As anyone who’s ever tried to mix heavy drug abuse and base jumping will attest - from the comfort of a powered
wheelchair, naturally - some pairings simply don’t work. So how, you might well ask, can Los Chicharrons be? Ramon
Santana and Morten Varano make up the unlikely partnership that is Los Chicharrons, and a better testament to the importance of brawling with convention at every corner would be near impossible to find.
Ramon was born in the Dominican Republic (the home of Merengue and Johnny Pacheco), and grew up within earshot of the voodoo drums of Haiti (the birthplace of real trance). Relocating to Williamsburgh, Manhattan in the mid ‘60s, he gradually steered a course towards Corona Queens, where a period of a rich musical development began. Inspired to DJ by records pilfered from his brother, Ramon’s first date with the wheels came with a gig in 1978 at The Orange Peel club, a venue for
hooky players (bunking off school) located on Broadway and Havmeyer.
In the early ‘80s Ramon’s DJing progressed apace, with regular shows in Dancetaria (where Mantronix were resident) leading to a hook-up with two British guys and inception of a club called Boomba Makao, operating out of three NYC venues: Giant Steps, The Soul Kitchen and Great Jones. Rumour has it that around this time, Ramon also nurtured his interest in shaving consenting ladies with a switchblade engraved with his name, but at time of writing, neither the blade nor it’s owner were available for comment. Anyway, we digress…
Ramon came to London (with a few sacks of wirey bristles in excess baggage, no doubt) after a year back home in the Dominican Republic, and promptly hooked himself up with Mark Edwards, doing parties at The Prince of Monalulu and found like minds in DJ Fee, Dan (Monkey Mafia) and Tim ‘Love’ Lee and his Tummy Touch label, with whom he became embroiled at a series of parties called East Meets West.
Morten Varano’s background is something of a contrast to his musical spar. Born in Copenhagen, he started playing piano aged 6, and at 14 began playing ‘indie-rock-techno-pop’ in his first band. A precocious musical talent. Morten’s interest in Dance music and sounds of a leftfield persuasion led to him starting up a club called Lust in Copenhagen which formed the missing link in the evolution of Los Chicharrons when Ramon’s international Djing excursions took him there. Tummy Touch parties at Lust had already inspired Morten to produce a track for the TT (‘Sunny Cha Cha Cha’, under the artist name of
Sunny Face), and this provided a template for the collaboration that followed.
Throw together the sounds of Johnny Pacheco, Eddie Palmeri, Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades and Mongo Santamaria, tease in some top-grade organic hip hop of the East Side persuasion and psychedelic strata from across the spectrum and stand back and watch the party rock like a high-powered hammock.
Ramon and Morten have unleashed Blow For You/Blow For Me, Los Chicharrons second album for Tummy Touch that follows the runaway success of debut Bongo Heaven, Conga Hell. Their third album When The Sun Goes Down is out now on their own imprint Voodoo Recordings – now ten releases high and rising.
Putting the ‘fusion’ into ‘confusion’ and bridging the gap between your brain and your feet, it can only be Los Chicharrons…