A leading producer and DJ on Mexico's alternative music scene, Lao dubs himself a "cultural engineer."EXPAND
A leading producer and DJ on Mexico's alternative music scene, Lao dubs himself a "cultural engineer."
Photo by Ritta Trejo

Lao: The DJ Bringing Rhythms of Latin America to Swetboxx

Mexican DJ Lao lives for a challenge. Asked to define himself, he responds with words such as "stubborn," "enthusiastic," and "identity-seeking." Oh, and the man behind a sick alternative mix that he says “challenges” the hell out of electronic dance music also goes by the label "cultural engineer."

“I just like the concept of how digital marketing strategies apply to culture,” the self-taught producer and DJ says. Lao — full name Lauro Robles — is devoted to changing the public’s perception of youth. “I’m really interested in challenging what a Latin American kid is [perceived as] nowadays.” He says niche scenes no longer depend upon location. “That’s part of this idea of portraying youth as more of a broad mission of culture.”

Born and raised in Texcoco, a little city in Mexico, a 15-year-old Lao watched MTV’s alternative-music show 120 Minutes. From there, he became hooked on producing. “I went to a show in Mexico City, and I remember how I went home and just deleted everything on my computer that wasn’t 100 percent electronic.” The eager innovator even bought used books on Amazon to learn how to use DJ software. “I just went mad crazy for it,” he says.

One thing led to another, and now Lao has his own studio, runs two labels (Naafi and Extasis), and produces for boatloads of artists around the world. Stay tuned — he’s about to release an official remix for the band Interpol, which recruited him. Add in a track he recently worked on with Fever Ray and an upcoming project with a New York-based musician, and 2019 is bound to be jam-packed.

Take some time to get lost in his beats and you’ll hear the producer drumming up what he calls “rhythms of Mexico and Latin America, applied to the most challenging forms of electronic dance music.” For Lao, it comes back to identity. That ties in nicely with his next gig, as a supporting act at Wynwood’s Red Bull Music Presents Swetboxx, this Friday, October 5. The DJ promises the 12-hour warehouse dance party will be wild. He sees it as another medium where self-expression is encouraged. “It’s about respecting each other and trying to bring the idea of a house party back to its roots.” He avoids using the term "identity politics" and explains it's a venue where artists come together to be one step ahead. “It's more of a place where you can be crazy a little bit or dress as you normally don’t do because that's like what enforces your identity or enhances whatever your mindset is."

Everyone is invited, and there are plenty of reasons to attend, according to Lao. “You can meet people from different social classes, races, identities, genders, or whatever.” Getting personal for a moment, the producer forewarns his concluding thoughts are cheesy. “I think there's a moment at a party where the conversation is not actually with words," he says, "but it's more about creating the context that people are more open to experiences.”

Red Bull Music Presents: Swetboxx. With Mykki Blanco, Queef Latina, Miss Toto, Gami, and others. 9 p.m. Friday, October 5, at C+L Trading, 555 NW 24th St., Miami. Tickets cost $10 to $15 via win.gs/swetboxx.

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