It’s mid-afternoon on a Friday in West Hollywood and a few dozen thirtysomethings congregate atop a rooftop off Sunset to mingle and welcome Pete Tong to the inaugural stateside broadcast of his BBC Radio 1 show. From Tong's vantage point, it’s a sea of monochromatic clothing and gelled undercuts fluttering about the dance floor, catching a house beat’s rhythm and relishing in the fact that they got to play hookie.
Tong is about to introduce world-renowned DJ and producer Eric Prydz to the stage. The Swede, with his signature backwards hat, steps up to the decks. After a 30-minute set, he recedes back into the crowd and becomes just another off-duty DJ, albeit one who is about to release his debut album after 16 years of being signed to major dance music labels.
A few days after the party, Prydz gives an interview from the patio of his decadent Hollywood abode, overlooking downtown Los Angeles. “The music on the album has been in the making for the past 10 years,” he says of Opus, which comes out Feb. 5 through Virgin Records. “The final track listing comes from about 150 tracks down to just a few.”
Whittling an oaksized catalog into an artisan collection isn’t an uncommon practice for recording musicians. But for Prydz, it's less about culling from a backlog of material and more about dabbling in ideas and patiently waiting for a sapling to mature into a rooted manifestation. “If I have an eight-bar loop or groove [that I’m into], I end up just listening to that thing for hours and hours, just dancing around, which leaves me with hundreds and hundreds of unfinished tracks. I actually kind of like it because then when I go back to the studio, and I don’t know what I’m going to make, I can find something that I made seven or eight years ago and look at it with totally new eyes.”
As he discusses the daunting amount of unreleased music he’s hoarding, it becomes clear that the young artist who fell in love with synthesizers back in Stockholm never actually grew up. He describes his life before becoming a father as “the most boring thing ever,” and his tone elevates when he recounts his children’s interest in tinkering in his studio. He relates to their wide-eyed enthusiasm, and it becomes apparent that Eric Prydz isn’t simply playing music; he’s playing with music.
To further push his creative drive, Prydz spent the last five years tweaking Epic 4.0, the next installment of his ever-evolving live show. The Vegas-like production uses the latest visual technologies to create a spectacle that is matched only by the music; Prydz predicts that no one will be "looking at me during the performance because they are going to be blown away by everything else.” Many of the tracks he'll be playing, he says, were written specifically for the show.
The heart of the Epic 4.0 lies in Prydz’s close relationship with the visual team. “Everyone that is involved with Epic knows my music inside and out, down to each little sound.” Nothing is planned with the lighting team ahead of time. “There’s no limitation — quite the opposite. I feel like I’m slacking with these guys because they are so good.”
One would assume Prydz’s creative spirit would be ready for a much-needed nap after putting together a full-length album and live show, but his love for L.A.’s diverse cuisine keeps him invigorated during his down time. At the Larchmont Farmers' Market, he combs through proteins and produce like he’s searching for the perfect drum sample. “Cooking is putting elements together to make a new product, which is exactly the same thing as music. Maybe that’s why I like cooking so much, or maybe I’m just a fat boy inside,” he says with a laugh.
When he’s just looking to kick back, you might find Prydz at Sugarfish enjoying the popular “Trust Me” menu, or coursing out an Italian dinner at Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills. But with so many dining options, he can’t designate a favorite spot in town.
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The sun starts to set across the Hollywood Hills, and Prydz gets a look in his eye like all of this twilight food talk means it's time to end the interview and get some food. Before he breaks the conversation, he drives home the point that despite his debut album’s title, his magnum opus is still on the way.
Eric Prydz presents Epic 4.0 at the Hollywood Palladium on Friday, Feb. 19 and Saturday, Feb. 20. Both shows are sold out, but to find resale tickets, visit www.livenation.com. To pre-order Opus, visit www.ericprydz.tv.