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What happens when you’re a music executive with vast knowledge, virtually unlimited access to pop music, and a love for the traditional sounds you grew up listening to at home? What if, while you have a good life and earn a good living behind-the-scenes in the industry, you have an urge to cross the line into performance, believing that you might just have what it takes to stride the stage, doing your thing before an audience?
By day, Camilo Lara is music director and A&R man for EMI in Mexico. You can also find his name in the credits of the 2001 film Y Tu Mamá También. He contributed a song to director Alfonso Cuarón’s cutting-edge drama, though it didn’t make the album.
Instituto Mexicano del Sonido (the Mexican Institute of Sound) came together as Lara, who also goes by DJ Pata Pata, began doing remixes on the side “as a form of therapy,” in his words. After a while, the chance to release an album through the Spanish Lovemonk label presented itself. Méjico Máxico came out in Spain last summer, and has found its way to U.S. listeners via Nacional Records. Lara takes liberal advantage of his vast library, cooking up a rich mix of sounds that his website describes as “cyber-mambo-lounge-dance.”
"I have a music dealer who finds stuff for me, and I own more than 30,000 vinyl records,” he says excitedly. “I buy lots of new music, and I especially love records that most people ignore at first and later rediscover.” Throughout Méjico Máxico, Latin sonideras, cumbia, mambo and other styles combine with an assortment of European, American and even Indian influences, all expertly blended with an electronic and sampled beats ranging from the ’60s to more contemporary times. “I have tons of music in my computer,” he says, “and I tried to make [the tracks] sound as close to a song as possible."
The CD has a lounge music feel most of the time, but tracks such as “Bienvenidos a Mi Disco” (Welcome To My Album), “Cyber Mambo” and “Jaja Pipi,” on which the beats are more prominent, could easily get listeners onto the dancefloor. Lara dips into Jamaican dub techniques from time to time, most evidently on “El Tiempo Es Muy Largo” (Time is Too Long) or “Que Rico” (How Nice).
When asked about his personal influences, Lara sighs and admits that he listens to a lot of music. “I go from XTC to Pixies and Sun Ra.” Asked how this eclecticism manifests itself in his own work, he admits it is “a bit schizophrenic, going from Joy Division to other stuff without sounding too
The concept behind Méjico Máxico, in his words, is to present something “like a Mexican wedding, where you can hear everything from the Beatles to traditional music, with pretty much everything else in between.” He explains that “when you live so close to the U.S., a lot of what comes from there affects you in a way or another, and that is coupled with the traditional sounds you grow up listening to.”
The name Mexican Institute of Sound points to the fact that Lara sees himself as “a bit bureaucratic” due to his longtime association with the music business. When asked how it feels to be on the other side of the desk, he says it's “a totally different experience—there is a very fine line between A&R and doing music itself.”
Lara has made live appearances in Europe under the MIS banner, assisted by Olivier Castro, a publicity man by day who handles the sequenced electronics while Lara plays keyboards and delivers some vocals. They take the stage wearing white lab coats, and whatever amateurism they might exhibit at first “is compensated with sheer enthusiasm and quickened rhythm