"I think we have a genetic code where these sounds come from within – it’s something that’s inside our own organisms, to put it that way. So, to hear these sounds that were made thousands of years ago makes us feel things again and that’s exciting."
Words, interview, and translation by Isabela Raygoza
Evolving to one of the most prolific Mexican producers of today, DJ Javier Estrada righteously holds the torch of Latin and even pre-Colombian influenced electronic dance music. He is a tireless music ambassador. His mission: rescuing, re-appropriating, and fusing the sounds of his ancestors with new ones,
The Monterrey native has a hefty collection of tracks and EPs under his buckle that it would take most producers years to create and on his latest energetic EP Moombahton (available for free download), DJ Javier Estrada’s production skills are hotter than ever.
We caught up with Javier via Skype to discuss his musical foundations in nu metal (!), collaborating with A Tribe Called Red, and why so many artists are returning to their indigenous roots.
Your musical beginnings were grounded on heavy metal. From being a metal drummer, how did you make the drastic transition between genres?
Around the year 2000, it was popular to listen to Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, among others. During that time, I was part of a nu metal wave. I was able to obtain a really cheap drum set, I practiced a lot and when the opportunity came, I joined several punk rock, black metal, and heavy metal bands. Afterwards in 2004, I traveled to another state [within Mexico] and I met a friend who introduced me to another type of music, psycho [a style of electronic music similar trance] and other types of similar genres. I loved it. Later, I began to change up psycho music by integrating Latin rhythms.
Since you emerged a while back playing around Mexico’s northern border, how have you seen the Mexican electronic scene change?
Incredibly. It has evolved a lot. In Mexico, more and more people have been receiving with open arms what was previously thought of as underground music. I never imagined that moombahton was going to enter the country and click really well the way it’s been happening now. Dubstep came to Mexico two years ago, and before that nobody listened to it, only very few of us did. Genres have also been evolving and producers have been creating very interesting sounds, like global bass, which has tremendously helped the [electronic] scene evolve in Mexico.
Speaking of moombahton, you’re latest EP Moombahton is pretty fantastic. Can you walk me through the production process?
First of all, thank you. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. The production process of this EP emerged out of different things. I’ll discuss a few of the tracks. The song “Poison Ivy” came about when I was watching TV with my grandma – a Mexican movie from the early seventies featuring Mexican singer Johnny Laboriel. He was singing “Hiedra Venenosa,” a Rolling Stones cover and a national classic, and I immediately thought that I could add a new twist to this song so a lot more people could recognize it.
“Civilizations War” emerged in a similar way. I find that fusion of pre-Hispanic and new sounds to be a really great combination, not just to listen to, but because it’s also really dance floor friendly.
“Que Rompa” (let it break) came about when I was at work and my boss got really mad about something that was not my fault. At that moment I was looking for some sort of way to scream, “I quit!” So I put all of that energy on creating the track.
“Báilame” (dance for me) is a really important track for me because the lyrics were composed by me, as well as the music. My best friend, Joseline Nava, sings it who sings it really well for that rhythm.
The EP cover features Bart Simpson dressed as an Aztec or Mayan behind turntables. Can you also talk to us about the artwork behind it?
Eduardo Caudillo created the artwork for the Moombahton EP, he’s a good friend of mine from Mexico City. I told him that I wanted him to make a design comparable to what I do with music. Bart Simpson has been an important pop culture figure for several generations now and continues to be relevant. I wanted to portray something multi-generational, mainly with a pre-Hispanic graphic. You can see Bart playing vinyl behind turntables surrounded by Mayan and Aztec scenery.
New artists today have emerged mixing indigenous and pre-Hispanic sounds with modern ones. Do you believe there’s something in the atmosphere that artists are returning back to their roots?
Rather that, I believe that in order to create [music] one has to look back. I think we have a genetic code where these sounds come from within – it’s something that’s inside our own organisms, to put it that way. So, to hear these sounds that were made thousands of years ago makes us feel things again and that’s exciting. The fact of putting together something ancient with something new I believe is astonishingly good. There’s a bright future in the past.
Last year you were part of a very interesting music video trilogy with Canada’s native trio, A Tribe Called Red. Can you talk about how this collaboration came about?
I first got in contact with A Tribe Called Red in 2011, and just last year in New York at SOB’s I had the chance to meet and perform with them. The idea of creating the video trilogy came about when I first asked them to remix a track of mine, and I then did a remix to one of their tracks. Apparently, they really liked the idea of combining ancient sounds from Central and South America that they decided to create this trilogy in their own unique way, and it’s really fantastic.
By the way, I heard that you have the super ability to produce an entire EP in one full day. What gives you that creative burst?
More than anything, it’s the love for music. When I had the opportunity to create more, I got to the point where I’d produce approximately six tracks within nineteen to twenty hours. In reality, I don’t think that quality is the enemy of velocity, or vice versa. If you like to do something you do it well, and the faster you do it, the more opportunity you have to create more things.