Dj, producer, party maker and dancefloor shaker, Matias Aguayo has been exploring sounds and music for over a decade, in which he travelled a lot, collaborated with some great artists, joined Kompakt and started his own record label, Cómeme. His music has been described as “universal” – in his dj sets, you’ll find a mixture of different genres, from Latin beats, a window to his origins, to his signature techno and house, riddled with his own voice samples. We’re very happy to be able to share with you this insider with Matias Aguayo now – just a few months after we’ve interviewed his good friend and Cómeme pee, Christian S, and exactly one year after our first feeder insider.
Read the whole conversation for a peek in the life and music of this wonderful artist.
This is what feeder would like to know about you:
When travelling, I like to… film videos out of the windows of planes and train observing strange phenomena visible to the everyday traveller, I take time to read, observe people and their habits, imagine I am somebody else on some dangerous mission, drink a lot of water, write down ideas in little books, make rhythms, learn languages or learn about languages, learn about music and dancing, about food, about communication.
Perhaps my greatest wish is to… be an actor in a funny movie.
My music’s defining features are… Drums, Bass, Vocals. Sometimes chords.
One of the biggest accomplishments in my life is… my spaghetti carbonara.
My favorite studio tools are… the microphone Sennheiser MD 441, the Vermona lancet retroverb, the critter & guitari pocketpiano, my black maracas, the mfb tanzbär. The Tempest, and the electroharmonix 45000!
I’ve always been fascinated by… Bette Davis
In a few years, I’ll be… a famous funny movie actor.
When dj’ing, I always pay close attention to… the best people in the crowd. I focus on the ones who enjoy the music most and are most supportive and show the best dancing moves. If I get in contact with them, they can cause a contagious reaction extending their joy to the rest of the audience!
3 tracks I love from artists I’ve collaborated with…
Ana Helder – Track con Flute
Lena Willikens – Nilpferd
Dany F – Wouhau [to be released in May]
Ana Moca-Grama: Hello, Matias, I’m so glad we get to do this interview! Your background story is quite a fascinating one and your career in music has been a very interesting journey, which overlapped with the literal journeys you’ve always been taking: from Chile to Cologne to Berlin, Argentina, you’re always travelling and working on the move. How do these influences translate into your music?
When I was a kid, son of exiled Chileans who fled the fascist Pinochet dictatorship, I grew up with the music of, for instance, Los Jaivas and Victor Jara, that was music my parents listened to. I grew up in Germany, and an Argentinean DJ, Alfredo, friend of my dad was always recording this tapes for me with music from Colonel Abrahams, Grace Jones, Sylvia Robinson, D – Train etc… that I loved and listened to all day. And later I’d listen more to Tuxedomoon, The Normal, Joy Division, Crispy Ambulance, DAF and other “dark” music. As I lived in the countryside outside Cologne I didn’t have the possibility to share this music with many people, and btw I was also doing already recording some music on tapes…
So I learned quite early to not care too much about whether people like my music or not, which I think has been a very healthy thing for me personally and also for my music. It is something I warmly recommend to every musician and it is something I try to encourage in our label. As a musician I think you shouldn’t think about expectations, or try to adapt to some style or dominating school of (musical) thoughts.
AMG: You always talk about voice being your instrument, the way you use it has become in fact one of your signature styles. Have you always enjoyed singing? How do you manage to combine lyrics with an electronic sound without crossing the barrier of pop? And speaking of lyrics, how do they get born?
Yes I have always enjoyed singing or making sounds with my voice. I think the lack of technical possibilities of doing music when I was a kid, inspired my imagination and led me to create my own way of developing arrangements. It is pure pleasure for me and a necessity also. To do commercially oriented music I think has not so much to do with whether you use a voice or not. It is always the intention of the music that you hear in its result. Often lyrics are intended to be something catchy, something that aspires to be “a hit”. I am not interested in that cause it makes musicians unhappy and their results not as pleasant, I think. Also it depends on what you sing and how you develop lyrics: In my case it grows often from language, from the different dialects people speak and the melodies they use while talking. I find the most exciting musical compositions derive from the exaggeration or imitation of accents, I try to hear people’s chatter as if they were another species, like I would be listening to birds.
