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Interviews   

AQUAPLANING WITH KIKO LOUREIRO


Kiko Loureiro is a talkative man! The man just won’t let you get a word in edgeways! Just when you think he’s done with the answer and you start asking the next question, he resumes talking and arguing again. But to be honest, it’s always a pleasure to interview someone who has so many things to say – and his Portuguese accent does add something to the conversation. Actually, it led us to talk about a very interesting topic, which was not on the agenda: Portuguese, Angra’s mother language, and the reason that led the band to use it so sparsely in their music.

Kiko unveils the secrets of Aqua, Angra’s brand new, strong, and multi-colored album. Not to mention that it marks the return of the band’s distinguished drummer, Ricardo Confessori. Kiko also tells us about the co-headlining tour the other big name of the Brazilian metal scene, Sepultura – which, despite what their detractors might say, is doing very well from a musical point of view. It was also the opportunity to evoke the band’s upcoming 20th anniversary and to ask the fateful question: on this occasion, would an event with Angra’s old chums, André Matos and Luis Mariutti, be possible?

The answers to all these questions are below.

(About Ricardo Confessori) « We spent eight or nine years together in Angra, and when we look back now, we only remember the good stuff. When you look at the big picture, we only had problems for six months, and for the rest, it’s eight years of friendship. That’s our point of view. »

Radio Metal: In 2008, there was apparently a misunderstanding with a message from Edu Falaschi, who said Angra has been “terminated”. What was the status of the band at the time? Were you just having a break, or did the thought of pulling the plug cross your mind?

Kiko Loureiro (guitars): We recorded Aurora Consurgens in 2006, then we went on tour in 2007. In 2008, we were having problems with our manager. For me, it was a break. We were working on switching management, so the band was there, but we weren’t doing anything from an artistic point of view. It all went very well: Rafael did his solo album, I did my own and went on tour with Tarja Turunen. We took a whole year and it went very smoothly. Then, in 2009, we decided to come back and do concerts, not record an album. We just wanted to go out and play. Then we were in contact with Sepultura and went on tour with them. We were sharing the stage, it was a co-headlining tour. We’d never player together in our career before. It was very cool to have both bands together, mainly to the Brazilian fans. At the end of 2009, we started composing this new album. In the middle of our break year, people started talking about a lot of different stuff. We never wanted to talk about this management stuff, we always wanted to talk about music. We didn’t go to the press to talk about what was happening, so people thought the band was over. It was not.

In March 2009, Angra announced the return of Ricardo Confessori. How did that happen?

Rafael invited Ricardo when he did his solo album. There’s always been friendship between these two in the past years, so Rafael asked Ricardo to play a few songs on his solo album. Then Ricardo approached the band, and the friendship was back all over again. We stopped playing together in 2000, so it had been years since we’d seen him. We had problems with our previous drummer, Aquiles [Priester]: he had his own band, and he was totally involved with this project. And since Ricardo was interesting in coming back to Angra…

Ricardo was abandoned by his former bandmates of Shaman and had to find new musicians to record a third album under that name. This album had very little success. Do you think this is what motivated him to go back to Angra?

He still does his band, actually. I think what motivated him, and us, was the chemistry we had in the past. It was really fun to play together, the feeling was great. Playing new and old songs with Ricardo’s style was nice. What motivates musicians first and foremost is the music. Some other people might think we’re motivated by something else, but mainly it’s the music, and the feeling of playing together. And Ricardo still does his band. I don’t know how long we’re gonna play together, but it doesn’t matter, ‘cause the feeling is still good now. That’s the most important thing.

Did you find the same feeling that you had nine years ago?

Yeah, we did, exactly. That’s what motivated everybody. It’s funny, when you’ve been travelling a lot and you see someone you haven’t seen in a long time, it’s like a brother who’s always been around. It almost feels like there was no break. People don’t change that much, it’s funny. The good memories are the ones that remain. We spent eight or nine years together in Angra, and when we look back now, we only remember the good stuff. When you look at the big picture, we only had problems for six months, and for the rest, it’s eight years of friendship. That’s our point of view.

Angra will soon a have new album out, Aqua. It starts with a song called “Arising Thunder”, which was the first song revealed. It’s a classic speed metal song, quite different from the overall, more progressive orientation of the album. Was it a way to start the album on known grounds before showing the new stuff the band has to offer?

You can see it this way. But every song on the album is different from the other, and I think Angra has always been like that. We have the traditional speed song, which is this one; we have the progressive song, we have a more pop-rock, radio ballad, we have something more classical, something more ethnic… We try to have everything, and you just have to start with something. It’s more about the energy, not about easy-listening. I don’t know if this song is easier to listen to, but it’s very powerful and direct. There’s also something with the lyrics, we’re using a play from Shakespeare as a guideline for the lyrics. This song is about thunder and tempest. We wanted to follow the plot of the play and start with this song.

