The Quiet Englishman - Whatmusic Part 2

A long lost interview in Brazilian press from 2002 about Whatmusic

"Ed Motta is one of those rare people who knows everything there is to know about the world he lives and works in."

Ed Motta & Charles Gavin with Whatmusic LP Dwitza

Interview from NO Magazine Brasil by Artur Dapieve (Part 2)

13th January 2002

Isn’t it amazing how samba jazz has spent the last 30 years almost unheard in Brazil? From where does this fascination for the genre come from in Europe, in general, but in the UK specifically?

Brazil follows the US in many ways, including in the loss of its own cultural history. Americans are the same, it was the British who sold them back blues and rock that in the early 1960s were in the same position as samba jazz in Brazil today. The British are quite insular and love to collect and preserve old stuff. We invented the concept of museums and then ransacked the world! The Japanese are also insular and also collect everything - classic cars, records, hi fi, etc.

But talking of this, those guys that sell records in the street in Rio they know everything about Syd Barrett or Atomic Rooster or those bands that no one remembers anymore outside of the pages of Mojo magazine. ‘Saints don’t make miracles at home’.

The key difference is that Brazilian musicians, who if they were American would have a decent standard of living are often poor and destitute. Milton Banana, Pedro dos Santos and Edison Machado are just a few who died with nothing. It’s most surprising to see Donato leave those problems behind and end up being someone even the MTV kids have heard of.

Whatmusic has plans to offer the largest selection in the world of this type of music. How do you plan to move forward with those plans?

Since we began this project in March 2001 we’ve had investment from players within the music industry as well as some investment bankers all of whom see a future for niche music as being very different. Some of those investors had assumed our releases must be strange music of some kind, but then they listen to the reissues and are amazed how fantastic it is. It’s just music that was never marketed properly before.

We have access to thousands of titles we can reissue legitimately as well as a new project currently being recorded by Edson Lobo & Tita featuring Joao Donato and Robertinho Silva. And of course, the best new release for us this year has been Dwitza by Ed Motta (Ed Note: yet to be released in Brasil it should be out in January on Universal Music).

In contrast to most reissue record labels Whatmusic is highly efficient and entrepreneurial and because of that we’re getting more funding this month to fund our expansion plans. That means, more titles!

Samba em Parelelo - Orlann Divo

Orlann Smaba

From the records already released what stands out? And what stands out from the upcoming releases?

Our first release was called ‘Wahoo’ by Eero Koivistoinen Music Society. The music is jazz fusion, the cover (from 1974) looks like a modern dance music album and the musicians include the famous conguero Sabu Martinez. Afro Jazz Cuban Fusion from Finland? We sold thousands of copies of that one.

Amongst the reissues that gave me the most pleasure to put out were the two Copa 7 titles. We met the band last year when they played their weekjly show at the Military Police Sargent’s Club in Bonsucesso. They couldn’t believe that these crazy English guys knew their records and wanted to reissue them. After a lot of hunting detective work we finally found out who had the rights and got permission to release them.

Future reissues include Obras by Edison Machado, as good as any post Coltrane jazz album out there with the additional distinction of Machado’s famous ‘locomotive’ drumming playing samba bop.  Look out as well for never before issued stuff from Tenorio Jr and Osmar Milito.

Wahoo - Eero Koivistoinen Music Society

Wahoo Eero Koivstoinen Music Society
Wahoo Eero Koivstoinen

What’s your favourite record from the series you’ve done?

It’s difficult to say. They are all chosen because we love the music. But we are very proud to have recognised the talent of Dom Mita and put out his new record just before his death in a car accident. He called London just a week before saying how happy he was that his music was being played in Japan and that their were some French DJs wanting to remix them.

Edison Machado Quinteto - Obras

Edison Machado - Obras - Whatmusic
Edison Machado - Obras - Whatmusic

What’s a record you’d really like to reissue?

Haha, I can’t tell you that because there are too many spies out there to tell you the truth.  We’d love to reissue some of the trios from Som/Maior but many others want to as well.

You know about the infamy of the English record labels when it comes to questions of copyright. What do you think about that? Does that make it difficult for Whatmusic to set itself apart in that world?

Actually, that bad reputation was really good for us. Simply, because it closed the door to many of our competitors. It’s really easy to work with people if you’re honest and pay them. It helps if you speak Portuguese and don’t ‘act like a gringo’. When I go and meet someone, or talk to them on the phone, within a couple of minutes we usually find out we have friends in common. And that makes it easy for us to get references.

Everyone knows the labels with the dodgy reputation and they’ve stopped negotiating with Brazilian artists as it’s no longer the flavour of the month, plus no one trusts them. Artists have always been suspicious of record labels but when you can call someone like Ed Lincoln and tell them something about their own records they’d forgotten it gets you a lot of respect.

How does it work with Durval Ferreira and Charles Gavin as representatives. Do they suggest titles for reissue or make contacts?

Well, Charles has been really busy with the launch of the new Titãs album but he was important to help us establish connections with the major labels in Brazil and he introduced me to Ricardo Garcia who remasters most of our reissues. This year Charles should be helping out more.

Durval is always on hand. He’s our ‘man on the ground’ and a really funny guy. We talk by phone almost every day. He’ll often say ‘I found this album by artist ‘x’ - something really no one knows you won’t have had of them’ and we say ‘oh yeah that one came out on Equipe with the red label and the green photo on the cover…’

And he can’t believe the level of craziness that has lead us to know all these titles. I think if you were to ask Durval, that he’d tell you that working with us is the happiest he’s been in years.

Ed Motta, how did he find out about you?

I’ve known Ed since he was more or less 17 years old, but mostly via phone calls. The night that Marcelo Yuka was shot, my friend Kassin the producer and I had arranged to go together to Ed’s house with Yuka and listen to our first releases. We’d been sending copies of every release to [Ed] and one day he said ‘Look I’m gonna record something very special. Would you be interested in releasing it?’ He didn’t have to ask twice.

Ed is one of those rare people who knows everything there is to know about the world he lives and works in. We’re both perfectionists and for this reason we spent hours and hours discussing tiny details of cover art, really bizarre stuff. We’re going to be releasing the CD on Digipak in Japan (Ed note: A cardboard cover instead of the usual plastic jewel case) with a bonus track and also the vinyl.

We’re also gonna have a limited edition single released on vinyl exclusively.  He’s going to be in London soon to help promote the record but actually I think he’s coming to eat and to drink rare wines!

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