CHEIRON STUDIOS, was a recording studio located at Kungsholmen, Stockholm, Sweden founded in 1992 by Denniz PoP and Tom Talomaa. In 8 short yet intensive years in the business they reinvented the sound of late-'90s pop, and teen-pop, and introduced Sweden as a powerful and inventive force in pop production, only matched by the United Kingdom and the United States. Cheiron Studios was apart from being a recording studio, also a label Cheiron Records in affiliation with BMG for a while, and the music publishing service Cheiron Songs. However as a record company they did not experience any bigger success, they tried different styles like traditional pop and hard rock before Denniz re-shaped its concept to focus mainly on the songs Cheiron became solely a music-production company: Cheiron Productions.
Cheiron is now defunct and closed down its doors in 2000 only to be renamed as The Location. Much of its closing was due to the death and spirit of its headmaster Denniz PoP who left the music scene too early.
Cheiron was the new name of SweMix Records & Publishing after it was sold to BMG.
In 1986 a group of 10 of Sweden's most talentful discjockies founded "SweMix", a remix-service, as a response to DiscoNet, Hot Tracks and DMC. Those included Dag Volle (Denniz PoP), René Hedemyr (JackMaster Fax), Sten Hallström (StoneBridge), Emil Hellman (SoundFactory) and Johan Järpsten (JJ). At the beginning they were producing and distributed remixes of tracks without permission, so-called "bootlegs", for the limited underground or only for DJs market on their newly founded Remixed Records. Though being an underground collective, Remixed Records got noticed by, not only Scandinavia, but also Germany, Italy and Holland. Tom Talomaa, a nightclub owner, got involved and supported the studio with more sophisticated equipments. Artists were dropping by SweMix to get a deal or a production. As a result of the requests, two labels were started; Basement Division for the underground and SweMix Records via Swedish Sonet for commercial records.
SweMix Records signed Swedish dance-acts like Dr. Alban, Kayo, Dayeene, Leila K. and had their first biggest hit with Dr. Alban's Hello Afrika (produced by Denniz PoP).
In 1991 the company was divided and sold their Remixed Records remix-service. The following year SweMix further split up into SweMix Productions and SweMix Records & Publishing. The latter was sold to BMG and taken over by Denniz PoP and Tom Talomaa who renamed it to Cheiron and began working in the studio in 1992.
SweMix Productions however continued as a production company and a couple of months later StoneBridge makes it famous with his remix of Robin S. – “Show Me Love” which put Sweden on the international map of club music. "Dagge" had up to that time been awarded for Best Remixer and won many DJ competitions, his talent was undeniable.
The newly started Danish record company Mega Records sent the talented producer a demotape by an unknown synthgroup called Ace of Base. The song on the tape was called "Mr. Ace" and it got stuck in Dagge's car-stereo so he had to listen to it over and over until he said "I gotta do something with this" and the solution was to make a reggaetune out of it. The song was recorded at the SweMix Studio by Denniz PoP and the song was renamed to All That She Wants. The song was an unexpected hit and catapulted both Ace of Base and Denniz PoP into stardom. "Dagge" became the group's producer, friend and mentor who shaped their material into what they are known for today.
The SweMix collective and Denniz PoP fell apart and so did their musical styles. Denniz PoP was more into commercial and traditional pop while most of the SweMix-members wanted to remain underground and experimental. When he started Cheiron he started to bring in influences from other musical styles than dance-music. He collaborated with partners Douglas Carr. Swedish artists like Leila K., Papa Dee, Rob'n'Raz and Herbie enjoyed success with him. They quickly realized that publishing records and albums was not their profession since most of the records were proven unsuccessful and financing music videos were too expansive, instead they started to concentrate on what they were really good at, to write and produce songs. The request for Dagge's talent, whose musical productions were proven successful, increased as more upcoming artists wanted his sound, skill and sense for what's working on the dancefloor. To handle the offers he started to hire more people with the same approach. It was in 1994, through Zomba owned by BMG who owned the Cheiron Records label, they began to work with foreign artists.
