ENTREVUE / INTERVIEW
Ars Pro Vita
With: Paulo Venegas
ALBUM REVIEW HERE
Serge Marcoux - October 2022
Profilprog (PP): Hello Paulo and thank you very much for giving us time to answer our questions.
Paulo Venegas (PV):
Salut, Serge! Once more, it’s a real pleasure to be here in Profilprog.
PP: At the beginning of 2021, we spoke about the story of the band and, of course, the album « Cords » which was a 1975 dream that came through in 2020. How you guys have been doing since then?
PV: We’ve been doing a lot of radio interviews and participating in programs with some songs from the album ‘Truth’.
In addition, we are also competing for the second time at the FNP 2022 IndeProg Awards, from NY’s Friday Night Progressive Radio. Competing in the category composition with ‘Lazarus And His Belived’, from ‘Cords’. Back in 2017, we were awarded at the 2018 edition. Competing in two categories, ‘MINOR’ was one of the Top 3, in both: composition and vocal.
PP: « Truth », the new album, is tackling a very strong subject, a little bit like you did with «Peace » a few years ago. How important is it to you to address such important matters?
PV: Talking about the last album ‘Truth’, looking back at the other albums, ironically, we suddenly discovered during the mixes that this work closes a trilogy uniting three subjects that for us are of paramount importance for us to reflect on life, or on ‘Vita’, which have to do directly with humanity’s journey in search of fullness and harmony for a better coexistence. Paraphrasing Kieslowsky’s trilogy of films: liberty is blue, equality is white, and fraternity is red, which have as their themes the original ideals of the French Revolution - liberté, egalité, fraternité, we made a trilogy but with three different colors, which has a perfect parallel with the ideals of the revolution.
And in our case, we call it the Trilogy of Dualities, because duality is always within human conflicts, it is part of human nature, of our experience in this and, perhaps, in other lives.
Let’s see: on Minor the theme is the duality FREEDOM - SLAVERY. Minor (or Kieslowsky’s Freedom) is GREEN, because the character on the album is born in a forest, which is green. We are all minors. Freedom is born in the jungle, it is wild, we are born free. But when we live with other humans, we start to enslave each other, in one way or another, being sometimes slaves and sometimes masters, and thus we lose the notion of the pure concept of freedom. Our freedom is there - in the wild and we’re always looking for that comeback.
On Peace the duality is PEACE - WAR.
Peace (or the Kieslowsky Brotherhood) is GOLD, because the bullet cartridges are made of a yellow-gold colored metal. The cover of PEACE, the second album, double, of 2020 is a cartridge. Therein lies the peace-war paradox. It is an album about war, but also about peace because in both CDs, even in the face of the scourge of war, we deal with themes that reflect on the search for peace, and we meet not only the lords of war, but also the lords of peace.
And we come to TRUTH, released last July 2022.
Here duality is TRUTH - UNTRUTH
Truth (or Kieslowsky’s Equality) is WHITE because truth contains the plurality of truths that is equal to the sum of all wavelengths, all infinite colors and at the same time is a blank sheet where each person or form of life can write, describe, report, and create its own truth. There will always be versions of the truth everywhere, like the seventh virtue of the Lakhota Native Americans, which is portrayed in the antepenultimate song on the album, ‘Wowicake’.
PP: Have you been influenced by the international political turmoil of the last few years and the people, politicians among others, blatantly lying not only on the Web but on the medias?
PV: We look at the world not through partisan political eyes, "-logies","-sophies", "-isms". We try to observe the world without prejudice, 'creeds, ethnicities, flags' as our song 'Children of War', from 'Peace' says... the vision of the 'minor' character who lives free in harmony with nature, maybe it's the best example of how we feel in the face of so much sectarianism, so much Manichaeism. If, on the one hand, social networks are important in the sense of bringing people together, they provoke within us the feeling that we need to have an obligation to take a stand against any political movement. This polarization only pushes us further and further away.
PP: How did you approach that subject and the ways of telling us about it?
PV: The album structure answers this question well. Truth is again conceptual, divided into four parts (each with three tracks): Misleading Truths, Worldly Truths I, Worldly Truths II, and Universal Truths. The themes talk to each other and describe realities that are interpretations and that incessantly debate the need to know more about the Whole, the process, the journey back to ‘Hiraeth’, the last song, a Gaelic word that means ‘a mixture of nostalgia with an impulse in the heart that conveys a distinct feeling of missing something irretrievably lost or an unattainable place, to which we belong, where we came from and where we want to return’.
