You’ve heard of Parov Stelar, whether or not you know it.
The Austrian composer/producer’s music has appeared on two high-profile commercials in the US, with his track “Booty Swing” appearing on the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas resort and casino ad, and “Chambermaid Swing” in a Bacardi commercial. Both were used to capture the sophisticated party mood of the roaring 20s with a hint of modern programming, and indeed, Parov charmed the rum-drinking, hotel-dwelling public.
The music of Parov Stelar has been so beloved over his 14+ year career that he even helped coined the term “electro swing” and essentially built a movement. Though, his gorgeous classic genre hodge podge two-part album The Princess is far from strictly a convenient blend of two genres. We spoke to him about pigeonholing, about Austria, and about playing with a real band with real instruments.
This has been a pretty damn successful year for you. You’ve been doing this a long time though, so would you say that this has been a pivotal year in your career, specifically stateside, or just another wave of people recognizing your music?
Yes that’s true.. 2012 was pretty successful indeed, but it was a long way. I started releasing Music as Parov Stelar in 2004 and every year and every release was important to build my career. I’m very happy about what we achieved and fortunately things get still bigger. It’s fantastic that people from the states are starting listening to my music and brands use my tracks in their commercials. I think everything happens at the right time, so it’s probably the best decision to start touring in the states this year.
Your songs that have been used in commercials are conveying a certain aesthetic and time period, mixed with a libertine attitude. Is that something you intended when you worked on The Princess? (and for that matter, your previous releases)
I would definitely say about myself that I have a libertine attitude. When I started making music nobody believed in my sound, that’s why I founded my own label. I’ve always tried to find my individual fulfillment in producing music.. and the longer I did it the more people got interested in it. I adore sounds and aesthetics from jazz to funk, hip-hop or house music and always try to create my own aesthetic in the end. Usually I work with lots of samples, so it’s the art of sampling old sounds combined with a modern attitude.
What inspired your video for “The Princess”?
First of all “The Princess” as an album and track title stands for glamour and glitter and everything people associate with the life of a princess or with the life of a musician. But it also stands for much darker aspects you might not see on the first view. The pressure of being stuck in a role and having to fulfill expectations is not easy. And that’s what it is about….The video gives you the chance to think about the life of the Princess and to interpret it in your own way.
How much crate-digging (digging for old records) do you do for your live DJ sets and inspiration? What kinds of records do you usually look for?
I’m really a vinyl lover, and I’m looking for everything that inspires me in any way. It doesn’t matter if it’s a swing or a funk track. But I also like the digital world and the fact of having every track available through a cloud whenever and wherever I am. I’ve been travelling too much and I’m tired of carrying vinyl cases around. My DJ sets nowadays include live saxophone and live trumpets. This is the way I get the analog sounds from and I like it.
What do you feel about the term “electro swing”? Of course it’s pretty descriptive in more obvious cases, but it sounds almost gimmicky and simplistic, considering how many places your music goes. What do you think?
I totally agree with you. I think it’s seven years ago when I spoke to a French journalist. He asked me how I would describe the genre of some of my tracks and I said “electro swing.” It’s true there are some aspects of electro swing in some of my tracks for sure.. but I have much more variety in sound beside electro swing. That’s why I wouldn’t describe myself as an electro swing artist nowadays.
What initially got you into the more classic genres?
Ever since I started listening to music I was interested in classic genres. I like the quality and the sounds of the old classic stuff. It was mostly recorded in an easy way with less technical equipment, which gives it a warm and organic sound. Combined with cold digital electronic sounds it’s a perfect mixture.
Has Austria been good to you?
Haha…good question…I would say Austria is divided in two parts. On the one hand there are so many fans who have supported me and gone to all my concerts. That’s amazing. And on the other hand there are the media guys who almost ignored me for a long time. Even today it’s pretty difficult for me to get radio airplay for example. But the situation is getting better. All together I think becoming famous in Austria as an Austrian is not easy.
What, as a programmer, have you learned from playing with a live band with arrangements? What do you think producer/DJs today can learn from being around trained live musicians?
First of all, live musicians are not machines even if they sometimes seem to be. Live shows become simply organic and unique every time. On the other hand, you’re not as flexible as a single DJ. And I’ve learned it’s much more fun to travel around with other people and share situations with them. I mean a computer is and always will be a computer and being on the road with a couple of friends is a brilliant feeling.
What’s next for Parov Stelar?
Where should I start? There are so many things planned for the next year(s). My band and I will keep on doing what we do best, without stopping our personal and artistic development. We’d like to come to the states more often from now on, but I also want to spend as much time as possible with my wife and my son who is just three months young. I really look forward to the future and want to make people happy with my music and try to spread as much love as possible around the world.