Mexico is a country that has put out undeniable electronic talent for years. Unquestionable talents like Murcof and Cubenx, producers who have known how to be on the cutting edge of emotional synthetic music over the last decade, at times do very well crossing the line separating the experimental from the dance floor. But if there is one artist who is currently Mexico’s ambassador to the rest of the world, it is Mauricio Rebolledo— original, special, as if he had come from another time and place. His approach to techno –with traces of dark synth-pop, EBM and a perverse sense of humour– is starting to create its own school. We discovered him when Matías Aguayo decided to start his record label Cómeme with the valuable ideas contributed in “Pitaya Frenesí”, today a minimal classic with Latin touches and a freaky attitude. Over time, his stature has risen higher and higher, culminating in its current peak, best summed up by two projects: “Super Vato” (Cómeme, 2011), his debut album released in October of last year, and his parallel adventure in Pachanga Boys, his duo with Superpitcher.
Rebolledo gives us volume 064 of our series of PG Mixes, and he does so calling on a lot of his own material, vinyl hidden away in the enormous minimal production of the mid-90s. He even uses a classic Laurie Anderson song, always keeping the tension up in an hour-long journey that will make you move like a wild thing (at the very least, your neck will). Rebolledo has a 2012 full of gigs ahead of him –don’t miss him at the beginning of June when he hits Barcelona’s San Miguel Primavera Sound festival– and this mix is a good example of what you are going to find when he comes in to heat up the floor: analogue whiplash, studs, leather, alcohol and irrepressible fun. To further illustrate PG Mix 064, we have recovered the conversation that we had with Rebolledo last October, coinciding with the release of “Super Vato”.
How did you start to get interested in the art of mixing albums and the whole culture surrounding dance music in general?
Towards the end of the 90s I went to live to Monterrey, in the north of Mexico, to study at the university. Since it’s a big city with a lot of options, I started going out at night to underground clubs there, and I realised that I was having a better time there than in any other type of club (or place in general, I should say). I loved to dance all night, until at some point dancing wasn’t enough and I started to learn the craft of being a DJ as a hobby.
What would you say is your musical background? What music did you listen to when you were growing up?
Practically none. In my house, nobody is really a big music fan, and I was never taught musically; besides that, Xalapa is a relatively small town, where (especially years ago) everything came much later. I grew up without MTV and only listened to the little that there was within my reach. The mixture of music that I listened to was really varied. When I was little I liked Michael Jackson, I remember the music that my father put on in the car when we took road trips, which, in fact, is music that influenced me a lot; there were also certain disco things that he listened to that were a big influence on me. I always liked the drive of disco. The first record I ever bought was the soundtrack of “Batman” (because of Prince).
Was there any kind of important scene or club in Xalapa? And speaking of Mexico in general, what phase is electronic music in now? Are there any new electronic artists that you think we should keep a close eye on?
I grew up without identifying it, really. Xalapa, although it’s a city full of music and culture, for the time being doesn’t have a real electronic scene, I think. There are some people with good taste and who sporadically hold interesting events, but it isn’t a constant. Mexico is going through a very interesting time now, I think. There are a lot of new people doing good things, like parties, festivals, and events, but also young producers with a lot of talent and originality. One particular project that caught my attention and that I heard one night when they invited me, since they played before me, is Zombies In Miami: they have a very fresh sound, with a very particular approach to synthesizer disco. It is worth keeping an eye out for their productions, because they are getting more interesting all the time.
Your debut album, “Super Vato”, has just come out. Speaking generally, what should we expect of it?
It definitely has all of my style and reflects my view of music, like my previous productions, and although the composition is still very “simple” the processes were more elaborate.
What was the process of recording the album like? Did you give it a shape with tracks that you have done as you went along, or was it more a question of sitting down and saying “I’m going to start and finish an album”?
The idea of making an album arose in January of 2010, during a trip to Chile when almost the whole crew of Cómeme was there. While I was there, I made the first demo of “Canivalón” and I showed it to Matías and Gary Pimiento. Listening to it, we decided that that song was the start of an album project. That was the starting point, and from there I set up the rest of the tracks, trying to follow a concept of a whole. The only song that I already had before was “La Pena”, which I started in 2009. I liked it a lot, but it had never fit in with a release and it fit into this album perfectly.
Simplicity and rawness are two essential elements in your music. What attracts you to these two concepts?
Precisely the feeling of achieving a lot with very little. Music that has a lot of information distracts me, and it’s unusual for me to enjoy it. Since I was a kid, I have never known what songs were about, whatever language they were in; I get distracted and very elaborate vocals don’t say anything to me. But when I listen to marches, for example, they are solid and honest, and they transmit a lot more to me.
What is your studio like now? When it comes to composing, do you prefer software or hardware?
