Gajek: “My aim is political.”
Remember when electronic music was food for thought? It still can be. Gajek’s experimental productions range from hauntingly beautiful atmospheres to fierce mashups, from ruthlessly processed sounds to weirdly familiar elements. It has a lot say, although in a strange language. Following the release of his second album ’17, the Berlin based artist walks us trough the concepts and ideas behind his music. Read about how he picked up the legacy of Krautrock without being nostalgic, the utopian nature of nightclubs and the horror of flutes in a sink.
“Nostalgia is the wrong direction,”
Matti Gajek decidedly states, referring not only to music. “We live in times where it would be outright wrong to be nostalgic. I don’t like that pop culture today is all about bringing back childhood memories, it’s just scary.” Although he constantly emphasizes that being negative is nothing he particularly enjoys and that he much rather wants to express things positively, the Berlin artist has strong opinions and a sharp critical mind. It matches his music, which is neither easy to classify nor to grasp sometimes, but follows a carefully considered path. It’s music that some may find confusingly noisy at times, but those who listen closely will find a massive reservoir of stories, thoughts, sounds and rhythmic shapes. ’17, his recently released second album under the name Gajek, may seem like an oddity in the Monkeytown catalogue. And a beautiful oddity it is indeed, just like his debut Restless Shapes, which was released in 2014. Matti’s music is explicitly experimental, freed from conventional forms and free to follow its own rules. It’s surely not made for kick drum craving dance floors, but it’s club music nevertheless.
“A club should provide room for thoughts and discussions,”
Matti explains his point of view. “I totally understand that people want to relax and have a good time, but I don’t think that clubs exist solely for that purpose. It’s a pity that there’s such a strict division and so much black and white thinking going on. To me, it almost seems like within this club culture industry nobody is really bothered if certain music promotes cultural imperialism or racism. But if you don’t stick to four-to-the-floor patterns, you immediately raise questions.Night clubs have always been a space for rebellion, where you could try things differently. This is where I actually see myself. Everything can happen at a club. Whether there are beats or notdoesn’t matter, as long as you are able to tell a story that people can relate to.”
Matti knows exactly what he’s talking about, even if he has only a few releases under his belt so far. Already before leaving his northern home of Schwerin for Berlin some 12 years ago, he started producing electronic music. Despite never having been part of any scene, he got the chance to play his music to dancers at Berlin’s Maria club, where his then flatmate did a couple of extraordinary parties around 2006. Here he met Warp Records mainstay Chris Clark and struck a long lasting friendship with him. Enthralled by Matti’s own productions, Clark’s mananger passed one of his tracks over to Szary of Modeselektor. Some year later, he finally gave it a listen and immediately contacted Matti. “We met and compiled a few songs. Back then I was still studying and very busy with finishing my diploma, but at at the same time I was making a lot of music. And so Restless Shapes came about pretty fast.”
He calls his debut straight up MIDI music, concrete and strictly in time, very different to his new record. In contrast, ’17 opens up big new spaces, has room for distraction, chance and improvisation. It may feel totally free, but total chaos is far from Matti’s agenda: “I like concepts, and I always try to find specific topics which I then can explore. This makes it easier for me, otherwise I would be drifting off in too many directions. The story would be lost.”
To make sure his new record wouldn’t get mislabeled with tags like IDM or electronica, Matti set up his own point of reference: Krautrock. Not only does this reflect his love for the work of experimental luminaries like Florian Fricke or Cluster, but it also presented a kind of strategy to create something new. “I wanted to use Krautrock as a vehicle to focus on something that maybe already exists, but where I saw a lot of potential to further develop things on my own terms. Moreover, I wanted to connect to the issues and questions they raised back then, because those are the same questions that I ask myself today.” These are questions of freedom, about which kind of world we want to live in and not agreeing with the way things are going. At its core, this is music imagining a better tomorrow. “My aim is political,” Matti confirms. “I want to present a world that I find worth living in, because I want to have a future. Even if it sometimes seems to me that there is none, I want send out a positive message.”
For all that serious content, ’17 is also about the joys of sound. The Kraut subject is transferred into the here and now, with today’s means. Digital aesthetics clash with vaguely familiar artifacts and universal themes. The creative and improvisational spirit is something Matti always adored about the whole Kraut thing, but he doesn’t dig the nostalgia and analogue fetish that surrounds it. Same goes for all the heroic masculinity that was involved, which very often made it way too serious. “I tried to turn this upside down and add a little playfulness,” he explains happily.
Talking about playfulness: You might be slightly confused by the cover art of ’17. After hearing about the album’s concept, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the flutes around the sink are a nod to Kraftwerk’s early organic sound. But there’s more: The record needed strong symbolic imagery, Matti reflects: “Think of the pylon on the cover of early Kraftwerk records, for example. I knew there had to be such an object. And this work of art is perfect, because to me it represents the horror of the ordinary. Something very familiar suddenly turns into something never seen before. It even looks somewhat folkloristic and makes me think of Schlager music. Which is good, because it adds a little fun. I guess my music isn’t too funny for some people after all.”
* Please note: On mobile devices the 360° experience of Gajek’s “Futur Zwei” video only works in the YouTube app.