Music interviews: often they are nothing but boring walls of text meant to promote albums and/or artists. Sure, we at Soul Feeder also wish to give the spotlight to artists we believe deserve it. However, we also wish to get to know the artist. By sharing 3 random tracks with the artists, we wish to ignite interesting discussions regarding relevant themes, lyrics and the song itself. What does the artist think of the tracks we love? This episode: Spanish DJ and producer Merca Bae. What are his thoughts on tracks by King Krule and Kamasi Washington? Also, what song would he recommend himself?
In the past few months, the name of Merca Bae has been buzzing. With the release of his Místico EP and his exciting live sets, he is one of the most exciting new names in the underground electronic scene and due to his cross-genre and cross-cultural approach towards music, he has earned himself a spot on the Sonar line-up. Signed to Perth Records, a lot can be expected of him and therefore I’m very excited to speak to him.
SF: You released the Místico EP two months ago and you’ve been booked for Sonar. Congratulations! The past few months must have been busy for you? How have you experienced your rise in the music world?
MB: Thank you! I have been quite busy as I had never traveled that much before but I do not consider myself as a “thing” yet in the music world. This scene is super small and my goals are much bigger. But it is being a great experience and something new for me.
SF: In an interview with El País you talked about mixing genres and about how the public seems to be ready for more “unorthodox” blends of genres. A master of this craft in the past few years has been King Krule, who is known to mix rock, grunge, jazz, muzak and even hip-hop and electronic. The next track is a more traditional post-punk song with hints of jazz.
What do you think of this song and have you heard it before?
MB: Yes, I have heard it before and even though it is not my type of music I consider it a very intelligent way of blending different styles.
SF: The type of music you make can, in my opinion, be branded as “alternative” or “underground”,, yet we do often hear you flirt with mainstream sounds. Would you ever consider releasing a song that has a lot of pop potential and that could be played in “regular” clubs as well?
MB: Well, it is underground because it is not massively popular yet and of course I think not everyone is open enough to dig completely into this so-called ‘underground music’. It’s definitely my goal to move out of the underground scene, but I also want to assure that I don’t turn into a mainstream producer following the existing trends. The aim is to bring what I do to the mainstream picture and trying to change what’s considered mainstream. Something is happening now in the music industry and we have to be willing to be there.
SF: We’ve also seen the rise to prominence of reggaeton, which has quickly become one of the most popular genres in the world. Does this surprise you and what do you think is the main reason behind this trend?
MB: First of all I am going to use the term ‘Latin music’ in order to refer to reggaeton or ‘urban music’, even though I know that Latin music is much more than that. I think there is a set of reasons behind this success. First of all I think that the streaming platforms helped a lot of Latin artists getting buzz in non-Spanish speaking countries. Before this hype, Latin music seemed to have its own industry as Latin culture was not considered interesting enough by the rest of the world. This seems to have changed. Also, the use of English and Spanish at the same time in lyrics makes it easier to understand for the American market, so features with English artists are going to happen. But I don’t know, there are a lot of things that could have possibly contributed to its rise.
SF: In what way is the rise of reggaeton related to Latin American culture in general and the way it is perceived in the West, you think?
MB: We should not forget that Latin music has been stigmatized since its beginning and it seems that young people are somehow breaking the stereotypes this genre has, but by “consuming” these genres, it does not automatically mean that people are willing to respect and understand the culture and what’s behind it. In Spain this is the most hyped genre right now and everyone listens to it, but it is cool to listen from a “distance”. A lot of people are still super racist and do not want immigrants here, for example: “I listen to Ozuna every weekend but I vote for a right wing party”. So I think it is super good and I am super happy this trend is a thing now but there is still a lot of work left to do in order to break this stigmatization.
SF: In the same interview mentioned earlier you state that artists should look outside the boundaries of their own countries and that genres should not be limited to a specific geographical location. Your music is a mix of several genres which all derive from different cultures. Such a cosmopolitan outlook is becoming more prominent, both in the music world and in general. Simultaneously we’ve seen an increase in racism and xenophobia in the Western world. Kamasi Washington is a saxophonist and jazz musician affiliated with Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. Through his music, the topic of racism has been dealt with quite a few times.
