DJ and producer Matías Aguayo appeals for the urgent change of our public space. “I hear much radical speech, but not much radical music”, he says. Latest release Support Alien Invasion follows his twelve-hour ‘TV show’ project and mass migration off social media. He has self-published writing on white/male privilege, and DJing allowed him to travel the world and open his mind to international politics. We talk about how his personal life intertwines with his boundary-pushing music.
Aguayo produces hybrid techno – Afro-Cuban rhythms meet droning circling synths and layers of drums creating fun, free music that welcomes a new age of clubbing or listening. Support Alien Invasion, the title track of his latest album release, sounds like a carefully orchestrated synth army marching and pausing creating a thoughtful ride that is continually reshaping and remoulding itself. In a club context, the middle of tracks warped tempo seems to ask dancers to rethink their movement, like a sweet brother of We Will Fail.
You assumed the role of journalist in The True Matías Show jokingly discussing your early experiments in music aged 11. Do you feel misrepresented by some media?
In The True Matías Show, it was fun to create my own narrative, somehow speaking from a parallel world. I mimicked that journalist but also a ‘modern’ right-wing politician, a bit like the ones we have everywhere now. I also impersonated an inventor of futuristic mobile apps. Together with the team I worked with, we tried to do something that felt like the ideal of public, democratic television – although we had to recur to sponsoring.
It was a twelve-hour-long cultural programme including conversations, artistic processes and even cooking. I think it was a bit silly but at the same time informative, political, and it had also some educational elements. It reminded me of approaches when I was growing up in Germany and there was only public television. 
So media that is state-funded, government-controlled but without financial pressure is ideal…
Today, we are at a very depressing point of this struggle for attention and the non-stop production of content. We have less and less time and focus to enjoy that content, but we are asked to produce more and more of it, and to be always connected, and therefore, always working. So it is difficult to create meaningful things in this atmosphere, where artists are in constant fear of losing relevancy.
The result is musical normativity and that entrepreneurial spirit getting more rewarded than imagination and poetry. Being very busy is seen as something admirable these days, whereas leisure should be what we should strive for, I think. So we need to urgently think about how we can create a different working public space and communication that allow us to find inspiration and to reconstruct the underground.
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Support Alien Invasion is an experimental techno album, a change from previous electronica releases with vocals; it is free of lyrics and steeped in synths and drums. Why are you letting the music talk for itself this time?
I have the impression music represents more than I could say with words. Music is a means of communication. It has been interesting for me to see that people who listen to the album and comment on it somehow share very similar thoughts on it, so it’s beautiful to realize that there’s a communication possible that works without words. I don’t necessarily understand or put in words what I do. I listen to what I am working on, I watch it grow, I do some gardening; it’s beautiful to engage in a process that you don’t exactly know where it will take you to.
The music for Support Alien Invasion started to take shape while I realized I wanted to create new functional rhythms for my DJ sets, as I realized – while playing – that I was hearing some rhythms in my mind that I couldn’t find in nowadays’ releases. I began to experiment and also study all kinds of danceable but unusual rhythmical structures. And through this process, I started to hear voices that weren’t voices, languages with no words, non-verbal communication; things I’ve experienced while having that great luck to travel with music and to be able to work with so many different people from such different cultural, geographical and social contexts. I gave it a try, but doing vocals on top of these arrangements felt forced and didn’t make much sense to me.
Pitchfork says your “slinky polyrhythms are a repudiation of borders” for immigrants. I feel the music speaks to the alienated, unfairly boxed into an unwanted definition of selfhood. Do your tracks ask all listeners to free themselves and accept their hybridity?
I finished this record faster than any other record I’ve worked on – I was very focused. I wanted to make this statement now, as soon as possible. Yes, I repute borders and I am unconditionally pro-immigration – I am angry about the rise of nationalism and stupidity. The most enriching experiences in my life have always had to do with intercultural dialogue, with dissolving identities, with internationalism, so it is obvious that I am against the worldwide reactionary movement. I have never experienced a time yet in which minorities have been under such constant attack.
Therefore, I wanted to find a musical instrumental dance music language that is anti-borders and pro-utopia. My musical process is very devoted and involved. I think you can hear a lot of my personal thoughts in my work as a result. I would like us to be braver in our artistic decisions and not to succumb to Instagram techno opportunism. Our music and our musical decisions are nowadays too much dictated by fear, by fearing whether people will like it or not, by the fear of how you are perceived by others, by being worried if your aesthetical decisions fit into the extremely strict narrative of what is aesthetically accepted nowadays. So yes, I would like that we all felt more free and used music to resist alienation instead of enhancing it. I’m talking from a musician’s perspective here, but I think this can apply to many things. I think we have to somehow regain sensitivity, focus and intimacy.
