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Inside Track: The Chainsmokers’ ‘Closer’

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: DJ Swivel
Published February 2017
By Paul Tingen

Beyoncé’s right-hand man DJ Swivel has reinvented himself as a mix engineer — and his work with the Chainsmokers produced 2016’s biggest track.

At the time of writing, the Chainsmokers’ ‘Closer’ is set to become the biggest single of 2016. It has enjoyed 12 weeks atop the US singles chart, four weeks at number one in the UK, chart-topping positions in 20-odd other countries, and worldwide sales of four million and counting. The song is just the latest episode in a meteoric rise to the top by the DJ duo, which began in 2014 with the instrumental/spoken-word electro-house track ‘#Selfie’ and continued with the 2015 hit ‘Roses’ (featuring Rozes), and 2016’s ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ (featuring Daya), all worldwide hits. Like these last two, ‘Closer’ features an unknown guest singer — in this case Halsey — but it also introduces Andrew Taggart, one half of the Chainsmokers, as a lead singer.

Let’s Swivel Again

DJ Swivel.DJ Swivel.Photo: Cory VanderploegArguably the main behind-the-scenes contributor to the Chainsmokers’ hit factory is Jordan Young, aka DJ Swivel, who records the guest vocalists and mixes virtually all the duo’s output. Swivel’s name may be familiar to keen readers with good memories, as he first made his appearance in this periodical in October 2011, in an article that detailed his work as Beyoncé’s personal recording engineer and occasional mixer (www.soundonsound.com/people/dj-swivel-recording-beyonces-4).

Originally from Toronto, the young Young went to Full Sail University in Florida, and in 2006, landed himself an internship in New York with Ken ‘Duro’ Ifill, a mixer who has worked with everyone from Jay-Z to Usher. Swivel’s talents were eventually spotted by Beyoncé, and he worked on her albums I Am... World Tour (2010), 4 (2011) and Beyoncé (2013), earning a Grammy for his work on the singer’s ‘Love On Top’. Swivel also clocked up credits like Rihanna, Jay-Z, Jay Sean, Kanye West and many others, and seemed set to become a major studio player. However, after 2013 his chart-topping credits dried up, not to re-emerge again until his work with the Chainsmokers. So what happened?

“Beyoncé is arguably the greatest artist of our generation, and I’m proud to have worked on a great body of work with her. But the intensity with which she works made it very difficult for me to maintain outside clients. After I had worked with her for a prolonged period of time, my other clients had found a replacement for me, because I had not been available. Also, she does not create in the way that for example Kanye does, who after he has done an album, even while touring, will continue working with other artists and recording things. When Beyoncé has done her record, she is gone. So there was a period after I stopped working with her at the end of 2012 during which I had to rebuild a lot of relationships that had sort of faded out.

“Moreover, at that point I decided that I did not want to be just an engineer any more, instead I wanted to...

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Published February 2017