When you learn that the Monterrey, Nuevo León’s five man party machine Kinky made an episode of the usually “back-to-acoustics” series MTV Unplugged, you have to wonder if the producers knew what kind of band they were getting.

Since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2002, the band has become a staple of parties, clubs, and TV shows thanks to their funky fusion of electronics and norteño music, with a layer of catchy carelessness on top that makes them an irresistible choice for those looking to tear the roof off. But there’s no mistake, Kinky have done an Unplugged and the results are not exactly what you might expect.

Yes, some songs have the insistent beat and restless attitude you come to know and love, but here’s another side of the band you might not have heard before. On the eve of the album release through Nacional Records and their California tour (where they’ll visit San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Anaheim, and Los Angeles), we spoke with their very own Ulises Lozano about the experience.

 


 

You’re taking your Unplugged show on the road. How are you doing this? Are you bringing the string and brass sections with you?
Not exactly. We wanted to incorporate the Unplugged arrangements with our usual electronic setup, so we have the best of both. It’s cool because we bring those elements in a more stripped down way. We love how it’s sounding, and in later dates Daniela Spalla is joining us.

How was your approach to this concert?
We thought it was very interesting, especially because we’re an electronic band. It was a chance to give a completely new spin to what we’re used to do. It wasn’t like a rock band who just switches to acoustic guitars. It was interesting to recreate the loops and sequences in a more organic way without sacrificing the essence of the band.

Photo by Napoleón Habeica.

 

These shows have pretty much a set format, they have to feature the best known songs of the band, a few covers, and some collaborations. We treated it a little different; we rehearsed six new songs and MTV loved them and went with them. In the end, we only did four of those, then five of our most well known songs, and four covers.

“It’s something that’s a big part of us. We’re from the Northern part of the country, we grew up with this kind of music.”

How did you come up with your list of cover songs?
We have covered regional music in the past. Songs by Intocable, Pesado, and Los Ángeles Azules. Since the very beginning, Kinky have made fusions like “El Son De Mi Primer Amor” which is an electronic cumbia. It’s something that’s a big part of us. We’re from the Northern part of the country, we grew up with this kind of music. So we selected songs by Los Cardenales, El Chapo de Sinaloa, Ramón Ayala and “Bien Pedo, Bien Loco” by Los Recoditos. We invited the later to play with us at the show, as well as Beto Zapata from Pesado and Voz De Mando from Movimiento Alterado. We love their energy.

We also had Carla Morrison and La Mala Rodríguez with us. When we were working on “A Donde Van Los Muertos,” the song developed a certain melancholy that perhaps was lost in the original version. With La Mala, we had done “Negro Día” with her, but we had never had the chance to play it live the way it was recorded. We admire our collaborators a lot. There’s good friendship among us all.

You mention that you found another side to your music with the new version of “A Dónde Van Los Muertos.” Did that happen with any of the other older songs?
I think it happened with each one we played. “El Son De Mi Primer Amor” turned into a hip-hop/reggae cut with a chorus better suited for a ballad. In ”Bailar Hasta Quemarnos,” we found a more emotional melody. We seized the chance to not just focus on the groove like we usually do.

Photo by Napoleón Habeica.

 

It sounds like the experience made you work your songs in a different way.
We have always worked on those aspects although the focus has been to give a sense of party and euphoria. Now, these other elements have been brought forth and given their due attention. We’re eager to keep working this way, and I think it all enriches the creative process. It opened doors for us, in terms of new approaches.

“We forced ourselves not to play to a click track, to play new instruments we weren’t familiar with. It will definitely have an impact in our future music.”

There were also challenges. We forced ourselves not to play to a click track, to play new instruments we weren’t familiar with. It will definitely have an impact in our future music.

Was there an example that inspired you to do these new versions?
We’re part of the generation that grew up watching the original MTV Unplugged run. We’re fans of the Nirvana, The Cure, Illya Kuryaki, and Café Tacvba [episodes]. I think we took small elements from all of those as well as creating our own sound and setting. In most cases, [other episodes] tend to feature the artist’s ballads or their more relaxed moments, and they also try to strip the songs to their bare elements. We did the opposite; we maximized our sound; we added an orchestra. In “Bailar Hasta Quemarnos” we originally sampled an orchestra but for this show, we had a real one play those parts live.

If you had any chance to feature anybody, without concern for anything, who would your dream guest be and in which song would you like them to play?
Vanilla Ice. We would do a mashup of “Ice Ice Baby” and “Bailar Hasta Quemarnos” [laughs].

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