Je ne suis rien du tout …

It’s ruschaosh hour. Bath time. One of those days. While I rinse my kid’s head, he never keeps quiet and in the sweet buzzing of that body, I don’t think about the meaning of life: I actually feel it.

This  is one of the days I would say yes if a journalist if he asked me have you ever thought of giving up? It’s no big deal, I know, soon I will be reminded of what keeps me going but if happiness is but a moment, so is frustration and the will to give up. Don’t get me wrong, nothing tragic happened. The sun shone outside. My kid and I danced to SING! soundtrack. The bad news or the mess ups show up in the screen. Unfortunately you can’t turn that notifications off.

I think about my day and filter the happy moments. Sometimes we need to be alone in the dark. I know that I did, that we did took many matters in our hands and that me as person or inside a group of people, a special group of people, can for sure deal with them. Dealing with problems yourself equals freedom. Yet, I remember that when I took my driver’s license like 25 years ago or so (it was an absolute condition to know how to drive to be in Moonspell) that my father (who isn’t a great driver himself, I must say) told me: on the road it’s not you that’s problem, it’s others. My father’s Sartre moment holds so much true in life, in business, in love.

My wife, she’s a singer too and whenever we are with Fausto on the street, many approach to ask so he’s going to be a musician too. And when we jokingly answer great goth, hope not! they fail to see that sometimes we are not joking at all. That we are not biting the hand that feeds. That we are not that privileged over others. The notion of success might be strange for me but it’s completely impossible to decipher when you’re not out in the woods yourself with but a knife and a flashlight.

Our world reinvents itself and its language changes at every moment. We live for the exclusive, exclude the non-inclusive while trying to be inclusive. It’s hard, if not impossible. You can’t shed tears enough when the violence is daily. You can’t believe there’s peace out there, if you only know war. We can’t best anyone because we are little else than nothing. We don’t get it, we are not in reason, the waters became too deep even for experienced swimmers.

We can do a lot but the only value we truly have is the capacity of filling the great silence that life can be.  Let’s keep on talking, it’s all we can really do.

Je ne suis rien du tout …

Ship of Fools

Unknown     I am what they call a frequent flyer. And because of that my life inside airports has become a little easier, even if the intensity of that unbreathable air doesn’t subside before any power. As a frequent flyer I get to have free showers + food + drinks, early entry in the plane, more luggage. It all sounds a bit bourgeois to you, and indeed it is, but we do it for more prosaic reasons which involve saving money on travels and of course the overweight issue which plagues all bands, even if our guitars fold or we have a paper thin backdrop.

What being a frequent flyer doesn’t prepare you too is to how business men and women look at you, when you storm inside the plane, before everyone else, just like them, and sit on economy class, with our laptops, mixers, guitars, in-ears and whatnot. Taking the aisles and windows, leaving the middle seat to whoever Faith brings. That look is a mix of disgust,surprise and incredulity. They look at us so hard that once I told a Swiss businessman to take a picture for it lasts longer. Anyway, we’d be fools not to take advantage of the many miles we indeed do per year, playing everywhere in the world. Also the middle seat open, might look like a provocation for some (anything goes inside a plane) but in fact it’s just a statement big haired Metal man, who fly heavy, are doing.

Last time I wrote here I was pretty pissed at Trump and Dijsselbloem, that dude from Holland, who said Southern countries in Europe spend their money in whores and alcohol. I had a lot of eyes on me.  I got a quite few comments here and elsewhere so I decided to write some more about the questions people had.

Here in little southern Portugal, outside of the big headlines and cable networks reports, the Portuguese went through hell and back with the EU austerity policies, which our previous government endorsed and enforced with gusto. They were a right-wing government. The conclusion was obvious: people were smashed by taxes, most of small and middle run enterprises closes doors, economy went down, soup kitchens were open. All in the name of a plan that didn’t work. After elections, the Socialist Party of Portugal formed a coalition with the left wing parties (CDU + BE), which many predicted it would  have a catastrophic , quick end. They nicknamed it Gerigonça which roughly translates as contraption, a gadget made in a rush, defected, obsolete. That word, gerigonça, became the most googled up in Portugal enjoying an improbable revival from the times our grandparents used it, in the beginning of the last century.

