If dance music were high school, Dada Life would be the two popular, trouble-making best friends, the cool partiers who orchestrate pranks, throw parties when your parents are away, and keep everyone laughing in class.
Their not-so-serious approach to dance music was a breath of fresh air, standing out from the "cool guy" image that so many DJs try too hard to portray.
Since their champagne and banana eruption into mainstream dance music, Swedes Olle Corneer and Stefan Engblom have managed to cause multiple massive riots, have their passports revoked after trying to declare Dada Land its own country (missing Miami Music Week), host their own music festival, and break the Guinness World Record for largest pillow fight.
Not to overshadow their music, the Dada Life façade has conjured a free-spirited, fun-loving, cult-like following.
But behind that are two real people who, in 2014, encountered two separate illnesses that took them off of the road and out of the studio for some time in the year, meaning each toured individually for much of 2014.
Back together, headlining Crush Music Festival on Saturday, February 21, at Rawhide and having their new album dropping February 17, we caught up with Olle Corneer to discuss Dadaism and music after cancer.
Up on the Sun: How are you? How's 2015 treating you?
It's good, and it's going to get even better with the tour coming and the album and everything.
Speaking of the tour, you're about to kick off the Dada Land Compound tour that's going to be going through the U.S. and Canada in the spring. You guys always put on a big spectacle. Is there anything new people can expect from your live performances?
Basically, the compound tour is taking everything we've come up with over the years and putting it into one night. We're adding a lot of new secret stuff, too. It's going to be massive. With us, unexpected stuff always happens. Even when we plan it to the last detail, we always fuck it up some way or another.
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Yeah, just got to roll with it. So your tour stops in Phoenix on February 21. You guys have come here quite a few times over the past few years. Does anything stand out to you about the city? Do you have any memorable experiences?
Phoenix and the whole area is beautiful, with the nature and everything, so we are really looking forward to coming there and making it really ugly. When we're done, it's going to be so ugly, you won't want to live there anymore. You'll probably just want to move out of the city.
2014 was a crazy year for you guys. You had had tons of success with your careers, but you also had some serious health issues come up. First with Stefan, who I was told had his entire large intestine removed. Is he doing okay now?
Yeah, he's doing fine now.
Do you know what causes something like that to happen?
Yeah, but I'm not sure if he wants to go into detail about it.
Are you doing better in regard to health? I read your message on your website.
I've been back touring now for a few weeks and it feels great to be back and seeing all of the citizens of Dada Land again, ya know. Seeing all of the smiles and thumping music.
So your health is improving?
Yep, definitely. I've been through chemotherapy, which has went well, and hopefully that was it. I'm going to have to get check-ups and have blood samples taken for, I think, five years? Hopefully, no more treatment.
With both of you going through these types of things, has that altered your creativity at all? As far as the way you produce music or approach what you do?
Yeah. I can only answer for myself. But for me, it's changed my view on making music a lot actually. I was away from the studio for more than a month for treatment, then before that I was a away for a few more weeks. It really made me think about how amazing dance music can be when it's done right. It's the best music in the world to unite people and make them happy and feel good and together as one. It just feels amazing to be one little cog in the machine.
It made you appreciate it more I'm guessing?
Yeah, appreciate it more, but also. I think I'm ready to take bigger risks. I don't think I cared before about what people think of us, but now I care even less. Not caring sounds like a not nice view on life, but not caring also means you're allowing yourself to take bigger risks -- because you don't really care (laughs).
Definitely, what kind of risks are you considering? With music?
With the stuff we do during the shows. If you look back over the years, people might think some of the stuff we're doing like the world record for the biggest pillow fight. People might think that's crazy, I'm just saying, just wait and see what we're going to come up with this year.
What could more crazy than going to the United Nations to try to have Dada Land recognized as its own country?
You'll see, you'll see! [Laughs]
All right, I'll hold it to you.
I can't tell you, but there's going to be a lot of fun with Dada Land Independence Day this year.
Okay, so you guys seem like such happy, cheerful people. Do you have any kind of personal motto or philosophy that helps you maintain that fun and excitement for life?
I think it's just about: If you love what you really do, why not let it show? We love dance music, and like I said before, I love all different kinds of music, but you can't compete with dance music when it comes to uniting people and having that loud bass slapping your face -- nothing on Earth can compete with that feeling. Why not show that to other people?
