By Carl Hanni
As the world turntables…
Somewhere along the way ‘dance music’ became a genre, much like ‘indie rock’
has become a genre; these terms no longer indicate that music is just for
dancing, or released by independent labels, but refer to wide but nonetheless
finite set of parameters. We know know dance music when we hear it, like we
know indie rock when we hear it.
music now generally refers to that constantly shape shifting and morphing world
of electronic dance music, picking up and mixing and discarding sub genres
(drum & bass, dubstep, jungle, whatever) that all originated, at one time
or another, out of what we used to call house music then eventually,
acknowledge and give a nod, then, to the makers of original music that subverts
the norms of electronic-based but still danceable music. Especially because,
for all of it’s future-is-now aspects and embracing of new technology, much
electronic dance music is pretty standardized and generic; huge swaths of it is
tedious and unoriginal, actually.
Lengua is a cat who knows how to have it both ways. His two mix LPs that I’ve
heard, 2008’s DJ Lengua and 2010’s Cruzando, (another, Dilo!, came out in 2001) are primers of original and
unconventional mixing, but they are (for the most part) still danceable as long
as your mind is open and not blindered by the Top 40 mentality of most dance
clubs. More importantly, they are listenable, ingeniously constructed and about
as much fun as you can have with a slice of vinyl with grooves cut into it. It
was that sense of play and mischievousness that first struck me when I heard DJ Lengua for the first time a couple if years ago. It evidenced great
musical wit and originality, but didn’t neglect the booty, either. Lengua
seemed like someone who approached his craft with a sense of play and humor,
infinitely attractive qualities for those of us who are primarily interested in
dance music that can be listened to and danced to in equal measure.
Lengua was born and raised for his first fifteen right here in Tucson, as Eamon Ore-Giron. Currently calling
Los Angeles home, he’s also lived Mexico City, Peru
and San Francisco.
Like lots of DJs, he’s obviously a cultural and musical omnivore, picking up
bits of this and that wherever he’s lived and traveled. In his case this
especially holds true for musics from Peru and Mexico, as well as other musics
under the umbrella “Latin Music,” a non-genre wide and wildly diverse enough to
include everything from vintage Chicano garage rock to Tex Mex, Latin Jazz to
Salsa, Tejano to Chicha, and pretty much anything produced in South and Central
America and Mexico since the dawn of recording technology.
he does with all of this that is singular and sets Lengua apart of the crowd
around the turntables. Radically slowing down or speeding up bits and pieces of
this and that, dropping all but a vocal line or a break, thinning it all out
and cranking up the high end and mid ranges, while layering it all with his own
beats and squeaks – that may sound exactly like what other adventurous
mixologists do, but a DJ Lengua mix is a truly original and singular thing.
There is something decidedly, delightfully off-kilter and off the wall about
every track on DJ Lengua and Cruzando, from the flute twitters on
“Cumbia Squares” and psychedelic dub swirl of “l Pacheco” to insistently
straight ahead and sassy groove of “Perdido” and the ingeniously catchy “La
Jungla.” The man’s a true stylist.
Lengua is also the co-owner of Unicornio Records and a renowned visual artist
(as Eamon Ore-Giron), working in acrylic, spray-paint, silk screening and
multi-media. In addition to Lengua’s releases, Unicornio has released titles by
Batman and DJ Roger Mas, with more to come.
To check out some of his stuff,
Unicornio Records: www.unicorniorecords.com
Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/djlengua
DJ MIX: http://supersonido.net/2010/03/09/dj-lengua-rebajada-mota-mix/
Here’s a Q&A we did via
Did you grow up with music in the
house? We’re your parents musical in any way?
I grew up with music in the house indirectly, neither
my father nor mother play any instrument but my uncle played guitar a
lot and he taught me my first musical notes. My uncle lived with us
for a while and so he would show me chords and certain styles. My
parents appreciated music a lot though and they had a lot of records.
At what point did you
decide you wanted to DJ? What led you to where you are now?
I never really set out to be a DJ, it kind of found
me. I used to play in bands and would record a lot of my own music on
a 4track, but around the early/mid 90’s I went and lived in Mexico City for a spell and collected a lot of
the South American music, stuff from Colombia
Then when I came back to the States I was visiting my family in Tucson and went
to PDQ (a legendary record store) and would load up on rare Mexican
and Colombian records, they had a ton of great records but
unfortunately they’ve gone downhill since. But anyways, I used
to play with drum machines and samplers so eventually I started to
work with the records I had picked up from Latin America, and that’s
when I officially started DJing, that was around 2001. My friends and
I started a monthly party in S.F. called Club Unicornio that was
purely dedicated to under recognized Latin American music, such as
cumbia in all it’s different forms and Mexican refritos, boogaloo,
punk, etc., basically anything that wasn’t Salsa.
