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Kinky thrills

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“Kinky is Soda Stereo’s natural continuation. And Omar Góngora is a fucking animal.”

Charly Alberti, drummer for Argentina’s Soda Stereo, the most influential Spanish-
language rock band in history

 

Charly is a little too enthusiastic. To compare Soda Stereo’s song-oriented, elegant, power-pop to Kinky’s frenetic, groovy, bilingual mix of electro rock with Northern Mexican music, bossa, and other Latin flavors (all played by humans with real instruments) is meaningless, and Kinky is unlikely to endure as long as Soda.

 But he’s right about Góngora, the (literally) stand-up drummer and percussionist of the band that will perform at San Antonio’s Club Rio on March 7.

“That’s crazy, isn’t it?” Góngora says on the phone from Los Angeles. “Soda Stereo was Latin America’s most important band, and Charly’s words taste like candy to me.”

 Kinky’s success story was unlikely. Discovered by Sr. Flavio (bassist for Los Fabulosos Cadillacs) and signed and produced by Chris Allison (Coldplay, Beta Band) to his London-based Sonic360 label in 1999, Kinky made an impact in the US and Europe for several years before settling back home in Monterrey, no longer the center of a hot Mexican rock scene. Besides three studio albums (not counting rarities, EPs and TV commercials), what cemented Kinky’s reputation was the power of its live performances. And if the “you’re as good as your drummer” saying is true, then Kinky is a superb band.

 “Yes, to play standing up makes it all more powerful, especially for the bass drum, it’s a more intense punch,” says Góngora, whose arsenal includes (from left to right) three congas, bongos above, and above them two Zildjian cymbals. “`The cymbals` are very thin becase I hit them with my hands a lot.”

 Down below, he uses three pedals (hi-hat, bass drum and electronic bass drum, from which he shoots the samplers). He only uses the right foot for the pedals and the left foot to stand on. In the middle he has the snare drum and the timbales to the right.

 “The band requires a lot of energy and it would be very difficult to play everything sitting down with a snare drum between my legs,” he said. “When I’m standing, I can play and dance at the same time.”

 The rest of the band (Gil Cerezo on vocals and guitar, Ulises Lozano on keyboards and accordion, Carlos Cháirez on guitar and César Pliego on bass, cowboy hat and perennial cigarette in mouth) have the power of a bulldozer and the precision of a Swiss watch. And they’re getting used to the creative freedom they’ve enjoyed since the 2006 release of Reina, their first independent album.

 “We told everyone ‘Chinga tu madre!’” Góngora says, referring to Sonic360. “Chris Allison really broke our balls. Towards the end I didn’t even want to see his face and the last time I saw him we almost came to blows. Everything started like a beautiful artistic project but the concept started changing as soon as Chris saw that we started to generate money. Everyone began asking us for English-language singles, and we don’t work like that.”

 The Texas shows (March 6 in Houston and March 7 in SA) will reveal an older, wiser, and tight-as-ever Kinky.

 “With the first album, we had no idea as to how far we were going to go,” says Góngora, who attended high school in Houston. “They gave as a $10,000 advance, we split it amongst ourselves and we were happy. We didn’t give a shit and didn’t see the business side of it. But now I’m 32 years old and I’m tired of traveling. I want to have a family and a home. Every year we take around 100 planes and play 160 shows worldwide. It’s too much.”

The new, self-produced album will be released by Kinky’s label Kin-Kon in late 2008 or early 2009 and it includes several collaborations with close friend Money Mark, now on tour with the Beastie Boys.

 “It’ll be the second 100-percent Kinky album,” Góngora says. “After emphasizing experimental grooves for so long, it’s refreshing to try a new more song-oriented approach. And it feels great to be back home in Mexico.” •


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