Hailing from Monterrey, Mexico, Kinky (Gil Cerezo, Carlos Chairez, Omar Gongora, Ulises Lozano, and Cesar Pliego) enjoyed breakout success in 2002. The band toured behind its self-titled debut album, giving an energetic live show that won fans around the world. Kinky's music draws on global influences. “We love techno, house, big beat, pop, acid jazz, Latin jazz, and Latin American folk styles,” says Lozano, the band's keyboardist. “We're always writing, and we take the time to record.”
Kinky recorded its debut in Monterrey in the band's home studio, which includes a Yamaha 01V digital mixer, a Mac G4/800 MHz running Digidesign Pro Tools 5.1, and a Digidesign Mbox audio interface. “It's a good room that has space for keyboards, guitar amps, drums, and percussion,” Lozano says. Lozano plays vintage instruments, including a Fender Rhodes Stage 73 Piano, a Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, a Roland Juno-106, and a Yamaha DX7. He also relies on his Alesis Andromeda A6 for analog timbres. “Each keyboard has a specific sound that I love,” he explains.
The band's follow-up effort, Atlas (Nettwerk America, 2003), presents an ear-catching clash of pristine and gritty textures as well as musical styles. Lozano says the band's goal for Atlas was “to capture the vibe of our live shows, a more organic sound. We work like a collective. We start with a drum sequence, a keyboard arrangement, or a chord progression on the guitar. Sometimes we jam over a loop.”
Recording Atlas proved to be an adventure that unfolded in several stages. Kinky began writing in Monterrey and then headed for the jungles of Quintana Roo in southern Mexico, setting up their gear in a solar-powered rented house. “The jungle was a good environment for us because it was very intense, so it gave us a good feel for this album,” says Lozano.
“We need time to find the right sounds for every song,” Lozano adds. “For ‘The Headphonist,’ we recorded the groove first, in Monterrey, using percussion, bass, and a Hammond [organ] for the cumbia licks. We wanted a dirty sound, so we recorded the snare with an SM57. In Quintana Roo, we programmed a drum loop that contrasted with the dirty sound.”
Kinky continued working on Atlas during its 2003 tour. Each band member recorded ideas while traveling, using an M-Audio Oxygen8 MIDI controller and a Mac G4/800 MHz PowerBook loaded with Ableton Live, Propellerhead Reason, and Pro Tools software. In one instance, they tracked vocals and acoustic guitar in a hotel room, using a Neumann TLM 193 condenser mic and a pair of Shure SM57s. “We just grabbed the effects rack and put cushions on the walls,” Lozano says. “We tried to isolate the room, but having that natural reverb was also part of the idea. It's important to us to keep the vibe.”
Kinky completed Atlas in Los Angeles using commercial studios. Veteran recording engineer Thom Russo recorded those sessions and mixed Atlas. “He had seen our live shows, so he had a perfect idea [for achieving] that sound,” Lozano says. “He suggested recording drums, bass, and some guitars to 2-inch analog tape and 24 tracks to get a warmer sound and a little distortion. We kept the drums and the bass on tape and synced the tape with a Pro Tools|HD system.
“We got interesting sounds by mixing software with analog [devices],” Lozano says. “Once you know the technical rules for doing things, then you can start improvising. Sometimes the way we find sounds is a little bit magical.”