AMG: You’ve mentioned that your creative process involves lots of improvisation, that you sometimes compose new tunes as you play them at a gig. I think that’s a brilliant thing to do, partly because you can observe, real time, the feedback you receive from the public. How much of that feedback guides you, what insights are you always happy to learn from the crowd (directly and indirectly)?
It is a process that always goes back and forth from the venue to the studio and back… I am happy to learn from the crowd, if a melody or rhythms sucks you in, keeps you dancing, you can notice that while you play I think and watch them react. And this is not only a peaktime thing. It can be also more towards the end of a party, when less people are left… I would hope for more participantion, chants, choirs from the audience… I hope to achieve that one day, develop arrangements that are easy for people to participate in…
The dialogue with the crowd is inherent to my working process: For instance I have been observing that people’s dancemoves are being less and less expressive, and that dancing evolution is apparently taking us to an end in which just a slight rhythmical movement of the shoulders will be already considered dancing. I thought something has to be done about it and so I created “El rudo del House”, as an imaginary creature that dances through life.
It is a series of twelve inches, videos and costumes, that is starting to be released now. With help of the London choreographer Alexandra Green I developed some dancesteps that relate to different rhythms of my “El rudo del house” series. I will be showing them off in form of videos and also in performances, to actively take back the dancing into the clubs and also I hope that people will learn the steps at our gatherings. In Mexiko I did a dance show including over 20 dancers, it was an incredibly fun and exciting thing to do. We did a casting in which everyone could show off their steps, the dancers were really good, and I feel like I am experiencing something completely new, which is a situation that is important for me to create on a regular base for my projects. I like to feel at the start of something.
AMG: Your BumBumBox parties were totally, well, out of the box – moving the party from a clearly delimited place to the streets, the urban space of us all. Do you see yourself relaunching these parties or implementing any similar projects in the future? What’s the impact of this change of scenery when it comes to the event? I wonder why we don’t see more initiatives like it these days.
One of the reasons that you don’t see many of these initiatives nowadays is that they are more and more made impossible. When we did those parties the places we did them where places out of control, and these places have changed already. These parties where a good opportunity to understand how cities relate to their own public space.
This public space is not a space thought for dancing or gathering for any non commercial reason. Public space is seen by the authorities often either as a way of getting from your house to your work or a space for shopping or consuming. When you dance on the street you realize there is also other things you can do, and that dancing on the streets should be part of the declaration of human rights. What else is so inherently natural to us than dressing up and moving to the beat of a drum?
AMG: In 2009, you launched Cómeme, alongside great artists from all around the world, from Latin America to Moscow, we actually talked to Alejandro Paz about it a bit in another interview. You’ve always been keen on working with new people from different places, what’s it like having a record label that allows you to do that? What would you say are the defining features of Cómeme music?
It is great for us to have this international and intercultural community! For me specially as I always felt torn apart a little, it has given me the opportunity to build a bridge between all those places I lived in! And it has extended not only in terms of musicianship but also the Radio Cómeme project and the whole artwork and exhibitions and other actions. We somehow feel the whole music thing is being commercialized and put into different pigeonholes for the purpose of being better sold. Also we feel there is an interpretation of popmusic that is very much dictated by a eurocentric perception of concepts, arrangements and rhythms. We don’t want the musical perception to be dictated by the northern hemisphere but to be a dialog between people, something that enhances the understanding of each other.
The features of Cómeme music are therefore not style or reference, or the will to fit into the concepts that are accepted by the techno or “indie” mainstream. It is more about being extremely danceable and understandable through dance, musical elements different body parts can relate to, an open music that is the opposite of introspective, something giving. I am happy we can’t really explain it and we have no name for it… In the societies of control that is the best strategy to survive.
AMG: I cannot mention Cómeme without mentioning Kompakt, the record label you’ve been close to for a very long time. Are you preparing new releases with them?
Last year I released a 12” called “Legende” on Kompakt! It was recorded fully in Berlin, has three instrumental and one vocal track on it, and we did a video in which I am a vampire who runs a cooking show.
AMG: Your latest album, “The Visitor”, was recorded in different places and in collaboration with many friends and artists. What was the whole experience like?
