Have you ever listened to an album recorded on a phone?

By Neshy Denton

There’s a dubious aspect within confidently crude work. Solid and found in the Argentinian proficient artiste who empowers his own word on the grounds of sticking to one’s honesty. Demian admits to his limited resources but flips them to his unassailable benefit. He aligns his ropes in order to tie stunning musical, audiovisual and written work into a garment I find he seeks coverage in. He speaks through acoustic and experimental music, to which its rawness is essential to lose yourself in and properly appreciate.

Let’s begin this interview understanding what your stage name Demian means.

Well, my real name is Sergio Defortuna. I chose Demian in order to find myself a personal name to load with meaning. I wanted to avoid this preconception when it comes to words, the ones used as a band name, you know? I felt like band names almost became a limited concept and offered only a specific idea. I was more interested in choosing a name which was going to carry out my project on the grounds of no preconceived ideas. 

So, do you consider yourself a solo artist or a band? 

I actually find it difficult to call this a solo project. It feels too egocentric of me. However, this is my project and if I don’t move a finger, nothing else would move forwards. So, in a way this is a solo project. Other people get involved – some of them out of enjoyment for collaboration and others to get paid. Of course, either way I search for people that come to pour their heart into it. Now, as from this reasoning, it could be considered a solo project. However, in some of my records the soundtrack can vary in interpretation. 

Tell me about your collaborations. Experimenting with other artists?  

Yes, in fact a friend of mine came over today to remix one of my songs, released a while back. She came over to polish the tune and potentially release it again. These are the sort of collaborations, getting together with someone who appreciates you as well as your work. This happens with remixes or even with album cover artwork. Two covers of mine are made by illustrators, for example. Their work caught my attention, we spoke and we managed to pin down a concept. The same goes with music. I don’t add guitar sometimes so the music can breathe a bit more and allow space for others to interpret their own creativity in the song. I love these interactions. It reminds me of when I was a kid and you’d get together and play with your toys.

Could you specify any influences? Do you get inspired by music, films, people …? 

My most visible terrain is music. So, in terms of what I end up writing, my music is a clear result of everything I listen to. I consider my influences to be subconscious and part of a language that I manage. It’s evident to me that the more subconscious these inspirations are, the closer I get to that genuine internal pulse, which I guess everyone has in a way.

Consciously, I really like a Russian filmmaker called Andrei Tarkovsky. I find myself in a nihilistic space when I watch his stuff. He gives me a very profound impression of what is intimate as well as collective taking away mostly feelings from specific scenes rather than remembering the actual plot. They enliven me entirely leaving me with a great desire to create.

Then, there’s a musician called Daniel Johnston. He had a troubled life, he had schizophrenia and was constantly recording. It’s funny, however, because his music doesn’t really reach me. But he would record 20 different cassettes in his basement to then go and distribute, he wouldn’t even master them. That’s what I find so genuine and spontaneous about him. Artistically, I find it is one of the most beautiful concepts. Sometimes I feel like I am living in his artistic presence. So, when you think about the quotidian lives we carry, this feels so far away. He basically inspires me because of his endless mutations. So, to answer properly; from the influences I have mentioned, I take away their imprint as artists instead of their actual work. 

You mentioned a certain spontaneity in your work. What work that derived from this impulsivity are you most proud of? 

You know, it would be marvelous if I could actually tell you all of them. I would have to say the record I mentioned the other day; ‘Sin Nombre’. This piece derived from quite a long process of remixing another record. It has a very long name, ‘El Llanto Testigo Esta Luna Aire y Fuego la Emoción los cielos Cantan Otra Vez’. I had a close friend who was helping me out with these remixes because I was low on money. I found myself in a moment where I really wanted to share my music, I felt conflicted in this whole situation of not having the budget or tools to get this thing out. So, I decided to record the whole thing on the phone and then upload it to Bandcamp. Here an issue arose when the platform only accepted a certain level of audio quality which the phone I recorded on didn’t have. I proceeded to record using an air mic but I refused to add backing vocals or double tracking. Nothing. In fact I don’t ever use autotune either. I decided to opt towards a more honest approach for my voice. Ergo, my game was to take ten song triggers that I had at the time, as well as ten written pieces/quotes from that same month. The experiment was to join each text with a song, with a few instrumental ones left lingering in the middle. That’s how I elaborated the album, including some of the songs recorded being the first time I’d ever sung them. I wanted them to be as fresh as possible. I left enough space on the recordings for a friend to equalize but most specs and flaws were unfixable. It’s interesting because anyone would say this sounds like shit. But it’s interesting to me. I was curious to see the feedback from a platform like Spotify which is so used to polished outcomes, I wanted to let this album just sit there. 

