rencontré Arto Lindsay, le plus Brésilien des musiciens
américains, la veille de son concert à Banlieues Bleues.
Très détendu et ne manquant pas dhumour, il nous parle
de sa carrière et des artistes brésiliens quil apprécie.
: One of my best friend in Brazil is Hermano Vianna. He wrote a book about
the funk in Rio, where they play a lot of records from America, mostly
Miami style. Some of these balls are really violent, some are not, it
is very intense though. The kids put words in portuguese that sounds like
the words in english. It is an amazing phenomenon.
In France, a few years ago, we had a funk revival, with a lot of bands,
and it is amazing to see the difference, because here it was
quite peaceful, with a lot of good parties while in Brazil funk is played
in more violent areas. Funk in Brazil is maybe like hip-hop in France,
it is a bit the same kind of phenomenon
A.L. : There was an article in The Face about how violent they
are but it was so wrong because there is about 15 funk balls every week
and only 2 or 3 are really violent, the rest are not so violent. And life
is violent, life is very violent in that part of Rio. The poverty is terrible
and the gangs control the drugs, etc
Inequality is brutal. Hermano
Vianna wrote an other book about samba, who was born at the beginning
of the XXth century, the connection between modernism and the formation
of samba. It really is a XXth century music, a combination of african
music and music that was popular with the bourgeois, french polka, musette,
pop music of that time, that is samba
You are talking about Rio but in what area did you stayed when you
were living in Brasil ?
A.L. : I grew up in Pernambuco.
You lived there all the time you stayed in Brasil or did you move to
other places ?
A.L. : My parents moved there and took me, in the baggage, when
I was 3. And I lived there for 15 years and then I moved back to America.
Now, for the last 15 years, Ive been going there constantly again.
I have a place in Rio and I work there. I spend 2, 3 or 4 months there
every year. Mostly in Rio and Bahia now.
After your avant-garde career, since youve started your singing
career, you became more brazilian to people
A.L. : Yes,
thats well-said because I think I became more brazilian
people but in my own way of seing it, even in my avant-garde work, the
impulse of it came from Brazil. I think about the brazilian pop from the
60s, a lot of it was quite avant-garde. All over the world too,
the Beatles, this was very avant-garde music. The free-jazz influence,
the Stockhausen influence, Hendrix just himself and what he did. This
is what shaped me as much as what was happening in Brasil, Jorge Ben
There is an history of change, radicality and self-consciousness in brazilian
pop music. It was a very deliberate and self-conscious and historically
awared movement, " lets change, lets be modern ".
Jorge Ben himself started with a totally different style. Once they started,
they were approached by the concrete poets who said, " do you realize
that what you are doing is is very similar to what was done in Brazil
in the 20s ". When I moved to New-York and when I started to
make music this felt natural to me. When I just started to play I thought
I would become a rock-star immediatly. I wanted to touch people, I did
not realized we would be ghettoised to such an extand. I think it has
to do with the perception of punk as a social movement. It was anti-everything,
nihilistic. It was a reaction to the situation in England. Punk thing
in New-York is, in a way, more aesthetic than social, you know what I
mean. So even in DNA, I had lyrics in portuguese, Fernando Pessoa cut-ups,
we were really interested in trance and possession. It was in 77-78. We
were interested in music from all different countries and trying to have
it in the avant-garde thing. At the beginning, people didnt really
You are mixing brazilian influences in your music, Beck says he likes
Caetano Veloso and they will record together, New-York is an exception
maybe becaue it is very cosmopolitan, but it really seems that the american
culture is not very opened to other cultures.
I know what you are talking about. America is huge. America makes
if you think about the pop music of the world, basically you have United
and theres not so much place left
(rires). It is already so much, it is this stuff, this african-european
stuff everybody likes. Because it helps you get laid and it helps you
think, what else do you want ? But America is an isolated place, or has
been. America dominates or has dominated and continues to dominate the
world, they dont need anything else. America also is a country where
it is far away. Its not like Europe where you have all these little
countries all together. America is a place economically self-sufficient,
there is imperialism here and there but it doesnt have a long history.
