Straight Outta Baja: Louie Fresco on his album, inspirations & the Mexican house cartel...

Words by: Marcus Barnes
Posted: 1/10/12 8:20

Straight Outta Baja: Louie Fresco on his album, inspirations & the Mexican house cartel... It wasn't long ago when Mexico hardly featured on the map as far as house music goes, but in recent times the Mexican crew have made their presence felt in a big way. With acts such as the Climbers, Bastard Love, Nobody Knows, Balcazar & Sordo and more all breaking through, having their music signed to renowned labels and attracting interest in what Mexico has to offer.

One the scene's most notorious bright sparks is Louie Fresco, a man who has been working tirelessly to put his country on the map, knocking out some great music, touring the world as a DJ and establishing his own label, Mexa Records (with Jay Blakk from the Climbers). With an album in the works for No.19 Music as well as plenty more going on in his life, I caught up with Louie during recent stay in London...

So Louie, what are you up to at the moment? Trying to get your album finished?
Yeah, I've been working on it for more than a year now. I thought it was easier, you know, because I can make a track in a day... or four hours even, but when it comes to an album it's not about just putting some tracks together, it's about a whole new experience. You have to tell a story...

...yeah it's like a whole composition.
Yeah. And I had some problems with my computer, it was hell. But now I'm getting there, I think I'm short of about two more tracks now. I need to tackle two more tracks and that's it. I think I've done three tracks since I got here [London]. So that's what I've been doing; tackling the album and gigs, trying to meet new people... and just having fun, just enjoying it.

Cool man, and is there a theme behind the album at all?
Right now I don't even have a clue, I'm just trying to make some new stuff that I like, that fits into the album and the whole No.19 vibe. I've been going back and forth with some tracks. Because I made some tracks for a movie and then I watched the screening and I didn't like it, so I got out of that as fast as I could, but I kept the tracks for me and I'm trying to get the best ones out of there and a bit more electronic-ish, so they can fit into the album. I'm happy with it and Jonny's happy with it, I've been sending him tracks for, like.. ever.

And it's all electronic?
No no, it's electronic, it's hip-hop... I'm trying to add a little bit of dubstep as well, and classical music - pianos, violins with no beat, just intense because I love that stuff, too.

Sounds like you're really getting into it...
Yeah yeah, I love it – the whole process has been really great. I just need to get into a proper studio with some good vocalists, I have some friends of mine lined up. Some friends of mine from LA, Human Life, Cari Golden.

Yeah she said she was doing something with you.
Yeah the track is with her, she just needs to do the vocals now. Kenny from Art Department is gonna do some vocals as well. Sheff [Louie's wingman and co-dee] is gonna do some vocals as well.

[Me to Sheff] Yeah? You're a vocalist as well?!
Sheff: Gotta start somewhere! [Laughs]... Yeah I used to sing.

Louie: So it's panning out well, I'm happy with it. I never showed these tracks to anyone, but I just played them to Jaime [his agent] and she was really stoked about them, she sent some really really positive comments and I was really surprised because I never showed them to anybody.

It must be strange working for ages in the studio and not letting anyone else listen to your music, getting to a stage where you almost hate it or get bored of it and then someone gives you positive feedback and it injects you with a whole new energy.
Exactly, that happened like a year ago when I first signed with No.19, Jonny sent me a message saying that he wanted some tracks for their Essential Mix so I was really inspired, and started making loads of tracks. I made seven tracks in a week and sent everything to Jonny and that's when he upgraded me to an album, because I was originally only supposed to do an EP, but he wanted me to do an LP because of that.

From that point until now I had no big inspiration, it was just partying, getting hammered or whatever.. but, right now with Jaime saying that, it's a big source of inspiration it's helping me. Being in London and meeting all these new people and getting these new ideas, culture... it's helping me a lot to finish this thing.

I loved being a producer, sitting there for like twenty hours straight, just making music. But nowadays it's kinda flipped, I love DJing more than I love making music – I love making music but when I DJ, it's a whole new thing & I think I'm getting good at it now...
I guess staying in one place can restrict you to a degree. You need to break out every now and then and soak up new ideas and experiences...
Exactly, definitely it restricts you a lot. Back home it's about deep house, really really deep you know, sometimes a little bit of disco – when we go to festivals it's all about disco, seventies, eighties disco with a little bit of deep house.

