With a third Roll The Dice album out and a renewed production focus under his given name, Peder Mannerfelt takes some time to discuss matters with James Manning.
“If you mention the word drugs in Swedish media it’s a really horrible thing. People only think about heroin if you say drugs, so they shut that club down,” Peder Mannerfelt says of Stockholm’s gone but not forgotten Docklands. “It was run by these ultra-liberals that wanted everything to be free; a free party, and that really clashed with Swedish society,” he says. “The police put on a task force called the Rave Commission and their main purpose was to crack down on this club, and it was a massive media thing about techno and ravers,” he adds, stating: “the word techno was so stigmatised in Stockholm for ten years.”
“When I was coming up no one said they were doing techno because you couldn’t get a gig saying that, you had to say you were doing…electro…” Mannerfelt remembers. But now he believes, “with the Berghain thing and everyone going to Berlin to party, I guess techno is really big here now.” For some grounding in Sweden’s place in the genre, a big part of the older firm is Drumcode, or the Drumcode generation as they’re sometimes known. People like Adam Beyer, Cari Lekebusch, Henrik B and Pär Grindvik, while other recognised artists of the time include Samuel L Session, Jesper Dahlbäck and Aril Brikha.
“There’s a lot of young producers doing techno now,” Mannerfelt says. To use Skudge’s emergence in 2010 as a time-stamp, artists to come after those just mentioned include MRSK, Bleak, and Rivet, to Mr. Tophat & Art Alfie, while on a more serious note there’s Abdulla Rashim, and most recently his Northern Electronics protégés Acroynm and Varg. Then there are anonymous acts like S100 and Avian’s thundering duo SHXCXCHCXSH. Even Patrick Sjern made an enigmatic comeback last year. And while Mannerfelt may not be one of the new generation, he is part of this second wave.
Peder Mannerfelt, however, isn’t just a techno artist. With Malcolm Pardon he is Roll The Dice, a classically inclined avant-garde production unit who combine what sound like twisted remnants of Renaissance and Baroque period orchestral music with suspenseful melodics that could have come from classic Hitchcock themes together with dense experimental electronics, drones and broken techno drums. He was also an integral component in Karin Andersson’s Fever Ray project, helping produce one of the album’s singles, “When I Grow Up”, as well as four other songs. And while working with close friend Van Rivers as The Subliminal Kid, he helped produce Blonde Redhead’s Penny Sparkle, later remixing Massive Attack and Bat For Lashes, as well as smaller groups like English jazz and funk band Melt Yourself Down, Sweden’s Shout Out Louds, and of course Fever Ray.
But now, Peder Mannerfelt is: Peder Mannerfelt. The first release under his own name was the 2012 Come Closer EP on We Can Elude Control, the label run by Paul Purgas of Emptyset. You can hear a range of Emptyset style accents throughout that four-track record, and Mannerfelt says Purgas’ influence on his music is huge. “I think the biggest inspiration came from the process of how they do a recording,” he says. “I know they struggled for a long time trying to do techno and then they found this process; they always do it in a similar way; they feedback things; they use the whole studio as a synth.”
After charting Emptyset’s first album in a Boomkat end of year list some years ago, Mannerfelt remembers Purgas writing to him on MySpace with something like, “whoa, thank you for charting the album,” and it was here the two made their connection. “Paul did a curators course here in Stockholm, so he was on and off going back and forth to Stockholm for two years, and we just casually hung out,” Mannerfelt explains.
Since that debut Mannerfelt has released once more on We Can Elude Control with the Stockholm Recorded 12”, a record created with a classic British-manufactured synthesizer central to his live performances called the EMS Synthi A. This year he launched his own Peder Mannerfelt Produktions label with the superb seven-track PM001, but most importantly he shot through with an album on Digitalis Recordings called Lines Describing Circles.
“This whole new direction came a bit over a year ago,” he says. “For the first time in my life I could just bang out tracks, and I’ve never been able to do that.” Mannerfelt explains that after years of trying to do something he felt he “probably wasn’t that good at,” he came out the other side realising he indeed did have “the capabilities of doing all the music I’ve always wanted to do.” This reinvigorated creative spurt helped Mannerfelt to create 30 new tracks before last summer, several of which saw release on Lines Describing Circles. Mannerfelt has a longstanding relationship with Digitalis boss Brad Rose, the pair keeping in touch after the label released Roll The Dice’s debut album in 2010, and those 30 tracks ended up his hands because “he got first pick,” Mannerfelt says. “He put that album together with sequencing and everything,” he explains, “I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to do that.”
