"I like the idea of taking people to many places through music, internal places, even"
Carol Mattos has her own position on the electronic music scene that matters to us. DJ, activist and cultural producer. We had the opportunity to talk to her, so enjoy your reading and see her next projects
Hi Carol! Where can we find you right now? How did you start off your day? Hi!! It’s been a month since we began self isolation, so I’m currently at home, in São Paulo. I started my day with a composition class online of my grad in electronic music production.
How did you first get into electronic music? Was it your first real musical love or were you a keen listener of all sounds when you were younger? I had references of many genres back then, but rock was definitely what caught my ears at first. I had movies and biographies as references and went from 40’s rock to 70’s punk rock, which also led to Synth Pop at some point, but I didn’t even know that electronic music was involved in it back then. I was into indie rock when I was 16 and began going to clubs, where I listened to electro pop for the first time and loved it. When you grow up in Brazil you also listen to amazing local music, we have endless of great compositors and when I got into college, Brazilian music was my main interest of research. It was only later at 2013, when I was in Berlin for new years eve and by chance I went to Back to Basics, a party that happens once a year where you hear only tracks from 1989 to 1992, the period when the wall came down, industrial abandoned spaces were occupied by raves and new music was made to reverberate in those specific spaces. That was a turning point for me to get into electronic music.
How did you start experimenting with electronic music?
Well, I began producing electronic music parties before going into music and they were my first space for experimentation. In 2015 I got together with some friends, we began a collective called MASTERplano (which I’m still part of) and we started making parties anywhere we could - downtown streets, squares, sand fields, old warehouses, under bridges, old clubs. I’ve always wanted to learn how to dj despite being a bit insecure about it, but my friends really encouraged me and from the first time it was a great experience.
What is your music criterion? I would say I’m always looking for “engaging” sounds. Music that caches my attention, my ears and my body and make an impact in some way. Yet not any impact, but one that moves and flows through me and makes me move. I particularly like songs that are dense and have a lot of bass and groove.
How would you define your sound?
Someone once told me it was like going into a cosmic journey and I loved this definition. I like the idea of taking people to many places through music, internal places, even. I would also say it’s really immersive, dense, groovy, fluid, sometimes harsh and sometimes fun. Lots of 80-like synths, some guitars and strong basslines.
How can you explain the existence of this increasingly present parallel between antiquity and novelty? I believe these are inseparable, given that everything is made from something that has been done before. Being able to flow through and get to know music made in different times enriches any musical performance, but it’s understandable if one feels more connected to what’s being made right now, since it can dialogue more to the context we’re living. Most of my favourite tracks were made in the past few years but are very referenced in the 80’s. I love the cosmic vibe of the 80’s but the current ones have the density and the tension of the moment we’re living and that brings me closer to them. Besides, we have so many tools to reinvent music as we’d like - sampling, remix, etc - why not use them? Leaving them as they are is also ok, there’s no rule.
Do you think it is necessary to decontextualize electronic music, to question dancefloor music? Not at all. That’s impossible even, if you consider that the dancefloor itself it’s a social context. The people you find there (and the ones you don’t), the space where it takes place, the music that’s sounding, it’s all due to specific circumstances that led to these choices. And to really understand the dancefloor and the the dancefloor music you have to be aware of that. Besides, every musical movement is born in a specific social context and that shapes the music aesthetically, they’re all part of the same thing.
Is it difficult to surprise people on the dance floor these days, and if not, how is it achieved?
I don’t think it was ever easy, but it’s a challenge I like to take. I think the first thing is not to play too “linear” and move between different genres and sounds, but you have to be careful to not be way too incoherent and your set becomes a Frankenstein. You also have to be aware that surprising can be risky, because something that is not often heard can really work or can trigger some bad reactions like “What is she playing, that’s really weird”. But most of the times I took that risk it really paid off and the reactions were great. It’s harder when you’re new and have the feeling that people are analysing you all the time but it gets easier as you become more confident in what you do.
