Since Aguayo left Cologne—the city where he grew up after his parents escaped from Chile's draconian government—he's been on the run. But it was those years in Germany that were perhaps most instrumental in his career: In Cologne Aguayo joined up with the Kompakt crew, collaborating with Michael Mayer (1997's "Zimt") Marcus Rossknecht (Broke) and, most famously, with Dirk Leyers (Closer Musik). In 2005, however, Aguayo finally went his own way with Are You Really Lost? a down-tempo record that served as a blueprint for pure electronic sexiness.
After a three-year break, Aguayo came back to Kompakt in 2008 with two singles, the celebrated—and much talked-about—"Minimal" and "Walter Neff." But what's up next? Once we found out he was coming back to Cologne for a visit, we scheduled some time to ask him just that.
That's tough to say. At the moment I have two permanent residencies. My base is in Buenos Aires and when I'm in Europe, it's Paris. Especially the last year has been crazy. I spent a month in Brazil, then some time in France and then again in Argentina. Now I've been in Mexico for one-and-a-half months. There's a lot of going back and forth at the moment.
Do you plan those trips or do they happen coincidentally?
In this case, they just happened. But it makes sense to me. As a DJ you get the opportunity to travel a lot. I consider that a great chance. For example, I tell myself: "OK, now I am in Mexico. So I can go to all these markets, where you have music you would never find on the internet, in any magazines or European record stores." Right now I'm steadily oscillating between my both residencies. It's pretty stressful, but living only in South America or Europe is simply not possible at the moment.
I like my life that way. Maybe it's only a phase. But, of course, it also has practical reasons. This way, I can work together with a lot of people. In Buenos Aires, for example, the infrastructure for releasing records or doing gigs is totally different from here. I try helping people who've got potential by giving them the opportunity to do something in Europe.
It took three years after Are You Really Lost? for something new to appear under your name. What happened in the meantime?
Well, that depends on what you consider to be public. There's always something going on. Whether it is in South America or somewhere else. Here you don't really take notice of that. One of my main activities in South America are the BumBumBox parties, which I organise along with a couple of friends. The whole thing evolved out of sheer desperation. In 2004 a discotheque burned down in Buenos Aires and 175 people died.
Since then the laws in terms of clubbing have become pretty strict in the capital. Therefore, we went out to the streets to party there. With a big ghetto blaster we formed up across from a club and suddenly we had a huge crowd. After this we said to each other: "Let's do it again next week, but with more ghetto blasters!" That's how the whole thing got started. It's a complete different form of dealing with music because the music that works on the streets isn't necessarily the same that works in the clubs. For example, you can play an old Ron Hardy set outside but a modern and reduced techno set would get lost on the streets. It gave us all a creative push.
Are you DJ-ing at these parties or do you play live music?
DJs don't spin. But with an iPod we will play DJ sets that we or friends of us compiled. With these parties we travelled many places in South America. It all started in Buenos Aires, but we also did parties in Santiago de Chile, Medellin, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Asunción or Montevideo. It's a whole new thing, setting itself apart from the standardized music production and perception you have nowadays. There you have music for the living room, or music for the club. The consumer mentality in clubs works the same way: you pay an entrance fee and expect people to give you something for the money.
Does that mean that you are bored by the current club scene?
I still like playing in clubs. But it's the undefined places that are most interesting. Clubs today are a remnant of the past. The only thing they do is look like old clubs. The typical consumer mentality led the people to think: "There's the DJ. He has to provide me with everything!" I don't think that's necessarily the way you should approach a party. I think at a party it's not only the DJ who has to be good, but the audience as well.
If that's the case you shouldn't encounter that problem at the BumBumBox parties since you simply don't have DJs.
Yes, it's totally different on the streets. The audience is extremely diverse. We play very different music at the BumBumBox. Music with more vocals, more rhythms than the reserved sound you find in clubs. At some point we said: "OK, let's release that kind of music." In the beginning it only worked via the internet.
Now you've launched a label too. The first single is "Pitaya Frenesí."
Exactly! The label Cómeme that we are running with friends emerged out of necessity. In the beginning we were totally unconcerned about vinyl, but rather presenting our music through MySpace. Suddenly, we got so many requests where one could buy the music. That's how the label was born.
No, I'll definitely release something on Kompakt. I'm currently working on an album that is supposed to be out on Kompakt in September or October. Nevertheless, it's Cómeme which is the central point in my life.
As mentioned music that's played at the BumBumBox parties is more complex than those in clubs.
Right now, I think it's interesting not to fulfil certain clichés. In my sets cumbia music can be mixed with techno tracks. For me, that's not eclectic. I'm simply trying to transport a certain spirit.
Your record "Minimal" put the entitled genre a little on. You recently played with Damian Lazarus and Tiefschwarz. How do these nights work when you are booked along with DJs whose style is totally different from yours? How does the audience react when you suddenly play cumbia?
It's different depending on where you are. I have various strategies to arrange the night depending on where I play. At certain places I know that I can play the way I like right from the start. At other places it's more a process of seduction. I do have the extreme advantage of having a microphone, though. It makes it much more easier to make contact with people. In a certain sense I'm pretty uncompromising by playing the music I'm up for. But it works!
Matias Aguayo without a microphone wouldn't be Matias Aguayo.
Yeah, that's right. Already as a child I was singing all the time. My voice is my instrument so to speak. When I develop an idea, for example a bassline, I probably would sing it at first. Only afterwards I would program it—or maybe even leave it that way.
You aren't playing live, but DJing. Isn't it hectic singing and pitching records at the same time?
Yes, that's totally exhausting! Spinning, mixing, and singing over it—after my sets I'm always pretty done. But I'm doing it all the time and after a while you get a certain routine.
When you were in Cologne, you had your own party called "Lost." How are you connected to your hometown now since your departure?
My contact to Cologne is still very important. At the moment we're trying to get the South American artists over here. At c/o pop we want to do a Cómeme night. When it comes to the BumBumBox parties, though, I don't know if they would work here. It really is a South American kind of thing.