Deafkids interview (06/2020)
|With:||Douglas Leal, Mariano Melo, Marcelo dos Santos|
|Conducted by:||RaduP (e-mail)|
"Sonic Ayahuasca" is definitely a descriptor that should make anyone curious, it certainly made me. Finding about Deafkids through them being announced for Roadburn, and then finding out they were signed to Neurot, it made me check out Metaprogramação, which I was instantly hooked to. Out of Brazil, blending punk, industrial, pyschedelic and folk music, come Deafkids.
RP: Why the admittedly minor name change?
D: Honestly, we ourselves think that our name sometimes sounds kind of silly - you know, I started the band very young. Maybe it's just an attempt to make it sound a little bit more unique and cool as a single word, maybe it's just a step towards some kind of "freedom" to "play" with our band name.
RP: In which position do you think the band would be right now if Steve Von Till didn't discover you? What would you say it's your favorite Neurosis album?
D: It's difficult to think about it, but certainly not in the same position we are in today. Since we signed with Neurot 4 years ago, we have had and embraced all these incredible opportunities we never imagined that could happen to us, which certainly came as a result of this recognition and all its consequent developments. However, if the present is what it is, there is no 'if', right? hahaha! My favorite Neurosis record is Through Silver In Blood!
Marcelo: It's hard to tell, but when we were contacted by him, we were searching for labels which could release Configuração do Lamento on LP, and outside of Brazil, with no perspective of such in sight. Neurot helped us to reach more people, and with that, an improvement to our structure in order to set up tours and gigs, just as an example. They let us loose to develop our own creativity and musicality on our albums, and that's quite the incentive to keep striving for aesthetic sharpening. I really like Through Silver In Blood, Times Of Grace and The Eye Of Every Storm. The most recent one, Fires Within Fires, is great as well!
Mariano: They said it all, hahahah! My favorite album is definitely Through Silver In Blood. I also like the collaborative album with Jarboe.
RP: Deafkids seems to be, boiling down to it, a fusion of industrial and psychedelic, with some folky tribal elements splashed on top to top it all off. This is such a unique blend of sounds and I really can't get enough of it. I have even tried to find some other bands doing that sort of combination, with little to no success. What really inspired you all to cross lines and blur those three together as you have?
D: We always had the intention of mixing influences in a way that boils into something "different", and when we found ourselves in a natural position of musical research and expansion where the question of "musical genre" no longer really made any difference, it ended up being reflected naturally through of our creative filter, adding more and more of our tastes and musical influences in an approach to really explore the possibilities of sound, noise and rhythms in our own way.
Marcelo: We were always interested in the blend of sounds, genres and influences, and although we're connected with "heavy" music, we listen to much music from different backgrounds, so when we write, that shows up in the end result.
Mariano: As time progressed, one of the things that united us was the interest for psychedelic music from throughout the world, both traditional (like Hindustani and Maqam music, Mbalax and so on) and more contemporary iterations, music that has a connection to 'the primordial flow' and its own aesthetic merits and novelty, focused on rhythmical freedom, at the same time that it has this everlasting, easy to follow pulse - transcendental music, which unites body and mind. As we're this chaotic mess of influences, it's only natural this comes out the way it does.
RP: There's a distinctly Brazilian feel about your music, you all certainly don't keep it a secret that you're repping your roots with Deafkids. What (if any) local artists in Sao Paulo may have played a role in helping you all discover your identity? Electronic, psych, folk, or even non-musical artists?
D: In the local sense, since moving to São Paulo I have always been very interested in circulating with the band through the various "musical circuits" that happen here - from punk/hardcore to experimental music, noise, techno and electronic parties, improv sessions, etc. And in that sense, I believe that this movement itself ended up influencing us indirectly. But if it is to mention timeless Brazilian artists, the list can be very long, in terms of creativity and the spirit and feeling of it!