“… and in came a hard rocker”
While Cheiron was still a record label, Denniz was seeking a heavier style. Tom Talomaa had promised a Swedish glam-style metal band It's Alive a gig at Ritz, and offered a deal to release their second album Earthquake Visions and got Denniz Pop to shape up the sound on the songs before the album's initial release. The members, stepped into the studio, nervous about the meeting with the great producer it turned out to be an antiklimax. "Dagge", was never taught on any instruments, fumbled among his papers for chords and found instructions where to put his fingers on the keyboard. The members looked at each other, "the guy had no idea about chords at all." The album failed success but its frontman and singer, at that time, "Martin White" (Martin Sandberg) was encouraged to continue and write songs. "Dagge" had this ear for hitting tunes and thought Martin wrote great songs. He then asked Martin if he could write songs for them instead and soon Martin helped him on songs spending more time with Denniz at Cheiron than with the band. "Dagge", who always had an eye for talent, realized that here was a guy with the right musical skills that could compensate his own. Martin proved to be a musical wonder and beat everybody else on their fingers. Since school he was taught to write sheet music and entire partitures for violin for example. Cheiron hired Martin as an in-house producer. Since Denniz was more into traditional pop he changed his alias, like the ladder, to the more “poppier” Max Martin. He forgot to tell him and when Martin discovered there was another name on the sleeve of Herbie he asked Denniz; “Who’s that?”, "Dagge" responded “Oh, it’s you didn’t I tell you?”. "Dagge" became his mentor and after spending some time learning the basics, while doing that he figured the pipe-organic intro of E-Type's - “This is the Way” over a lunch, to prove he could handle the task. The first complete production collaboration between Dag Volle & Martin Sandberg a.k.a. "Denniz PoP & Max Martin" was the Rednex song Wish You Were Here. The song would mark the great start for the Cheiron Productions. This is what Martin has said;
The duo of Amadin (John AMAtiello and Kristian LunDIN) were hired as songwriters and producers. They were already signed to Dr Alban’s Dr. Records label and had floor hits through the Cheiron/Pitch Control AB label. Duo David Kreuger (a discjockey) and Per Magnusson (a band member) joined the crew to produce music for various upcoming Swedish and major International artists.
1994 was a really great year for the new Cheiron posse. Denniz and Amadin helped Dr. Alban to produce his third album Look Who's Talking which was a success. Denniz PoP had set up a meeting with an ex-drummer and former host for ZTV Martin E-Type Eriksson. He agreed to produce the songs together with Max Martin and Amadin on his successful debut album Made in Sweden which included the No # 1 hits “Set the World on Fire” and “This is the Way.”
Backstreet Boys and Beyond
The success stimulated the Cheiron crew to progress and the following years would mark their initial era of greatness when foreign artists entered their studio as unknowns and world famous when leaving. Thanks to the success with the Rednex the group's at that time label BMG had purchased a majority of the Zomba Label Group and through them they formed a successful joint. In 1995 Zomba sent 5 young American boys called “Backstreet Boys” into the studio. Never been to Europe, shy and uneven, they listened to the demo of We've Got It Goin' On written by Denniz PoP, Max Martin and Herbie Crichlow. They respected its mentor since Ace of Base had hit so big in the US. Kristian Lundin and John Amatiello did also collaborate on their self-titled debut album which was released in 1996. Including hits “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”, which went platinum and landed on #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “We’ve Got It Goin’ On.” Following up with Ace of Base's second successful album The Bridge, Per Magnusson and David Kreuger produced DeDe’s debut album which became an instant hit especially in Japan. Denniz and Martin writes 2 songs with Robyn for her album Robyn Is Here, "Do You Know (What It Takes)" and Show Me Love. Pop/Martin produces Leila K.'s number one hit Electric with its chorus sung by young Jessica Folcker. Army of Lovers also came by the studio to remix their hit Sexual Revolution. One of "Dagge's" dreams was to work with Michael Jackson and got his chance to work with him on Jackson’s nephews 3T's debut album Brotherhood.
"Show Me Love" ended up on the Billboard top 10 and was the feature song in the Swedish movie Fucking Åmål (the English distribution borrowed the song’s title for the film because the original was too obscene for standards). The song is sometimes confused with Robin S's "Show Me Love", because of identical song titles and similar first names.
The #1 Hit Factory
In 1997 songwriter Andreas Carlsson was hired. He had a short career as an artist under the name "Andres" but was invited by Denniz PoP to join him and its incredibly creative milieu. The members of Cheiron found themselves involved in projects with major international artists. It all became evident when Backstreet Boys came back to record their second album when screaming fans were hanging outside the studio. Interesting note is that one of the more successful songs Everybody (Backstreet's Back) sounds similar to It's Alive, Martin’s former group. The Irish group Boyzone approached Cheiron for material to put on their new album, "Where We Belong". Magnusson / Kreuger now teamed up with songwriter Jörgen Elofsson, former artist under the name “Shane”, to write the song, "Will Be Yours". Since then the trio have remained close and continue to collaborate on various projects. Magnusson/Kreuger produced two tracks for the Danish group, Michael Learns to Rock, that were included on their 1998 "Greatest Hits" album: a new version of The Actor and I'm Gonna Be Around.
In 1998, Cheiron Studios worked with new boybands 5ive, 'N Sync and girlband Solid Harmonie, and collaborated with Bryan Adams. This year Pop/Martin writes songs for Swedish starlet Jessica Folcker. Jessica was an aspiring debutee who began as a backing singer for tracks Dr. Alban and Ace of Base. Her debut album Jessica became an instant hit with singles like Tell Me What You Like and How Will I Know Who You Are. Both singles sold platina and got Jessica a Grammy nomination for Best Newcomer and Best Female Artist. "Dagge" was not only her producer, they were also dating til his death.