But I kinda steered away from the No.19 sound because of being in Mexicali, but now I'm back into it. I was doing all this “nu-disco” stuff that wasn't quite in the No.19 mold, I was sending it to Jonny and he was like, 'Dude, I'm not feeling this'. But the last tracks I sent to him, like seven of them, he was like, 'Yeah, you're back on track'.

Even though it's a really diverse label, there's something quite particular about their sound, too...
Yeah, I think it has to have dark overtones, deep... I love it. That's my thing, one of my biggest inspirations is Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails and it's kind of industrial and really not the whole No.19 sound, but it's really dark and that's where I get a lot of my inspiration from and this other guy named Graeme Revell, he does film scores but it's really dark and gritty. That's why I love being part of No.19.

So away from the album, are you doing a lot of touring and DJing?
Yeah. My whole thing used to be... I loved being a producer, sitting there for like twenty hours straight, just making music. But nowadays it's kinda flipped, I love DJing more than I love making music – I love making music but when I DJ, it's a whole new thing and I think I'm getting good at it now. I have so much fun when I DJ, it's like someone's taken over my body...

Louie FrescoHave you found that your approach to making music has changed because you've been DJing more?
I used to make music that wasn't so DJ-friendly, but nowadays I'm conscious of what other DJs want because the thing is, Jonny and Russ Yallop have been the biggest influence for me.

The first person to ever give me a chance was Russ Yallop, he told me, 'If you're ever gonna make a track, you should aim it towards somebody... so if you're aiming to have Damian [Lazarus] play your track, listen to what he's playing and try to make it a little bit like that. Compromise a little bit.'

So that's what I've been trying to do since he told me that... aim it to them. Jonny, Kenny, Russ and maybe some others, that's been helping me a lot. I've been making music that I like to play because, before that, I would just make music just so other people would play it, now I'm making music that I want to play. I'm DJing at least once a week, so I would love to play my tracks out...

So how long have you been DJing full-time?
Four years.. I started touring because I had a good thing going on, it's a fun story, a little bit long but I'll try to shorten it...  I started producing eleven years ago, no one knew about my music – I never showed my music to anybody, not even my closest friends, it was just for me. A friend of mine approached me, he'd been DJing for six months and he was like, 'Why don't we become a DJ duo? You're making tracks, we're both DJing, let's have some fun!' So we had this party... I'd made like eight tracks and we played them at this party, it was packed. The capacity was 300, we had like 700 in there, there were people outside – it was so hot and not fun at all. Four days after that, the word got out somehow and this manager tracked me down, he got us some proper gigs and we started DJing full-time four days after I'd DJ'd for the first time! It doesn't make any sense.

We actually came to Europe to do our first tour like four years ago, after we had this first gig, one of tracks I made was played by Justice in their Essential Mix, so that helped a lot and we got all these gigs in Canada, US, Mexico and Europe. So, I've been DJing non-stop for four years although I stopped for a whole year because I started feeling tired of the whole electro/tech-house thing, so I hit the reset button and started making music I like, not music I thought people would play. That's why I ended up with No.19, because they liked the music I was really feeling and putting my soul into.

It started in Baja, California because we have a lot of good producers there – and now everyone's like, 'We can do it'. It doesn't seem that far-fetched, so everybody's now trying to make it happen and  I'm glad to be a part of it...That's the most important thing really. You can make as much as music that caters for peoples' needs as you want but at the end of the day, you're gonna get to a stage where you're not happy with what you're doing and being happy in what you're creating should be paramount.
Sheff: You should always do it for yourself, not anybody else.

You can sit there all day in the studio and make some big-room style Swedish House Mafia thing, easily or you can spend two days putting your heart and soul into something that maybe won't have 80,000 people throwing their hands in the air, but will touch a smaller audience at a deeper level.
As long as some of them feel it, it's great man.