Marcelo: We're not from SP, but moved around 6 years ago and saw and lived many stuff, which definitely contributed to our growth, both as a band and as individual musicians. I would cite Metá Metá and Teto Preto as bands from SP which I saw here and blew my mind.
Mariano: Like Douglas said, São Paulo is not a place which has much of its own traditional music - the thing is that it enables exchanges which are rarer in the rest of Brazil, being a cosmopolitan city on a way that's not common here. That allowed us to take part on musical endeavours such as improvising with many different people, in many different contexts, as well as going to and playing with many types of gigs and parties. The access here is way limited compared to more cosmopolitan cities throughout the world, but that has to do with the socio-political context of the country. As a cultural hub, it's likely the best place in the nation.
RP: Deafkids has a very expansive type approach to the songwriting, as I said it incorporates many, at times unexpected influences and branches out in many directions at once. Following this idea, it seems to be something that would lend itself well to the inclusion of outside, guest musicians. Have you all given much thought to this? Are there any bands or specific musicians in particular you all could see yourselves collaborating with in the future?
D: Yes, it's always very interesting to think about it and in recent years we have had great opportunities in terms of collaborations. We recorded an EP and did some collaborative shows with Rakta here in São Paulo. We also did some collaborative shows and a tour of Brazil with the duo Test (another extremely creative band from São Paulo). Last year we did a collaborative show with Petbrick at the Roadburn Festival and recorded an album together, which will be announced very soon, and we also had the opportunity to record an album produced by Jaz Coleman from Killing Joke here in São Paulo that can be said which was a very collaborative writing process over a long 2 weeks. Anyway, we're always open to this kind of musical expansion processes, I myself have been collaborating in live improvisation sets and recordings with quite a lot of artists here in São Paulo and Brazil with my solo project Yantra over the last few years.
Marcelo: There's also a remix version of Configuração do Lamento involving many artists from different parts of the globe. The collabs with Rakta also resulted on a live album. All these experiences were fucking awesome, happened in an organic way, and brought a lot of learning to us. These are some really good experiences in terms of collabs... With whom could we work in the future? That's a nice question! We're open for it!
Mariano: Besides what both have mentioned, we have been improvising together and with other people as well (Douglas has already fixed dates for Rakta on drums and guitar, I did it on the drums as well... I also play percussion and synths with Felinto, a great electronic musician, and so on).
RP: While it's not necessarily the predominant influence, there's nonetheless a shade of folky, tribal touches that I think are a core signature on the Deafkids sound. What's your history with this exactly, and in what way would you say the environment of Brazil or Sao Paulo itself may have shaped your compositional vision?
Marcelo: Brazilian music is very connected to percussion and rhythm, so I think we have inherited this somehow. As time went by, we became more aware of it, and tried to relate it to our punk/noise influence, of distortion and repetition.
Mariano: I personally don't like the idea of thinking of those elements as 'tribal', since they're not lifted from any tribes or anything alike, and there's a European, Western tradition of associating groove-led music as 'primitive' or something - a rhythm can be 'novel' while subscribing to the same energetic atmosphere, so it sounds a little bit reductive. These primordial energies, the idea of rhythm and the transcendence that comes from it are things that exist in many cultures and heritages which are still going strong, such as Afro-Latin, Arabic, Indian, African, and so on... They're not part of the past, they're top-tier musical technology and as such they're still relevant and able to be used on a vanguardist way. I think our connection comes from researching this type of sound, not only from Brazil, but what unites it across the world, as well as having some deep psychedelic experiences, which made us get in contact with the 'natural' aspect of rhythm as eternal fractal expansion, which is transcendence which emanates from the fine tuning of body and mind, when in sync. Since many forms of traditional music here derive from that in one way or the other, as well as the cross-cultural nature of Brazil, that definitely has affected us in that sense.
