Basshunter is guzzling beer and laying down new tracks in a recording studio late on a Friday night. He's slightly drunk when he calls me from his home country of Sweden. "It's my first time being home for more than a few days," he mutters with a heavy accent. "It's nice. I have time to work and get shitfaced."
Basshunter King Cat Theater, 2130 Sixth Ave., 448-2829, kingcattheater.com. $30–$95. Ages 16 plus. 8 p.m. Sat., June 6.
The 24-year-old dance DJ (real name, Jonas Altberg) hasn't had time off since catapulting to international fame last year, thanks to Now You're Gone, an album featuring English remakes of tracks he had previously distributed himself via the Internet. Truth be told, its success is absolutely baffling. The makeshift music sounds as if it were recorded by a college student in his dorm room. It's a far cry from the sleek, polished records that typically rule the dance charts. Still, there are other reasons why Basshunter's success is astonishing.
In middle school, he was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome—a neuropsychiatric disorder associated with involuntary movements and behavior. Although Basshunter's case wasn't as severe as others', his uncontrollable tics led to incessant taunting by his classmates. Embarrassed, he retreated into isolation and spent his days playing computer games and listening to dance music like Warp Brothers and DJ Rocco.
"I was a lone wolf," he recalls. "I had no friends. I was constantly on the computer...And that's how I discovered a music program called FruityLoops."
FruityLoops, now known as FL Studio, is an audio workstation program that can be downloaded off the Internet. By 17, the still-shy student was beginning to explore electronic music as a way of self-medicating with beats. Shortly afterward, he started creating and releasing songs under the name Basshunter—in reference to his love for catchy bass lines—and distributing them via his own Web site. His first album, The Bassmachine (2004), caught the attention of dance-club owners in Sweden who asked him to DJ at their venues. He spent several years performing across the country, and as his popularity grew, throughout Europe. Record label scouts eager for fresh talent started to show up at the in-demand DJ's gigs.
Basshunter says that his tics slowly faded as he began to concentrate less on his peers' ridicule and more on his blossoming career as an artist. "I'll always have Tourette's," he says. "And I'll never forgot the things they said about me...but I also don't care nearly as much."
He also hasn't forgotten the simple yet infectious sound that made him famous. When Warner Music Sweden signed Basshunter to a record deal in 2006, the DJ continued to use FL Studio to create his music rather than upgrade to more professional hardware. In a genre where the sophistication of one's producing equipment is considered to be of high importance, it's unheard of that someone at his level would use the program.
"I've used other programs, but I prefer this [FL Studio]," he says. "It's an excellent program for producing electronic music. It allows you to make amazing beats. There are thousands of producers and singers out there spending $500,000 creating 30 to 40 songs a year—and they haven't even gotten close to achieving what I've achieved using my computer and a microphone that in total cost about $800."
Basshunter's financially savvy efforts have resulted in infectious Europop tunes filled with relentless pounding, cellular phone-like bleeps, and schmaltzy boy-band choruses with mind-numbingly simple lyrics. On "All I Ever Wanted," a synth-heavy track filled with thumping bass and hooks, he sings, "I know that I love you/Oh baby, why don't you see/That all I ever wanted/Was you and me." It may not impress critics, but it certainly appeals to clubgoers.
"Don't make things complicated," Basshunter philosophizes. "The best way to hit the market is through something simple and catchy...and then make yourself one hell of a good music video."
He certainly follows his own advice. The visuals aiding his music typically consist of gorgeous, leggy women dancing their asses off in the club. "It's a computer nerd's dream to be surrounded by beautiful women," the DJ says gleefully.
Nerdy he is. Basshunter often strays from interview questions to share his theories on aliens (they exist) and show off his Arnold Schwarzenegger impression (it's dead-on). He seems to sense I'm getting impatient after the third or fourth impersonation, and apologizes, saying he's probably been drinking too much. What's funny is that Basshunter is also drop-dead gorgeous. His broad shoulders, dark hair, and chiseled cheekbones make him one of the hottest, if not the hottest, computer geeks on the planet. And it's clear that he knows it, despite his insistence on playing up the nerd factor.
"You know when you go out to a club and hook up with a girl afterwards? I'm, like, the master of that," he boasts when our conversation turns to nightlife.
Then is his woe-is-me story a bunch of bull? How the hell did a lone wolf with Tourette's end up becoming the world's hottest beer-guzzling, skirt-chasing dance DJ? Basshunter laughs. "It's because I spend a lot of time on the computer," he says. "And if you want to know how to do something, there is a lot of information available on the Internet."