Matias Aguayo and The Desdemonas interview

Kompakt mainstay and Cómeme label owner, Matias Aguayo expands on his latest live project The Desdemonas ahead of a date in Manchester.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 16th Sep 2016

Image: Matias Aguayo 

From Germany via Chile, Matias Aguayo is an artist with big ideas. You could pin him down in the sense that he's free-spirited, but never through genre conformity. 

Matias' quirky productions naturally bask in the latin influence of his homeland and reflect the minimal thrust of Germany, but it's the unorthodox deployment of his vocal chords that so often distinguishes his art.

A theatrical background means the Chilean possesses a natural desire to perform, evidenced from his inclination to escape the DJ booth and swing his hips to the on-looking crowd. The Desdemonas, Matias latest live venture, gives him further authority to open up musically and theatrically.  

To get a greater sense of this exploration into "ominous encounters with a parallel life", Ben Smith caught up with the Kompakt mainstay and Cómeme label owner ahead of a date at Soup Kitchen in Manchester on Sunday 18th September

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What were the desires behind this side-project, you’ve played with live instrumentation before, but this appears as your most ambitious?

Given the experiences I had playing with other musicians on stage, I felt the necessity in developing this further and to develop musically. I have always been more of a musician than DJ which is why I have never delivered a DJ set without giving it a performative character.

I like collaboration, I like playing with other musicians, and I love to perform and develop performances. And in general I really love to try out new things and to find new beginnings. I don’t like the idea of establishing myself in one way of work, one place, one genre. I grew up in so many places, I can’t develop a “resident” character.

Could you expand on the concepts behind The Desdemonas and the energies you aim to communicate? 

The first Desdemona tunes appeared while I was jamming with limited equipment and no computer screen in a room I stayed in for some weeks to develop new music - far from thinking about a possible release or similar thoughts.

There was a very special atmosphere in that place where the story started developing magically in the sense that very early I developed different characters singing each song, and somehow unconsciously developing a mysterious story.

When I was a kid I recorded hours on tapes in recluse, with not much musical references, and somehow I found references in these memories and how I imagined music to be - like a doppelgänger visiting myself from the future.

[I don’t see the Desdemonas as a side project but as a musical main focus.]

I gathered musicians I had worked before previously, starting with Gregorio Gomez from Medellín, Colombia. I have worked with him many times and most intensely on the project 'Rionegro' which we developed alongside local musicians in Medellín and released on Cómeme last year.

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He plays this very deep sounding guitar that sounds like some giant interstellar bells to me. Whereas in Matteo Scrimali, I found the ideal drummer to build this rhythm section of mixed drum machine and acoustic drumming that we were searching for - that is extremely specific to our sound.

Then there's Henning Specht on keyboards; I have worked with him before and together we built the whole sound aesthetic of the electronic side of things using mainly products from the small Brooklyn based Critter & Guitari. They build these very pretty small digital synths which we combine with a nice collection of guitar pedals and stompboxes to reach our desdemoniac aesthetic.

With help of a friend I built an instrument called the “Mona” that you will be present at the shows. I am developing more dance moves and drama - the shows on this tour have been wonderful so far.

What did you find most difficult about bringing a live set together and how did you aim to challenge yourself with this project?

I love working in music so anything that can be considered a difficulty, I somehow see as part of the things we have to get done and learn from. I mostly encountered difficulty in what I would describe as things to learn from day to day and from gig to gig.

Does this project connect with a particular part of the world, culture or experience?

Not really one specific, it is complex, and this complexity combines to some fantasies about a parallel world with other cultural paradigms. Music was always a chance to construct other worlds for me I guess.

Maybe it connects with teenage times when I was living in a small town in West Germany that I always dreamt of leaving.

You seem to have a natural desire to perform, do you ever feel this is suppressed by playing a DJ set and this project is the result of that?

I think there is a lot of suppression everywhere and music is a way to free yourself. Obviously there is suppression in the DJ booth, too. I always loved to perform, to dress up, to put on shows, to imitate people or invent characters and so on. I have always loved the stage, plus I worked in theatre a lot, too.

It came quite natural for me to grab a microphone during DJ gigs and to walk straight into the audience and dance with them and so on. I wanted to party with the people. A DJ that is giving dance orders from his booth and making people raise their hands has always reminded me of dark chapters in history.

And I still love Djing but yes, I always have to go back to the booth and mix the next record or I am tied to the equipment there. The band gives me other liberties that I enjoy very much.

I wouldn’t say the project is a result of that as I think there’s much more to it, but these experiences sure helped.

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How much of a part will visuals and improvisation play in your live experience?

Visuals not so much yet, as at the moment we are really trying to develop the music and the band more, but improvisational parts are important to us. I think it is important for me to leave improvisation space, so we can discover more unexpected things and surprise us and the audience more.

However – being a lover of graphic novels – I am working on a visual part that is still being developed and you can get some hints by looking at our tour posters.

Could you update us on the latest happens on your label Cómeme and your current involvement with Kompakt?

There is exciting things happening on the Cómeme side too, we just released a new EP by Christian S from Cologne, and there is more music to come soon, for instance from DJs Pareja from Buenos Aires, Sano from Medellín Colombia and also the ever traveling Inga Mauer.

I will also release again on Cómeme with a very dear project to me, a collaboration I did with DJ Spoko from South Africa. On Kompakt, I just released a track on their latest TOTAL compilation.

Matias Aguayo and The Desdemonas play Soup Kitchen on Sunday 18th September - tickets via the box below.

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