RP: Myself coming from a metal background, it's much more natural for me to relate to your music as metal/punk with industrial/electronic/psychedelic/folk influences instead of the other way around, and that might have to do with me coming into contact with your music in a metal-oriented context. Do you think it's in any way disingenuous to do so? How have people coming from different music backgrounds, say electronic music, reacted to your music?
Mariano: As our own identity as Brazilians is something quite fractured, we tend to enjoy how this shapes the sound itself. I don't see metal as an influence of what we do, even if we like some metal. It is more loud and distorted than heavy, and that's the crazy part of it, since everyone will drive from their own experiences in order to make sense of what they're listening to, so I understand when people interpret aspects such as the use of d-beat or the vocals as something which points towards metal, even if we feel it's more connected to a punk background... metal is not really a reference for us. One of the best things about being so much stuff, and nothing of those at the same time, is that many people from different backgrounds are able to enjoy it one way or another... We played some nice electronic music events here, most notably Mamba Negra, which is a huge party in the sprawling techno scene of São Paulo. It feels good to make music which sounds familiar and strange to everybody, for different reasons. We like the idea of making music which is known and unknown at the same time.
Photo by Ivi Maiga Bugrimenko
RP: Metaprogramação attempts to decolonize punk and metal to make it easier to infuse them with the music of the world. What would be the next step? What other scene/sound would you like to see attempt that?
Marcelo: Speaking about OUR next step, we'll soon release a collaborative album with Petbrick, which ventures into more electronic paths, with different beats and percussiveness. It's a diverse record, and it captures well our partnership with Wayne and Iggor, who are lovely people, and also fun to work and play with!.
Mariano: I would define Metaprogramação as something that comes from a punk ethos, more than aesthetically speaking. Maybe it aims to create something that drives from our personal background, highlighting the bridges that exist across many perspectives of what music is. There is a sense of 'danger' and invective to it, something that can be found, in one way or another, in many forms of musical expression, and we like to think that the energy you direct to music matters to a point where it becomes the most explicit aspect of it all. Only three or four instruments can't portrait all of our feelings, contradictions and expressive possibilities. As such, there's a search about the relationship to 'body' and 'mind', what those terms mean, and how they relate to each other which interests us way more than actually sounding like this or like that. I would like to see that applied in as many musical scenes or sounds as possible, for the sake of art.
RP: Your music, especially on the latest album, is incredibly psychedelic, having been described as "sonic ayahuasca". First of all, why is it that all drugs are put on the same "danger to society" pedestal, even if they're weed, heroin, LSD or crystal meth? What do you think would make society move past that, and what would be some actual help that could be given to addicts instead of incarcerating them?
Marcelo: I think many political forces profit from the criminalization of drugs and the war on them, something which then generate a violent environment and consequently misinformation about the subject.
Mariano: Many people profit directly from psychoactive substances being controlled. They have always existed and will continue to exist, but the ones interested in maintaining this underground, off-the-law industry invest on a mixture of conservativeness and security-based discourse. Most of the countries which proposed forward-thinking policies on these substances, are not coincidentally mostly countries from the global north, with way less social contradictions. The results of these experiences are substantial for us to understand how good a different stance on the the subject can be beneficial for society as a whole. The fact that we face the issue of addiction through the fulcrum of security instead of a public health one tells us how absurd this is. The fact that alcohol/tobacco addiction kills so many people throughout the globe also highlights the issue of how arbitrary the enforcement of said policies is - who decides what substances are considered 'dangerous', and what criteria do they use? Also, this issue is even made worse by the economical and sociopolitical disparities common to a post-colonialist world. Here in Brazil, the war on drugs is a huge cause of large rates of incarceration and death, mostly of black people. These drugs surely do not reach the places where they are sold without the help of a big chain of corruption which involves the police and public employees. The hypocrisy is blatant.
RP: And in regards to the relation between psychedelic music and drugs, how is it that psychedelic music is still so easily enjoyable and engaging even without the aid of psychedelics? Does it relate to the primal reason why music exists, something akin to a ritual tribe gathering, even though that likely would've included some sort of psychedelics?
