Stargate, the Norwegian production duo of Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen, have more clout than Diplo — at least with one pop superstar.
Along with Jr. Blender, Diplo co-produced Stargate’s new single “Waterfall,” which marks the veteran duo’s first crack at stepping out of the studio and having their shared name listed as a recording artist. Having over a decade’s worth of experience crafting beats for the world’s biggest pop artists certainly helps to pad a rolodex, and Stargate has stepped forward with both Pink AND Sia featured on “Waterfall,” which was released on Friday (Mar. 10).
“Diplo said, ‘Oh, you got Sia to sing on it? I can’t even get her to return my texts!’” says Hermansen with a laugh. “Luckily, we have a long-standing relationship with her.”
Along with helming the Sia-penned “Diamonds” for Rihanna, Stargate has produced smashes for Beyonce (“Irreplaceable”), Selena Gomez (“Come & Get It”), Ne-Yo (“Miss Independent”), Iggy Azalea (“Black Widow”), Fifth Harmony (“Worth It”) and Wiz Khalifa (“Black and Yellow”), among many others. Yet the duo, who started out as a songwriting team in Norway in the late ‘90s, never came to the conclusion that they should follow the pattern of several modern EDM stars and release material under their own name—that is, until they had a conversation with Coldplay’s Chris Martin last year.
“When we were making the Coldplay album [2015’s A Head Full of Dreams], we spent a lot of time with Chris,” Hermansen explains. “He basically said, ‘You guys have never been out there and felt the power of your music, and what it does to people.’ He invited us to come and DJ in front of a Coldplay concert at the Rose Bowl. We did that in August of last year, and it was a really transforming experience. We got to listen to our old songs as a set, and go out and play it to people. That experience was really the seed of the whole project.”
Eriksen reiterates that putting out a Stargate album with all of the pair’s famous friends as featured artists was not a longtime dream. “We always had songs that we would have loved to put out, but we never really got specific about how to do it,” he says. “It’s been a very quick turnaround from the idea of the project to it coming to fruition.”
The aforementioned project will be a series of singles released in the coming months, potentially to be packaged as an album later this year, and as fodder for a proper tour in 2018. The effervescent “Waterfall” was created after Stargate started considering vocal collaborators to reach out to last year; Sia was at the top of the list. “This song is something that she had done and hadn’t really thought about who it was for,” Hermansen says of Sia. “It was really her idea to bring Pink in — she said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it if I can do it with Pink.’ And we obviously said ‘Absolutely! That would be great!’”
Eriksen adds, “When Pink came to the studio, she was also very loose and effortless and supportive. She said, ‘I love doing features, because I feel like I can get out of my own way.’ It was really impressive to watch her kill it in the studio.”
Although Stargate can’t reveal any more featured guests on upcoming singles, the duo that has helped shape the sound of pop and R&B in the new century is enthusiastic about stepping more into the world of hip-hop. “We’ve always tried to make hip-hop — it’s just that people always try to sing over our beats!” Eriksen says with a laugh. “Hip-hop is basically our first love, and the reason we wanted to come to America in the first place in 2005. We’ve been able to do a few of those things, like ‘Black and Yellow’ and some Drake collaborations, but we definitely want hip-hop to be part of this project.”
Stargate is cautiously optimistic that pop fans will embrace their own material in the way that they’ve devoured the singles they’ve put out from behind-the-scenes. The positive reinforcement of other producers who have made similar transitions into the spotlight has helped the pair launch their own, says Hermansen.
“We’re collaborating with Diplo and Major Lazer and we’ve gotten some good advice. Calvin [Harris] has been very supportive and has said, ‘You guys are going to do what I did!’” He continues, “The new normal is people working together across genres and trying different things. That’s an exciting time. People care about the music, not necessarily what name is on there, or what order the names are in.”