ANDRE MATOS: “I try to open people´s eyes and ears to reality”

2013 is a special year for Andre Matos. The vocalist, along with his solo band, can celebrate his new release “The Turn of the Lights” and also the 20th anniversary of Angel Cry, the first album he recorded with his former band Angra. He just finished his tour in Brazil, where he surprised fans with a two part show: the first featured songs from his new album and hits from his whole career – including Viper, Shaman and Solo band eras – and on the second part, Angels Cry was played in full. Let´s hope they make it also to Europe soon; here Andre tells us a bit more about the new album.

What can you tell us the origin and design of “The Turn Of The Lights”? The songs themselves also seem to be something catchy and dynamic.
I became very concerned about the world´s current state. Much has been said about the apocalyptical predictions for this year of 2012. I personally don´t believe in such mysticisms, but I have to agree that we´re reaching a point of no return. Either humankind re-evaluates their values and thoughts, or we´ll probably face some dark ages in the near future.

The concept of “The Turn of the Lights” is based on an ancient philosophical model. According to that, the idea of Light is the same idea of acknowledgement. When you cast light into the dark, you´re able to perceive what was already there but couldn´t be seen. Therefore, taken for granted that it didn´t exist. It starts to ´exist´ when you´re able to see, or to sense it. That´s also the origin of the word “Enlightening”, which means wisdom, knowledge, and maturity.

So, the purpose of this concept is to suggest a global self-analysis. We cannot keep on destroying the planet the way it has been done for the last 2 centuries. We cannot base our lives in this market economy where you´re impelled to consume like a vice. We cannot treat the social and racial issues just drawing imaginary borders (or real ones) between all kinds of people. That´s not going to work in the long run. My humble contribution as an artist, if I´m allowed to, is to try to open people´s eyes and ears to this reality. The world is facing very fast changes and now we are able to follow them all in real time. So it´s time to think what we intend to do about it. Cross our arms? Try to get richer and powerful – so at least our own homes and families will be spared and safe? Illusions.

You might ask: what the hell that has to do with Metal music. And I´d say: everything. We are some of the few who stick to a certain way of life. It´s a big tribe, spread all over the globe. And this music has been around for time long enough – resisting bravely to all trends and tendencies. We are some of those who can lead on as an example to all the rest.

Do you have a certain approach when you begin to work on a new album, e.g. a certain concept, or simply writing song after song?
There must be a certain approach to begin something, always. But honestly saying, you´ll only know what it is like after it gets finished. I use to compare that to an ultra-sound picture, from an embryo inside a womb. You can almost see how it looks like; you can have a slight idea of how it will look like while it´s still under development. But you can´t really tell for sure. It´s just a mere indication. You will see the real face of the baby only when it comes out to life, when it gets born. And even though, sometimes, even after its birth, a baby (or an album, here in case) keeps on developing its face and – especially – its personality along the years.

Then, I´d say to you that you can start something – but you never know exactly how it will end. And this album, for instance was a great surprise. We have tried many different elements and concepts in a very natural way. And when we got the final result, I was kind of surprised and amazed to see what it has become to. In certain aspects, it´s been beyond my own expectations.

So, it does flow the way it has to flow. It doesn´t help to interfere too much. It might be your baby and look like you – but it´s not you. And we have to know how to respect such self-personality that develops itself alone. Obviously, it won´t develop at all if there´s absolutely no work. So, out of a lot of effort, you might recollect something like 50-60% of all that you´ve done and tried. Many ideas have to be thrown away in order to preserve that one “identity”. And we can´t be too jealous about ideas. They come and go. We just need to set them free and let them flow through us.

Is it true that “Turn Of The Lights” have a lyrical concept which also relates to the cover artwork? What is the meaning of the lyrics?
I guess it would be mandatory to talk about the concept itself. It´s an embracing concept that permeates the sound, the artwork the lyrics… a complete idea, so to say. To me, it became almost impossible to dissociate such elements. An album could even turn out to be a non-conceptual album in the end, but it needs a hook-line to guide it through. I come from a generation that has learnt to listen to music through vinyl records. Which, necessarily, used to bring along some very interesting cover artworks that made a lot of sense when you got the idea behind. That´s the kind of approach that I still look for, even if we´re living in a digital era. I believe that this is a “plus” for any record and the audience gets extremely pleased when they notice that you care about such little details.

Usually, all through my career, I´ve been pointed out as some sort of “abstract” songwriter. My lyrics tend to have an intimate way and it´s not rare that this approach occurs in the music, also.

However, on “The Turn of the Lights”, I perceive that a higher step has been reached. Possibly, for the first time, I´m writing about some more current, contemporary subjects – and I feel extremely comfortable about it.

