Glass bottles being thrown at DJs, corrupt police raids and promoters getting 12 months in jail for putting on parties. Welcome to Mexico City’s dance scene of the early-noughties, as remembered by Yoan Rodriguez.
Known as Lokier, the 29-year-old DJ and producer, who is also one half of She Made Monster (with Morgan Hammer), left her Central American birthplace behind three years ago. She moved to Barcelona and then Berlin in search of musical freedom, after finding many of the crowds and club owners back home too inflexible.
We’re happy she did. If that hadn’t happened then Loose Lips’ first encounter with the woman in question wouldn’t have either. At a sweat-heavy session during 2017’s ADE, she was charged with warming up for Scottish heroes Optimo, and delivered a set packed with atmospheric curveballs. Broken, tech-y, electro, acidic, dark, and brooding were just some of the words that came to mind at the time.
A few months on we gave her a call to get more acquainted; seeing how moving to Europe has played out so far and asking for her thoughts on dance culture back in Mexico’s capital right now.
So you’re in Berlin now, what brought on the decision to relocate to Germany?
I don’t know, I guess the music. There’s a lot more going on here, more options for underground stuff, people taking risks. I just wanted to learn and get inspired, meet people— grow as an artist in a way. Moving here was going to help me do that.
You were in Barcelona for two years before Berlin, how was the Catalan capital?
I really liked it there. Coming from Mexico, the transition was a lot smoother - the weather, the food, the language. My best friends lived there and when you move to another country it’s always nice to have people to help you. I loved it but after a while I wanted to grow more, to see more things.
You’re originally from Mexico City, what do you think of the scene there now?
It has definitely changed. When I was there, I don’t know if it was because I didn’t know, or it didn’t exist, or maybe it just wasn’t that strong, but I didn’t know of many things going on in the underground. Most of the clubs just booked quite commercial artists, so it was hard for me to DJ.
A couple of times I was playing and people asked me to stop, or asked me to play something else, easier stuff. I was always the warm up; they were scared that everyone would leave the club if I played, or something like that. So I just felt I couldn’t be myself that much when I was DJing. Only at private parties and small underground things. But now a lot seems to have changed, I have a lot of friends doing some very cool things out there, so I’m really curious to go back and see what’s going on.
What do you think has brought about that shift?
I really don’t know. I guess time. I always felt Mexico was kind of slow, whatever people were listening to got to Mexico a year later. But I guess that’s the same in a lot of places. I don’t know, maybe they just realised there are more things, or they decided to take risks and realised that it does work sometimes.
My last gig in Mexico before moving to Europe was in this club, there was a crew there of about ten people, they looked like foreigners and were dancing like crazy. Then the manager told me to stop playing as he thought I was going to scare everyone away, so they kicked me off. Then the group of people came over to me and were like ‘Hey, this is our first time in this club, really interesting music, we are from Berlin, you should move there.’ I was like, ‘yeah I’m thinking about it’.
So when did you first start to play out in clubs?
I was 21 or 22, at the time my group of friends who I was hanging around with were all DJs. I got curious and sometimes would practice DJing at house parties, or just ask a bunch of questions all the time. I was listening to new music and discovering new artists, then a friend asked ‘Do you want me to teach you?’ I was like ‘Yeah, sure!’
I practiced with another friend, a girl, and we started playing at these illegal parties, massive ones, really crazy and very intense. The audience were really hardcore. If you made a bad mix they would throw glass bottles at you. The second time I DJ'd, ever, the person playing before me was bleeding, his eyes were bleeding. ‘I just got a bottle thrown at me’, he said. I thought ‘Shit’. The third time I had a panic attack before playing, I was so nervous. I mean of course I’m going to make a mistake, it’s my third time playing out. I was shaking with nerves. Everything went OK though, I think I was so nervous I pushed myself to do really good mixes and learn fast.
After a year of doing those parties everything changed. The police are so corrupt, one time they showed up at the party and arrested one of my friends, then searched for the other for months. He got away with it, but the other was in jail for a year I think. So for many years those parties stopped. That night I was just arriving with my friend, we saw the police and were like ‘no, let’s leave’. So I stopped DJing for a while too, it was just too stressful for me.
I started again in really nice, posh little bars, more disco and background stuff. That was like the other side completely, you could make mistakes and nobody would care, just enjoy the music, they didn’t even have to dance. I wanted to see both sides, so it was good. Then after a while I went back to clubs again, and the music they play.
Tell us about She Made Monster.
I met Morgan [Hammer], I don’t know, five years ago or more. She found me on SoundCloud, I think, and liked one of my tracks. We got talking; we’re the same age, almost, and we’re both girls and she was the only girl I knew in the business, the majority still are men. She liked the same music I did too. She was one of the first people to convince me to move to Europe and helped me move to Barcelona. When I was living there we started She Made Monster. Basically, we get along, like the same music and it’s always better to travel with someone. That was about it.
I guess there wasn’t a particular musical idea behind it, we’ve always liked the same music and if something is really weird and kind of dark then better. So we always wanted to do that, mix our styles together but we’re both constantly changing things up as well.
What are your plans for 2018?
Well there’s an EP, which I’m very excited about as it’s the first thing I’ve put out in a couple of years. It’s coming out on Squirrels On Film, a new label in San Francisco, from Solar. There’s a US and Mexico tour then too with it. I’m working on other music at the moment, but nothing confirmed so far.
Why such a gap between releases?
I don’t know. I guess the main reason was to do with having a place for me to settle long-term in Barcelona. I’d lived with Morgan for a while, then another friend. I don’t know why it was so hard, I tried. Rent? There was always something. I really wanted to buy some stuff for my studio but it was difficult without having a house, then I started buying but kept moving. So I finally had six months when I stayed in the same place and could start buying things for my studio, and that’s when I finally managed to finish the EP. Now I’m in Berlin I’m trying to do the same.
That’s one reason, but then also I was discovering so much music and artists... meeting friends, getting inspired. I wanted to change my sound up a bit, to show people but also to show myself that I’ve grown somehow— moving here, everything I’ve done, show that it was all worth it. So I really tried to make my next music sound better, in a way.
Over the time you’ve been playing and producing for, what have you been proudest of?
Moving to Europe was definitely a huge step. When I was in Mexico this always seemed like a distant dream; living here and working with new people, playing in clubs. Because over in Mexico I couldn’t play in clubs even, you know. Morgan was telling me ‘come to Europe, people will like you here, it will be easier to play what you like’, but it seemed like a dream to do that. Becoming friends with people I admire, working with them, for me that’s really rewarding and I feel like I’ve worked towards that, so it’s really nice.
Finally, do you have any particular long-term goals?
I guess sometime I’d like to do a live set, release an album of course, I’m going to try and do that next year. Or maybe the year after. But specifically just keep growing, be better each time. Just grow in terms of my career but grow as an artist and become more secure with myself, and see that I’m learning new things. I don’t know, just to be better I guess.