Mentors: Peder Mannerfelt and Pär Grindvik Share Career Tips

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Two Stockholm techno greats compare notes on what improves a new producer's chances of having a successful music career.

Though Pär Grindvik and Peder Mannerfelt are both veterans of the Swedish techno scene, their divergent careers explore very different sonic dimensions. Nevertheless, they’ve enjoyed a long and fruitful collaborative relationship that was born when Grindvik took the SHAPE affliate under his wing in the late-’00s. Though they no longer both live in Stockholm—Grindvik now resides in Berlin—the two keep in contact throughout the day and give each other advice about everything from artistic direction to child rearing. They move fluidly between roles, with each taking a turn mentoring the other: Grindvik helps Mannerfelt manage his label, Peder Mannerfelt Produktion, while Mannerfelt took on a similar role for Grindvik’s latest LP, Isle of Real. For this slightly different take on our Mentors series, they met at Grindvik’s apartment to explain why guidance matters.

Pär Grindvik: I don’t think mentors are very common in electronic music…

Peder Mannerfelt: I’ve noticed a trend of people in Stockholm that think, “I want to be an artist. I’ll get a manager, sign a contract and get a publishing deal.” And if you do that, then you’ll be knee deep in contracts and splits before you ever release your first tune. One thing that you taught me is to stay clear of contracts.

PG: A lot of people think a publishing deal is going to do something for them, but we always say, “Go to the studio, write music and have fun.”

PM: A publishing deal isn’t going to release your shitty tunes!

PG: But it’ll lock you down.

PM: Exactly. I think one of the most important things you ever taught me as a mentor is that nobody but you will get your shit done for you. You kind of hammered that into me over these past 10 years.

PG: That reminds me of when we started to seriously do something in 2007. I approached you in a club where you were playing with Henrik [von Sivers of Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid]. I remember thinking your energy was amazing—jumping up and down. I came up to the booth and said that we should work together.

PM: I’ve referred to you as a mentor before. And I think that you’ve served that role for a lot of people in Stockholm, not just me. What you taught me is to be positive; to keep a forward momentum and to not get stuck in a micro perspective; to look at the bigger picture, but to not get stressed out by it. I know that I have goals and aspirations, but they’re not the reason behind why I do what I do. When I was a kid I wanted to be Jimmy Page…

PG: And I made you that.

PM: You’re my Aleister Crowley.

PG: I think mentorship is about helping someone push themselves to be what they are especially. It’s helping them bring out a dream they believe in. The mentor provides a fuel for that. It’s not trying to make a person into something else, which happens with management.

PM: You didn’t sell me a dream. I had the dream. I don’t know if I even told you my dreams!

PG: Do you know this guy? I hear your dreams every day. I think I know your dreams, though I don’t think it needs to be so specific. A mentor is going to push you to release your music, give you guidance on how to release that music and they’re going to say, “Do this. Try it out.” Maybe you’re sitting alone and you don’t know how to proceed further. It’s about filling that role and putting energy into someone so that they can grow into their own thing. And to help them release their music and not just sit on it—it should be fun.

PM: It takes the pressure off. That’s something that needs to be shared that I learned from you. A mentor can help you decide where to put your energy to make things work. Because if you’re totally new to this, there’s a whole table full of things to put your energy in.

PG: Yes, but this knowledge can’t be copied. It can’t be pasted. You have to look at the person and ask, “What do you want? What do you want to reach with this?” And then you say, “Do this” and “Finish that.” But I can’t tell you to be something that you’re not. The main thing is to find what makes you you, and then bring that out more—to push on that.

PM: We had that recently—in the park in Stockholm three years ago.

PG: Oh, yeah.

PM: It was one of the rare times when we actually met—and even more rare in Stockholm. We met and you helped me lay the groundwork for my label.

PG: That’s right. We talked about you, your profile and the label. And I told you what you would need to do, what you would need to sacrifice and what you could gain. I think that this understanding is important for this kind of relationship. It’s important that everyone is aware that pursuing these goals might cost something—time, mostly. And that while it can bring in something good, it’s not for sure. Because you never know.

PM: Yes, and that helped me. I saw the path in a way. It helped me to get my head around the idea of a label. Instead of doing stuff in the day-to-day—or in the short term—I began to see stuff in the long term. It showed me that if I do this and this, then in two years I’ll be here. And then you can ask yourself, “What was I doing a year ago?” In most instances you’ll find that you’ve gone way beyond your aspirations.

PG: Today it’s crazy because everyone’s following each other’s every step. So, when someone pops in with an album people ask, “What’s happening? How did they get all that exposure? And what have they done right?” But rarely is it that someone asks, “Okay, what did this person do two years ago when they started on this whole trip towards their goal?” I always say, “Okay. If someone’s been silent, there’s a reason.” Or, “If someone’s crying about why it’s not coming to them, then there’s also a reason.” With the artists that I work with now, one of the things that I give them is a relaxed feeling.

PM: To come back to something that we share a common ground on: We don’t have have time to fuck around. We both have kids, and we have very limited time in every aspect of what we do. What we do has to be it. Time is the biggest commodity.

PG: Do you feel a pressure from that? I don’t feel a pressure.