And I consider Brazil and United States very similar. Yes, most Americans
dont speak an other language, everything else is far away and exotic
and a little scary. New-York is different. But it is changing. It has
to do with so many different things : fear of economic decline even though
the United States is really dominating now, it has to do with globalization
sort of generation thing, it has to do with cds opposed to records,
distribution getting better. Im sure there is historical factors
that are also pushing America to open up. But when you are talking about
Beck and people like that, you are talking about the cool intelligent
young kids who are looking for something new and interesting. Its
got to go beyond them to really made a huge difference, to really spread
out. The same generation that Beck is part of is also really interested
in electro-acoustic music. You know all the XXth century experimental
electronic music. In the 80s when I was trying to make a living
mixing indirectly with samba, Al Green, etc
, everybody hated it.
And people really ressented the ambition of art, now in the 90s
the kids, the same groups of kids, the smart kids, are interested in all
this. This has to do with the dj culture, the popularization of the idea
of post-modernism, that whole feeling that nobody knows what to do next.
Well, thats go backwards, look backwards and choose to put all sorts
of things together. It has to do with the internet, the feeling that you
can connect to the whole world. It is curious to see how this will translate
to the american culture at large, to the whole thing, that hasnt
happened yet. Yes, the cool kids are cool but what about everyboy else
? Because what is happening now in America with the Cristina Aguillerra,
Ricky Martin, Backstreet Boys, even the rock bands like Korn, its
the same idea theyve had for ten years, like hip-hop, or heavy-metal
thing, thats not new. Im curious to see what will happen to
that big thing.
I guess you are curious too of the new brazilian scene. In a way, you
could be considered as an avant-gardist for this new scene mixing electronics
with local rhythms, and when you listen to a guy like Otto you might wonder
if you were maybe an influence ?
A.L. : Yes, we did a lot of shit 15 years ago that people are
doing now. And we did it better 15 years ago than these fucking kids (rires)
! Obviously yes. But Im interested in making something with this
stuff. It is not enough to say we take this and that. We have to make
something. Thats why Chico Science was really the guy. Brown is
one of my best friends. I think what he does is unbelievable and great.
But if you just judge it purely artistically, you have to say that Chico
Science did something, he did the most amazing thing. Because his work
was completely synthetic. He took heavy-metal and funk guitars, electric
guitars, he took all these local things like maracatu and stuff.
And he took hip-hop. He connected hip-hop to that old brazilian tradition
of repente, which is also rhiming, improvizing. And he made something
that is not any of those things. He made just music. And so much thats
happening now, if you take indian singers, you put a hip-hop beat or a
techno beat and you take the XXth century sounding string section and
you make this thing but it is not
a thing. It is too most-modern,
it is too obvious the connections. Its not separate enough and its
not together enough. Its not separate enough so that you have to
make a mental jump, its not fragmented enough, its not "Benjamin"
enough, you know when you read him and its just woh-woohh. Its
not like that. But its also not like Chico.
Last year, I interviewed Brown and the word that was always coming
back in his conversation was " organic ", do you think that
this idea of organic is necessary for these fusion things and musics to
stay "together" ?
A.L. : Thats true, thats a good point. Brown is
brilliant. I think that certainly true of his live shows and of his larger
project, his whole project. Because it is so social. Its connected
to a messianic tradition of the north-east of Brazil, the Canudos etc
Total poverty, very or almost feodal system, very mystical approach to
catharsism, and these figures that lead the people. Browns all thing
comes up from there. In Bahia, you see, he built this huge place for live-shows,
the Guetto Square, he built this incredible studio, he has Timbalada,
he has Os Zarabes, he has Lactomania, he has his own band. During the
Carnival, he supports all the groups. He is everywhere, it is unbelievable,
you think there is 5 Browns because he is everywhere. So his thing surfes
on this huge project to translate it into a record. He is still finding
the right rhythm, the right way of working. I hope he makes a really organic
next record. I hope he is making this damn record in his own studio and
he just records a lot, very organic stuff, and then takes it to New-York.
