Every year there is a deluge of new DJs and producers all proclaiming to be ‘the one to watch’, but Sanna ‘La Fleur’ Engdahl is one of the special ones who has broken through and made her mark. Bursting out of the gate in February with her debut DJ set at Fabric, she’s been on the up ever since. The groundswell of DJ support for her Flowerhead EP in 2010 – the debut of her own vinyl-only label Power Plant – continued into this year when WhatPeoplePlay launched their new label with La Fleur’s Flowerhead Revisited EP, including Spencer Parker’s chart-topping remix.
The Swedish-born and Berlin-based artist has steadily developed into the fully-fledged artist that she is now: a DJ, producer, radio presenter, label owner and fashion designer, with a creative spirit, a clear artistic vision and the need to stay continually inspired.
For our readers who aren’t familiar with you, how would you introduce yourself?
I’m a Swedish dj, producer and label manager. Fours years ago I decided to move to Berlin to get going with my own productions so I left my pharmacy career behind me in Sweden. Well in Berlin I also started my imprint Power Plant, which is mostly known as Power Plant Records. Power Plant is a foundation and breeding ground with branches within music, art and we put the power in different creative projects that we would like to see grow.
Why do you think you’ve ended up following a few different paths at the same time? It all started out with the love for music, and through that it has developed and built up to what I’m doing now. The different paths are just different artistic expressions coming together through music somehow. I always did a lot of different things. I danced for eight years, I played the piano, the flute, stuff like that, and I have an interest in art and clothes. So in some way I’ve just continued doing the things I like, maybe in a different way but still with the same urge to create or express myself. Therefore Power Plant is an outlet for all the creative things I’m interested in. On our label nights we usually have a lot of installations. Last labelnight in Stockholm we made 200 pin wheels (the logo for Power Plant) and arranged them into a huge field in the basement, where you walk through to take the elevator up to the club. There were also an installation with three of the samples from the forthcoming clothing line and on the dance floor we had an interactive audio installation. For me music is the nourishing part, the core from which everything grows and come together.
What was your first introduction to electronic music? I always loved to dance, and I think for me the love for electronic music comes from the dance. When I discovered electronic music, at night clubs at first, it was a ‘wow’ feeling. I could dance to that for hours, with people or by myself, without rules. I was really blown away.
What came first for you as an artist? DJing. Even when I was listening to other genres like rock or pop I was always at home recording mix tapes for friends saying ‘please listen to this’. I really tried to convince them to listen to the music I liked, preaching about the music I loved. Early on when I was first in clubs and saw the dj playing, I thought ‘I wanna do that too’.
How long did you spend honing your skills for before playing out? I started in 2004. So I was at home practising a lot and I got a gig from the guy who introduced me to mixing in 2004, so kind of soon after I got started. First I I tried it out with CDs and then i got my turntables in mid 2004 and thought ‘wow. THIS is fun’.
What was that first gig like? I’m not sure it was the very first one but one of the first gigs was at a festival and at that time hip hop was mainly being played in Sweden and everyone asked me ‘why house music? why don’t you play hip hop?’. I remember that there weren’t that many people on my dance floor, but there was a older famous Swedish artist from a rock band, and another famous Swedish hip hop artist, and they were dancing!(Ulf Lundell & Timbuktu) It was a weird first gig but it was fun.
Where did you go after leaving Ã–rebro your home town? I went to Uppsala where I studied to my master of degree in Pharmaceutical Science, and at the end of my studies I started djing and had my first gigs. Then I moved to Stockholm where I worked as a pharmacist and started to dj more and more.
Why did you decide to leave for Berlin when there was so much going on for you in Sweden? I felt like I needed inspiration in my everyday life. I was working full time and had a good job but it was taking up a lot of time, and I was playing every weekend and I really wanted to get going with my productions but it was hard to find the time. So I thought I need to go somewhere where I don’t know anyone, where I could lock myself into the studio but still feel inspired. I’d visited Berlin and I really fell in love with the city and thought, why not go there and feel inspired?
Do you think Berlin has had an effect on you as a DJ or a producer? Yes, Berlin has given me a lot of influence and inspiration! I often get the feeling that it’s happening first in Berlin. You really feel like you’re in the middle of it here. Of course it effects you in some way, in a good way I hope (laughs).
Your track “Flowerhead” really blew up and was then chosen to launch the WhatPeoplePlay label, how did that all come about? Flowerhead EP, with the tracks Et La Fleur and Flowerhead, was the first release on my limited vinyl only label Power Plant Records. These two tracks were really special to me and I had wanted to start a label for many years so thought: OK lets do it! The EP was released in May 2010 with a beautiful artwork by German illustrator Olaf Hajek. I was really nervous because people told me ‘no, you’ll lose so much money, don’t do it’ and I had also shopped the tracks around to other labels with no success so I thought I would have to buy the 500 copies myself! But then it turned out that people liked it, and it sold out very quickly. I was really happy about it and got support from a lot of great artists and Spencer Parker was one of them. He was one of the first who really took it up and then he asked me if he could do a remix of the Flowerhead track. And around the same time the distributor Word & Sound contacted me and wanted to distribute and/or license the EP from me for their new label Whatpeopleplay. I didn’t want license the whole EP since I released it as vinyl only so we decieded to go with just the Flowerhead track. They suggested Spencer Parker to do a remix, so it was perfect. Like it was meant to be.
Why did you decide that Power Plant would be a vinyl only label? I love vinyl, I love the feel, the look and the sound of it. Also the cover artwork is a big part of my label, and you don’t get that if you only release in digital. And if you do digital you wouldn’t really see the artwork. I had people that bought the vinyl because they liked the tracks and cover and sent in pictures of themselves with the vinyl, saying ‘I don’t actually have a turntable, can you send me the digital?’ (laughs) which I did. The promotion was also done digitally as well so its not like it’s not available, of course i want people to listen to it so it’s up on Soundcloud and Youtube etc. Every vinyl comes with a special artwork, first out was Olaf Hajek, the second release on PPR had an artwork from visionary illustrator and collagist SÃ¤tty. I want every release to be special and beautiful, a piece of art to hang on the wall when it’s not in the record bag.
Have you thought of venturing into live shows as well? Yes, that’s been on my mind for some time now. I’m learning Ableton at the moment so next year I’d definitely like to have a live set ready, that’s a goal.
What’s up next for you and Power Plant? I have a release coming out on Power Plant Records, in the near future and I have some other exciting things coming up that I can’t talk about yet! Power Plant are also in the making of the alternative to the merchandise t-shirt; a five pieve collection that will be ready for A/W 2012. We also plan a labelnight in MalmÃ¶ in the beginning of December. I’m also doing a cooperation with a Swedish headphone company, Zound Industries, they’re starting a new headphone label and I’m going to be involved with that.
You’re quite an inspirational character having forged your own path and created opportunities for yourself, do you have any word of advice for other people who may be thinking about making their own way in this industry? Just do it! Follow your heart, don’t be afraid, aim high and you’ll get there eventually, in some way.