PODCAST | 24 March 2019
Photos, Interview & Text: Martin Hufnagel
I met La Fleur in Berlin Neukölln on the vinyl release day of her new EP Aphelion to talk about her shift from working as a pharmacist to being a full time DJ and producer, moving from Sweden to Berlin, her vision for her own label, taking care of yourself and, of course, her new record.
'Life is one funny mothafucka
A true comedian, you gotta love him, you gotta trust him.' (Kendrick Lamar)
There are so many quotes about life that are as varied as life itself. Yet hearing this one always makes me wonder, 'Looking back, what decision affected your life one hundred percent, and what makes you sit back and cherish the moment?'
Sanna, known as La Fleur, made that decision in 2007. She took advantage of the 'Free Year' programme in Sweden that allowed her to take up to one year off, get paid part of her salary as a pharmacist and move to Berlin to focus on music productions and to find inspiration. Eight years later she has a thriving career as an international touring artist, has her own record label Power Plant, was one of Mixmag’s Breakthrough DJ’s in 2017 and recorded a BBC Essential Mix.
PLAYdifferently: La Fleur Boiler Room Berlin DJ Set
Sanna grew up in Örebro during the heyday of native skate punk veterans Millencollin.
After moving from her hometown to Gothenburg, she started going out to gay clubs. It was there and during her pharmacy studies in Uppsala that she discovered electronic music. 'There was this thing about me, always wanting to choose the music, and I always wanted to share the music I love with my friends.'
She had a secret dream of becoming a DJ. Even though one of her ex-boyfriends was a hobby DJ, it wasn’t until she wrote her master’s thesis that she began to pick up the stuff she wanted to do for a long time. Like playing records. Through a friend, she was introduced to the craft of being a DJ, and when she started working as a pharmacist in Uppsala, she also played gigs on the weekend. Sanna was living in 2 worlds. 'I started work at 8 in the morning, and I had this Sunday club that went at least until 3 am. So I remember that every Monday morning, I was tired.'
Her boss had big plans for her, but also knew about her passion. When the plan in the form of taking one year off and still getting paid part of her salary presented itself to Sanna, she took it. She decided to escape her everyday life and move to Berlin, a city that she fell in love with during a visit. 'The first time I was here, I really fell in love with Berlin. I thought it was amazing; I thought it was so special and underground. It just had this vibe of everything is possible. I knew like 1 or 2 people here, but it was more for me to get away from everyday life and going somewhere where you don’t know anyone. It gives you a lot more space for your mind and creativeness when you don’t have people pulling you.'
During the first months, it was still her plan to return to Sweden, but in Germany’s capital, one thing after another fell into place. 'This one person that I knew here, he was like, "Ok, let’s go to Linen Bar and have a drink. So, we went there … and then this guy came up to him, talking to my friend about his upcoming gig at Weekend Club the following month. My friend introduced me, saying I was a great DJ that he had played with in Sweden, and on the spot, he offered me a gig to play alongside my friend. This was in the early days of living in Berlin. And that guy was the owner of Weekend Club!'
The initial plan was that Sanna was going to play the warm-up. In the end, she was thrown in at the deep end because when she got there, her friend convinced her to play his main slot and left the club. So, her preparations wouldn’t prove to be beneficial as she played until morning, playing vinyl only and surviving by improvising and playing her B-sides. 'That was my reality check of how Berlin nightlife was and how things were there.'
Not having a full-time job and playing records at a club every weekend also gave Sanna the possibility and time to focus on producing her own songs. 'I always … had the urge to make my own music.' It took some time, an evening class in Logic, and experience, but finally, she produced a tune that she liked and was proud of. This tune was the 'Flowerhead' track, which became her first release on her own label Power Plant. 'First, of course, I sent the "Flowerhead" track to labels that I liked, but nobody wanted it. So then I thought that maybe this was the time that I started my own label. I wanted to have this full creative freedom. I wanted to be able to decide 100% what music is going to be on. Also, when I started the label, there was kind of a recession time where people mostly were doing like a stamp [on records]. But I always loved beautiful vinyl covers. When I go into a record shop and see a really beautiful cover, I want to buy the record. And I wanted to have that for my label too.'
Not only did the quality of La Fleur’s own productions allow her to build a loyal following, but she also reached more people, and they took notice of her.
The Watergate Club, which was founded in 2002 and floats on the Spree river, is an integral part of Berlin’s electronic night-life. After hosting her own label nights there, she was approached by one of the owners and asked to become a resident. 'Watergate definitely helped me a lot to get my name out there more, because they also did showcases all over the world which I could join.'
From that point on, her touring schedule grew bigger and bigger. La Fleur played not only on Watergate’s LED-lit dance-floor, but also at countless gigs in 42 countries over the past 12 years. In 2018 alone, she played 72 gigs. However, this workload can also be exhausting. Being self-employed and actually loving what you’re doing can also be dangerous. 'I love to work, I love to be busy. For me it’s more to make an effort to relax than to work.'
For health reasons, Sanna had to take a month off in February. 'This year, that's actually one of my main focuses… to really try and find the balance. I also have a daughter and since I got her, it’s something to help me keep a schedule.'
Another aspiration is the realignment of her own label.
Over the past 8 years, Power Plant put out 8 great and unique records.
While La Fleur was busy playing and putting out records through other labels, 2018 was a year that saw no Power Plant releases, label nights, or anything similar. 'Last year was a year with a lot of changes. I needed to set new structures and try to figure out what I wanted to do with the label and how I wanted to proceed. Sometimes, you want to push things, but sometimes things really take time.'
The silence is over with the release of her new Aphelion EP. The 9th release on the label gets to the heart of La Fleur in 2 tracks: 'Hunting Grounds' is a prime-time floor filler which you’ll hear on dance floors all over the world. The title track combines hissing hi-hats with an exceptional melody that’s been stuck in my head since the first time I listened to it.
'I don’t want to release something unless I really like it', Sanna says, 'Power Plant was never about quantity but quality.'