We sat down with Sasha and La Fleur as they discussed keeping routines on the road, balancing work with family and staying healthy.
La Fleur: Good morning. You’re living in Ibiza now and I’m wondering how is that for you? Do you miss home?
Sasha: The winter in Ibiza is wonderful. I’ve actually been travelling a hell of a lot this winter and working a lot on the road, so I haven’t been too often. The days I have been back have been amazing. It’s quiet country living, we’re in the middle of nowhere. I’ve actually spent most of this winter touring quite extensively. It feels pretty normal. Travelling in the winter from Ibiza is pretty tricky, there aren’t many direct flights here, so it does have its issues.
La Fleur: Have you found a community who you hang out with on the island?
Sasha: Actually no!
It’s kind of a bit of an escape really. I tend not to be here in the summer unless I have a show. When it starts getting busy, I try to get off the island.
I grew up in a little village in Wales so I’m used to the countryside, but I’ve lived in big cities all my life – Manchester, London, New York, Amsterdam. I grew up in a village so reverting back to the countryside for me feels like a really natural fit.
What about you? You’re not originally from Stockholm are you?
La Fleur: I’m from Örebro, which is actually the fifth biggest city in Sweden, but that doesn’t say much since Sweden is small with only 9 million people…
Sasha: What was it like growing up there? Was there much of an electronic music scene?
La Fleur: Actually, there wasn’t an electronic music scene at all in my hometown, at least not that I was aware of.
I had an early interest in music and was quite nerdy about it. I remember my grand father took me shopping one day and I got to choose my first cassette tape, which was Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’. The feeling of choosing my own music and that experience of discovery, I really loved. From there, my best friend and I got heavily into Swedish punk bands such as Ebba Grön and Joakim Thåström but we also loved Madonna. Meanwhile, most of our friends were listening to Backstreet Boys, which we were not into!
We used to call this radio station and request a track and if the track came on that we had requested, we would record it on our tape recorder. In that way we’d be able to collect all our favourite music that. From that point on I started recording my own mixtapes for friends.
I’ve always had a really clear idea of what I wanted to listen to and what I liked musically, but there was never really any scene at this point. I was also a bit jealous of all the guys in the DJ booths that they could choose the music, but I didn’t initially think about it being something I could do.
I had a strong passion about what I liked and what I wanted to listen to, but the electronic scene wasn’t there when I was growing up. I started as a selector in a certain sense – I searched for music that touched me. I loved the whole thing of finding new tracks and finding new music, but it wasn’t electronic music I was searching for [in the beginning].
Sasha: What’s your favourite place to travel to?
La Fleur: It might sound boring but my actual favourite place to travel to is Sweden. I think having been in Berlin for 12 years, my love for Sweden grows ever stronger.
When I go see my parents in the countryside it’s all so familiar and that’s when I can properly relax. For me when I go somewhere not for work, that’s when I appreciate it the most.
Sasha: I know what you mean. I think one of the things I struggle with the most on the road, is the complete lack of any routine – i.e. a routine of eating well and exercising at the same time of the day. Just knowing where things are at and feeling comfortable. When you’re in a different city every day, with travelling, jetlag and planes. I know it’s very glamorous from the outside, but I just find the lack of routine really disorientating and I think it really compromises your sanity sometimes. I think for me coming to the quiet countryside in Ibiza or you going to mum’s and dad’s in Sweden, it’s very important to do that.
La Fleur: Yeah for sure. I grew up there, so they’re still in the same house.
Generally... my focus tends to be on the gigs I have ahead of me and prepping for them. I prefer to set aside time to be creative at home, rather than on the road.
Sasha: Oh wow. My family is scattered all over the place, so the family house we had when I was growing up isn’t there anymore. Most of my family are travellers and they’ve split up all over the planet.
La Fleur: You mentioned the lack of routine is disorientating when on tour, do you have a set routine you try to follow when you’re on the road?
Sasha: I try! The first couple of days I’ll go to the gym and I’ll be sleeping ok. Sleep is everything, if you start to lose it, then it all falls apart. If you do a weekend and you play three shows in a row and finish at 7am and then catch a midday flight, it’s very tough to keep a healthy routine going.
La Fleur: My dad is a doctor and he always told us the best way to stay healthy is to eat, drink and sleep well. I find trying to keep some sort of routine when I’m not on the road helps me a lot.
Sasha: I’ve started to listen to audio books in the last year or so, they really help me deal with the stress of travel, those and my noise cancellation headphones.
When I’m in those really stressful situations in airports and on a plane and you’re tired and everything winds you up a bit, I find having a voice in my ear has done wonders for my stress levels and making the whole experience less jarring.
