Of all the fresh-faced talents to emerge from Sweden’s fertile underground, Jeremy Olander has more than earned his keep amidst the dance-music world. A modern-age progressive-house protagonist and a firm favorite on Eric Prydz’s Pryda Friends imprint, Olander has made some huge leaps outside of the industry comfort zone.
With landmark appearances at Creamfields, SW4, and Amnesia Ibiza alongside Prydz himself signaling his strong global potential, Olander’s releases for Drumcode as Dhillon have seen him balance the contrasting realms of techno and progressive house on his own terms. Now that his hotly tipped single “Let Me Feel” is out, Beatport News sat down with Olander to trace the journeys, both physical and musical, that have made his uprising all the more invigorating.
How do you interpret the balance artists face between DJing and producing?
I started listening to music before I started listening to sets. I went to shows in Sweden and saw how you could build a whole night. I would download sets and analyze what they were doing, how they were going up and down. I’m first and foremost a producer, but I try to DJ well.
For a producer foremost, your own approach to DJing appears pretty organic. Do you find the balance of catering to festivals and clubs a challenging element of your career?
I think at a festival people go there to go nuts. You can’t find a quiet place you can enjoy the whole ride. [At] a festival, [the set] is an hour long. A club gig gives you the opportunity to try and build sounds and show people journeys in music. Anyone can play top 100 tracks, but the best thing is to amaze people. In the US they are so new to it that they like what they know, but familiarity is catching up. They are starting to go deeper and explore. I started out listening to commercial stuff, so I can’t really blame them. You go deeper and deeper and learn to appreciate the more underground stuff.
As an artist whose appearances have been getting more and more high-profile, does the whole mainstream-vs.-underground argument bother you much?
Good music will always be good music. I can always enjoy a good hook Avicii does; I wouldn’t play it but I enjoy it and understand that. People are being too hard on each other—not about commercial, etc.; just about what sounds good in certain arenas.
Your sound doesn’t purvey the typical Swedish hallmarks. Talk us through how you cut your teeth as an artist within the country?
All of my close friends evolved at the same time, so when one got into the underground, the rest did. In that sense it worked well—we had a strong community. All the other friends who were into house were like, “What the hell?” They thought it was all about pills and basement parties. We all educated each other. When someone heard something new it was [passed] down. The majority wasn’t into electronic music. There were different communities that met at parties, but essentially my world existed within my friendship group—we all fell in love with it.
With such a positive community vibe at your mercy, where did those initial footsteps towards a recording career come from?
My friend showed me Propellerheads Reason and Joachim Garraud. I always loved his sound and a friend showed me how easy it could be done. Then I thought, “Hell, maybe I can do this, too.” I used to hang around on forums a lot, getting feedback from Laidback Luke, where people like AN21 and Avicii were hanging out. He could tell people how to side-chain or equalize or beef up the kicks, which all really helped. A lot of it came from trying to imitate the best bits of certain tracks. In time, I just got closer and closer to what I wanted to achieve.
Your sound is often associated with the muddy coinage “progressive house.” Does the recent influx of wrong use of the term bother you?
I always loved that dreamy sort of music that builds and builds. That was always what got me going in the club, so it made sense that I pursued this type of music. It pissed me off in the beginning, but now I can’t really be bothered. Some people call the progressive stuff from ’07-’08 “techno” now, which probably pisses some people off. The genres seem to just confuse people along the lines.
To that extent, do you believe that the genre boundaries are there to followed or broken from an artist’s perspective?
To an extent, guys like Digweed don’t want to say they play progressive house, even though he technically does. It seems quite important to people to brand themselves as a genre. For me you can float around all genres and build into a bigger picture.
How did you first fall under the spotlight of Eric Prydz, and has he broken his renowned studio secrecy for you over the years?
I looked up to him as an artist and finally met him at his shows. We had some mutual friends who put in a good word for me. My friend was sending my stuff to him and one day he seemed to start enjoying it. We have been friends ever since and I have learned so much from him. He is very secretive about how he produces, but in terms of DJing he has given me a lot of insight along the way.
Your Dhillon moniker has seen you stumble upon the realms of techno for Adam Beyer’s Drumcode imprint. Is this a moniker we can expect to see more of in the future?
You never know what you feel like producing, so I can’t really control what comes out. At least for the first six months, it needs to be about J.O. Dhillon I just make to put in my sets and label as Dhillon because it lacks the melodic element. I definitely intend to pursue it and throw more stuff towards Adam and other amazing techno labels. I have always held a love for techno ever since I found the deeper side of electronic music. I started to pick up on elements that I could add to the overall techno sound.
Do you think that America will ever warm to the sound of techno the way they have certain other genres?
I definitely see techno being appreciated like that. I think it is on the way. Guys like Marco Carola had their own stages at festivals this year and I am reading a lot about positive shows in New York. It feels like the whole underground scene is blooming again and people are beginning to dig deeper. They are sick of hearing the same thing and that is good for everyone. Those that do dig deeper will find this whole other world always available to them.
“Let Me Feel” has already proven a landmark single for 2013 and a strong set staple. Talk us through the new Pryda Friends single?
I felt like at the end of my sets I always want people to leave with a good memory—I wanted a happy song to put in their heads. I had a couple of songs I used to finish with but needed a new one. “Let Me Feel” just kept right up. I wanted to return to Pryda with a bigger track than usual. Apparently, Eric really liked it and has even been kind enough to remix it, so it is a hugely exciting release.
It seems fair to say that 2013 looks to establish you as far more than another Prydz protégé. What further aspirations do you hold within your career?
I definitely want to do that. I have plans to start my own label, and I think that will really help establish myself as my own artist, while keeping a finger on the pulse of my career. I just hope people can look back on this time with a smile on their face and remember having the time of their lives at this period in time. No one needs to idolize me; just associate it with a positive moment in the industry.
Has the balance of an active tour schedule and the demand for new material created challenges for you along the way?
Sometimes when I am not feeling creative I will try and force it out rather than taking the time out to deal with a writer’s block. You can have three weeks of writer’s block and you are still there trying to make something happen. It is hard to learn your lesson and learn how to deal through those little pockets.
What can we expect from you for the foreseeable future in terms of studio material?
I have one release on Hernan’s label on a compilation that is due on April 22, and then I recently did a remix for 16 Bit Lolitas, which drops in March. Then a remix/edit for Golden Girls’ “Kinetic” out on May 5, and one of my favorite clubs, Cat and Dog in Tel Aviv, is starting their own label, which I will have two originals on as well.