How a Play About Immigration Reignited Clorofila of Nortec’s Career

Let us not forget that Nortec Collective (RIP) wasn’t just Ramón Amezcua and Pepe Mogt, a.k.a. Bostich + Fussible. The collective featured a number of notable musicians in their own right such as Jorge Verdín, who now records under the name Clorofila.

Verdín recently released Ahorita Vengo, the sequel to his debut album Nortec Collective Presents Corridos Urbanos, A Collection Of Songs By Clorofila. I met with him near his home in Pasadena, CA where he explained why it took him four years to release another album, as well as how he hopes to evolve the Nortec sound on his own.

How did you meet the other guys in Nortec if you’ve been in Pasadena since ’92?
Curiously enough, I met Ramón [Amezcua] through a friend of mine before the Internet existed. If you wanted to discover new music back then, you had to go to someone’s house. I’d hang out with a friend of mine, who now runs a record store called La Ciruela Electrica, and travel across all of Tijuana to meet people to swap and trade records with. One of the people we met during one of those trips was Ramón. I met the others around 1998 after a friend of mine and I released a magazine called El Nuevo Sonido de la Gallina, and it included a disc. What we wanted to do with the disc was to make a compilation of music from local musicians to create a snapshot of the city at that time, plus what came before. Ramón was on that disc, Pepe [Mogt] was on that disc, and Hiperboreal was on that disc.

When we officially launched the magazine with that disc in Tijuana, Pepe showed up and that’s where we met. It was there that he told us about this idea he had about constructing a musical project that mixed norteño and electronic music using nothing but samples. He asked if we were interested and we said, yeah, let’s do it. I honestly never believed that anything would’ve ever come of it. I thought it wouldn’t have gone past the idea stage.

“I honestly never believed that anything would’ve ever come of it. I thought it wouldn’t have gone past the idea stage.”

Eventually, Fritz Torres and I went to an Underworld show here in Los Angeles and he brought me the first three Nortec tracks in demo form. That’s when I knew it was serious! These guys actually made something! I don’t know if he already had the disc with samples in it or if he sent it to me afterwards but that’s when I fell in love with the idea of it because, ever since those original three tracks, you could tell that each person and each project had created something vastly different from the original idea. It was immediately apparent that there were many ways to interpret this idea according to your own personal style.

Since Ramon and Pepe announced that their most recent Bostich+Fussible album would be their last one, do you think they grew tired of working under the Nortec banner?
Maybe they reached a point where they weren’t too inspired by it anymore so they decided to leave that sound behind. If what you’re doing doesn’t inspire you anymore, then what’s the point? It’s not necessary to keep doing something you no longer enjoy but, on my end, I’m still curious to see what I can create from that end because I still have plenty of ideas I want to explore.

On your new album, Ahorita Vengo, it’s…
It’s very electronic-oriented. The first track sounds like a house song from the ’90s or something along those lines. What’s funny is that…my original idea was to make a more minimalist album [that was] a bit more electronic, but I was trying to make it more minimal with short songs without too many layers or textures and well, what came out was what came out [laughs]. The first damn song is seven and a half minutes long! I think it’s the longest song by Nortec that exists.

“El Camaron” [another song on the album] also came out.
¡Salio “El Camaron!” That’s a song I wrote and worked on long ago and performed live and finally made a final version of it. “El Camaron” and “Arriba El Novio” are like relatives in that they’re fake cumbias. They’re songs you’d play at a quinceañera when everyone’s wasted. That was the idea…dancehall songs, songs for parties, etc. but in techno and versions that didn’t exist.

I’ve had people tell me that the album sort of sounds like Nortec but not quite like Nortec. On the album, I veered more towards electronic sounds and live instruments without using anything norteño. There isn’t a single melody played on an accordion on the album. In one way, that separates it from the stereotype that people have of what Nortec sounds like. It’s part of the overall instrumentation but it’s never forced. You don’t have to shove a tuba in there, you don’t have to stick an accordion in there, or need to have a bajo sexto. There’s a large spectrum of instruments you can use.

“How can I write a song that’s super norteño… without having to resort to clichéd formulas?”

I want to experiment even further on the next album I want to make. How can I utilize all the instruments in banda without necessarily sounding like banda? How can I write a song that’s super norteño or super banda electronically without having to resort to clichéd formulas?

Is the album title an allusion to this new direction you want to take?
It’s part of it. It’s also because it took me four years to release this damn album. I want to release another album while I still have an interest in the genre and maybe leave it at that. Part of the name deals with that, with my hope that I’ll be back with another album of material soon, but also because I didn’t expect to spend so much fucking time to release an album.

It’s a way of letting fans know that you’re still here working on music.
Yeah. Hello! Yoohoo! Still here! In some ways, I did lose interest along the way, but not [in my] interest in making music. I’ll always be interested in music one way or another. After I made the first album and saw the business side of distribution, of marketing, of booking a tour, of having to work with a press agent, and all that, I said to myself “I love making music but this other stuff is too much for me.” I have no interest in all that and decided that if I’m going to release music, I’d do it digitally. That was my original idea. For the longest time, I thought that every project I worked on in the future would be released digitally a single, as an EP, whatever.

What happened during those four years that set you back?
I got married and my life changed a lot from being a bachelor of 44 years to being a husband…realistically, I never lived a rock star life since I’ve always had a career outside of music…ever since Nortec began to today. My priorities changed with my marriage but also because of a number of illnesses in my family. My father passing away changed all of my priorities. Thinking about going out on tour and things like that was the last thing on my mind. I lost all interest on that side of things.

While all this happened, I began working with a theater company from Mexico City called the Teatro Linea De Sombra. They reached out to me to work on music for a play of theirs called “Amarillo,” [which is] about what happens to immigrants who travel to the USA from Mexico, but it also includes the stories of people who travel through Mexico from Central America and their experiences in Mexico to get to the USA. It’s not the usual story of “oh, poor Mexicans, the gringos mistreat them.” It shows how even Mexicans treat immigrants like shit and it shows these immigration stories from various sides.

That play…led to a collaboration with them that’s lasted four or five years now where I create music for their plays…it inspired me anew.