Throughout a two-decade career, the five-member band Kinky from Monterrey, Mexico, have become well known for their blend of pop, rock, funk, electronica, and Latin music. Kinky has released six studio albums, an MTV Unplugged session, and have shared the stage with major acts such as Flaming Lips, Cake, and Modest Mouse. Kinky has performed in front of packed theaters, parks, and arenas on both sides of the Atlantic, and their music has been featured in blockbuster films, critically acclaimed TV series, and massive selling videogames. Kinky’s records are trend setting, eclectic, and refined. But it is onstage where they truly enchant music lovers from all over the world.
One of the reasons why audiences are fascinated by the band might be the charismatic stage presence and musicianship of bassist Cesar Pliego Villarreal. Often dressed in sunglasses, cowboy boots, tight jeans, and a big hat, Pliego moves non-stop all over the stage while dancing to the beat of music without ever missing a note. The bassist is also a baseball, rodeo, and regional Mexican music enthusiast who has recently fallen in love with the Epiphone Jack Casady Signature Bass.
Thanks for talking to Epiphone. Tell us a little bit about the early days. What made you consider music as a career?
I think it happened when I was in school and my friends took me to a rodeo for the first time. There were a lot of regional Mexican bands playing that day and I was mesmerized. It didn’t take long before I started playing with some regional bands in Monterrey.
How did you end up playing with Kinky?
It was Gil Cerezo (lead vocals) who invited me to join the band after he saw me playing with a regional band at a party. I went to check out his band and I was fascinated by their music, their concept, and the sound they were putting out. I said "yes"
without even blinking and now we’ve been together for more than two decades.
You’re one of the main attractions when someone comes to a Kinky show. Your bass playing is so unique. You are also visually compelling. You often wear your instrument really low. And you’re always dancing on stage.
Well, the thing is, when I started playing bass I used to wear it really high but it just felt awkward. I felt as if I was wearing my pants high above my belly button (laughs). Even my elbows hurt a little bit, so I let the strap loose until I felt comfortable. Then I started feeling the bass groove more around the hips than the stomach, so I guess that’s why I started dancing.
Why did you choose the bass in the first place?
At the beginning I wanted to play drums, but they were too expensive. A lot of drums, a lot of cymbals, a lot of stuff. So I thought maybe I could play guitar, but bass had only four strings so it wasn’t a difficult choice (laughs). Then, when I started playing bass things got serious. I loved the sound of the instrument, the way it vibrates against your body, the swaggerit has. I play double bass, some guitar and bajo sexto, but electric bass has been my main instrument from the beginning.
Let’s talk about your Jack Casady Bass. How did you get it and why do you like it?
I got my Epiphone Jack Casady
right before we did our unplugged session for MTV
. I was looking for a bass with a very particular sound and it was kind of a struggle until I tried out the Jack Casady. It was an instant crush! As a musician, you might have a very expensive instrument and still not get the sound you’re looking for. This bass seems like it was made for me. The sound is sharp, round, vintage, and it cuts through the mix without compromising the low end. I love it. I’ve been playing it ever since.
Tell us a little bit more about your new project, Becerros.
Becerros is a side project that we have been developing for a while now with some other musicians from Monterrey. I play bajo sexto with them and it is a perfect way for me to stay connected with regional Mexican music. Kinky has been my main project for more than 20 years, but we’re all able to be engaged in side projects and produce all sorts of music.
Maybe that’s the reason why you guys work so well when you’re together…
Yeah! We all listen to different types of music and we all bring different stuff to the table.
And besides regional Mexican, what other genres were influential for you?
A lot of funk, a lot of folk. I love Johnny Cash, the Allman Brothers, Los Invasores de Nuevo León. I don’t know--the list is so long it would take hours for us just to talk about the music that made me the musician I am now.
And there’s also this passion for baseball and rodeo…
Yeah, I have loved baseball since I can remember. At home, we watch baseball all day long. When I’m on tour with Kinky, I’m always watching games or reading news about baseball. I have even written for baseball blogs and I have thrown the ceremonial first-pitch at several Major League games. I could not live without baseball.
And what about rodeo?
I got into bull riding through my school friends. The first time I went there I was hooked by the adrenaline. I liked the smell, the dust, the sound of the metal doors, the bulls bellowing… I just love it all.
Have you ever considered a solo career or a solo project?
Yeah, I’ve thought about it but it takes time and commitment, and right now Kinky is my priority. This band is a 20-year old five-guy successful marriage, and we don’t want to stop. We’re about to release new music and go on the road again, and it always gets us excited.
Kinky is part of the flourishing Monterrey music scene. There have been several internationally successful acts to come out of Monterrey since the 90s. What is this special thing that goes on over there?
I don’t know for sure, but I think it is the honesty of the musicians over here. The successful and long-lasting music projects that come out of Monterrey have one thing in common and it is they don’t try to imitate anything. They try to do their own thing. They make the music that comes out of their hearts and that might be the key to success in music. You might have a lot of influences, but you shouldn’t try to follow someone else’s footsteps. You shouldn’t try to follow the herd. I’ve always said that if you try to imitate someone else, then you’re pretty much screwed. Musicians have to be sincere, honest, and do their own thing.
So, is that your advice for the new generations of musicians out there?
I’d say a few things: Play a lot! Feel your instrument, get used to it, love it and respect it, but play it your way. Lose yourself in the music and the moment and – once again – be 100% yourself.