let diego “pior” martin tell you something about the birds and the bees. playing live as birdsmakingmachine, he gets intimate with his gear; leaning in close, hips swaying, feet pounding on the stage, twisting knobs with a certain kind of sensuality reserved for the release, the ecstasy that comes with performance. he dances wildly on stage, completely giving in to the sounds he’s created, cracking faces that are a mix of concentration and climax, entirely lost in the music.
by the time pior sits down with me at the convent st agusti in barcelona, he has been working for hours already, setting up the stage at club nitsa. during mutek spain, he lends his time to the team as a stage hand and production assistant, expertly balancing his self-proclaimed handyman status with his work as birdsmakingmachine. a music project that began as an anonymous artist collective, pior represents the crew when playing live — an embodiment that pior takes very seriously. music, as far as he’s concerned, is not just for the birds, so to speak. he would later tell me that he feels like his most true self when he’s on stage, playing music, a fact that his live set at mutek spain made clear. in person, though, it’s not all that austere: pior laughs loud, taking care to note that our talk was the most fun he’d had in an interview in ages. herewith, pior and i talk barcelona, the power of anonymity, and the magic of performance.
let me see if i have this straight. your real name is diego. your nickname is pior. you work as birdsmakingmachine. and you used to be known as estrada, and pi 3.14 back in the day. do you ever feel like maybe you’re having an identity crisis?
(laughs) that’s a good one! i think i would be having an identity crisis even without the names! (laughs) no, not really. when i was a kid, i was in a band and i was always thinking about the names and always creating like that, the brands, the concepts, the logo. it’s something i helped with for birds as well. now my aka is my nickname. everyone calls me pior.
and what about birdsmakingmachine? how did that happen?
we’re all kind of birds! the birds idea came from an old argentinian band called la máquina de hacer pájaros, the birds making machine. it’s an experimental, jazz, electronic, early 70s music. we were inspired by that, but also because we were always laughing about the birds! and we call girls “birds” as well! (laughs) you know, in spanish, when we say, “you’re a bird,” it’s like “uff! you’re a bird!” (laughs) i’m a bird. i think i’ve always been a bird.
what kind of bird are you?
i grew up by the sea, so i really relate to the sea, so maybe i would be a pelican that kind of surfs the waves, you know? but on the other hand, since forever i’ve had this crazy hairdo since forever so a woodpecker was always my bird! (laughs) for birds, there’s five different logo illustrations. one is the machine who makes birds, then there’s one for the four different collaborators of birdsmakingmachine. we didn’t want them to be pictures of us, so we just asked the illustrator, ricardo cavolo, to capture the soul of us in birds; mine is the woodpecker with my same crazy hair [see below].
birdsmakingmachine started out as an outlet through which you, anonymously, shared your music. do you think the nature of anonymity made it easier to release the kind of music you wanted?
definitely! that’s exactly why we did it. we weren’t trying to hide the fact that we are birds, no, no. we’d been working together on other projects that never took off… one day, we put everything on the table and it brought some light to things we didn’t see because we were busy making music. we realized about this and that it was much better that no one knows what we are. we did everything on one name, we signed all the music as birds, and we named the label birds as well. we do the distribution, bookings, everything as birds. we do everything as birds and… for the birds! (laughs)
is it still a secret?
until this point, no one knows us! we are four people and there were three of us doing the music. there’s rudolf, a DJ that i’ve known since we were kids. we started everything together, then we added on another guy, richard, that does the management. he handles the label, he puts everything together. he’s an old friend of ours as well, and he proposed for us all to go together. then we have a hidden mallorcan talent, viudez. we all started doing music together and shaped birds into a collective project.
do you think your music changed now that people know who you are?
i’m not so un-anonymous either! (laughs) but in the music industry… the music changes all the time. it doesn’t matter if you become successful or not. it changes no matter what. it happens all the time, to me, to everyone. it’s always changing and it will always change. even though we know that we’re still going to be changing and growing, and the time passes, and the music changes all the time…. we’re always trying to be as truthful as we can be.
anonymity seems to go a long way in dance music. artists wear masks or use pseudonyms…
yeah, yeah. no one is known!
is it necessary to control illusion?
when you put it in those words, probably, yeah. (laughs) it’s a good weapon. it gives you the desire to know. it’s attractive. it’s… how should i say? it’s seductive — you want to know, you know? you keep this mystery and it makes everyone want to know. it’s a boundary that people want to cross.
in this world of anonymity and multiple identities, when do you feel like your most true self?
i think i feel my most true self when i’m playing. when i’m playing, i have everything under control. i relax and i completely forget everything else. i realized this actually this week when i saw the pictures of the mutek event on wednesday at moog. i was having so much fun! the photographer even told me, “you were having so much fun,” i say, “yeah!” and she goes, “yeah, look at the photos!” (laughs) my faces are like, impossible! (laughs) i lost myself! and that’s what i most enjoy!
