Today in MOAI Magazine we have the honour of interviewing Mexican electronic music legend, Mauricio Rojas, better known worldwide as DJ Klang, artist and MOAI PRO Ambassador.
– Hello Mauricio, first of all, thank you very much for your time. As always, we like to tell our readers something about your origins, your first influences, your first contacts with music in general and electronic music in particular. Tell us something about those Seventies in your life, about the stage before your first experience as a DJ.
– Well, to begin with, the 70’s were very important for me, I grew up in a home where I listened to the best dance music all the time thanks to my brother Rafael, who was passionate about disco music, he had one of the first mobile sounds in the south of Mexico City, when he was at home recording and rehearsing for his events, I felt very attracted to see how he fused one track after another, in an impeccable way, and by myself I started to try what he was doing, Gradually I began to understand the secrets of the art of matching disco to 12 inch records, by the time my brother Rafael realised the skills I was beginning to develop by observing what he was doing, he began to help me with comments and corrections, and before long he invited me to work with him at events, and I will never forget my first set, it was definitely an experience that would define the direction my life would take.
– We have read that your first experiences as a DJ came in the second half of the seventies, when you were very young… How do you remember that first stage? What kind of music did you play, what records have remained engraved in your memory?
– The music we played in that first stage was wonderful, the best of disco and funk music, among the tracks that will always be part of my history I can mention, Good Times and Le Freak by Chic, I Feel Love by Donna Summer, That’s the Way (I like it) by KC & The Sunshine Band, On the Beat by The B.B.&Q Band, and dozens of classic tracks of the main variants of disco music. By mixing these genres in the best possible way, a lot of skill was gained, because the vast majority of the tracks were of variable tempo, as they were recordings of bands, groups and orchestras, so the tempo varied constantly, another aspect was that the appropriate parts for mixing in the songs had a very short duration, so first we had to know in great detail all the tracks, we had to work with agility, precision and a lot of concentration, as everything was done analogically, without any kind of clock or digital reference.
– Let’s move forward in time, and this is something that fills me with curiosity. What was the scene like in the eighties in Mexico? Where did you play music and what music was played?
– In 1980 Hip Hop arrived with Rappers Delight by Sugar Hill Gang, in 1981 Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode gave birth to Synth Pop, in 1982 Hip Hop Be Bop by Man Parris marked the arrival of Electro, During that period in Mexico they started to play danceable Rock in English, I played the best of bands like U2, Loverboy, ZZ-Top and Yes, and New Wave was gaining strength, which I loved, I played tracks by Duran Duran, Ultravox, Devo and Tears for Fears. Having access to this wide range of styles began to define my style, with a marked direction towards electronic music was the great love I developed for the sound of synthesizers and drum machines, with tracks like Paul Hardcastle’s 19, Yazoo’s Situation, and New Order’s Blue Monday. Throughout this decade I played every weekend with my mobile sound, and around 1983 and 1984 I simultaneously started working as a resident DJ in some of the best clubs of the time, such as the Magazine Club, the Quetzal Club and the Taizz,
– In the second half of the eighties, you began a professional stage as a sound technician. Has this apprenticeship helped you in your later career as a producer and DJ?
– This stage as a professional audio technician arose from my work as a DJ, sometimes I was hired to sound amateur groups, thanks to this a friend convinced me to start working with a new pop music group called Pandora, that was my formal start in professional sound, an activity that took me to travel to many countries working with artists such as Timbiriche, Laureano Brizuéla and Alejandra Guzmán. This stage was very important for me, as I learned a lot about sound management and music production, and my work as a dj definitely went up a level.
– A little later in time, you started your career in another of your loves, the radio, at the same time that LTT was born, that project in the form of a group that has existed for years and that in its first stage left three albums between 1992 and 1998. Tell us something about those two intense experiences, please.
