Saturday, September 29, 2007

INTERVIEW: Boka of Ratos de Porao & I Shot Cyrus

Well, we've finally got another interview up on this here Mad at the World blog, and I'm quite happy to have it with Boka of the very active Brazilian bands Ratos de Poroa and I Shot Cyrus, as well as the cool label Peculio Discos. As one of the most active members of one of the most intense bands from a very interesting hardcore scene, I was happy to have Boka agree to do this interview, and appreciate that he shared his perspective on a number of issues. Read on...

MATW: You are in a few different bands at the moment. Can you let us know what bands you're working on?

Boka: I play drums for Ratos de Porao since 1991. I also play for I Shot Cyrus since 2003. I played two tours for the dutch hardcore sxe band Vitamin X, it was Japan 2005, and Brazil 2006.

MATW: I think you'd be most known for being in Ratos de Porao. How long have you been in this band by now, and how did you first get together with them?

[Boka with RDP in 1991]

Boka: Like I said, since 1991. I used to drum for a band called Psychic Possessor and another one called O.V.E.C. on the late 80’s. Psychic Possessor split up and IO heard that RDP was looking for a new drummer. I was familiar with the guys cos we played a few gigs together so I got their contact to book a jam session and played with them a couple of times and joined the band straight after.

MATW: R.D.P. is one of the few Brazilian or even South American bands to have been able to widely tour North American. I'm sure releasing some records on Alternative Tentacles has helped that. How did you cooperation with AT begin? Have there been any other folks in other parts of the world that you've established important and helpful ties with as well?

Boka: Yes, I agree. RDP could tour everywhere by the name the band has, but some of the political problems to get visas to the US and money for the flights and stuff like that makes some tours more difficult than others. In Europe we can do there and have enough money always, but the US or Japan for instance could be very difficult to break even. Being with Alternative Tentacles is awesome and helps to have a lot of people know that the band is still active recording albums. You really get a lot of respect with an ATR logo on your record. I also think that ATR makes good promotion with the records and you can get reviews everywhere. Every time we go on tour we have friends that we made over the hyears that are always giving a hand to get shows, so you are right, the friendship that we built over the years is what makes things happen always.
[RDP in 1983]

MATW: Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, the hardcore scene in North America--the USA especially-- has a bit of a reputation for ignoring a lot of what it going on in hardcore scenes in other parts of the world, except for when there is a bit a trend or fetish associated with that scene. (For example, every so often there is a growing interest in Japanese hardcore or Scandinavian hardcore. Was this your impression of the hardcore scene there as well?

Boka: Our eyes are a bit different to look at the worldwide scene. I always have been a fanatic so I’m always trying to know what’s happening everywhere. Shows, records, and zines were always difficult to get here. I know that some people in North American think that hardcore is just there, but I think it’s kinda a reflection of the whole situation. This particular topic is just one of the things that North Americans ignore. Some people—not everyone of course—know nothing about other countries or cultures. The sad thing is that the DIY scene could be totally different. I don’t live there, but it just seems that somepeople don’t know about much from other scenes as you mentioned, but some people really know everything. Maximumrocknroll always published their scene reports and someother cool zines are supporting DIY worldwide on the other hand.

MATW: Is there a similar tendency to "idolize" certain scenes (or, at least, look up to certain scenes and use them for inspiration) in Brazil? I understand the Finnish and Scandinavian hardcore scenes were influential over there with Ohlo Seco, and I've heard early RDP referred to as being influenced by Finnish hardcore. I always found it interesting how Armagedom were so influenced by Scandi-core and yet developed to the point where their sound is now considered very Brazilian.

[RDP today]

Boka: In the early 80’s there was a lot of people making penpals from Finland here. Tape trading helped a lot in getting Finnish hardcore popular here. It’s a big influence on the early 80’s punk here, but people were never paying attention to only one thing in general, but there’s some people saying that they like Finnish or Scandanavian hardcore only, or American only, or Italian. I don’t know, it’s totally right to say that bands are sounding really different in the 80’s and you can tell when a band is Japanese, American, Brazilian, Finnish, or Italian. Nowadays, it’s still there, but bands have less personality. They just try to copy other things, from the 80’s or now, and sound like a xerox of things. Not all bands of course, but the biggest part of them I think. Anyway, I can say that there’s tons of excellent bands around the world. I really love hardcore, man. Calll me enthusiastic!

MATW: Would you say there is a distinctive "brazilian hardcore" sound? If so, how would you describe it compared to the typical sounds of other hardcore scenes?

Boka: I think the Brazilian bands are sounding with a lot of anger and power. We have hot blood. This is the latin thing. I don’t know how to answer that, but the Brazilian musicians into hardcore or metal play with some kind of passion you know… I’m not saying other people don’t, but there’s something special in it. I can’t describe it in words, but if you see Sepultura with the Cavalera brothers, Krisiun, or Colera, or RDP you’ll always notice something. This is what people from everywhere always toldme, not only my conclusion.

MATW: One of the legendary early Brazilian hardcore compilations is the SUB LP. I was told that "Sub" is an abbreviation for the suburban neighborhoods that most of the kids in hardcore were coming from. Is this true and is there any special relevance to this? American cities (especially in the North-east) are a bit strange because a lot of the inner cities suffered economic decline and a lot of middle class folks moved out of the cities after World War 2, causing most of the ghettos to grow inside the city and conditions to get worse in the 1960's and 1970's, whereas in a lot of other cities around the world, most of the "worse" neighborhoods are on the outskirts of the cities in the outter- lying suburban areas. Is this the case in Brazil? (However, this is reversing again in the US as the inner cities are again becoming more and more expensive forcing people with less money to the city limits.)

