Sebastian Galante a.k.a. Seph, has been a key driving force in Argentina’s electronic music scene over the last 10 plus years. From throwing parties in Buenos Aires during his youth to playing in key venues around the world such as Fabric (London) and Watergate (Berlin), Seph has constantly developed his sound and has delved into the audio visual arts while also performing notorious live sets. Seph’s vast discography includes remixes of key minimal artists such as Seuil, to releasing various albums such as Alquimia and more recently Cinética. Seph is set to release his new EP Rom on his own imprint Aula Magna Records on the 25th of May which features a remix from 50 Weapons affiliate Cosmin TRG. I caught up with him to go deeper into his influences and to find out more about his previous and current projects.
Local Suicide: Hey Seph thanks for taking the time to speak with Local Suicide. From reading an early interview with you, you mentioned the rise of dance music culture in Argentina in the late 90s after the economic crisis and then the rise of underground parties in Buenos Aires after the Cromañon tragedy in 2004. Growing up in this culture, you were inspired to start throwing your own parties in your youth. Could you speak a bit about these parties while also referring to their vibe and the music you would expect to hear at them?
Seph: Thanks for inviting! I think you’re referring to some of the very underground parties that started to pop up in private places like the ones we threw at Aula Magna, a special place in Buenos Aires that we used for parties and that has also been a kind of an “art lab” for our group of friends. A lot of the times these were improvised night and afterhour parties in which we had live artists perform their sets and the music would be anything that had an experimental or weird edge to it, be it microhouse, techno, breakbeat or minimal. Our label is named after Aula Magna since it’s been crucial in our artistic development. It’s not just a house or party place or “lab”, it’s a symbol for all of our crew and friends, not only because it’s where we all met and solidified our friendships but also because it’s where we made, listened and experienced so much music and other things. I don’t remember if all this started to happen before or during the Cromañon tragedy years but the true thing is that after many clubs and events were shut down because of it, the underground scene grew and many interesting things started to happen.
LSD: You moved to England some time ago for a few years. What was your experience like there and did it have an important role in shaping your musical identity?
S: My time in Norwich was crucial in my musical formation. It was in England that it became clear to me that music was going to be my thing, mainly because of the electronic and “urban” music I was surrounded by as a teenager. As a kid I was quickly hooked on the 80s and 90s electronic pop sound, especially to Michael Jackson‘s music which had cool sound design. During my teenage years my family and I lived in the university campus of UEA, Norwich, and I remember discovering UK garage, hip hop, jungle and rave music thanks to the students that lived next to us, they played their music super loud and I loved hearing it through the walls! Through friends in high school I learnt more about hip hop and by the time I came back to Buenos Aires I was listening to west coast hip hop, 2Pac, Jay Z and Wu Tang Clan amongst others. In England there’s great appreciation and openness to different cultures, at least in the schools that I went to and this helped educate and open my mind.
LSD: Listening through your discography, you have migrated from a four to the floor minimal techno style to using a mixture of different styles such as breakbeat and dub techno. Were there any particular inspirations for this change or did it come naturally to you?
S: Well actually breakbeat has always been present in my life, hip hop was a big thing during my teenage years (and it still is) so I’ve always been interested into playing around with beats that aren’t four to the floor. I was a big fan of the Chemical Brothers during the early 2000s and I loved their big-beat rave and breaky sound. Lately I keep coming back to their early records because they are full of so many musical ideas that are just timeless. Minimal techno was very appealing to me not only because of the minimalistic focus but also because it was a style that encouraged sound experimentation and design, which is what drives me forward every day. I remember listening to Kraftwerk, Ricardo Villalobos‘ Alcachofa album, Akufen, Plastikman‘s records, Monolake, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada, so I received musical influences from a bunch of different styles and as soon as I met my first music colleagues in the Argentinian scene, I quickly discovered Maurizio and Basic Channel. Since then they have been hugely present and I love coming back to listen to them.
LSD: You founded Aula Magna Records in 2012. I have read that it’s born from an audiovisual collective. Could you explain what the visual side of this project is about?
S: I have a lot of friends dedicated to the visual arts. Since around 2003, Milena Pafundi, Pablo Denegri and Qik have been Tekhne A/V, an experimental audiovisual collective which inspired and influenced me enormously. In fact, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for what they’ve taught me throughout the years. Juan (Mekas) was also part of the collective back then and through their weekly shows (Miercoles Minimal), we all became good friends and the seeds for future projects were planted here and there. Then back in 2012 when Juan, Qik, Pablo and I all started seeing at the same time that we needed a platform or label for our music, we saw that doing it together, working as a whole, was the right thing to do. Right from the beginning we realized that we cared a lot about the artworks and other visual material of the label. We quickly dove into doing small installations or specific setups of things with rich visual textures that we could photograph and use in our artworks. Our good friend Rodrigo Bermudez is a photographer from Buenos Aires and he’s responsible for these images which are a crucial part to the label’s visual side. The ideas are generated and discussed within the group so that in the end we get the best results. We’ve always been into textured images and I think this will always be a strong idea behind our artworks. Lately however, we are doing abstract images that are a bit more figurative, like the artwork for Rom, which features an image from Aldana Casier who’s another photographer from Buenos Aires. I think that we are on a visual transition at the moment, which was more or less kicked off by Qik‘s amazing “Umbral” album.
