Berlin-based DJ and producer Pablo Roman-Alcala, AKA Beaner, has launched a new project—part label, part political theater—called La Mission.
La Mission is a joint effort by Beaner, writer (and occasional RA contributor) Luis Manuel Garcia and theatrical impresario Mandie O'Connel. It presents a reaction to various social issues, problems in Berlin's music scene and club culture in general, beginning with the near impossibility of running a sustainable record label. As a solution to this (and as proof that alternative approaches exist), La Mission will use crowdfunding to finance itself rather than revenues from record sales. It will also offer more than just music: each release will come with a satirical mini-magazine, and will be ushered in with live performances around Berlin.
Talking via email earlier this month, we got the gist of La Mission straight from the horses' mouths:
Who are the main players involved in La Mission and what does each person do?
We (Pablo, Luis, and I) are the three headed Cerberus to which the La Mission wagon is hitched. We all do everything. We are all Cult Leaders. We share both the excitement of co-creation and the burdens of financing. We all share the task of giving hand jobs. There are already untold amounts of other people helping us out with the cult. Marty, Kaleb, Koko, Kieran, Jin, there are a lot of people lending their skills for the cause.a
Mandie: I, Mandie O'Connell, am one of the current primary playaz/founders of La Mission. I personally come from a performance background. By performance, I mean specifically/not-so-specifically theater, dance, and performance art. There will be a performance element to La Mission, and I suppose if I am "the Boss" of anything, I would be "the Show Boss." I am also in charge of making motivational speeches, writing tactfully abrasive emails, providing coffee to the under-caffeinated, and pretending we have a secretary.
Pablo / Beaner: I’m, uh, Pablo or Beaner. I am the most public face of the project. I fret a lot and battle with sloth. I give away the drink tickets. I’m the resident rabble-rousing anarchist too, I grew up partially in collectives. I spray pepper spray on my burritos for the coming insurrection.
Luis: I, Luis-Manuel Garcia, am the head propagandist and chief demagogue. I have a PhD in electronic dance music (no, seriously, I do), and so my job as the resident cult-nerd is to help organize our thoughts, bring on the necessary political theory (and queer theory, and critical Latin@ studies, and utopianism, and so on), and write essays that connect what we're doing to the history and the politics of booty-shakin' and booty-shakin' music. I also make a mean ceviche.
La Mission is a multi-pronged project. Give me a quick run-down of what those prongs are exactly.
La Mission, in our first year, is a three-pronged conceptual creative project consisting of music, writing, and performance. We will be releasing five vinyl only(ish) EPs over the next year. The albums are built around political ideals / ideologies that are important to us (specifically anarcho-syndicalism, "brownness" and the minority identity, the diminishment of capitalistic influences on electronic dance music/life in general, and horizontalism/communalism). Each of the albums is accompanied by a mini-magazine which contains writing by La Mission & Friends/Guests. It is both a serious and satirical publication that uses high-brow thinkin' and low-brow jokin' in order to hit our ideological points home while having fun. We are extremely committed to having fun. Each album/magazine is accompanied by a live experimental performance that will take place in various locations in Berlin. These performances are made for and with the music and writing that La Mission presents in the magazine.
We have a lot of ideas about what we can do after our inaugural year...we'd like to establish partnerships with a range of social programs, host a bi-weekly radio show, throw a vogue ball, sell our bodies to the highest bidder, run for office, farm mushrooms in Pablo's apartment, build an HQ, start a printing press...but a lot depends on this precious first year and who else joins and supports La Mission.
Some people think dance music and politics don't mix. What's your response to that?
Mandie: People don't think anymore.
Luis: This question assumes that dance music and politics were separate in the first place. If you look back at the origins of disco and garage and house music and acid house, that separation is only a relatively recent development—and the separation itself is political and ideological. Having fun is political, because people want to control how and where and with whom you do it. It's political because oppressed groups have historically found solace and strength and hope and comfort on the dancefloor. Music and dance can help you articulate an identity when it's been taken from you—or when other identities have been forced upon you. Going out dancing can be utopian: it can be about temporarily creating a world that doesn't exist yet, but maybe could. So, we're not interested in mixing politics with dance music; it's already there, and we just want to remind everyone about it.
