Guilherme Kastrup: "The focus is always emotion"

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Interviews

In June 2017 AM-PM "America for its music" event, organized for the third time by Fábrica de Arte Cubano, decided to bring together some of the most outstanding musical producers of the continent with the intention of sharing and debating with their peers about the main regularities, concerns, and trends of the profession.

As part of that meeting, AM-PM commissioned a group of interviews to several of the essential musical producers of Latin America, which were published as a dossier in the Spanish magazine Zona de Obras and which we are now starting to reproduce in our magazine, with the intention to continue spreading the musical thought of these "monsters".

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The story is as follows. Last April I received several signs that I should pay attention to Muhler do Fim do Mundo, the last album by Elza Soares. The strongest of all, some verses of Do Cóccix Até O Pescoço -Other album of her published 15 years ago of which I am an unconditional fan- that from nowhere began to hammer my head: "Hoje é dia de festa .... Alô comanche ... Alô poet ". So I listened and looked for the last of the 80-year-old singer, one of the great divas of the Brazilian song of all time.

The fact is that for 24 hours I could not stop listening to his music, and in the middle of that overdose, an invitation from the AM-PM team, América for his Music, arrived in my mailbox. They asked me to interview Guilherme Kastrup (Rio de Janeiro, 1969), an important Brazilian percussionist and music producer, arguing that he had produced nothing more and nothing less than Muhler..., and that, invited to this edition that puts the focus on the musical producer, at the last minute he had been prevented from coming to Havana to be on tour with Elza. So, without even being able to recover from the mystery that led to our meeting, a week later I received back Kastrup's answers, with this heading: "We know very little yet. The energies and information circulate through other means beyond speech and writing. It's all there, in the air, in our network. We are connected! We are a single living organism. "

According to your biography, when you were young you liked bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and then you went through Pink Floyd and progressive music. At what point in your life did you begin to be interested in Brazilian popular percussion, by genres such as the jongo and the creole drum?

Yes, that was my way. Heavy metal-rock psychedelic-modern jazz, fusion bands like Weather Report, Jean-Luc Ponty, Mahavishnu Orchestra, among others, that opened my mind and ears to listen later to Hermeto Pascoal, Egberto Gismonte, Naná Vasconcelos. They in turn took me to the songs of Milton Nascimento, Toninho Horta, Gilberto Gil, all the Brazilian popular music and also the music of other peoples like Cuba. It was at the age of twenty that I understood that I needed to leave the academic gaze a little to immerse myself in popular and traditional music. And that knowledge that the academy did not give me, I had to look for it in the streets, in the popular parties. At the beginning I just wanted to learn the vocabulary of percussion to take it to the drums, but that opened me to a world of new things that I never left again.

Elza Soares recognizes that you were (and are) "the face", the mentor of your project Muhler do Fim do Mundo, and that you are also a very sweet and intelligent person when working. What is it for you to work with someone like her, to play alongside her, to produce and direct her show? 

It is wonderful. A spectacular life opportunity, incredible. Elza teaches us to live, with her extraordinary strength, her humility and sweetness. It is an honor to live with her and to be able to direct a show like that, that we created for her. This is a project of love to one of our great representatives. Not only artistically, but from a social and political point of view. Elza represents the Brazilian people, is a great symbol of freedom and fight against social inequalities, against racism, machismo, against homophobia. She is a force of blackness and miscegenation. A survivor through art. Each show, each encounter is a stream of phenomenal emotion! But I want to add something important: yes, I was the project's mentor A Mulher do Fim do Mundo, because I got things going, but the real "face" and aesthetics are the results of Elza's meeting with a group of very special artists from here, from Sao Paulo. Especially the creative nucleus formed by the composers and instrumentalists Kiko Dinucci, Rodrigo Campos, Marcelo Cabral, Romulo Fróes and Celso Sim, but also with a larger group of the most recent São Paulo musical scene that includes Cacá Machado, Douglas Germano, Bixiga 70 , Thiago França, and even José Miguel Wisnik, artistic director of Do Cóccix Até O Pescoço, who became my advisor, besides composing the song that opens the album, Coração do Mar.

After more than 100 collaborations in recordings of composers as big as Chico César, Arnaldo Antunes and Adriana Calcanhoto, you decided to open your own studio Toca do Tatu. What did all those artists teach you when it came to recording? 

They were my great teachers. All of them, each one, and also the big producers with whom I had the opportunity to work. Alê Siqueira, Chico Neves, Liminha, and many others. I never went to a music production course. Everything I know I owe to them, and the opportunity to learn by their side. They were my great school.

