By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
It is precisely that unlikely type of happenstance that seems to continuously fuel Nacional’s growth. “Someone handed me a Pinker Tones demo at the LAMC one year, and I just couldn’t believe how great they were,” he says of the Barcelona electro exciters. Cookman traveled the Warped Tour with them, and wondered how the punks would react to the Pinker Tones. They dug them. “And it’s amazing how well we do on the synch side,” he adds, “with video games, TV shows, movies. I almost see them as mad scientists in a laboratory, with a beaker in one hand and a laptop in the other.” Like DJ Bitman and the Mexican Institute of Sound, the Pinker Tones crystallize much of the label’s output — music characterized by a freethinking, borderless and adventurous musicality, but Cookman is never a slave to trend-meeting expectations.
The force behind MIS is Camilo Lara, the Mexican record-company exec, but, Cookman says, “He’s the record-company guy at the highest level, but his music is incredible.”
A notably eccentric addition to Nacional’s lineup is Señor Coconut, the nom de beat of Uwe Schmitt. “I’d heard about him for years, but I could never find his album, a Latin electronic tribute to Kraftwerk,” Cookman says. “Someone eventually burned me a copy of it and I became obsessed with finding him but never could, until I was backstage at a show in Chile and there he was. He’d heard of the label, which surprised me, and all I said was, ‘You have got to be on Nacional.’ That was it.”
Señor Coconut, for the record, is a pasty-white, bald, sickly looking little German guy, exactly the opposite of what his exquisitely lounge-infected, cha-cha–fixated ’tronics would lead you to expect.
Cookman is blissfully relentless. “I get so many demos, but I listen to them. My wife comes in and says, ‘I can’t believe you still get goose bumps listening to demos’ — but I do.” He laughs. On the wall behind him hangs artwork depicting a guitar with a line next to it that reads, “This Machine Kills A&R Men,” and a crudely etched laptop with the message, “This Machine Kills Major Labels.” “The payola world is still definitely very much alive, and I won’t have anything to do with it,” he says. “Why the fuck should I give money to some radio station in Texas to get airplay? If I want to know what the scene is in Houston, I go there. I go to Mexico City, to Buenos Aires, I travel with the bands, and I do my own bus tour of the United States every year. What can I say? It’s important to do what you like, and if you can, you’re very fortunate.”