INTERVIEW: Henrik B (2013)
You can’t turn on BPM without hearing “Echoes” – the gorgeous stadium house version of the Police classic by Henrik B, Niklas Gustavsson, and Peter Johansson. Hmm, a trio of Swedish dance music producers, that sounds vaguely familiar… What might not be familiar is that Henrik got his start in the techno world before moving into progressive electro and house – along the way remixing classic anthems like “Chime” and “Can’t Get Enough.” With support from Eric Prydz (who signed Henrik’s music to his label) and Avicii (who helped get him signed to At Night management), he is a rising talent worth keeping an eye on. His Twitter feed is also worth following as he is quite colorful and never afraid to speak his mind. When we recently spoke at the Promo Only Summer Sessions, his personality definitely came through, and the conversation involved many of his loves outside the music world – espresso, burgers, and more…
DJ Ron Slomowicz: Congratulations, every time I turn on BPM I hear “Echoes,” what inspired you to remake The Police song?
Henrik B: That’s a tough one; I actually heard the vocal as an a cappella and not the original song. My friends played it to me and I knew I had to do something with it. They sent it to me and we decided to make “Echoes.” As I mentioned before, I had never heard the original, so I wasn’t really inspired by The Police, I just liked the a cappella of Sting.
RS: You said “we,” do you do production by yourself or do you work with someone else?
Henrik B: On Echoes, there are 3 of us, Niklas Gustavsson, Peter Johansson, and myself. When I do solo projects I am the only producer of course, I don’t use ghost producers or anything like that. For that particular track it is a collab with my two friends.
RS: Is that the original vocal or did you have someone resing it?
Henrik B: It is Sting.
RS: Oh wow, so that’s his vocals, how’d you swing that?
Henrik B: It took a while to get the rights for it; but we have it.
RS: Congratulations, I thought it was a revocal.
Henrik B: I have his signature on a contract; actually it’s his autograph since he is famous!
RS: Do you ever get nervous when you remix a classic record with such history, like Orbital’s “Chime” or Soulsearcher’s “Can’t Get Enough”?
Henrik B: When Simon Dunmore, who runs Defected Records, asked me to remix “Can’t Get Enough” I was honored. It was their first ever release and I was remixing it for their 10th anniversary; I was really nervous and also very proud. I didn’t remix Orbital’s “Chime,” I remixed a rework or a cover of them by Shapeshifters; I have been listening to Orbital since day one so I know their work very well. So I wasn’t really nervous, but honored.
RS: Being Swedish, what relationship do you have with the Swedish House Mafia guys?
Henrik B: Those are my friends; I have been friends with them for over 10 years. I have known Sebastian since he was 13 years old and we always have a lot of fun together.
RS: You started in a techno world but you have come into the house world, how did you go from one to the other?
Henrik B: I started listening to techno like Prodigy in the early ’90s, and what I liked with techno and the Swedish techno that came later (with Adam Beyer, Joel Mull, and Caro Lekebuschw) was the energy and that you could play with grooves on 3 decks and create new music. It was always around 140 BPM and had really fast energy which I liked. Techno started becoming very minimal, though, and I didn’t really want to follow the scene when it went down to 125 BPM. There was nothing really good on, no breaks and no buildups, and I got bored in the studio. I had known Sebastian Ingrosso for many years, and he played some stuff for me that they were doing and I discovered house music. It was slower that 140 BPM, but still had the energy and the happiness that I was looking for; it had the dance floor capabilities. I had been listening to house music for a long time, and all the classic house producers, but I never felt like it had the dance floor effect that I was searching for. I decided to try and make a progressive, electro house-style record and sent it off to Eric Prydz via ICQ. He responded instantly and told me that if I was up for it he was going to put it out on his record label Pryda. I kind of switched overnight from dark, gritty techno to progressive house.
RS: This was before the Twitter generation but how was the response from your fans about the sudden change?