In amongst Mannerfelt’s solo work, Roll The Dice have just released their third album, Until Silence on Leaf, and the band recently debuted their new live show at this year’s Barcelona edition of the Sonar festival. Mannerfelt explains that this version of the live show expands on previous iterations, with the duo collaborating with video artist Miguel Angel Regalado, whose visual work is based around brute forces of nature, and Swedish designer Claes Berkes, who has put together stage outfits which Roll The Dice feel represent their message in an understated way. “From the start we’ve always included friends to help out with everything, from stage costumes to videos and press photos,” he says, adding, “it’s just been a great vehicle to be able to collaborate with friends who are not doing the same thing as we are.”
Regarding the roles both he and Pardon play in Roll The Dice, Mannerfelt explains he is the technical one “twiddling stuff”, while affectionately mocking Pardon’s old fashioned approach in the way only a friend can: “he can’t even press play on the laptop,” he jokes. “He’s quite older than me so he’s influenced by other things from his youth,” Mannerfelt says, contrary to the drum and bass and “shitty punk bands” that were part of his. “It usually starts with me doing the backbone of the tracks and Malcolm will say ‘stop, don’t do anything more with this’ because he’s heard something and he’ll take it further,” he says. Mannerfelt feels that it’s a good meeting of those two things. “We try to keep to that boundary in a way: him doing more of the playing and me doing more tweaking,” he explains.
Someone that Mannerfelt believes is guiding him through this new realm of techno production and operations is Pär Grindvik, who he tells me has been “a big part of this process” over the past year. “He is helping me run the label, he’s mentoring me in a way.” In March of this year alongside Minneapolis producer Jesse Jakob, André Kronert and the prolific Simon Haydo, Mannerfelt appeared on Grindvik’s Stockholm LTD for the first time, opening the various artist EP Fallow with the heavyweight drone of “A Narrow Dome”. Mannerfelt also reveals to me that he’s adding the finishing touches to a split 12” with Grindvik to be released on Stockholm LTD.
But what is perhaps the most exciting news to come from Mannerfelt’s mouth during our conversation was the nugget that he’ll be releasing an album on Yves De May and Peter Van Hoesen’s label Archives Intérieures. “It’s really concept driven,” he says. “I see it as a research piece and it helped me with the direction I’m working in now, so it kind of pre-dates everything else I have been doing,” he explains. The record will see Stefan Betke, aka Pole, on mastering duties. “I worked on it constantly for six months and I kind of didn’t know if I wanted to release it, but they (Archives Intérieures) are excited about it.”
Mannerfelt also divulged that the first artist other than himself to release on his own label will be young Swedish artist Klara Lewis. It was her recently released album on Editions Mego, Ett, that Mannerfelt says totally blew his mind. Why? I asked. “Swedes are really good at producing music and doing stuff, but it’s always a kind of a refinement of something that already exists,” he says. “It’s not like dubstep would be invented in Stockholm, we could take dubstep and do our own version of it, but it’s very rare that someone does something that’s personal,” Mannerfelt believes. “Her album was just… yeah,” he says, before finding words that fit: “She only works with field recordings, but it’s not in a way you hear and feel as though they are field recordings.”
Looking back, it seems Mannerfelt was right. Between 2003 and 2010 (Dockland’s last party was in December 2002), there was a certain amount of flair lacking from Swedish techno compared to the music on either side of those years. Nevertheless, artists like Minilogue, Patrik Skoog, Andreas Tilliander and Staffan Linzatti, while not forgetting Ulf Eriksson’s Kontra-Musik label, maintained a noble Swedish presence. Mannerfelt was also part of this group, and his final release as The Subliminal Kid came in 2010. Between 2006 and 2010 he put out ten records under that name which included releases on Delsin offshoot Ann Aimee and Chicago house label Still Music, both of which were made with Markus Enochson, while his track “Upp/Ner” from the 2010 Untitled EP was remixed by Peter Van Hoesen.
That same various artist record from his short lived F label, affiliated with a party of the same name he once ran in Stockholm also netted a DVS1 rework of Van Rivers’ “Wood Sequence” following a purple patch of remixes Zak Khutoretsky did for Darko Esser and Lucy that year. Mannerfelt cites his 2008 Schmuts 12” as a release he’s still happy with as the Kid, a record featuring a hefty Delta Funktionen remix too. But then came a time to “reset, restart and rethink” he says. “When I listen back to those releases they feel really incoherent and without a real focus.” So is the The Subliminal Kid still in school? “That project is over,” he responds.
“The first time you get into the business and the industry you obviously have no idea how it works and you think, ‘well, I’ll have an EP out and I’m going to get massive amounts of gigs and I’m a rock star’,” Mannerfelt says. “But no, nothing happens that fast, it takes a long period of time.” Now with his artistic reincarnation in full blossom, not only as a techno producer, but as an artist overall, I ask how he’s feeling about it, and his answer is a humble one: “You get one shot, but I was given two.”
Interview by James Manning
Until Silence by Roll The Dice is out now