Whereas this song is not (as far as we can tell) driven by the topic of racism, it is in our opinion one of the most interesting pieces of music released in 2017. What do you think of it?
MB: I think it is a beautiful journey and the progression of the song is awesome. I do not know much about this project, so I should dig deeper into it before knowing more about the concept behind it.
SF: Do you consider yourself a part of a broader cosmopolitan movement and do you believe your cross-culture approach is something that would not have been possible if not for a bigger, overriding globalizing narrative?
MB: Absolutely. As I always say, the internet has been the key to opening up the world and to exploring different cultures. On the other hand, as you said, racism and xenophobia are very big issues right now and even though we are at the most multicultural moment in history, nationalism is strong again and is trying to set heavy boundaries.
SF: Have you ever received criticism for working with genres that aren’t necessarily linked to your own culture?
MB: Yes, many times. I know where I am from and how I grew up and which things influenced me during my life. But as I said, this is not something strictly geographical. In that case I would only be able to make flamenco, for example, or not even that since where I am from is not where it originated.
SF: Could you name an example?
MB: I have been accused of cultural appropriation since I am Spanish and white. One big magazine which is famous for supporting everything and its stance against the discrimination of anyone because of their race, gender or sexual condition decided to cancel what we had programmed when they found that I was not mixed-race, but white and Spanish. I have also been criticized for defending Latin culture because ‘it is not my war’, which I could understand. But I am not pretending to be the center of attention and turn this into my fight. I just believe that racism is a matter that concerns everyone and of course the genres which I grew up with are part of myself.
SF: Do you think the increase in racism, as showcased by for example the rise of far-right parties all across of Europe, is a frightened response to globalization?
MB: Yes it is one of the reasons. But I believe that racism and far-right extremism just show an incredible ignorance.
SF: Have you noticed such an increase in the music world/community as well?
MB: Racism is everywhere but I would like to think that in creative communities its presence is not that strong. But it is still a problem though. Anyway, I am not the best figure to talk about this as I have not suffered from it in in the way many people in the community have.
SF: Do you feel like your time in London, even though short, has changed your look on the world but also your view on culture, identity and music?
MB: London gave me the opportunity to have the facilities to be in this industry, which do not exist in Spain for example. In terms of music or identity I think I’ve gone through a personal growth, of course where you live affects you in some way but in my case is was not that significant. I also realized that a lot of people do not understand that all of this is about music, and in London it happens quite often that people use their culture or identity as a way to make their product appear more attractive.
SF: Identity is also an important theme in Spain, especially in regards to the secession movements in Catalonia and the Basque County with some even calling it an “identity crisis”. It is also one of the few countries in Europe in which far-right hasn’t made a (grand) comeback. What are your thoughts of Spain’s identity and its place in the world and have you seen the country change a lot in the past few years?
MB: It looks like the far-right hasn’t made a grand comeback, just because it has never left and we have the legacy of a fascist dictatorship as a government. Come on, we also still have kings and queens and we kill bulls for fun like we are still in the 15th century. Of course I cannot compare the Spanish situation nowadays with the situation 40 years ago. The country has obviously changed a lot, but not as much as it should have changed. Its place in the world is not that good: We have one of the most corrupted governments in Europe, a huge problem with freedom of expression with rappers and twitter users in jail, etc. But the situation seems to be improving as people have started worrying about the situation, as showcased by for example protests for women’s rights. In terms of music I think it is changing now, people are opening their minds and have the curiosity to find new genres and understand new ways to make music, which is super good.
SF: Finally, is there a song you wish to recommend to our audience yourself? If yes, which song and why?
MB: Of course! And related to what we talked about before. Now I am listening to a lot to this group called Crimen Pasional, ‘the first reggaeton en catalàn’. They are from Barcelona and they are super good.
This is ‘Raka Raka’ in Spanish, but the Catalan version is better in my opinion:
I am also having a very intense season with Cruzito again (laughs). He is one of my favorite artists and I have been listening to him a lot recently. Maybe it is because I am working with Rulez and he reminds me of him.
Listen to Merca Bae’s Místico EP On Soundcloud.