This song is the only fast and straightforward track in the album. All the other tracks are more subtle, more laidback and progressive, with some very interesting instrumental parts, like in “Weakness Of A Man”. The whole album is very diverse. What pushed the band toward that kind of diversity?

We like to be very diverse. We have many people in the band, and everybody composes and brings in new ideas. We had a long break, but we had a lot of ideas. We had almost 30 songs. That’s why it sounds very progressive and very different, because everybody put a lot of ideas and effort into this. During this break and our time with Sepultura, we had time to gather a lot of different ideas.

There’s almost a jazz-fusion vibe to some parts of the album, like on the instrumental part in “Hollow”. Has your experience with your solo albums influenced the composition process for this album? Especially Universo Inverso, which was a very jazz-oriented album?

Brazilian music, jazz… I’ve always been into this music, and then I used it on Universo Inverso. When I do a solo album, I want to show another side of myself and play different music. But of course I used it in songs for Angra afterwards, and the band loved it. “Hollow” does have a jazzy feel to it, with a jazzy solo. Other parts have these same vibes as well. But even when we were doing more straightforward metal stuff, it always sounded a bit progressive. When we sound progressive, it’s not because we listen to progressive music: it’s because we’re listening to other music, like jazz, flamenco, tango, or classical. Angra is not a progressive band influenced by progressive bands. I think we really sound different from bands that are really in the progressive stuff. It’s our open-mindedness about music brings this progressiveness to our sound. The jazz is there, inside the songs; sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it’s not.

This album also contains more Brazilian influences, with more percussions and rhythms than the last three albums. You can hear this in songs like “Awake From Darkness”, “The Rage Of The Waters”, or “Weakness Of A Man”. Is it something Ricardo brought back with him?

No, although he helped, of course, ‘cause he’s the drummer. That’s something that comes from the band. We like that. “Weakness Of A Man”, for example, is a song we had before Ricardo joined the band. It’s not only about Ricardo, but since we have him, we know we’re able to take him into this direction, ‘cause he’s gonna do it well. Whoever the composer is can push the Latin thing a little, and then when Ricardo plays, it sounds more Latin as well. The composition and the sound of the album is really something we worked on together.

Did you feel restrained about this when you had Aquiles in the band?

He was more metal, yes. We also had some of this stuff, but he was more into straightforward metal. He was a very good drummer, but very metal, and not very open to other influences.

« The market for our music dictated the language. If we’d played pop music, we would have done it in Portuguese. Then we would have been on the radio and done TV shows, with romantic songs for example. But for heavy metal, the market is Japan, Europe and the United States. We had to sing in English to have our albums released somewhere. « 

The album is called Aqua, which means water – the essence of life. Do you think this album represents the essence of Angra?

Yes, in many aspects. The essence of Angra, the music we do, can take many forms, like water. We really believe our music has a lot of variety, and we did a very diverse album, like water is. But that’s just one of the meanings of the name, because as I said, it’s also based on a Shakespeare play, The Tempest. All the artworks revolve around The Tempest, and the main character, Prospero. He’s represented on the cover of the album. Also, what happens in the play is really related to what we experienced ourselves through the past years: somebody really close to you who betrayed you, like Prospero’s brother… A lot of elements Shakespeare put in his play appeal to the band: the island, magic, the monster… Aqua is a simple name, like the name Angra, and we like that. Names that describe an album simply are the best.

What does Shakespeare’s Tempest represent to you? Why did you want to base the album upon this play?

We were interested in the story. After the betrayal, Prospero forgives his betrayer, and it’s the same feeling we have nowadays. We continued Angra, we didn’t look back. We always have an optimistic look towards the future, and that’s a little bit like in the play. We felt the story of the play itself had a lot to do with the band. Also, it’s always good to have a guideline to the lyrics. For this album, we had three people writing lyrics: Felipe, Rafael and myself. In these circumstances, guidelines are good, otherwise anyone could write about anything, and the concept of the album would be lost. The symbols of the play are well represented in the lyrics. We’re not telling the actual story, we’re just using phrases and images. It’s a cohesive work.

The album is not out in France yet, but I’ve read there’s gonna be a limited edition, with a second CD called “Edu Falaschi era”. What is it?

I think it’s a compilation of songs from the older albums. I think SPV does that for bands who’ve had a long career. Next year we’ll be celebrating our 20th anniversary, and Edu’s been with us ten years. I think it was a celebration thing. New fans, people who get to know Angra now can listen to it and discover the band. I think they’re gonna do a vinyl version as well, which is very cool. It’s good to have different versions of the same album.

