EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: CARLOS MENA: 30 YEARS YOUNG AND GROWING
Brooklyn NY based DJ/Producer Carlos Mena celebrates several milestones in 2013: 30 years of Club DJing,second wave of his wildly successful Casamena Radiohour V1 project, playing for the first time in his career in NJ back in April, playing for the first time since July 2012 in NY on Sunday, June 16, 2013, restarting his monthly Yoruba Dance Sessions in ATL on July 27, not to mention successes with his labels, Ocha Records and Ocha Mzansi. Mena is far from complacent. New facets are developing, established ones are strengthened.
Trying to fit it all into one piece could hardly do justice to the impact of these successes. I knew that asking questions, while giving insight to his public persona, would barely scratch the surface of what makes Mena the dynamic force he is with an appeal that stretches from one end of the globe to the other. So, the three part series was born: DJ of The Week, Casamena Radiohour V1 review and the interview. Each one laid the platform for the next and in this closing piece, “the Interview,” we can get a glimpse of what’s to come. Answers, while short, are direct and open. You can’t ask much more than that. So, grab your coffee and let’s go:
1200Dreams: For those of us who are not familiar with your background in music, how did you get your start?
Carlos Mena: I’ve been in a musical family and surrounded by music since I was born. I got my start DJing back in 82 in Brooklyn, and I absorbed everything that was going on around me.
1200Dreams: Tell us about the transition from Hip Hop to House as an artist. How much of the backbone is the same? How much of it is different for you?
Carlos Mena: Well when I was a DJing in the 80s there was not a big separation between house and Hip-Hop, I played everything back then and we all listened to and danced to everything. Now there is definitely more separation between genres, but I still manage to get in all kinds of music in my sets.
1200Dreams: Your productions seem to be more than meets the eye, digging deeper. How are you connecting with your audience through music?
Carlos Mena: When I write music I try to create music that is appealing to me and my taste and then I trust that there are enough people out there with similar taste. When it comes to dance music and remixes, the approach is a bit different I am more focused on bass and drums and a feeling and trying to achieve something that induces physical movement.
1200Dreams: As a DJ, what and who inspire you to keep doing what you’re doing?
Carlos Mena: I am inspired by music and how it can change the world and give someone happiness and joy.
1200Dreams: You recently took a “different” approach to releasing your Casamena Radio Hour Volume 1, by funding the development of physical product. What benefits did you see doing that as opposed to releasing it on a digital platform? How has the response been to this approach?
Carlos Mena: I was truly overwhelmed by the response. We achieved and exceeded our goal in 2 weeks. It was a test really to see what kind of support I really have. As a label we are moving away from relying on record sales, and counting more on fans and supporters the music and artists.
1200Dreams: How are Casamena, Ocha Records and Ocha Mzansi intertwined? How is each different?
Carlos Mena: Casamena is my producer moniker, Ocha Records is the parent label, and Ocha Mzansi is a sub-label managed out of South Africa that focuses exclusively on the music of SA.
1200Dreams: What are your personal career ambitions? Where does Carlos Mena go from here?
Carlos Mena: I want to continue to elevate and nourish my spirit. Today DJing and producing music are part of that journey, but I can’t tell you where it will take me.
1200Dreams: Having been in the Music business for all of your adult life, have you ever pictured yourself doing anything else?
Carlos Mena: Music gives me breath, and without it I would die so I can’t really answer this one.
1200Dreams: How do you envision the future of Ocha Records? What growth can we expect to see in the coming months and years?
Carlos Mena: We will be interacting more and more with our fans and focusing on nurturing those relationships further. We are expanding into film and other media, more on that soon! I also envision an Ocha Records that operates without my daily management, so I can return to being an artist.
1200Dreams: Let’s talk about the DJ side of what you do. Having experienced the evolution of sound from vinyl to digital, what medium to you favor? What’s your take on the “vinyl revolution”?
Carlos Mena: Is there a vinyl revolution, or is it an incredibly small vocal group of wax fans? Record stores continue to close and a successful vinyl release these days is 300 copies, when it used to be 3000 copies. With that said, the feel of a record in my hand, my purpose-filled fingers walking through a dusty crate, a rhythmic crackling over the speakers, the warm embracing sound that records produce… this cannot be beat! I have been DJing for 30 years, I don’t play much vinyl these days, but for 20 years I did, every day and that has helped shape me as a DJ today. And there you have it… poetry, nostalgia and passion, these are the things that you will get from every vinyl lover and that is enough I guess to start a revolution!
1200Dreams: This is a question that is asked of all DJs when being interviewed for 1200dreams, since it bears the moniker: What is your experience with the Technics 1200 turntable?
Carlos Mena: I got my first 1200s in 1984. I remember just staring at them for a solid 30 minutes, not touching them, just listening as if they were telling me about my future and how they were planning on molding me. I just got goosebumps.. to this day when I walk into a club and I see 1200s in the booth, there is always, for a split second, a moment of reverence.
1200Dreams: With all the experience and knowledge that you have gained growing up with music, have you ever considered, or do you consider yourself, being a mentor?
Carlos Mena: I try to mentor our artists as much as I can and always make myself available to answer questions from anyone.
1200Dreams: What foundation can you offer to someone new in the game to build on in order not to lose themselves in the machine or not to give up their dream?
Carlos Mena: Look at what others have done to be successful and use the parts that apply to you. Have an idea of what you want to accomplish, then go forth and do it, and don’t let anyone stop you.
1200Dreams: Is there anything else you would like add or share with your fans?
Carlos Mena: Yes, everything. I hope I get to in this lifetime.
Carlos Mena will be carrying the 30th anniversary celebration to Boston (Uhuru Afrika -June 14), Toronto, Canada (Yoruba Dance Sessions – June 15), New York City (Funkbox- June 16), Oakland CA – July 20 and the relaunch of Yoruba Dance Sessions in ATL (July 27).
Get your roller skates on, this man is on the move!