For most musicians, Bandcamp Friday has been a lifeline during the pandemic’s difficult times, but for Sonido Berzerk — a pioneer of the Mexican juke scene via his 2010 launched party-cum-label Ten Toes Turbo — it was a reason to start accelerating his output. During the first one, he earned more in one day than he’d previously made in a month. “I was proud to show my mum the statistics,” he laughs over Zoom from his home in Veracruz, which he shares with his beloved 13 year old cat.
While Sonido Berzerk — real name Ricardo Arjona García — has always been into electronic music, recalling listening to big beat artists such as Fatboy Slim and Chemical Brothers, and dubstep heavyweights like Mala and Benga, he began making tracks while studying archaeology at university. “A friend showed me the basics of Ableton Live,” he says. “The music that I was in love with at that moment was moombahsoul, the softer version of moombahton, and those were my first bits."
Juke first came into his orbit via a radio show. “I was like, ‘what was that?’ And it was [footwork pioneer] DJ Rashad. So I started to dig and I told Ma Fuego, who I started Ten Toes Turbo with, and he started digging too, then after that we tried to blend it into our sets. When we began to release music in 2012, the third EP was from CRZKNY, who’s an innovator of juke in Japan, and that’s kind of where the Mexican juke history began.”
Since then, the label has proved its tastemaker credentials by releasing the early works of artists such as Teklife associated DJ Chap and Heavee, as well as Omaar from the N.A.A.F.I collective. For Sonido Berzerk, juke’s minimalism appealed. “Sometimes it feels like it’s just the bass and the snare — obviously it’s not just that, but the tension that creates, it’s almost too much for me, that’s why I love it.”
Sonido Berzerk is also part of Juke MX, a collective and label showcasing both emerging and established acts. "We realised that there were a lot of us doing juke and that we could do something with that,” explains the artist, while praising the scene’s collaborative spirit. “Now, the Juke MX crew is crucial, not just for me, but for a lot of producers here in Mexico.”
But Sonido Berzerk, who attributes his sometimes brooding, mechanical sound to being a longtime lover of the harder side of techno, is also prolific across various other genres — making jungle and even gabber tracks, while taking inspiration from various global sounds including kuduro and grime. He ascribes his wide-ranging taste both as a producer and a DJ to going through “obsessions”. These obsessions in turn drive his productivity. “In the past week I’ve made five dubstep tracks,” he reveals, while also saying that working in other genres provides somewhat of a respite from the intensity of juke.
Talking about a post-pandemic future, Sonido Berzerk, who takes his name from characters’ special powers in the Final Fantasy video game, is looking forward to Ten Toes Turbo beginning to put out vinyl, but also to playing out again. While he says he’s grateful for the time lockdown has afforded him to work on his music, he’s ready to see more of the world. “Thanks to music, I’ve travelled to many places in Mexico, but I also want to travel to the UK, to America,” he says. Still, for now, he’s got plenty of tracks to sift through for his next releases. While he dropped his ‘Ricky’s Juke Stash Vol. 2’ EP this past May, he says, “I’ve got another 27 juke tracks ready on my computer”.
Listen to Sonido Berzerk's Fresh Kicks mix below.