‘Truth’ has its origins in Plato’s Myth of the Cave, written in one of the books of the Republic, one of his most famous works. This myth is a metaphor that synthesizes Platonian dualism. The text deals with the relationship between the concepts of darkness and ignorance; light and knowledge and, above all, the distinction between appearance and reality.
The graphic design of the album, in deluxe digipack format, is entirely conceptual, with its own symbology hidden in each element. Colors range from white to black, and only shades of gray are used. All texts are written with an old typewriter font, worn out with the infinite time of the search for the truth. The layout of the elements is all deconstructed. On the cover, the second ‘T’ of the word TRUTH is inverted and represents duality, the contradictory, celebrating the Platonian dialogues. Proposition and questioning. Thesis and antithesis. The existence of contrasts leads man to always walk in search of the greater Truth, with a capital letter, which is above all earthly and extra-terrestrial truths. The Truth that explains everything and the Whole and that, therefore, is absolute.
PP: This time you have chosen again a five letter words for the title of the album and even some songs? Is it still important for you to have that wink of an eye for the listeners?
PV: Yes, the central idea of having five letters for the title always refers to our mission, always remembering that ‘MUSIC’ has five letters and that we make ‘art for life’, ‘Ars Pro Vita’, which has ten letters because we are two, me and my brother (2 x 5 = 10).
PP: On « Cords » you were the only musician with two singers but on « Truth », your brother LUIS FERNANDO and many guests are on board including JON CAMP of RENAISSANCE fame. Please tell us about his participation and how you happen to ask him?
PV: ‘Cords’ was just a moment when the original material that I had composed a long time ago and that needed to somehow get out of the drawer, let’s say, ‘quickly’, even because it was practically ‘done’ and we thought that the time should be that.
‘Truth’ was already ‘under construction’ when we were mixing ‘Cords’, so we were already selecting the themes, the lyrics, even inviting the various artists as we did on ‘Peace’. And then we had Jon Camp who rejoined the crew again, on two songs. He is a real English gentleman. Above all, it was a great joy for us that he agreed to collaborate with us, as we have always been fans of Renaissance since the 70’s, when he was part of the band. The story of our connection with him started on FB. We always thought of including important musicians who had been personalities in the world of progressive rock. As we became friends with him, we realized that he had really enjoyed our first CD, ‘Minor’. So, we thought in inviting him to participate in ‘Peace’. We sent him a song (‘War is Peace’) and he loved it. Then he asked if there were any more songs and so we sent another one (‘Hero’), which we dedicated to Jon Tout, in memoriam. He recorded the tracks for both songs with the basses and... the rest is history.
PP: Have you worked with LUIS FERNANDO the way you did for the albums «Minor» and «Peace »?
PV: Exactly the same way - LF composed the lyrics, did the guitars, with some of his songs and participated in the arrangements and mixing. Me on keyboards and orchestration, arrangements, mixing and mastering, as usual. Only this time I wrote the lyrics of one song: The 3rd Intervention.
PP: On the precedent interview, you mentioned a few times the importance of lyrics for you. Obviously, it is still the case with the new album. How do you choose the messenger to deliver them? After all, there are eight singers including you two guys and two narrators.
PV: Each female singer was handpicked for their style and personality. Speaking first of the four Brazilians: Manu Saggioro is from the all-female rock band Inlakesh, from São Paulo, for her debauched character, to sing 'Personal Liar'. Daisa Munhoz, from the heavy metal bands Vandroya and Iron Ladies, also from São Paulo, due to the need for a strong and indignant voice that 'Laika' required. Anna Paz, from Porto Alegre, for the softness and sadness that 'Birdwatching' needed. Lila Trentini, a 19-year-old singer, from São Paulo, who sings ‘Hiraeth’, for her delicacy and 'naivety'.
As for the other guests, Fern McNulty of London band Fox Palmer who sings 'Forget The Flowers' for her melancholic voice. Fabiana Cantilo, from Buenos Aires, of course, not only because she sings in Spanish, but also because of the romantic tone that the lyrics of 'Cruce de Caminos' involve.
As for the two Irish narrators, Kevin Brennan has a perfect voice to narrate the three ‘Interventions’, with a strong tone and a great interpretation of the themes. Mike Mitchell with his low, patient voice, storytelling the Nostradamus’ like Centuries of ‘Equal’.
These two guys have fully engaged in the spirit of the album again, as before with ‘Peace’.
PP: For the song « Walk in Those Shoes », you are asking the listener to read the lyrics at the same time. Why are you making that demand for that specific song?