I use software to put together what I do, to record, edit, and to make the arrangements, but I try to have all of the sounds, or at least as many as possible, recorded. I don’t get along that well with computers, and that world of MIDI and plug-ins isn’t for me, I’m not a synth-freak at all, but I do like to have machines and instruments with character. I have a 60s organ and a 70s Hammond rhythm machine, for example, along with other instruments. I have different types of percussion instruments, since I always like to supplement my rhythms with recorded elements like shakers, tambourines, etc.
You are one of the spearheads of the Cómeme label (in fact, “Super Vato” is the label’s first album). For us this is one of the recent platforms that has best managed to develop a clearly-differentiated personality. What role do you play at the label, apart from releasing your music there, and how do you see its contribution to current dance music?
I don’t have any position or official title, so to speak, within Cómeme, but I don’t think that I’m simply an artist who releases on the label either, since I’m always up on what is going on there. I contribute ideas and proposals, like showing the music that seemed interesting to me to Matías and Gary, artists like Daniel Maloso, Philipp Gorbachev and Ana Helder who are with Cómeme now—I was the one who initially heard them. Being a part of Cómeme, it’s hard for me to have an opinion about their contribution to current music—we simply make very honest music with the only purpose of having fun, which turns out that certain people like and gets their attention.
What do you think are the key ideas in the Cómeme sound?
I think that we work more the opposite way: we don’t have a list of ideas and rules to follow to generate the label’s sound, it’s more about doing things freely and without wanting to or trying to fit into any scene or trend, just making music that we would like to dance to. Each one of us has our style, but in a way all of the label’s music shares the same spirit, and that is what makes it sound like a single thing.
Beyond the music, it seems like you form a fairly solid community. Besides friends like Matías Aguayo or Daniel Maloso, what type of relationship do you have with the other artists on the label? Do you see each other often?
I see almost all of them at least some time during the year, I’m good friends with all of them, and I love them a lot. Touring with them is always the best, and sharing experiences off of the dance floor is also really wonderful for me.
Like your music, your sets as a DJ have a great personality and a particular idiosyncrasy. For you, what is the most important thing that a good DJ should have or do?
Playing “good” music is something that anyone can do, what makes the difference is knowing how to create moments, and paying more attention to your guts than to your ears to decide what song is the next one.
What phase is Pachanga Boys in, your shared project with Superpitcher? Can we expect new music soon? What direction are you heading to?
Pachanga Boys is very active. We are working a lot right now. We have just made a new label that is called Hippie Dance, with a very limited production (300 vinyl copies of each release), and with the idea of having all the freedom to make and choose the music that we want without worrying about genres, styles, etc. It would be like being underground within the underground. The first EP is ours, and it is called “Thanks For Nothing”. We’re also preparing our first album, which will be ready in 2012 and it will be released on Kompakt; we’re very happy with the result, it’s very free and varied.
One of the most hilarious tracks of the year is Matías Aguayo’s “I Don’t Smoke”. Can you briefly tell us the story behind the song?
Ha, ha, ha. It was a very long summer for me. In every city that I visited, at least five people asked me if I had a cigarette. That came up because of an anecdote from a Cómeme tour two years ago: the tour assistant who was supporting us, although very efficient in his work, had the peculiar characteristic that after a couple of drinks, her short-term memory started to slip a little, and one night in Lisbon, after playing at the Lux, he asked me… “Rebolledo, do you have a cigarette?”, and I answered: “No, I don’t smoke”. Two minutes later, “Rebolledo, do you have a cigarette?”, “No, I don’t smoke”. Over a period of at least two hours, he asked me the same thing at least ten times, and my answer just kept getting more desperate. “NO, I DON’T SMOKE, I DON’T SMOKE!”. Days later I told Matías, and we laughed about it; he started singing the phrase as a joke, and a couple of weeks later, he sent me the song. Ha, ha.
The visual component has always been important for you when it comes to spreading your music. Your videos are a flood of attitude, personality, and humour. What kind of ideas are there behind them? Or is it simply an act of looking for images that work with the music as you understand it?
It’s basically looking for images that we think that work with the music, and having fun in the process of making the video. There is no greater hidden message.
What are your plans for the immediate future, both musically and extra-musically?
First of all, to promote the album, starting with a tour of Europe in October and November; during that time my base will always be in Cologne. I’m going to work with Superpitcher on things related to Hippie Dance and our album. In December I’m going back to Mexico with him to do Pachanga Boys shows, keep working in the studio, and program some free time to get rid of the stress accumulated throughout the year, which has been really crazy.
What about your plans to become a race driver? Is that idea still there?
I love the idea and it’s still there, at least as a hobby. For the time being, with my current work, it’s very complicated, since both things are mainly done on weekends, but I have definitely thought about it for the future.
Súper Vato (Audio Samples)
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