It is not irritating to be where one is, it is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else
It’s one of the voices that reaches out to you in Fede Lijtmaer’s live, recorded at Phonotheque for DJ Koolt’s birthday party. Such philosophies and teachings can be heard in Fede’s music – his sets and productions – and transmitted in his energy. And for those of you that have met him, you’d know that he’s a true storyteller. First interviewing him some three years ago whilst he was still living in Berlin, at that time Fede was experiencing a profound moment in his life: “Who knows what life brings you. The important thing I think, is to be open to what the universe offers to you; it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, it’s just important to understand what is the message and the lesson”. A statement pertinent to each one of us, no matter where we find ourselves, and a life approach further reiterated by his productions – “Yo es Nosotros” (I is we) referring to the philosophy of “we” as opposed to the “I”. Shortly after our first meeting, Fede moved back to Uruguay. We take a look at what he’s been doing so far: of course his live, as well as the recent Autotransfromación EP on El Milagro, upcoming releases on Melliflow, Varme and SUR, alongside the music production school, and his recent signing to the b-SIDE roster and upcoming trip to Europe. A lengthy list, but not at all surprising for someone who has music simply flowing through their veins.
“I came back to Uruguay to do something other than living at night. I love music, profoundly, but I don’t want to be older with children and the only thing I know how to do is play at parties. I’m fulfilled by other stuff too… but it’s funny, now I’m working with music more than ever. For Edu’s birthday, it was the first time that I made it using all the machines. Perhaps ten or more years ago, I did a live set on the computer, but I don’t think you could even call it a live. I had a lot of fun though, even if I was only using virtual synths.
For this live, recorded at Phonotheque, I used the Roland SH101 and JX-3P. Also the 909, DP4, Allen & Heath 16 channel mixer, and what else… oh the Nord! My baby! And then I borrowed an MPC, but I didn’t use it as much as I should have. It’s pretty old and the last time it almost broke! I recorded the sequences and just before I went to play, everything got deleted – it was very stressful. Now I am thinking to buy one and start working on a set-up that will be easier to take around with me.”
So I assume that you’ll be bringing your records to Europe in November?
Yes, I’ll bring my records and also music that I’ve made, and from friends… from Nando and other guys in Uruguay…on a pen drive! Maybe next year I’ll also bring my live set up. But one thing is to get everything in a car, another thing is to get everything in a car and then on to a plane… (I’d still do it though!)
When you were living in Europe you played at some great parties in great venues… CDV and Tresor (Berlin), Undersound (London). Are there any places in particular that you’re looking forward to revisit?
Well, I’d love to meet with friends and places that I know of course, and I’m open to new places too. It’ll be my first time back since I left almost three years ago.
Valy from b-SIDE is also helping you as an agency – you are in with some good company!
I’m happy that b-SIDE contacted me to help me organise these things. To be honest, it’s a good feeling to be part of a group where there are people that I know and appreciate. I am really happy living in Uruguay, but like I say, I am open to every opportunity. I love playing in Europe, so to be able to go back every year would be great.
You know, when I first returned home in 2015, for a year I played only in Phonotheque and the big parties. Then I started noticing a discomfort in one of my ears so last year I made the decision to stop playing for a while, to take care of my health. I spent 5 months ‘in hiatus” and I didn’t get any calls in that time. Out of the blue my father called, asking why I wasn’t playing anymore. “Dad I told you that six months ago I was with something in my ear; I want to take care of my health… Yes but my fiancée is asking why you’re not playing anymore – she loves what you play!”. My dad, you know! So I told him to not worry, that I’d start getting gigs again. The next day a crazy thing happened, I got a message from some friends in Buenos Aires asking me if I wanted to play!
You just had to wish for it! You’ve mentioned before that the standard of artists in Montevideo is outstanding. The first time I heard Melina was at Intrinsic this year… she rocks up doing this amazing set, mixing all types of genres and styles, inviting us not only into a library of music to enjoy the sounds but to also think and question certain concepts. I was completely blown away. I hear your live set – I’m not saying it’s the same, but I can hear an underlying theme. Would you agree that there is a concept coming from Uruguay?
I’m not sure if it’s a concept, maybe something about tastes… and heritage? From families and friends. In my case, from family and from friends. We show each other a lot of music often. There is a form of access here. I was talking with Edu and he said that when he was 5 years old he was listening to Kraftwerk from his older brothers. Why in Uruguay the people were bringing this music at the same time that it was being released in Europe and America – I don’t know… Me, I was listening to what my parents were listening to. The first time I heard electronic music was in 1995 when my mum would play her Goa trance CDs, as well as US3. All the Brazilian music and Argentinian rock that I know today is also thanks to her. My dad, he also loves music very much and he’s always sharing records with me. When he was younger he used to play the Kraftwerk records on his radio show. He also showed me the likes of Yes, Jon Anderson, Vangelis, amongst other stuff. You know, he used to call me up when I was 20… “Hey Fede where are you? Dad, I’m at an afterhour. When can we see each other? We’re here, if you want to come.” And he came! He’s been there for every step – my very first party, all the way up to the last live I performed.
But to go back to your question, I am happy about all the things that are happening here. I am happy that all the friends here and all the talent is being watched, and being given a space for their music.