Henrik B: In 2005 you weren’t able to interact with your fans as much, and I have never been a forum guy or ever written a forum post in my life. The reactions actually came later when I started Facebook in 2009, I was a very late adapter, but reactions to the switch are still coming. People ask me “why did you stop, why don’t you go back to making techno” which I think is very rude of them to say. You either listen to my music or you don’t, I don’t go back to making techno because I don’t feel any joy in making it anymore, it is very uninteresting.
RS: Speaking about uninteresting, one of the complaints about dance music right now is that a lot of the tracks sound so much the same. You sent one of the most amazing tweets which I retweeted; you wrote “does Logic Pro X work with other BPMs than 128 and does it support more than one note in the drop.” Was that the way that you expressed your opinion about tracks sounding the same?
Henrik B: I am very witty on Twitter and Facebook so you shouldn’t take everything too seriously but of course there is some truth in there, I don’t play one note drops. There was this track by Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike which blew me off the chair, and then came all of the others and I became bored with it. I hate to say it but I just don’t like it. They are obviously talented producers because they make amazing melodies in the breaks, but then they just go dumb in the drop. Please, just make melodic drops as well, and everyone will be happy. Of course they can do what they want but as I told you don’t take it all too seriously.
RS: I just love that quote. What do you use for your production?
Henrik B: I use Cubase; I’ve used it for about 20 years.
RS: When you work with vocalists like Terry B and Alexandra Prince do you normally send a track and they write to it or are you in the studio with them and you record the vocals? How do you collaborate?
Henrik B: Most of the time I have an instrumental track. For instance when I worked with Axwell for my single release, called “Leave A Light On,” that I released on his label last year I had the instrumental and I sent it to him, and he asked to help me find a vocal which took about 6 months. When I made “Soul Heaven,” I only had the vocal by Terry B and started making the track from scratch with the a cappella that she sent me. I mostly create an instrumental track first, though.
RS: What is next in the pipeline?
Henrik B: After “Echoes,” I have 3 new singles that are almost finished. We aren’t sure which one will be the follow-up to “Echoes” though.
RS: A few questions, which Nespresso capsule is your favorite?
Henrik B: I am not really a Nespresso guy, but it has to be number 10, the Ristretto. I am kind of a coffee geek; I have a 70 kilo espresso restaurant machine at home.
RS: Be sure to check out the Indriya, which is strength number 12. Talking about Be, what does the ‘B’ in your name really stand for?
Henrik B: Should I be boring and say Berntsson, which is my last name, or should I just say something else?
RS: It always changes, so what does it stand for today?
Henrik B: Being in a panel, being the panel and being tired.
RS: Okay so its stands for being, being active. Thinking back on your whole career, the life you’ve led, and all the traveling that you’ve done, where was the best burger that you’ve ever had?
Henrik B: The best burger I have ever had was at home, I am kind of a burger freak as well. I grind my own meat and blend fresh meats together and make my own buns. It’s the best burger you can get; if you can get it it’s for free since it’s at my home.
RS: Okay, what about outside of your house?
Henrik B: Outside from my house it’s Flippin’ Burgers in Stockholm. There is no question about it, this guy went to the US and stayed there for 30 days and ate 2 burgers a day and decided that he was going to make the best burger in Sweden. He actually didn’t say that, he was very humble and said that he was going to make a good burger. I bought his book and studied it and now I try to make a burger every few days.
RS: You are part of the At Night Management team now and they work with Cazzette and Avicii, who are much younger, up-and-coming artists whereas you are a more of an established, experienced artist. How did you become part of the team?
Henrik B: I met Avicii a few years ago and we got along quite well. He has been inspired by my music, which is kind of crazy to hear since he is the biggest artist on the planet. His booking agent in Europe was also my booking agent for quite some time, and I got the opportunity to sign with him and to get on the boat and I didn’t hesitate at all. It’s wonderful; they are a super professional team.
RS: Very cool. What would you like to say to all of your fans?
Henrik B: Keep listening to Henrik B music if you want to. Thank you all, without my fans there wouldn’t be Henrik B, just Henrik Berntsson with an interest in music.
Interview conducted August 2013 during Promo Only Summer Sessions. Special thanks to At Night Management for arranging.