PV: The suffering of a man, Troy Clark, on death row in a Texas prison, convicted of the 2002 murder of Christina Muse. Although he had committed another previous murder, for which he was only sentenced to prison, there was no evidence of that he had committed THIS particular murder and finally he was sentenced to death, with a cocktail of drugs injected into his veins. The song is instrumental to be listened to while the poem he wrote (Walk in Those Shoes) is read shortly before his death. Justice or injustice? What is the truth of this murder?
This song is instrumental with the exact purpose of getting people to just read Troy's poem.
PP: Would you advise the listeners to take the time and make the effort to read all the other texts of the songs while listening? But even more important, why?
PV: Lately, it is often said that 'music is the most universal language'. On the other hand, again, we continue in the same opinion that the lyrics are more important than the music, because, although the different languages make communication and understanding difficult between the different cultures on the planet, always needing a translation step, we never the music alone can convey the real intention of the content of a poet's or a lyricist's composition.
PP: On our previous interview, you talked about the universality of English language for music and the choice you made of using it. Still, this time there is a text in Spanish dedicated to Daniel Angel Burgeno Etcheverry. Please tell us about that choice and that person?
PV: In 'Truth' there is a separate case in the lyrics with 'Cruce de Caminos'. My brother had written the lyrics which had been translated into Spanish and had been ready for over a year before we conceived the album. It was initially to be sung in Spanish by a male singer. We thought about Pedro Aznar, we even contacted him, but then we concluded that it would be better to have a singer who fit the spirit of the lyrics, and it was then that we spoke with Fabiana Cantilo, rock star from Argentina, who was a contemporary of Charly Garcia and Pedro Aznar, in the time of Seru Giran. The composition has a strong root in tango and flamenco because we wanted to honor the centenary of Astor Piazolla's birth, in 2021. This is the only song with lyrics in a language other than English that we've ever made.
‘Cruce de Caminos’ came from an idea that LF had about the situation of the impossibility of two people who loved each other getting close again. As much as they try, they will always be, as the lyrics say: 'a few millimeters from the skin'. Daniel Etcheverry was his patient and revised the Spanish translation as he was a Literature teacher. He died in 2020.
PP: Have you considered putting a translation?
PV: We didn't think about it, we wanted to leave this song to draw a little attention to South America and to the music that is made in our continent. On the other hand, the Spanish language is quite widespread and known in the world, much more than our Portuguese.
PP: Do you still have the will to demystify the use of samplers and computers in music?
PV: Certainly, we will never abandon this position. The sound result is what matters. If the quality, sound, and expressiveness of the final mix results are satisfactory to us, compared to the idea of using real instruments, we are satisfied.
And not only will we not abandon this way of thinking, but we will continue to encourage all composers to learn and use these technologies.
Listening to the strings and horns of a Mellotron 400, the sampled sound of a Rhodes piano, or a Yamaha CP70, with a very high sampling rate is enough for us. be constantly repaired.
PP: Since we are living a return of the vinyl records and the praise of analog instruments, for examples, aren’t you afraid that some people who will have doubts about the artistic or musical values of such technologies?
PV: As for vinyl, I think it is on the verge of extinction as a commercially viable product for the consumption of most people, since the cost of production is very high and it must necessarily be passed on to the consumer, and the demand is very low given the high final price. It is a matter of time before this market is restricted to, as we could call it, 'sound museums'. I think that more and more we will only have vinyl in the homes of collectors who lived through the vinyl era and specialized museums, with listening booths with turntables from that time, such as Technics, Marantz. It's not a good idea?
Vinyl will have a similar fate to the gramophone.
In your question you wrote: ‘…Some people who will have doubts about the artistic or musical values of such technologies…’. We respect this position, but we think it's a kind of purism we don't share. In our tiny studio we don't necessarily want these sampled analog instruments to sound exactly like the physical analog ones. We don't want to 'imitate'. We like the sound of these instruments because they hark back to progressive rock paraphernalia at its core and, as I said earlier, we even encourage musicians to learn how to use these technologies. This purism does not contribute to the evolution of human musical creativity.
PP: Are you already working on another project? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
PV: We don't do shows, for now... In 2023 we intend to do some pocket shows in Brazil to make a DVD with videos of these live performances with the repertoire of the four albums and singles released so far.
As for new work, we have a list of about 30 five-letter titles with many topics already structured and many themes ready to fit into the upcoming albums. We estimate to release a new album by the end of the second half of 2023.
PP: PAULO, once again, I want to thank you for your music and your genuine and profound artistic approach. Take care and the last words are for you.
PV: It is always with gratitude and pleasure for us to have the opportunity to show details about our work and participate in ProfilProg, answering your always pertinent questions in the interviews. Count on us for the future.