Dance

20 Questions With DJ Seinfeld: On His New Album & The Best Episode of His Namesake Sitcom

Dj Seinfeld
Kasia Zacharko*

Dj Seinfeld

When his father suffered a stroke several years ago, DJ Seinfeld's time off between tour stops began looking different. Instead of hitting the studio or flitting off on vacation, when shows ended, the Swedish producer born Armand Jakobsson would return to his native Malmö to help care for his dad.

It wasn't the high-flying DJ lifestyle many imagine, but for Jakobsson, it was a catalyst for evolution.

"Aside from the obvious tragedy of the situation, it’s also helped ground me in reality," he says in a statement. "Even when I was at the peak of touring, I’ve always had something I’ve had to come home to and contribute to, and it’s meant I’ve grown up a lot and really seen the importance of having a happy relationship and a good group of friends around who will nurture you and appreciate your idiosyncrasies.”

This same message about the weight of importance of relationships (and this same self-reflective emotional intelligence) extends deeply into Jakobsson's music, and most currently onto his sophomore album Mirrors, out tomorrow (September 3) via Ninja Tune. The followup to his 2017 debut LP Time Spent Away From U -- which made Jakobsson a favorite among tastemakers like Flying Lotus, Flume and Bonobo -- Mirrors is smart dance music with groove, heart and a refinement that also doesn't take itself too seriously.

Growing up in a musical family -- his mother is a piano teacher, his sister is a professional cellist and opera singer, and his father was an opera singer as well -- Jakobsson himself studied classical piano before starting a career in business and then doing a 180 into DJing, taking his artist name from the sitcom he binged-watched while recovering from a bad breakup. He rose into the scene around 2016, alongside contemporaries like Ross From Friends, Mall Grab and DJ Boring, a group with excellent music and sort of silly names that altogether forged the lo-fi house genre that's expanded now via Jakobsson's new album.

Recorded between Berlin and Malmö, Mirrors alternates between moods of melancholy, desire, true love, a sort of wistful joy and hard-earned optimism. Altogether, the tight, ten-song collection embodies a lushness of sound that works for both the dancefloor and at-home listening. But Jakobsson is currently spending less and less time at home, as he's currently on tour in Europe, with a North American run kicking off in early 2022.

Here, Jakobsson reflects on his new album, his dad and, of course, his favorite episode of Seinfeld.

1. Where are you in the world right now, and what's the setting like?

I'm currently in rainy Berlin, sitting on my girlfriend's bed listening to some stuff I’m working on at the moment.

2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself, and what was the medium? 

I think it must have been the vinyl of DJ Rolando's "Knights of the Jaguar." I got it from this record store called Underground Solushn in Edinburgh during my first year of university. I got it, and many others, without owning any record player. Still don’t, to be honest. Not my wisest investment.

3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do they think of what you do for a living now?

My dad was an opera singer for over 40 years, and my mom has been a music teacher for almost as long. I resisted going into music for a long time, because I saw firsthand how stressful it can be. But once I did I never regretted it, and my parents are very happy to see me dedicate myself to music. Even though it's a very different part of the musical world than their own.

4. What was the first song you ever made?

I made a track for my friend called ”Cowchild.” He was once asked in English class what the offspring of a cow is called, and that was his incredible reply.

5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into electronic music, what would you give them?

I think melodies and atmospheres transcend genres the easiest, and one album which has a lot of this type of romantic electro-acoustic style is Pantha du Prince's Black Noise. Makes for a great listen for people without any type of experience of electronic music, I would say, and captures a lot of what can be done in that world.

6. What’s the first non-gear thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as an artist?

I think it was this black leather backpack from a small backstreet store in Barcelona. I still use it today, and it's full of random coins that have slipped through imperceptible cracks in the fabric. I have no idea where they are [inside the jacket] though; its pretty strange.