Are you particularly permeable to your environment, creatively speaking? If so, how does it influence your DJ focus? Totally. My sets are completely built on my feelings and my feelings are constantly influenced by what is happening around me. I’m quite sensitive about that. It’s amazing when people are going through the same as you and can deeply identify with the tracks you’re putting on. In our particular political and social situation it’s like we’re always holding each other’s backs and that comes through the sound as well. What makes a good mix to you? A mix that is coherent, as if it’s telling a story throughout it that sounds logical, but at the same time is not way too linear to make it boring. A mix that catches your attention while going to different places, you don’t know what comes next and you’re eager to know, then when it comes it makes perfectly sense.
Would you like to share a set? Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded? I would share the Porncast I recorded for p.o.r.n.o.g.r.a.f.f.i.t.i. I find it quite hard to record mixes at home, it feels more organic and natural when there are people listening, sometimes I record the same mix many times by myself and I’m never satisfied with it (that’s also the reason I don’t have many of them published). Yet this one in particular I recorded after having brunch with a friend that really inspires me. We had this long conversation for hours about life, then I got home and just recorded without selecting anything previously and it flowed quite nicely. It is available on.
How do you approach studio sessions? Do you set up the machines with a clear idea of what you’d like to achieve in mind, or do you just let the creative flow come to you free and unhindered? A bit of both. First I make a big selection of tracks that I could use, that based on the atmosphere I would like that mix to have but also giving space for unexpected moments. Then I select the first one or first two tracks and start improvising from them. Sometimes I like the result, sometimes I don’t, so I keep trying until I get it.
Who or what influenced you to get into the music industry?
5 years ago I didn’t even imagine myself following a musical career. I was studying architecture and urbanism at college, working on projects of collective auto construction, building urban furniture for cultural activities. However I stopped finding opportunities for this kind of job, it felt like all the doors were shut and I couldn’t grow anywhere. At the same time as a DJ the doors kept opening, I started playing a lot in São Paulo at some of the biggest parties there and kept receiving a lot of great feedback. In 2016 I was invited to be a resident DJ at Mamba Negra and by that point I accepted that this path was flowing and working for me, so I should take it seriously and move away from what wasn’t working anymore or I would only get frustrated. It wasn’t an easy decision, it is still a risky career with a lot of ups and downs but I don’t regret it, it really fulfils me.
What have been the most influential factors on your career so far? Starting MASTERplano back in Belo Horizonte and beginning a new electronic music scene outside of the clubs, getting into Mamba Negra collective and agency, building a good relationship with other producers from different places and recording a Boiler Room.
How do you search for the music that you play in your sets, and how much time do you spend looking for music? It depends, but I would say more or less 12 hours or research for 1 hour of set. I search mainly on soundcloud, because all the labels and artists I follow are there publishing what they’re doing. But I also use bandcamp, discogs, beatport, youtube, spotify. You have to be everywhere to find good stuff, because it’s not easy.
What makes you happy? Traveling and getting to know new places and new people while I’m working, but also enjoying my home, my plants and cooking good meals. Riding my bike, dancing until morning at a good party. The feeling that what I’m doing is meaningful to other people.
What was the last record store you visited and what did you keep there? I went on a traditional flea market close to my house in São Paulo, “Feira do Bixiga”. I bought one Billie Holiday and a “Special Things” by Pointers Sisters. Those I couldn’t hear yet because my record player broke..
What’s your favourite “save the dancefloor” song?
Well, I don’t think there’s a song that can save the dance floor at any moment. A song that is perfect for certain moments can be a dancefloor killer in others. Although a song that definitely has saved many of my dance floors (but I can’t play that often, because it’s quite remarkable) is a remix of “In Mexico” - Eddie Mercury, from Andre VII. Those are two Mexican producers and I love the lyrics: “I was born in Nueva York, Chicago or Detroit? I was born in Mexico”. Most of the tracks I put on were produced in Latin America, but few people know that. This track screams it out loud with a big load of acid and I love it.
