Cultura Dura is a Remezcla and Mike’s HARDER content and event series highlighting emerging Latin urban culture. We’ll be exploring scenes that haven’t really gotten any coverage anywhere else – from block parties and street art to underground sports and raw, young artists making movements pa’ la calle.
The second edition of the Latin Electronic Alternative Dance festival (LEAD) touches down this weekend at one of Brooklyn’s homes to underground dance music culture, Bossa Nova Civic Club, with a solid crew of artists including NAAFI label head Fausto Bahía and labelmate Espectral, Marcos Cabral (L.I.E.S.), Pana Li, Fiasco, False Witness, and more.
In preparation for the event, I spoke with Puerto Rico-rooted, Miami-raised, and Brooklyn-based artist Chris Video, a friendly and familiar face if you’ve ever visited the debaucherous establishment, likely pioneer of the Club-Mate and prosecco drink combination, and creator of LEAD.
Chris’ love for experimental music is long-standing. His own journey has taken him through producing hip hop on the legendary Fruityloops, to being a member of a synth pop group, to creating late ‘90s electronic downtempo music inspired by Warp Records. These projects take us to the present day, where he explores music production with a techno live project and his newest venture, an industrial band called Shredder that relies on synths, heavy distorted guitars, and black metal-style vocals.
How did LEAD begin, and where is it going? For Chris, who’s fascination with dance music started in the technotronic ‘90s, most memorably with 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready For This” and the classics he’d hear at family parties (“and Gloria Estefan, of course” he added), Bossa Nova is a natural home for the festival. He’s making a consistent effort to step outside of the standard techno-house fare of club bookings, while also being responsive to, and inclusive of, the reggaeton and salsa airwaves that saturate the Bushwick neighborhood that the club resides in.
The home he’s already created for Latin experimental artists keeps growing– join us this weekend to see what’s next.
What inspired you to create LEAD?
I was just surprised that this stuff doesn’t exist. I knew that in New York there wasn’t any focused electronic dance music festival for Latin or Spanish-speaking artists, or anything that’s influenced by it. I know that there’s events all the time, or lineups, but nothing that’s really saying that’s it’s gonna happen year after year, and has different headliners from different places that are doing things that fit into the criteria. I figured we’d just start it. Since I know so many Latin electronic artists that just come through NY…I slept on it for a week and then it all just snapped in my head…the name, the concept, who to talk to, who to try to bring together.
How did you select this year’s lineup, which is bringing some new names and faces to town?
I had some people in mind, and then I kept hearing the name NAAFI, and I kept seeing the acronym, the logo…and I was like what, is this? So I checked it out and it was rad; I really liked all their music and what they’re doing, I actually ended up finding their Instagram, and I hit them up there, which is so not professional or appropriate…so that’s how I book stuff now, the Instagram [laughs].
Why are you going with hosting the festival at Bossa Nova Civic Club (BNCC)?
For me, I really wanted to try and do a second venue, but just looking around, and the way most venues operate, it’s just a lot easier for me to do things at Bossa Nova since I do the bookings. But also, a lot of the times, I don’t like the way other venues operate. For me it’s important to know how artists and DJs are handled; I know at Bossa Nova it’s going to be simple to check in, get set up, get drinks, whatever. I can be responsible and in charge, accoutanble in the end if anything goes wrong.
I’m always worried about that at venues because I’ve been DJing and playing in bands for awhile, and so many places treat DJs and artists like shit. They give them one drink, and if it’s time to get money then they’re running away from you and you have to hunt them down…it’s stressful, you know? So at least I knew doing it at Bossa Nova would work out, plus it’s become a hub of underground dance music in New York.
How do you think BNCC’s become a center for this?
It’s the neon lights and the tropical aesthetic [laughs], but it’s also because every time you walk in there, you hear techno, or house, or whatever. That was the original aim, for John [Bossa Nova’s owner], to have mainly dance music DJs all the time, and I totally supported it and thought it was a great, I always wanted to do that.
This weekend, it should be getting really good and busy right around 1 AM, so I’m hoping everyone will just be pumped…and then people that are coming in will be like, damn, something special’s going on. It’s still familiar because it’s still dance music, and it’ll just have some Latin flavor on top of it, and people will automatically recognize that, especially because when you walk around the neighborhood, it’s reggaeton and salsa all day. For one square mile, directly around Bossa Nova, which is also where I live, as soon as I step out of the house, it’s just reggaeton and salsa. I think it’ll be fun to hear more of that mixed in at Bossa Nova because it’s already a part of the whole neighborhood.
Yes, yes, yes. You must be getting excited to play, only a few days away now!
Yeah, my set’s all my original stuff, but I’ve gone over it so many times, and I’ve got all my studio tracks from my dude that mixes all my stuff, so I’ve already tested it in the club like three times. It should be a lot of fun.
Have you had people you didn’t expect approach you once they learned about the event?
Yeah, it’s crazy, because I start to plan it and organize it maybe five or six months ahead of the event, so I’ll start thinking about the lineup, and then once people start hearing about it, they write and want to be involved. And I want to keep adding artists and DJs to the roster, so I feel bad saying that we can’t do it this year, but we can try for next year.
Hopefully next year it’ll keep getting bigger and bigger…not necessarily meaning more DJs on the roster, but just as far as like how many people know about it, or even we could add another venue. That always helps–with another venue it’s going to reach out to a whole other audience, since a lot of people haven’t been to Bossa Nova Civic Club because we’re out in the middle of Bushwick.
Why is it important to create a festival like this specifically Latin artists?
Well I think there’s not enough focus on it; there’s definitely a scene, or people that support it, but I think in terms of living in New York, there’s just not enough–there can always be more. So, who knows, maybe we’ll even influence the creation of a genre specifically just called Latin Tech, or Latin Dance, or whatever, by a lot of different people doing a similar thing, in different cities…I’m surprised, as big as New York is, how much music history is here, it’s not as diverse in niches as you would think.
There’s some stuff that doesn’t exist here, or there’s no scene for it, or there’s a little something but it’s so small; and, especially being in New York, it could be just as big as any other music scene. Or, say, people are interested in the concept but don’t know a lot of the events going around, but do know about the LEAD event going on at Bossa, and they’re gonna be like, yo! I really liked what you played, and then they’re going to go to your next event, and that helps it grow. It’s helping something grow that you are really interested in and involved in, but you always know it can be bigger, or better, or more.