Michoacan: Catch the Fever

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From his mile-a-minute chatter, you'd never know Fernando Miranda Rios is fighting a fever. Rios is high on Cubase VST plug-ins, rave memories, and the tracks he makes as Michoacan–and there's some cold medicine in the mix too.

A native of East Palo Alto, CA, Rios got his start making hip-hop tapes with his brother, but a fateful disco encounter changed all that. "I heard Space, the 'Magic Fly' record, and it was very hip-hop to me!" he recalls. "It was very stripped down, very basic." That French electronic novelty from 1977 paved the way for Rios' summer of rave. "I didn't even know this [scene] existed. I loved disco and old grooves. Music was my thing since I was young. So when I found house music, techno, whatever, I just got captivated! I still make rap music with my brother, but this was about 1994, and raves were tight! We'd go to parties Friday, Saturday, even Sunday."

As a nod to his parents' background, Rios adopted the Mexican state of Michoacan as his nom de wax, and started building a home studio piece-by-piece. Like mad home-brew studio predecessors from Lee Perry to Giorgio Moroder, Rios subscribes to the theory that if it fits in a track, it goes in–be it a new sound effect or his own singing voice. "I do everything on my MPC 2000XL and my computers," he explains. "I can spend hours dropping in plug-ins and it sounds like I bought 10 new synthesizers."

Listening to records like 2005's "2 Bullets (Disaster)" on Grayhound, it's easy to see why Rios is pumped to spend all day experimenting in the studio. Over a stealthy programmed groove, Rios croons a disco-punk chorus (even backed by obligatory cowbells) that gives way to soothing synth chimes. On more recent releases, like the Play Your Part EP and "Basshead," the mix becomes even more eclectic, with new wave and computerized textures bumping against rock vocals, all smoothed out by an insistent disco-house pulse.

It all bodes well for the day Michoacan settles in with a label and concocts the epic LP that right now bumps only in his head. "I like waking up at eight with a cup of coffee, go in the studio, stay in there 'til midnight," says Rios frantically. "I just get a bass sound, a dope kick going, and start experimenting. I don't want to get stuck in a certain sound; I change it up. I want to sing more, make fuller songs. I want to have live musicians, make indie-rock-psychedelic-spaced-out shit."

Don't expect Rios to stop the torrent of 12" records, though, as a fast response time is the only way to keep up with his caffeine-fueled production. "Right now''m living beat to beat. My dream is to be a producer with people, bands, artists, just myself. My thing is the studio, that's where I feel really comfortable."