LSD: In 2014 you released Cinética which showed a more ambient/experimental side of your productions. I noticed that a couple of your tracks on this album were named after ‘snd’. Was this a reference to Mark Fell and Mat Steel’s SND project and if so how did they inspire you?
S: Actually no, I like their music but the reason that these tracks are named Snd 2 and 3 is because they are each composed of one multilayered sound (snd) that I made on one single synth (there were even more “snd” tracks that didn’t make the final cut). These are textured and evolving sounds that I thought would be enough as single tracks on the record. They are actually the result of synth experimentation, which I fortunately recorded on the fly as I was jamming. We used this minimalist approach in the video for Snd 3, which also took inspiration from the artwork images we made for Cinética.
LSD: Could you explain how this video was created? Are the yellow specks reacting to a speaker cone?
S: Yes, it’s sand grains vibrating to the frequencies of the track. We basically placed sand on top of an upside down bucket-speaker-device and then recorded the reaction through the full track. It was quite difficult to do since we had to use the right amount of sand, the right amount of speaker volume, a very specific camera angle and so on. We also had to keep feeding the space with sand since they inevitably moved to the side of the image and we wanted to use a single take… This took inspiration from the artwork we did for the album: they aren’t pictures of deep space or anything like that, it’s just moving sand. The whole “movement” idea was born from the general “kinetic” idea of the album, which I actually realized once all the music was finished. That’s why I called it Cinética.
LSD: What have you been up to musically since the release of Cinética?
S: I’ve been making a lot of new techno music. A lot of it goes into my live set and some is made into tracks. I’ve also been picking up a lot of melodic material that I’ve done over the years, slowly reinterpreting and reshaping it into something I’ve yet to define. I’ve found that the way I make music is subconsciously cyclical: my album Alquimia was an organic and melodic affair, then later when I did Cinetica it turned out to be less melodic, much more electronic and breakbeat-oriented. Now even though I’m doing a lot of stripped down techno beats it feels like my next full album will be going back into melodies but with stronger, bigger beats. I’ve thought about creating different aliases since I have all these different projects and “sounds” but I don’t think I’ll do that for the time being. I’ve realized through the advice given to me by my friends, colleagues and agents that I’m Seph and Seph is everything I do. I don’t know exactly what that means but for now I’m keeping Seph for everything.
LSD: Tell me a little bit about the Rom EP. Was there a particular vision you had before starting the project?
S: Not really, I never have a vision before making a record. It’s the same thing while making the tracks themselves. The best things usually pop up by mistake or experimentation and in fact when I have an idea in my head or a musical vision for a specific sound or track I tend to fail while trying to achieve it, especially if I’m stubborn enough to keep tackling something. This isn’t the case always though, but it seems like the best things happen while going with the flow… Still, this could change at any point and then re-appear, music is something that evolves and reshapes all the time in me, not only as an artist but also as a listener.
LSD: Do you remember any particular artists or tracks you were listening to while you were producing Rom EP?
S: I listen to many, many things, so it’s difficult to say what I was into at a specific point of time. Also, a lot of the stuff I listen to can be reflected in what I do but it can also have nothing to do with it. I have so many projects and so many tracks that don’t see the light until years later… In terms of techno and breakbeat I love what Ilian Tape is doing for example. Yaleesa Hall from the Will & Ink label is doing really cool music, Conforce is always a great musician, I love Actress, I like a lot what Buttechno is doing, I always follow Raster Noton… But then again I have no idea how all this is reflected in my music ;).
LSD: What are the future plans for you and Aula Magna Records and do you have any upcoming gigs we should know about?
S: We have a couple of label gigs coming up, both in Buenos Aires. Qik, Milena and I will be presenting Umbral, Qik‘s last album on the label and this will be a live experimental show at the Centro Cultural Kirchner. We also have a showcase in a few weeks at Niceto, this will be to celebrate the release of Rom. We are planning a handful of techno and experimental releases for the label, some of which I can’t say more about for now, except that we’ll be seeing a solo EP from Mekas in September, featuring also a remixer. I will be going back to touring Europe and the USA sometime in the next year.