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World Music Features

Camilo Lara

By Lissette Corsa
Published January 28, 2008

Camilo Lara is the man behind Mexican Institute Of Sound, but he's also a top record exec for EMI Mexico with his ear glued to the underground, as well as an author on the verge of his print debut. With so many balls in the air, it's easy to see why the Mexico City native finds fullfillment in cross-pollinating as many musical style as he can.

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Not only is Camilo Lara the one-man band behind Mexican Institute Of Sound, he’s also a top record exec for EMI Mexico with his ear glued to the underground, as well as a promising writer who has just finished his first magnum opus (tentatively titled Messages To Myself). His sophomore album Piñata—the highly anticipated follow-up to 2006’s Mejico Maxico—is a sonic pastiche that ripples with the input of some special guests whose collective vision is as cosmopolitan as Lara’s is otherworldly. Using his signature cut-andpaste “kitchen sink” sample approach to making music, the Mexico City native continues to develop his beautifully schizophrenic sound with the expert wizardry that only a true record fanatic can muster.

Your obsession with American writer Thomas Pynchon seems to fuel part of your creative energy on Piñata. What elements from Pynchon’s work did you want to capture?

Both Pynchon and Roberto Bolaño, a Chilean writer, I think have these stories that connect in a very subtle way. And I think Piñata, in a way, is a combination of that. The songs are not connected, but certain things in certain parts of the songs connect with the rest of the songs. So I thought about the structure of how the record was done. I was reading Vineland and Mason & Dixon—I read probably all of Pynchon’s books while I was doing the record. The album features members of Tom Tom Club, Fantastic Plastic Machine and Babasónicos. What did they contribute to the overall feel?

It was the very first time I had people working with me on a record. The first record I made on my own, in my own studio, and I never got into the creative process with anyone else. For this one, I was kind of open to do that. First of all, I started working with Quique Rangel from Café Tacvba, so in a way he was the musical director. He gave me top opinions on what should I doand what I should keep or erase. After that, I reached out to Adrian [Dargelos] from Babasónicos. It was fun inviting great friends to do this kind of reading. For the very first record, I didn’t want to include anyone because I wanted to try to do this on my own. But for this one, it was the right time for me to have many guests on it.

How did Holger Beier from Le Hammond Inferno influence the album?

He’s a good friend of mine and I’ve known him forever. He has a record label called Bungalow and he signed artists like Fantastic Plastic Machine, Cornelius and Stereo Total from Germany, so he was a very influential guy with great taste. I decided to invite him to produce some tracks—just for the excuse to have him here in Mexico for a couple of weeks to have fun. I never expected more because I thought he was like a cool DJ, but it turned out that he’s actually a good producer. So we moved from my studio at home and I decided to get a more professional studio. I think what he basically added to the album was more of an organic sound that’s not so attached to the samplers. He definitely made it sound different, and helped to give it another dimension.

When did you first start making music?

I was doing remixes just for the fun of it—for many friends like Café Tacvba—and at one point I was like, “Well, I can do my own music.” So I took an old computer and just used it as a recording machine, and started doing music. I’ve been involved in music since I was around eight years old because my brothers are musicians too, and my older brother was like a one-hit wonder from the ‘80s. So I got into the music thing very, very young.

You draw from elements like Cuban cha-cha-chá, Colombian cumbia and Latin lounge, and yo