Interview conducted by our favourite four-to-the-floor expert, The Insider.
Chilean artist Massiande returns to Freerange Records with his hot new E.P., Dancing Is Life. The South American deep house DJ / producer has been impressing key labels like Groovin, Phonica, and Midnight Riot, and this next outing on the London imprint continues that impressive run. I had a chat with this talented, and humble, chap ahead of his December release.
Great to talk to you Massiande. Thank you for taking the time. Where are you today and what are you doing?
Hi! I’m in my hometown of Santiago, and I’m having some coffee, taking some time off from my regular day job in TV, to talk to you.
Can you paint us a picture of the place where you grew up?
I grew up in a family of 5: my parents and 2 older brothers. All men in the house except for my mom. We’re all very close and get together frequently.
When I was between the ages of 7 and 20 we also lived with US American university students. My family was part of a student hosting program. Every semester, a student from an American university, who’d come to Chile to study Latin American culture, would live that semester with us in our house to become familiar with Chilean culture. These students, and the internet, is how I learned to speak English, and learned a lot about US American culture.
My grandfather was actually Dutch, and was a very wise man. He spoke 7 languages fluently, was a university professor, and was very close to us. We also had Dutch relatives visiting us every few years. So I was always living in a nice mix of cultural diversity.
Having a Dutch family side, plus American people always around me, really opened my mind and my ears. I feel like I grew up seeing that there was a very different world from my immediate Chilean reality out there. My family didn’t have the best financial situation, hence the need to be in the student hosting program, and my primary school was public /poor. Therefore I wouldn’t have been able to see that there were realities so different from ours, if we weren’t for that international student program, my grandfather’s heritage, and me being very receptive, and a good researcher. At first we were in the program for economic reasons, but in the end it gave us all some great experiences.
What music were you were exposed to while growing up?
Radio in Chile was and still is all about ’80s, Pop, Rock and Latin music. No electronic music radio stations. From that I only listened to ’80s music. The rest of the music, I would find it through sharing with my brothers and the internet. My friends in school would listen to hip-hop and heavy metal, but I didn’t really get into that. I’ve always loved soul music. My brother played me James Brown when I was 3, and I’ve been into soul, R&B and disco since I was little! So my musical taste has always been very personal, unique, when compared to my surroundings.
The name Massiande has its roots in Sierra Leone. Is there a family connection there?
No, there’s no family connection… at least not an earthly one. It is a nice story: when I was trying to come up with an artist name, I just let my hand freely write something. This name came in this unconscious process. I had a look at the word and then found out that it meant “Solidarity” in a Sierra Leone dialect. It’s a beautiful meaning, so I kept it. It felt right and organic. It’s important for me to say that it is in no way an attempt on cultural appropriation, because I’m very sensitive and aware about those kind of issues. The way the name came to me was all very magical to be honest, and that’s the only reason why this is my artistic name.
When did you first discover house music?
It was in around 2001, through the internet and from the radio, when the “French Touch” thing was everywhere, with Modjo, Africanism, and Daft Punk. I started doing my research online from there and found the American house music classics… it all went from there. Now I’m pretty much a walking house encyclopedia, from studying house history so much (laughs). I’m always investigating about music and artists from all different eras of house,, try to learn and keep up with everything I can. This way I can also feel comfortable when discussing things with knowledgeable artists in the community. I love it.
Who were the artists that grabbed your attention? Can you remember some of the first records that you were into?
It was Larry Heard, or Fingers Inc.’s Can You Feel It that changed it all for me. I first listened to the version with the vocal samples from The Jacksons, and I’m a big Motown fan, so I got hooked from recognizing the sample, and that the music was very deep, emotive and danceable at the same time. That’s how I fell in love with house, because it linked together all these characteristics. It was dance music with a soulful element.
What were the first records you bought? Where did you buy them?
Local stores would only have reasonable prices for popular music, so I got Michael Jackson albums. I still collect MJ, and Motown, records. My first house vinyl purchases were through Discogs and UK online stores which would ship here. My first house record on vinyl was Can You Feel It, the pressing with the yellow / brown cover.
How old were you when you first started to DJ?
I was 15 when I got my first CD players and mixer. The first time I played in a club I was 17.
Where were those early gigs that you played?
My first gig was at a small electronic music club in downtown Santiago called La Salita. The fact that even the bartenders were enthusiastically dancing to what I was playing made me realize that “I might have a talent for this”. I love sharing emotive house music.
When did you make the cross over into production?