That same year Denniz PoP receives a Special Grammy Award, shared with Max Martin, with the jury's "Special Honor Award", for their great work and successes which had re-placed Swedish (Dance) music on the world map and have made Sweden the Third largest music exporting country in the world. Unfortunately "Dagge" was getting worse as the cancer continued to invade his body he was unable to be present. However, while laying in his bed in hospital Martin frequently visited his mentor to get feedback on his songs. One of the songs he performed to him was a song Martin had just came up with in a hotel room in Miami. The song was originally written with the group TLC in mind but they passed it because they were taking a time out. The song: ...Baby One More Time.
Cheiron Loses Its Soul
Cheiron's rise to international prominence was tempered by the tragic death of its founder. Only 35 years old, Dag Volle succumbed to cancer on August 31, 1998. He never had the chance to see what his pupils had achieved that year. The studio lost a huge part of its core and music lovers around the world still miss him and talk about him today.
Max Martin took over as director of Cheiron Studios. The eight remaining songwriters/producers of the company, Max Martin, Rami, Andreas Carlsson, Kristian Lundin, Jake, Jörgen Elofsson, Per Magnusson and David Kreuger pushed on through the loss.
The staff had this midas touch. Everything they touch on turned into gold. It was now they could seriously call themselves The Hit Factory.”
Martin started to work with writer/producer Rami Yacoub and Jay Orpin (main composer of such artists as Hawthorne Heights) in late 1998 to start production of the Backstreet Boys' next album Millennium. In the spring of 1998 Jive Records sends the studio and Martin a young American girl from Louisiana named Britney Spears who was 15 years old and unknown at the time to record a set of songs written for her including ...Baby One More Time. Little frighted of Martin’s hardrock outfit from his former days, he made her comfortable about the hard work and sound she requested. When she left the studio and Sweden she left it with a universal hitting debut album ...Baby One More Time which topped the charts all over the world. The album became the best-selling LP by a teenager in history and the debut hit single remains Spears' signature to this date. Both albums Millennium (Backstreet Boys album) and ...Baby One More Time) has certified Diamond Status. Max Martin was the one who made it possible.
"That's the Way It Is" was written by Max Martin and Kristian Lundin and Andreas Carlsson which Céline Dion gave her voice to. The song was included on her All the Way… A Decade of Song released on November 12, 1999. Prior to her power ballads this was a little more “poppier” song that was the leadoff single for the 7 new singles proceeded by a compilation of Dion’s most successful hits. All the Way… A Decade of Song sold 22 million copies worldwide. What is lesser known is that Celine listened to hundreds of songs sent to her before she choose theirs.
Magnusson & Kreuger teamed up again with Jörgen Elofsson to work on the debut album of the new Irish boyband, Westlife. Together they wrote three songs that appeared on the record, "Westlife". The song "If I Let You Go" was released in August and went immediately hit the #1 at the UK Singles Chart. "Fool Again", included on the same album, also opened at #1 on the charts.
In year 2000 was a busy one for Cheiron. They were working with Britney Spears and her second album, "Oops!… I Did It Again" the opening song with the same name was written and produced by Max Martin & Rami. The album broke another sales beyond the 15 millions for Spears' second straight mega success. Westlife's recorded songs for their second album, "Coast To Coast" and the track "My Love" written and produced by Per Magnusson & David Kreuger was released in October and went straight to #1 in the UK. The Backstreet Boys’s had recorded another hit for their "Black And Blue" album “Shape of My Heart” written by Lisa Miskovsky and Max Martin and Rami. The album became a huge international success and was certified platinum 8x over in the US alone.
The many worldwide hits at the Billboard that were recorded in the studio has been labeled as late 90's marks. ”Cheiron” was significant with immediate success and the chart hits, it did not only earn the name “the hit factory”, they WERE "The Hit Factory." Following the untimely death of its founder and head Denniz PoP in 1998 the company folded. Still the Cheiron team is legendary for its achievements in modern pop music.
"We became famous together, thanks to 'Hello Africa'. Then we did three albums together. Dag was really determined and could take the right, fast decisions. He is the biggest producer ever in Sweden and Europe when it comes to dance music. Without any doubt!" - Dr. Alban
There's an archived announcement by the crew at the studio's website. ''"Cheiron was created with the intention of having fun, making a few hits and not getting too serious about it. We feel the 'hype' of Cheiron has become bigger than [the studio] itself and it's time to quit while we're ahead." - Max Martin , Sep 13, 2000
The spirit of Denniz PoP and the unique formula at Cheiron is not lost forever. It is kept alive and will be living in the hearts and minds of its former staff who split up so they could do what they wanted to do. Write songs for other artists and keep Sweden as one of the most successful music export countries in the world.
Worldfamous artists such as 5ive, Ace of Base, Backstreet Boys, Bon Jovi, Boyzone, Britney Spears, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, DeDe, Dr. Alban, E-Type, Gary Barlow, Jessica Folcker, Leila K, LFO, M2M, Meja, Michael Learns to Rock, 'N Sync, Rednex, Robyn, Solid HarmoniE and Westlife have recorded hits at the studio or had their songs written, composed and produced by the staff at Cheiron Productions.