come.
Privilege in Ibiza: Getting to play at the biggest club in the world together with the biggest DJ in the world was an amazing experience for me. Monster crowd with superb lights, and of course a killer vibe. Simply a great experience and gig.
Dimitri: One of my favourite questions to all the DJ’s that I interview is that one about self-reflection and self-criticism. Out of 10, with what score do you rate the various elements of your DJ performances and why?
a) Your mixing skills:
Always room for improvement and new techniques, but I think I got the basics down pretty well!
b) Your ability to choose the right track for the right occasion:
Depends on the gig but I’m pretty satisfied with my choices, of course there is always room for improvement and new discoveries.
c) Your friendly attitude towards the fans that come to shake your hand when you perform and after that?
I always talk with people after the show and take pictures with anyone that wants to.
Dimitri: Do you spend a lot of time to reply to your fans comments on Facebook and Twitter? Can you recall the craziest Facebook or Twitter post that a fan has sent you?
Bjorn Akesson: Yes I keep a good connection with my fans online and try to reply to everything. There have been many crazy posts ranging from pure hate to cosy invites from girls. Can’t really remember anything special in particular though, I try to focus on the constructive comments. Dimitri: How many hours do you spend checking out the promos you receive to choose the ones that you will play out? Is it hard to find good tracks to play in your sets?
Bjorn Akesson: Probably spending about 5-7 hours per week or so. It’s very hard finding good tracks to play at all. The ratio is shockingly about 1% of all promo’s I receive, and that 1% is tracks that I find good enough to put in my podcast. Included in that 1%, about 20% is playable in my live sets.
Dimitri: Can you remember the most unusual track that you dropped in your set and the crowd was caught by surprise but they liked it very much? Do you like to surprise your crowd, or do you prefer to go the tried and trusted way?
Bjorn Akesson: I always want to surprise the crowd, and if I can play something totally unexpected I will. I’ve dropped dubstep and drum n' bass tracks a few times, sometimes it works very well, sometimes not so well. It’s just one track in a set though, so I don’t see the harm in doing that.
Dimitri: Is there any artist that you would like to collaborate with in the coming years, like a secret wish coming true?
Bjorn Akesson: I’d love to do something with Skrillex, I think it would be something really cool and outrageous.
Dimitri: The last question is about the Future of trance music? In which way do you see our beloved genre going?
Bjorn Akesson: It’s going more towards house and electro for sure because it sounds much more fresh and creative. The classic uplifting style is fading away and one of the reasons for that is that it sounds the same and not much love is put down in the melodies. Hopefully, I will be a part of developing the new sound for trance, we will have to see.
Interview was written and conducted by Dimitri Kechagias, Music Journalist / Radio DJ
Many thanks to Bjorn for his absorbing answers
Many thanks to Linda Nuanlaoong from Circuit-8 for her support in organising this interview
Book Bjorn Akesson at www.jamdjmanagement.com
Many thanks to Paul at 1mix radio for proofing and publishing this interview