DROP THE BIT
Behind the GameBoy, the 8bits, the eletropical, the clothing that always ends up scattered through the floor in each of his gigs, behind Meneo, the party and the lo-fi, there’s a character, a musicologist, that when you’re going, he’s already coming back and he brings a group of people going all limbo behind him.
There’s an expression I really like that says: “take everything with a grain of salt, which is somewhat different than taking it lightly”. I think this also applies to your case.
The electronic music scenario doesn’t have any charm; neither in the purest branch, where people don’t mix genres, nor in the younger zone, where everything begins and ends with the party without adding much to it. Somehow, Meneo wants to try and give some personality to this musical style. If you are in the music business, you could as well take advantage of it and say something; it’s always nice to say something, even though it’s something trivial, since it’s Latino music and Latino music has always been full of puns and double meanings. It’s also related with the way I am; it’s the energy I express.
It’s said that copying is a good way to start a creative process, because you end up doing something unexpected. But you didn’t have so many models when you started back then, right?
Isn’t it strange? I mean, when I started, M.I.A. was copying carioca funky, and a worldwide “back to the roots”phenomenon was trending: cumbia in Latino America, Balkan music in Europe, national music in Spain…This was also due to the excesses of the ‘90s globalization. In that precise moment, I made an 8-bit bolero. Thanks to my musicologist career, I could learn the basics, the skills and the tricks about music; only when you learn all the tools you can start thinking about doing, let’s say, a futurist mambo. In one way or another, I’m doing music for myself, not for an audience. In a few moments I can start making something really hectic that makes your booty shake with a Game Boy and publish it on Subterfuge…Being able to publish a lo-fi tropical song is really an achievement in itself.
Why did you continue with the chiptune vogue?
Chiptune was like…I was doing Meneo, mixing reggaeton, cumbia and merengue with Berliner melodies, trying to put these two worlds together. Not every reggaeton song has to be like “drop the house, drop it!”you know? You can do much more with Latino music, like putting a background to it. So, I was on a trip to Genève and I met these chiptune people and I went crazy. That was the time when I had to change the name Meneo and I started doing something else. Meneo was having a more refined production process; Diplo mixed the first album, for example. Chiptune was the exact opposite, the raw, dirty sounds that came out. When I started doing that, it changed my life. I started getting naked and drunk during concerts. It was something spiritual, the fact of standing naked in front of the public: a ritual in itself. When people know that Meneo is coming they start thinking: “party is coming!”. When I understood this, I thought I had to be the first one acting wild and getting naked. Alpha male, right?
Getting naked in public would be the end of me. Have you ever felt embarrassed?
Man, there was a time, when my father died, when I didn’t want to do that anymore. But then I realized I didn’t do it so much for the show, as somehow as a form of liberation. Something must be wrong with my brain; my friends keep asking me if I’m going to keep this lifestyle until I am 60 years old. I don’t know, maybe I will! We are going through an era of easy listening music; all the songs on the radio are now party songs, while there used to be quiet songs in the top 10. I don’t think everything has to be for teenagers, or easy to understand. A lot of people that see me naked often forget that there’s a lot of work behind it, and think instead that I’m only doing it for the show. In reality, I’m trying to break the classical star system, to break schemes. We are living in a society where if you’re not producing some kind of change, as small as it may be, you can easily be perceived as nostalgic.
What do you think about reggaeton lyrics?
They are unique and they have their roots in the folklore. This is perfectly valid, that’s how everything started. I think it is music meant to have fun, even saying some silly things.
Which is your favourite? Mine is “this song was born from a thought, and I only think about you”. So bad, so intense.
I like old reggaeton. My most recent favourite sentence is “tumba la casa” (drop the house). It works with everything. I’m constantly saying it; the other day I was doing an after hour session, I put it on and my friends were surprised when they knew it wasn’t my own work. It’s over the top; it’s so much…“tumba la casa”.
In your concerts seem to have an important feedback from the audience, a cheerfully agitated state. Which was the place that gave you the best welcome?
It depends on how many people it can host. Three weeks ago I played in a small village near Vigo (Northern Spain), in a place surrounded by trees…people got crazy. You suddenly got a bunch of people going all limbo. If you are playing in a club, as intense as your sound might be, people are likely to be a little more predictable and indifferent. That, and the fact that the music I do is kind of intimate. (He gets lost in thought) It sounds strange: electronic, intimate, tropical…JUST THE TIP!
From Guatemala to Spain, working alongside people from all over the world, creating numerous collectives, joining hundreds of projects…Are you short of space/time for all the things you have to do?
I used to be much more active because in Latino America there isn’t so much bureaucracy, you don’t need a title to be able to do things. There, you simply say: “I’m going to do this”. And you’re doing it. My first works were about art and social issues in Guatemala, then I worked for fashion firms, I was also managing a caféwhere we started a small cultural revolution…When I came to Europe, I realized that everything was much slower. Before a band can be successful in Spain you need 4 or 5 years, and when you get pigeonholed, it’s difficult to break with it. Since I’m constantly experimenting, I’m a pain in the ass for my manager, because people don’t know how they should address me.
But people can’t imagine you are doing so many things at once. Does it offend you, being remembered as the naked guy with the Game Boy?
Of course not. The thing is, even if you were acting professionally, knowing that people love you because of that and you are giving them back the quality they deserve, if I were responsible of my artistic figure, I would be only that. But I have many more artistic interests, and I don’t want to get bored. My hormones are probably getting lower because I’m not doing so many things at the moment, but I like being involved in many projects.
What are your current projects?
My last project is based on Spanish traditional zarzuela, and it’s going to have another name. I want to pull out and experiment with what is considered taboo. Basically, I can’t get the connotations that can be derived from tradition. When I see a flamenco scale, I’m thinking about a blues scale. Zarzuela is a bomb that is still waiting to explode; I can change it and make it sound good because there are no previous references. I still don’t know how to call this project, because after Meneo…Man, I do regret that name.
Because if you google “meneo”the first thing that shows up is an enormous Porto Rican lady butt.
What can you tell us about that crazy night with Bruce La Bruce you once mentioned?
There were two: a quiet one and another one in Barcelona, which was…tumba la casa. Bruce is already an established star and has contributed a lot to many movements. I like artists who know how to live, not like some of us who aren’t even allowed going out of the backstage at some festivals. Being professional means you stop being an artist in order to be sober and super effective. There is no more place for experimentation.
We ask this question at the end of every interview here at La Monda. We give you the first part of a sentence and then it’s up to you to complete it. So…
“Artistic expression as a way of defending…” Immediacy, like a burp. It’s natural; you don’t do it for anyone or anything. It’s a moment of explosion where things are created.