Pär Grindvik has been a central figure in the Swedish electronic scene since the 90s as record store owner, label manager and producer. In his artistic career Pär has released music on many acclaimed labels, including a string of memorable tracks on his own Stockholm LTD imprint and Drumcode, with frequent collaborator Hardcell. Recently Pär has also contributed with releases on labels such as Semantica, Marbacka, Sinister and Dystopian.
Founded in 2002, Stockholm LTD began as an outlet for singles and EPs from Swedish artists, but over the years it has developed into a hallmark for quality music from a range of international artists. Building on this momentum, Pär started to sketch potential album material at the end of 2014. The result is his debut LP “Isle Of Real“ to be released this spring. In our interview with Pär we get an in depth view into the sequence of events that brought him to this point in his career.
“Shine” from Isle of Real:
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Tell us about your days as a record store manager, what motivated you to open your shop?
I’ve always been a collector, so finding new and old music for other enthusiasts kind of lead into opening our store. This was pretty much pre internet so we naturally became an important hub for the scene in Stockholm. The store was called Illegal, located in Södermalm in Stockholm, an area that’s now is called Sofo. The store was dedicated to electronic music only and the clientage were mostly collectors and DJs.
So you started your career as a producer simultaneously with the launch of Stockholm LTD in 2002, was this a necessary step for you?
It started a bit earlier than that – around 90-91 my music making attempts become more serious, I still have some tapes from that time. My friends and I were looking for new sounds all the time, if anyone of us got our hands on a record or a tape we played it like there was no tomorrow. Honestly I think we even played things that weren’t that brilliant too, and we did so until we had our own relationship with them. New music had such a high value at that time. We even made music out of rumours and things we read about, like when jungle became more popular, I don’t think we’d even heard a proper jungle tune before we started to experiment with how we thought it sounded. A lot at that time was about playing around with sounds.
Towards the mid/end of the nineties I kind of lost myself for some years. I was studying music and music theory at Stockholm Music Conservatory, suddenly all music became so obvious to me. During those years I was obsessed with finding the perfect loop, I ate polyrhythms for breakfast and had trouble adding anything to my arrangements. I just wrote material that was pretty much the same loop from start to end, a loop that was moving via uninterrupted polyrhythms was kind of what I ended up with.
I ate polyrhythms for breakfast
Then while running Illegal I met Nils Danielsson for the first time. Nils was releasing under the name of Hardcell and was a wizard with simple and direct arrangements. Nils kind of forced me out of my loop bubble; he encouraged me to let go of things, to be able to see them for what they really are. He pointed out that what I was doing was brilliant and that I was just foolish keeping it all to myself and never finishing anything.
A lot of the things I learned about the creative process back then are still essential to me. Nothing you create, no matter how brilliant it is, will ever have any value to you or anyone else unless you let it go. You have to look at it from an angle where you can’t affect it any further to be able to really see it. It was while working together with Nils and running the record store the ideas for the label came. I received so much great unreleased music from other artists, like the release by Nils which became the first release on the label.
Obviously, as the name suggests there are a majority of Swedish artists showcased on the label. Is this a policy for Stockholm LTD, or do you sign artists from other countries as well?
The label was indeed founded on the idea of presenting another angle on Stockholm and Swedish techno. But that has changed over the years and today we’re releasing music from artists located all over.
Are you based in Berlin. If so, tell us why?
We’ve been in Berlin for 10 years now, this is where my kids were born and raised. We moved from Stockholm to try something different and to take a break from the life we had. It turned out to be a good move, Berlin is amazing in so many ways – great for work, but it’s also great place to have a family. And there’s so much culture happening 24/7. None of my other favourite bigger cities offer the same easygoing life as we have here with the same amount of things to explore just outside your door.
What do you look for as a label manager as far as putting out releases?
I probably practice the same ideas as when I write music, it all comes from the stomach and the way I feel when listening to the music all together. Sometimes it’s just there when I receive the music from the artist, sometimes it takes more work and I have to look for that vibe I think will fit the release.
