Music & activism: An interview with Hyperaktivist

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It was in 2009 when Hyperaktivist started to work on setting the groundwork for her DJ career. Ana Laura Rincón blended hyperactivity with activism, developing electronic music culture in her native Venezuela – a country with few record stores and few electronic music industry affiliations. Upon discovering the small underground electronic music scene in her hometown of Maracaibo, Rincón began organizing events, DJing along with friends and invited musicians. Later, she co-founded the SOLO club, which became a prominent and central space for electronic musicians and DJs from throughout country. Following completion of a degree in Mass Media, Rincón relocated to Berlin in early 2012, where she is currently producing her own music and just finished a degree in sound engineering. She was nominated for SHAPE by CTM Festival.

You have been involved in various aspects of the music scene. Can you talk about your beginnings?

I graduated in journalism and mass media in Venezuela and worked a little bit in that field, but I had been working with music since I was 19. I had the opportunity to open a club with my best friends in my home city of Maracaibo, which we then ran together for four years. One of my friends had an empty house downtown. One night, he took me there and showed me around and asked me what could be done with it. And I immediately told him: we should make a club. The problem in my city was that the electronic music scene had started to grow, but it didn’t have a place where people could meet and experience it.

Obviously, it was also not the main scene in the country. When we opened the club, it was really good because we invited everyone who made electronic music in the country. It grew from there and we also started to go to Colombia, Argentina and other countries. I was doing two party series at some point and then we also formed a collective. That’s also where the name Hyperaktivist comes from as a kind of a joke, because everyone was saying that I was too hyper: studying journalism, interning, running a club, and organising parties. The activist part comes from taking abandoned buildings and making parties there.

So you had this activist need to change something in the scene?

Let’s say I was angry at my culture because nothing we liked was happening there, so we quickly realised we have to make it happen ourselves. The club was an experiment, but a successful one. I changed the game, because for the first time in my city, there was a place dedicated exclusively to DJs and electronic music producers. The change didn’t only affect my city, but also the whole country. Venezuela, similarly to many Latin American countries, is still very centralist. Everything happens in the capital, even though the other cities can be huge (for example my city has 5 million inhabitants). My best friend, the owner of the house, came to Berlin around 2008 and saw what was happening there and returned to Venezuela full of ideas.

Venezuela is a very particular place because it’s on the coast, but it’s also very industrial. It’s a combination of an industrial environment with a natural one. That’s why there were these abandoned spaces where you could throw parties. We’d arrive and set up and reveal the location at the last minute. Most of the events were free and illegal and gradually a lot more people started to come. It was going great until the political situation in Venezuela deteriorated. Then came the currency exchange control and we could no longer access foreign currency, nor book international guests. There were four of us as partners in the club, two of whom later left the country. As soon as I finished my studies, I also left because as a journalist, staying was simply too much because of the political pressure. By the time I left, the leader of the revolution gave an order to persecute journalists, actually. At that point, almost all of the media belonged to the government, and basically all of the information was mediated by them.

How is it now in terms of the club scene? Are you in touch?

The situation hurt the scene a lot. A lot of key people that were working in culture have left, myself included. There was not much we could do at that point. If we had stayed, we wouldn’t have been able to make a change anymore. It also became dangerous, comparable to Ukraine. There was a civil war going on. There was no time to think about parties or making music. Even the internet connection became so slow that it was impossible to watch a video on YouTube without having to wait twenty minutes. I don’t even have a clear image of how bad it is nowadays because I’ve been out of the country for almost five years. There are five-hour food lines, you need permission from the government if you want to travel, there’s a limit to the amount of euros and dollars you can exchange. There are no record shops in Venezuela, you can no longer buy records online either. In my city, there are probably two people that have turntables. You want to make it happen, but literally everything is against you.

Do you also have an activist need to change something after having relocated to Berlin?

I do. I’ve been living in Berlin for four years and even though Berlin is considered the world capital of electronic music, I still think the vision of electronic music is very narrow here. There are also clubs that present their point of view on music and lot of young people think this is the only vision. In that sense, Berlin should start to experiment a little bit more. It’s kind of happening because lately there have been parties with a lot of different genres and communities. But Berlin is still a very masculine city. The music scene is ruled by a very strong male presence. Women need to fight to regain their place in this city. As a female musician and a DJ I’ve always had to deal with sexism and doubts. Even now when I go to a new place, I kind of have to prove myself. I started a new party series with the idea of reclaiming my place as a female musician in the city and also to honour the girls in Berlin. As a woman, you have to constantly fight and show how tough you are in order to stand out in a city where femininity has been lost. There are some collectives that are fighting for this, like female:pressure, but it’s also important to remember to give a little bit of space to upcoming talent. I want to make a female-focused event without people thinking I’m an “extreme feminist”, because this is an event that is about diversity.

What are you working on in terms of your own music?

At the moment – because of the summer – I’m focusing a lot more on DJing than on producing, but I always find time to make music. For example, the concert that I will be playing in Latvia for SHAPE won’t be dance-oriented. I’m going to produce most of the music and it’s going to be focused around sound art. I’m going to take it from very organic, minimalistic, sound-design sounds, up to “micro techno”. I’m very happy about this gig, because these things always motivate and push me to explore and to do new stuff. This is also something I really like about Hyperaktivist – I don’t want to impose boundaries, I want to feel that I can take different paths and explore myself and my music.

So the sound-design aspect is important to you?

Yes, I want to dig deeper into this. I’m about to buy my first modular synth and explore this a little bit more. I think sound design is one of the most important aspects of producing music. At the moment, I’m reading about synthesis and trying to collaborate with different musicians.

You have been around and experienced a lot in the context of the club scene. Are there any memorable experiences that stand out?

Ever since I started doing events, I’ve known I don’t only want to make parties. I want to create an experience. I want people to feel that they were part of something special and I always try to keep this in mind. When I play, I always give a lot of myself. When we manage to reach this beautiful moment when everyone is connected, it’s a reaffirmation. It keeps me going.