The revival of the word didn’t come by chance. It was the result of a successful policy which refused austerity in favor of improving salaries thus stimulating economy and not only meeting bur surpassing the numbers Europe loves so dear. Contrary to all the moneylenders best hopes and manoeuvres. Five years ago we got tapped on the back a lot. We followed through austerity, making it even more present in Portugal than what was really needed. Portugal was the starving, humble good student from Portugal. We paid bills. Meanwhile, our country was dying.

Now, what the fuck are we now? What the fuck does one know about Portugal?

Down here, we have the conscience that things are better for us. You can see it on the streets, the true pulse of people. Many are predicting us a real bad future (the always diligent rating agencies) just because we are from the South. Others are coming here to study what happened. From obedient student to study case. All it took was the courage to change and give people a break. And yes things do come around, especially crisis. They make the world go round. Yet as the Portuguese we are we will make the most of this moment poetic justice. We now know that there are alternatives and to be honest nobody really gives a fuck about a future that technocrats in Brussels plan for you. They are simply no fun!

When the tribes of Europe meet at a business lounge or at a hall in Brussels it’s symbolic. Most of the people over there do think they are far superior to their fellow Southern men. You can call it whatever you want, pick up any excuse or misunderstanding . That superiority they truly feel is what motivates speeches like the one of the Dutch President of the Eurogroup, or Trump’s brainless rallies.  Nothing else, that simple. And this goes for any stupid White, Black or Chinese man in power. The denial of merit.The clichés. The ignorance. The self importance. Disrespect.

When the tribes of Europe meet in the streets or in the clubs, something different happen. Unfortunately politicians are too busy with their own reflection in the papers and fail to see what’s true community. Europeans make babies with each other (even at war times!!!), get drunk with each other and regardless of our colonial past, at least in Portugal, we have a racial balance and multi-ethnic community working and living together that, yes, should make the headlines  as an example.

When I am in The Netherlands, nobody gives a fuck if I am Portuguese. When they ask, they might be interested but in fact nationality is a detail that comes way after first impression  And maybe that’s Europe. Not giving a fuck. Normal.  Simple. We only started giving a fuck when Europe called us drunks and pimps or tyrants and nazis.

It’s also simple: people mingle in Europe. We only argue because of our governments. When I am anywhere in Europe I don’t feel European, no one does, but I feel at home and amazed by everything we have in Europe. Why politicise and monetise it? To what purpose?

Conclusion: Portugal doesn’t make headlines,  but  I feel it could for all the good reasons. For me it’s no problem, I don’t mind and you can always come back here as I will update you about Portugal as much as you want.

I was happy to see, for once, Portugal not bowing the head to stupid, offensive comments. Our PM and PR were very adamant about it. Respect.

In Southern Europe as anywhere in the world, best things are for free.

Enough of this P(Portugal)I(italy)G(Greece)S(Spain) thing.

We are all in the same ship of fools. We know that thanks a Greek.

 

 

 

 

 

Ship of Fools

The forest and the tree

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I am in Frankfurt waiting for the plane to Lisbon. I just came from Mexico City with my band, where we played a great festival, a multicultural festival called Vive Latino. Great and free atmosphere. We had a great time in the country of the “bad hombres” and only a fool would dare to undermine Mexico’s superb cultural and historical legacy and their people’s hardworking spirit and diligence.

Arriving in Europe, it’s time to show the passport once  again, and to go (again) through a detailed scrutiny at the security again. After all, countries stop trusting each other a long time ago and all the handshakes (or not) you see at the 8 o’clock news are not meant to sign deals that protect you, but to elude you and your concept of freedom.

I sit for a while and drink some water. On the news: electronic ban (new Trump administration invent) to make America great again. You buy our computers but you can not bring them on the plane ok?  Security issues, anonymous sources, alt facts,  classified .  Fast forward a bit and it’s  The Netherlands, country I have always praised for being truly progressive (and for acting while others just discuss around the subject),  in the news again. This time is an asshole named Dijsselbloem, EuroGroup President, Holland’s Finance Minister (still in office after a tremendous electoral beat) , referring to his south European counterparts as womanisers, pimps, whores, drunks. The people and the states from the South of Europe spending in orgies the  hardly earned”Northern” money (update : we paid our creditors with enough interest to keep the system going for fascists like you Jeroen!). Again, no apologies, no consequence. Just like in the case of the Polish Euro-deputy (Janusz Korwin-Mikke) who not content of giving the Nazi salute to his peers, put women to shame with his bigot comments. In fact there was a reaction (gracias Miss Iratxe Garcia Perez) but to the best of everyone’s knowledge, no sanction, no reprimand, no firing from office, nothing. Institutions protect themselves.