I checked out your mini mix teaser for Dada Land. Once of the things that really intrigues me about you guys is that you've found this happy place between having a really recognizable branded sound, but also being able to consistently produce new music that doesn't all sound the same. How do you guys continue to stay fresh?
I think for us, the biggest driving force for us, is that we always think that the last track we did was the best, ever. That's what drives us. We just want to compete with ourselves and make something that we think is even better than the last one. We don't look that much at what other people do. We just want to compete with ourselves.
I really like the Dada Life vs. Deadmau5 "This Machine Kills Some Chords." I think Deadmau5 is another good example of somebody whose sound is really mastered. He has a really different sound than you guys, which makes this interesting. How did you guys come to playing around with that track? Is it something he knows about?
No, I know him a bit, so when we started using and playing around with it, we hoped he would like it and approve of it, but you never know. We just wanted to include, how do you say, like a classic, a dance classic on the album. This is such a huge classic, we just wanted to have it on the album. So we started playing around with the vocals, and the melody. I don't know if you've heard it, but the melody from "This Machine Kills Ravers" was really good on top of this music.
Were there any other classic songs that you guys were playing around with that didn't make the cut?
Not really. We want this to be the latest stuff. Like, we want the Welcome to Dada Land album to be like the experience of going to Dada Land, but compressed into an album format. This is roughly what we're playing right now. Not exactly, but we wanted to get that feeling. We don't play that many classics, maybe a few during the night. One seemed like a good idea.
I heard a remix of "Rock n Roll All Night" by Kiss at your show in L.A. at the end of December, which was long overdue for a dance music remix. Will I hear that again from you guys? Or was that a one-time thing?
That's one of the a cappellas we've been playing around with. We always try to find old, classic tracks and a cappellas that are fun to put on top of new tracks that aren't the obvious ones like Nirvana or Red Hot Chili Peppers -- so that's one of the a cappellas we're playing around with, there's a few.
What are the other ones?
I don't even think we are going to try to release stuff like that, it's just fun to play with. You have to come to a show to hear it. It's not worth the paperwork.
Yeah, I can only imagine what that's like. So, your fans are pretty crazy. They've caused riots, they get tattoos of you, they dress up like giant bananas for you, did you ever expect the banana and champagne thing to go as far as it has?
No, we had no clue. We started having it on our rider because it's the perfect combination to keep you going through the night. Then after a year or so, Stefan and I sat down and were brainstorming trying to come up with a logo, we had like 1,000 ideas, it was in our face, it was too close, we were like "bananas and champagne, oh yeah, that's perfect."
What was the deal with your Dada Death PR stunt earlier this year?
It's not a PR stunt. Apparently they never even had our computer, the Dada Death guys, whoever that is. I read on their Facebook or Twitter [that] they just used the same synthesis program as us, so I think probably just heard a preview of the track, and made a version to try and get attention.
So the Dada Death thing was real, and wasn't a marketing gimmick to bring attention to the new album?
No, no. We still don't know him or her or whoever it is. Everything seemed a little strange, to be honest. Like how would they have gotten our computer? My guess is the computer is in a bag somewhere, lost forever.
Because you guys had just had your laptops stolen in December.
Not stolen; that was a misunderstanding. We forgot it on the subway.
The whole Dada Life brand -- the message, graphics, linguistics, and tone -- shares a shocking resemblance to the philosophies associated with the 20th-century Dada art movement. I actually have a quote from the Museum of Modern Art that explains Dada as: "They were united not by a common style but by a rejection of conventions in art and thought, seeking through their unorthodox techniques, performances and provocations to shock society into self-awareness." Is that something you guys thought about?
I think those guys just copied us, taking all of our ideas and recycling them.
Maybe you're reincarnated?
Okay, so you're looking into a crystal ball right now that's going to reveal what's in store for 2015. Any major festival sets, crazy new music videos, or anything fans can get pumped for, besides the new album, this year?
First, we have a lot of big festivals coming of course. I don't know which ones have been announced, so I'm not even going to try to say anything. But, on top of that, we have a lot of new music. We've been in the studio, not as much as we've wanted because of what happened during the fall, but right now we're in the studio, for example, working on new music. I'm excited, I'm always excited, as I told you before, I'm always excited for the last track we're working on. I just want to play it to people and see their reaction.
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