I’ve also read that the band decided to self-release the album in Brazil. Why?

Actually, we have a label here, helping us, so we know what to do. We have a big record company in Japan, in Europe we have SPV, which is pretty big as well. But here in Brazil, we have a smaller one, and that’s better. The market kind of dictates that. With records sells going down, you have to do your best if you want to sell. You have to reach the people you want to reach, do special products, or work with partners that know what they’re doing. Sometimes big companies don’t care about your music. Here in Brazil, we have a big fanbase, despite the fact that we sing in English. But of course, the market for domestic music is much bigger. So we have to work with people who do a proper job. We’ve been doing this for many years, so what’s best for us.

Since the Brazilian market is so important for the band, why did you never do more songs in your own language?

It’s a good question. We should have. But then we’d have to sell only in Brazil.

Many Swedish or Finnish bands sing in their own languages…

I know, but it seems to be a new trend, this kind of folk-ish, Finnish metal thing. It’s cool, actually. But each country works differently. I don’t know what people will think if French metal bands start singing in French. After almost 20 years, we’d have to find a really good way to make Angra suddenly started singing in Portuguese. People are probably going to think we want to be on the radio, or become more popular. They’ll think it’s a marketing tool, not an artistic thing. If you sing in the language of the country, it’s much easier to reach the people and to get a bigger fanbase. But the Angra fans know we’re an international band, and they like that. They also have a patriotic feeling, they’re proud a Brazilian band could go international. So they respect the English stuff. It’s complicated. If you do one or two songs, like we did already, or a part of a song, it works better. Also, it’s funny because, when we record in Portuguese, people from every country like it. For Brazilian fans, it’s nothing special! For outlanders, it’s cool that we sing in our native language, they can discover how it sounds. It’s more unique than in your own country, where it sound like a marketing thing.

Artistically, Portuguese is a very musical language…

Yes, it is. And we already did a few songs that had some parts in Portuguese. We should try to do that more often: having part of the lyrics in Portuguese, or do a version of the song in that language. But recording a whole album in Portuguese would appear like a marketing thing. Or it would look like we’re just focusing on Brazil. If we had an album only in Portuguese, no one might want to release it outside of Brazil. It really depends on the image of the band: if a Finnish folk band started out with songs in Finnish and had success with it, they should stick with that. People know what to expect, and that’s cool. Same thing with Rammstein, who’ve always sung in German.

But isn’t deciding to sing in English early on a marketing thing? Isn’t the goal to reach a more international audience?

At the very beginning of Angra, this kind of music didn’t exist in Brazil. This scene was very small and very underground. Some bands were singing in English, like Sepultura, others were singing in Portuguese, but it was all very underground. The goal was to work in a more professional context, or at least to reach more people with English. When we started Angra, the only deal we had was with Japan. Then came Europe, and only after that did we get a deal in Brazil. The market for our music dictated the language. If we’d played pop music, we would have done it in Portuguese. Then we would have been on the radio and done TV shows, with romantic songs for example. But for heavy metal, the market is Japan, Europe and the United States. We had to sing in English to have our albums released somewhere. Nothing would have happened if our songs had been in Portuguese. The same goes for Swedish or Finnish bands: if they want to have an international career, they have to sing in English. But that could be another subject: the domination of the English language in the world. If you want to be a part of this world, you have to accept this domination. The only thing we can do is show that we’re Brazilian in the music. That’s what we always tried somehow, notably with the percussions: not denying where we come from, and composing the way Brazilian music is composed. Even the great bosanova guys had to sing Frank Sinatra when they began! It’s a domination thing, we should go back 70 or 80 years and complain!

« If I get an invitation or if I met them in a bar, maybe we could talk, remember that we started out twenty years ago, and remember how cool it was. Then maybe we could think about a special event for the anniversary and play, for example, “Carry On” like we did 20 years ago. […] That’s something we could think about for next year. I don’t know about them but I wouldn’t have any problems with it.« 

Like you said earlier, in 2009, Angra and Sepultura went on tour together. Although these two bands are the most emblematic Brazilian bands, they play very different kinds of metal. How was this package received by the audience? Wasn’t it hard for Angra to convince Sepultura fans, and vice-versa?