– First I started to produce electronic music thanks to Hugo Espinoza, a great friend who was also a dj, he taught me to work with MIDI technology, using sequencers, samplers, drum machines and synthesizers, I started to study principles of music theory and harmony, we met Hilda Acevedo aka Merlina, and from that moment on the 3 of us started to work on the development of our first band called LLT (Los Legendarios Tlaconetes), the first full length album was recorded with the label Magia Re-cords and the albums Relatos del Futuro and Ligas Diversas with the label Opción Sónica. At the same time thanks to Héctor Mijangos, one of my best friends, we were invited by Arturo Saucedo to work in the locution and production of a radio program for the Mexican Institute of Radio IMER, focused on the diffusion of electronic music, the name of the program was NEXUS 6, this project gave a very valuable contribution to the electronic music scene in Mexico, because it became the main meeting point for fans, producers, artists, dj’s and promoters, Later I was co-creator of the programs Technoplex and Techno Sector 96, the most interesting thing is that this activity that I developed during several years can be found documented in a blog developed by the same fans, from the cassettes that they themselves recorded, this wonderful digital collection is called Generation Nexus 6 and currently it is possible to listen to a huge collection of recordings on the internet site: http://generacionnexus6. blogspot.com.
– Closing the decade and the century, in 1999, your career reached another turning point when you began a stage as a teacher at the G Martell music and audio school, something that lasted for fifteen years. What memories does this facet of your professional life bring back to you, and why did it come to an end in 2014?
– This stage was very important, when I started I had no experience in teaching, however from the beginning I did my best, at the beginning we offered a basic course of 2 months with groups of 8 students, and when I left this occupation we managed to have a student body of more than 300 students, In this way I had the great opportunity to share the art of djing and production with several generations of new talents, some of whom have managed to position themselves professionally on the local and international scene. In 2014, after 15 years as a teacher and academic director of the dj and electronic music area of G Martell, I decided it was time to hand over the baton, and return to the studio, and to resume my path as a dj and producer.
– The 21st century begins for Mauricio Rojas with another tremendous turning point in his already successful career. But the Love Nation in July 2000 made DJ Klang’s fame reach many corners of the planet and the following year, in 2001, he was invited to the Love Parade in Berlin. Mauricio, tell us, how is that moment when you get into the booth and you see what is in front of you?
– The possibility of being part of these great events materialized thanks to Arturo Sauce-do, who invited me in 2000 to participate in the Technogeist festival, which was a collaborative project between Germany and Mexico, thanks to what I had achieved throughout my career I was invited to travel to Germany representing Mexico in the Love Nation event, which was part of the Loveparade festivities in Berlin, in 2001 the second edition of Technogeist took place, with the introduction of Loveparade Mexico, The success was so great that for the second time I was chosen along with Dj Chrysler to represent Mexico, originally we were scheduled to play at the new edition of Love Nation, which was held at the end of the Loveparade, the same morning of the festival we were told that we had a very special surprise, we were asked to bring our boxes of records as we had been assigned a set for Mexico on the main stage of Loveparade Berlin, our session was held at approximately 6: 20 in the evening, in front of more than a million and a half people, on the main stage the sets had a duration of 20 minutes, so first Dj Chrysler played for 10 minutes, and then I played, that same year I had released my first album as a soloist the Radiant Sphere EP, and I had some vinyl copies with me, so I decided to play my own music, the moment I got on the booth I experienced a kind of emotion that I had never experienced before, according to me I didn’t feel nervous, when I took the arm of the turntable to prepare the first mix I realized that my hands were vibrating, and in an instinctive way I took a deep breath and said to myself the word “control now…” and suddenly I regained control, to enjoy the most intense and longest 10 minutes of my life, playing the tracks Cambia and Lado Derecho, in front of a great audience in its volume, and at the end the result was spectacular and definitely unforgettable. In 2002 I had the great fortune to be invited again, and this time I was given the opportunity to play on the main stage individually, and again the moment I stepped into the booth, the same emotion was repeated, I felt a kind of effervescent energy, in which it seemed as if time stood still and all the sounds and images around me rose in pitch and showed themselves in the highest resolution.
– The following year you repeated and debuted as a solo artist with the legendary Radiant Sphere EP. From then on, your career developed at breakneck speed… my appearances at the Technogeist / Love Parade, appearances at the Love Parade in San Francisco, tours of European clubs… What are your memories of that first decade of the 21st century?
– After releasing the Radiant Sphere EP, many new opportunities arose at the Loveparade, the most important of which I consider to be the friendship that arose with Mark Reeder, creator of the mythical Berlin labels MFS and Flesh, and the Hungarian DJ Corvin Dalek with whom I produced the track Quetzalcoatl, during Corvin Dalek’s visit to Mexico for the Technogeist/Loveparade Mexico 2003, which was released by the Flesh label, From that moment on things got very interesting, Corvin Dalek and Mark Reeder invite me to a dj tour that included several European countries, we played at the Creamfields festival in Prague in the Czech Republic, at the Exit festival in Novi Saad Serbia, at The Gallery club in London England, in every place we played the response of the public was incredible, other countries where I managed to play at that time were Ireland, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.
