Mutek: ‘A life-long love story’

Akufen played Brazil and Chile before heading to BA
Akufen played Brazil and Chile before heading to BA

Music and technology mutate for part two of the Mutek festival, a three parter which is now in its fifth year in Buenos Aires although its origins are in Montreal.

In what has turned into an artists’ exchange festival similar to Trimarchi — which took place this week between South Africa and Argentina — one French-Canadian artist here for the second time is Marc Leclair who goes by the working name of Akufen.

Recently suffering a nasty bout of flu that he caught in Japan — and who hasn’t? — Akufen, the pioneer of the micro-sampling sound, played in Mar del Plata and has squeezed in a few dates in Chile and Brazil before headlining Micro Mutek.

Having seen around 10,000 attend the tenth anniversary in Montreal this year, Argentina’s satellite affair is celebrating a respectable five years.

Akufen has been part of this event, which originally aimed to bring new medias to the forefront but morphed into a music festival, since the beginning. Mutek is very much a community project, started by a group of friends, he says, and that much is evident as Akufen is staying with Polee, the local event’s organiser, at his home.

“I’ve known the founder of Mutek, Alain Mongeau, for 15 years and we’re very close buddies. I was witnessing a lot of very talented artists producing music in Montreal, and along with Alain and other local artists, thought it was time to find a way to expose ourselves. It was originally a film festival so I’ve seen it develop as a natural process,” he explains.

What with Trimarchi and Mutek taking place almost back to back in October, just how easy is it to organise such similar, independent events?Akufen says: “It wasn’t so easy all the time for a succession of years and we’ve been struggling to make it happen each year. We never really knew. But now we’ve got a more stable schedule so we can think five years ahead instead of just one. It’s a lot of energy and sweat and not many people behind the scenes get paid. But what makes this stand out from other festivals is the strong community behind it. I think a lot of festivals are faceless but with regards to Mutek, it’s a life-long love story, and it has nurtured us while we nurture it. It’s been a give-and-take relationship between the community and Mutek.”

The DJ talks about Mutek reaching double figures in 2009 as if it were his daughter. “The tenth anniversary was magical as 10 years is quite something. A lot of the artists have been there from the beginning so the idea especially about bringing them back. Every year it’s a get-together between people who appreciate each other’s music, even if they’re not playing.”

Micro sampling isn’t your average electronic sound but Akufen is a passionate collector who takes inspiration from the 6,000-plus vinyl records he owns. “It’s hard to define but it’s definitely coming from Afro-American music and a lot of my inspiration comes from funk, soul, jazz, blues and Motown. Micro sampling is a way of fracturing sound and is about doing some sound recycling from the TV, the movies or the radio, cutting tiny slices of sound element and pasting them together to make a continuous flow.” He makes it appear so simple… “It’s quite rough actually! It’s a difficult method I’ve put together which involves a lot of research. There’s a lot of musicality and I never repeat the same sound twice. It’s like doing a collage.”

Although it’s micro sampling that has given him a name, Akufen admits that his sound is changing. “I’m slowly shifting away from it as I never wanted to rely on a formula and I want to do something more soulful. Before it was more of an exercise with a more conceptual approach, but now it’s about the music.”

He readily admits that music, after his daughter, is his life and for pleasure Akufen tends to listens to jazz, although he says: “I can listen to anything, country, bossa nova. I love music. I can say I’m a musicologist as I research it, read about it, about where it was coming from and the social context in which it was happening. Any kind of music can be interesting. I’m listening to a lot of old French singing at the moment, like Edith Piaf.”

His passion extends to instruments as well. “I’m studying piano right now, and play the guitar. Music is part of my life and I cannot spend a day without listening to music. I can live in silence, and enjoy it, but music for me is the spice of life.”

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