RIP Pop Mutant Alex Ortiz

Photo by David Hurteau

Alex Ortiz returns with RIP Pop Mutant, an experimental take on that Montreal sound

We spoke with the former We Are Wolves frontman about his trilingual solo project and debut album FLUXUS POP.

Alex Ortiz doesn’t have to prove himself anymore.

A staple of Montreal’s early 2000 indie scene with his band We Are Wolves, Ortiz was at the forefront of the Golden Age of music in the city. An accomplished artist, praises came from all around the world for his work with We Are Wolves, with positive reviews from SPIN and Pitchfork. But today, it’s a different Alex Ortiz who embraces the scene, opening up to his public and showing the vulnerable side of himself. 

With his solo project RIP Pop Mutant, Ortiz explores exactly what he always wanted to be, he explains. The project has been in the making for over 10 years now, with inspiration coming from older songs, ones that didn’t have their place with his original band.

“There have always been songs that I started and then told myself ‘Oh, this song is way too emotional or too slow, or a bit too cute or too experimental to be a real song.’ I just kept them and eventually thought I would change them. I just play music to relax or just to disconnect from everything around me and I record everything. I have so much stuff that ended up just being explored, so many different dimensions [of sounds] just because it’s fun to have some things at home, you know, and try them over and over again. I had so much stock that I thought maybe I should do something with it.”

It’s Adrian Popovich, from the deceased garage-punk band Tricky Woo, who encouraged Ortiz to launch his solo project and helped him put the pieces together for FLUXUS POP, his first album. Under the moniker RIP Pop Mutant, his old DJ name of yesteryear, Ortiz departs from what defined his previous music work, fully embracing his love-hate relationship with pop music. 

“I like pop, I like good songs with a hook. I like melodies, I find there’s something beautiful in that. But most of the time, it’s always polished. Pop is always trying to please everyone and to please everyone, it has to be shiny and polished. So everybody can say ‘Oh, this is good!’ Sometimes a hook is a hook. If the emotion is there and the hook is good, if it’s well constructed, it’s going to be good then. The love-hate relationship I have with pop music is that there’s some songs that could be way better if they weren’t spending so much time trying to make it better and better,” he explains.

“Évidemment” by RIP Pop Mutant

Ortiz qualifies his music as experimental pop. He chases after those interesting hooks, he goes after melodies. But he also loves the chaos of experimenting and rejects the glossy varnish that is sometimes found in pop. The name of his album, FLUXUS POP, comes from the Fluxus movement, an international community of artists who, during the 1960s and ’70s, decided to put the emphasis on the artistic process over the finished product. The Fluxus influence in Ortiz’s art and music is easily distinguishable. He makes DIY music from his home, authentic music that really reflects who he is.

“I love the fact that home recording is very accessible. I’ve always been interested in it, even when we had cassette tapes. You don’t need a high-performing computer to make music. For me, recording has always been accessible. I find it very poetic, interesting. It’s more romantic and authentic, too. It doesn’t need to be polished, it doesn’t need to be repainted over.”

Through his raw and unpolished music, Ortiz examines his feelings, his emotions, something he felt he couldn’t do properly before. As a multidisciplinary artist, he uses every medium to describe his world. He mixes French, English and Spanish as an ode to his multicultural upbringing in Montreal, something he is extremely proud of. While most of the songs have French titles, most of them are sung in English, something he acknowledges can be confusing. But for him, the essence of his songs is mostly French. 

“I ended up having a lot of lyrics written in French, and titled in French, but it didn’t feel natural. So I kind of reworked the song in English with new lyrics. I like the idea that the essence of the song was in French. That was the main thing. So I kept the titles. I thought it represented me pretty well as a Colombian who grew up in a francophone High School and then went to university in English.”

Through his multicultural background and multidisciplinary art, Ortiz says that FLUXUS POP is the first album in which he truly feels as a musician, something he never called himself before. He states having imposter syndrome, even if his band made it big, even if he was invited to perform in festivals, and even if he got praise from major music publications. 

“’I’ve always been doing music but it was always an extension of my artistic world. After having a band for 20 years, releasing albums, and touring the world, it was my raison d’être. I’m finally accepting that maybe I’m not an imposter. Even though I still feel like that. I made my solo album, it means that I’m a musician now. That changed my thinking. Now, I see myself as a musician, instead of being like ‘Oh, I’m a DJ, I’m a graphic designer, and I play music.’ Now. I feel like I’m comfortable enough to say I’m a musician, but I also do other stuff.”

Alex Ortiz exudes confidence and pride towards FLUXUS POP, something that is heard through the whole album. Ortiz wants everyone to know that he is proudly a musician, a solo artist, one that feels comfortable with his art. He acknowledges how much he changed and embraces this new chapter of his artistic life. But one thing is left to wonder: will his infamous DJ nights come back?

“This week I had two emails asking me if I wanted to be part of a DJ night. That’s probably gonna work.” ■

“Parfois” by RIP Pop Mutant

RIP Pop Mutant launches the album and art exhibition Fluxus Pop at Galerie HOY (5171 St-Laurent) on Tuesday, May 31, 5:30 p.m. For more, please visit the Bandcamp page.

For more music coverage, please visit the Music section.