Actually this was supposed to be an article about what happened between Turkey and Holland, a sign of war to come. Mindsets crushing, devoid of any moral compass. Erdogan calling European nazis, with people whitening his intolerable speech by saying Turks have no notion of the true dimension of the offence as they weren’t a part of WW2… Hey, but so it seems they are taking the lead in the third part of a war, that will spare no one. I was about to compare that while almost 2000 people were put in jail for “offending” Erdogan (that is speaking the truth about him) in Turkey; Holland were discussing enlarging their voting age,  starting of from 16 (old enough to fuck..). I can’t believe that one can argue between the two concepts of democracy: one that refused by  popular vote, the extreme right and violence of Wilders (just like France will do with Le Pen, mark my words!); and other campaigning shamelessly inside and outside their borders for a dictatorship.

And then Dijsselbloem comes up and says that about Southern economies. Damn you! I am really at loss of how these people can exercise a public office without having to be accounted for anything at all. How people like us are scalded if we say Europe is not working, while a Pole deputy, elected by the people,  sieg heils  left and right in the house of European Union. Institutions are failing their citizens by not taking immediate action and at least fire these hate mongers from office, giving place to someone who at least can keep his mouth shut. Where is indignation? What do politicians do when they cross with these fellows at the power corridors, do they shake hands, laugh together, crack a joke about women?

I know for a fact ( and my friends in Holland, Poland and in Turkey have to help me here) that very little people residing in these countries endorse such mentalities. In fact, they despise it. In fact, they are different, very different from the image their governors are passing publicly, just as much as Americans suffer with every new invention from the stupid white man office. Turkey was built anew under a secular rule, and only that prevented, perhaps, all hell breaking loose in Europe. Now that spirit is gone and Erdogan sharpens their knives and barks at an Europe whom he just courted two years ago for money and power. Holland is the land of Erasmus, of religious freedom, to where Jews fled, the land of tolerance, of legalised weed, of gay marriage, yes all that stuff that the disciples of the new power wolves like to despise as liberal. A polish citizen which makes the Nazi salute should be sanctioned and arrested for treason.

The trees are taking over the forest. The treeline doesn’t look appealing anymore. The world is not fun anymore. And here we stand divided, trying to justify or understand or fit in context racism, bigotry, fascism. The shoe won’t fit anymore and I am appalled to see anything goes right now, borders are coming back, the dogs sharpen their teeth, and the executioners clean their blades. We are being uprooted and chopped off, rendered powerless by information, by the person sitting just at our side nodding his head while Trump speaks and send thousands to certain death.

Time to chop off the sick trees and open a path in the forest for the intelligence of mankind to prosper. Otherwise our days will be numbered.

 

The forest and the tree

Alma Mater  books


I have been a book worm since I know myself. I was the kid who stayed at home, reading Jules Verne, De Foe, Stan Lee ,etc. As soon as I could I started meeting writers, made friends, translated stuff, wrote my own, informed myself how the book industry works, anything I could, really. 
So it’s with pride I announce the creation of ALMA MATER BOOKS. Soon we’ll announce our first releases for 2017.

Alma Mater  books

25 years meditations#2: School

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I have some trouble evaluating the relationship from people with School these days. Maybe it’s still the same, the deciding factor remaining the attention we pay and what we make from our experience and school years . Portugal was an illiterate country for most of the 20th Century and a key to bring the country up, after the revolution, already in Democracy, was to make an investment on people: teaching them the basic tools for life and any activity. Writing, reading, adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying. There is still a small percentage of old people that can’t read or write but it’s now residual when compared to the reality when grew up through the Seventies and the Eighties.

