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Mexico's Panoptica- 'We've Gone Past Cocaine

Author: Skruff
Friday, 28 September 2001
Mexican electro-fusionists Panoptica started life in Tijuana, the city on the US border which almost merges with San Diego. The brainchild of Roberto Mendoza, Panoptica's sound is a hybrid of European-influenced electronica and techno, fused with Mexican 'urban blues' and funky breaks. And since 1989, Robert's been carving himself an increasingly global musical niche, via his uniquely Mexican outlook on life. Initially influenced by Front 242, Cabaret Voltaire, and Skinny Puppy, his first band was Artefakto who became Mexico's first techno-pop-industrial band. Three commercially successful albums followed, leading to huge local radio support and licensing deals in Germany and the US. Ten years on, Artefakto had changed their musical direction and name to Fussible, while a dissatisfied Mendoza still needed to pursue his own personal vision. The result was (and is) Panoptica. He also remains a core member of Nortec, a collective of artists, who have together created a thriving North Mexican music scene now dominating the underground clubs in Tijuana.

"In Mexico people tend to be more discrete if they take drugs," says Panoptica mainman Roberto Mendoza, chatting to Skrufff's Benedetta Ferraro recently, as he passed through London. "I was amazed at Sonar in Barcelona by how openly people were taking drugs… We don't have a problem with heavy drugs, our culture is not based on cocaine, and we've gone past it to be honest!" While cocaine may be passe, Mexico's dance scene is one of the fastest growing worldwide, both internationally and in terms of locally produced music. It's a position that bodes well for the long term future of both Panoptica and Mexico itself.

Skrufff: How much is Tijuana part of the global DJ circuit these days-
Panoptica (Roberto Mendoza): "Occasionally we have international DJs popping by, who tend to play at bigger events with live bands and live PAs, but that's quite rare. The great thing about Tijuana is that we tend to do our own thing. We are well informed in terms of what's going on, but prefer to promote and nurture mainly local talent."

Skrufff: How does the European scene compare to the one back home-
Panoptica (Roberto Mendoza): "The main difference between the two is that here in Europe you seem to have so much choice. In Tijuana for example we have just one or two record shops, one club and so on. You can overdose on everything here, including information."

Skrufff: Do you consider this positive or not-
Panoptica (Roberto Mendoza): "Both. Information is good, but it's hard for someone who like me is used to live on a much smaller scale, to keep track of it all. You have so much going on and perhaps that's the reason why your music scene has always had such a worldwide impact."

Skrufff: How beneficial is this attitude in your opinion-
Panoptica (Roberto Mendoza): "Very, I think. Recently I was in Detroit and I was describing to local DJs what is the techno/house scene like in Tijuana. They explained me that something similar happened in Detroit years ago, when by nurturing the talent that was around they ended up creating their own niche, which later on, as we all know, sparked a whole new trend in the world of electronic music. We feel inspired by this kind of attitude, because we believe in creating something different and not riding on anybody else's tail."

Skrufff: How much do young Mexicans like to follow new trends-
Panoptica (Roberto Mendoza): "It depends from where you live. If you come from a small inland village, chances are that you'll be quite happy living a simpler lifestyle. Young people from the big cities instead are desperate to get their hands on what is new and trendy, go out clubbing, buying records etc."

Skrufff: What is the level of tolerance of the Mexican authorities toward rave culture-

Panoptica (Roberto Mendoza): "Illegal raves were banned initially for two main reasons: their association with drug use and inadequate security
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