By Brian F. Johnson
The legend goes that the life of big EDM DJs is one enormous, continuous party — private jets, champagne, gorgeous women — the world at the their finger tips, the life of every party.
But for the Stockholm electro house duo Dada Life 2014 proved to have one excess that isn’t usually listed among life’s riches — hospital stays.
In the spring of 2014, Stefan Engblom left Dada Life’s tour to return home to Sweden for emergency abdominal surgery, which ultimately resulted in the loss of his large intestine. His DJ partner Olle Cornéer managed without him, performing a slew of shows by himself. But then, not too many months later, it was Engblom who had to carry the torch, when Cornéer was diagnosed with cancer.
Shockingly however, both DJs are not only back on their feet, but they are both steadfast in their “Born to Rage” mentality. In mid-February they dropped their latest album Welcome to Dada Land and set off on a two-month Dada Land Compound North American Tour.
“I knew before that music was important for me, but I kind of came out of this realizing that it’s even more important,” said Cornéer during a recent interview with The Marquee. “It’s basically what I live for. I knew that before, but afterwards I felt it — if you see the difference. Knowing something is one thing, but feeling it is a different thing.”
Cornéer said that so far, their health issues aren’t affecting touring and life on the road as the directors of the party, but that it may very well have an effect on their music because, simply put, the rules have been thrown out the window — not that Dada Life had many rules to begin with.
“When it comes to Dada Life, the boundaries are non-existent now, because if this isn’t what it’s all about, why care what other people think about the stuff we do?” Cornéer said. “That’s my attitude from now on. I just want to make the music that I want to hear and that’s how we started. I don’t think we lost it along the way, but you know this was a reality check of where the music is going, too. I just want everything that we do to be filled with the passion and excitement that I feel for Dada music.”
Welcome To Dada Land is brimming with that passion and excitement. The hefty 17-track release is a mix album of sorts, but as Cornéer explained it’s also a proper album in several regards. “It’s like 15 of the 17 tracks are exclusive tracks and mash-ups, so it’s like an album and a mix album all in one,” he said. Welcome to Dada Land features new versions of singles by deadmau5, Major Lazer, Zedd and TJR, while also showcasing new original tracks from Andybody, Walden and Jacob van Hage. Additionally the album includes “massive remixes” of classic Dada tracks like “Kick Out the Epic Motherfucker,” “Feed The Dada,” and, of course, “Born To Rage!”
Cornéer said that the album, which they started before either had health issues, was completed after he got out of the hospital and that they pushed their deadline with their record label up until the very last minute. “We finished the last stuff on it right before we gave the masters away to the label, up until the last hour and minute before the deadline,” he said.
For an artist, knowing when to step away from the painting, so to speak, and saying that a work is complete can be one of the most daunting challenges, but for these Stockholm DJs Cornéer said that when they’re working together, their differences, and sometimes at-odd personalities signal to them when a song is complete. “It’s probably when me and Stefan have finished the fight over when it’s finished, that a track is finished,” Cornéer laughed. “Because in that regard we realize that we are really different and have really different mindsets. So, if I were to decide it’d be finished when Stefan would say it’s half-finished, and if he were to do whatever he does, he’d work on it too long, or what I think would be too long. So we fight over it and then we meet in the middle ground. We fight over what people think are minor details, but it’s really important to the music.”
But beyond the music the gents behind Dada Life are no strangers to stirring the pot, or getting attention. They once tried to claim Dada Land as a sovereign nation and did so with such confidence and fanfare that they created a stir which resulted in their passports being temporarily revoked. In 2013, the group made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest pillow fight, which they staged at the Aragon Theatre in Chicago. (Their record number of 5,000 pillow fighters shattered the previous record by about 1,500 people.)
So it’s not surprising that their new album’s release brings with it a bit of a story of its own — a controversial one at that in the EDM world. In mid-December Dada Life announced on Twitter that they had accidentally left a laptop on the Stockholm subway. While they said they had back-ups of the data, they admitted that the laptop contained a copy of their then unreleased album. Suddenly, a Twitter account appeared titled “Dada Death,” which began to taunt Dada Life, going so far as to make a post showing a screen shot taken from a, but not necessarily the laptop which read “You think we’re joking about having the laptop you lost… what’s this then? We listened to your unreleased tracks. They were all shit, so we made a better version… release coming soon.”
Immediately bloggers started calling “bullshit” on the whole scenario, pointing out that the chances of the person finding the laptop actually knowing Dada Life’s music and how to produce tracks was slim to none, and they pointed out that Justin Bieber used a similar publicity stunt to promote a track he released in 2012 with Nicky Minaj. The fact that the supposed Dada Death produced “remake” of the single “Tonight We’re Kids Again” was posted, taken down, and then re-posted only fueled the fire about a possible deception.
Cornéer said point-blank though that they did in fact lose the laptop, and he added his own take to the mystery. “We lost it, but it seems to us like these [Dada Death] guys never had the laptop,” he said. “They just made a song using a similar synthesizer to what we’re using. From our perspective they were looking for attention and they kind of got it and we don’t want to push it any further now. It’s out. It’s released with all the lyrics so there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Rolling with life’s ups and downs is something that both Cornéer and Engblom have learned to master, especially over the last year. Nothing else can teach a man to adapt to life on the fly like unexpected serious illness, but Cornéer said that it’s carrying over into their live performances, their release schedule and everything that has to do with Dada Life. “It’s like our attitude for everything in life. We want to plan carefully, but we also know that we’re clumsy and sometimes in the moment, stuff happens that really isn’t supposed to happen and then you roll with it,” he said. “It’s all about finding the balance; like in the aggressiveness of the song, or the groove of the song. You need to see what the crowd reacts to, basically. But on the other hand you shouldn’t give the crowd what they want. You should give them what they didn’t know that they needed, which is our attitude about everything about music. You should never give people what they think they want, you should give them what they didn’t know they wanted.”
Go If You Dig:
- Knife Party
- Steve Aoki
- Major Lazer