I had ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts on the entire time I was in India which was a really immersive experience. It’s about a guy who escaped from jail in Australia and ended up in the slums of Mumbai. I find it a really good way to deal with stress when I’m in that action mode.
La Fleur: I do something similar in that I have certain podcasts I like. I find this helpful in taking my mind off the stress and the lack of sleep. I also have certain apps I listen to that help me meditate or I do reading exercises.
One thing I recently started to do is journaling. Even if I am dead tired, I write a few pages of what’s in my head and that really helps me relax.
Sasha: Oh that’s amazing, I’m sure that’s very cathartic.
La Fleur: Yes, otherwise I just keep myself up and think too much!
I’ve made some big life changes in 2019 after I was sick at the start of the year with pneumonia. It made me think about how important it is to have small and healthy rituals, that have a huge healthy impact.
One problem I had was that I had anaemia which was caused by a long-term inflammation in my body. This came from stress, not sleeping enough and not taking good enough care of my body etc.
With my new routine, I start the day with a glass of celery juice as that’s good for fighting inflammation. During the day I try to drink a lot of liquid and take vitamins, meditate and I then end my day with journaling. These are some examples of the small routine changes I’ve made which are having a big impact.
Another thing that keeps me sticking to a routine is the fact I have a daughter. Being a parent, forces me into a routine to follow and then when the routine is lost on a weekend it’s nice to return to the stricter schedule afterwards.
Sasha: Do you work on music while you’re on the road?
La Fleur: Rarely. I find it hard to be honest. Unless there is a long flight and you have a big chunk of time where you have time to draw inspiration from the gig you just played.
Sometimes I’ll record small voice samples on my phone when I get a specific idea. Generally though, my focus tends to be on the gigs I have ahead of me and prepping for them. I prefer to set aside time to be creative at home, rather than on the road.
Sasha: I go through stages. I find when I’m really jetlagged and I’m wired, I get loads done. I’ll have a night or two off and I’ll be at the hotel up til 2am and think I’ll either work on tracks or start playing around on this idea. A lot of the time I do actually use that time. But then I’ll find I do two or three days of it and feel like I’ve burned all my creative juices out.
La Fleur: You’ve been doing this a long time. How is it having a career with a family? Do you need to be more organised, work at certain times of the day?
The techno guys are expected to do 12 or even 24 hour sets now. Physically and mentally that’s absolutely demanding...but that’s just really pushing it and burning the candle at both ends.
Sasha: When I’m at home I need to work at certain times of the day to fit around family. Trying to do anything in the evening is impossible. Sometimes I’ll wake up at 5am and do a couple of hours work before people wake up. A lot of the time, when I get home, I’ll try and just be present with the family and be involved and engaged rather than too distracted by work.
When I’m on the road, that’s when I’ll spend a lot of time listening to music and putting ideas together. I have an engineer and a producer that I work with in London. If I just got off a plane, I’ll send them an idea I’ve just written like a little melody thing and they might send it back a couple of days later with a different slant or something like that.
It’s like the health stuff. I always go out with a list of intentions, but once you start dealing with sleep deprivation you go into survival mode. Making sure you’re in good shape for the next gig is the overriding thought process really.
La Fleur: How has touring changed for you over the course of your career?
Sasha: I think it’s gotten more intense. My touring used to be around the UK, with the odd international trip. I used to spend three months of the year just driving around the UK. Now it’s almost a new continent every weekend. Especially with the techno guys, they are expected to do 12 or even 24 hour sets now. Physically and mentally that’s absolutely demanding; it’s almost like they are showing off their mental prowess and mental strength, by doing these extra-long sets, but that’s just really pushing it and burning the candle at both ends. I think it’s great that there is a dialogue happening and it’s ok to talk about these things now openly. People might be sat at home thinking they’re going through the exact same stuff. Even if they don’t have it in themselves to share what’s going on with them, they might read an article or see a post that someone is sharing about what they are going through and it could really help.
La Fleur: When you are at home, do you take a day off? For example Mondays if you came back from touring on Sunday?
Sasha: I don’t really. I’m trying really hard at the moment to have one weekend off a month. But things come in and it’s really hard to turn them down. This weekend as I said has been really crazy, but April and May I actually have some time off and will have some family time.
I tend to like working in spurts; I definitely find I DJ better when I’ve got 3-4 gigs under my belt and I start to really know my music inside out. Sometimes if I take some time off, it takes me a couple of shows to get me back into my groove.
At the moment because I’ve been playing three shows every weekend for the last few weeks, I really feel like I’ve got really on top of my DJ sets. But I know if I take a couple of weeks off and get a load of new music in, sometimes it can take a while to get a groove back to where you want it to be. Having back to back shows is something I thrive on.
La Fleur: But of course you have support from your wife …
Sasha: Yes, she’s very understanding.
