Chicago based Venezuelan producer and DJ, Bumbac Joe, has been working the turntables and producing music for over a decade. You can hear the influence of his world travels in his selections as he has resided on several different continents with music on his mind 100 percent of the time. His EP, Hot Revolution just dropped and now a brand new mix filled with tropical swing for Beats of All-Nations Radio episode 10 is here!
“This mix has a lot of latin flavor, it´s sort of my favorite kind of DJ set, with a right balance of remixes of classics, like Mongo Santamaría, Fania All Stars and Fabulosos Cadillacs, tracks hard to find like “Mister Mister” from La Gallera Social Club, music projects from the US but with a latin flare like Ozomatli or De La Buena, some jazzy spices and a lot groove variations.” -BUMBAC JOE
BEATS OF ALL-NATIONS: Whats the story that eventually got Bumbac Joe, né Leopoldo Bello, to Chicago?
Bumbac Joe: I´m a Venezuelan born in Lima, Peru. My father is from Venezuela and my mother from Peru, when I was three years old my family moved to Venezuela. I grew up there but never lost my cultural connections with my Peruvian side; food, music, literature. In 2001 I had the chance to go to Madrid on a Christmas vacation and I fell in love with the city, was a first sight love, you could feel the energy on the streets, people speaking different languages everywhere, amazing food, and the way Madrilenians live the life, that caught me in the mantra: “I gotta live in this city one time in my life,” and in 2005 I had the chance to make the move, on spring of that year I was coming out of a kind of exhausting period of time owning a dance club with couple of friends, a lot of long crazy nights, touring around the country constantly. Sounds exciting but I was a little bit tired of that life and was feeling that I was drifting out from my main focus, making music. For that reason I decided to pack my gear and spend six months in Madrid with the idea of finding the right place to compose my first album. That six months turned into five years of a roller coaster that took me to the right place, I released my album, I toured all of Spain and parts of Europe DJing for the band El Sombrero del Abuelo, also DJing shows in Holland, Belgium and different cities of Spain, and met a beautiful lady, a successful chef from Milwaukee living in Madrid. We moved to her hometown, Milwaukee treated me as a king, I love that city, the people there are amazing and the vibe of the city really caught me. At some point I discovered myself in a comfort zone that scares me a lot. For that reason I decided to move to the Windy City, a place where I found a wonderful reconnection with my Hispanic heritage and discovering a lovely community of DJs, musicians, political activists and cultural shakers that keep Chicago in this inspiring and positive whirlpool of culture.
What were your first musical influences? What kind of records were your parents playing?
My first musical influences were folkloric Venezuelan music, música del llano (music from Venezuelan flat lands), Afro-Peruvian music, Brazilian music, old school salsa from the ’70s which we call Salsa Brava, and one of the most innovative and modern Venezuelan composers, Aldemaro Romero, created a style of music back in 1968 he named Onda Nueva, a blend of folkloric Venezuelan rhythms, bossa nova and jazz, usually notated in a 6 x 8 pattern, played in a traditional jazz trio format, piano, bass and drums infused with a 60’s vibe vocal arrangements. At my parents house we were always listening to traditional Venezuelan singers like Eneas Perdomo, Reinaldo Armas and El Carrao de Palmarito, salsa bands like Fanial All Stars, Dimension Latina and Orquesta La Terrífica, a lot of Brazilian singers Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, Toquinhio, Maria Bethania, but the favorite was the queen, Elis Regina. From the Peruvian side of my heritage, we never stop listening to Eva Ayllon, a lot people talk about Susana Baca when they wanna say something about afro-peruvian music but Eva Ayllon was first, don´t get me wrong Susana Baca is awesome but Eva Ayllon has an amazing flow when she sings and she began in the ’70s.
When did you begin to DJ? What kind of records would we have found in your first crate?
