Ceci Bastida: “We want to start a party with rock songs and end with emotional rancheras with people drinking and crying.”
Ceci Bastida fronted ska-punk band Tijuana No, considered by many to be Tijuana’s most successful band. Between 1989 and 2000 Tijuana No toured the U.S. and Mexico and released three albums, spearheading Tijuana’s thriving ska scene.
Singer/keyboardist Bastida left Tijuana No and spent eight years backing Mexican pop star Julieta Venegas. Now married and based in Los Angeles, Bastida, 37, has a solo recording and performing career. She releases an EP, Suena, on November 11.
Bastida is also part of Mexrrissey, a Mexican super group that includes members of Calexico and Café Tacuba and cheerfully taps into Mexico’s fixation of Morrissey by reimagining his greatest hits Mexican style. Mexrrissey was asked to headline a festival called “Teatro Moz,” a Los Angeles festival for Mexican-Americans who are fanatical for the emotional British pop star who loves gladiolas and hates meat.
...off of Mexrrissey's No Manchester album
Mexrrissey appears November 1 at the California Center for the Performing Arts in Escondido. This venue, coincidentally, was the same concert hall that Morrissey sold out five years ago.
What made you want to walk away from Tijuana No?
I was not happy about promoters leaving without paying or paying less than what they originally agreed. I hated to do the interviews and everything you had to do. I had been doing it since I was 15. It just got really tiring. Julieta [Venegas] gave me an offer where all I had to do was just play. It was a great way to be involved in music and not have to worry about doing that other stuff when it was your own band, like rehearsals and travel. When I left Tijuana No my head was somewhere else.
Did Tijuana No play the three-story venue known as Iguana’s?
Yes, we played there. I was very sad when it closed. It was an incredible place. Actually, Tijuana No is still performing. One person passed away but the other three original members are still performing.
You were part of the ska scene that dominated Tijuana 25 years ago, But Tijuana No’s DNA did not come from the poppy ska of UB-40, English Beat, Madness...
That’s true. The Specials and Selecter were huge for us.
Playing with Julietta Venegas for eight years was a good way to make a living. What made you want to do Mexrrissey?
It was a no-pressure opportunity to play with artists I really admire. These are not our songs, so it’s not an ego thing. We get to see each other once a month or so, then we go home. We don’t think of ourselves as a cover band. This is not kitsch. We reimagine these Morrissey songs in a respectful way combining elements of Mexican street music like cumbia and mariachi.
Thanks to the Moustache Bar and other TJ venues, it seems that U.S. kids are starting to rediscover Tijuana as a place to see live bands...
[Crime] was serious ten years ago but at the moment I don’t see it as bad as it was. I see it as a city that is trying to reinvent itself and move forward. There are now great things to do in Tijuana as far as arts and a vibrant food scene. I don’t see it as a city full of violence.
Mexrissey seems to be doing well, but times are different from when The Smiths and Morrissey ruled modern rock...
I remember listening to the latest Smiths record when it first came out every day for days. That was when you would actually go out and buy the record and sit down and listen to it many times over and build a relationship with the artist and learn to love that particular artist. Nowadays there is new music coming out every week on the internet. It’s a little harder to become a fan with just one artist. Before, people would invest in artist’s careers. Now you put out an album and hope for the best.
Recently deceased flamboyant crooner Juan Gabriel was popular in Mexico. Is there some parallel with the Juan Gabriel phenomenon and Mexico’s love of Morrissey?
Of course Juan Gabriel’s fans are not Morrissey fans. But, yes, there is a connection. Juan Gabriel sang about love and loss and heart. Mexican Morrissey fans are looking for the same thing. We love drama. We want to start a party with rock songs and end with emotional rancheras with people drinking and crying. There is something about sharing pain and emotion with each other that is so Mexican. But yes, Juan Gabriel and Morrissey were all about showing emotions and they both have that same [sexual] ambiguity.