Latin Rock Revival Paves Way For Miguel Mateos' Return

Excerpted from the magazine for

A successful national tour in the middle of an economic crisis, a one-shot concert in Mexico with an attendance of 35,000, a duet with the most prominent frontman of the Argentine alt-rock scene of the 1990s, and a self-released double-CD set that includes live versions of popular hits and new songs recorded in a home studio: In a matter of months, all these elements have once again established Miguel Mateos as one of the most popular artists in Argentina, taking the country by surprise.

They have also highlighted how even the most popular acts have had to change the way they confront their art, market themselves, and do business in a new economy with limited label support.

The case of Mateos is particularly telling: He is a landmark artist who, during the late '80s, led the ground-breaking rock en espanol movement, laying the foundation for today's Latin rock acts across the continent along with fellow Argentine bands Soda Stereo and Los Enanitos Verdes.

It seems ironic that a pioneer of Mateos' stature has been without a contract since the 1997 album "Bar Imperio" (Empire Bar), released on Universal. Argentine labels did not jump at the opportunity of signing Mateos because of the deadly economic recession that left many local artists unsigned. Always the enthusiast, his strategy was to continue touring and composing new songs, while taking advantage of the unexpected revival of Argentine rock that has made FM Mega -- a radio station that programs only that genre -- the most popular radio station of the past three years.

His new album, "Salir Vivo" (Get Out Alive), was released Sept. 6 through his own imprint, La Cabula Discos, reaching retail as a luxurious three-fold Digipak with two CDs. The set was recorded live one year ago at the traditional downtown Astral Theater in Buenos Aires, and the track listing includes fresh renditions of 18 popular hits spanning his career -- many of them songs recovered from Mateos' back catalog -- plus seven new tracks recorded at his home studio. Two surprises are a cutting-edge Spanish-language cover of Billy Idol's celebrated 1984 "Flesh for Fantasy" ("Sexo y Frenesi") and a duet with Cristian Aldana, frontman of popular alt-rock band El Otro Yo.

"This album is a powerful statement," Mateos says. "The new compositions are intense descriptions of the political and social turmoil in the country. In the worst moment of the economic crisis, I have decided to take the risk of going independent, even undertaking a costly packaging and a mid-price to avoid piracy. The results are awesome."

In Argentina, "Salir Vivo" is distributed through Pattaya, a new, small company that quickly struck a deal with retail giant Musimundo at a time when most multinationals were skeptical about the retailer's post-Chapter 11 structure.

Since last September, Mateos has been on an intensive nationwide tour that has taken him to remote states within Argentina. And after three years of absence from Mexican stages, a Mexico City show last November at the Plaza de Toros with popular band El Tri drew 35,000 fans and set the tone for a continental tour that will kick off in February.

"All this activity is a great satisfaction," Mateos says. "The album is doing well, and this whole tour is incredible. The fans respond with enthusiasm and buy the tickets with great sacrifice, because I think that there is a necessity [to reach] out to local artists. The best promotion is always to perform live."

Excerpted from the Jan. 11, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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