Finland’s Spartan Lover, formerly PJVM has been one of my favorite skweee producers since the gut moving sub bass of Rubarb Dream first hit my stereo in 2007. Early on, Spartan Lover took skweee into funkier, breakier territory while injecting his trademark moving percussion, and always a bit of grit. His profile has risen considerably in the last year with the introduction of the Mässy record label and live concert promotion.
What were you up to musically prior to skweee?
I started producing electronic music in 1997 while I was still in school. The first tracks released in 2001 were a mix of electro & breakbeat. I kept producing that kinda stuff for 5 years as PJVM. I got into ghettotech in 2003 and the Svantröm LP was a mix of breakbeat, ghetto and electro. Exogenic Breaks Records from Helsinki released my album in 2006, but I played live skweee at the release party.
The impression is that you were one of the first producers recruited into the fledgling skweee scene. How did it happen?
I used to share a studio with Imatran Voima and I was chillin’ there in the basement with Randy Barracuda. He was getting bored with the 140+ bpm stuff he had been spinning and producing for ages and wanted to get involved in something different instead. He had just finished one of his first skweee tracks “Rick James” or “Skweee Like a Pig” (it was not called that at that point), I can’t remember which. Some small label had told him to put vocals on it to make it more poppy. I was totally against the idea.
Later, when he asked me to join the new movement, the name Skweee was already invented. I was getting fed up with my own “sound” that I was still struggling with, and the ridiculous breakbeat scene in Finland at the time, which I did not seem to fit with. I thought “why the hell not”. So I went home, switched my mpc1k on and produced my first skweee track, the 93 bpm “Rubarb Dream” in one night, and sent it to Mr. Carlquist (Pavan) at Flogsta Danshall, to see if it would fit the upcoming Museum of Future Sound compilation. It did, and also Skandinavian Skweee on Harmönia. I did that track as PJVM.
I took the Spartan Lover alias in early 2007 as a refreshing start into something deeper, more twisted, injured and rugged. A combination of hip-hop beats and badly imitated sounds of one of my fav late 90’s producers, Jyrkkä Pajulaakso. Randy Barracuda brought Spartan Lover up in a conversation on a plane to New York City asking me if I knew something about this guy in Finland.
What were your first skweee tracks? Were they things you had produced already or were they written with the new sound in mind?
“Sapeli” and “Rubarb Dream” were the first ones released. I did both of those really quick. I had no pre-skweee tracks ready, but I did use some loops that I had made for other projects prior to my enlightenment.
We had Pangea from Hessle Audio in town the other night, and he told me he was perfectly happy that there’s no name for the music he’s putting out on his label. In contrast, skweee artists made a decision to put a label on the music. It’s interesting because I can describe the music on Hessle more easily than skweee. How do you feel about this decision to deliberately attach a name to the sound?
I think it’s better to call our music “Skweee” rather than “Down tempo IDM” or “Beatz”.
The new editor of NME even nominated Skweee as “The New Ridiculous Electronic Music Scene 2010” or something, in a London Metro interview.
I do not actually care about the name too much. There’s nothing we can do about it. I think it describes the sound at least as well as “wonky”.
The instrumental and abstract sides of hip-hop have influenced a lot of electronic music over the last few years. I’ve noticed that journalists seem keen on attaching these same influences to skweee. So for instance J Dilla and Madlib are name dropped a lot in articles on skweee. Do you think that’s accurate? Who have been the important influences for you personally, and in your opinion for skweee music overall?
Both of those names have apparently been great influences to many in the skweee scene, but not everyone. All the skweee producers I’ve met have varying musical backgrounds and other projects too. Rigas for example.
Personally my biggest influences are Add N to X, Organ, Luke Vibert, Disco D, Pavan and early 80’s electro funk.
You’ve recently started the Mässy record label. You released the V.C. 12″ EP and most recently the Internationalization of Mässy CD compilation. It is in fact the most international skweee comp yet. Was that geographic diversity a goal or just something that happened as you were searching for tracks?
I got sent a lot of tracks when I announced I was putting it out. In the end I had to drop seven tracks that I originally had on the album. I was compiling a CD, to describe what “Mässy” is all about musically. That has little to do with cultural background. Hip-Hop and funk are the biggest influences. I am about to release more music on Mässy, and do not think it’s all gonna be Skweee. It felt natural to start with Skweee though.
When I was in Helsinki you told me the next release will be a Spartan Lover full-length. When is this expected? Will it be all skweee or a mix of styles? What will be the format?
I have about 10 tracks to choose from and I’m not sure yet if it’s gonna be an LP or EP, definitely a 12″. I have also some new tracks, but I think I will make the release from those I already have. I think it is for listener’s to decide whether it is skweee or not.
What other releases do you have planned for Mässy?
Digital and 12″ ‘s from different artists. I’m in talks with a distributor at the moment and it seems to be a good direction. Mässy is a record company so it feels like a natural thing to put out records.
Let’s move on to something that people will be talking about for a long time, Skweee Sunnuntai — the massive 10 hour skweeeathon you organized last May in Helsinki. What was it? How did you get involved?
A friend of mine asked me to put on a skweee show on a Sunday in May. I asked if I could make some bookings and was assured that there would be an incredible 250€ to spend on travelin´ expenses. The date, 19 May was also my homie V.C.’s birthday, so I thought an outdoor skweee concert would be a nice place to party at.
I booked Wankers United from France, and put almost the whole budget in that. Then, something magical happened, and I began to get e-mails asking “is the Sunday fully booked?” so, I ended up having the most wicked skweee’a’thon ever on my hands. We also got to have the Internationalization of Mässy release party on the same weekend at Club Siltanen.
Any good stories from the festival? It must have been rather wacky with virtually every skweee artist in the world flying in for the event. We did a head count and there were 21 performers.
One thing that comes to mind is the crazy diving guy at Siltanen. He was freaking out during Superfönky and then he hit the floor with his face. I hope he has recovered. The other thing is the absence of a single moment of bad music during the whole festival.
I’ve been to a number of all day music festivals before. I find them fatiguing. Towards the end your ears have been bombarded by so much sound you start to zone out and kind of wish it would be over. This was different. The quality level of the performances was so consistent and there was so much variety — the energy kept flowing. People like Daniel Savio and Mesak were saying all the artists had raised their game to new levels. Do you feel proud? Lucky? Can it happen again?
I feel lucky, proud and definitely certain that it will grow much, much bigger. No doubt.
Finally, there have been rumors of a Spartan Lover U.S. tour. Any word on that?
I hope so. Losonofono (Lo Dubs’ sub label in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.) is releasing a Spartan Lover 7″ “Eye Drop / Silk Smooth Skin” sometime soon. I think it will become a hit and ‘Lover will be brought to the U.S.A. instantly. “Bigger than The Beatles” will become a famous quotation.
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