An intergalactic introduction: Cyborg Nerve in conversation
Cyborg Nerve is the new project from the Mexican blood brothers also known as Soul of Hex and Mano De Fuego.
With these projects they’ve caught the attention of some of electronic music’s veterans, getting remixed by Mr Fingers in their early days and, under their Mano De Fuego guise, dropping a shamanistic debut on Underground Resistance.
Residents for the Sunday, Sunday party in Tijuana, as well as releasing music for Delusions of Grandeur and Quintessentials, last year these Mexican mavericks were invited by DJ Harvey to appear on his Mercury Rising compilation.
They continue to impress as they step out on Freerange Records’ new sub-label Cyphon Recordings under their Cyborg Nerve moniker. Following the release of the EP titled Cristalizacion, the Tijuana twosome talk about their love of the cosmos, Mexico’s flourishing music scene, Mad Mike the mentor, and life on other planets.
Where are you and what are you up to today?
Hey there amigos! We are based in Tijuana. We just arrived home from a 2-month tour all across Mexico. Also, we played in United States and France with our project Soul of Hex. Now we’re working in the family business (a printing company) to chill things a little bit and we make music in the afternoon. We’ll go back to Europe for a longer tour in September.
How is the mood in Mexico right now? Politically, economically, socially…
Now we feel Mexico is way safer than 10 years ago. We have a left wing/social democratic Presidency, so in comparison to all the corruption and violence we had before, things just got better. The Mexican Peso is stronger now at $22 x 1 GBP, when it used to be $30 Pesos for a Pound. And a lot of people from the USA and Europe are now moving to a lot of cities of Mexico, so it feels really good now!
Tijuana has a long history in electronic music.
Yes. Tijuana has a border with San Diego, California so the music genres heard on the radio here were always very contemporary. Radio stations such as 91X (founded in 1968), used to play Kraftwerk in the 70’s, and the antenna is located in Tijuana so that made a huge difference with the rest of the country. 92.5 (founded in 1979) is a funk radio station that it’s been playing Stevie Wonder, Prince, War, Santana until this day. And presenters like Xavier the X-man is like having our own Electrifying Mojo for both sides of the border. That influenced projects from the 80’s like Artefakto, Ford Procco and later on, Nortec. We have a very passionate crowd.
Pioneers of the Mexican techno sound, the Nortec Collective, are they still as big?
Sure, the founders of Nortec Collective, Pepe Mogt and Bostich aka Ramon Amezcua, are very good friends of ours, and we book them regularly at our parties. They are still releasing records; we actually made a song together recently called Vostok 707 out now Vicario. They are one of the biggest acts in Mexico.
Who are the leading lights on the Tijuana music scene at the moment?
We might say that Discoteca Seduccion is the biggest Disco party in the city, with Oro Negro and Disto Disco as residents. Nortec and their sons, Grenda and German Moss. Think Techno is a project with only live sets with analog synths led by Franco Saspe. There’s a new group called CBI (Can’t Believe It) that will be making waves soon. Girls All Around is a DJ collective that plays every weekend here! 4004 from Rosarito is our favourite producer. Alex Wax, Motion Parallax from the Vicario camp. M1lot1c, DJ Pegaso and Benfika with their Latigazo party, and more.
What’s the main club in the city for deep house and techno?
Currently, there’s no specific venue doing the real thang. We were managing an abandoned discotheque last year, but some investors bought the place. But the magic can happen anywhere in the city, mostly Downtown Tijuana. Secret locations are our thing in TJ.
Does the city attract a lot of overseas DJs?
Yeah! We had a large history of artists coming to TJ like DJ Sneak, Kevin Saunderson, Jimpster, Tiger & Woods, Matias Aguayo, Ed Banger Records crew and more.
Are you still doing Sunday Sunday parties in Tijuana?
Yes, we’re residents! Sunday Sunday is our favourite party in the world. We always do it on rooftops, and the vibe is just magic. Drinking Clamato and Mezcal in the afternoon listening to some banging Detroit Techno, NYC House or Italo Disco classics is priceless.
You just spent some time in Paris…
It was great to be honest, even though the night was windy and rainy, we had a packed house at Djoon. They have the best dancers, and they love Soulful House. The recording of the party is actually out now!!
You started out as Soul of Hex. Sounds like a reference to the occult. Is it?
Haha in the beginning not at all! Before Soul of Hex, I was making music with my ‘’Sebastien Vorhaus’’ moniker alongside 4004. We were merging our project, so I started writing down names, ‘’Soul City Vibrations’’ was one of the first choices so one day at the University I had a Web Programming class, and the teacher wrote down the word ‘’HEX’’ on the chalkboard, I was like… ‘’THAT’S IT!… Soul of Hex’’. Then strange things started to happen. Within less than a year we got a Larry Heard remix, signed on Freerange and a Boiler Room session in Mexico City. 4004 decided to leave the project and I was running it alone.
The occult happened in real life, and we will reveal it in the next questions. The meaning to the name is a reference to Synesthesia which is the ability to see the colours in music. Actually, a month ago I tried a whole drop of acid for the first time, and I had a strong visual experience with our music, so the name itself is a reference to a psychedelic experience with house music.
You reference the other worldly, the cosmic, and the mystic often. What is the root of this fascination?