At first we really had a doubt, but then we decided to do it anyway. We received good feedback from the media, which was cool – the two bands having a show together is a good thing to talk about. In general, metal fans respect both bands because of their history. If we’d done this in 1995, for example, it could have been a problem. But now people are more open to all kinds of stuff. This iPod generation listens to every type of music. During our show with Sepultura, when we played, the Sepultura fans would stay behind and our fans would be at the front. When Sepultura came on stage, their fans came closer. But we also saw many people in Sepultura T-shirts in the first rows, and people in Angra T-shirts singing along to Sepultura songs. They’re metal fans, they listen to anything. Personally, I can listen to Whitesnake one day, and go for Slayer the next day, and I have no problem with that. Of course some fans support a band like they do a soccer team, and they hate all the others, but that’s not the majority. We didn’t know what could happen. Some fans might not have come because going from Angra to Sepultura was too extreme. We have no idea, maybe it scared teenage girls away. But Sepultura fans are not as aggressive as one might think. Death metal fans in Europe are much more extreme.

Have you ever thought about a studio collaboration between the two bands?

Yeah, why not? When we were on tour, we shared a lot of ideas. It could happen, Andreas [Kisser, guitars] is very open. But when the tour was over, we really wanted to record an Angra album. The collaboration can come later.

In 2009, you released a solo album called Full Blast. It’s your third in only four years. It looks like you really have pleasure in making these solo albums, especially with Full Blast, which is very diverse. Is that because you somehow feel constrained by Angra’s musical style and what the fans might expect from the band that you feel the need to make solo albums that are more open?

I really do feel the need to do it, that’s right. My life is basically music, and I like to compose a lot. I just want to compose and record, which I didn’t do much in the 90s. Now I really have the urge to record the instrumental music I compose. It doesn’t affect the Angra thing, and I can show my other side. It’s a hobby as well as a job. To keep my relation to Angra’s music healthy, I have to do something else and play with other people. Otherwise it would be boring. Music is not like marriage: if you go with somebody else, you won’t have any problems! You can play with other musicians and have fun with other people.

Are you saying that your bandmates are boring?!

No! But you need to do something else sometimes. People can have hobbies, they can play golf or soccer, or play video games. I play the guitar with other people. It’s good to have this, it’s healthy. Otherwise you would just live the same life all the time and keep playing the same songs. I don’t do this only for the money, but for the pleasure of playing music. There’s no reason to restrict yourself from playing other kinds of music.

Then why did you wait such a long time before recording a solo album? The first one, No Gravity, only came out in 2005…

I don’t know. I was always very focused on Angra and other stuff. I didn’t do a solo album because I wanted to be a solo artist and have a solo career. It’s just that it was the right moment. I work for Angra first and foremost, and if I have the time, I do something else. Also, maybe I wasn’t enough experienced. Angra takes up a lot of my time, and I didn’t have the time to compose a solo album and go to the studio to record it before. I used to be happy with just doing guitar solos with Angra, but it evolved naturally. At some point I realized I had a lot of songs and I could do an album. It was a fun experience, and after that, a friend of mine suggested we could record another one, with a different kind of music.

Let’s change the subject a little: have you had any contact with André Matos and Luis Mariutti in the past years? What is your relationship with them nowadays?

São Paulo is a big city, so we won’t meet each other in the street! We’ve met in rock clubs or festivals or that kind of things. We’ve met and talked a little. Nothing more than that.

Do you miss the friendship you had back then?

I don’t think about it, actually. Of course it would be cool if everybody had good relationships. That’s why it was good to have Ricardo back. But that happened very naturally: you meet up with someone, talk about the old days and have fun, and next thing you know, you’re offering him to play with you again. That’s what happened with Ricardo, and we realized the chemistry was still there. It didn’t happen that way with André. A booking agent once asked us to call André to do a tour. That would have seemed forced, and it has to be a natural thing. But the vibe in Angra is cool right now, we have no reason to call in another guy to screw up the situation.

Like you said, next year is going to be Angra’s 20th anniversary. Would it be possible to have André and Luis back for a special event?

That would be cool. It’s an idea, we can see about that. But it’s not like I need these guys to be happy. Maybe it would be cool for the fans, but right now, the band is doing good. That’s why I’m saying it has to be natural, not forced. If I get an invitation or if I met them in a bar, maybe we could talk, remember that we started out twenty years ago, and remember how cool it was. Then maybe we could think about a special event for the anniversary and play, for example, “Carry On” like we did 20 years ago.

But iIf you’re waiting for them to make the move, and they’re waiting for you to do it, nothing will ever happen!

Yeah, sure, we could invite them. That’s something we could think about for next year. I don’t know about them but I wouldn’t have any problems with it.

Interview conducted in september, 2010, by phone.
MySpace d’Angra : http://www.myspace.com/angraofficial
MySpace de Kiko Loureiro : http://www.myspace.com/kikoloureiro



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