So what's next? You're off to Ibiza aren't you?
I've got a couple of gigs there. Then I'm gonna go home, try and finish the album. Then it's a South American tour, actually I think it's just a Brazil tour in some really really proper venues. I've got quite a few gigs back in Mexico and then hopefully I'll be getting my Visa back and I can go to the US and do the whole North American tour, like twenty gigs in total. I'm really stoked to go back, most of my family are in Cali and most of my friends are in LA and San Diego.

How's it all going with Mexico, is the scene really big there?
Two years ago we didn't have an outlet to release our tracks or show our music to the world, that's why me and Jay (Blakk of Climbers) had the idea of doing our own album, we didn't really know what to do but we started looking at blogs and reading a lot of stuff on labels. The thing is nobody ever focused on Mexico, and no one here got any attention – apart from Metrika, he got signed to Crosstown and he's one of my favourite producers. We just needed that spark, I think we've got it now – it started in Baja, California because we have a lot of good producers there – and now everyone's like, 'We can do it'.

It doesn't seem that far-fetched, so everybody's now trying to make it happen and I'm glad to be a part of it. We're actually trying to organise a big collective...

I went to BPM this year to try and meet everyone personally; Metrika, Bastard Love, Climbers, Midnight Perverts, Balcazar & Sordo all these guys who are getting signed.

I went there to try and meet these guys and form a collective so we can all help each other. It's really really good that we're close now, it's like a movement. Thanks to that a lot of people are looking at Mexico with a new point of view.

I've heard about that happening at a few different places around the world, where festivals only want to book international 'stars'. It's bad because it stifles local talent, who should really benefit from things like that... So how's the label coming along?
It's doing well, I don't know much about revenue – we're gonna get it in like a month – but I think the first three did pretty well. That's according to the guy who does our accounting. After the first three releases we've got seven already lined up with remixes and everything, plus a sampler compilation on the way.

I'm really happy with it the outcome, I wouldn't have imagined it would be this good. We have this idea of trying to expand things a little bit by getting people from outside of the typical genres to remix tracks and push the boundaries, keep it interesting.

Yeah man, it needs to be kept interesting... so many promos now disappoint me.
We had the same coversation yesterday and I have the same conversations back home. I was A&R for Mexa as well but I got so sick of hearing the same basslines, the same kinda music, the same formula you know.

So that's why I got my boy Alex Rubio involved, he's on his computer 24/7 listening to new tracks and music – this guy's been pushing Mexa by himself because me and Jay are on the road. He's always sending me tracks, signing stuff and it's been really amazing to have him involved.

The mixing it up thing is so important man. Like having some guitar guys remix an electronic track... even if it doesn't come out great, at least it's different and not the same old crap we keep hearing, day in day out...
It's all copy and paste.

Yeah, well this brings me on to another thing... young people, in general, obviously not ALL of them, but a lot of young people seem to be devoid of new ideas. It's like they see something good, music-wise, art-wise, fashion-wise or whatever, latch on to it and rinse it.
Louie: That's what I said to Richy last night. It's such a hard position for some guys to be in, guys like Richy, Jamie and so on – anybody from Crosstown or Hot Creations...

Sheff: It's gonna be interesting to see what next year's got because this year's kinda been exhausted.

This year feels like the recovery from last year. Last year there were so many big tunes, everyone was looking to this year to be an even bigger one, but a lot of parties have been flat.
Louie: There's way too much music out there.

Sheff: It's diluting the whole scene.

The more music there is, the more crap there is... back in the day people took time to craft their music, work on it a bit longer, but crowds were also more patient. DJs could play certain tunes over and over, month after month...
Exactly, if I play try to do that, people are like, 'I heard that two weeks ago, play something fresh'. I wish I could play that Hot Natured track... Forward Motion. I played it once at this small party and straight after everyone was playing it, that was the only time I played it. I wish I could have played it more and that's what happens with most of the good tracks.

Yeah, it's annoying. A good track is a good track. I only bought Forward Motion two weeks ago and I'm gonna play it for sure.
People will love it, but there'll be a couple of guys standing there like, 'He's playing this track?!'.

Jumping on Facebook and moaning.
Yeah... 'He's so wack'.

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