An interview with El Dusty: pioneering tejano soul and south Texas sound
(Los Angeles) Corpus Christi Texas, down on the Gulf of Mexico, doesn’t get the kind of attention Austin gets for culture and music. I pay attention to Corpus Christi because I was born there and I know it is a lively music scene and fertile ground for American Latin Music fusion. Leading the creative charge in Corpus is El Dusty, born Dusty Oliveira, who blends classic tejano, Mexican cumbia and norteño music with today’s sounds and technologies. A native of Corpus Christi, he is a self–taught producer, mixer, musician who stands out not only in beats and house and rap, but as an influence across the board. He took a few minutes off from his many projects to talk with us.
Patrick. Are you “El Dusty” or “Dusty”?
Dusty. Just “Dusty.” I put the “El” there because I wanted to have some flash, but I couldn’t think of something fancy like Grandmaster or Mixmaster something — I just used my name and it works.
Patrick. What is the special quality of the music culture in South Texas?
Dusty. We are in the middle of both coasts and we are down south… everything just trickles down from both sides. And we are so close to Mexico so we get the Latin flavor. We are not Hollywood or New York so we have to make our own way and a lot of people are doing their own thing – it is such a big place we can make it in our neighbor and we are alright.
Patrick. But it is not a big market, so you have come up with the idea of a mobile record store. What’s with that?
Dusty. Here in Texas a lot of the rappers are known for selling CDs out of the trunk, but now that the CD thing is going away we have to think of other ways to market ourselves. So what we have come up with the is mobile record store that will bring it back to the old school way of doing things. We will sell vinyl and CD’s and download cards and merch– I sell these “Corpus” hats and things like that. We will attract people to the music in other ways – like a DJ booth and speakers and bring it to parties and festivals around the US… maybe multiple trucks. We have brands interested – maybe one will be in your neighborhood. The truck will be at SXSW. We are wrapping it now.
Patrick. Tejano is the original Latin fusion music in the US – it goes back to the 1800’s and brings together German polkas and waltzes, norteño and other Mexican forms, and now rock and rap and hip hop. Are you part of the next generation of Tejano?
Dusty. I hope so. I am very proud to be from Texas and from Corpus – Corpus used to be the Tejano Hollywood. I want to bring it back to that. I always wear my Corpus hat and represent. “Tejano” the word has been kind of tainted – people say it is dead, but it is not. My music isn’t pure tejano, but it has the influence so I call it tejano – that is what it is.
Patrick. Did you know how popular your breakout hit K Le Pasa would be?
Dusty. No. I honestly had no idea. I am a hip hop producer. When I started messing with cumbia, it wasn’t new. It has long been in my stuff – especially the percussion. I would put cowbells in my music when I was in a rock band. But with that song, I was trying to make something like a dance song, like a house beat. But I was not too familiar with that kind of production, so I learned some techniques and tried them. The song happened in about 5 minutes. I wanted to work with a sample breakdown and some accordion and I tried that side-chaining with the bass– I had the sample already – it just came out in 5 minutes. But it sat in the can for a year, and a friend asked me if he put it in a SXSW compilation and I said yes and it just took off.
Patrick. I love the video you shot for that song.
Dusty. That was at my apartment. It was my birthday so we threw a party and everyone came and that was the video and it turned out great.
Patrick. You mentioned cumbia, the music that came from coastal Columbia and now has many forms including a Mexican cumbia. How do you include it in your music… say in the song “Cumbia Anthem?”
Dusty. The accordion sample and the cumbia rhythm… a beat with a conga on the upbeat and a cowbell on the one and guacharaca in between. I put that beat in a lot of my music. It works well with reggae and hip hop and all kinds of music. It’s something I have in there – without it the beat feels empty. That is a sample from a classic cumbia artist from Columbia, Andres Landero, one of my biggest influences. I just cranked out that song with a friend of mine in Miami, Happy Colors. I got a blessing from Discos Fuentes, the original record label of Landero, and they sent me a package of old songs that I sampled. That is one of the tracks from that.
Patrick. You have a lot of music product out now – what all are you doing?
Dusty. My website is Americana Label; it’s a net label at AmericanaLabel.com. My EPs are there. We have my music, remixes and edits. Name your own price or free. We are on SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes I am working on a new album, called Made in Corpus to be released by Universal later this year. I am going for a mixture of styles; I have two EPs out, one with Angela Hunt, who wrote [the JayZ and Alicia Keys’] song “Empire State.” They just tore it up.
Patrick. Do you have a band?
Dusty. Yes, the Master Blaster Sound System. We bring in many people, including a friend in Germany who recorded the accordion for “u Now,” I want to add an accordion player.
Patrick. What is Chicas Rock – the non-profit you started?
Dusty. . ChicasRock.org. is an all girl after school program and summer camp. It is an all girl venue for girls to be themselves and learn music – guys can come, but they don’t. It is run by the bass layer in my band. She is training the next generation of women songwriters, musicians, singers. These seven and eight year-old girls play in band and perform – they were in the Selena festival last year and just killed. I started it when our collective moved into this building and it was my bass player’s idea and it just took off. Everybody loves Chicas
Patrick. I understand there is a puppet of you out there.
Dusty. Yes. It is on Hey Vato on YouTube. Check it out.
Patrick. Thank you…I will also check out the “Corpus Hat.”
Dusty. You’re welcome. Cool!
Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!
El Dusty http://eldusty.tumblr.com/
El Dusty albums and songs on SoundCloud and Spotify
Locos Only album available at http://americanosoundsystem.bandcamp.com/