DJ Camilo Lara of
the Mexican Institute
of Sound:
The TVD Interview

DJ Camilo Lara (above, left), the mastermind behind the Mexican Institute of Sound (MIS, Instituto Mexicano del Sonido), is a hip preservationist of Latin music. 

With MIS, Lara has found a beautiful connection among cumbia and mariachi and hip hop and rock. He also has a slant in the music business as president of EMI Mexico. His personal collection of vinyl albums is vast and includes works of major influence such as Kraftwerk, The Clash, and Animal Collective. MIS just finished their new album, Politico, which will be released this summer.

MIS’s Indie Music Award-winning third release, Soy Sauce, was recorded with a live band and vocals. Sauce is a jovial blend of an experimental electronica, slick hip hop beats, and traditional Latin American arrangements. Keep an ear out for a catchy mariachi cover of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.”

Tomorrow, March 17th, the Mexican Institute of Sound will perform in the ballroom at Artisphere in Arlington. Doors open at 7:30pm, and the show starts at 8pm. Tickets are $20, or $18 for students and seniors.

Lara took a moment out of his busy schedule to chat with me.

As a composer and producer, how would you map the similarities between traditional Latin music and American music, particularly hip hop and rock? 

Well… in a way, cumbia is the Hip Hop of Latin America. It is driven by rhythm, and it comes from the street. Modern Latin music is hugely influenced by rock and hip hop. They have the same energy as cumbia or mambo. I grew up listening to both, so I guess I don’t discriminate. For me it is as punk [to listen to] Johnny Rotten as Perez Prado.

When did you start collecting vinyl music?

I started when I was 6. I used to save all my money to buy records (still do). My first record was the soundtrack of the children’s series Burbujas. Later on in my life, I discovered it was [Juan García] Esquivel [a renowned composer of lounge style music, also composed the Burbujas theme].

How many vinyl albums do you own?

Something around 45,000 records and 35,000 CDs… crazy…

What’s the vinyl music consumer culture like in Mexico?

Old. A few young people buy vinyl, but most of the people who buy where I buy are old. For them, it is still the format!

Mariachi music is a major influence in your music. Do younger audiences still embrace this form of music?

Yes. In places like Guadalajara, there are stations that play only mariachi. But I think my biggest influence is cumbia. Cumbia is more important in Mexico. Still underground, still a street thing. But everyone loves it.

Your favorite cumbia musicians?

As for cumbia, I would say Andres Landeros, Dinastia Pedraza, Los Angeles Azules.

How would you assess Mexican Institute of Sound’s influence here in the United States?

Well… I grew up listening to music in English. So my influences also come from there. My favorite bands are Velvet Underground, The Clash, The Upsetters. But I listen to everything, from bluegrass to dubstep.

As a record label exec, what kind of business model would you foresee to sustain monetary returns to labels? Will it be exclusively digital? Will vinyl have a place?

[It will be] a model where users don’t pay for it, and brands or providers absorb the cost. After all, they are making business of people looking for music. Vinyl will be for collectors, for people like you and me, who still like “objects.”

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