Wednesday, September 9, 2009
DJ JUAN DATA IS MERSAHOLIC - (Free Mix)
After the huge success of Linyerismo Episode II (about 450 downloads to this date and that's without counting the re-hosting of it on other sites) I felt under a lot of pressure to come up with something even bigger and better but I didn't wanna repeat myself and do a Linyerismo III. However, this Mersaholic mix ended up being sort of like a Linyerismo III in the end and even shorter than my previous two mixes of '09.
Mersa is a slang word in Argentine vernacular Spanish that means something like tacky and ghetto fabulous. When poor people of low educational level try to dress to impress and wear shiny clothes and gold chains, we call it "mersa". So, Mersaholic would mean something like addicted to "la mersada", I guess. Actually, I just liked how it sounded.
One of the reasons why this project was so difficult for me was that it was conceived backwards. I came up with the idea for the title and the cover art before I even started planning the play-list. It all happened one night when I was hanging out with a friend of mine, this Mexican MC from the group Reporte Ilegal, at his mind-blowing community artists loft. We had smoked some blunts and were listening to old records in his home-studio/pirate radio station and I started digging through his crates and found a vinyl copy of RZA's Bobby Digital album, which artwork I always loved because it obviously resembles blaxploitation movie posters. I was stoned and I kept looking and it and looking at it and I thought, how amazing would be to redo this art for a cumbia mix. In the stereo we were going back and forth between Mexican cumbia sonidera and Wu-Tang classics. Reminded me of the second half of the nineties when I was all into Wu-Tang and shit and that was how the idea for Mersaholic came out that night. The next morning I searched for Wu-Tang instrumentals and some cumbia sonidera and I started working on that mix without knowing where it would go from there. Instead of mashing up the Wu-Tang stuff over a cumbia beat, I decided to go back and forth bouncing from one deck to the other, trying to capture the magical spirit of the night before.
That's how Mersaholic started, as a cumbia tribute to the Staten Island sound and at the same time I started drawing the cover. But at that point I still didn't know if I was just producing one track, a collection of tracks or doing a whole half-hour long megamix. I didn't know what to put next, I had nothing planned, but eventually I decided to give it a go on and see where it takes me.
It turned up to be quite hard because I ran into too many dead ends where I wasn't able to easily get out and transition into the next song. Also because I was experimenting with new techniques and new hardware that I never used in my previous mixes...
The Technical Aspects
One thing that stands out on this mix, comparing to the Linyerismo episodes is the abundant use of turntablism (and wacky-ass baby scratch!). Linyerismo Episode I was entirely mixed inside my laptop and Episode II had a few scratch additions and arrangements here and there. In Mersaholic, almost all of the mixes you'll hear were recorded live using vinyl controllers and there's even some old "real" vinyl records too. I think that gives it a whole different vibe because it doesn't sound as much as a studio mix (even though it is) and it sounds messier and dirtier too.
The other big addition to this mix was that I bought a Korg KP3 Kaoss Pad and of course, as any kid with a new toy, I abused it a little too much adding effects and deforming almost all the breaks before blending them into this megamix.
Like I pointed out already Mersaholic is a studio mix and I'd never in a million years be able to reproduce it live (unless I had four turntables, eight arms and two brains). I'm not mixing any song in it's original format. They all went through some sort of transformations before they made it into the mix.
So the way it was done, was something like this: I'd grab some cumbia break beat I like, mix it with something else, process it through the Kaoss pad, add effects, turn it into something very different from the original and save it as a mini-mix. Then, after a while, I had a whole bunch of those 20 or 30 seconds minimixes and I'd mix them together in real time using turntables into the larger megamix. That's Mersaholic.
So, the whole process took me almost a month of work and at no point did I use any multi-track loop-sequencing software where you can go back and fix mistakes (no ableton, no protools, no acid...). It was all recorded in real time, so any screw-up would mean, go back and re-record from the beginning. That's why I almost went crazy and was tempted to throw my laptop through the window more than once.
I, personally, don't think that giving away the play-list of this sort of mixes beforehand is such a good idea. I'd prefer if people listen to it first without knowing the titles of the tracks and then go back and see where they came from. The reason for this is that this mix (as well as the Linyerismo episodes) it's full of conceptual irony and unpredictable inside jokes. Some of them, only a few of you (native Spanish speakers in particular) will be able to get them, but still, I find some delight in the idea that people might laugh their asses off when some of the tracks hit them as a surprise. If you know in advance what you're gonna hear because you read it on the play-list... then there's no surprise, no fun.
Another reason why giving away the play-list is not very appropriate in this case is that I barely use some of the tracks I named. True, there are some very recognizable tracks from the likes of Toy Selectah and Sonido del Príncipe that I play for more than 45 seconds, but then most of the rest is just small bits and pieces from different tracks, some of them I only used 5 seconds, some of them even less. I counted at least 57 different songs used in the construction of the 27 minutes plus of Mersaholic but it wouldn't be right so say I mixed 57 song when maybe I only played two notes from one track or one ten second vocal sample from another one.
What I can point out is that there are a lot of artists in common with my two previous megamixes from 2009 which I guess makes my stylistic preferences quite obvious. I mentioned Toy Selectah who, you as all know, is my very favorite and my sort of mentor. Bomba Estéreo, Mexican Institute of Sound, Fauna and Frikstailers they all have some appearances in all my latest three mixes too. And maybe less evidently Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas and Anita Tijoux appear on the three as well.
Besides that, there was a lot of digging involved in this megamix and that's another departure from the Linyerismo series, where I mostly played current neo-cumbia stuff. On Mersaholic I decided to dig into old school traditional cumbia from Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Argentina and mix it in new, innovative ways. That was another obstacle that made my work harder because most of that acoustic cumbia doesn't follow a steady tempo so it's harder to blend.
Since Linyerismo Episode II cover was a tribute to Afrika Bambaataa's "Renegades of Funk", and lots of the success of that mix was based on the impact the art made, I decided to replicate the marketing strategy and do another hip-hop cover tribute/parody. It took me a while until the Bobby Digital idea materialized before my eyes during that summer blunted-out night. Before that I was thinking of doing a spoof of some EPMD cover or maybe even some NWA...
What I liked about the Bobby Digital art besides the 70's movie poster feel was the crazy amount of visual information it contained and that was a total challenge at the time of drawing it. Much like the actual mixtape, the cover was conceived as a collage of several different drawings I made, most of them based on different pictures I took.
Once again I was able to count with the invaluable help of my long time friend and partner in crime Gabriel Di Matteo who did an impressive work with the graphic design, as usual. Without his magic touch, my drawings look like amateur crap.