This reform wasn’t been always peaceful.It still ins’t.  There’s an active Education lobby (even though our Constitution forbids it)  and a dangerous liaison to the principal textbook publishers. Every Education Ministry, when taking office,  has a tendency to wipe out good and bad, to start over, focusing  mainly on politics and ideology  and putting little trust  in the virtues of a solid, experienced, tested system. Students and teachers  here in Portugal have to be used to have new cards  dealt almost on a yearly basis and that says a lot about how chaotic things can be for the principal agents of learning.

I do not wish to dwell much in the red tape and hard task of teaching and learning and dealing with the system in Portugal. I believe it’s everywhere , with the unfortunate note some countries do not even have a School system to show for. Instead, I romantically and scientifically  believe that School teaches us not only what is there to be taught, but grants  tools, abstract thought, writing papers, stimulating intelligence and praxis we should use to triage, for example, alternative facts that are dumped our way on a daily basis, especially online.

In all truth, I want to share two moments that show that what I learnt in School was applied to my activity as a musician and lyric writer later.

  1. Opium: our dear hit track. It was the year of 1991 and I was sitting in a Portuguese Literature class. The atmosphere was that of a High School class, noisy, all over the place. People talking, heads on cloud number nine, waiting for recess. Some paying attention, others not really. Our teacher (Miss Ferreira) was quite a character. She wore skirts and sat on the table and we could see her legs. She once asked us if anyone had a problem with it. She was brave, an independent woman, felling at  ease with herself and her amazing teaching skills. I remember when she started introducing more “existentialist” poetry, I was quite into it. Step by step, word by word, poem after poem, class after class we reached the time of reading and discovering Pessoa. Fernando Pessoa is a big name in Portugal and our most celebrated writer. Naturally important for grades in Portuguese Literature. I don’t believe in instant enlightenment , I believe all is a process. In Philosophy we discussed many times the capacity of wonder, of amazement, the spark of all curiosity without which all knowledge is impossible. I believe that it was more such a moment that happened when she first started reading Opiário (Opium den) by Álvaro de Campos (one of Pessoa’s several heterenomyous). Those words “Por isso eu tomo ópio…” resonated and I wrote them on my notebook not knowing I would use my amazement with those words, five years after for Irreligious. Even tough these words are not the final words of that larger poem, they sounded quite final for me (interpretation) , that verse, a vivid consternation, using opium to fight tedium, spleen, life. They came in quite handy when I finally wrote Opium and decided to end the song (using the original in Portuguese) with exactly  that quote from the poet. A song that was born in High School and that so many heard about while on High School themselves.
  2. 1775: our  forthcoming album, totally sung in Portuguese. It was the year of 1998 and I am sitting now at Lisbon University, coursing Philosophy. The class is Social Sciences’ Epistemology and my teacher is a star. Prof. #ViriatoSoromenhoMarques goes on about Theodicy, Lisbon Earthquake, the end of the 18th Century,Illuminism,  the politics of religion and everything clicks. I am a 24 year old young man, trying to find some substance for things I have been brewing inside my mind and already writing down publicly in my lyrics and letters to friends and fellow Underground musicians. Voltaire, Espinoza, Kant, sounded big in my ears and between all fragments and distractions, I made my notes. Now, almost twenty years later I picked them up to write a new album. Go back a few years, to High School again, I am sitting in a (Portuguese) History class. The theme is the reconstruction of Lisbon. The test is different. My teacher (Miss Machado) picked up a few between us in class and attributed chapters to study. She chose me to be the Minister (Marques de Pombal, main responsible for Lisbon’s rebirth) and all my colleagues had a field of expertise and we’d discuss it in front of the class, like in a class Parliament. Goes without saying, I had to go through all the chapters while my colleagues had to go through just one. I wasn’t too happy with that. I was no nerd, had my girls to kiss and my music to play and my demo tapes arriving from all around the world. Now, I am thankful not only for one of the best memories and best planned/interesting  classes ever, but for the knowledge I had to gulp down, from building constructions’ new techniques to the dissolution of Inquisition and the power loss of both Church and Crown, leading to a modern Portugal.