Mariano: I think sound itself, the physical effect it has can be quite psychedelic. The gathering of people, the repetitive entrancing beats which at the same time renew constantly, the energy exchanged... in a way is not very different from what happens in an Umbanda ceremony, in terms of creating altered states of body and mind. Personally, for me music as we know is a human system of patterns created by mimicking the process of life itself. We walk rhythmically, our hearts beat to a pulse. We may be made of sound and music, as far as I know. So something that generates a pulse which synchronizes many different bodies is something deeply powerful, akin to a psychedelic experience. Of course, psychedelics can enhance this as well hehehehehe!
RP: What would you say is the best Brazilian record other than Beneath The Remains, I.N.R.I., Os Mutantes, and Os afro-sambas de Baden e Vinícius?
D: It can be a long list haha but I'll list some from my side:
Zé Ramalho & Lula Côrtes - Paebirú
Pedro Santos - Krishnanda
Milton Nascimento - Milagre dos Peixes
José Prates - Tam Tam Tam
Tribo Massahi - Estrelando Embaixador
Carioca - Luar do Sertão
Oliveira de Panelas - O Perguntador
Djalma Corrêa - Baiafro
Naná Vasconcelos - Amazonas
Jorge Ben - África Brasil
Dorival Caymmi - E seu Violão
Bola Sete - Ocean
Nelson Cavaquinho - Depoimento do Poeta
Tom Zé - Estudando o Samba
Jocy de Oliveira - Estórias para Voz, Instrumentos Acústicos e Eletrônicos
Egberto Gismonti - Dança das Cabeças
Marlui Miranda - Ihu - Todos os Sons
Marcelo: Some Brazilian records which I really love:
Clara Nunes - O canto das 3 raças
Bezerra da Silva - Justiça Social
Nelson Cavaquinho - Série Documento
Riachão, Batatinha e Panela - Samba da Bahia
Paulinho da Viola - Foi um rio que Passou em minha vida
Metá Metá - Metal Metal
Ratos De Porão - Crucificados pelo Sistema
Mercenarias - Cadê as armas?
Clementina de Jesus, Pixinguinha e João da Baiana - Gente da Antiga
Zeca Pagodinho - Self-titled
Banda Black Rio - Maria Fumaça
Miguel de Deus - Black Soul Brothers
Alcione - Gostoso Veneno
Pedro Santos - Krishnanda (an unanimity in the band, I guess)
Mariano: My list would be huge as well, so here are some (besides all the gems they already
Jorge Ben - A Tábua de Esmeralda
Fundo de Quintal - Ao Vivo (the 1992/1993 version)
Secos e Molhados - Self-titled
Mutantes - Mande um Abraço pra Velha 7''
Cartola - Self-titled
I Shot Cyrus - Tiranus
Felinto - Devs T Lovwe
Sérgio Sampaio - Tem Que Acontecer
Marconi Notaro - No Sub-Reino dos Metazoários
Casa das Máquinas - Lar de Maravilhas
Lula Côrtes & Lailson - Satwa
Naná Vasconcelos - Africadeus
Guem - O Universo Rítmico de Guem (he's Algerian, but the album was recorded here, using only
Brazilian instruments, so I guess that counts)
RP: How proud do you feel that, when having to choose a language somewhere online, Brazil's flag shows up for Portuguese instead of Portugal's?
Mariano: Guess it's because of the sheer number of portuguese speakers over here, more than any other country in the world, maybe. Portuguese is a lovely language, but I don't feel exactly proud for it hehehe!
RP: Is it ever weird that you're one of the only bands that don't regularly get "Come to Brazil \m/" comments?
D: hahaha I can say it already happened but not that much, that's true! Maybe because here in Brazil we're not THAT well known, besides being on Neurot, touring all over constantly and etc, we're still somehow a weird-sounding punk band from the underground.
