This week we caught up with Aula Magna Records label bosses, Mekas and Seph. The label, which was founded in Argentina, by a collective that also included Pablo Denegri, Qik, has seen a steady stream of techno releases since 2012.
October saw the release of Mekas' barn storming 'Atmen' EP on Aula Magna, featuring Stockholm LTD label boss Pär Grindvik as guest remixer. Last week Seph's ‘Teleport’ EP, was released on Echocord Colour, which features three powerful originals from the Argentinian producer.
Tell me about Aula Magna Records, what inspired you to start the label several years ago?
Mekas: "Well Aula Magna was created because we needed a platform to put out all our music, a label on which we can decide every step and develop a sound concept. After years of releasing on some similar labels and working together so closely, it was pretty clear that running a label which would represent our music was the next step in our careers."
Seph: "Looking back at how things developed over time, I think that without knowing it we were also looking to nourish our music through a healthy dose of demand between ourselves, in order to achieve the best artistic results. Just like a lot of other labels, Aula Magna is a place where many things happen, it’s not just about releasing music. We have our label showcases, be them club oriented or experimental, our podcast series, etc.."
Do you aim to have a particular style of record on the label?
Mekas: "I would say that the sound of the label is Techno from the core, but it also contains break beat, IDM, dub and ambient. I want to think about Aula Magna as an electronic music label, based mainly on Techno. It's more of aesthetic concept rather than a specific style. This means that the music and styles could change over time in different ways."
How would you best describe the style of music on the label?
Seph: "As Juan clearly stated, techno would be the main word to describe the label's sound. Dub is an evident key feature, although by saying this or any other genre or style we would have to discuss what defines them and it's something we are not interested in. Each record features something different from the previous one, and this is not something we plan, at least not consciously. But if we were to describe it, it's dub-oriented, futuristic, sometimes sharp and cold, other times organic and warm, sometimes more experimental, or with more "intelligent" beats and sounds... Sound experimentation is what drives us forward but I'm not sure how that would describe our sound. I mean it's not like all of our releases are "experimental", and furthermore, isn't electronic music experimental by nature?"
How did you originally decide on the name Aula Magna?
Seph: "Aula Magna in spanish refers to the main assembly hall in universities. In our case it's actually a name that was given to a big apartment in Buenos Aires where some of us lived and worked. It's where our friendships began and developed, a meeting place but also a "lab" for us and our big circle of friends that is made up of video artists, filmmakers, musicians, editors and so on. It was there that we made our first underground parties, met a lot of people, worked, learnt a lot of things and just hanged out together. So in a sense, naming the label Aula Magna is actually like a tribute to this house, which has a big sentimental and artistic value for us."
What does your release schedule look like?
Mekas: "We prefer not to give away too many details at the moment. What we can say though is that I have an ambient and IDM-focused album in the works, a few EPs from our core artists, and some other interesting surprises along the way.”
So Mekas, you’re based in Berlin now – tell me about the scene in Buenos Aires and how it compares?
Mekas: "I have the feeling that I lived the best time of Techno music in Buenos Aires a few years ago. I was lucky to be part of Cocoliche in the best moment, more or less between 2007 and 2011. After that, everything got bigger, for example a venue for 2500 people like Crobar became the place to be at.
The amount of great international DJs playing all weekends in the city is amazing, it’s pretty clear that the Techno scene has grown and Buenos Aires today is on the global electronic music radar. There are a lot of really good new producers and DJs like Vladw, Alderaan, YYYY, Ngly, Balvanera, to mention a few. Under Club and the Be Water parties also deserve a mention.
Berlin has been into techno for three decades now, so promoters - and clubbers - pay much more attention to things like the schedules and line ups, venue aesthetics and sound systems, everything is more established and developed.
The Buenos Aires scene has always struggled with things like permits to run a venue, volume levels, budget problems, unfriendly bouncers, and city authorities and police that make everything very difficult. This results in the fact that venues and parties don’t achieve that mystic factor that many Berlin venues have.
It's interesting to note though that outside the main ring of Buenos Aires, in the suburbs you can have great underground parties, proper stuff, in cities like Ramos Mejia, Haedo, Quilmes, Monte Grande and Temperley. The real thing is out there."
And you have a new EP dropping on Aula Magna soon – what can you tell us about that?
Mekas: "It makes me hugely happy, this is my third solo EP on the label, my first one on vinyl, so I'm grateful with my label mates and everyone involved. 'Atmen', the track that gives name to the EP, has a big emotional weight, it was produced in Berlin in winter. I’m honored to have such an big influence like Pär Grindvik on the EP. His remix is amazing!"
‘Clark Nova’ is the oldest track of the pack. I started to work on it around three years ago and somehow never finished it until now. I remember trying it out for the first time on an after hour gig with Seph in Buenos Aires, and both of us had a good first impression of the track.