Pablo / Beaner: To add to what Luis so eloquently stated: That shirt you so proudly sport, young techno armchair tough guy? There’s a reason it says UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE. Spiral Tribe, Banji boys voguing, even these “we are our own world” all-in-one clubs in Berlin, it’s all class and oppression politics in the real world. Dance music always has been about minority identity politics and the politics of the oppressed. When did it become about playing the music of marginalized groups to a bunch of privileged honkies?
Luis: If that question sounds familiar, it’s because jazz historians and critics have been asking that question for decades.
What kind of change can a label like La Mission effect? What kind of changes are called for at the moment?
La Mission can state the problems in our scene(s) without sounding like whining, bespectacled lecturers. We already know we are preaching to the choir. We are the preacher and we are the choir. We also cannot fix everything by ourselves. What we can do is make the problems glaringly obvious, make fun of them, present ideas about how to change our collective situation (ya know, the one where we are all living as wage-slaves in a greed-infested doom-desert) and live the words/ideas we speak. The people have power, they have strength, and they are beautiful. We ARE the people. People create change. Change comes from those many driven, seed-planting Agents of Change who allow for the metamorphosis and eventual paradigm shift to begin. La Mission holds those seeds of change, and we plant them in you. Eat our Seed. Drink our Seed. Join La Mission. 'Ya Mean?
What will you address in your first few releases?
The first album/magazine issue is a fairly straightforward/massively weird and cult-driven introduction to La Mission: our work, our ethos, our music, our vibe, and most importantly our invitation for everyone and their mother's sister's ex-boyfriend's step-cousin down in San Quentin to Join La Mission. The second is focused on the Human Condition and Collectivism. The Third is about the Destruction of Capital and refusing Austerity. The music, writing, and live performances are all based on these themes.
What's the relationship between La Mission's music and its politics?
Mandie: They are implicitly and irrevocably related because of who Pablo, Luis, and I are. I would say that, like the Ouroboros, our music, art, and politics feast on one another in time immemorial.
Pablo / Beaner: Also, while most of the songs might not have lyrics, they are created thematically—to relate to certain issues—for this project. We sneak things like Winston Churchill talking about avoidance of war into songs and on the first record, There is a song called "Louis Belson plays for Luigi Ballasoni." Those are the same guy. Ballasoni was an Italian immigrant jazz drummer who changed/anglicized his name for fear of not being able to get work. The song is about working out issues of ethnic identity and integration vs. (I'm forgetting the word, I used to use it to describe my dad sometimes). And he was an awesome drummer, the song uses almost exclusively samples from a film of him playing.
Luis: In the conceptual sense, they've always been one and the same for us. As far as our strategies for this project are concerned, we plan to envelop every release in a halo of images, writing, jokes, lewd drawings, etc. in order to bring to life the politics that are already latent in the music. But the recordings themselves also arise out of conversations we've been having for months about social justice, racism, capitalism, solidarity, consumerism, and so on.
What artists do you have coming up on the label?
Beaner, Skirtchaser and Khrom Ju are the three artists on the first three v/a EPs. There's a DeWalta Remix on the first one too. Libertas is a free jazz/free punk band that will come out down the line. There is another record we cannot talk about yet because The Man and Johnny Law will harsh our mellow, they will feed us a big fat harshmallow.
The first EP on La Mission is a mini-compilation called Time Is Up Jazz, featuring tracks from Skirtchaser, Beaner, Krom Ju and a remix from DeWalta. That's due to drop sometime in November. You can donate to La Mission here (European) and here (American).
A1 Skirtchaser - Join La Mission
A2 Beaner - Luigi Ballasoni plays for Louis Belson
B1 Beaner - Louis Belson (DeWalta Remix)
B2 Khrom Ju - Bourgeois Pigs
La Mission will release Time Is Up Jazz in November 2012.