Ten Years of Size: Steve Angello unveils tell all story; from early beginnings and fatherhood, to his new era, new album, and new label
It’s nearing 8pm, the sun is setting on the Fontainebleau just like any other warm, spring Thursday evening in South Beach. Steve Angello steps out of Arkadia’s poolside entrance, hurries to a nearby cabana, and responds with one rushed yet firm “I’m multitasking” to the few trying to earn his attention. He takes a seat and flips open his laptop simultaneously, wasting no time before jabbing at his keyboard. Blocking out the chatters of his team and the bass of Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano’s closing track that radiated from the Size Matters stage nearly fifty yards away, he puts finishing touches on a mix that he’d been preparing mere moments earlier. It’s his first time being outdoors in Miami, having spent the first three days of his stay locked in the studio, and his focus is radiating as if he never left.
This isn’t the Steve Angello of old, and the few added inches to his hair isn’t the difference maker. He’s six months without a drink, sober and clear minded, and the looming final show of Swedish House Mafia is only one of the major enterprises on the Size head honcho’s agenda. Amongst his plate of tasks, accomplishments, and family matters, the ten year anniversary of his record label is approaching, and Steve takes the time to reflect on the past decade, reveal the inner-workings of his current projects, open up about fatherhood, and to glimpse into the future.
Offering the insight that many modern DJs-turned-label heads cannot, he touches upon being a kid in Sweden during the late 1990s, still in the vinyl era, when “it wasn’t as easy as it is to put something out today.” Steve recalls a ₤6,000 price tag for the production of one record, making the chances of getting signed “super minimal.” Drawing comparisons to modern operations and the low costs of production today, he reminisces on a time when he had to start from scratch without digital aid. “You had to travel for hours, you had to travel to deliver a white label sometimes to a DJ that would probably just look at it and put it aside,” he continues. But proclaiming “you’ve got to become a businessman when you’re 16 years old,” Steve was motivated to produce music and to build discipline, work ethic, and a business mind early on.
“Motivation to start my own label was because no one wanted to sign our music. We were brand new upcoming kids from Sweden and they were like ‘who are these fucking guys?’ That was the motivation, I was like ‘I’m just going to do it myself.'”
When the notion is suggested to him that he possibly never could’ve imagined the heights that his Size brainchild has since reached, Steve abruptly sighs with a “no, no, no.” “I had a vision very early on how I would like it to be, and I had a vision of creating my own lights and my own parties, and building my brand,” he puts that notion to rest. With a strong intuition and belief in his own dreams, he asserts his eye for goal attainability and traces the reward of his mentality back to 2008 in Stockholm, Sweden at a monumental show with Sebastian Ingrosso.
“In 2008 me and Sebastian played in Stockholm. It was held in the city center to celebrate 08-08-08, because 08 is the area code of Stockholm. We had a huge celebration, they shut off the street and 96,000 people came. When we did that show, I told Sebastian afterwards that I was never ever going to play in Stockholm again until I could do something as big. So I didn’t play in Stockholm until last year at Friends Arena.”
He points to a hometown story that spawned the meteoric rise of Swedish House Mafia as an example of how he identifies his own dreams and executes precisely. “I just go 1000% when I go after it,” he continues to chalk up his success to determination and drive.
Today Steve finds himself even further down the path he had envisioned as a kid in Sweden. He’s no longer delivering white labels to DJs, Swedish House Mafia is now a name in the history books rather than a dream, and electronic music has exploded in front of his very eyes. Manning one of the most successful labels in dance through a decade of change, Angello insists that Size Records hasn’t adapted with the electronic climate, but that it’s adapted with his personal preference. “I put out records that I play, I put out records that I want to put out because I believe in it and because I love the record,” he explains. Affirming that Size Records is, in essence, the cerebral power of Steve Angello, he recognizes; “that’s the benefit of being the force behind a label… I don’t care what people think about records.”
Angello sets the precedent for dance music rather than abiding by it, and the eras of Size Records aren’t defined by the surrounding culture, but by his own musical prowess. He draws parallels to his versatility and confidence as a DJ to the payoff of his instinct for his label.
“I can range from doing the regular 2 big hours to going 10 hours or 12 hours. I can play anything from minimal to almost trance. I could play really groovy techno to deep house. So for me it’s like, if I like it I put it out. I believe in music in general, I think there’s a lot of amazing music out there and I just want to be doing what I believe in.”
These eras of Size are being steered by Steve, but he’s quick to admit, “even though I’m involved in everything I can’t do it myself.” Broadening his brand the way he has over the past decade, he finds himself in the position to further extend his influence thanks to his supporting team. There’s more to running dance music’s most diverse and well respected label than releasing records and signing artists, so Angello covers all the bases and more. He begins dishing out credit; “Management, Iyoas, all the guys that work on my shows, agents, our very nice creative agency that I own that does all the artwork and videos.” More than a musician, more than a pioneer, more than a DJ, Steve Angello is an entrepreneur, and the authority of Size is everywhere.