Can you talk a little
bit about how you construct your mixes?
I look for certain rhythms that are unique, something
from a great tune that I love but usually it’s just a little bit of
the song. I try and use songs that for me I can improve upon,
cause a lot of times a great song is great just the way it is. After
I layer the original sampled bits I look for a new way to scramble
the original samples, then I also look for the right drum kits to
layer over it, I like to make the original song reduced to it’s best
moments and then add a louder beat on top.
When you spin live, are
you more old school/vinyl, or do you laptop DJ?
I’m pretty old school, I usually play out my vinyl but
I really love going back and forth between digital and analogue if
possible. I haven’t taken the time to buy and learn Serrato so that
has limited me to playing only vinyl and the only draw back is that I
can’t play the newest stuff I’ve been working on and tweeking, but
honestly I love the old school stuff so much that I have fun either
way. My favorite set up is two turntables, a mixer with good effects,
and one CD turntable, that’s the jams right there.
Talk a little bit about
your visual art, and how it intersects with your musical endeavors.
My visual work has always been my primary creative
outlet. Art is constantly moving and changing, and artists are
constantly looking for new ways to convey their ideas, I feel like
music is the same. I feel like I’m creatively ambidextrous, somedays
it’s the brush that I pick up, and other days it’s the sampler, and
other days it’s a guitar. I never try to force the two things to
function together that much because there are certain things that
each discipline addresses. My visual work sometimes has elements
of musical graphics in it and my music at times feels cinematic or
painterly. I guess in some ways it has to do with the psyche, the way
that music leaves certain impressions on your mind and how that is
then translated into the visual field and vice versa. I am also in a
performance group/band called OJO, in that group I’m able to blend a
lot of the visual ideas as well as performative actions into the
music, I love it.
When and how did you
first discover Chicha?
I’ve been going down to Peru my whole life, I
lived there for a while in ’98. What most Americans call Chicha in
this new revival isn’t what we/Peruvians refer to as Chicha. Real
Chicha music is actually more synthy and has a certain pop production
with lots of reverb. The stuff that Americans know as Chicha, bands
like Los Destellos, Juaneco y su Combo, Los Mirlos etc. is
actually Cumbia Peruana/Amazonica. The real Chicha bands are
more along the lines of Chacalon, Los Shapis, Los Ovnis, bands that
came about in the 80’s during the war in Peru.
Are you, like lots of
DJs, a dedicated record collector and scout?
Not really sure what you mean by scout but yea, I love
to find good records. I am not a purist, meaning I am not one of
those guys that is super competitive about it. I also dig for MP3s on
the internet all the time as well but I really think vinyl is more
exciting. I like the fact that you can still find records for cheap
and find some real gems, it’s almost like dumpster diving, you go out
of your way to look through stacks of things people have discarded
and you never know what you’re gonna find, the best records I have
were either given to me or found in some strange box that hadn’t seen
the light of day for years. As for being a producer of vinyl, I
really believe that it’s important that if an artist/musician really
loves what they do then they must create some sort of vinyl version
of it, just because kids in the future will need something to go
digging for, they won’t be looking through stacks of trashed hard
drives in the local Goodwill, and if they are then they’ll be bummed,
no beautiful artwork to look at, just hard drives.
Tell us a bit about
Unicornio Records grew out of the monthly club that my
friends and I started up in S.F. When we got tired of doing the club
thing, my friend Sonido Franko and I decided to transform the club
into a record Label. We put out my first 12″ record in ’09
and it got a lot of attention, then we put out two 45’s by Roger Mas,
a DJ from Oakland, and then another
12″ by a really great band from L.A. called Chicano Batman. My
latest 12″ Cruzando just came out and it’s doing really
well and we’ve got a couple really amazing projects in the works.
We look at it as a labor of love, and we see it as a great way
to support the artists we respect and the sounds we dig.
You can leave comments below or e-mail them to me directly at email@example.com .
Carl Hanni is a music writer, music publicist, disc jockey, book
hound and vinyl archivist living in Tucson, AZ. He hosts an occasional concert
and film series at The Screening Room in downtown Tucson, “The B-Side” program on
KXCI (Tuesday nights midnight – 2 a.m.) and spins records wherever and whenever
he can. He currently writes for Blurt, Tucson
Weekly, and (occasionally) Goldmine and Signal To Noise.