Boka: As far as I know, Sub is just for “Suburbio” as an abbreviation. Suburbio means suburb… What happened in Brazil in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s is that a lot of people from the North and the Northeast used to migrate to Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro to try to find a job. That period (especially the 70’s) was called like the “economic miracle era,” so those people were coming because of somebody in the family came and could buy a house or a car and in the North or Northeast people are very poor. Most of those people were coming to work in the construction business. I think it started to change slowly in the mid 80’s and 90’s and there wasn’t that much work anymore and so many people came thatmade those two cities overcrowded increasing the population a lot. The Southeast (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro) and the south (Curibita, Porto Allegre) have much more “business.” As big cities and metropoles this is where the money is. These regions are a lot richer than the rest of Brazil. Anyway, as you could see here, there’s a lot of poverty in Sao Paulo as well. This is the land of inequality. A few people have too much, a lot of people have nothing and some people have the basic necessities. It doesn’t change that much, the money is on the south and southeast. I can’t say that inner cities or somewhere else turned too expensive to live. I always lived in the same city. What I heard from other people who came to Sao Paulo is that they just got bored or were trying to find a better job, coming for a career or something like that. It sounds weird cos if you live in a small town and even if the wages are bad life isn’t too expensive and most of the times the quality of life is way better. If you live in a big city you have a very expensive life and the stress of a big city makes you sick… but maybe you don’t get bored. I think it’s just a point of view… A lot of people from my hometown are working in Sao Paulo. They prefer to take a 70km (1 hour) ride every day rather than live here. Some people are already living in Sao Paulo and they spend more than 1 hour to get to their job. Wages are higher there anyway…

MATW: How long have you been doing Peculio Discos now and how did this label come about? I know a big part of my involvement with my label was to be able to put out stuff by my own bands! Did your involvement with the label happen because of your bands or was there another reason you wanted to start putting out records?

[I Shot Cyrus]
Boka: I started the label 10 years ago. I was always crazy about new records, new bands, etc. Brazil didn’t have much DIY labels to put out so many cool bands that we have around at that time. It was a way to make the scene stronger and a person dream. Some financial help, too. All together, this is something that I love to do and can’t see myself slowing down anytime soon.

MATW: I think some cities in Brazil have a reputation for having a big problem with kids living on the streets. Is there any contact between the punk scene and the street kids? Are there any kids like this that go to punk shows? In the US, there are scenes that have a lot of squatters, but these are very different from your typical "street kid." Of course, in the US the problem with kids is a bit different, and there are a lot less homeless kids. However, the kids that might be considered the "street kids" would be more likely listening to hip hop or rap and not punk and hardcore. (It's strange, but over here we've been hearing a lot about the so-called "Baile Funk" from Rio and stuff.....)

Boka: I think there’s no connection between the homeless people and the hardcore scene as far as the ideas or the music. Some people promote shows or make flyers or invie people from the social movements to support it as some people are more political than others. I think there’s a tendency in the hardcore scene here to have an eye on the social struggles and participate. The homeless people are one of them. Some people are organized, squatting and stuff like that, but there’s only sympathy from the other side, no connection I would say. There’s too many homeless people and a big part of them are kids. Sad, but true.

MATW: I've also heard a lot about problems with the police over there. Are there still big clashes between kids and the police? What kind of "relationship" does the punk or hardcore scene have with the police over there?

Boka: Every time people go out for demonstrations (it doesn’t matter if you a punk or not), there’s clashes. Some of them are big, some of them not so big. The police here are too ignorant. As everywhere else, if you are “rock n roll,” you must be doing drugs and disturbing the public order. I think it used to be much worse, but there’s still some kinds of trouble every now and then.

MATW: When I was in Sao Paulo, I wandered in to the Galeria do Rock, and was pretty amazed. I think I was there right when school was let out, so there were a lot of young kids there; a lot wearing t-shirts from more commercial punk bands. Still, there were a lot of cool little record shops there and TONS of rather cool records. Can you explain a bit about the place and what you think about it? I was rather impressed by it simply because in New York City, it is pretty difficult (almost impossible) to have a small record shop like that, and here was a place with dozens of them.

Boka: Galeria do Rock is like a shopping mall with record stores and stuff like that. I’m not sure how many stores there are but you can find all kinds. Some of them are really into hardcore, some others are into classic rock or metal. Some of them are only black metal, blues, and it goes on. So this is a place where all kinds of people are going. A lot of kids who are getting into the emo thing are stuff like that use Galeria do Rock as a meeting spot. You see people chill out, hang around to check out records or shirts, stuff like that. The place is cool. Every time you go there, you can see some friends, you can move some records to the stores, and you can also buy shit, too. I don’t know if there’s anything like that somewhere else. This place is very popular in Brazil and some stores are there since the early 80’s.

MATW: Thanks for the interview Boka... any last words?

Boka: Thanks a lot Dan for the opportunity. Hope you keep it real and support the scene as you do for as long as you can. Gotta tour the US mate. Someday, hopefully. Take care, Boka.

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