That was in 2011. I decided to get into making music when I realized that local clubs just wanted Tech-House and Techno DJs because it was easy to sell. It was – and still is – very hard to get local promoters to host Deep House events, even if when I play it works fantastically well. So becoming a producer would hopefully help me be noticed as a Deep House artist rather than just a DJ, and in more places than just my own country. I guess that’s something that many DJs-turned-producers have experienced. I admit that I enjoy DJing much more than music production though. Moreover, I see myself as a better DJ than a producer, because I’ve learned to blend all types of house seamlessly. That’s also why I try to diversify my productions and not do the same thing twice.
What was your first release?
My first E.P. was House Rushed Love, on German label, Housewax, in 2013. A very raw record with a Chicago house vibe. It was released in a lovely marbled green vinyl, and fortunately it had some great feedback, which encouraged me to keep producing.
How would you describe the music that you make today?
House music for those who appreciate the kind of house that is very faithful to its roots. Music that aims to please house purists, but also remain accessible to everybody else at the same time. In summary: good house music!
New York, Chicago, Detroit are all present in your sound. How much have these cities and their brand of house and techno influenced you?
Very much. US American House is my predilection. I truly love soulful house and deep house that’s strong and sweet at the same time… and my favorite DJs, like Joe Claussell, Louie Vega, Timmy Regisford, DJ Qu, and Ron Trent, all come from there.
Larry Heard is a fan of yours right?
(Smiles) I don’t know! (laughs). But he’s been very good to me. We began talking after the release of my first E.P. I sent him a message just to tell him of the admiration that I have for him, because he’s my favourite house artist, the one who first inspired me, so I told him how much I appreciate his music and that I’m from Chile… and he replied, “Wait, you’re not from Chicago? I’ve heard your songs and you sound like you’re from Chicago!”, and it was so funny! I was so happy (laughs). He couldn’t believe I was from Chile because of how my record sounded. A proper stamp of authenticity if you ask me.
Since then we started a nice friendly relationship. He has helped me a lot, reviewing my music, and giving suggestions on how to improve as a producer…. and sharing other sides of life. We video-call from time to time just to talk. For instance, I have a great memory of a day where he just called me to show me his gardening; it was lovely, very surreal. I’m very fond of Larry and I’m grateful that he considers spending time with this humble guy from Chile, because I know how hard to access he is.
Which artists do you think are making great music today?
I’m really enjoying Deep Soul Syndicate, a duo who makes beautiful soulful house. Crackazat, who I think is on everyone’s lips these days… and of course those who I call “the trio who carry the torch of modern deep house”: Jimpster, Atjazz, and Fred Everything. The 3 of them continue to make great music as they always have. Fun fact: Atjazz did the mastering for the Dancing Is Life E.P.
How did you connect with Freerange Records?
It was fate, I believe. I’ve been a huge fan of Jimpster and Freerange ever since I discovered deep house. In 2012 I even saved money to travel to Amsterdam to see him play. He was amazing. I never would have thought that the music I make, years later would be worthy of being on Freerange, because they have one of the highest standards in the world for house music. That’s what they are known for.
Sometime after my first E.P., with Phonica, Freedom, in around 2017, I posted a SoundCloud link on my Facebook with a preview of a track I was working on. I was only looking for feedback from friends. A few minutes later, and all of a sudden, I get a message from Jimpster asking me if that track was available because he would like to sign it for Freerange. I was in shock, on cloud nine. So that’s how my first release with Freerange came to be. That E.P. is called Yesterday, Today, Forever, in case you want to check it out.
Give us the lowdown on this new E.P. Here Comes The House Music is a monster track. When you were making it could you feel it was going to be big?
Well, I hope it can indeed become big! One can’t know that before it’s actually out there. It’s always up to the audience… and there are so many things to be considered. Sometimes it’s having the release out at the right time. Sometimes it’s streaming algorhythms being on your side. I’d love it to be a breakthrough record of course, because doing things from Chile, a country where house is not a thing, is really hard. Remaining motivated is tough when your surroundings are not into the same that you are… I feel like I have to work twice as hard, and totally independently, to be noticed in the way that some of the artists who live in countries like the UK or Germany are noticed just from being around likeminded people… so it would be wonderful if the record becomes successful, and helps me travel more to DJ, and spend time with fellow artists. I’d love that.
What else are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a couple of vocal projects for next year, showing my soulful side. I hope you’ll like them!
Do you have any gigs coming up?
I’m planning to go to Europe next summer, in June and July, so if anyone reading this is a promoter, please reach out! I dream of going to South Africa and Asia. Hopefully one day those dreams will come true.
Massiande`s Dancing Is Life is released this Friday, December 9th, on Freerange Records.