“It’s a lot about concept, a lot about sound design. I would describe it like cinematic and conceptual techno. I’m exploring sonically, the dark side of female minds.”
Born and raised in the suburbs outside of Mexico City, Demian envisioned her life as a superstar DJ at just 13-years-old. She made the decision to study electronic music after watching The Chemical Brothers’ video for “Hey Girl, Hey Boy” on MTV. Since then, she’s created a series of albums, toured the world, started her own record label, and is currently the only woman in Latin America with the Ableton Trainer Certification.
Everything about Demian is graceful. She is sweet and patient. Yet the more I talked to her, I realized she is calculated and intense; a true visionary. In one of my most inspiring interviews to date, I talk to Demian about life in Mexico, her fascination with female criminals, and the jump from electronic music to directing cinema.
Why did you choose the pseudonym Demian Licht?
“My real name in fact, is there, but it’s just hidden in German.”
Do you know a lot of German?
“Now I can speak German in daily life situations, I am able to communicate. It’s my fourth language.”
Wow, your fourth language?
“Yeah, almost five.”
What other languages do you know? English, Spanish, German, and what else?
“French and now I’m learning Japanese.”
Wow that’s incredible. Is Japanese hard to learn?
“In terms of writing, yes. But in terms of gramatic, German is more hard to learn.”
Do you think you’re going to be able to pick up Japanese pretty easy then?
“I mean I just want to be able to communicate because next year I’m going to Japan so I want to communicate within the culture. I don’t want to arrive just speaking English. There’s a lot of things from Japan and Germany that I really feel connected with. That’s another reason I’m learning.”
What exactly do you like about the Japanese culture?
“I love the aesthetics. I love the minimalism represented in Wabi Sabi. I’m really into less is more — always.”
So what’s it like being raised in a household in Mexico City?
“Right now, I feel more and more disconnected from Mexico City. I was there two days ago working on the production of my new video which is going to be releasing really soon. But I realized it’s too chaotic for me right now. I’m developing spiritually so I’m not able to hold anymore [chaos] and noise but I enjoy it. A weekend is perfect for me because I can’t handle it anymore. It’s not just Mexico City, it’s Mexico in general. The main thing, the biggest, is all the ancient wisdom that has been developed here from ancient cultures, that I feel really, really connected with. I don’t know how I would describe it — it’s like my legacy from my ancestors. The connection with the arts, with the universe, with your mission. I think this is the most powerful thing about being born here.”
Tell me a little more about the video that you just worked on.
“We already [shot] it, we’re just working on the details for the post production. We [shot] it in our beautiful city, in central of Mexico called Guanajuato. It’s gonna be for [Female Criminals] Volume II, for the track “Crimen.” It’s a challenge to me because it’s like a movie. I’m starting to produce a kind of cinema. In fact, it’s the second project. I’m starting to collaborate with really talented people from the cinema field in Mexico. I have my team, my cinematic team — my producer, my director, my post-producer. It’s a challenge. When you’re making music, you’re by yourself in your studio but to make cinema is really a big thing. I’m acting for the first time also for this video.”
Is cinema something that you’ve always seen yourself doing or did it come along with your music?
“It came along with music. I definitely want to go further. I want to have a strong cinematic aesthetic within my work for my AV show, for my videos, for the sound of theatre projects, it’s a whole thing. I want a cinematic experience within my show.”
Do you have any favorite cinematographers?
“David Lynch, for sure. Also Quentin Tarantino, I like him a lot, and Stanley Kubrick. These three guys are my main inspiration.”
How is Mexico different from other Latin-American countries?
“Mexico is raw. I have been in Buenos Aires, Chile, Peru, Cuba, but Mexico, in terms of the present, I think is really raw. I think it’s also the most colorful and alive in terms of atmosphere. And definitely I think it is the most powerful in terms of ancient wisdom within the Mesoamerican whole. This is the main thing. And all the diversity in the terms of our nature that you can find in Mexican lands.”
Is there anything that annoys you about Mexican culture?
“Yeah of course, a lot of things. Mainly all the politics, but I realized that always, when a place is full of power and light, there’s darkness around it. So I see that Mexico is a really sacred place but that’s the reason that there’s a lot of dark energies around it like politics, like government, all these situations. Also the female, inside society, it’s an issue. For instance, yesterday I was reading the news and I [saw] that [they] found a body of a woman hanging on the streetlight. This is something that happens constantly in the suburb where I was born. I was reading the numbers and it was exactly the 112th murder of females in this suburb, in this year, in 2017. This is something that really, really, really, makes me angry. This is the place I was born and in some ways, it’s become so natural, a daily thing. It’s totally insane but it’s a reflection. It’s a reflection of the current position of the female figure within society. There’s a lot of issues to be arranged.”
What’s your favorite Mexican food?
“I think chiles en nogada.”
Favorite Mexican artists or DJs?
“I’m less and less involved in the music scene in Mexico because I’m traveling a lot. I’m less interested in going to party and all these kinds of things but of course there’s a lot of amazing music from here. One of the main projects that has emerged here but is not here anymore is a project from a girl called Le Butcherettes. She’s like a garage punk band. She’s like the main project that I really like in terms of aesthetics, in terms of statement, sound, performance — it’s a really cool project.”