PM: It’s not pressure.

PG: It’s become “no pressure.” But it could easily become stressful.

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PM: That is my thesis about our relationship. It’s that we’ve created a space that’s not about pressure; it’s about doing. It’s saying, “Okay, I have three hours. I’m going to make three tracks. Do it.” And instead of feeling stressed or pressured by it, you make it fun for yourself.

PG: I have limited time, so I find that I’m always finding little tricks to save time. I do a lot of list-writing. Between working on labels, working on artists and trying to be on top of myself and what I play—you can’t go out the door and remember it all. By writing things down I can look down while having a coffee and free myself to think about something else.

PM: Yeah, I think we have a good thing going about not being stressed about time. That’s the good thing you learn with kids, you know? Like, I can’t physically be mixing a track while I feed my son and change his diaper. I mix when I can. I can’t be in two places at the same time. If you try to do both at the same time, you’re not going to be a good parent, and you’re not going to end up being good in the studio.

PG: You can try to make time for yourself, but you still drop out of that exclusive studio time quite often. When I went to Stockholm to do the session for Isle Of Real, I slept on my mom’s floor, and I didn’t meet anyone. The only time when I wasn’t in the studio I would go through the material. I think these kind of things you can do when you travel. You can use that time.

PM: And that’s the good thing about when you learn how to manage your time when you travel. I do it a lot when I’m home as well. I’d say that 90 percent of the creative process is thinking.

PG: We both say this a lot when anyone complains about time. But if you gave me two months of studio time with zero of anything else, I’m not going to get more out of it.

PM: It’s not possible. I’m going to get less.

PG: I’ve spent years refreshing emails. If you only have this amount of time, you do something with it. And if you don’t have any time, then it’s not going to be good for you.

PM: You need to finish what you’re working on.

PG: That’s what I hope we can do for new artists. I want to make sure that they don’t sit on their work for too long because it needs to get out there really quick. This process is supposed to be fun, not scary. One of the interesting things that’s going on in Sweden right now is that you have a lot more women making music, and they’re making a kind of techno that’s definitely not been done before.

PM: Yeah, Stockholm is becoming more open. I’ve seen this shift. Techno is a boy’s club: it’s gear, it’s records, it’s rules.

PG: And if you don’t know how to play by those rules…

PM: And if you don’t know every Derrick May 12”…

PG: …then you’re not into it. But this vibe is a “fuck you” to all that. Like when you sent me the tracks from Klara Lewis. I thought, for example, that there are so many demos out there trying to be like Raster-Noton that fail on every level to be music, and then here’s this woman who’s making music first that fits into a style second. That anti-conformity is what techno was about from the beginning.

PM: Exactly.

PG: The people that made this genre, they found machines that they could make music on, and they made music without any rules. And now people follow the rules that they wrote. But this new wave, I feel like…they don’t care. They don’t need to care. Why should they care about those releases? I mean, you can read a book and know everything about techno without ever releasing any music.

PM: When you’re young and fresh, it’s easy to look at cool people. But when you stand back and look at things objectively and ask yourself, “What’s good?” and “What’s bringing me joy?” You realize that it’s the person who’s just going for it, who doesn’t have any plan—who doesn’t have the knowledge. And that’s musicality, in a way. It’s raw energy, and that’s what you want in music. Our relationship has always been about pushing each other in a creative sense. But if you were my manager, everything would have been different. You would have worked to get cash flowing in.

PG: And the cash flow is…

PM: You and I have separate cash flows. And that’s what separates a manager from a mentor. The mentor isn’t in it for financial gain. There’s no economic element.

PG: I mean, we do have a structure of where the money comes in, of course. But when it comes to the creative process, and what’s going to be the next release or step, there’s no money involved. When mentoring artists or people who are starting labels, my only rule is that the person giving in the project should also be getting something back. If I’m working with someone and they decide they want to release a new artist, then I want him to be able to get something back, even if it’s just energy—or exposure or travel or press, or something like that.

PM: Yeah. And we have a setup that works. But the best thing is that it’s not set in stone or anything. We can change things up.

PG: Like when I asked you if you were up for mentoring me on Isle Of Real. You filled in that role and it helped me when I got locked down creatively. It’s really easy to get into negativity about creative work and having someone else to encourage you can help you get out of bad thinking.

PM: It’s like the classic idea of a producer, like Rick Rubin. What does he do when he produces music? He’s lying on the couch, vibing. But I think that role is really important. We don’t trade technical tips. We’re not like, “Oh, you need 10k filter and more bass to be techno.” I think it helps that we’re not in the same studio together every day. If we were, I think we’d be somewhere else.

PG: If we had a studio together, I think we’d be doing it more like a pop studio. We’d decide who’s doing the writing and who’s doing the recording. And we’d just be doing the conducting. But I also think it helps that we’re not doing the same kind of music exactly. We don’t even have the same audience, particularly—I’m playing on the weekends for dance floors that need a certain techno injection, and you’re playing for people who want something that they don’t understand.

Pär Grindvik’s Isle Of Real and Peder Mannerfelt’s Controlling Body are out now and can be purchased via the Wallroom Bandcamp. Listen to Pär Grindvik’s EB Radio mix here.

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