Label Love #08: COmeme
For the 8th installment of our Label Love series we caught up with Matias Aguayo, boss of the superb Comeme. Bursting into life in 2009 with the release of Aguayo's own 'Bo Jack', and now, 5 years later and over forty releases in, the label has flowered into one of the world's finest hotbeds of odd, colourful electronica.
A global feel permeates the output: with releases from Mexican, Argentinian, German and Colombian artists(with distribution handled by Kompakt) yet the disparate locations of the artists doesn't get in the way of the label's cohesive, raw, distinctive style.
We sat down with Aguayo to discuss the past, present and future of Comeme and to get an insight into the philosophy behind one of the most distinct labels around…
What are the driving forces behind Comeme and why did you start it up?
Comeme's main driving force is the heavy motivation of all people involved. A spirit hard to describe that you can however hear and feel and also see in the artwork. We know each other very well and have grown fond of each other's ideas. We're aesthetically independent and our references are often the people who surround us, and the music these people do. For instance what you experience in Radio Comeme. For us it is important that we have our own platforms where we can make dance music that doesn't try to fit in the criteria of what is supposed to be good in the eyes of a specific genre or a big part of the public space in which music is taking place nowadays. For us Comeme is a way to create a space for the people involved in which they can create freely, not having to please dj charts or reviews. Something like musical integrity is very important to all of us.
Comeme means a body that gives itself away how does the statement translate into the ethos of the label?
Comeme is a Spanish word that means, "eat me", but the translation doesn't fully express the notion of these words in Spanish. The description "a body that gives itself away", seems somehow more fitting. Peter Abs wrote this phrase as well as most of our press releases in which we try to give words to our music and tell the story behind the different records, instead of joining in the usual talk about "up and coming producers" whose tracks you can find in the crates of this and that dj, " to name but a few". There are many stories behind the music and a lot of imagination, many other things to tell, may it be Sano's whole underworld utopia, some kind of poetry about his hometown Medelln, or for instance Philipp Gorbachev's tales about the "district" and the "delta", you may call those: imaginary places.
You've got an interesting selection of artists on the label, how do you go about finding them?
That varies a lot, some were already close friends before we started the label, like Christian S or the Djs Pareja for instance, others just appeared like that, miraculously, out of nowhere, like Philipp Gorbachev, and others we found on Soundcloud or back in those days at MySpace, like Ana Helder.
But it is however much more about how to keep on working with the artists rather than just finding them. We find it thrilling to be in close collaboration with everyone and that the artists start working with each other, too. And to see how one can improve and get the best out of everyone in close collaboration. I think many labels nowadays miss out on seeing the potential in people, and the idea of development, it seems to be more about listening to results and finished products.
We like people to be involved who have something to tell, are funny characters, have ideas and visions, bring something unique with them and somehow fit in the vibe and are willing to join in the ways we work
What do you think makes Comeme stand out from other labels?
It is specific for Comeme that it is hard to define a geographical base for the label, therefore we try to find places or opportunities where we can gather to work together for a specific timeframe, as we did for instance with Ana Helder, Sano, Alejandro Paz, Capracara, Yula and Philipp Gorbachev at the German countryside, in the house of Gudrun Gut and Thomas Fehlmann, creating a temporary studio environment in which we could record. We did something similar near Medelln, Colombia with the help of Goethe Institut, including musician friends like Sano, Gladkazuka, Lord Byron Maiden, Natalia Valencia, Luismi Cuchara Jaramillo to record an album which we will release by the second half of 2014. A very Colombian record made with machines, percussion and psychedelic guitars. Now Matias Aguayo and Carlos and Jimmy from the band Mostro are at the Chilean countryside rehearsing for new shows and also some releases. They are playing together since about a year. It is a live music project we are very keen on keeping in development. So Comeme is also very much about creating temporary social music spaces and living childhood dreams.
The artwork for the label is fantastic, who is responsible and what kind of brief do you give them?
Artwork and design are done in collaboration between Christian S and Sarah Szczesny, Sarah being in general more responsible for what one would call artwork and Christian more on the design part. They are always in dialogue with all the artists, they get the music, are briefed about the ideas of the artists, but in the end work quite freely as everybody involved really trusts very much in their taste. Sarah has been a long time friend and collaborator, she did "Bar Ornella" in Cologne which was an art/music hangout in front of the local Italian Bar Celentano, beautiful things were done at "Bar Ornella", and nice little concerts and parties took place there. Christian S releases on Comeme and we did parties together, for years, in Cologne, called "Lost". So, after many years knowing each other, its a full understanding in between us on what we like and appreciate.
Artwork for 'The Power of Now' by Sarah Szczesny
There are artists and influences from all over the world on Comeme, with this in mind how important do you think location and identity are in the creation of music?
