Music

The Weekly interview: Ulises Lozano, keyboardist for Kinky

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Kinky plays Brooklyn Bowl Sunday.
Napoleón Habeica

When they got the call from MTV executives, they weren’t sure if it was a wrong number or if they’d been confused with some other band. MTV was asking Kinky, a Mexican group known for its use of electronics and experimental sounds, to appear on its Unplugged series.

Kinky is the product of Avanza Regia, a mid-1990s Mexican musical movement during which several influential bands came out of the Monterrey area, including Control Machete and Zurdok. The five members of Kinky all hail from Monterrey, and they came together to blend traditional Mexican and Latin styles such as cumbia and norteño, with alternative rock and electronic music. Their eponymous first album, released in 2002, was met with wide commercial success in Latin America and found notoriety in the U.S. as well.

Kinky released its MTV Unplugged performance in February; it includes old hits, inventive covers and new tracks. Now the band is preparing to take the stripped-down show on the road for its latest tour. The Weekly caught up with keyboardist Ulises Lozano in advance of a May 3 show at Brooklyn Bowl.

You have stayed the same five members for over a decade now. Any secret to the group harmony? We are in a place where everything is about the music, and it’s mainly because we all respect each other and what we each bring. We each have our own personalities, and all five people have different musical backgrounds. It’s a very interesting collection of guys, but all those styles of music became a strength of the band.

Kinky is known for the mix of rock, dance, techno, and folk sounds. What is planned or more organic? It was all very natural for us. In the late 1990s and early 2000s Monterrey was one of the cities with the most alternative bands. So we had some guys who were more into rock, and others that were very much from the norteño tradition. But at that time it was really natural to take it all and use all of the influences to shape a new sound for the band.

Kinky licensed its work for commercials and games right away. Was that part of a conscious strategy? Now everyone wants their music in commercials, film or TV, but 15 years ago the common thought was that bands shouldn’t put their music in commercial things. For us, we do everything the opposite way. We got offers from big records labels in the beginning, but we went with a small one, because we wanted more control and more freedom to experiment. We thought music was going into the Internet domain, and we were thinking long-term. We wanted to control our music, but when you sign with a major label they decide everything. Now everything is online and promoted through social media, and I think we were a little ahead of our time in seeing the potential there.

What was the band’s initial reaction to the Unplugged pitch? We’re an electronic band, and the idea of doing something like MTV Unplugged was definitely a little out of our comfort zone. It was weird to think about us doing an acoustic set, but at the same time we thought it was a great opportunity to show even more faces of the band.

What was your process for Unplugged? It took a year to do it. We didn’t want to re-create songs in the same way as they are on the albums and just play them with acoustic instruments. We wanted to present totally different versions. “Soun Tha Mi Primer Amor” is now more like a power ballad that develops into a big chorus, and the original is more of an electronic cumbia.

So we developed those new versions of some our most popular songs, then we also incorporated covers of traditional Mexican songs and made them Kinky versions, like Ramon Ayala’s “Para Poder Llegar a Ti.” We also wrote some new songs for the album, which was a little different than the format of most Unplugged shows.

When we we’re figuring out how to achieve the electronic sounds, we didn’t turn to traditional instruments. Instead of going to music stores we’d go to Home Depot or the junkyard, places where we could try recyclable stuff. We’d go through the aisles of Home Depot with drumsticks hitting everything—used trash cans, bottles, tables—whatever we found making interesting sound. There is a bicycle wheel, tin cans, trash cans and a lot of kitchen items.

Las Vegas, love it or loath it? We love Vegas. We’ve played four of five shows there, and we’ve been there several times for the Latin Grammys. We’ve always had amazing times, and it’s one of my four or five favorite cities to visit. We love it because the people dig music, dancing, fun and getting crazy—it’s a perfect combination and fits our live shows really well.

Kinky with Danielle Spalla. May 3, 8 p.m., $25. Brooklyn Bowl, 702-862-2695.

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