Our feature series ‘Clubbing in…’ examines the clubbing scene in cities across the world, and this part focuses on the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City. With a melting pot of styles, cultures and influences making for a hugely varied scene, and a new wave of house music producers putting the Mexico on the map, there’s a lot on offer. Local DJ and radio stalwart Chuck Pereda guides us round his hometown.
What’s your background in music, DJing and nightlife?
I started by raving. Raving was quite a new thing in ‘92/’93 and there were very few options; mostly parties and only a couple of electronic clubs (Medusas and Mecano). Then I bumped into a DJ collective called Abstract Massive and I became their MC. I was 18 at the time, so that was 22 years ago. They taught me how to DJ and I’ve been a DJ ever since. I’ve had a bunch of radio shows since then and all of them were/are specialised in electronic music. As a DJ I’ve opened for Felix Da Housecat, Ivan Smagghe, Damian Lazarus, Fischerspooner, Tiga, Basement Jaxx and many others. I’ve also done print: I had a mag called Sónika and did Nylon México for a while.
How have you seen the music scene in Mexico City develop over the last 10 years or so?
It’s hard in Mexico City, to be honest. Places like Guadalajara and Playa del Carmen have it a lot better as they both have the closest thing to our fabric or Berghain. In Guadalajara we have Bar Américas and in Playa there’s La Santanera. Both are really famous with international DJs. In Mexico City we had El Colmillo, which was owned by Crispin Somerville, an English DJ, but right now most electronic clubs cater to really quick and changing audiences – so the only clubs that are actually being super serious about techno and house are on/offs like Dance Your Name. They just do parties and have no regular place.
The rest of the clubs play good electronic music, but for an audience that mostly wants hits they can sing, we as DJs let that happen because we need to keep the floor filled. Still, it’s a lot better from when I was growing up. Outside my radio station back then was some graffiti that said: ‘stop playing electronic music on this radio station, it’s stupid’.
Mexico City is hard. We have Mutek and a bunch of amazing collectives like Dance Your Name and NAAFI, but the rest of the time it’s a hard business. But there ARE clubs: we have Mono, Rhodesia, Leonor, Rioma, AM and that’s about it.
How is the outdoor party and festivals scene?
Those have actually helped people to familiarise with DJs and electronic music. Recently I dated someone a lot younger that me and her friends were more used to electronic acts sharing the stage with rock bands. That was not the case as I was growing up. I think the first festival to ever do that (mix rock/electronic) was Vive Latino, which is our biggest festival. Even the organisers say it’s our Coachella. It was kind of a big thing that they brought The Chemical Brothers to one of the main stages and people were actually denouncing this, saying stuff like: “well, that’s the end of it: electronic music in a rock festival.” But that helped.
Now this festival has its own electronic stage that caters to the global bass style. We’ve got music like reggaeton, dembow, juke, trap and footwork playing there and it’s kinda spread to other festivals as well. Having 20-year-olds familiarised with this makes our job easier as it was not the case before. Jungle and bass music has had a hard time and it’s still funny how my ex went to see Nosaj Thing play jungle and bass music at an outdoors festival but didn’t know Jungle Empire – our biggest, oldest jungle collective. So festivals are a thing that makes it easier for them to be into all this types of stuff. We have Trópico, Ceremonia XXX, Vive Latino and Mutek, our longest running electronic music festival. That to me is THE festival that started it all as no other festival stuck at first. We had a lot of promoters try only to fail.
Also all the big EDM festivals are giving it a go here. We have EDC, Wish, Sensation, you name it. But these guys have had it easier. In Mexico we had this show on cable called EMPO that did their own events and they are the forefathers of the EDM scene as they have been bringing people like David Guetta, Tiësto and Armin over for ages.
What challenges does the Mexican scene face?
I feel like it needs a club like fabric or some place that just plays stuff that’s not commercial. Most times I get asked really basic stuff that I bet DJs in London don’t get asked. l mean, I know we all get asked for requests, but people here are still not used to seeing a DJ. They still have no idea what you’re doing and we have an amazing crowd for international DJs, but Mexican DJs still struggle to fill a club on their own. So we need to create a better, more knowledgeable audience, because the audience keeps getting younger and I think we’re not that amazing in sharing what it is that we do. That’s what I try to do on my radio show: explain the basics in a way that’s not elitist.
The cool kids get it though and there’s a lot, lot more of them. Also preppy kids are starting to get with the program and we now have hipsters and that’s helped too. It used to be the case that Vive Latino was more for kids with lower incomes and now it’s a hipster event and that actually helps.
We need to not be racist arseholes or classist. We have SO MUCH stuff going on that requires people having a broader mindset. We have sound systems that play cumbia from Colombia; we have a club that just mixes high energy, EBM and new beat from the days of yore; we have ‘tribal huarachero’, Nortec and cumbia rebajada (slowed down cumbia). But our kids still like any international DJ better. It’s just a case of it being really divided. Kids that go to Rhodesia would never go to Vive Latino. Still, it’s getting better.
What about legal / licensing issues? How are the authorities there?
We had authorities closing clubs at three about two or three years ago and most clubs just paid cops to keep their clubs open until 8 or 9 AM. When I mix on Thursdays, people arrive at 1 or 2 AM and I leave the club at 6 or 7 AM. It might have something to do with alcoholímetros – they are this governmental thing to prevent people from driving drunk and they’ve helped out a lot to stop accidents. But they stop testing people around the time clubs are “officially” closing, so a lot of people don’t actually see any of them ‘cause they leave clubs the next day.
Finally, which upcoming talents from Mexico City are you most excited about?
We have a new label called Afterluv which comes from Universal and they are developing EDM. That to me is good news as we only have big names coming from abroad, we don’t have that many big names in commercial DJs and that’s very much needed. Some friends are really good and have been getting a lot of international press: White Visitation, ÑAKA ÑAKA, AAAA and all the kids that do global bass like stuff like Tropic-All and Bass Rats.
Mexico has a LOT of reggaeton-tinged electronics that do really well in international festivals, so those kids have a better chance to make it big outside of Mexico City. And house, we have some decent enough commercial house like Balcazar & Sordo, Gin & Tonic and some other peeps – but White Visitation is THE MAN. To me he’s Mexico’s finest.