Back in 2018 after returning to Tijuana from the Red Bull Music Academy, I was obsessed with emulating real Hi Hats and a friend who was on vacation in San Francisco borrowed his electronic drum kit at his friend’s house. I went there, and when I entered the house, he had a table full of books and he had the Tarot card of the World. The card looked so beautiful, that left a big impression on me. And I couldn’t stop thinking about the card. I had an epiphany, and also it reminded me of my childhood because the card was similar to a Yu-gi-oh card, we were the biggest fans when we were kids. So, I went back to the studio, and I started making ‘’Psychic’’. For the first time I felt like I found a sound of my own. A very shining light entered the room through the window, and that’s when I invited my brother to join the project. Now we like to evoke that feeling through our music. We try to bring the unconscious mind to real life through sound.
What are your feelings on Sun Ra, the music, and the philosophy?
He is like a prophet to us. The chosen one. The one who found the Door to the Cosmos. We’ve seen ‘’Space is the Place’’ many, many times. His words inspire us so much, the music, everything. We love his legacy. Some real psychedelic jazz!
Pretty out of this world to have one of your first releases remixed by Larry Heard. Do you think he might be up for remixing another?
When I played Dekmantel in 2017, he was playing main stage with Mr. White. When they finished their excellent set, I quickly went with him and told him quickly: ‘’Larry! How are you? I’m Gerardo, Soul of Hex from Mexico!’’ and he said ‘’Man, it’s so nice to meet you, what an honour, thank you for letting me do your remix’’. I was supposed to say that first! I never met such a humble, down to earth person. I just had to say ‘’Thank you, Larry, it is my pleasure, and honour, you are such a legend and a great person. Thank you for the music, you changed this world forever’’.
He agreed to collaborate anytime, we still talk occasionally, and we wish each other happy birthday every year hehe.
You appeared on Harvey’s Mercury Rising 3. You must have been buzzing round the planet when he asked you for a track?
It was crazy. When his team reached out to us to ask us for the track, they sent us a file called ‘’YESSSSSSSS!!!’’ Haha, we were like, WHAT? we don’t have a track named like that… we asked for the file we downloaded it and indeed it was ‘’Psychic’’!!! We were so happy. And he is rinsing some of our other tunes too! It’s such an honour.
On your home label Vicario, you’ve had releases from some of my favourite producers – Nachtbraker, Frits Wentink. Any plans for further releases, who is on your radar?
We want to launch artists from Tijuana like 4004, Motion Parallax, Pepe Mogt & Ramon Amezcua, Oro Negro, Alex Wax… and gather remixes from our friends from the rest of Mexico, Detroit and overseas (UR, Omar-S, Jon Dixon, Jimpster, Massimiliano Pagliara, AAAA, Zombies in Miami, and more!)
Having a vinyl record label nowadays is so expensive, but we will never give up and we’ll keep going! Vicario is all about house music.
Are you still working off the Elektron Octatrack or have you given into its new wave of competitors?
I still use the Octatrack, every day. Forever! I’m so thankful for Elektron for sponsoring me with such a beautiful machine! 🙂
The Moog, the Korg, or the Roland?
All of them! We use Roland the most, the TR 606, 626, 707, 727, 808, 909, R-8, CR-72 for drum sounds, the 303 is a very recurrent sound in clubs but we still love it! Korg is the next step for us, we are planning to get an M3 for lush pads and piano sounds. We love Moog because of its high-definition bass sounds. But if we had to choose, it would be the Roland.
You spent time at the Red Bull Music Academy with Mike Banks. What was he like as a mentor?
He changed my life, for good. We spent 2 weeks in a row from 9 am to 5 am in the studio with the team. He taught me so much about life and music. On the last day of the academy, he introduced me to his manager, Cornelius, and they invited me to be part of Underground Resistance, with the condition of not staying in Berlin and going back to stay in Tijuana instead. Because here is where my real sound is.
What is the lowdown on your Mano De Fuego moniker?
Right now, we consider it as the main project. We are working very hard on the live set, we already did our first show in Los Angeles, and we’re making an album for UR as Mano de Fuego.
Your Underground Resistance release is pretty insane. It’s rare for UR to reach outside of their own galaxy. How did it feel to have one the most important labels in techno reach out to you?
It feels surreal. Before the record came out nobody believed us! It’s the biggest highlight in our careers as musicians.
Did you make it over to Detroit to hang out with the UR collective?
We spent two months before the pandemic there, and we have been going every year on Memorial Day since 2019. UR is family to us.
Your UR release joins the dots between the past, present and future. Is the Soul of Hex more about the past and Cyborg Nerve more of a futuristic vision?
Yes. Cyborg Nerve is about a cold future. Soul of Hex is a tribute to disco and house. Mano de Fuego is about the present and about a hopeful future that connects to an ancient Aztec civilization.
The Cristalizacion EP is some seriously high-class techno. Did you make the EP with the Cyphon in mind?
Not really to be honest, we were just making music with no purpose in mind. When we did the UR release, we made around 200 tracks, so Cyborg Nerve is composed with bits of all of those tracks.
What is your next mission?
For now, keeping track of all the projects. We will keep creating new monikers, more albums, and working hard on music for the rest of our lives!!
Is there another galaxy far far away?
Finally, do you believe in UFO’s?
Hahahaha, yes of course, I don’t believe in alien humanoids, that’s too Hollywood for me, but I believe that there’s life on other planets that transmit knowledge in other forms rather than the earth’s state of matter like solid, liquid, gas, or plasma. 👽
Cristalizacion is out now on Cyphon Recordings.
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