7. What's the first electronic music show that really blew your mind?

Maybe Donato Dozzy, when he played in Malmö about 10 years ago. It wasn’t very full, and I was alone with a clique of old ravers from the city. I was transfixed though; he’s a master of hypnotic techno. It was just so exciting. I had just started going out.

8. Your native Sweden has a reputation for exporting these huge, superstar EDM producers like Avicii, Swedish House MafiaAlesso etc. What's the country's more underground scene like?

Every city has a different vibe to it in terms of the underground scene. In general [in Sweden], there’s a very potent mix of talent and effort, but there’s no real sense of ”scene” in my opinion. People kind of just do their own thing, and though there’s often respect and admiration for each other, there’s nothing that I can say I feel part of. I have a lot of friends doing amazing music, but that’s about it. The rave scene has its ups and downs, but I’ve just been too put off by certain things that happen, and certain people.

9. Your music has been given the lo-fi house title. Did that genre name resonate with you when it was first applied? And what would you say is the current status of the genre? 

Sure, I understood it. But I’ve gone on to do different styles since then. It doesn’t mean I don’t like it, but it’s just part of a natural evolution, I think. It was a relatively conscious move in other ways too -- it was an Internet genre, and so it was bound by the same laws that govern other types of hype, too. I don’t really know what the status is, I just see the people you mention and others do their own thing, and do it really really well. It’s inspiring to see what some of those artists have created.

10. You sample a really poignant voice message on "These Things Will Come to Be" where a woman just sort of expounds on how much she loves and misses the person she's calling. Who is that speaking? What's the story behind it? 

It’s a spoken word poem by Sarah Lyoness. I found it because I’ve always found something interesting in taking things that form part of people's day-to-day interactions and re-contextualizing them. Its definitely a wink back to what I did on my first album, and to the time where certain voicemails had a big impact on my life. It wasn’t the most obscure sample I’ve found for sure, but I think it had a really beautiful timbre and pace to it. It had what I was looking for.

11. Mirrors is a really gorgeous amalgamation of melancholy, groove and sort of intellectual, effervescent energy. How closely does the mood of the album align with who you are as a person?

Thank you! I hold honesty as the most crucial component of my music, so I would like to think that it does reflect myself in some shape or form. Melancholy and nostalgia are almost musical cliches at this point, but I think once you put in the work, thought and heart into it, those terms find a new and personalized definition.

I’m not that interested in general nostalgia; I’m interested in why I feel it at various times. It’s the same reason I always listen to the same song while walking down certain streets -- like in Malmö or Edinburgh -- only 10 years later. Perhaps there’s something unresolved, something I couldn’t quite let go despite all that time having passed. But even that is enough for me, it tells me something about myself that I cannot yet qualify into words, but only through music.

12. Your father's stroke has influenced your career in that it's made it so you spend periods of time at home with your family. How do you experience that juxtaposition between touring/DJ life and home/family life?

It makes you grow up a lot, I’d say. You prioritize things differently; you see potential vulnerabilities and problems more so than before. But it’s also made me appreciate family, my girlfriend and my friends a lot more. Touring allows me to have a breather of sorts, and I finally think I’ve found the balance.

13. What's the biggest lesson that helping take care of your father has taught you?

I’ve never seen him this happy as he is now, despite the major consequences he’s suffered. What burdened him before seems to have faded away. His strength and positivity is something I try and carry with me all the time.

14. What does success for Mirrors look like to you?

A bustling live show tour and seven Grammys.

15. Who's your favorite character from your namesake television show, and why?

George. He’s the only one really struggling.

16. And, your favorite episode?

This changes all the time, but I think ”The Rye” takes the gold at the moment.

17. Finish this sentence: the most exciting thing happening in dance music right now is ___.

The U.K. Garage revival.

18. What's the best business decision you've ever made?

Leaving the business world and becoming a DJ.

19. Who was your greatest mentor, and what was the best advice they gave you?

My dad, I would say. It wasn’t through words, but through how he has always been a hard worker and there for everyone who needed him.

20. One piece of advice you'd give to your younger self? 

Don't take things so seriously.