For the brand-new Rugged magazine issue we met him for a long chat, that was not possible to print in total. Here now the entire interview, where the German-Chilean talks about love, sound, music and South America.
How big is the influence of your “hobo life” on all the rhythms, beats, and melodies you came up with for “Ay Ay Ay”?
Matias Aguayo: In a way it’s essential, because obviously I have to adapt my way of working to this kind of life. I can’t work in a studio for longer periods and use a lot of machinery, so I have to keep it simple and portable. That’s why I do it all with a laptop and a mic, using my voice and the instruments that I come across. And obviously, this “hobo” life, as you call it, is reflected in the music, as I think music is something so strong, it will automatically reflect the circumstances under which it is made. This is essential for me, really living music. I think you can always hear that in the end. It’s different when an album is accompanied by adventures and a true story, than if it’s just something designed in an office called studio.
How much love is in your new album and what was the source for this love?
Matias Aguayo: There’s probably many ways of answering this, some might be too private though… I think loving is a learning process in which you try to overcome many obstacles, like circumstances of your life that stand in your way for example, or your behaviour towards other people. There are so many similarities between music and love, also considering the idea of someone or something belonging to you. Love can become an overwhelmingly great thing, once you let things happen, once you trust and you let things flow, once you are not thinking of yourself but giving something and trusting it to find it’s own destiny through development, watching it closely or from far away. Loving is letting go in a way. And in music this is reflected by the fact that once the author of the music stops concentrating on his authorship and just lets the music speak for itself, this is something quite similar to the ideal of perfect love, in which love itself stands in the foreground, and not your personal interests.
How much Africa is in all those tracks?
Matias Aguayo: This is something I cannot really determine. It is more a question of how much Africa is in the music I listen to. As soon as you love house and South American music and so many others, there’s obviously a lot of Africa in there.
Is there a certain aspect of infantility in your music?
Matias Aguayo: For me, making music is a way of keeping my childhood alive. Through music I feel a strong link to my childhood, and I feel this link getting stronger and stronger over time, especially since there exists a kind of continuity, as I’m practically still doing the same things I was doing when I was recording on a boom box at age nine. Maybe more sophisticated and more experienced.
Matias Aguayo: I don’t like the term dark so much because I never really understood the expression. If that’s the darkness of the night, I’m fine with it. There’s not so much horror. Argento isn’t called so because of Dario Argento. It was a working title I kept because the atmosphere reminded me of the music we were listening to in Buenos Aires at that moment. There was something nocturnal and almost introspective about it, blue colours, sparkling disco lights, etcetera – a nocturnal mood.
What was on your mind when you wrote the sweet serenade Rollerskate? Or is this question too personal?
Matias Aguayo: Oh yes, it was indeed intended as a sweet hum-along lover’s tune and I was thinking of a girl on rollerskates!
Your record reminds us of a modern form of world music. Would you agree to this description?
Matias Aguayo: I don’t like the term world music so much, as there seems to be a kind of colonialist understanding of the world behind it. World music, for most of the people who use the term, is all music not from Europe or the USA. If we’re talking about something like traditional music, there’s obviously a link that results from the fact that I’ve been mostly using vocal and drums and voice as an instrument, very much based on rhythms. That’s the archaic thing about this way of production, the very primary thing. On the other hand, putting all those layers of voices on a portable device to make a full arrangement would not have been possible technically in the past and is therefore a very modern approach. I like this kind of contradiction between hi-tech and primitiveness. Techno has a lot to do with that for me.
What’s the impact of streetlife and the BumBumBox parties on your songs?
Matias Aguayo: It’s essential for me in so far that I open myself musically to other formats than just the club or the amplifier at home. I love the idea of music as an ongoing process in every situation in life – that makes music more communicative and, anyway, I want to make stuff that communicates to very different people, and not just a certain scene or a certain musical context.
How do you find your melodies? By singing or listening through imagination or life?
Matias Aguayo: Some melodies, most of them really, just turn up while I improvise. I try to listen into the silence and then they suddenly appear. Others are traditional melodies I take from songs I know. Then again, there are little slices of life, like moments with my friends, which can lead to certain melodies, rhythms or lyrics – a word we often use, a rhythm we’ve been tapping on our knees, or a melody we created while singing on top of a rhythm at a party, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Most of the songs on your album are made from sounds produced with the mouth. Was this a purely aesthetical decision?
Matias Aguayo: It was more an aesthetical result than a decision. I decided to record everything this way because it was easier and more fun. I didn’t want technical things to stand in the way of the creative process. And my voice is my main instrument, the instrument I play best, so to speak, so I decided to start working on the album by recording all ideas with voice first, so I wouldn’t have to care too much about production. It was meant as drafts, but the more I listened to it, the more I liked how it sounded the way it was.
Sometimes, a song can be like a prayer. Is there a spiritual element to your music?
Matias Aguayo: Making music is a very spiritual process, or so it should be. I can’t really say if it is praying what I do there, but if praying is something that gets you close to the unspeakable, the invisible, and unexplainable, then I guess I’m doing something similar to that.
Do you like fight songs? We think on your hit Minimal or on the title of your last Kompakt single Walter Neff, called so, we guess, after one of the leading figures of the Dachau concentration camp revolt.
Matias Aguayo: Actually, my Walter Neff has nothing to do with the Dachau revolt, but with a character from the movie Double Indemnity by Billy Wilder. Minimal was fun to do, but it wasn’t anything like a conceptual idea about making a statement, it just happened. I don’t think about political content in my music, but rather about life, and how I act in life, and on what platforms and in what way I present my music, for example.
You finished the album together with Original Hamster in Chile. What was his impact?