‘Unknown Soldier’ came up at the last minute, replacing another track that I wasn’t too sure of. I wanted to have a more percussive track on the record to round things off, so in the end Unknown Soldier had a nice fit on the EP.”
Seph – you have an EP coming out on Echocord – what can you tell us about that?
Seph: "I’m super happy and thankful to release on Echocord Colour. It's an honor to be on a platform where so many great artists that I respect have released and remixed on, like Deadbeat, Dehnert, Skudge, Conforce, Function, Echologist, Brendon Moeller, Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann. Label boss Kenneth Christiansen has a great musical vision, he chose three tracks that would work well together on a record out of a bigger pool that I sent him and and I would have never seen this grouping myself. These tracks are extracts from my live set, loops redefined and developed as I played them out on gigs, converted intro proper tracks later in the studio."
Tell me about your individual production processes, do you have any unusual traditions? Where do you do your production etc.?
Mekas: "I do not have anything unusual, it’s a pretty normal process. I do my productions in my home studio in Kreuzberg, a small room in my flat. I’m making music entirely with Ableton Live.”
Seph: "I also don't have a particular process. Each track develops in it's own way. A sound could pop up in my live set or in a project and then be used somewhere else, or a track can be a combination of sounds that I have scattered here and there. Tracks can be inspired by something I felt or they can come completely unexpected from just jamming. Also, It can take a day or months to make a track. It’s quie common for me to be changing adjacent ideas to a central sound or motif that I see has good potential. There are so many variables in music and production... For the past years I had my studio at Aula Magna, although I've now moved and have set up my studio at another place."
Where does your inspiration come from?
Mekas: "From everything that surrounds me: politics, cities, friends, music scenes, books, movies…To be more specific: J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, Boris Groys, X-files, Skam, Warp, Sandwell District, Jealous God, Blueprint, Blackest Ever Black. From Ambient to Techno, many flavors in-between.
There’s a few friends-colleagues who feed my inspiration constantly, my label mates: Seph & Qik, Jason Patrick, Flug, Merino, Fango and his “Caja Negra” book publisher from Buenos Aires is also a great inspiration these days.
Seph: It's the same for me, A lot of which Mekas has already mentioned. Anything can inspire me, be it a book, a sci-fi movie or anime, techno and electronic music in general, a visual artist… All these things leave some form of impression on me, it’s not like they affect or inspire me directly or in a way that I can easily point out. They stay in me, forming a sort of background to everything I do. Still, listening to music is perhaps the most important thing here, perhaps even more than actually making it. There’s so much fantastic music out there! I can also say that Mekas and Qik are a huge influence on me, not only musically but artistically and humanly, their visions on music and everything that surrounds it has always had a big impact on me.
How important do you feel originality is in your production? Do you tend to try and create something completely original or do you often borrow elements from other people and put your own twist on it?
Mekas: "Well, I think nothing is original today, With music I often feel influenced by different producers and record labels. It depends on my mood, and what I'm looking for, I dig for different things in different moments. I think everything is more of a personal re-interpretation of something from the outside, and as I've mentioned before, it could be a feeling produced by a movie, not only music. Besides, I never end where I aim to go to at the beginning.
I contempt formulas, so I often lose interest when an artist turns repetitive in his own formula.. At the same time, when someone has a prolific and solid concept, I respect that. So to me, it's a mix of looking for something personal and something interesting, not just original."
Tell me about your production setups?
Mekas: "I work with Mac OS X, a Motu soundcard, Ableton Live 9, a few VSTs and a couple of Akai USB controllers. Pretty simple. I try to keep a small and clear set up, with tools that I know how to work. I’ve used Ableton since version 2.0, it’s a software that I’m very much into. It allows me to have solid focus on music production.
Seph: "Ableton Live is my central DAW mainly because of the session interface, which makes music production flow effectively and intuitively. I don’t use a lot of Ableton’s own instruments and effects, instead I work with a lot of external plugins. I also use Logic Pro quite a bit and hardware synths and instruments like the Korg Minilogue, Moog Minitaur, Waldorf Blofeld and NI Maschine. On top of this I tend to record many things with different mics and use any tool that friends or students lend me."
Are there any unusual pieces of kit that you own?
Mekas: "Not really, I had some regular synths in the past, I ended up selling them."
Seph: "I have a home-made very simple synth made by a good friend of mine that does bass sounds and frequencies with very few controls. Used it a lot on the Cinética album. Also, I've recently acquired the Make Noise 0-Coast, which is a nasty beast."
Are there are any pieces of kit that you would love to add to your kit?
Mekas: "Korg Monopoly, maybe a TR909 original. But I don’t know, I don’t spend time thinking about it to be honest."
Seph: "Sign me up for a Monopoly!"