Per Hammar:"I can’t collapse and give up. It’s not an option."

Per Hammar, a Swedish DJ, producer and label owner, has been associated with labels such as Infuse, Constant Sound, Malin Génie Music, and Berg Audio to name a few. Always inspired by music where melody is the focus, Per Hammar notes his subconscious as being an inspiration for his productions. Over the last 15 years, his material has featured influences from dub to video game scores, and trance to happy hardcore, but it's been dub that's held center focus on his own Dirty Hands productions, and he frequently utilizes gear that’s been around for years in the dub scene.

We spoke with the Berlin-based artist prior to the launch of his debut 3 x 12" LP album "Pathfinder" which will be out on May 1st via his own Dirty Hands imprint. 

The world has pretty much stopped in the last couple of weeks due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. We saw that you had to cancel or postpone quite a few gigs in the following weeks and months. How are you dealing with the current situation? What’s your point of view on this pandemic? 

Yeah, everything is upside down now. Berlin has quite strict rules. I built up a temporary studio set-up at home, so I don’t have to go out. The scary part is how fast I adapted to it. Being home all the time is standard now. When I go out shopping or something I kinda feel that I should go back home again.

To be honest I was quite devastated to see the spring tour with all of the planned release parties for the album just collapse. And it’s easy to stress out when everything is so unclear. But I decided to just live super cheap and make shit loads of tunes. I wanna go judo on the situation. Use the force of the pandemic that’s coming against me, into something useful.

Let’s focus on more positive things such as your upcoming album. The Pathfinder LP consists of 12 tracks, which are more or less club-friendly. How come you decided to create an album that would solely focus on dance-floors?

If you listen to albums that move within our kind of genre, artists always tend to take the chance to do something different. Less club-friendly tracks and so on. That’s kinda the formula for how to do an electronic dance music album, and it’s a great chance to be able to make those ambient tracks if you want.

The thing is that I make club music, for clubs. That’s what I do. So I decided to just make the album with tracks that just naturally comes to me, without any further thought. And of course, you can listen to the tracks while not dancing too. I want the listener to be able to experience all the elements in the music that you miss out on in the club. But the formula is the same.

The album will be released as a triple vinyl via your own Dirty Hands imprint. Could you tell us a bit more about your label? You’ve said that one of the reasons for starting your own project was to “dissociate from forces that could rule over me”. What do you mean by that? 

For me, Dirty Hands has always been like a zone, free from all kinds of impressions. Obviously, as an artist releasing on other labels, you will have to adjust and make agreements that maybe results in that your music won’t be presented in the way you want. 

Even making music with your best friend means that you will have to cut deals. But on Dirty Hands, I can do exactly what I want, and nobody can make me change my mind. And for me that’s important. To at least have one platform with absolute freedom when it comes to creativity.

Let’s talk about the gear that you’ve used for creating LP. You’ve used some pretty interesting stuff such as soviet drum machines, tape, and field recorders amongst others. Could you share with us some of the gear that you’ve used during the creation process?  

Yeah, it’s true that I used a Soviet drum machine. It’s from Ukraine and was created in 1986 and is called Форманта УДС (Formanta UDS). Weights a ton. The shipping from Ukraine was more expensive than the machine itself.

I used the Eurorack Modular System on quite a lot of the tracks. I love the randomness it gives me. Besides that, I tend to use a lot of the Yamaha Synths. DX-7, DX-27, TQ-5. Amazing FM sounds, perfect for slick dub chords and "stabby" sounds. And to not mention the Roland RE-301 Space Echo would be illegal because there is no track on the album that hasn’t got a fair amount of the tape love from that machine.

We could tell that you really put yourself into creating your first studio album. Even the artwork, which was created by Daniel Christensen, has a special meaning, is that correct? 

Without Daniel, Dirty Hands would be something else. Before even launching the label, at the beginning of 2014, I asked if he wanted to be in charge of the graphics of the label. 

He is such a real guy when it comes to art. I always tell him to do what he feels like doing at the moment, and I never know what’s gonna come out. But for me, it’s always new thinking. He has his eyes and mind, where people will be in 1 year. I could be blindfolded and still stand behind a new cover artwork from Daniel. 

Your life path led you from your native Sweden and Malmo to Germany and Berlin. Was this move entirely inspired by your music career? Do you think that moving to Berlin was your only way to progress?

Yes, it was 100% because of the music. For over a decade I had my base in Malmö and Sweden. I always loved it, even if new missions to do kept on getting fewer and fewer. 

To live in a small community, like Malmö, or even the area where I and other creative persons live, really fits my vibe. On the other hand, I lived every weekend away from it, so it’s hard to tell how the situation would be if I was there 7 days a week.

The move to Berlin was necessary. And to move here at the age of 30 when I’m somehow more balanced in life than let’s say if I was 23, was a great move. I can focus on my work and really get the most out of the city as possible. I’m really happy with the three years I had here this far.

We watched your short “Pathfinder” video as well and we almost felt your struggle between balancing the music life and the regular day-job life. It probably takes a lot of discipline and sacrifice to balance these two things. Were you ever on the edge of leaving your music dreams behind? What keeps you motivated?

I don’t really know why, but not once did I think of not living alongside music. It’s never been an option. Even if it’s stressful not to know if I will be able to pay my bills if I don’t get the money in. Every month is different. 

I chose not to think of it too much. If it happens, then it happens. Then I deal with it. Same thing with this virus shit right now. I can’t collapse and give up. It’s not an option. I open my toolbox and use other tools for a while.

Another interesting story from the video brings us back to 2011 when you “borrowed” electricity from the Indian Restaurant below your, at the time, a new studio. Did they ever find out? 

We just started to pay for our own electricity quite recently, so, for now, it’s good! No more weird electricity spikes in the afternoon when they turn on the entire kitchen at once.

Talking about the old diary of yours... you’ve said you created your first tunes with your best friend Frida. What type of music was it when you first started? Did you ever release anything from back then?

Yes, Friday and I discovered a lot together. And learned things about music. With a zoomed-out perspective, the music was quite different. But if I compare the vibe and thoughts I had back then, it’s not that big of a difference.

It was electronic dance music, but way freer. It leaned towards a computer game music sound. One could describe it as Chip tunes maybe. A bit pop? Often with a 4/4 beat. 

We had a big computer game music community in my home-town Helsingborg. There was a club night that hosted 200 people twice a month with this music. It was ironic and fun. Nothing was wrong. The more wrong it was, the more right it got. I can really miss that.

2020 surely didn’t start well but still, what do you expect from the rest of the year? Did you set some goals that you’d like to share with us?

Right now it’s all about finding every little moment of peace to be creative. Especially in the studio. I want to use the time to focus on things that require time. Learn more about the tools that I already have. Try out new things. Besides Dirty Hands, I run two other labels. De Vloer, with Malin Génie and 10YEARS with Parallax Deep. It’s gonna happen things there, as well on other labels that I work with.

In these times I realize what actually means the most to me. Like, what really gets me through the day. And when everything else around me is taken away, and all I have left is relations with people that matter to me, and the music, I realized what it’s worth. It’s worth everything. 2020 should be about being grateful to things like that.

You can already pre-order "Pathfinder" LP HERE

By Saša, edited on 23 April 2020