Since branching out into the label domain, Swedish label/blog HMWL has already racked up its fair share of classy releases. The latest such individual to do his thing for them is MAAL, a native of Sweden and a man who only enhances the label’s fledgling reputation amongst house heads in the know. Keen students of sound as well as A&R men, the label seems to have found a knack for unearthing new talent of late. And so it was that we sat down with MAAL for a quick Q&A session ahead of his debut EP for the label…
OTB: Did you grow up in Sweden? What was that like?
I grew up in the southern part of Sweden, which is quite nice and peaceful place. We've got the four seasons thing and I've always been outdoors a lot enjoying being close to nature, friends and family. I did a lot of sports and music and other creative stuff.
OTB: Where do your musical influences come from? Why do you think there are so many great Swedish producers right now?
I grew up in a family with a large interest in music. My mother is an amazing pianist and plays other instruments as well. My brothers always been involved in electronic music, like experimental pop from the early 80s. And I still find inspiration there, tracks were generally much simpler made back then. But I listen to a lot of different music, both old and new. Ranging from jazz to soul but also drum'n'bass and techno. I love visiting large cities with people from all over the world, and that inspires me as well.
I can't really explain the Swedish music phenomena but my theory is that it depends of a number of things. Firstly, since Sweden is a relatively small country, I think we make music to an international audience without even thinking about it. Secondly, since it's so frikking dark and cold here six months of the year, music can be your ticket away from here. Thirdly, we have a strong history in music here, and kids are introduced to it as a subject in school from an early age. Forthly, music is part of being an entreprenur, and Sweden is full of them!
OTB: Do you still buy records? What do you look for in a track before you buy it then?
I never buy physical records anymore. I still have the love for vinyls though, since I used to buy and DJ a lot 10-15 years ago. But now I love that everything is digital and the possibilities that creates to have an amazing spectrum of tracks on a tiny hard drive.
OTB: How did you end up getting your music signed to HMWL? Have you known those guys for a while?
I met Alex (the founder) a few years ago when he was stopping by Stockholm. I took him out for lunch becaus he is one of those guys you just want to know... and I realized we had the same view on things in the music business. And after that we have been in touch. He knew I was making music and one day I showed him the rough demo of No More and he thought it was awesome. I was a bit surprised but super happy so I decided to make the most out of the track, spending hours finishing it. Then the whole HMWL crew loved the final product and later we sealed a deal. Look at me now, releasing stuff on their awesome label!
And what does it mean to have the support of the label?
It means the world to me - it's like coming home music wise. Having to deal with Alex, Paul and Jesper in the HMWL crew is not just great fun; those guys make an incredibly powerful team as well. They know the scene well and have so many useful connections all over the world. I swear that they are the biggest hustlers in the whole industry!
OTB: Your discography seems quite small. Do you see this release as sort of being the first stop on the road for you?
For MAAL this is definitely a first stop and one step in the right direction. I am so excited because it is a lasting journey that just has started. Everything I have learnt during my years producing and DJing is coming together under the MAAL guise, I'm so all in!
OTB: How long have you been producing then? What’s the most important lesson you have since you started?
I've been making music since 1996 and I got my first release out in 2003 and have been releasing stuff now and then on various labels using various aliases (I'm an old dude). The most important lession I've learnt is to actually FINISH the track I'm working on, no matter what. It sometimes takes grit, but without finishing anything you won't be able to show others what you can do. Makes sense, right! My philosophy is to consume less and create more really.
OTB: Do you work with anyone else in the studio?
I write, arrange and produce everything on my own (except the final mastering). It's because I want to be in control and I enjoy being a one-man band. In this release my friend Jonay wrote the lyrics and our amazing friend Sep did the vocals.
OTB: And do you DJ too? Which comes first for you – Djing or producing?
I do DJ and have been playing both in Miami, London and Stockholm before. I love DJing but producing is my number one priority. Even if no one ever would listen to my tracks - I'd still make music because it's good for my head and soul.
OTB: So are you involved in the Swedish scene as a whole then?
I browse and keep up with a lot of music on a daily basis, simply because I love it. I guess I'm looking for that perfect track to get inspiration from. And sometimes when I find something good, it touches me emotionally but also gives me huge amounts of energy. Like a drug. It's also fun to keep up and check out what's new of course.
OTB: How would you sum up your sound to those that don't know?
MAAL makes colorful house music that is deep, rhythmic and seductive.
OTB: Who influences your taste the most these days?
I am listening to a lot of old school jungle and drum'n bass again, I just love that old vibe I was into back in the days. But I am very fascinated by this one person; Claude Von Stroke. What he does is simply brilliant because his work is simple but efficient.
OTB: So did you have a mentor of sorts over the years?
Not really, I've learned everything on my own taking me to where I am today. YouTube is great. But my buddy Mike Shiver and I always have a good chat sharing ideas and skills. He's much better technically though and his little tricks have helped me make progress over the years.
OTB: If you could change one aspect of your production skillset, what would it be?
I get a little static sometimes; I want to include people that are playing real instruments to get that dynamic and organic sound with a human touch. Also, when I let go and let someone else add spirit to a track, it often becomes unpredictable and interesting.
OTB: What’s the one track that you always play on the dancefloor?
Stardust - Music sounds better with you. It still gives me goose bumps all over my body becuase it's just timeless. It's gotta be the most brilliant house track ever made!
OTB: What’s next for you?
Right now I am working on a new remix through my management at HMWL and a couple of new original tracks that I don't have a clue what to do with. Then I will do a couple of more radio shows and a few more interviews. Hopefully this release will take me new places, you know. So go ahead and follow me on Facebook to stay updated. Skål! https://www.facebook.com/maalmusic
MAAL’s No More (featuring Sep) is out now on HMWL