Matias Aguayo: I did this album in collaboration with not only Vicente Sanfuentes (Original Hamster) but also with Marcus Rossknecht. Vicente helped me a lot with the recordings and with finishing all the stuff, adding harmonies or rhythms here and there, solving problems in the arrangement, giving the whole thing a form. We met twice for this, once in Santiago de Chile and then again in Paris. We took some time to come up with a way of working on this album, as working this way was very new for both of us. Once we found it, it all worked very easily and fluently. Then, after finishing everything, the two of us went to Berlin together to work on the mix with Marcus Rossknecht, who is an exciting person to work with. Finding the best way of mixing all these tons of layers was a challenge for him, too.
Do Chile and the Chilean culture have an impact on your work?
Matias Aguayo: Very much so. I’m also in contact with many musicians who live in Santiago and I’m often there. They’re currently going through an exciting period in terms of music over there, and there are some Chilean artists on both Gary Pimiento and my label Cómeme, for example Diego Morales aka Diegors who played in the fabulous band Fredi Michel from Santiago de Chile.
When we visited some of your live sets together with South Americans they often didn’t like the parts where you played around with Reggaeton, because for them it’s music that they hear at home all the time. But to all the Europeans it sounds so fresh. Can you say why?
Matias Aguayo: I don’t know how to answer this question. It would be very wrong to make any deductions from the opinion of a couple of South Americans you went to a party with. I forwarded this question to my Cómeme friends, who are travelling on the same train with me at this very moment (while we are listening to Hector Lavoe on tape), and they don’t quite understand it either. There are obviously people in South America that don’t like Latin music, as much as there are probably people in the US who don’t like soul. At our parties for example, in Santiago or Buenos Aires, everyone is very used to the fact that we also play Latin tunes at times. Nobody has a problem with that. People love it over here. But maybe you were with people who were looking for a more European sound, as there are often people from Europe coming to South America in search of a more Latin sound.
Could you name a place where you’d like to stay forever and settle one day?
Matias Aguayo: Any place where my girlfriend is.
From South America to Europe and back, it seems like you never really stay anywhere. Where did you hang around last summer?
Matias Aguayo: If we’re talking about the European summer, then it was between Cologne, Hamburg, Paris, Lisbon, and London together with all my Cómeme label mates.
You said before that the BumBumBox parties have a certain influence on your music. Can you describe the atmosphere of these parties?
Matias Aguayo: I can’t think of one especially because they were all very different, and all of them were very good. If you have enough space to dance, if nobody complains about the music, if the people who don’t come with the intention to have fun but to consume just don’t show up, and when really everybody is dancing from the beginning to the end, then you really have nothing to complain about. Our parties are like that!
Can you think of a public place, where you’d like to have a BumBumBox party in the future?
Matias Aguayo: I’ve none in mind right now. We usually chose a city and then walk around at night with a few locals to look for the perfect spot. We’ve developed a feeling for that, especially my Argentinean friends Gary Pimiento and Pablo Castoldi. I provide the music!
And how did you come up with the BumBumBox idea? Boredom? Adventure? Fun?
Matias Aguayo: Necessity! It was summer and we needed to dance. All the clubs weren’t playing exciting music and the whole experience with going to a club was more of a suffering process from entrance to dancefloor to toilet to exit! And we also had the beautiful city of Buenos Aires at night as background, so we just had to do it.
What’s the whole Cómeme label thing for you, serious business or just fun?
Matias Aguayo: In Europe fun and seriousness are put against each other often in a way where fun means superficiality and seriousness means deepness! I don’t see a contradiction there. For me, it’s deep dancefloor music for people with dancefloor knowledge, and I feel the necessity of smiling at the next person on the floor and to relate my body movements to different elements in the music and to having a lot of fun on the floor. I think this necessity in dance music is something that led all the participants of the label to do things this way.
Do you have an idea why Cómeme is getting so much attention from the international dance scene?
Matias Aguayo: I’m sure it’s because it sounds different and fresh to many people, and some are really happy about actual music with a jacking factor. Not so much concentrated on technical trickery, but more dance, love, colours, etc…
Matias Aguayo: Almost all the drawings for the singles and most of the designs are done by Pablo Castoldi. Some drawings are by me, but those are very few.
How did you produce the video for the first Cómeme release Pitaya Frenesi? Was it a joke or was there a storyboard? And is the pirate flag at the end meant as a statement?
Matias Aguayo: Very improvised on the beaches of the Mexican Caribbean. Destiny led us to the pirate flag and it is some symbolic reflection of what we do, obviously.
What have been your greatest personal encounters in the last years?
Matias Aguayo: Ladybumbox, Gary Pimiento, Pablo Castoldi, Rebolledo, Diego Morales, Christian S, Korkut Elbay, Jon Burnip (Capracara). I could go on like this. They’re all people I share a musical processes with.
Does the Cologne music scene, where you once started your career and where your album is going to be released, still have an impact on your art? If yes, how?
Matias Aguayo: Yes, it does, but when I talk about the music scene it’s not so much names but a certain atmosphere and people I’ve known in Cologne for years. We’ve been doing stuff together for a long time, and I practically grew up there in terms of music. There’s a certain groove from Cologne that has also had a big influence on my music.
What do you associate with the word bohemian?
Matias Aguayo: As far as I know, a bohemian is someone who leads an unconventional lifestyle, in most of the cases linked to music and the night, adventure. Being a vagabond maybe?
That’s close. One more question: Pisco Sour or vodka?
Matias Aguayo: The Peruvians definitely make the best Pisco Sour, and since I haven’t been in Peru for ages, I didn’t come across a lot of Pisco Sour. Vodka is easier to find for sure.