La Fleur: Yes, likewise my partner too and I’m so thankful. It’s so important to have a supportive family / partner.
Sasha: I couldn’t do this without the support network I have. The engineer and producer I work with, the team around me and my wife at home. I have support all along the way really. Even then it’s tough, when it comes down to it, it’s you on your own on the road most of the time. Generally do you have a method for working through creative blocks?
La Fleur: Recently, I’ve come to terms that creative blocks happen. Once you accept that it’s actually easier to get past them. Of course, it’s easier said than done but its possible.
Usually, the creativity will return on its own when it’s ready but there are times I might just have to push through as something will need to be finished and it’s about working and working till the creative juices flow. I prefer the first option when the creativity returns naturally!
Sasha: What’s going on with you this year? You’re relaunching your label right?
La Fleur: I had a bit of a break since the last release in 2017. I wanted to take a step back and really think about what I wanted, after a big year of changes last year.
The vision for Power Plant remains the same. I started it in 2010, so it’s almost be going 10 years now and now I want to step everything up a notch. In the past I did maybe 1-2 releases per year, so it’s not like I want to step up to once every month, but I want to do 2-3 every year.
I also want to have time to do the whole A&R thing and just give it a bit more thought again. It’s really a creative outlet for all sorts of thing I’m doing, with music always at the core.
Furthermore, I later got to exhibit and curate an exhibition and made a clothing project called Power Plant Elements. The label is a really important outlet for me to be able to do what I want.
Sasha: Great! Is the label mainly a vehicle for you to put out your own stuff?
La Fleur: Mainly it’s me and it will probably always be like that. That’s why I started the label because I had an EP that I really liked and no label wanted it so I thought that’s the time to start my own label! I have a new EP out on my label now called ‘Aphelion’.
Sasha: You mentioned the clothing side of things, is that a label you’re collaborating on?
La Fleur: It started out because I wanted to do merchandise, but I didn’t just want to do t-shirts. The line ended up with eight pieces – leather woollen guernsey – that I sold online as well as in some high end stores in Berlin and Stockholm. I loved it because I’d never done it before.
I worked with a designer but I took care of the production myself…which was a lot of work. It was a bit of burn out if I’m honest. I’m now doing more hand printed things and when the time is right I will do more of it.
La Fleur: On another topic, as you get older do you think about what you will tell your children about the music industry and partying? Will it be an open discussion or hush hush?
Sasha: I think it has to be an open discussion at a certain point. Picking the age to have that conversation is going to be tricky. I would have to be open on a certain level about what the scene is and how to protect yourself, but there are probably a few skeletons in my closet that I’ll keep to myself.
La Fleur: I definitely think it’s good to be honest. I might not say anything like don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, but definitely I’d like to have an open discussion. I think it’s always good if you can discuss these things.
Sasha: I think there are two extremes with kids, I was thinking about this recently. Prohibition doesn’t work – if you try and hide it all and ban things, it’s not going to work. But the other side is, I know a couple of people who have been smoking weed or taking acid with their kids when they are 13-14, that’s just a big no no! [laughs] Both extremes don’t work, so find a balance somewhere in the middle!
La Fleur: …and also giving them space to make their own decisions…
I definitely find I DJ better when I’ve got 3-4 gigs under my belt and I start to really know my music inside out.
Sasha: …And them feeling comfortable with asking you things. If you can have an open dialogue about things with your kids then you’re in a really good place.
La Fleur: Lastly, there has been a growing discussion on mental health which was no where near as widely discussed 20 years ago. I wonder if that’s because artists have a platform to discuss these issues (i.e. social media) or do you think it’s a more discussed topic nowadays?
Sasha: I had some personal mental health issues 20 years ago where I was having panic attacks when I was DJing. I didn’t even know what a panic attack was, I didn’t know about anxiety, I didn’t know about stress. I didn’t know about anything. It was only when a friend of mine who had been off work for six months and I didn’t know what was wrong with him, called me up and explained to me that he was having panic attacks and he was completely incapacitated with it, that I realised what they were.
Unfortunately, it’s taken an awful tragedy to really bring it to the forefront and get people talking about it, but that’s usually the case with things like this. But the fact that people can talk about things like this now…there’s so much information available, and people are being brave and standing up and talking about their own issues; that just didn’t happen before. It’s a sign of a shift in society in general, especially applied to our scene. It was something that was really brushed under the carpet before.
La Fleur and Sasha’s collaboration, Förbindelse EP, is out now on Last Night on Earth. Check it out here.
La Fleur’s ‘Tears’ is out today on Kompakt’s Speicher series. Check it out here.
Sasha’s collaboration with Kölsch, ‘The Lights’ which out now on ISPO. Check it out here.