How do you deal with C19 confinement with your work? Right now I don’t have much to deal with because I’m basically unemployed. DJing has been my main source of income for the past 4 years. Sometimes I work at production or logistics at festivals, but they too have all been cancelled. So I’m using this time to study a lot and record mixes - that when I manage to sleep, because I’m having lots of insomnia since the quarantine started and I’ve been feeling exhausted. Although I think that is part of the adaptation process, everyone has been affected in some way. Apart from that, I’m receiving lots of invitations to make lives, which are pretty fun. At the dance floor I can only imagine what people are saying and thinking and now I can actually read all the comments and interact with the public in a different way, I find it quite interesting.
Has this situation influenced your creative perspective? What social and musical implications do you think this situation can lead to? That’s a question that has been in everyone’s mind lately. One of the few certainties we have is that things will take a long time to go back to the way they were before, specially our scene that involves big crowds. So for a moment we have to stop thinking “When this is over” and start creating new formats that could actually happen in this current reality, now that we don’t know when or if it will ever going to be like before. It’s a tricky situation since we as artists don’t gain much selling our work online, we make our ways going out to the public. Therefore we have to reinvent and propose new structures for this scene. People that work with arts, culture and entertainment won’t disappear, neither do people who purchase it. We already have streaming platforms which are paid for, but the money hardly goes to the artists that produced this content. Isn’t it time to change that? Besides, people are used to access free content online which makes getting profits out of it more complicated but at the same time this is important to make culture accessible to everyone in the unequal society we live. There are no ready answers for this situation yet, but we have to keep questioning, proposing with creativity and flexibility and also using this huge network we built in the electronic music scene to support each other. What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement? I’ve been listening a lot to soul, funk and R&B these days, it really livens up my mood :). It’s a very nostalgic moment as well, since we’re home missing people and remembering moments we once had, so the old (or oldy-like) hits have been sounding a lot around here. Here are some of them: Steve Monite - Only You
T4F - everybody want to rule the W (La Decadanse edit)
Kornél Kovács - Pantalón
Leo Sayer - You make me feel like dancing
Go 4 that (LNTG Remix)
Vince Charming - Silk 86
Soul For Real - Candy Rain (Heavy D & TrakMasterz Mix)
What projects are you working on at the moment? The Covid-19 made me abandon some of the projects I had in mind for this year, others I will have to adapt to this new format of isolation. We were producing our first festival as MASTERplano with funds from a public notice, which was really special because it had several talks and workshops that involved the public in the construction of the festival itself. Using the scene to exchange knowledge and debate themes that surpass our festive experience is something we’d always done and considered important, but it was going to be the first time we would do it in such a large scale. I hope we still manage to do it someday. For now we are promoting online debates with the public and other producers to find solutions and ideas to adapt to the current situation. We’re also broadcasting weekly live interviews in our instagram with people that contribute with the scene in some way, not necessarily musicians. I’m involved as well in another project called Sintetica since 2016, a party-project made entirely by women that intends to reverse the masculine dominance in the electronic music scene. Last year we made two parties at a downtown street in São Paulo and took part of two festivals in public spaces, one in Belo Horizonte and one in São Paulo. In both we had MARSHA!, a collective of transgender artists, as partners. For this year we had planned to have more events and also get in touch with other trans/feminist collectives that exist around Brazil to exchange experiencies, go after funds and plan bigger events together. Right now we still want to strengthen this network, put our online radio with only women and non-binary artists back on track, and look for ways to help vulnerable people that were involved in the parties in some way (not only artists) and also lost their jobs. For instance, we had a security team mostly by women and led by a woman as partner that used to take care of all of the electronic music parties back in Belo Horizonte and we can’t forget those. Lastly, my flatmate, Filipe Massumi, is a great cellist and he invited me into a project in which we would teach music theory for free to transgender students in our house. It would be great to find some other way for this project to happen even if it’s remotely.