"Disco Never Dies" ~ Paurro

The Funky Queen of Mexico City Shares Some Tunes and Tutelage

Pau Rodriguez, affectionately and widely known as Paurro, is one of the emergent dance music talents coming out of Mexico City. She became a staple selector around DF — hosting shows on Aire Libre and Carmesi Radio and playing all over town — before starting a monthly residency at Bushwick's fabled Mood Ring.

After canceling her first world tour as a DJ (and all-around rabble-rouser) earlier this year, she re-focused her energy towards music production in the wake of the pandemic. After performing as a DJ for most of the past decade, Paurro's first track, a remix of "Two Tribes" by Head, was just released on Ladyballs Records earlier today. Through the experience of creating her own music, she's feeling some experimental liberties in her curation behind the decks as well.

Paurro graciously offered to kick off Gigue Radio — our new bi-monthly guest mix series — with a scorching set in the vibe of the Day of the Dead, and sat down with us for a conversation about her craft.

[Soft Punk] You've been certainly hustling during the pandemic. It's encouraging to see you moving and grooving on a bunch of guest mixes and radio host projects. How's it been without all of the gigs, parties, and travel?

[Paurro] Thank you thank you! I've been doing some fun stuff... but the money situation isn't great for people in the music industry. I've just been keeping myself busy. All of the PR gigs I had were with events. So they're all gone. And I already cried about all my bookings... hah. But I have a few things lined up, it's okay.

Now I'm feeling more enthusiastic, because what else can you do? You have to adapt. You can't just stop believing and complain or whatever.

Adapting, indeed… Speaking of which, congrats on releasing your first track! After being a DJ so for many years, how does it feel to have produced and signed a remix?

It feels so good! I love the track. I love how it came out. That's one of the cool things that came out of this pandemic. I always used to say that I didn't have time to make music. But, to be honest, it was just an excuse. I felt a little self-conscious about producing.

So when I was stuck at home doing nothing, I was just like, "Okay, I'm gonna do it." I'm glad it came out so well and I have another release dropping soon. So yeah, I'm happy. I'm excited.

What would you say is the specific flavor that you're bringing to the remix, as opposed to the original cut? How would you characterize your twist on it?

I wanted to put a little bit of who I am in the remix, so I didn't listen to the original song when they sent me the stems. I just took all the segmented sounds and created a whole new thing. My remix is pretty different than the original. I didn't use much of the lyrics, just in the beginning to give credit to Amy — who's the one singing on the track.

Amy is an amazing singer-songwriter who's done tracks with Hourse Meat Disco and with The Blessed Madonna. She's insane. Like she's a genius who just can't stop thinking about music and things to do. She's started Ladyballs and my release is going out on that label. I met her in New York through a friend and she encouraged me to just do music. Amy's a big part of who I am. The confidence she gave me made me change a lot of things, you know. She's a rockstar.

But yeah, that's why I didn't listen to it. I wanted to make a whole new thing. And I also wanted to add the piano, which I love. Almost all the tracks that I get obsessed with have these jumpy, 90s piano chord progressions. So I added some in. That’s very Paurro, you know?

Definitely, it's a super fun, classic, disco-y house track. It doesn't feel like a new release.

Thank you! I'm eager for more feedback, you know, good, bad, whatever... but I hope people like it. I love old stuff. The mix I just recorded for you guys at Soft Punk has a lot of older songs. I'm all about that classic vibe. It's really what I've been feeling lately.

Yea, the mix you sent us is a fairly classic set as well. Felt like it needed to be released around Halloween and Day of the Dead, appropriately so.

Yes it's exactly that type of vibe. I was supposed to play this fancy cocktail party this weekend, but it got cancelled because there are more cases in recent weeks in Mexico City. The government is like, "No."

So we stopped doing all events, even if they're small. It sucks because Day of the Dead is the best festivity here in Mexico. It's really, really cool. But y'know, whatever.

Totally, there's always another party... Just maybe not this year. So I'm curious, what your process has been, going from being a DJ to now being a producer as well? It seems that was sweetly fostered by quarantine, but what do you think it means for your craft moving forward?

I was on the slow transition from strictly a DJ to producer. And, yeah... I felt really weird about it. I felt like it had to come out really, really good; that it had to be like, an amazing, amazing track. I felt a lot of pressure; like the better I did as a DJ, the more pressure I felt to produce, you know? So I was like, "Gahh, I haven't done it, but if I do it, then it has to be super perfect!"

As I learned how to produce, there were some sounds that I couldn't get used to. So I would just get pissed off and be like, fuck this, you know? I have a lot of tracks that I've started, and that happened, and they're just in my laptop waiting. So yeah, I was like that for a long time. And then this friend of mine, Jitwam, he's amazing. He's insane and he makes this really jazzy house. He's really, really good. So I brought him to Mexico to play and we had an amazing time and became really good friends.

