Matias Aguayo will change the way you think about dance music. On the roof of The Standard in Downtown for last night's Culprit party, he was at once a DJ, producer and, most importantly, a performer. He mixed together tracks, the occasional club hit sandwiched in between original productions from Aguayo and his friends, while manipulating his own vocals. He then sifted through a bag of small instruments, from which he selected something to augment the rhythm. And throughout all this, while cramped inside a very narrow DJ booth, he danced.
Aguayo, who is currently based between Paris and Buenos Aires, is, in a way, a product of the streets. As part of the collective bumbumbox, he is well known for throwing parties on street corners in various South American cities, using a boom box to lure in crowds of strangers. Seemingly because of that experience, he can get the most out of tiny spaces.
We recently caught up Aguayo, who also runs the label Cómeme, prior to the Sunday night show, to chat about partying in public spaces as well as his forthcoming album.
What's the concept behind the bumbumbox parties?
It started a bit as a necessity. We actually had this boom box and wanted to put music on it, but the thing is that we once went to a party in Buenos Aires and we were not so fond of the music, so we went outside of the club with this boom box and listened to our music. Suddenly, a crowd developed. Very quickly, it became bigger and bigger and then we thought, we found it was a very nice experience, this thing of doing a party on the street and having all of these surprise guests, this non-standardized audience. It is an unpredictable thing that you have when you're doing a party in a public space. So we decided to repeat that, do it in other places in Buenos Aires first. So, we started developing the bumbumbox parties, which are actually unannounced or very shortly before announced parties in public spaces in South American cities, starting in Buenos Aires and then we went to other cities.
How do people find out about the parties?
We have a MySpace site, which we have used a lot for announcing that. All different platforms on the Internet. In South America, they use Fotolog. That was a way of announcing it. Also, just spreading the word between friends. Also, we've looked for key places that we know that there is the possibility that people will appear spontaneously and can join the party, people we don't know yet. In general, we choose more urban spaces with a lot of movement and where there is the chance that something unexpected could happen.
Have you ever had a party shut down by the police?
Not so often. This is sort of quite interesting because of the perception of public space or how public space works in different cities, you become aware of that through the bumbumbox thing because it's obviously completely different to do something in Buenos Aires than in Santiago, which is a much more controlled city. So, yeah, we had problems with the police in Santiago, for example and other places. In São Paulo, we were just more careful and in Buenos Aires, it's quite easy considering that, with these things, they don't care so much. Also, what is quite interesting is that they are not very big parties. Our sound system is quite limited, which also makes it possible because we couldn't do this with a huge sound system. Often, the authorities don't have terms for it, they don't know what to do with it. We had police not really knowing if they should spoil the party or if it's something legal or not. We are often confronted with undecided police. Different experiences explain a lot about how public space works in different cities and how much liberty there is, how much freedom there is, to use that space.
How long have you been running your label, Cómeme, now?
A little more than one year. Considering proper vinyl releases, it just started this year, but I think the story of the label begins earlier and is a bit of a consequence of the bumbumbox parties. We started to develop music and do music more for our parties. Friends collaborated there and we started to notice an amount of interest and an amount of music that we loved to play and that was not released, so we started to publish it or present on our MySpace site and with small videos on YouTube.
There came a lot of requests and people asking if this music was available. Can you get it on vinyl? After this, now we had all this music and we can release it. We decided let's do vinyl also. It's always the strategy of following the necessity. In the clubs they didn't play the music we really liked, so we played it on the street. Then, we noticed we had this music…there are people who are interested in buying it. As for the next step, we'll be following another necessity, I guess.
Matias Aguayo live @ The Standard, 8/02/09
Are you based in Buenos Aires or Paris right now?
The past year, I've spent more time in Buenos Aires than in Paris. I grew up in Chile and in Germany. Then I went to France and Argentina is also quite important for me. I have the impression that it makes more sense for me to live in both places because, in Europe, I have more work as a DJ, but I'm also capable of helping people in South America and make things like running a label with South American fantasy and inspiration, but with effective German administration. There's the possibility of combining the two backgrounds that I have, my family background is South American but having grown up in Europe, that is for me what makes the most sense. In a way, I'm kind of forced to live in both worlds, which I also like. I normally stay for some period in Paris and then go back to Buenos Aires.
I heard you have a new album coming out.
I finished it like one week ago and it will come out in October. It was a long process to record it. I was working on it for about two years, maybe a little bit more. It also had very different stages, the developing of the idea and the recording, which started in Buenos Aires. For the improvement of the recordings and the arrangements, I worked with Vincente Sanfuentes. He helped me in recording. He's a producer/sound engineer/musician and he had a lot of experience as a sound engineer, so he helped me with the recording, with the microphones. This was in Chile. Then afterwards in paris. then I went to Berlin with him to mix together with my partner Marcus Rossknecht, which I did work with before. He did mix the album I did a couple of years ago [Are You Really Lost? released through Kompakt in 2005] and he helped with this one, which was a complicated process because it's mainly vocal recordings. I did a lot with my voice, sometimes like 60 layers of just voice recordings. So, it was a very complex work, but that makes it very interesting.