In the two years since I last spoke with Nortec Collective’s Pepe Mogt, aka Fussible, the iPAD-prone group has been nominated for a Grammy, two Latin Grammys, and traveled everywhere from China to Morocco and back. Which means their new album, Bulevar 2000, was written not in their beloved Tijuana, but on the road.
Pepe talked about the album experience from his hotel room in New York City, as the band prepared for their Mexican Bicentennial performance in Rockefeller Center.
How are you enjoying midtown Manhattan?
Nice weather. We just came from Oaxaca. It was really, really hot there, but it’s great here.
So you’re playing a big show in Rockefeller Plaza for Mexico’s bicentennial. Are you excited?
Yes, we’re going to play the music of the new album [Bulevar 2000]. We brought our regular musicians, plus some extra brass, so we’re going to be 12 people up there.
People are celebrating that we have our own country. Plus, we had our revolution in Mexico 100 years ago and that changed everything for the better. But now, in the present day, the situation in the country is really, really bad, both in political terms and socio-political terms. I think for Bostich+Fussible, it’s a celebration of what happened 100 years ago, but I think this is a year where we have to create a state of consciousness and think about what is happening now. I think now the revolution has to be more intellectual. Not violent and with arms, but more like a cultural revolution. People contributing with positive things and really new thinking about what can be done in their community. Writers are writing really interesting books about our present culture. People are making really interesting music that changes the way you can think about our country now. Really great art is being made. Like, in the case of Bulevar 2000, it shows how we think about our city on the border. I know it’s something very, very small, but there are a lot of people doing a lot of things for the good.
Speaking of Bulevar 2000, where does that title come from?
The thing is that this album is the follow up of Tijuana Sound Machine. In TSM, the concept was about this car that travels around the city, across the border, back and forth, and many of the songs talk about certain spaces and things unique to Tijuana from this car’s perspective.
But in these past couple of years we were outside of Tijuana a lot, and it was the first time we composed our music outside of Tijuana. It gave us an opportunity to look at Tijuana as an outsider. We were receiving information from our friends, from the news. We were able to talk to people from outside about how they see Tijuana. So we did this album that way. We gave this car a road to get out of Tijuana. Bulevar 2000 is a real boulevard that’s in Tijuana. To get out of the city, you have to take it. It became romantic because it’s the most dangerous boulevard in the city. We chose it because when they built it, the government was thinking of the future of the city and they were thinking it would be an autobahn. In the end, most of the violence in the city having to do with drug cartels and whatnot takes place there.
“I THINK NOW THE REVOLUTION HAS TO BE MORE INTELLECTUAL. NOT VIOLENT AND WITH ARMS, BUT MORE LIKE A CULTURAL REVOLUTION.”
Speaking of drug cartel violence, how have the narco wars influenced your music? How is it changing Tijuana?
Of course it affects you because your family is there. We knew that the violence was escalating. Imagine, we were in China or Brazil or Sweden and we were looking at the news saying, “Well 10 people were found dead without heads” or something very bad and then we contacted our friends and were told everything is okay. I guess it seems like the news puts all the bad things from everywhere and makes it sound like it’s very, very bad. But all this bad stuff is happening with people who are related to drug trafficking and government. If you’re like a regular person, you can be walking around the city and it’s safe. I think Tijuana was more violent when we were writing TSM. There were more kidnappings.
Then again, we can’t talk about flowers when our reality is another one. In the end, though, I think sometimes negative things can be transformed into something better. Not that we set out to do that, but one of the things we never expected, before we released this album, if you googled “Bulevar 2000,” you’d find all this bad news about Tijuana. About killings and all these bad things that are really shocking related to death and murder. But now that the album is released, you’ll find for the first 10 or 15 pages, news about the album, our gigs, and things we are doing. It seems like the violence on Bulevar 2000 is cleaned up. At least on the internet.
On the track “Must Love” it sounds like a Norteño love ballad and, in fact, we used elements from Norteño love songs. The bass is Norteño and it’s a really happy track. And then you hear a robot vocal doing the chorus saying, “Must love.” And then there is a melodic vocal that sounds kind of Mexican, but also like a dialect that’s not in Spanish. It could be an Aztec kind of thing or some other tribal dialect. You can’t understand it, but that phrase we took from a really violent Norteño track that was in Spanish on a Narco Corrido. We cut the phrase into syllables and rearranged them. In the end we took this really violent phrase and created this melody. Now you can’t listen to the violent words. We converted them into something more pleasant. To forget the bad things happening over there.
Can you tell me what track you took it from?
I can’t because it’s not a published track. It was created about a very specific, violent act and we’d rather leave it like that. It was an experiment to relay that there are other things happening in Tijuana. Good things, bad things, everything.
The cover art (above) shows the Boulevard as it is today, but I know that in a couple of years, the Boulevard will disappear because it has become overrun with businesses and houses. Just like how the car on the cover of TSM was an old car abandoned about 8 meters from the border. It was covered in spray paint and it became a part of the city. You couldn’t drive by without seeing it. But now the car isn’t there anymore. It seems like someone stole it or maybe it was towed. We don’t know where it is. It’s like the Nortec music is always talking about situations in time and space in Tijuana.
“THEN AGAIN, WE CAN’T TALK ABOUT FLOWERS
WHEN OUR REALITY IS ANOTHER ONE.”
Speaking of Tijuana Sound Machine, it was nominated for a Grammy in 2008. Did that open any doors for you?
The only thing that changed was that at least we knew that our music was heard in a different forum by people we might not have expected. We were invited to go and play the Grammy after party and that was really great to be a part of that. We met all kinds of celebrities. Nicole Kidman (Laughs). It was a lot of fun for us to be there. And people who were making movies were asking to use our music. And also some gaming companies. Then we got invited to all these festivals: Austin City Limits, Coachella, and other venues with different kinds of music.
What’s next for you guys?
Bulevar 2000 was released while we were still touring for TSM so now we are in the middle of saying goodbye to the TSM tour and we’ll have a new Bulevar 2000 show in January. It’s going to be completely different, but I can’t talk about that. We want it to be a surprise. We are going to be touring a lot in Mexico, some in the US, Europe, and South America. We’re expecting a really busy year, that’s why we’re working really hard on the show because we want the new stage to represent all the things we’re talking about on the album.
Is Ramón (Bostich) stil doing dental work?
Yeah, he schedules his patients on Monday or Tuesdays because that’s when we are usually not traveling.
Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich + Fussible play a free concert Tuesday, October 26th from 6:30pm to 9:30pm at Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center.
Also, listen to “I Count the Ways” off Bulevar 2000, featured in our Best Upcoming Albums of 2010, below.
Main photo by Flora Arias.