MIKE P of MASSTROPICAS Records Label & RANIL LP interview by Renz De Madrugada
IN the mist of all this “Cumbia Movement / Latin Explosion of Records” which the last few years have given us from Germany to Tokyo to Los Angeles to Cartagena, there is one obscure corner somewhere in the city of Massachusetts where one brother researches the deepest streets of Peru’s forgotten music. Chicha is basically Cumbia and a way of life… And Mike P is no stranger to the name nor the way of life experienced in the rural streets of Lima (capital of Perù). In this 1st interview about the initiation of a label and the ignition to preserve Cumbia culture from Perù, Mike P tells us a bit about his journey in music, his love for Peruvian food and shares with us one of the most amazing sound that came out of the Peruvian Amazon. I can only imagine the expression on the faces of the musicians when Mike offers them a deal to reissue their work/music from long ago… It must be a unique and humbling experience to revive old tracks and a time capsule that will live on from now on.
INTERVIEW W Mike P from Masstropicas
1. Tell us a bit about your background, birth place, school.
I’m an Italian/Irish male, 27 and a cancer. I grew up in Western Massachusetts but lived in SOCAL for a stint. Pittsfield is a very small town in MASS with a high heroin user rate. I graduated high school.
2. What is Masstropicas?
MASSTROPICAS is a collective of sorts. It’s not just one gringos view on Cumbia/Chicha but there are actually Peruvian people behind the ideas and concepts on MASSTROPICAS as well.
We are going to focus on vinyl releases in limited runs and not MP3’s or Itunes bullshit.
I think that takes away from the whole music experience and makes music much more disposable to the mass audience.
3. When did you start the label?
I started the label about 3 years ago, my first release was a 45 by the great CHAPILLACS!
4. When did you start to work with music and reissuing records or song?
Well I first started working with music when I 13 or 14 releasing Japanese punk records and music by my band and my friends bands. The first ever re-issues I helped out with were of a label called BCT from San Diego, BCT was a label run a my friend Chris who released international punk and hardcore in the early to late 80s on cassette. My first even experience of hearing music from South America was a BCT tape called TROPICAL VIRUSES which is a compilation of Brazilian punk bands. Ever since then my interest has grown into other styles of Latin music and it all fell into place with Cumbia which I’m mainly going to focus on.
5. When did you discover Perù and its music?
I discovered Perù through my wife and a good friend of mine named Bruno Guerra (who actually introduced me to Cumbia) . My wife (then girlfriend) would always cook something nice that I liked from Perù and Bruno always would send me CD’s or songs through the mail. He is also in a great punk band from Lima called MORBO who just released a cassette.
6. What made you work with Peruvian Music / What type of music?
I don’t know really… Peruvian Cumbia because it amazes me more and more everyday.
7. How long have you been going back and forth to Perù and who are you working with nowadays?
I’ve been going back and forth for 3 years now with this year being my 4th, I’m working with many different people on multiple projects at the moment.
8. Tell us about RANIL and how did you find his music?
Raul Llerena is Ranil. He is a legend amongst musicians and record collectors alike. He released his own music on his own label/production company out of Iqutios which is a city in the heart of the Amazon. I first heard of him about four years ago on my first trip to Perù I was asking someone about very rare Cumbia and the man said “You must hear Ranil, he is the best from the jungle!”. His records are very hard to find, the very first recording I heard by him was a 45 that someone played for me but would not trade or sell to me! This LP was culled from various records owned by the great Victor Zela from lacumbiademisviejos.blogspot.com who has almost every LP Ranil did. Ranil now has his own radio/television station and is highly involved with local politics.
9. Is there a difference between “Chicha Music and Cumbias Peruanas” or is it just a name?
To a lot of people there is quite a difference. Most of the people I’ve interviewed in Lima tell me that it’s just a name and nothing more. They say all those sounds existed back then, Cumbia was mixed with Huaynos and Andean sounds long before it was called CHICHA. You can see on many 45/LP labels where they say what style the song is in. You’ll see Cumbia-folk, Cumbia-hyuano, Tropical-Andina, Cumbia-Beat and many other variations. Some people even say CHICHA is not just music but a lifestyle. I don’t think it can be explained by me or anyone in any book or CD really. A lot of people miss out on the fact that the musicians who played this music back then are still at it to this day playing concerts every single night to make money and people are “re-issuing” this stuff around the globe and taking credit while these guys are still out there playing.
10. What are the future plans for Masstropicas?
Up next we have a 4 song 7″ with the “El Patron De La Cumbia” Carlos Ramirez Centeno he is famous for singing songs for Los Illuisonistas esp. Colegiala! He formed his own group called Grupo Centeno but before that he sang in a lot of different bands, I’ve seen them perform a few times while I was in Lima. I ran the idea past him about doing an EP with 4 different bands he was in and he said its a great idea, it will hopefully be out by late October 2010.
I also had to ask Mike P since he is been to Perù so many time and we cannot denied the taste of Peruvian cuisine being one of the best in the culinary world.
11. What is your favorite dish from Perù and why?
Aji De Gallina, Chicharron De Calamar, I really like eating a restaurant called El Aguajal which serves food from the jungle. The food in Perù is just as important as the Cumbia for me there. Aji De gallina is a must for me to survive down there!
12. Give us your top favorite 7″ you hold in your collection.
Los Orientales De Paramonga 7″ EP on Sono Radio with the OG sleeve in Mint. Amazing record but my prize possession is a LP signed by Chacalon!
13. Roughly, how many records from Perù do you own including 12″ and 7″?
I own at least 1000 45s and maybe 200 LPs of just Cumbia. I go more for 45s because there are more bands that just released a few of them than vanished. It’s more of a surprise to dig these 45s and find out about the band by asking around instead of looking at the back of an LP cover.
Thanks MIKE P!
w/ Victor Casahuaman Bendezu Director & Composer of GRUPO CELESTE
w/ Carlos Ramirez del Grupo Centeno
Raul Llerena aka RANIL
Ranil LP cover by Tunchi (Limafotolivre) reissue by Masstropicas Record label
Mike P’s Chacalon signed record
logo of MASSTROPICAS design by RENATO “SUCIEDAD” from Los Chapillacs