“I would like us to be braver in our artistic decisions and not to succumb to Instagram techno opportunism. Our music and our musical decisions are nowadays too much dictated by fear, by fearing whether people will like it or not.”
At a queer club night in Paris, Wet For Me, you began questioning if you are a feminist, and now more recently published an editable list of ways to check white/male privilege. Are you consciously working with more women/non-binary/trans people in the music industry?
I run the label alongside Avril Ceballos and we at some point decided that we should just make it a rule that around half of our releases should be female production. We always wanted to have more gender equality in the label but we realized the only way to really achieve this was setting it as a rule, just as you have to master a record before releasing it. And that was a very interesting process. We have really learned so much in the meantime. It had to be a very active process because most women we met – unlike men – are not bombarding you with demos and CVs and telling you how great they are. So we had to search a lot and that was somehow more fun than the other way round.
Also, I really like the musical results as obviously male normativity leads to more boring music, as dudes often follow certain rules in sound trying to work technically more correct but neglecting and often breaking those rules that can lead to a new and different sound. What worries me is that it is becoming a common thing recently to say that it is somehow an advantage to be a woman or trans or non-binary in the music industry today. This is not true, even if there is slightly more visibility now. Let’s talk about the not-so-visible, too, and also about all the other power structures within music: from label owners to mastering engineers, from music journalists to promoters.
Democratizing sound, breaking away from homogenous ‘Eurocentric’ beats, changes the dance floor. What have you seen touring? How do dancers react?
The important thing isn’t just how the dancers react to my music but also how I react to the dancers. I see inspiration in their moves. So in this sense, I feel the album was co-written somehow by the dance floor. I can’t generalize reactions or the quality of dance in different places.
Your music video for Pikin details African dance styles that I think your tracks encourage. Tell us more about how you relate to this community.
Many Latin rhythms have their roots in Africa or are in combination with something rooted in Africa, for instance, Afro-Peruvian music. In Pikin, we have this 6/8 beat that you hear represented in a lot of Latin music. After an invitation to play at the island of La Réunion, I played this track in an early stage to the locals Aurélie Zemire (previous programmer for Electropicales Festival) and her cousin Nicolas. They could totally relate to it on a dance level as the rhythms reminded them very much of the traditional music Maloya of La Réunion. So we decided to develop a dance based on this idea – they both feature in the clip. Aurélie is totally into techno, EBM and post-punk, so we tried to combine different things here and express them via dance. We wanted to invent unique choreography that is unlike American choreography for instance, to expresses a shared connection like the music on the record.
After a big lead up to the eventual deletion of your social media, you ask pertinent questions – “is this a fitting space for our communities?” Where do you propose we go?
Asking these questions doesn’t necessarily imply I have the answers. I am really asking because I am curious and I really want to know. I will not find the answers alone or on a ‘social’ media thread, that’s for sure.  ‘Social media’ stands for abbreviated thoughts, written down hastily, to the extent that it becomes difficult to respond in a deeper sense – these discussions always end badly and encourage the stupid and intimidate the sensitive. If I leave these platforms, I still have to find a way of communicating and I’m enjoying exploring that.
As an attendee of A toda marcha in Chile, you openly align yourself with anti-capitalist politics. Rejecting a corporate tool like social media seems logical. But, like breaking structures of electronica, why can’t we fight from inside social media in the same way?
I’ve participated in some panels including, A toda marcha, which was a big conference of the radical left in Chile. I want to engage in more dialogue and open up this scene; these conversations are interesting and whilst I can’t know the outcome, you do learn something. Today, our dance music culture has become part of the [capitalist] problem. How is it possible that the platforms that represent our supposedly ‘alternative’ culture are ‘rating’ music with grades, as if we were in some popularity competition? Real DJs don’t do charts, I think. This spectacle makes our efforts become meaningless and avoids real impact.
The lack of democratic culture within our scene reflects the lack of democratic culture in our societies as music journalism, for instance, is compromised by a conflict of interest and economic pressure, and not by the necessity of supporting a democratic, grassroots and independent music culture. And even when there’s a socio-political approach, it quickly becomes a promotional tool. I hear much radical speech, but not much radical music. I think it can help to analyse what is happening within our scene and then also put it in a wider context. You can see this for instance in the somehow colonialist practice of festival franchising, which doesn’t create exchange nor supports local approaches but is just looking for new markets.
Finally, in an era of overstimulation how do you prefer to truly disconnect?
I think music, intimacy, food and dance is still the best way to counter the overstimulation.
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