Location, the surrounding in which you grow musically are very important and it defines and gives a lot of colour to your music – inevitably you can hear the muscovite in Philipp, the colombian in Sano, you can hear Santiago in Alejandro Paz and Buenos Aires in Djs Pareja or Carisma etc
But what is even more intriguing is the similarities and the compatibility and possible dialogue. To learn to communicate and work with people from very different backgrounds and places in the world is probably the most beautiful things one can do and specially one thing to strengthen and support at these times of little peace and much nationalism, where for example in Germany you got PM Merkel saying that the idea of a multicultural society has failed. How can one do such an ignorant and irresponsible statement? You can learn so much when you become aware of what parts of our actions are only local social codes of communication, just to name an example, we have experienced the exchange as enrichment and as mind opening. It allows experiencing the idea of peace, may it just be in a very small surrounding, but still In a more practical sense, the artist's local backgrounds have not been of advantage always for us, as for instance it is not so easy to get visas for all the latin musicians to travel around and play, or staying in Europe for some time to work, not even mentioning the difficulties for getting into the U.S., at Comeme we have been struggling with these things more than once, and it obviously will continue.
Culturally speaking we have achieved something nice with Comeme or one should better say we could put our grain of sand in a whole development that is taking place, the fact that musicians and music lovers from all over are watching out much more for what is happening in their own countries or continents and are less and less taking the mainstream indie music media as an important reference and gaining independence from an interpretation of what popular music should be today that was always dictated by people who would mostly fit in the profile of male, white, middle-class, English speaking.
We really like the sound of the 'One Night in Comeme' series, what was your inspiration for this? Are the collaborations all prompted by you or do some of the artists bond naturally?
The "One Night In Comeme" compilations are a possibility for us to release music quickly, from the jam to the mastering to the digital release. Everybody is very active, and the artists often bond naturally to try out new things, and this spontaneity is best reflected in these releases that follow a much more immediate process in comparison to what the whole layout of an album production means So "One Night in Comeme" is like an insight into this world of us, is the idea of what you can experience spending one night in Comeme
Of all the countries you've worked in or visited, which has the most promising, most vibrant music scene?
Maybe it is not about singular places anymore, "scenes" we like are often very small and often just a bunch of people liking each other's vibes, may it be in Santiago, Cologne, Glasgow or Medelln. Spread all over the planet. We are doing music for minuscular minorities but we have found a way of keeping those minorities in contact.
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing record labels in 2014, and how do you see the industry changing in the future (if at all)?
There is a huge importance in being conscious about why you are doing a label and what doing a label means for you, and how you can make your work essential and not just another addition to the endless amount of production for the sake of production. A label that struggles to survive, like all smaller labels do, can too easily get under a pressure of growth and presence that is too hard to handle for such a small infrastructure, and the same goes for the musicians themselves whom people nowadays not only do expect to be good musicians, but also good producers, networkers, and to be showing presence in social networks all the time. We doubt that the necessary concentration for developing any relevant music can be reached while following this multitasking 24-hour work model of today. Commercialization of underground dance music will progress in the future and so what we have to face is how to survive which we think can only be done if one understands a label as a social and artistic place at the same time. Music industry is changing so fast we dont know what we are talking about when we say label, this has a good side though, one can be very inventive and try defining ourselves what it means For us it means to create the sound of today, of the times we are living in but also to be an alternative social network. Avril Ceballos, who manages the label moves mountain within our possibilities as we have to invent our means to fulfill our dreams with whatever comes to our mind, may it be through crowdfunding, help from cultural institutions, etc Furthermore a label has to be conscious of the idea of being part of a whole music scene that is important for its survival, and that it is also shaping and inspiring it.
Which Comeme artist(s) should we be keeping an eye on in the coming year?
All of them, of course! I'd name Philipp Gorbachev first, cause he is about to release an album that we can't stop listening to and we think everybody must love. I am also extremely happy about the first Christian S solo 12" which is about to be released; it's also our first release this year. And we are very looking forward to present Carisma a duo from Buenos Aires, and you will hear also more from Sano, Djs Pareja, Capracara, Ana Helder, Alejandro Paz and more in 2014.
If you could sign one record from the history of recorded music, what would it be and why?
It would be great to have released some Eddie Palmieri record, or Duke Ellington or Esquivel some music played by an orchestra Id say, as this is the most unrealistic thing to do with a small label today, and even with a big label. There was crazy dance records made with Orchestras and it is somehow unthinkable of doing that today as big labels are not daring these kind of expensive experiments and small labels cant afford them.
Finally, what's around the corner for Comeme and where do you see things heading in the future?
2014 awaits not only with releases, but also with One Night In Comeme touring and again different occasions in which the artists will be able to spend time together to create music in different places of the world. Also there are exhibitions with our artwork planned. Philipp Gorbachev will be touring with band, Matias will be touring with the Chilean band Mostro through Mxico soon. There is a tendency to do more band and live performing within Comeme, not leaving aside the more classic dj set. Something great is happening, we think, as we have put very nice instruments together in the intercourse of the years and built the District Union or just Union studio where we can jam and experiment in front of a graveyard at the Schneberg district in Berlin. We built the satellite system of recording that doesnt resemble traditional electronics studios and is inspired by the architecture of Charles de Gaulle airports old terminal. Also we can continue the program of Radio Comeme, there you can listen to Carlos Reinosos show La noche de los discos vivientes for instance, in which he and a cat called Panchito Cabrera wander through their collection of Latin American shellac records. Or Lena Willikens Sentimental flashback here a deep digging Cologne resident DJ is playing most inspirational and obscure music. And there is many more programs that is accessible on the web but also airing through many FM stations mainly in Latin America.