artwork by DR.ATL (GERARDO MURILLO)
interview and portrait by ALEPH MOLINARI
after being part of the successful pop band called disco ruido, mercedes nasta embarked on a solo project. she creates hypnotic, poetic music, which ranges from cumbia to psychedelic rock and neo-folk. her intimate albums, imbued with modernist nostalgia, pay homage to mexican culture, referencing luis barragán and the el paricutín volcano paintings by dr. atl
ALEPH MOLINARI — What references in music, film, and art have informed your musical project?
MERCEDES NASTA — A lot of Italian films have influenced me since the beginning. Films like Medea by Pier Paolo Pasolini, which was one of my first strong influences. The rhythm of the way he tells stories. The visual part of my project also has references in Italian cinema, with its characteristic long takes and particular framing. And I’ve recently been watching a lot of Louis Malle films. The Lovers and Black Moon are my favorites. I want to make a music video inspired by Black Moon. And, in terms of music, there have been so many references at different times in my life… When I started making music, one of my first references was Daft Punk.
ALEPH MOLINARI — Homework?
MERCEDES NASTA — No, Discovery was my favorite album. That’s when I started making music with Disco Ruido, the band I was part of. It’s still an influence.
ALEPH MOLINARI — For me, it was Homework. It was the first complete electronic music album to become popular. It was groundbreaking. I would listen to it on repeat over and over again. It’s interesting that each generation can access a different Daft Punk album.
MERCEDES NASTA — There’s also been a lot of rock and roll at different times of my life. I was immensely influenced by The Cure. Then there’s also the tropical aspect. Growing up and listening to cumbia and quebradita and salsa.
ALEPH MOLINARI — Do these references come from your parents or from a personal exploration?
MERCEDES NASTA — No, they come from my parents. My dad is a very musical person, and my parents used to have parties every weekend when I was young. I remember being awake, waiting anxiously for the tropical music to start after dinner. I was allowed to come down and dance in my pajamas. We danced quebradita, one or two songs with my dad, and then I would go up again. I don’t think I slept after that. I was just too excited about the idea of a dance party.
ALEPH MOLINARI — We still are, no? [Laughs]
MERCEDES NASTA — We still are. I miss it.
ALEPH MOLINARI — I miss it a lot.
MERCEDES NASTA — I think that’s my first reference for tropical music. It’s always been present after that. Later, I found that African music has a lot of the same beats and rhythms.
ALEPH MOLINARI — It’s evident in your cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ”White Rabbit” and in your long, drony tracks that your music infuses mysticism and shamanism into neo-folkloric music and psychedelic rock. It’s all there. What led to the integration of all these influences?
MERCEDES NASTA — Well, I feel that my performances are a sort of catharsis, a ritual, a way of aligning myself and returning to my center. Through making music and dancing, I encounter my own spirituality.
ALEPH MOLINARI — What was it like transitioning from being a pop star, playing for thousands of people, to doing a solo project that’s much more intimate and grounded.
MERCEDES NASTA — I think it was a sign of the times. I felt it was more appropriate with my age — not that I was old — but I was 20 when I was a pop star. And my solo project felt like a more mature approach to myself, to my feelings, to the way I dance, to what I wanted to give and to express.
ALEPH MOLINARI — So, it was more of an art project than an enactment for a crowd?
MERCEDES NASTA — Yeah. I think it was very interesting because it was something I hadn’t planned. The music asked for it. The music had a different pace and sound and had to be presented in a different way. It’s important to give each album its own stage. It was a fun and intimate process to find the right places to perform. It inspired a more intimate relationship to the music. I didn’t do anything but step up, which was fantastic.
ALEPH MOLINARI — And very empowering.
MERCEDES NASTA — Yeah. We’re now working on a couple of songs that we never released from our first album, Sistema Solar, with Disco Ruido. The album just turned 10 years old, and we want to do something special. So there are going to be some remixes and a couple of tracks that were never released.
ALEPH MOLINARI — Does it start with an idea, humming a sound, writing a poem, with a dream?
MERCEDES NASTA — All of them. There are songs that come from dreams. There’s actually a song on the next album that I dreamed about. I dreamt I went to the bottom of the ocean, where I saw purple crystals, and I could breathe under water. So I made a song about it. Sometimes I also start humming a line and the music evolves around it. There’s no structure that I follow that’s the same. I just flow with the different information that I receive or that I create.