When I told him I'm starting to make music but I don't know what to do, he gave me this advice: "Even if you don't like the song, just finish it. Even if you don't find those sounds, finish it anyway." Also, he told me you don't have to know everything. So if you want, you know, nice bass or something in the song, just ask someone that knows for help. Because I also felt that pressure that it all has to be mine. I don't want people to think that someone did this track for me, a ghost producer or whatever. Just stupid shit. I realized that that's not really how it works. Because the song is not really mine, you know what I mean?

Creation is not really yours. Like it came to you and you put it out, but it's not yours. You're just a conduit for it.

I was very scared of all those things, because I wanted to be legit, and be a full producer and know everything. It doesn't work like that. And it's okay, and no one's gonna judge you, and no one cares, anyways. So Jitwam gave me this very good advice as Amy asked me to do the remix. It just all came together so I was like, "Okay, bitch, it's time. You can't wait any longer."

And it happened. And I didn't I don't even know how it happened. But it was like, this sounds amazing. I want to do it again, you know? I want the next one, and the next one... The way I felt about playing shows when first starting out, that's how I feel about producing now.

When was your last performance? How long has it been now?

My last one was in Departamento, which is my favorite place in Mexico City. Well, actually! I played in my two favorite places that weekend. I played on Friday in Ex Fabrica de Harina — it was this flower factory and now it's just this warehouse with lots of spaces and graffiti. I love it, like very rave-y, and they do a lot of parties there. Well, not right now. But they used to do huge parties and I played there. It was amazing. I loved it.

Then the next night I was so fucking tired because I played and then the next day I moved to my new apartment. And then I went to play Departamento on Saturday night. But I had a great time. I played this party called Funky Seshwa, put on by these two guys from New York who invited me to play with them.

It was really cool because there was this big march for women's rights around March 8, and there was a huge, huge protest with thousands and thousands of women. It was all about that during that week. And this group of feminists came to Departamento with their green neckbands and this girl started rapping on top of my set, saying like, "free abortion" and "smash the patriarchy" and dropped this whole feminist rap. It was amazing. I loved it.

What a rad final party weekend! I've seen you play a few times and each of your sets were radically different but equally groovy. DJ Harvey once said that "genres are for journalists," which is cheeky but also somewhat true. So considering your range, how you would describe your style? Where are you taking the direction of selections?

I don't really plan my sets... but, I do in a way?

I just have like, a bunch of music and it's all over the place. My my USBs are a mess. But, when I can, I go full on; like, super hard, which I love. I love those sets, like when play at Mood Ring in Bushwick. I think those are some of my favorites. And so I just pick the songs that feel best in the moment. But I have like a bunch of everything.

It's mostly techno, house, disco, breakbeats. Right now, I'm more into harder music, like more 4am sets... maybe it's because I miss playing so much. You know? Maybe it's because I really want a party that's packed and just to be there at dawn. Also getting weirder and adding more trancey tracks too. The more I play, and the more gigs I get, and the better I think I do, the more experimental I think I can get with it. I feel more free to get more experimental.

When I started playing, I wanted to play what was like, proper? I didn't take a lot of like risks. I just do whatever feels good for me.

So you had a pretty epic summer tour lined up between a residency at Mood Ring and shows booked all over the Europe and the US. How did it feel when your whole tour was essentially canceled because of COVID?

I wanted to die. Like, really. I was going to San Francisco for the first time, my first time playing in Europe... Yeah, I was super excited. Super fucking excited. I felt like I was going like up the hill. And then life was like, "You know what? No. Not happening." I got really depressed for a while. I did a couple streamings, which did nothing for me. I was like, "What the fuck am I doing? This sucks."

So, yeah, I had my period of like, just being a child about it and crying. I felt like I didn't have a purpose anymore; like I have no use in this world. But then I started making music. It definitely helped and made me feel okay again.

Right now, I think I'm just getting ready for when this all ends, and I can come out even stronger than before. When I come out, I'm gonna be like three times better than how I was. I just want to be better. I need this time to get better. And that's why I had to make music, like, that was the next date.

So it sounds like everything has worked out in a way?

Yeah, it did. It did, it did. I just, I had to be whiny for awhile, you know? I had to be like "Ughhh, this sucks, this sucks, this sucks." And then be like, ok, I'll stop crying. Because I want to do this forever. I don't want this to end. So I have to keep doing stuff so I feel useful and stay connected.

Can you tell me about your gig hosting Carmesi Radio?

My friend just called me — she's a curator for the radio station — and she just called me and said, "I have a show for you. It's happening." She didn't even ask, would you be up for it or whatever. She's like, "Okay, you're having a new show and it's once a week. Do you want to do it the same way you do with Aire Libre or do you want to have a new name?"

