When the name "Swedish House Mafia" was still just a joke between musical buddies in Stockholm - long before its label deal with EMI, the global sponsorship with Absolut Vodka or blowout headlining gigs at New York's Madison Square Garden and the Coachella festival - the now-famous trio had a fourth member in tow. To many, Eric Prydz was considered the main progenitor of the group's arena-sized sound and the key link among Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso and Axwell. If these three are the Mafia, then Prydz is the Godfather.
However, the 35-year-old DJ/producer behind the group's early but complex instrumental tracks that make electronic dance music nerds woozy wasn't cut out for supergroup stardom. He considers himself a studio "control freak" who can't abide collaboration, even with close friends, and he also has a crippling fear of flying, which doesn't exactly bode well for the jet-setting DJ lifestyle. Once the buddies latched onto the Swedish House Mafia name as an actual collective brand instead of simply an inside joke, Prydz bailed and went solo.
Now Prydz is preparing to introduce himself to the American market in grand fashion. He released "Eric Prydz Presents Pryda" (Astralwerks), a retrospective of favorites and outtakes from his self-run Pryda label, on May 22. On July 19, he'll hit the road as a headliner for the Identity Festival, the second year of Live Nation's multi-act EDM tour - traveling by bus.
Prydz first rocked the global dance scene in 2004 with his Steve Winwood-sampling international hit single, "Call on Me," which has racked up nearly 35 million YouTube views. "'Call on Me' proved that dance music could be commercial again," manager Michael Sershall says. "Then, the rest of the Swedes came along."
The members of Swedish House Mafia upped their games aggressively throughout the years that followed, starting their own individual labels and touring the world. Prydz set up Pryda mostly for his own productions, and also started the imprint Pryda Friends for artists he selected to mentor. He even visited America in 2007 but, due to his fear of flying, he couldn't criss-cross the globe as freely as his friends. Also in 2007, Prydz created the only official Pink Floyd remix - the Grammy Award-nominated "Proper Education," a rerub of "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II" that reached the top of Billboard's Hot Dance Airplay chart.
In a way, all these moves fed the Prydz mystique. Serious EDM heads blissed out to expansive instrumentals like "Pjanoo" and "private collection" mixes of known songs like the Floyd cut, which the band itself selected for release. Swedish House Mafia fans wondered about the landlocked mastermind back home in Sweden, opting out of his buddies' worldwide fist-pump.
"Eric Prydz Presents Pryda" is available in two configurations: as a single CD of unreleased gems and as a comprehensive three-CD set of the Pryda catalog, all licensed by Astralwerks. SiriusXM's dance-dedicated BPM channel hosted two exclusive track premieres, as well as an on-air album feature during street week. Prydz debuted a new monthly podcast, "Epic," on May 18 that is the second-most popular music podcast on iTunes. There will also be a Spotify track-by-track feature and a partnership with the Identity Festival.
For Prydz, the ramp-up has been exciting, but he hasn't been frustrated by his limited international exposure. "It's never really been a concern of mine that I haven't been able to get my piece of the cake," he says. "If I could fly every day, then obviously I could try and conquer the world. But it's never been about success for me - it's about making music."