ALEPH MOLINARI — You integrate cumbia and danzón [dance] and other aspects of what could be considered popular music. What aspects of your music do you consider to be Mexican?
MERCEDES NASTA — It’s more a vibe, a certain feeling. I think it comes from the memory of songs that I liked when I was young, or a restaurant that I used to go to that always had danzón in the background. It’s the sounds in my memory that are just singing. And I integrate it into a song that’s more contemporary.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a Mexican folk singer because I don’t think I have the credentials to say that. I make contemporary music based on sounds and sensations.
ALEPH MOLINARI — Do you feel there’s a return to Latin rhythms that in the past might have been more socially stratified?
MERCEDES NASTA — I think that there might be a trend, but I think it’s a fantastic thing that people are now appreciating the local rhythms that have always been there. They are beautiful and very rich. There’s an enormous catalog of singers and composers of folkloric Mexican rhythms.
ALEPH MOLINARI — Speaking of Mexico, the song titles on your album Basalto reference Mexican modernist themes — from the architect Luis Barragán to Dr. Atl’s studies of the Paricutín volcano. Is your musical project a modernist vision of Mexico?
MERCEDES NASTA — Yes, it is. The modernist vision of Mexico has been informing my work for many years. We’re here in the Museum of Anthropology which is one of the absolute gems of modernist architecture. I feel there’s so much more to explore and so much more to know about the past and how that is linked to the present in which we live. In the end, I’m very nostalgic. It’s difficult for something new to catch my attention.
ALEPH MOLINARI — Do you feel that your music is modern in the fullest sense of the word?
MERCEDES NASTA — It just is. I don’t try to make music that belongs to a genre, just a combination of the rhythms that attract my attention. Progressive rock, electronic music, cumbia. There is a modern intention in attempting to combine things that wouldn’t have been combined before.
ALEPH MOLINARI — Do you feel that the music scene has changed much since you began making music in 2007? And do you feel that the spirit of collaboration is still present in Mexico?
MERCEDES NASTA — I think the music scene in Mexico has evolved enormously. When I started, it felt like a very small community. And then these humongous festivals started happening, and the bands that we used to play with exploded, each with their own rhythm and their own scene. It was a very fertile time for rock and roll…
ALEPH MOLINARI — And electronic music.
MERCEDES NASTA — Yes, and electronic music. A generation that came before us planted the seeds that we cultivated.
ALEPH MOLINARI — So it’s kind of a genealogy that continues.
MERCEDES NASTA — Yes. I think it’s an evolution of content and of bands that came before.
ALEPH MOLINARI — Do you find the current music scene in Mexico to be interesting?
MERCEDES NASTA — It is interesting, yes. Ever since producing music on your computer has become more accessible, it has allowed for thousands of projects to emerge. There’s a diversity of rhythms and bands doing their own thing.
ALEPH MOLINARI — There is music playing all the time and everywhere in Mexico. What’s unique about Mexico from a musical perspective?
MERCEDES NASTA — Yes. It’s a beautiful thing listening to trios and traditional son huasteco music on the street. Having musicians playing live music in public places is one of the things I continue to enjoy. On the flipside, you can hear really good electronic music basically every weekend.
ALEPH MOLINARI — And what’s next on your horizon?
MERCEDES NASTA — I’ve been working on an album called Jardín de Planetas. It’s a metaphor about my inner garden, a collection of songs from dreams, anecdotes, or gifts. There’s a song I composed for my daughter when she was born. Then there’s a cumbia I made for Achilles, the stray dog I adopted. It’s a very intimate album because it talks about my family. It continues what I started in Basalto, which was to flow in a journey that communicates itself, not only through the beat or the tempo but also through the essence of the music and the lyrics. There’s also a song coming out called “ArtClubDiscotheque.” It’s a story about transformation through music and movement and sound, about the body and dancing and how it makes me feel.
ALEPH MOLINARI — Amazing. So, it’s a very personal mythology.
MERCEDES NASTA — Yes. It’s coming together in an interesting way as well.
ALEPH MOLINARI — Will you be doing some music videos?
MERCEDES NASTA — I will. I love making music videos. It’s one of my favorite things, apart from making the music. The last video I made, Bailaré [I Will Dance], which was produced and codirected by Apolonia Torres, is one of the best yet. It’s very, very fun. One of the references was Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. There’s one scene where I drink a potion and enter this world. It’s a small moment but a clear homage to the film.
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