how has your mutek experience been so far?
the vibe on the night that i played, it was really special… it was even more special because it’s not so easy to get that vibe here in barcelona. it surprised me.
it surprised me too, to be honest. everyone we’d spoken to prior to this trip had never heard of mutek before — we were worried we’d be the only two people on the dancefloor here. luckily we were wrong!
the mutek guys make the best of it when they have it. the guys from the production of mutek spain travelled over to mutek montreal see how everything was born. i think they try to make the best of it with the tools they have. i’ve been involved behind the scenes for the past two years, but this year was my first time playing.
how does the city change when mutek comes to town?
i don’t know if you can say that the city changes, but the mentality of the people changes. they become more open minded. they change but the city doesn’t change. when mobile world conference is here, the city is upside down, there’s cars everywhere, traffic jams, you can’t get any equipment, the hotels are fucked… that’s what really changes the city. most important is that the mind of the people is more open, and with mutek, it’s incredible, you can feel it. you can feel the change.
would you say the locals are usually closed-minded when it comes to music?
i don’t want to say close minded. but they’re used to something else. it’s not like london or berlin, where the music has been there since forever. in barcelona, it’s not so rich. i’m from argentina and there’s not a lot of professional music culture, so for that reason, it grows so much lately… events like mutek help that a lot.
do you feel similarities between the music scene in barcelona and the one you left behind in argentina? given that they share spanish roots…
the scene in argentina is worse! (laughs) sadly, it’s worse. i hadn’t been home in ten years, and i went down last christmas to see my family, and we did a little tour… uruguay, lima, santiago, buenos aires… and the worst shows were the ones in argentina! (laughs) and i’m argentinian! imagine! i come home and i would love to have an amazing gig with my people!
what made it so bad?
the country is in a lot of turmoil right now, a lot of political issues. the people are not happy with what’s going on. they’re not treated like they’re supposed to by the government, they are taken advantage of. and it’s more hard to get a crowd that is open to this kind of communication.
is that why you moved over to barcelona?
no, i was living around here before. la, ibiza, berlin, canaria… i tried a lot of places, trying to find the right place. finally, i moved here where i found my friend rudolf. we’ve been friends since we were kids, but we missed each other for 20 years. we take different routes, life takes us around… finally we were on the same page: he was a DJ and i was doing a live set.
i read that when you first moved to barcelona, you and a friend built a custom studio space from the ground up. how do you think that space affects music?
oh! it really does! even just for your creativity, the space is very important. it’s really great to have this space and feel like you could do anything because it’s yours and your materials. the results are surprising! the foundation, the insulation, the structure, everything, i build it because i enjoy it and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. when we had that, for me, that was the starting point. i told myself i wasn’t going to stop; even if it didn’t work, this part of my life is going to be there with me no matter what. i’m going to always have a studio with me like that.
for me, space can be crucial to the energy of a party, moreso than the soundsystem. thinking of club der visionaere in berlin, for example.
the key is communicating with the crowd, and you can do that with any soundsystem. with the right environment and the right crowd and the right energy, you’ve got the tools to deal with anything.
does music change depending on where we hear it? as in, does a track sound different when it’s played on the beach in ibiza versus in a small, grungy club in berlin?
yeah, definitely. we have to work with the space. especially when you’re doing a live set like me, you have the sound design that you made, so you want to present your stuff in the best possible way. when i built the studio, it gave me the key to realizing if i loved it or not, if it’s a hobby or not. not all artists are lucky enough to live with the music. until recently, i never earned the money with music. but the past few years, music started to give me a life. i left all those other jobs behind for the most part, and that was a very important time to realize that, “okay, this is going to be with me for the good and the bad times.” (laughs)
as a group, birds once said that, “as an artist, it can be difficult to stay true to yourself.” why do you think that is?
being an artist for so many years, without having any big success, it’s frustrating. so, as soon as you get that a little success, it fills you so much, and you start to have this fear that you’ll lose it again. when you have this impatience to combat failure… you get offers from the industry that are maybe more mainstream, and some people take them. as soon as you go mainstream, your pockets are going to change, that’s for sure, but the music is also going to change. with birds, we want to protect our music. we try not to bend to those bigger labels. if they want birds? we do it, but we do it our way. those big labels have built a whole business on that cookie cutter sound. we don’t have a whole business. and to be honest, we don’t want one.
is that your mission with birds? to keep it all about the music?
that’s a deep question! (laughs) but yeah, i think so. we have to hold it together with our releases. we care about who’s buying the records, and that makes sure that the right people come out to your gigs. sometimes it’s hard to keep it all together. we want to put out the best possible music and our best work, so my mission is just to keep it flowing. doesn’t matter where it flows, but it has to keep flowing.