So I thought of doing it like a talk show. With this very dramatic telenovela tone. Like Mexican television in the 80s. So I thought of the name, Carmesi, which which means crimson. It's a pretty corny word, haha, and it all went around that. So in the show, I have one show a week. But one of them is only me playing music, because I wanted to also keep my vibes.

Then for the other week, I have a guest and they have to do a playlist with their favorite electronic music tracks. They don't have to be DJs. They don't have to be producers. The guest I had today, actually, is a host for queer techno parties. So he knows a lot about music. He's not a DJ, but he has a lot to say and he did an amazing job. They've all done amazing jobs.

So I have like a few sections. For one of them I ask really corny questions like, "How was your first kiss," and shit like that. Then I have another section that is about dance floor moments and they have to tell me stories that they've lived. Moments on the dance floor that are like, creepy or really cool or any kind of memory of when you are on the dance floor. So it's kind of like a talk show. And I love it. I love the show. I love the concept and I think people are liking it a lot. We'll see.

So you were doing a lot of the bookings for Aire Libre. Are you still doing that with them?

Yes, yes. Well, right now, no one's going to the station. So I'm just asking for mixes. And I have a show that's called Femme Soul. But it's just music. You know, I don't really talk in the show. I just say hi. And bye. I don't have a lot of interventions. I also felt weird about talking on the radio because I'm not trained for it. Now I feel better and I'm okay with talking. But Femme Soul is just that. It's just music and that's it. And I love that too.

Aire Libre is amazing. They have given me a lot of really cool opportunities.

So what would you say is your favorite city to play?

Well, I love New York City. What can I say, haha. But also Detroit is in my heart forever. I think Detroit is the shit. I really wish I could play a proper party during Movement weekend. That's a dream I have. I really want that to happen.

So yeah, I think Detroit and New York City because those cities have given me so much. I made so many friends there and they've opened the doors for me and were so amazing.

I've played in so many places in New York that I never even thought of, you know? It used to be a dream for me! I was like, "I would die if I ever played in New York." And then, you know, all this has happened and it's in my heart. It made me so happy. Every time I went to New York, it was like "I love it. I love it..." Yeah, I think it's New York and Detroit. I love Berlin, obviously. It's amazing. I love Amsterdam. But yeah, the ones that are more like, in my heart are Detroit and New York.

Do you think you could see yourself moving to New York for a period of time after the pandemic ends?

The first time I played there, I was like, "Okay, I'm moving here. I don't care."

But also, when I was there for like a month, I realized that the competition is fierce. Obviously, there are a lot of the DJs in New York trying to make it. So I thought it was better for me to be the DJ from Mexico City that comes to New York every now and then. Also, I started hosting a lot of DJs here in Mexico. So I liked playing that part, too.

It all worked out for me to meet a lot of people in New York and then play there once a month. And every time I told people I'm going for these days, they were like "Ahh! You can play here and you can play here!" I would get a lot of gigs. And I thought if I lived in New York I would just be playing every, you know… I don't even know when. I would be struggling for money so bad. I prefer being like the Mexican that goes there once in a while and just not wear myself out. You know what I mean?

Oh my god, it's exhausting. In a good way! But yea, fuck, it's a really hard place to live.

Of course! I'd rather just go, be super happy all the time, and go there for a week and then come back to Mexico. With dollars!

Then live my life the way that I couldn't live in New York. Like, I couldn't live the way I live right now in New York, for sure. So yeah, it worked out better this way.

How is the arts and culture scene in Mexico City handling the pandemic? What are you seeing happen in the city?

Well, at first everyone, they were doing like a bunch of streamings and trying to stay relevant or whatever. Then everything stopped. Now a lot of people are doing underground parties. They don't care anymore. They don't have money. People need to make money. So the promoters are starting to do small parties.

A lot of people are very judgmental about it. Of course, I understand that you can't just not do anything. In Mexico there's no unemployment. It doesn't exist. So how are you going to make money, you know? So if you want it... yeah, people are judging a lot, but if you want to go to a party, just go. And if you don't want to go, don't go. Whatever. But don't judge people because we have to live. If you've done parties always all your life, what else are you gonna do?

So all of that aside, I just have one more question for you. Is disco back? Or did disco never die?

Disco never died. Never. Never, never, never... Why? Who said that it died?!

The proverbial them! Hah, I don't know, it's nearly cliche it's been said so much.

Really? No, it's never died. Never. It was always there in some way. It was there. I understand that a lot of people are into techno a lot, but you can't just deny, first of all, the origin of everything. No, disco never died. Never died. I think it has reinvented itself in a lot of ways, but it's very much alive and thriving.

Ryan Baesemann

is a writer, editor, and meanderer living along the central coast of California.

All contributions from Ryan Baesemann

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