I did start DJing when I found my self being invited constantly to a different friends parties with part of my record collection to play some tunes, and when I saw people dancing like crazy to all that beats I say it to myself “this hobby gotta jump to the next level man,” that happens back in 2001 and usually had a bag full of acid jazz, records of Soul Coughing, Freak Power, Bah Samba, at that time I had a soft spot for the record label Slip n´Slide, when I discovered all that people blending jazz with electronic music I was insanely in love with that groove. I gotta confess that DJ Afro (José Luis Pardo, former guitar player and composer of Los Amigos Invisible) had a huge influence on my musical selection at the beginning of my DJ career. Back in 2000s Caracas was a boiling quarry of house, techno and drum n´bass.
Whats your vinyl game like now? Sitting on the collection or still collecting?
I love vinyl, that black analog magic still sits higher on the Everest of my affections, but when you find your self crossing the ocean more than once, having this sort of nomadic life and playing your own tracks, remixes and friends productions in your DJ sets, digital life becomes more your night by night DJ support. Still collecting but lately I have been feeling so lucky that most of the vinyl I receive are from friends or people I know sharing their personal musical projects.
When does production come in? We’re you remixing songs before you started producing original pieces?
I started to produce tracks around 2002, at that time I was one of the owners of a club named SantaLaDiabla back in Caracas and I was so lucky to be in touch with a lot of talented DJs and producers, one day a duo of producers approach to me and asked if I was interested in put something together with them, me as a DJ and they with their beats, vocals and electric guitars, they were Manuel Rivas and Fernando Garmendia and their project was named Metrobox. I don´t remember how many tracks they had at that time, all of them had a really cool funky-latin house drive with some touches of that french house band Rinôçérôse. I thought that could be a great add to the dance floor at the club, and it was indeed, after that night we gather several times trying to find our beat and the idea evolved into a more Venezuelan music infused electronic project, Digital & Pascual was born. There are still two tracks of Digital & Pascual running around on my soundcloud. After that I started to learn how to use Propellerhead Reason and then two first remixes came out, one of a Gipsy Kings song and the other was a remix of Barry Manilow’s famous “Copacabana,” I thought that disco era was a beautiful gold thing in that time and made that remix to be included in some of my DJ sets, hahaha, but I still dig that DJ Sneak’s filtered house attempted a remix and a lot of people are still downloading that remix from my soundcloud.
How often are you using live instrumentation in you songs? What kind of instruments?
I would like to use live instruments more often but depends on the vibe of the song. For example in my last EP I have on “Open heart” a horn section and trumpet that I recorded at my friend Lodewijk Broekhuizen‘s studio in Milwaukee, on “Hot Revolution” it is a spanish cajon, recording sent from Madrid, played by my good friend Rodrigo Nuñez. From my first album Bar Doméstico a Domicilo, you can find a Venezuelan cuatro (kind of a ukelele), andean zampoña, charango and maracas on “Vallumbrosio´s Dark Side” or a piano on “Madrid sin ti”. At this moment I´m recording congas, Colombian caja, Peruvian cajon and Puerto Rican minor percussion for a couple tracks I´ll be releasing soon with a side project I´m putting together with my compadre Juan Tomás Martinez, the singer and percussionist I feature in “Tu Mambo” and “Capitan Manteca” from my most recent EP.
Production tools? Hardware and software?
My favorites are Ableton Live, Propellerheads Reason, Native Instruments Maschine and Massive at the home studio, when I go to the mixing studio, Logic and Pro Tools. Soon I´ll be adding an Arturia Minibrute and a Korg MS20 for the live show.
Hot Revolution is out now and burning our speakers up, it has a great tropical feel, perfect timing too, I’m looking to rinse some of these tracks outdoors this summer. Is this considered your first official release?
The Hot Revolution is the first official release using Bumbac Joe as a monicker, in 2006 I released an eleven track album using Demetrio de Ccs as my DJ alias.
The 4 track Ep features a range of vocalists how did those relationships come about?