“We have so many other business as well, we own hotels and we own restaurants. I just manage to find people who are very good at what they do in all types of businesses. It helps me develop the label, helps me take it to a different level with people that have different knowledge then just dance music.”
With his hands in both the music and business world, he finds middle grounds to assert the knowledge of his team in relation to its foundation of dance. “They think differently,” he says of his staff. “We got into this in the beginning because it was different, so we have to keep it different.” Referring to the common denominator of innovation, he further finds the association between business building and dance music: “You’re trying to build an experience, you’re trying to build a story.”
Sold out arenas, 100 imprinted releases, successful businesses, one of the strongest legacies in dance music, but none of those are Steve’s proudest forces. His pride is his family; his wife Isabel and his two daughters, Monday-Lily and Winter-Rose. Steve begins to express the impact that his children have had on his life and career: “Everything can always grow, everything can always get better, I’ve always believed in that.” He goes on to describe the feeling he gets when he returns home to his children and the amazing times they share. Swelling with sentiment, his charismatic smile grows wider, the part of his face unhidden by his beard goes blush… something struck a chord in Steve Angello.
“When I had my kids I realized it wasn’t just about drinking and going out partying. I stopped drinking 6 months ago, I haven’t had a sip of alcohol since October, it helps you clear your head. Having kids is a new experience for me… they’re my best production yet.”
Despite ownership of a prestigious empire and all that falls beneath it, blood is at the core of his values. That family man mentality emanates through his brand from the artists to the behind-the-scenes figures. That family man mentality is why each and every Size artist refers to the label as a family, why they have a brotherly chemistry, and why Size Records is such an authoritative imprint.
Steve begins a run down of his artists beginning with Third Party: “they’re doing amazing, I love those guys, they’re…” He pauses mid-sentence, looks up, and calls on a constituent. “Brandon, can we clear the cabana so its easier to do my interview,” he calmly insists. Though he hadn’t appeared to lose focus. He hadn’t drifted away from his conversation once. “Wayne and Woods are doing amazing, they’re still on the development…” He pauses again, but doesn’t look up this time. He points his finger in the air and tilts his head for his ear to face the sky as well. “Brandon,” he calls again. “Tell Dan to run to the stage, something’s wrong.” The sound was coming from a stage in the distance, and no one but Steve had heard the problem with it. “It’s a phase fault, tell them to unplug the microphone,” he tells Brandon. He unintentionally reveals the caliber of his trained ear. The rare ear of a profound musician whose mind naturally syncs with sound.
It’s that expertise that has helped shape everything that has fallen under the Size umbrella, and his forthcoming artist album is foreknown to be the apex of his genius. “It’s almost done,” he says in the same tone that he had in October of last year. He is talking about Wild Youth, and he’s painting its picture; “I could still do the bangers and still use Mescal Kid and Who’s Who, but this album is completely different.” He infers that his tech-monikers will be left off the album, but confirms that he’s worked with artists that he’s dreamed of working with his whole life and that the end result will be unprecedented… something of the future.
“I’m taking a whole different direction that I’ve ever done before. I’m going to do something that I’ve never experienced, something completely different than anything I’ve ever done. The whole point it to just be different. I just feel like I just need to change. I’m a little scared, it’s a whole different level for me. I have the songs, the songs are ready. There’s a lot of live instruments, there’s a lot of guitars, a lot of live bass, live strings, I’ve worked with a quartet. Still very electronic, still me, you still hear it. It’s just different.”
He’s covered his roots, the beginnings of Size, the present, and he is looking towards the future. With young Swedish protégés under his wing and an avant-garde album in the final stages of production, Steve is also advancing Size Records with a sister label. “We’re launching X, it’s going to be a lot different, it’s going to be a lot different from the Size releases,” he reveals his next project, which should come natural considering the task. “I’m going to focus on the techier stuff and the more beat driven stuff,” he says proudly, eager to let Mescal Kid live through a modern outlet.
It didn’t have to be said, it was felt. Size Records is more than a record label, it’s more than a business, it’s a cohesive brotherhood where each dedicated member is looking to benefit another. A brotherhood where otherwise complex operations run like a well-oiled machine, powered by the talent within dance music’s most consummate alliance, powered by the trust instilled in one of dance music’s most ingenious icons. Size Records is a family, and Steve Angello is the proud parent.
Thomas Gold is finishing up his set at the Fontainebleau pool and Steve is moments away from starting his. Although free time is the last thing on his mind, he wraps up with his post-Ultra itinerary. When Size Records turns ten years old on April 6th, Steve Angello will be recharging at home with his family. It will be just another day, just like any of the other days during the first ten years of Size — and when the day is through, he’ll get started on the next ten.