A very long, fun and complex experience. You must imagine our productions are quite complex for us being such a small label. That is made also possible by the technical possibilities of today. To put all this different people from different places together on one record, recording at different places of the world would have been much more complex 20 years ago or better say impossible for a label that is just run by a few people and doesn’t sell huge quantities of records, etc..
As a kid I grew up working in theatre groups and actually wanted to become a director, but then I went more and more into music. But still I think I have achieved to fulfill this idea of directing , I like to put a working group of people together to achieve some artistic goal, go through the creative processes etc. These productions we do are really easier for bigger labels so we have an infrastructural disadvantage, but we are more flexible, can go bigger risks, work with less pressure. The core of this group is Avril Ceballos who manages the label, and Sarah Szczesny and Christian S who do the artwork.
My project now is “El rudo del House”, and in a way it has become more complex even than “The Visitor”, due to all implications of visual art, costumes, masks, videos and of course the development of dance steps, it involved more people from different artforms like Sally Sibbet who did the videos.
It is a combination of many things, and I wonder if the album format nowadays is really fitting into our times or not. I doubt the attention span and open mindness that an album needs is impossible to reach nowadays. I am liking more and more the idea the experiment with other more complex and less defined formats. It somehow feels more 2015 …
And “El rudo del House” has become a wild and exciting experiment in that direction…
AMG: You’ve visited Romania a few times now, how are you enjoying our country, can you feel our Latin roots? J How do you feel about the local public? And while we’re on this subject, do you know any fellow producers or dj’s?
Of course I can feel the latin roots and I have been enjoying each stay a lot. The local audience is a very giving one, one can be thankful to play in Romania as a dj. First time I played was at the roof of the people’s palace.
Actually we have a Romanian artist now on Cómeme, Borusiade. I got to know her via Lena and Avril, and am thrilled to be able to start working with her. She has a very own style of doing arrangements and choosing sounds, creating some magic with dark and mysterious patterns over slow spaced out percussive landscape, it’s epic and danceable, wonderfully original and profoundly honest.
AMG: I read a bit about “District Union”, your satellite system studio-playground in Berlin, which sounds like the most idyllic environment for working and finding inspiration. How do you juggle between work in the studio and live dj sets?
Yes the district union is like an UFO, a flying saucer stranded in an old factory building by a graveyard with feminists, musicians, gay activists, collectors of fairy tales, etc… It’s a dream of modernity and utopia!
Between work at “the union” and traveling from gig to gig, and working on the label it is hard to develop the level of concentration that is needed for music making, There is so much distraction these days, so one has to develop new strategies of work. Being offline has become a luxury and the District Union is an “offline” studio in which even phones don’t work properly, and obviously there is no internet, no feed, no likes, no posts. There are trees very close to the window, that reflect the passing of the seasons, you can see squirrels, woodpeckers and sometimes a fox. It is forbidden to smoke tobacco in the studio but there is a nice view over the city under a vast sky as soon as you leave the building and other smokers hang out there, too…
AMG: How does the rest of the year look like, what will you be up to? Any particular desire you want to fulfill in the future?
I have a lot on the list. I am starting the whole “el rudo del house” thing, it’s evolving further, taking different shapes, developing into the unexpected. The music was a starting point but it has turned into something uncontrollable. I am observing how its dynamics take me to other places. The costumes are representing figures that with the time of the development of their moves and gestures have taken more shape, it’s like I get to know them better. This process, just like the musical process, seems like a process of discovery for me. It’s not about inventing or creating, it’s more about a sensitivity of following energies, sounds and movements that are already there. I will disappear to create more music afterwards. I have heavy touring behind me, and more is to come, I love to travel and share the music. I am extremely happy about our recent releases, Ana Helder, Lena Willikens, and two wonderful 12” that are coming now: Dany F from Medellín, Colombia with “Wouhau”, and Carisma from Buenos Aires with “Vertigo”.
I will disappear for a bit to create new music. Then I will continue touring, and in between I will be always going back to Berlin, the homebase. I am looking forward to the the “Rionegro” album, a collaboration with musicians from Medellín , Colombia.
A particular desire we as label would like to fulfill is to release more music by female artists, one day having the same amount of girls as boys in the label…
Men have build up and try to maintain structures of power also in music. The way to correct that is action, is actively trying to change that.
AMG: Thank you so much, peace & love!