Seven Mexican music facts

What you didn't know about music from the Central American country

Interview

Mexican Institute Of Sound frontman – and former head honcho at EMI Mexico – Camilo Lara gives us a guide to his country’s cultural tastes.

Music is one of the few things Mexicans are good at.
‘What’s funny is that we suck at most of the professions. We are really good at writing, conceptual art, boxing and music. But we’re not good at the rest. We particularly suck at football and government.’

If you listen to no one else, you have to check out…
‘From the ’70s, I would say Esquivel. He was rediscovered by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez and chosen as the king of lounge music. But back in the day he was an experimental pioneer, and made a strange album about a frog in a tree. From the ’80s, Size were the Mexican pioneers of new wave and electronic music. From the ’90s, Café Tacuba might be the Mexican Radiohead. And from more recent times, Nortec have managed to make the world believe that Tijuana is a nice place – like English bands and Manchester.’

You should forget that image of a poncho-wearing mariachi (almost).
‘I do not have a poncho. But actually, I do wish I had. I think they’re good to play in, if you have the right technique. We all have special costumes for the Mexican Institute Of Sound live show, but we sweat so much that by the second song we could be wearing anything.’

Mexico City is the best place to buy cheap records.
‘For my records I go to a very creepy place in Mexico City called La Lagunilla, which is kind of a flea market. It is where you can find weapons, animals that are almost extinct… and I have my record dealer over there. One guy bought a tonne of dynamite there. That’s Mexico City. Beauty and chaos live together. There is magic in that. My dealer had literally eight million albums, so I bought all the stuff he couldn’t sell. Now I have 35,000 records and 25,000 CDs. I even had to have surgery on my back for carrying vinyls. I got a bad disc on my back. So it was a paradox: because I had so many discs, I had to have one removed.’

It’s not all about the party.
‘Mexicans love happy music. But, for example, Placebo are huge here. So that totally destroys my theory.’

Stand by for the cumbian Morrissey.
‘When I was growing up I was in my room listening to Morrissey, and in the living room my parents were listening to classical music, and in the kitchen the people working at the house were listening to cumbia [a Latin American music style]. If you put all those on the radio at high volume at the same time, that is my music. I’ve done a cumbian remix for Morrissey of “Something Is Squeezing My Soul”. But it, er, turned out too wild for him.’

Above all, Mexicans dig Top Cat.
‘I’m recording a soundtrack to the movie Top Cat. It’s huge in Mexico. I guess because Mexican TV networks at that time didn’t have so much money, so they put Top Cat over and over and over. So if you have to watch Top Cat every single day… I have Money Mark singing the theme, and have tried to make it as close to the original as possible.’

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