“Tijuana is one of the most important new cultural meccas.”
“Welcome to Tijuana …
Tequila, sexo, marihuana … ”
— Manu Chao’s “Welcome To Tijuana”
Tijuana is like India without God.
And, if you can see beyond the dirt, the gap between the rich and poor, the chaos, the narcos, and possess sufficient vision to distinguish between a working girl and a working boy, it is also one of the coolest places on the planet.
After all, they have the best mulitas, a hybrid between a taco and a pupusa best eaten standing up on the Bulevar Aguas Calientes. Or so I thought.
“Well … it depends,” says Fussible’s Pepe Mogt, part of NorTec Collective (the coalition of DJs, programmers, musicians, and graphic artists that mix electronica with norteña and banda, the music from the north of Mexico). “For the sloppy mulitas aguadas `watery`, two tortillas with carne asada, guacamole and salsa, you sit down. They require a lot of skill. Tacos, you stand up.”
On one thing, however, we agree: To properly hear NorTec Collective, you better stand up.
The newly released NorTec Collective presents: Bostich + Fussible/Tijuana Sound Machine, the second collaboration between Rubén Amezcua’s Bostich and Mogt’s Fussible, comes on the heels of NorTec Collective’s two-time Latin Grammy-nominated The Tijuana Sessions Vol. 2, which — as usual — earned the collective rave reviews and solidified their status as cultural heroes. (The full collective plans to release its next album in 2009.)
Before they adopted their name and even thought of using Mexican music in their mixes, the members of NorTec toured Europe with German industrial powerhouse KMFDM in the mid-’90s, just before the quebradita/norteña craze exploded in Los Angeles and Northern Mexico.
“Until then, we didn’t give a shit about norteñas or banda,” Mogt says, over the phone from his studio in Tijuana. “But at that point we were more mature and began to like norteñas. Besides digging American and, especially, European electronic, our life took place drinking chelas `beer` in the cantinas, listening to norteñas.”
For Tijuana Sound Machine, Bostich and Fussible took the mix a little further, and the result is so organic you don’t know what’s real and what’s a gadget.
“I call it ‘back and forth’ production,” Mogt says. “Nowadays, music and communications go very fast, and with this record we took advantage of the new technology, including day-to-day technology like … OK, I don’t want to sound too commercial, so let’s just say we use cellular phones. We took out their operative systems and replaced it with music and video-generating software, and you can notice the different sound on the album. I work on the phone, my buddy receives it, and then I control his stuff from my computer.”
When it comes to the accordion, tuba, and percussion, the key elements of NorTec, the sound is as real as Banda El Recodo, but even though all accordions are played by full-fledged norteño Juan Telles (formerly with Tradición Norteña), the result is not always what it seems.
“We first lay down the tracks digitally,” says Mogt. “The harmonic progressions were done with drum machines and very old, analog synthesizers. We played it for the musicians and they reproduced the melodies with their own norteño touch. Then we took their best parts and sometimes we left everything as is. You can sometimes hear a true accordion solo from beginning to end, and sometimes it’s processed with the synths, guitar pedals and filters.”
Most observers agree that Tijuana’s historic development (“We were born as a huge bordello-and-booze zone during the Prohibition,” Mogt says) and proximity to Los Angeles (the mecca of Latin alternative culture in the US) is what makes the city so vibrant and unique, if you have the stomach. And NorTec, better than anyone, provides the soundtrack for that irresistible mess.
“When you go to Tijuana, you think of NorTec, and when you hear NorTec, you think of Tijuana,” says Mogt. “Border towns have a lot of similarities, but Tijuana is unique. Maybe if Hollywood was on the other side of Tamaulipas, there would be nothing `in Tijuana`. But California happens to be on the other side of Tijuana, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Except drink, get wasted, and make music. •
Bostich & Fussible:
Pachanga Music Festival
9pm Sat, May 31
403 E. 15th St., Austin