Put 'Em High For Stonebridge
December 12 2007
Stonebridge, also known as Sten Hallstrom, needs little introduction. He has been in the music industry for as long as some of us have been alive. He was spinning funk and disco at his own night called Fellini whist some of us were crawling and when the Chicago house sound dropped in the mid eighties, Stonebridge officially made the switch and started to remix tracks with a crew of other local DJs under the name SweMix. With his take on Robin S’ Show Me Love in 1993 becoming one of the biggest selling house records of all time, Stonebridge established himself as a world class remixer and producer.
But it’s his history, growth and adaptability through the huge changes that have occurred in the music industry that makes his story so interesting. Apart from being a suave Swedish producer he is also the founder of the labels Stonebridge Recordings, Stoney Boy Music, BTB, Clubvision and Monday Bar Experience. He was also one of six DJs behind the label/DJ remix service Remixed Records. The singles, Put ‘Em High and Take Me Away, both UK Top Ten hits, have been released in over 24 countries. He’ll be here over New Year’s, and here he has a chat with Same Same about the upcoming tour.
You’ve been DJing for over 20 years. What has been the best bit – the time when the music industry was thriving the most?
It’s a good question, you know. In one way it was ten years ago, the peak, when house was really exciting and everybody was really into it, but on the other hand it is a really interesting period right now. I suppose that clubbing has matured so I think it is a really good time at the moment.
Has it changed a lot since the 80s?
In the beginning when I started DJing it wasn’t even house music. It’s changed a lot. It took a good five or ten years for people to get around clubs. The only house party you could do in the 80s was really underground, like at a rave or something like that. The entire 90s were house driven but the peak was probably 2001. Now the music industry has changed, and then CD’s, people don’t really buy CDs anymore, its all online now – downloads.
Would you say technology has affected your music producing positively? What are you doing differently now?
I’ve been lucky. I had a massive studio in the old age with a big keyboard and computers and all that. It’s gone more and more computer only so I’ve adapted and changed. I still mix myself so it hasn’t really affected anything. I still have the same quality in my music. The label: I’ve sort of gotten around the fact that it does not matter if it’s the biggest label in the world. My last single was signed to Universal and I was expecting a massive response, but it’s really no different. I can do it on my own label or Universal. In a way I can move quicker, I can sign tracks to a small label here or a big label there.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
If there is really exciting project I am working on, I wake up and I’m straight down working on it. I suppose excitement gets me out of bed in the morning, if I’m not excited I can sleep for half the day.
Put ‘Em High holds a special meaning for me. Is there a song that is special to you and why?
That one is special, it just doesn’t go away. I do play it at the end of my sets and people love it, but the really special one for is Robin’s Show Me Love because that was my breakthrough record. It doesn’t go away. I saw a video of it on YouTube incidentally; Eric Morillo played it at Space. It’s just really nice to see it’s still around and he played the original vocals. It’s a classic and it feels so good after I’ve done that one.
What were you doing before you got into music or did you start off in music?
My plan was actually to do marketing, but my dad wanted to save money so at my sister’s graduation party he thought I should DJ because I had a lot of records. I’d never DJd in my life, and I did, and I loved it, and I’ve never looked back really. I played there for two or three years and then I met other DJs from this production company so I haven’t really done anything else professionally.
You’re heading down to Oz over new years. What will you be doing?
I’m addicted to Australia. This is my fourth year. I always bring my family and we have a two or three week holiday. We usually go to Sydney for a week. We love it! We stay at Bondi Beach and then we go into town, we just love the vibe there. Then every year we do something different. First year we went to New Zealand. Last year we went to Gold Coast. Surfers Paradise – only in Australia, could there be a city called Surfers Paradise.
You’re big in UK, America, and Australia. I noticed a few sets in Russia coming up. Any other countries that you’re big in that we would not think of?
Its interesting because now Asia is growing, I have a big album release coming up in Japan and that’s my first release. I suppose it’s a bit like England and Australia, the alternate people look at England and I think Japan has the same impact on Asia; people are always looking at Japan – what’s going on. Because this album release is quite big I’ve noticed my gigs in Asia are growing. I’m going to Korea this weekend and I went to Shanghai last week. So that’s a growing place. Also America is opening up. It was really massive with Robin and Put Em High was massive on radio, but it didn’t really affect my bookings. It’s a strange one; everywhere else in the world it was crazy after Put Em High but America was really slow. Now however, I do get a lot more gigs there.
You’ve worked with a number of famous artists. Do any of those experiences stand out?
Will Smith was going to come to the studio and record his rap but the timing wasn’t good – he had a massive world tour to go promote a movie. He had to do it on the road and send me a file with a vocals. That really was a shame. I was looking forward to recording that together. Most of the time these days you send files over the internet so it is not really necessary to fly over. I met Lenny Kravitz because I know his cousin really well. I met him back stage and then one day he said, “I’m making a new single its called Black Velveteen.” I had to call him up and play it over the phone and that was so scary! What the hell is he going to say now? And he loved it so it was good but I was really nervous. Playing music over the phone is scary.
What’s your most memorable set ever?
It was my first gig I did in Ibiza for Hed Kandi. I sort of missed the whole Ibiza thing in the early days and Hed Kandi had just started. No one knew what to expect from Hed Kandi. They thought it would be laid back, and I play a bit harder than most guys, so I came in there and it was just going off. It was absolutely mad!
What are you listening to right now, or what do you predict for the future? House has been big for a while, is electro taking over?
Right now electro is taking over everything and its pretty much world wide. It’s not specific to England or Australia. Everywhere you go that’s what you’re hearing.