Mariano: We also toured a lot across Brazil, so maybe people are kinda tired of us, like 'please, don't come to Brazil' hehehe
Photo by sigarciasi
RP: Considering its size, position and resources, why is it that Brazil never became a bigger geopolitical force?
D: "The greatest blessing of Latin American countries has become its greatest curse". To understand the answer to your question, it is first necessary to understand that this nation (as well as many others on the south of the map) was born out of colonialism, exploitation, genocide and corruption in the broadest sense of the word. This means that, no matter how much time goes by, a colony will apparently always be a colony. Third world countries must exist in order for first world countries to be as they are today - it is a simple equation. What is simple and basic for the well-being of a European often sounds like the most distant dream for an ordinary Brazilian, and this is no exaggeration. Carrying an immense burden of constant genocide on the indigenous people, more than 300 years of slavery and probably one of the most racist countries in the world, just over 20 years of a brutal military dictatorship, the unbridled exploitation of natural resources everywhere without the minimum urban and social planning, the evil hunger for power of the great elites of this country and the lack of knowledge and education about the history of our own country (the precariousness of the educational system as a political project) - all this and much more culminates in a no man's land, where the relationship with democracy could not be more troubled throughout its history. Political corruption and police brutality (state control) is so ingrained and naturalized in our reality that most of the population - lacking of basic needs and having to work until it dies in order to simply survive - is unable to trust anything and no one at the same time that it's very vulnerable to the lies of the media and the politicians. Everyone needs to fight tooth and nail for what's theirs no matter what it takes - That ends up turning everybody against each other as we perpetuate the culture of exploitation in many layers, living a constant class war and the terrible consequences of racism, homophobia, etc. Desperate people, accustomed to live with death and fear of misery on a daily basis but with an immense desire to live and love, but always being slaughtered by the instruments of power from the evil elites of this nation - which are nothing more than filthy dogs on the leashes of this blind image of the United States. To finish and have it even clearer, I'll leave here a quote from a very pertinent text by Eduardo Galeano: "According to the voice of those who give the orders, countries in the south of the world must believe in freedom of trade (although it does not exist), in honoring debt (although it is dishonorable), in attracting investments (although they are unworthy) and in enter the world (albeit through the service door). Enter the world: the world is the market. The world market, where countries are bought. Nothing new. Latin America was born to obey, when the world market was not yet called that, and by leaps and bounds we continue to be bound by the duty of obedience. This sad routine of the centuries began with gold and silver, and followed with sugar, tobacco, guano, saltpeter, copper, tin, rubber, cocoa, banana, coffee, oil. What did these splendors leave us? Neither inheritance nor calm. Gardens transformed into deserts, abandoned fields, rutted mountains, stagnant waters, long caravans of unfortunates condemned to premature death and empty palaces where the ghosts wander. Now it is the turn of transgenic soybeans, false cellulose forests and the new menu of automobiles, which no longer eat only oil or gas, but also maize and sugar cane from immense plantations. Feeding cars is more important than feeding people. And again, the ephemeral glories return, which at the sound of their trumpets announce great misfortunes. (...) Is the past silent? Or are we still deaf?"
Mariano: Worth noting is also the place Brazil has as a 'sub-empire' in South America, enforcing trade deals and policies which tend to benefit its own interests. If you pair this with language barriers and a certain fetish with the global North (we like to call it 'stray-dog-syndrome'), makes us the eternal resources provider, never the able and scientific power we could be.
RP: With the pandemic affecting Brazil quite severely, your own version of Trump, and what I can only assume are even worse racial tensions, could you give us some first-hand information about the situation there? Also how do we get out of this mess?
Marcelo: There's a rise of neo-fascism here in Brazil. People are on the streets, expliciting their racist, pro-military, ultra-conservative side. We move towards more precarization and decay on subjects like education and health, and towards a growth in police militarization and repression of peripheric communities. There are many people discussing the whole thing and trying to create a different atmosphere, but the moment is quite hard.
