In his book The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, author John Seabrook explores modern day pop hits and the story behind those who have crafted the new hits, including Norway’s very own Stargate. We reached out to hear what drove his interest to the production duo and what he thinks made them become regulars on the top charts.
Congratulations on the success with The Song Machine. Why did you write this book?
– I thought it would help people better understanding what they were listening to when they listened to pop. I also find moments of inspiration fascinating, flashes of geniuses – my previous book was about those moments, in the realm of technology and industry. It’s my theme.
How did Stargate influence you when it comes to “The Song Machine”?
– It started with them. That was the first studio I spent any time in. And they introduced me to Ester Dean [songwriter and long time collaborator with Stargate]. So they were hugely helpful. And they do read, and can explain things.
In your opinion, what are some of the key elements to Stargate’s success?
– The key is their early love of hip hop. That’s what keeps them on the edge as pop producers. They can actually work with dudes like Wiz Khalifa. Max Martin couldn’t do that.
How do you see the status of the Scandinavian/Nordic pop sound these days?
– It’s not what it used to be. It’s less sweet. We’ve come a long way from ABBA and even from, say, the cardigans. I think it’s gotten quite a bit darker.
Why do you think the American market seems more obsessed with hits than the rest of the world?
– Hits fit well into the winner take all society that we have built, for better or worst. Hits are not a very socialist enterprise. There’s something fairly Darwinian about the system. Our media is very hit driven. Not just about music – about everything. We are a deeply commercial society, and hits are an important measure of currency.
Seebrook has also written Flash of Genius (2008) and Nobrow (2001) and Deeper (1998).