– What events, clubs, festivals come to your mind when you think of that second decade of the century?
– Part of this question I answered in the previous question, however I can still mention some memorable experiences, in 2004 I had the opportunity to play at the legendary Tresor club, in a night of Mexican talent sharing the bill with Dj Chrysler, Ollin Zeele and Ramiro Puente, Ollin Zeele and Ramiro Puente, then in 2012 I was invited to play in Russia at the APFEST festival in the city of Krasnoyarsk in the heart of Siberia, and in 2014 I travelled to Holland with a delegation of Mexican artists to play at the World Festival in the city of Tilburg.
– Also, in those days an LLT remix album arrived, although it was rumoured that new material might be released. Were the rumours true?
– Just after leaving the teaching stage at G Martell, I got together with Merlina Acevedo to produce an album of new versions of classic LLT tracks, which was released under the name Dream Collider. We recorded our 8 favourite tracks from the first Tecno Ritual album and 2 versions of the track Corazón, which was a completely new track, so we can say that the rumours were partly true.
– Talking about collaboration projects, in the last years two very interesting ones have arrived, such as Können and Hartvoice. We would like to know more about these two recent adventures in your career.
– Hartvoice is a studio project that I developed in co-production with Victor Rubin, an excellent Dj, engineer and producer of electronic music, the sound of this project has influences of house, Progressive and Acid, on March 26th of this year was the official release of Hartvoice’s debut album, this album is called Paranormal Spy, and has been released by the Mexican label Euforia Records. Now talking about Können, I have developed this project with Sintoma an excellent friend, and an expert master specialist in Eurorack modular synthesizers, in the summer of 2019, we decided to start working on this project with a different approach, in which the worlds of analogue and digital sound merge, exploring the depths of the Techno sound, oriented to the most danceable and at the same time deep structures, from the beginning of the pandemic we decided to work remotely, and currently we have practically ready the first collection of 4 tracks.
– The timeline inevitably leads us to the questions we are asking all our interviewees these days… The situation with the pandemic in Mexico has been terrible, and is still not over. Has there been any kind of event in the last year? We have received some news in this sense, but almost more in underground mode. Are the attendees aware of the situation and do they contribute with their responsibility? What measures are taken as a general rule for this type of event?
– In Mexico the pandemic hit us just as hard as in the whole world, fortunately me and my family are fine, the last event in which I played was on March 7, 2020, so I have more than a year in pause, I have known that there have been clandestine parties, In some touristic places like Tulum, they haven’t stopped having parties during the whole time the pandemic has been going on, and I really have no idea what kind of prevention measures they have taken. What I can say is that everything to do with the music industry in general is on hold, until further notice.
– We are asking you all this because we have references of how things have developed in Mexico. Here in Spain, the electronic music sector has been really affected, the government’s support has been insufficient or in many cases non-existent. What has happened in this respect in Mexico?
– The situation in Mexico during this global crisis has hit us with a relentless force, and the government that is currently in charge has not given any support, I for my part have dedicated myself to take care of my loved ones and work on new music, an example of this was just released last Friday May 14, it is the mini EP Get Rid Of The Fear, the most recent I have produced as a soloist, released under the label Euforia Records.
– To finish with all this topic, how do you see the near future in Mexico with respect to events? How do you see the situation in the short and medium term?
– I realise that when this great global crisis is over, things are going to change a lot in Mexico, I am sure they will improve, just this May a notable change in the evolution of the pandemic is being perceived, and it seems that things are beginning to be resolved, for large events on the same scale as before the COVID to happen again, we have to wait a little longer, I think we will start with small events, with reduced and very controlled capacities, and very strict sanitary protocols. What keeps me with a clear vision and optimism, looking to the future, is the knowledge and the conviction that this is just a transition stage, and that what is happening worldwide is exactly what should be happening in the historic moment we are living today. To conclude, I would like to share 2 words whose meaning and energy are definitely the best tools we have to get through this period of global turbulence, these 2 words are “Love” and “Music”.
It only remains for us to thank you for your time, for telling us such interesting words about your long career and about the current situation in Mexico, which we hope will improve as soon as possible. Thank you very much Mauricio!