Did you consider this “bad quality” recording a form of expression? You wanted it to sound like that? 

If my platforms would have been in demand and I had, let’s say, positioned the microphones differently, then the outcome would’ve been different. But someone with a better knowledge than me would use my recording equipment differently. However, I don’t want to get involved in that because it’s so far from what I am, I reject it more than want to learn it. To me it felt real, it sounded present and was released that same month – that’s incredible for me. 

So you work auto sufficiently? What is that like?

Well, the other day we went to record drums at a studio. I have another side job so I depend on a different sort of salary. I record at home because it gives me a certain freedom to use a good register, to use my own will and ability. This also allows me to get fully into my own creativity and find a playful presence in my music. I do work with a drummer so I have to find a way to pay him and the studio time to record them properly. So yes, you could say I work auto sufficiently but with the extra bits of help. 

As an artist, it is hard to pinpoint your full label, there had to be one. You are a musician, filmmaker, writer. Out of all your work, which piece stands out the most?

It’s funny because when you do release something, you’re so in love with your current work. It depends on the moment of each piece. But there is one – I’m going to release a video for a song from the album ‘Transmutación’. I finished it yesterday actually, the song’s called ‘Divertimento en Re sostenido-menor’. I just find that song so interesting. I’d have to say that one. 

So, what can we expect from you in the near future?

The song we are remixing with a friend of mine. I’m going to get it properly mixed so it should be coming out in the next month or so. This is probably the most elaborated work I currently have done. I also am in the process of recording a little EP with just three songs. It is about a trip I did late last year. I still have to get some vocals and bass done. I am recording it all myself but then need to send it off to get mixed. This one will take longer to be released though! 

Your song ‘Søbre Peldaños (Version II)’ recently went live on Public Pressure, tell us a bit about this number. 

This song is part of the album ‘Sin Nombre’. The album I was telling you about before. When the pandemic was coming to an end, me and my mates decided to get together. We started exploring together and I proposed the idea to reimagine a few songs. The need to release music with the company of mates came over me, I mean it always fills me with joy. Between us we started playing keys, drums and reconstructed the whole song. Then we started on the more “lab” work after the initial establishment of the song. It was like making a collage but with sounds instead of materials. 

And what about Version I? 

The first version is the original song in the album. But I didn’t name it Version II because it’s the second remake, but because it references the amount of people that took part in its creation. For example, the song called ‘Dharma, Karma o Duda. (Version III)’ is named like that because we made it as a trio. Also a pandemic born song. 

How often can people catch you live?

I played my first album live with a band. A few gigs followed shortly after but other than that, not really. I’ve been active since 2005. Between then and 2013, I was collaborating on another project with a friend, where we’d gig quite often but almost forgot about Demian. Over the years it has been a struggle with time. Then I returned to my own project. The thing about playing live was having to find a couple of session musicians to elaborate an altered version of the album in concert. Here was the tricky part. I wasn’t willing to start an official band and compose with them, I am very clear with what I want to achieve or not achieve. I prefer editing music which sits as a strength of mine. Not depending on anyone and working at my own pace. 

Either way, I can’t finish an interview anymore without asking this question; If you could choose absolutely anyone you could think of to be your opening act, who would it be?

(No hesitation, just a contemplative chuckle) Radiohead. Is that too much? 

Of course not. Anyone you choose is valid! I did literally mean anyone in the world. So, why Radiohead?

I love his music and the mood it puts you in. I also think it could align well with what I make. I mean, their music isn’t exactly what you’d call happy. And ours isn’t either. I think it would properly set the scene for the audience to understand what they’re getting into.

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Cover photo by Gastón Abril Rotger

Søbre peldañøs [versiøn II]