The album was produced by Brendan Duffex and Adriano Daga in Norcal Studios in Brazil. How satisfactory was the cooperation? And I have to mention, the sound is fantastic… Are the producers of great help in the development of the material?
Wow, thank you very much. I will pass your compliments over to the producers, they´ll be glad to hear it. In fact it was an important decision. That´s the first time I run an entire production in my homeland Brazil. Some of the previous ones have been partly recorded in Brazil, but usually finished (mixed and mastered) abroad, especially in Germany. As you might know, I always used to work together with Sascha Paeth, since the first Angra times. And he´s been part of my producer team ever. Basically, everything I know about production I´ve learnt with some big names, such as Charlie Bauerfeind, Chris Tsangarides, Roy Z… But none of them was as close as a partner and friend as Sascha Paeth. We´ve even developed a project together in the 2000´s, called Virgo.

However, this time I had to make a choice. And, just by coincidence, some weeks before deciding where the album would be recorded, I paid a visit to Norcal Studios, in S.Paulo city. I´ve heard about them before. It took me half an hour to decide to run the entire production, from beginning to the very end, at Norcal. They have a brand new recording complex, with different atmospheres and ambiences. Producer Brendan Duffey, who has a large career in the USA working on Metal stuff, moved to Brazil a couple of years ago and brought his entire studio gears along. In addition to Adriano Daga, (a Grammy-award winner) they form a great team – which allowed us to experience a new way of working – actually, in simultaneous shifts. When drums were being finished, guitars have already started in another room, and so on. We didn´t only save time: the whole dynamics of the album has been preserved this way. And we didn´t lose the grip, or the focus on what we were doing. It was an intense process, but due to that scheme, we were able to do in 3 months what usually would take about 6 months to accomplish. The producers’ points of view were essential for this final result.

I love the final mix of the album. I especially like the sound of the drums, the sounds clearly more natural than ever. What were your sound technical expectations of “The Turn Of The Lights”?
Actually, different than what it became! As I said, I was also impressed. We always expect something massive, contagious; there´s ever this concern about “the” sound. I am over-satisfied. I believe the final mix is very well balanced. We spent hours and hours on each and every instrument, testing different gears and microphones and acoustics, until we found the ultimate method for each one of them. For the voice, I used some kind of microphone I never could imagine would suit me. Surprising. Guitars had several different sets of instruments, effects, cabinets, speakers, mics and rooms available. Of course the producers´ opinions were vital there, for they knew what sounded better in their own environment.

Drums were a chapter apart. The new drummer in the band happens to also be a sound engineer himself. And he made his point since the beginning that he would like no artificial sounds or samples on top of his playing. So we really concentrated on the performance and it all has been minimally edited. Maybe that´s the recipe for such “natural” sounding. For it is natural. No tricks.

What can you tell us at ANGRA cover song ´Wings Of Reality´ report? Why did you decide on this song?
In fact, this is a bonus track for the Japanese edition only. It has been requested by our Japanese label and we have then recorded both Angra´s “Wings of Reality” (which I wouldn´t name ´cover´, once it has been written by myself uniquely) and my first band, Viper´s “At Least a Chance”.
For the European version, the bonus track is another one. We went for a very unusual choice, but very fortunate, indeed: the Radiohead song “Fake Plastic Trees”.

This was a big challenge, to get immersed into such universe. I though it would be an easy task to sing that song. I was wrong. Although it doesn´t require extreme technical skills, it does require a sort of interpretation depth that I didn´t expect before!

On that very day of such vocal recording, I had planned to finish that one song and to maybe start and finish another one. “Just a bonus”, as we usually said… When the first chord hit the headphones, it was like being hit by a stroke. I must credit the exceptional performance of the band on that track as well. They sounded like giants. I tried to start singing. After the second sentence, I asked the engineer to stop it all. Then, I listened to the instrumental playback four or five times and after that, remained in silence, in the dark, for about an hour. I had to get it inside my head and my whole body somehow. After that long hour, I asked the engineer again, if he could set it to record. It was a first-take song.

As we listened back to what was ´on tape´, I said: that´s it. I can´t do any better.
And so the rest of the day was cancelled – it was enough for the whole recording session; no energy left at all. So intense this song is… And I´m actually very proud of our version for it. I guess this whole sentiment can be transmitted over, as you listen to it.

Andre, thank you for your time! I wish you a lot of success with “The Turns Of The Lights”. The final words are yours.
I thank you for the exciting questions. And I hope the album will fall into your readers´ tastes! I´m glad to have it released by one of the most expressive European labels, based in Germany and performing a serious, qualified job.
The next step, obviously, is to find the best opportunity to present it live next to you all.
So I´d like to thank all the old supporters and to welcome the new ones. Hope to see you all very soon on stage.
And finally, hope this album brings you some new ideas, some new positioning, feelings and points of view – if you also look for a better future, like we do.

Markus Seibel

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