I am happy about all the things that are happening here. I am happy that all the friends here and all the talent is being watched, and being given a space for their music.
So you played at the first Phonotheque party when the club opened, only 5 years ago. How was it before Phonotheque opened? And how about your mum’s club in Punta del Este?
My mum’s club wasn’t really a part of the scene here. Well it was, but it was open for just over a year. Everybody who was there, if they’re still alive, they can recall it being something very special. The place was amazing. In those days, at the beginning of the 90s, Punta del Este was happening. There was Space from Ibiza, and other things too. Nowadays in the Summer you can’t even call it Uruguay as it’s filled with tourists. But there’s still a scene there. Some guys they are doing interesting things, they’re really nice and their productions are super!
But of course we’ve had clubs in Uruguay since the 80s. Edu has been going to clubs since 1988… Milenio was the temple of Montevideo from the mid-90s, to maybe 2006/7. In 2004 you could really feel something bubbling. Maybe not as many good quality DJs as there are now though…
Each time you meet a guy they tell you “I’m making music”. And Edu is playing a lot of music from these guys. It really is amazing. I don’t know what happens here – maybe there is something in the water!
But just before Phonotheque opened the scene was going through a bit of a crisis. There were no real decent clubs and the parties were not amazing either. The opening of Phonotheque pushed the scene forward and today it still has a very important role to play. Now we have more than just one club offering good music, and the youngest DJs have something really special. Each time you meet a guy here they tell you “I’m making music”. And Edu is playing a lot of music from these guys. It really is amazing. I don’t know what happens here – maybe there is something in the water!
Besides the electronic music scene, there is some pretty nice music here from the 70s – a strong jazz scene fused with ‘candombe’. The people here are very cultured so I think that has something to do with it too. Well, the masses are the masses and what you hear on the radio – fuck it – but maybe until the 90s or so there were several idiosyncrasies present. For example, the Uruguayans they like the cinema. So there are independent cinemas here that play super strange films (and don’t sell popcorn of course!). But I have a fear – I am very aware that when something develops and grows to its peak, it doesn’t get better, it gets worse. For example, for now we can keep the club open for as long as we like, but what if someday somebody decides that the party has to stop at a certain time… not forgetting also that we now have the Creamfields here from Buenos Aires. I am not sure how beneficial this big festival will be for our local scene.
In the end you don’t need to have all the gear in the world. If you like to make music you can make music with whatever you have, even in your head!
But you’re certainly contributing in the right way by opening a production school…
Well, it’s more like a course than a school. The atmosphere is super familiar. We finish class and we hang out, you know? It’s not so rigid. It’s my house too, or you can say that I live in the school – you can see it both ways [laughs]…
We have a studio – with some nice machines – and a classroom for the theory. I teach the students from scratch and there are other musician friends that come in to give some classes and talks too. I learn a lot about my students, and I learn a lot about production too, because I know how to produce but to explain it – that’s a different thing. It’s like a shortcut that I’m giving them. They could learn it by themselves but perhaps that’ll take one, two, three, four years… I taught myself, and it took me a long time. I have some nice toys here from since I was sixteen – a Boss SP505 – it’s like a small sampler. Everything else – the microKORG, Electribe, turntables, some records and the car – I sold before I moved. And when I arrived in Berlin, I didn’t buy turntables but machines instead – a few synths from the 80s (SH101, JX-3P) and a Nord. In the end you don’t need to have all the gear in the world. If you like to make music you can make music with whatever you have, even in your head!
It seems you’ve been quite busy making music, with upcoming releases on Melliflow, SUR and Varme. Do you produce any differently if you have to make music for other labels?
When I do music I don’t do it for one label or the other, I just produce and then I see what happens next. Usually, I play new tracks in the club or I send them to friends. With Melliflow and SUR I shared with them some new tracks and they liked it enough to release them. I feel flattered (and a genuine happiness) that friends with such good taste want my music, so yes I’m super thankful!
Now we are waiting for Autotransfromación, one of your productions and the third release on your label El Milagro. When we talked before you gave a description of each track on your Resina EP – the first ever release. Can you explain what Autotransfromación means to you?
Some of the tracks in Autotransfromación were made during the time when we first spoke. More or less in those months. And one of them I made last year. What did I say last time?! … Oh yes, the Resina EP – that it was named after the resin that my mum used to make her sculptures.
“Polaridades” – it means polarities, which we all have no? This feeling of happiness or sadness. We have it all the time. We go from one side to the other, and I think this track represents that, there are some parts of the record that are mysterious and other parts that are more illuminated and happy, representing this coming and going that we experience in our lives. But also in the same track you have moments where these two ‘polarities’ talk to each other…
The second track I didn’t want to release, but it was more of a dancefloor record so it worked in the end. It has some vocals of Terence McKenna talking about DMT, so that’s why I named it “T.M On D.M.T”.
“True Self” – I was seeking the wisdom within us, the true higher self that we all have (I would recommend the book by Eva Pierrakos – The Pathwork).
And “Todos Nos Merecemos El Sol” is translated to read everybody deserves the sun. It was in the Berlin winter that I made this track, I saw a single sun ray and felt it light up my face, and these words came into my mind.
Edited by Kaajal Shah
Cover Image – photograph by Maria Eugenia Diaz