Luis Flores is Mexico's main exponent of techno. Hailing from the country's home of techno, Guadalajara, he is visiting Australia for the very first time to play at the IF? Records night in Sydney as well as other dates across Australia. His electric Live PA and releases have seen him play all over the world in the last few years and in this interview he sheds some light on what's going on in distant Mexico. Be sure to check out his latest CLR podcast below.
Pulse: Can you tell us about the roots of techno in Mexico. How it began? Where it began? Luis Flores: Techno has been here many years. The scene started in 1991 with illegal parties, the rave mentality, where every weekend the venue would change. It got really big here [in Guadalajara] then local government shut them down. It's very right wing here, very catholic. They shut it down because of the sub culture they saw. All through the 90s we had trouble with raids and shutting the underground down.
Finally in 2001/2 there was this period of equality where everybody did thweir thing without any trouble. Then there was this festival with about 5000 people, and the new Governor decided to bust the festival. I think he wanted a quick headline or something, The Mexican Police came and had everyone on the ground and held for more than 3 hours on the site. Then they finally took some random people to the police station and made them sign a false statement admitting guilt if they wanted to be let go. And the few people who refused to sign were sent to jail.
This resulted in a really harsh backlash against the Governor. The backlash went national in the media really quickly. We had a protest rave outside the Governors official residence with 6000 people. Six months later everyone was free. After, protests on that date was held consecutively 3 years. Finally the cultural department ended up paying for the festival. So by about 2010, there had been a big turnaround here for electronic music and it become one of the biggest cultural movements in Guadalajara. Now it accepted alongside any other cultural art form. There is no prejudice against it anymore.
Had you been into other forms of dance music, before techno? Musically I came from an industrial music background. In the late 80s I was part of an industrial music show on college radio. That shifted into techno and house in the early 90s. And from there things grew into all the different genres of dance music.
What city in Mexico is most popular for techno today? In general, electronic music has a better scene in Guadalajara than Mexico City. I'm not exactly sure why. Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world, it has everything, yet electronic music culture there is centered around clubs and house music. Here in Guadalajara we've been pretty lucky, because during the backlash over the outdoor parties, around 2003, Bar Americas started. And what started as a bar, turned into a club. We've had this spot for almost ten years now and kept everything alive that wasn't related to outdoor raves and parties along with all the free festivals we did paid by the government.
From what I've read, Bar Americas in Guadalajara seems to be the most popular club in Mexico, what kind of club is it? Originally it was a bar started by some friends who wanted to have a place to hang out. We hooked up with them very early because we had a label back then we were the only people in the profession if you like. It was the only place there was, especially when the authorities had cracked down on the raves. It grew over the years from a small bar without a proper sound system, to a proper club that at full capacity fits about 1000 people now. It has internationals every Thursday. In Guadalajara you can go out until 6am, pretty much like anywhere in the world. In other places in Mexico the clubs finish by two o’clock and everyone has to be out by 2:30am.
Are there many aspiring techno DJs or producers in Mexico and do they have the will, or belief that can make it on a world stage? Language isolates the country and does so severely. You get a feeling of being an outsider, scene wise, when you live here. Either you try and make it in Mexico or Latin America, in a Spanish related scene or you try and make it internationally - because of the language difficulties people don't really have a notion of how to get out there. However, now it is beginning to happen. Not exclusively with techno, also with house and other kinds of electronic music. Kind of feels like a personal struggle at the end of the day.
Is making it electronic music out of reach for many Mexicans, because of lack of English and the relatively high cost of getting a studio set up? At one point it was, before all the digital stuff. You had to have gear. The usual Roland TR-808, 909, 303. That gear was cheap here compared to other places. No single piece of gear cost more than $200USD. Still, you had to have a lot of bits of gear so it added up. When computers came of age that blurred the lines and gave a more democratic option. Right now, like everywhere, it's not hard to have the tools to make electronic music. We have a production school here that is affordable and there is a constant stream of students. Now it just depends on how willing people are to work.