Because the last record is very beautiful but thats an other ambition,
an other kind of musical proceedure, a little Tom Jobim, a little bit
of this and that
What were the special ambitions and directions of your last album Prize
A.L. : It is just to make an other record, you know
There is a kind of continuity from an album to an other
A.L. : Yeah, its a difficult position my position because
people expect something new every time. And at the same time, for my own
organic reasons, I just want to continue. There is a tension between these
things. I want to get better as a singer, I want to get better as a song-writer.
In the last records, maybe some of those conflicts came to the surface,
for me. For us, because I made it with Mevin Gibbs, Andres Levin. Its
not really a band but I wanted it as much of a band it can be and not
being a band. Its my record, its my name, its my work
but I like bands. Its very difficult because Andres and Melvin are
Vinicius Cantuaria also is part of the band
A.L. : Yeah. On " Prize " he wasnt there so
much but on the other records he was.
When I first heard you singing, I found an obvious influence of Caetano
but, also, when I listened to his album " Livro " I found his
" sound " was a little flat, compared to those of his albums
you produced. Anyway, is he your main brazilian influence ?
A.L. : Well, he definitly is a huge influence and I work hard
to return the favor. Push it a little bit too. We are really good friends.
You know, its easy for me to admit the influence because I came
afterwards. Its not easy for him to even think about the influence
because his project is historical in brazilian music, and in the place
of brazilian music in the world. He thinks about himself in very large
terms, justifiedly. In some ways, I think people over-estimate my influence
on him. Youve got to remember how long he has been doing this and
how avant-garde his work was and at different times. But sonically, yeah
theres definitly something going on.
Its true that in his all-time career, he hasnt made any
bad albums, exept maybe two in the 80s like " Velo " that
A.L. : Yes, amazing songs but some of the worst productions
But event that was really interesting because that was so conscious on
his part. Because Gil works with Liminha, a really strong producer, and
Gil tries to make international pop records.
With all that Earth, Wind & Fire stuff
A.L. : Yes, Earth, Wind & Fire or Police, its amazing
how dominant those sounds were. When you look back, its like the
Police are responsible for an amazing amount of really bad music, you
know (rires). And Caetano was really specifically separating himself
from that. And sayind "I will produce my own pop records". For
what ever reasons these albums sound terrible today as a record, but if
you look at the compositions there is some songs on this album that are
amongst his best songs ever, "Os quereres". "Voce è
linda" is a beautiful song but many people could have written that.
But a song like " os quereres " is unically Ceatano. Its
so philosophical and so musical and so connected to brazilian music and
avant-garde proceedures. Nobody else could have written that song.
What your show will be like tomorrow ?
A.L. : We play the same show wether it is a jazz festival or
a club. I mean we react to the audience a lot. It is not necessarly clear
thing. Its not so simple : playing more ballads, etc
a live show, a playing show. Sometimes, it s closer to the record,
same arrangements, sometimes its a version, very loose version.
But the guys want to play, Im interested in musicians and what they
add to my music. It challenges me on stage, Im not interested in
a back-up group, Im interested in the music. You know, I think I
have one of the best bands in this fucking world. Tell-me who is better
? Show me a band like that ? No rock-star has a band like that, theres
a bunch of guys they pay. Caetano doesnt do that kind of show. Caetano
has a theatrical experience thats always the same. Caetano as a
singer is unequalled. He is there with Al Green, Curtis Mayfield (may
he rests in peace), João Gilberto, people I consider the best singers.
But the show is more like a theatrical experience.
Does sometimes the audience want to dance ?
A.L. : It depends on the kind of place. We play all kind of
places. It depends if the people are standing or seating. And the show
dancing moments and listening moments.