Interview w/ Sebastian Maria

(Interview by Duncan Figurski, Photographs by Erin O’Flynn)

Sebastian Maria is a Colombian-American composer, producer and DJ based in NYC.

He is prolific in his production and dissection of the New York Music scene.

How do you incorporate ritual into your creative process?

Wake up, read, exercise, meditate and then work on music and music related projects for a minimum 12hrs. I do this 4 to 5 days a week. This is a ritual that stimulates my creative process but I also think of it as a full-time job. I’ve always denied the romantic notion of ‘The Artist’, I think of my work more as a trade than a sacred practice.

Parts of your last album were very political, what messages do you want listeners to take away from it?

My intention for this project was to leave lyrics open to interpretation. A song like “Every line has two sides” (which I would have now written differently - I find more complexity in 3’s.) has multi-faceted applications. You could apply it to conflicting preferences for a Netflix series, as much as to political partisanship. I’m trying to  distill concepts of groups, identity, and choice from the political in an attempt to highlight how these notions rule our lives. In a way, everything we do is a search for identity and definition so everything we do is political. But there are few if any definite truths so we should be less deterministic and keep our ideologies malleable.

Your new album is notably more melodic than some of your past projects, what prompted this new exploration?

My goal with music is communication and I want to communicate with the widest possible demographic. Pop music has always been the way to do that with melody as the staple of the genre. Although, recently there has been a death of melody in pop. Maybe this is my attempt to bring it back.

You sing in English and Spanish, what does each language add to the song that the other might not?

Languages are maps we overlay on reality. Every language gives us a different perspective and approach to how we interface with the social and material. Languages tends to have their own hierarchies and preferences that the speaker unwittingly subscribes to when using it. Spanish is my native tongue, although I speak it horribly, my incorporation of it 
in my music is an attempt at reconnecting with this other side of my personality and world view.

What’s the most uncomfortable part of your process?

Disconnecting from the process itself is difficult. 60hr weeks inevitably bleed into my personal life and my psyche. It’s an OCD. My time away from composing is usually spent going to music events or researching other concepts that can inform my practice. I have a poor life to work balance. It’s unsustainable but rewarding. There’s nothing else I care about doing right now.

What change have you seen in your music over the last few years?

Creative inhibition. I used to compose in a very calculated manner. Now, I compose through chance operations, randomization and curation of chaos. It’s liberating to disassociate from my work and hear it as a foreign object. I don’t claim to bring anything new into this world. Everything, every sound already exists. Through technology I’m just capturing moments, re arranging them in time and playing them back. The new project I’m working on is influenced by this idea of musique concrete but I’m using MIDI randomization as a catalyst. I’m calling it MIDI Concrete.

How was Sazón Department formed?

December 2018 I curated a show at Brooklyn’s Bossa Nova Civic Club including myself, Magnolia Polaris, Diego Hauz, and Probablyourdaddy. It was an attempt to survey the landscape of latinx music and show how techno, house, hardcore, hip-hop, and other genres have been mixing with salsa, reggaeton, cumbia, baile funk and other music from the South American and Caribbean diaspora. It was intended to be a one time show but we started getting booked every weekend. After our third or fourth event we legitimize our synergy into a collective.

<< A CDJ is a turntable that is specifically used to manipulate CDs, but many can be linked with computers and store MP3s. These devices have a number of controls including knobs that can crossfade songs, and change their BPM.

What are your thoughts on the state of DJ’s and DJ culture?

If every painter used the same type of brush, the medium would be confined from expanding. Painters could use different colors, shapes and subjects but their application and techniques will always be limited to variations with the same tool. I feel the ubiquitous use of dual CDJ’s are doing just that to the DJ medium. Somehow, everyone in NYC has agreed CDJS are the only tool for the job. There even seems to be a sense of pretension behind their use. It’s making every DJ sound the same. We’re in one of the cultural capitals of the world. With bars and clubs being the dominant social intake of music for most people, it’s a shame to see innovation take the back seat on this fertile ground that is the dance floor.

What are you excited for in the future?

In the near future there’s going to be a company that teams up with Google, Apple and other huge data pools to aggregate all of your personal media from as far back as the first time you logged onto the internet. Using all the meta data from your photos, videos, text messages, etc... they will be able to chronologically organize your life into a some-what coherent VR experience. You could choose to jump to certain days in the past or view your entire “life” in a fast-forward setting. The app will be called “LifeCycle” or something like that. I just made this up the other day and I wouldn’t say I’m excited about it but I would want to compose the official music for it.