While researching the party scene in Meixco, I read about parties being raided by drug gangs from the cartels. In Australia if a party gets raided it is usually done so by the police. What is going on there? No it doesn't work that way. It's kind of a tricky subject, because 'drugs' in Mexico have become the topic internationally. The crime problems are true to an extent. That is all up north, all the violence, and it's pretty much as you read, as learn about it in the media. I'd never heard of a drug gang raiding a party. What happens is, or what has happened, is a particular drug cartels control a city, and when there is a rave for example, they are the ones who have to sell the drugs. It's not like they take over a party and intimidate the people.
You've heard of the BPM festival right? It goes for a week. People from all over the world come to party. If things like that got raided, it would make international news. On one hand it sounds like an exaggeration. On the other hand the reality is not that much better in that there is the organised crime thing.
I was going to ask you about the BPM festival, as it is known internationally and here in Australia. Can you tell me about it from a locals perspective? The festival is down south. I've never been to be honest. And I've never been invited to play. It's more of a house festival. I've heard when they've asked Mexican DJs to perform they are expected to pay their own way to get there. So from that point of view it's not the ideal situation. And I think Canadians run it, which makes it even weirder. It is a big thing though.
What was the first real techno track that made your ears prick up and notice techno? My first reference is still industrial music which was danceable. There was a blend of industrial and dance music, called Electronic Body Music (EBM). And the Belgians were doing middle of the road stuff which was half harsh and half danceable called new beat. We were into bands like A Split Second, Front 242, SA 42, Lords of Acid and Ajzx. There was this proper underground club where we would go and dance to that stuff. And then techno just happened to blend with it and then we switched to it. Techno was less aggressive and more danceable. There was no single track, it was more of a shift to that sound. What was interesting to me then were people like Orbital and Aphex Twin.
Do you have any knowledge of the techno scene in Australia? Has news about Australian techno reached Mexico over the years?
I do now because I have an Australian friend [Material Object]. Back in the day, in my industrial days I knew about the Australian band 'Severed Heads'. They were my first Australian reference. And then we heard of the progressive DJ, Anthony Pappa. We saw Australia pretty much how we see Europe, with a scene and festivals. And like anywhere else in the world things started off with raves that played all kinds of music. Then electronic music there became more genre specific.
Out of all the tunes you have, which one never fails? I kinda interpreted that question the other way around, in that all my tunes have the potential to fail if played at the wrong moment. I've made tracks that I thought were pure energy and banging and if I played that after a period of harsh or heavy tunes, it might not work. Whereas if I played those same tracks after some deep stuff, they would work perfectly. Something you think always works might flop if you don't play it at the right moment.
I'd love to hear some details of your legendary 9 hours live sets. How is that even possible? Actually it is seven hours so that makes it a little more feasible. I've only done two seven-hour sets. And the other weekend I did six hours. When they happen they just happen, they are not planned. It's when everything is just 'right' and there is no pressure, and I can just do whatever I want. Which is always great. If I went in thinking I had to play seven hours, I would probably choke. When they happen I go though all my material, all the little bits I've collected and created over the last six years. Not all the sounds are perfectly fresh but when it works they just transform from one thing to another.
Why Techno is so popular in Mexico? While techno was almost out of fashion in many places for a while before its revival in the last few years, in Mexico it never really went away. Why do Mexicans love techno so much? I don't know if it has been in fashion and then out of fashion. The thing is, and it's the same everywhere, people who love techno cannot stop loving techno. I don't know what it is about the music. It just hooks people. It's very specific to techno, I cannot think of anything genre that does that to people. I think there are the people here who have always loved techno and that has never stopped.
Luis Flores plays in Sydney on Saturday 16th February for IF? Records & Future Theories @ One22 (buy below), in Melbourne on Saturday 23rd February for Machine @ My Aeon and the Earth Frequency Festival in Queensland.
To win one of two double passes the the Sydney party send us an email here with your name and tell us why you're dying to see Luis play. Winners will be notified via email by 6pm on Friday 15th. Good luck!