How would you describe the club scene in Mexico compared to the other places you’ve traveled to?
“People from Mexico are really passionate. We are visceral. We like to dance and scream. This is something from Latin America in general, not just from Mexico. In Europe sometimes, they’ll really like something but they don’t physically show how much they like it. So I think that’s the main difference that I found between the different crowds in Europe and in Latin America.”
Is there any stigma is Mexico towards people that choose to do careers in art?
“In a way. Currently, it’s not yet possible to live just by making music, in Mexico or in Latin America, I think. There’s not enough well constructed music industry infrastructure to make a life, just by music. There’s not enough clubs or festivals to do it and sometimes, not all the time, are paid well. So you must project yourself internationally in order to be able to make a life. Otherwise, it’s not possible.”
So when did you first get started?
“Everything started when I was 13-years-old and I was watching MTV. I remember seeing this video of The Chemical Brothers for the track ‘Hey Girl, Hey Boy.’ I was totally fascinated by the sound, the aesthetics, the concept of the video, and I really felt totally connected, to be able to go further and ask myself, ‘what was that?’ I think I was finishing middle school and I said, I’m gonna study sound engineering and go further with this. Then I entered high school where I didn’t feel like I was doing my thing. I left high school and I ended up in Mexico City to study sound engineering, music production, and sound design. Everything started there.”
How would you describe your music?
“This is a word that I will use from a guy who likes my music that [wrote] an article about my work in Germany. He described it is as ‘film noir.’ I really like this description because as I told you, I’m really into cinema. I think it would be a good way to describe it. In essence, I will say it’s techno, to be able to give a wider perspective. But it’s a lot about concept, a lot about sound design — it’s a history. This series that I’m working on, Female Criminals, it’s like a history or kind of like a movie. So yeah, I would describe it like cinematic and sinister, conceptual techno.”
Where did your fascination with female criminals come from?
“In essence, mugshots that I found on the internet of female criminals from the 20th century. I was thoroughly fascinated imagining the history behind their crimes. Everything has been detonated but now, in a way, it has been transforming and changing through the process, through the series, in terms of aesthetics. Also, there’s some personal experience that I have been passing through as a woman, as a human — in Mexico, in the world, traveling alone. I’m exploring sonically, the dark side of female minds. Not in a negative way, it’s more like to explore the real essence of the power of females that has been hidden and blocked by society.”
So you’re the only woman in Latin America with the Ableton Trainer Certification, why do you think that is?
“I mean mainly because Ableton doesn’t do constant certifications in Mexico, it has been just two. As I told you, I have been in this field since a really early age, teaching and all this stuff. I applied and passed the test. I obtained the certification but I know that there was another recent certification in Mexico so I don’t know if this time there has been another woman selected for the certification program.”
What comes first to you, being an artist or being a teacher?
“The past was to be a teacher, totally. I was teaching for like 7-8 years mostly. But now, it’s definitely my artistic project. I think I have already done that stage in my life as a teacher. I learned a lot but now is the time to develop my art, my main thing.”
You also founded Motus records. How did that start and what does Motus mean?
“Motus means movement in Latin. I decided to create this platform because I was tired of sending demos to labels to be able to release my music. So I said, ‘I’m going to do this myself.’ Through the process I have learned a lot. I learned how the music industry has changed and at these times you don’t really need to have a big label behind you to have success in the music industry. You just need to have good agents working with you and a group of people that you trust. That’s the process and the future for the music industry. Good work, good agents.”
What’s the importance of women in electronic music?
“Not just in music but in all kinds of fields. In science, in politics, in literature, in physics, in astronomy — I think it’s necessary, it’s elemental, the female vision. I think the world is passing by a really dark and chaotic moment in different situations. I feel truly, that if we really want change, to be able to bring some peace and take humanity into a new stage, then it’s necessary to have a female vision to be able to make it happen. Otherwise all the same patterns that have been passing through history, it will be repeating. So I think it’s necessary, the female vision and taking control of things, to be able to bring some peace and take humanity to a different level. Otherwise, it will be just like cycles.”
What’s the most challenging aspect of making electronic music?
“It’s the entire thing. Electronic music is a way to challenge myself. Through this path, for instance, this thing that I’m doing like learning languages is just one of the things. Now in this new field that I’m developing myself, which is cinema, I challenge myself directing a team, a vision, and making it happen. I challenge myself in new ways to express sonically the ideas that I have about the visions with the female positions, music, and the role of music within society. I’m pushing me all the time through this path which is electronic music and the music technology field. You cannot stay in a comfort zone and say, ‘okay I made it.’ It’s constant, you did [one thing] and now you’re ready to break through the other door. It’s a constant challenge for yourself, always pushing you forward. To the next thing, the next country, the next album, the next level. You really expand in yourself. It’s spiritual, physical, technical, intellectual — it’s beautiful.”
So where do you see yourself in the next five years?
“In the next five years, there’s a master sound studies that I’m thinking about taking in Berlin. In the future, I’m really interested in making sound installations for my shows and more stage design. I want a stronger cinematic aesthetic within the visuals, the lighting, the video mapping, the whole entire experience of my work in a sinister environment. That’s what I’m visualizing for the next five years.”
INTERVIEW by CHROMESPINNIN.
PHOTOS by MIGUEL ZETINA.