The girl who sings on “Hot Revolution” is Meadow Parish, a singer songwriter from Milwaukee touring around with her last work titled Mercy Hunt, I liked her irreverence when I met her back in the Cream City and thought she was perfect for “Hot Revolution.” On “Tu Mambo” there is a wonderful story, I was flirting with the idea of having a group of kids singing the chorus of this song for a while and could´t figure out how to get this idea set down, you know having a bunch of kids in a studio and have the right way to direct them. Then, by coincidence, on my last trip to Caracas I found that my friend Alexander Hudec, a well known chorus director there, was in charge of the Caracas´Camerata Infantil, a whole kids choir learning how to sing classical music and directed by my friend, that was gold. I had a lot of fun recording the kids and learning how to direct that kind of talent. The lead vocals on “Tu Mambo” and “Captain Manteca” are performed by my brother for another mother Juan Tomás Martinez, a Venezuelan dude with a mohawk born in Madison, Wisconsin, that I met in Spain few months after I moved to Madrid in 2005. Since we met the first time we became great friends, at that time he was playing percussion and singing for the spanish band Canteca de Macao. I think our similar musical tastes shaped our friendship. In 2012 after Canteca de Macao´s US tour Juan had to stay in the United States, for some obscure reasons, he moved to Madison and started a new life leaving behind a successful life as a musician in Madrid. Having Juan living just few miles away I thought it was stupid not asking him to sing on couple of my tracks.
Revolution has been the theme in current events, and more and more it seems it could go hot in the streets at any moment. How do you feel about the idea that we may be in a modern renaissance period on all levels, culture, art and music?
I HOPE we are in a modern renaissance era, distances are shorter now, we have a tons of tools to embrace creativity, to connect with people, to make easier process that in the past could take years. The panorama seems like a very fertile field to sow the seed of enlightenment but we have to keep fighting against the monster that every single day says to you: Don´t be yourself, be part of the system, buy, buy, buy, don´t take your eyes off the tv, don´t leave the standard, be that happy slave I want you to be. We gotta keep our inner revolution alive, we gotta free ourselves and think out of the box, and I firmly think music is a beautiful tool of liberation.
What’s coming up in the near future?
I´m excited to be part of one of the first big Latin alternative music festival in the US which will take place here in Chicago this July, three days of a diverse plethora of music styles, with projects from latin-america and the US, heavy weight bands like Ozomatli, Cafe Tacvba, Molotov, Mexican Institute of Sound, Nortec Collective and a long etcetera. I´ll keep touring to promote my EP, Minneapolis, Madison, Detroit, Toronto, New York, Washington are confirmed, soon I´ll be releasing dates and more locations. I hope the West Coast will add airport stickers to my DJ bag very soon!
1. La Gallera Social Club – Mister Mister
2. Hector Lavoe & Willie Colon (Toy Selectah 2013 Cosmico Remix)
3. De La Buena – Imbe (Bumbac Joe retouche)
4. Mongo Santamaría – Afro Blue (Yerba Buena Remix)
5. Buraka Som Sistema – Stoopid
6. Franciso Ulloa – Canto de Hacha
7. Celia Cruz & Willie Colón – Pun Pun Catalu (Canyon Cody & Captain Planet Remix)
8. Señor Coconut – Beat It
9. Ozomatli – Chango
10. Los Amigos Invisibles – Pipi
11. Plastilina Mosh – I´ve Got That Milton Pacheco Kinda´ Feeling
12. Bacalao Men – No Idea
13. Mr. Pauer – Cumbión del Sur (La Danza de los Mirlos/Afrosound Mashup)
14. La Gallera Social Club – Carajito (Jairo Mendez Remix)
15. La Gallera Social Club – Carajito
16. Spark Arrester – Jazz Pearl (Blend aka Mishkin Remix)
17. Los Fabulosos Cadilacs – Mal Bicho
18. La Tropa Kung-Fu – Cumbia Infierno (Toti & Andy Loop Fat Beat Remix)
19. Carlos Barbosa & Blaster Jaxx – Toca Flute (Sabo Moombahton Edit)
20. Dimensión Latina – Parampampán (Bumbac Joe retouche)
21. Dillon Francis & Diplo – Que Que feat. Maluca