Mariano: The political situation is insane, and honestly it is worse for our mental health than the pandemic. The president and his henchmen subscribe to the most insane globalist theories, while denying the danger of the virus, calling it communist at the same time. Emergency-relief support is being purposely handled with leniency, credit for small and medium-ranged companies is non-existent. By doing that, the president throws all of the responsibility for the economic hardship on the governors. All of his sons (who are also involved in politics) are individually involved in corruption scandals, from fake-news networks to the diversion of public money. This social tension makes it even harder for us to have any sense of hope, since an already insane government might attempt a coup at any time, as it's being more and more pressured by everybody with even a partial brain. He flirts openly with the idea of doing so, and there's not much expectation for things to improve, even if he's ousted. The ex-minister of education has just fled the country using his diplomatic passport to avoid being arrested. If that doesn't tell you something about the country, nothing else does. Racial tensions here are always peaking, at the same time that much of the non-affected actively deny it. At the same time George Floyd was killed, we had the death of João Pedro, a 14-year old who was machine-gunned while inside his house, with more than 70 bullets, was taken out by the police, and his family only knew where he was 17 hour afterwards, in the public morgue. In the last weeks, many videos of police beating people senseless, for absolutely no reason, are surfacing almost to a daily basis. Coronavirus itself kills far more poor (therefore black, on the saddening configuration of this country) than rich people. In the U.S., with blacks representing less than 20% of the population, the struggle for equality echoes around the country and consequently across the world, while here, with more than 50%, we are still subjected to mass incarceration and way smaller life expectancy rates, all of which are being enforced by the very same people who deny it, subscribing to a 'racial democracy' narrative - while trying to keep the historical facts as unreacheable as possible. We can only expect to emerge as a better nation in racial terms when we're able to provide the social devices which allow a more equal participation of said excluded people, such as access to better education, health and real security. Also creating real awareness of the really recent process of slavery and the European migration process of the 1900's, which was explicitly an attempt of 'whitening' the country after the slaves were freed. This eugenistic initiative is very well-documented, but the huge majority of people in Brazil will never get to know about it.
RP: Do you resent the Germans more for exporting fascism or for that 7-1?
D: Imo, the 7-1 served as a symbolic happening that represents everything that I said in the question above. I don't care about football, and I think it was a good "wake up" for those who get distracted by the spectacle. "Remember your position in the world", "Every day, another 7-1!" Besides that, nazism sucks and it sucks to see that it's still alive and breathing out there, closer than we can think. For example, Bolsonaro government has already made use of several references to Nazi symbology (of course in the most foul way possible), and a portion of its supporters are no longer afraid to openly show themselves sympathetic to this shitty ideology.
Mariano: I don't resent Germans at all! Of course nazism as a symbol still strives throughout the world, but most people we know in Germany are actually quite aware of its legacy, and actively dislike it, which for me is the most important thing - sense of responsibility rather than guilt. Understanding the possibilities you have (and others don't) and how we need to watch out for the rise of extreme-right proselytism is the goal. The 7-1, in my opinion, was something necessary to shake the place football had on Brazilian identity. The outcome might not have been the best, but what can we do... Also, krautrock/kosmische musik is a HUGE influence on what we do, as well as Neubauten, so we got to thank them for that!
Anything else you'd wanna add for our readers?
D: Thanx for all the support. Love, Awareness and Unity.
Marcelo: Thanks to everybody who's reading, and to our friends scattered throughout this big world!
Mariano: Cheers and thanks to everybody who took the time to read this. Black and non-white lives matter. Justice for João Pedro and many others who are killed and considered to be second-class citizens. Peace and rhythm for everybody.
Thanks to Apothecary for coming up with a few of the questions, you're the best!
||Posted on 27.06.2020 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.|
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