Alex Anwandter Talks ‘Maricoteca’: Dance Music with Shades of BDSM

After a three-year hiatus from releasing new music, Alex Anwandter is resurrected more built and looking like a sex idol, and armed with an anthem for weekend days. “Maricoteca” is a risky NSFW statement, where viewers can watch Anwandter fortify her identity politics with a side of mischief – an alluring yet provocative queer artist with an unrivaled talent for shimmering dance music. However, the single is a thrillingly piercing dance cut that delves into the sins of party culture and BDSM… and warns, as the song affirms in Spanish, “Don’t look for your mother, no one will save you here.”

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The video for “Maricoteca” was co-directed by himself and Josefina Alen and shot in Buenos Aires. “I wrote ‘Maricoteca’ as an ode to losing yourself on the dance floor, a place where you can find love, heartbreak and the ‘perversion’ of society,” he explains in a statement. “‘Maricoteca’ is also the first song on a new album coming next year that will explore dance culture and discotheques as the ultimate world where you can become who you really want to be.”

The Chilean multi-hyphenate artist burst into the limelight in the early 2010s with the classic cult album Rebel’s, at a time when Chilean indie pop acts with a passion for electronic productions began to rise – the beloved Javiera Mena, Dënver, Adrianigual and Astro. Anwandter has always shown his insatiable ability to infuse dancefloor music with a riveting queer perspective—look no further than his 2011 breakout single “Como puedes vivir contigo mismo,” which highlights New York ball culture à la Paris is burningor to the iridescent synths and glowing production throughout his discography, including albums like Amiga (2016) and Latinoamericana (2018).

Recently, Anwandter teamed up with Argentina’s Juliana Gattas of electro-pop duo Miranda! fame as a producer for her upcoming solo debut album, due out next year. The electronic dance artist is also the beatmaker behind Mexico’s revered Julieta Venegas’ long-awaited eighth studio album Tu History, out Friday, Nov. 11. Billboard caught up with the now Brooklyn-based provocateur to discuss his recent encounter.

Warning! NSFW. Press play carefully.

“Maricoteca” is your first single in three years – what did you do during that break?

Of course the break had to do with the pandemic – but it wasn’t so much of a break because I was making this new album and I’m going to start releasing singles; I also produced two other albums, one for Julieta Venegas which comes out this Friday and the debut album for Juliana Gattas from Miranda! which will be published next year. So between these two albums and my album, [it’s been] a lot.

Then “pause” is the wrong word.

All good. The world stopped and I stopped doing shows too. For me, it is very important to be with people physically. I didn’t want to do shows on Zoom either.

Well, thanks for having this Zoom call with me and talking about your singleness. It’s a dance track about partying wild and enjoying pleasures. What inspired it?

Part of that was moving to New York, which put me in more direct contact with a subculture of dance music that I’ve always been interested in. I’ve made dance music before, but I found it stimulating to be here, and also experience it.

You helped spearhead the Chilean indie-pop wave in the 2010s. Talk to me about that transition—from being part of that movement in your home country to now mixing new sounds with New York influences.

It was actually quite a natural extension. Being Chilean is not all I am. I’m also Latino, and I’m part of, quote unquote, the queer community. These identities begin to blur. For me, it is a purpose to transcend identity politics in music. To be honest, I wanted to make a very entertaining record that was about feeling good, feeling joy – which is a pretty close thing for me – and in my case, in dance music. It’s a less cerebral and more bodily record.

You bring to the fore issues of identity, which can feel profound because they are connected to a political movement. But at the same time, the music is playful and ready for the dance floor. How do you balance expressing your identity politics while making music for release?

That’s a good question. On one side, [it’s important for me] making music that I find entertaining, music that really makes me dance and feel good – and on the other hand, being real, which I’ve always tried to cultivate. Sincerity is very important in my art. And when you combine the two things, you can read an identity, but I’m not trying to sell it.

I find it a bit tiresome that identities at this point have become commoditized. This music has a bit to do with getting away from discourses that don’t matter as much anymore. It’s a bit more abstract, but at the same time it’s much more entertaining, dark and mysterious.

Can you share some details about your upcoming album?

It is an album that will explore dance music and dance culture as a place of expression and pleasure.

I heard you moved to Brooklyn – what brought you to New York?

I moved to the US five years ago. I lived in LA for two years and moved to New York three years ago. It’s very crazy here, but it’s very crazy everywhere. Life is very crazy. [Laughs.] Chile is far away, but it’s still intense. I think the world is an intense place, and you just have to get used to the idea. [New York] is very entertaining and I have met very special people. I really like being in a place where people from all over the world live. It is very nice for me.

Julieta Venegas’ next album, which you produced, maintains her unmistakable style, but your essence and impulse is also noticeable.

The collaboration was a dream for me, in the sense that I have always admired Julieta a lot. She is one of the most talented musicians we have had in Latin America. It was a dream in the sense that we had a great time. We have been friends for ten years. I feel like this took our friendship to another artistic level.

It was a really beautiful experience. As a composer and producer, it was incredible to see someone at Julieta’s level work. When I was with her in the studio, I thought, “Wow, that’s why Julieta is doing amazingly well – because she’s a genius.” To see a genius work for me was very impressive. I had a great time.

The minimalist guitar on Venegas’ “Nostalgia” is gorgeous. Her love letter to Tijuana is very poetic, a reflection on her hometown. In your case, do you feel nostalgia for Chile?

I think I go there too much to feel nostalgic. I’m there all the time – I mean, not all the time, but I travel a lot to do shows. But I’m not a person who looks back, for now, maybe because I get nostalgic.

Aside from the crazy party shown in the video for “Maricoteca”, it looks like you’ve been working out. Can you tell me a bit about your training routine?

Does this also come with it GQ Magazine? I do normal forms of exercise, but nothing crazy. I think the music video has that high school image – a prison for physical standards and stuff. It’s a very gay world, and [the video is] about being a fan of it.

This interview was originally conducted in Spanish.

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