By Joel Ivan Thomas.
A shimmering black pyramid is caressed by a gentle hand. Even through the smoke, the object demands your attention. The pyramid is sensual but strong, timeless but unique, futuristic but nostalgic. It feels like you’ve seen it before — maybe in a dream.
“A new feeling of life. Fall into my mind.”
This is Mystified, perfume, and the latest addition to the world of Bad Hammer. The Bad Hammer scope floats across the senses — Mystified is also a song, which has an irony tinged Blade-Runner-Vogue music video doubling as a commercial for the perfume. In the commercial, the perfume bottle is displayed on cityscape billboards in a retro-futurist style. A model, played by Elsa Estrella, flicks her hair and eyes the camera with suggesting smiles. It’s a quality kind of irony that’s perfectly executed — referential but fresh.
Lisa Klinkhammer and Johannes Badzura, the duo who make up the band Bad Hammer, seem to float in unison through the evening light as they approach me. We meet at the bottom of a dried-up waterfall in Berlin’s Viktoria park. They’re warm and excitable as they speak.
They tell me that nostalgia plays a key role in the work. Their hazy and saturated music videos have a particularly 80’s feeling to them — their sound has levitating synths and a drum machine with the sort of crunchy compressed snare you’d find in a John Hughes soundtrack. But while they make these references, their sounds and visuals also feel relevant and contemporary, elevated by cool and restrained guitar lines, and brooding yet dreamy vocals. As we talk, they acknowledge how they use aspects of the past but tell me they don’t want to photocopy it.
“There’s nothing entirely new. It’s always a patchwork of things,” Johannes explains. “As long as you don’t copy a style, one to one. Everything is sort of in motion, in movement, and I think that’s what we are. We’re always trying to be a little bit beside an original, and move between the references.”
“If we think it will sound a specific way, we change something about it,” Lisa adds.
With music videos displayed on Youtube and songs streaming on Bandcamp or Spotify, the presentation of musical worlds is often occupying the digital realm. Bad Hammer wanted to subvert this by creating an analogue experience with the Mystified perfume. Not only selling it as a standalone product but also using the scent to accompany a live performance, engaging the audience’s senses in the physical realm.
Bad Hammer by E-MAIL MAGAZINE
“I think this is a very strong thing, to have a room that is filled with a scent, you know? People approach the merch table and there is a testing bottle and you can just spray it, and the whole room smells like that stuff,” Johannes says.
“It would be amazing,” Lisa tells me, but the plans are on hold with corona restrictions in place. “We have to see how it goes now. But we would love to do that for sure — to make it an experience.”
The perfume itself is both product and artwork. The creation process has been time-consuming, taking almost a year to get to this point. The bottle is 3D printed, a pyramid with handcrafted elements — sanded, painted, and sanded again; a magnetic lid snaps crisply into place. It’s meant to reference luxury products like Les Exclusiv by Chanel.
“It has to fit all the parameters of quality from an object that we would really want to have. We needed a magnet closing system that you can not see. It just feels great. When you open it, it has a certain heaviness. Everything is well done.”
Bad Hammer by E-MAIL MAGAZINE
Lisa and Johannes also handcrafted the scent itself. It’s apparently a “woody and smokey” mist. It’s “animalic!” Johannes announces passionately.
Bad Hammer spent hours trawling through forums for “perfume nerds,” where they learnt how to create the scent. In these forums, people will write stories about their favourite perfumes, connecting the scents to their favourite memories. I guess this is the process for many artists, especially for Bad Hammer, who tell me they often write their songs as a way to capture specific emotions. “It’s always connected to a certain kind of feeling,” Lisa explains, or with visuals already in mind. “Then you create a story around it.”
“It’s not about the scent itself. It’s about the whole story or the whole narrative,” Lisa tells me.
The duo sees Mystified as the end of an era. The bottle design is “self-referential” to the album art in their first EP, which also has a glowing black object shimmering through smoke. They tell me they’re interested in pushing their aesthetic territory into new places as they venture into the recording of their first album.
When we finish the interview, we take photos at sunset and walk through the night, talking about music, art, and friends — vocal forms of storytelling I’ve dearly missed during isolation.