Besides your upcoming release, what would you say is the most important release on Stockholm LTD?
If I need to choose one I would say the first one as the label wouldn’t exist without it, but they all mean as much to me.
Is Stockholm LTD managed by you alone?
Nowadays I have help with running the everyday things. The brilliant Finbar helping me to get my vision out by being the best label admin there is. And there’s Nina who knows all about the formalities, contracts and such.
Let’s talk about your upcoming release on Stockholm LTD, your album. When did you start to work on it?
I started to sketch on new material, potential album material in the end of 2014. I wanted to record this album in a traditional manner. Write a “demo”, record it, mix it, master it all in separate sessions. So in February 2015 I scheduled a studio for recording in Stockholm. With me in the studio I had Peder Mannerfelt as recording assistant. I’ve been working with Peder quite a lot before but this was really the first time we worked on my music. I had 20 demo sketches with me into the studio, ranging from melodies to half-finished songs. The first day we went through the material and made notes on what I wanted us to work on, develop more and what to leave out. Then we pretty much followed these notes while recording. By the end of the week we had 14 of them recorded pretty much channel by channel. I think we managed to keep the original ideas pretty intact whilst adding the flavour of the gear we used.
For the arranging and mixing I used my studio here in Berlin and most of it was done in the early summer 2015. I chose to use my own studio as I wanted to have instant accesses as my schedule was pretty clustered due to gigs and travel. Some of the songs fell trough, didn’t fit with the others or the format. I also added a few new ones. The title track for example was written while I was working on arranging the others. Because I really wanted it to have the flavour of what we did in Stockholm in February. I invited Peder and Malcom Pardon with whom Peder has the brilliant Roll the Dice project. They recorded additional overlays to the song. For both Isle of Real and Peder’s “Controlling Body” we worked a lot on the flow of the album, the length of the songs and how it all sits together. That was probably what took the most time in the process, to find that balance. I’ve been cutting out a lot of material on the way. The track “The Marlton” for example; the original arrangements were almost 10 minutes long and the final version is just over 5 minutes 20. When the arranging and mixing was done I took a break from the material for a little over two months. During this time I also debated on who to use for the mastering.
In the end, after a well needed vacation, I decided to do it myself. Over the years I’ve done most of my own mastering as well for others. My own productions are often quite raw and not always that pleasing. That’s something that I want to keep so I choose to buy some new outboard gear to give the master a special flavour instead of using someone else. The final version of Isle of Real was ready in November 2015, so the whole process took a bit over a year.
For me the record is curious, romantic, political and sad, all at once
As an artist, what’s the difference between producing an EP versus an LP?
I always liked the EP format and never felt limited by it in any way. I’m able to tell my stories pretty well on my EPs. An album is something that I’ve been dreaming about since I was young. To make that record that carries something from start to end, where each component has meaning and needs to be there – not just a collection of tracks. The whole thing needs to breathe the same air. During my work with Isle of Real I figured out some quite essential things about myself and how I write, so I don’t think it needs to be another 15 years before I write another one.
Tell us about the concept behind Isle of Real
It’s all up to the listener to I would say, I don’t want to put too much in between the listener and the music. For me the record is curious, romantic, political and sad, all at once.
When could we expect to grab the album, and where will it be available?
The release date is set to the end of may and it will be released on both vinyl and digital. There might be some exclusive bundle deals here and there so keep you’re eyes open. I’ve already spotted some pre-orders on the web already, like this one at decks.de
What about upcoming gigs, where can fans hear you play next?
I have a pretty steady schedule the upcoming months and will probably travel with the album for the rest of the year. Some of the key dates is set for example Concrete in Paris and Berghain here in Berlin. Also returning to South America in June for 4 dates in Colombia.
Finally, where should record collectors go to dig for records in Stockholm?
Unfortunately I think that there aren’t many options left, but definitely worth a mention is the lovely Fade records on Skanegatan (not far from where my store use to be) but also the legendary Snickars records close to Hornstull.