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Q&A: Mexican Institute of Sound

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Not inappropriately, Mexican Institute of Sound makes its home nestled in the quaint little town of Mexico City, otherwise known as the DF, a sprawling capital ranking amongst the 10 most populated cities in the world. And it's not so much an institute as one man with incredible vision. Though this institute is quickly becoming an underground institution there, across Latin America, and quickly gaining ground on US soil.

DJ/producer Camilo Lara is a label head by day (president of EMI Mexico), and a record head by night, evolving what began as a hobby of making holiday mixes for friends and family to one of the most interesting underground music projects to emerge from Mexico's rich musical landscape in recent history.

Now, some five years and three albums later, M.I.S.'s gospel of electro blended with the sounds of his native Mexico--like cumbia--is spreading. The producer extraordinaire gigs from NYC to Cali, and even hit Coachella this year, and his most recent record Soy Sauce, which dropped earlier in '09, garnered considerable acclaim.

New Times: For readers not yet acquainted with MIS, describe your sound and what you do.

When I was growing up, I used to listen to pop music from my parents. But in my room, I used to blast records from artists like Bauhaus, A Tribe Called Quest and Primal Scream. Then, in the kitchen, there was cumbia. So I guess my music is all that at the same time, in one song.

Cumbia with flavor. Or tropical electronic music. Mexhno...

We have U.S. as our neighbor so I grew up listening to American bands. But no matter what I try to do, all my songs have a cumbia flavor...

This is a secondary gig for you. Your day job is being president of EMI Mexico...which is not exactly a part time job at Starbucks. How do you find the time?

Well... I always can come back from work and start doing music late at night. I'm not married so I spend all my spare time producing music at the studio. I always say that I do albums between girlfriends. I also try to only perform on the weekends.

You know...some people play golf, other run marathons... I do music.

Soy Sauce kicks ass. Tell us all about it. What was the concept and what were you try to do?  

Thank you! You have wonderful taste!

I tried to do an album that covered every single thing that has inspired me over the years. The whole record is based on the book "Rayuela" by Julio Cortazar. That book can be read in a lineal way or it can be read with a totally different order of the chapters. So I wanted to create that kind of piece. I wanted to do a dadaist album...hip hop, electronica, cumbia and punk rock... all in one pot.  

Tell us about a few favorite tracks.

My favorite is "Alocatel". It has the spirit of The Cramps but it also has some mariachi. But then it sounds like Balkan-influenced music. It's an angry song...

Also, I like "Te Quiero Mucho".  I wrote that song for an ex-girlfriend. She was pissed off with me because I was away all the time, so I did this kind of Serge Gainsbourg tribute. After I showed it to her, we broke up. Ay!

You moved away from samples on this record and towards almost all live instrumentation, right? Why was that? What are some of the advantages?

Well...it was an experiment. I was trying to push myself to create music without samplers. I think it was good. But I also discovered that I love samplers. So I guess for future albums, I will do something in-between. I love to play but I want to keep the spirit of my first album...

Mexico is developing a very strong indie and electronic movement. Aside of M.I.S., Nortec and Kinky are just a few others that have been making strong statements. What can you tell me about the growing scene?

There is a huge indie scene now - not only in Mexico but throughout Latin America. This has to do with the explosion of indie labels. There is so much exciting music out there and you will hear from them all very soon.

My favorites right now are Disco Ruido (discoruido.tv), NSM PSM (No Somos Machos Pero Somos Muchos), Los Odio!, Adanowsky (Alejandro Jodorwsky's son), Furland and Los Amparito. All of them have myspace pages...check them out.

From the rest of Latin America... some favorites are Monareta (Colombia), Gepe (Chile), Perrosky (Chile), Single (Spain), El Hijo de la Cumbia (Argentina)...

Mexican Institute of Sound performs a live DJ set at Ecco (168 SE 1ST) tomorrow, Friday, December 18. Doors open at 8pm, entrance is $10.

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