Jack's Brazil Diaries
the First week
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000 18:12:44 BST
I'm sending this from the offices of Trama Records in Sao Paulo,where our two CDs (Never Mind The Bossa Nova Here's Bloco Vomit & Play This Ya Bastard) are being released next week. Trama is the coolest label in Brazil, with not only famous artists like Tom Ze, but a load of roots music - including the 2000 recording of the Sao Paulo samba schools in carnival. We are here after playing our first gig last Sunday at Abril Pro Rock, the biggest rock festival in Brazil. We got a stunning reception and since then have been interviewed by most major newspapers in Recife, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. We have three TV appearances this week including MTV. The welcome is fantastic and Trama are really looking after us. The caipirinhas are f%&^ing fantastic and we are all getting fat from the sugar in them and the seriously good food. In Recife we went to the studio where the founder of Manguebeat, Chico Science, recorded his last album before his tragic death at the age of 33 in a car crash. We met Otto, former member of Mundo Livre, one of the first of the manguebeat bands and now Brazils biggest resident rock star. And he is a fabulous guy, and wants to come to Scotland to do a show with us in September. So we are thinking of playing in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Tonight we play at the Woodstock Bar, our only Sao Paulo gig, then after TV Cultura tomorrow and MTV on Wednesday, we~re off to Rio to play the Ballroom on Friday (plus more TV) and Cantareira in Niteroi on Saturday. We have been headlining news in Rio, apparently, with our show and Otto's considered to be the best on Sunday at Abril Pro Rock. I'm not sure about that as the bands we played with were fantastic, roots music from Paraiba in the north mixed with rap, an Afoxe band and some seriously good music. In Recife we were continually recognised in the street (in a city of a million people). We are "a banda maluca escocesa", the crazy-daft Scottish band, or "tresloucadasa", triple-crazy, who drink caipirinhas like water, and the truth isnt far off. At Abril Pro Rock there were always three or more Voms hanging around the Caipirinha Bar.
We arrived on Friday 7th amid much apprehension and terror as we had no work permits, too late to get them, so we left all the big drums and guitar behind. We could have been deported immediately - or worse.... - but despite this we got through and were met by Kid Vinil at the airport (Kid is the Johnny Rotten of Brazil and the fans are as interested in him as us!!! always signing autographs ). We went to our friend Ze Guilhermes house and despite fatigue went out for the first caipirinhas of the tour. On Saturday the heavens opened and the streets were deluged in a tropical downpour as we made our way to the rehearsal studio - met the other three (nine of us arrived on Friday) - and rehearsed the set. It is hot and we are a bit jetlagged, we are off to the festival which has a day of really heavy Nirvana-style music ending with Soulfly, ex-Sepultura Max Cavalera band (a great maracatu track), we meet a guy called Paulo Costa who is publishing a book about Manguebeat and we are in it!!!! He gives us a copy. Back to Ze's house for more caipirinhas. On Sunday, we move to the siete Colinas hotel where we're staying for two days and head down for the soundcheck. We're on the small stage, there are two, but it is a nice size and not so separated from the crowd. The sound engineer knows Mike's brother from a tour in Canada - small world. The band soundchecking before us are Cabruera, from north Brazil, they play berimbau and loads of percussion - looks good. We soundcheck, the Brazilian sound engineers know their stuff, individual mics for the drums. As the four surdos hammer out maracatu rhythms booming around the empty hall, I know it's going to be good. Adrenaline is pumping around and feel spaced out, stay off the beers and caipirinhas. The hall fills up, the interviews start, meet up with Ze da Flauta, Marcos Filippi and other musicians and journalists with whom I've corresponded by email. Some people go for food, I hang around. We are second band on, not enough people so the start is delayed. The first band on the main stage, laid back keyboards but nice stuff, and the hall is filling up. I get a caipirinha, two beers and a guarana (coffee like stimulant) and it's time to go on! The crowd is totally focussed on what we're doing and we launch in to "Not Fade Away". One of the biggest Bloco Vomit lineups ever with four surdos, two caixas, Annie and I on repiniques, chocalho, guitar and trumpet. The maracatu follows and by this time people are dancing at the front and the middle. At some time a conga (dance, not drum) is formed. We only have a 40 minute set, no band gets an encore apart from the last band, and we end with Wild Thing/Louie Louie and a 45 second version of Surfin Bird.
Jasper and Rob excel themselves clowning around at the front of the stage, Annie and I are playing each others drums and playing with our backs leaning against each other, we put down the drums to go off the stage and are immediately pushed back on - no way are we going to leave without an encore. We launch into "Love Lies Limp" (Barry would have been proud) and then Esther shouts "SOME PEOPLE THINK THAT LITTLE GIRLS SHOULD BE SEEN AND NOT HEARD.....BUT I THINK, OH BONDAGE UP YOURS!!!!" and off we go again, my drum is half untied. We look crazy as usual with middle aged men in frocks and dresses, the girls looking butch, Ze is wearing a kilt made out of Irn Bru cans, then we're off and totally exhausted but the dressing room is full of cameras and everyone is getting interviewed. And for once, the press here is intelligent in their questions about our interest in Brazilian music and how can it be mixed with punk rock. We are part of the indigenous Manguebeat Movement here and the British rock press can go f%&^ themselves. Dozens of caipirinhas follow, Gary and I end up drinking beer at the hotel - which is a delightful place of pool and palms in the middle of old Olinda, a seventeenth century Portuguese town with some Dutch influences - talking to some musicians from other bands playing. It's been a great night and the band gave 110% and we deserved the rapturous reception.
Half the band move from the hotel back to Ze's house and the rest of us negotiate a serious discount - a caipirinha in the best hotel in Olinda costs 60p and everything is cheap. It takes two days to recover and then we meet up with the Manguenius people who run an excellent manguebeat web site and magazine. These are great people, we eat a fantastic meal of Pernambuco home cooking, hop on a bus with the craziest driver in Brazil, Ayrton Senna reincarnated, roaring through the deserted streets to old Recife where we hang out in a bar full of equally crazy people, someone is playing a trumpet to Link Wray, we meet the festival presenter who owns the bar, we sign CDs for him...I forgot to say that we signed dozens at the festival and exchanged T shirts and unbelievably met up with a Brazilian guy who played guitar when we were in Amsterdam two and a half years ago...eventually we go back to the hotel. On Wednesday we have a feijoada .. typical Brazilian lunch at Ze's and then head to the airport. Four hours of flight and we are in Sao Paulo. Kid Vinil meets us and takes us to the hotel. Apartments with cooker and fridge and the record company is picking up the bill for the entire week - a serious amount of money as Sao Paulo is much, much, much more expensive than Recife and I reckon it costs them more than pressing the 2000 CDs (for each album). Friday morning we have breakfast and then the phone calls start. Rob and I are being interviewed simultaneously, then a third interview and we take refuge in a nearby bar. Later that night we do an online interview which is hilarious ("why do you always talk about accountants" - "we are sponsored by the British association of accountants") and then meet up with Otto again. On Saturday we wander around Sao Paulo and have lunch and buy dozens of drums and sticks and bags like kids in sweet shops and then Annie and I get completely plastered on caipirinhas and I collapse back at the hotel. Sunday is complete chill out and now it's Monday. The fun starts again with the gig tonight. We're waiting to see what the drums are like. We have met all the people at Trama, the sales people and everyone. Soundcheck in an hour....