Brazilian percussion treasures emblematic names such as Naná Vasconcelos and Airto Moreira, giants that elevated their execution to an authorial, compositional plane. How much of that tradition in the publication of your disc Kastrupismo in 2013?

A lot. Very much. Totally. Especially from Naná, for a disc of his called Storytelling, that gave me the desire and the north to make visual music. But also, and very much, Marcos Suzano and Ramiro Musotto (Argentine percussionist already deceased who lived many years in Brazil), who made me believe that it is possible to compose from percussion.

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Your disc displays a very special positive energy. In Text, for example, there are sounds of berimbau, the deep lyricism that Benjamin Taubkin's piano plays and several electronic textures. One thinks that it is in a laboratory of mixtures, where technology plays a determining role.

Thank you very much. It makes me very happy to hear that. The focus is always emotion, any technology, advanced or retro, has to be at the service of it, because otherwise it does not make sense to me. In the early 2000s I started using the MPC, a very important Akai sampler in the hip hop world of the eighties. There also the influence of Suzano and Ramiro was important, because they had been using it since the nineties, they were the precursors of its use in Brazil. Most of the electronic mixes I make come from there, many times from samplers recorded from organic instruments and manipulated digitally by the MPC, or from other objects that I adore that can produce electronic music, such as garbage bags, old cans, etc. . I like mixtures. Of genres, of styles, of instruments, of people. It is not something preconceived, but an eternal experimentation with the tools available to me.

First you were a rocker and conservatory music student; Then you became an instrumentalist, producer, composer and show director. Are all those communicating vessels of your career part of some premeditated plan, of a perfect circle around the music that still has not finished?  

Premeditated plan of a perfect circle? Not in any way! But with certainty they are communicating vessels of this head full of will and desire to create. I remember that a premeditated moment of my life was when I was twenty years old. I also decided to move away from my Visual Communication studies at the School of Fine Arts to make a living from music. I said to myself: "I need to be a great musician to be able to survive in music". And I dived headfirst. Then the rest came. Various wills. Various curiosities. Communicating vessels. And always a juggling to continue living music.

In How music worksDavid Byrne describes the spectrum of variants that occur today when producing, promoting and commercializing music. It is very interesting because it seems that each artist chooses one or the other depending not only on their artistic and economic expectations, but also on the basis of their ethical and political readings. In that sense, what is your position as a musician and producer with respect to today's market and industry?

My impression is that today artists, in addition to creating, approach the functions of executive production and market promotion. I would say it is a necessity of these times. The artist has to face it, or be side by side with the professionals who produce and promote it. In this way he becomes a small entrepreneur of himself and his career. But that imposes a certain risk, a seduction, even in the independent field, because you can assume an aesthetic according to the market. Personally, I believe that staying focused on artistic creation sustains the truth that deepens your expression. Perhaps it is a somewhat romantic view that if we let ourselves be seduced by market thinking about music we are in a certain way betraying art and ourselves. However, I am sure that today it is possible to create a market for authorial and autonomous art. The truth and the depth of the music end up reaching the audience, even when the process is slower.

The world is full of festivals and music events. However, AM-PM has a very unique profile because it highlights aspects of the music industry that go unnoticed by most people.

I agree. The approaches and alternatives proposed by AM-PM are very interesting. Production is enriched with events like that, because creativity is fueled by exchange. America for its Music can stimulate and encourage the career of many professionals and artists. Drop the seeds. How I would like to be present this time! I hope it could be soon.

Brazil seems an independent cultural planet. However, the percussion (and the culture in general) of Cuba and Brazil have a strong point in common: the African heritage. I would like to know what your Cuban musical references are and what possibilities there are to strengthen the relationship between both countries, in terms of concerts, promotion and distribution of music.   

That characteristic of Brazil is both a great quality and a great defect. Quality for so much cultural production, and defect because we lock ourselves in and turn our backs on the Latin culture of which we are also part. Our peoples have much in common. The ethnic groups that went to Cuba are practically the same as those that arrived in Brazil, many times, even from the same families. We are brothers, of culture and blood. Cuban music is a fundamental part of my training as a musician, as well as my political and social vision. And then collaborations start with contacts, which are like threads. This with AM-PM is the first of them, and I am very happy and proud. I hope other invitations and opportunities arise from here, and we can help deepen those relationships. On the side of here I feel there is a lot of interest, and I personally have the will to strengthen our ties. Let's throw our hooks then and pull those threads.

In short, what characteristics should a music producer have in the 21st century?

Will. Curiosity. Power.

Ayuda a que Magazine AM:PM siga siendo un proyecto autogestionado y con indenpendencia editorial.

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