 

So, I have a lot to thank to School, and if you’re a fan of these songs, you have to thank them too. I could end and say how important is School and how you all should never give up knowledge for easy money-precarious jobs; or tell you that getting your sources exclusively online won’t benefit discussion and triage. I could say all of that, but in fact when I woke up today I turned the TV on the news and watched incredulous what happened in Holland with the Turkish Family Minister (she’s doing a terrible job btw) and how Erdogan called Holland (one of the most progressive countries in the world and a lesson for individual freedoms) the last remains of Nazism in Europe (250.000 dead just in The Netherlands). I thought I would never live to watch that with your my own eyes and ears.  I can’t help my will to be silent and let intelligence runs its course, and hope everyone will be able to know what counts, what’s keeping us and what will make us go and have a future together.

 

 

25 years meditations#2: School

In the beginning there was the Word

mislabeling-the-word-of-god

The other day I was editing some lyrics for my wife’s band and she was quite amazed at how fast I can do it and how I have already mentally understood the process and just fit in the pieces easily. In High School last years and then in my first University years I developed what I thought it was a fantastic studying method: I wrote a long answer to a very generic answer like “what happened between the years X and Y” for History or “define the progress of the author’s thinking” for Philosophy. I read the manuals and the books and the auxiliary papers and then wrote a sum up of everything in my answer. I wrote everything again  on a notebook and then read it aloud into a dictaphone and recorded it on tape. Then two days before the test I would listen to it (alternating with Metal of course) on my walkman. On the last night before the test, I would fall asleep listening to it and have a small fast forward go before the test. The result was great for me all the time. I had understood the matter through the studying and reading; pointed down in a tentative synthetic form on a notebook; read it/record it aloud and repeat it on my head through the mean of my own words like a mantra echoing in the mind.

When I arrived to do the test, I simply took the time to write and adapt whatever there was to be adapted and taking care I don’t overthrow the clock and fill the pages with straw (a metaphor for fillers in Portugal, palha). One of my colleagues broke it down for me: I wasn’t really thinking, I was producing text but it worked.

Philosophy teste at an academic level are not an essay for you to deliver your vision. It’s too soon for that or, really, that time will never come. Most tests were to evaluate what the teachers taught, more history of Philosophy than anything else. I remember once at a Medieval Philosophy test that I couldn’t use my method because the night before I was drinking out wth friends. There was two questions. One I used some fragments   I had studied to answer but couldn’t process through my method. I had a C. The other question I took light-heartedly, it was St.Augustin, and I am not a fan so I just spoke my mind on paper, questioning it, a stupid bravado from a student but bam! B so from then on I forgot about the method and started being more loose even tough my new attitude didn’t mean success on papers and tests only  a notion that I pushed my luck  too far, too many times and trusted instinct instead of right timing and studying and yes my grades started to go down and I became a more of an irregular student. Then, the band came into the picture and the choice was between Hegel or a blonde, tall Dutch ready to party  with into the glory ride and I gave up my method and my studies and sold my soul to the glories and humiliations of rock’n’roll.

When I look up to this text now, it seems that it totally lost its initial intent and it seems I am just bragging about my text editing skills, and bugging you with my student’s methods and anguishes. Actually, what I wanted to tell you about has to with me with turning my papers in. I had three or four papers ready in my second year (Nietzsche’s Genealogy was one of them; and i would have to check for others). I had a computer at home already but no printer so I resourced to Pedro’s (Paixão, Moonspell keyboardist) brother (João) to help me with design and printing it. João, Pedro’s brother, is a teacher at Lisbon’s Science Faculty (Applied Mathematics) and sometimes it’s the small things people do that you carry as a gesture into life. He wrote our The Butterfly Effect introduction, versing fractal movements and enumeration and he was kind enough to quote some sentence of mine in his thesis, which for me was worth so much more than many of the compliments people throw at me, many times without elaborating.

He’s a great guy, a mathematician, a metal head, a family man, a Rugby coach. Last time I saw him was in the backstage of our last Lisbon gig in February  but I couldn’t even say hi, as we were unable to reach each other through the horde of our screaming kids, fans that sneaked him with friends’ passes, press, hang ons and hang outs. I hate when I can’t greet someone I respect so much but that’s what happened. I thought of him because he thought me how to use the shortcuts of Word. ctrl+a, ctrl+c, ctrl+v. An easy formula that still today I use religiously to impress my wife with my fast text edits.

I am just sitting in the studio marvelled with what our orchestrator (John Phipps)  and Pedro do with Logic or Pro Tools and it’s unbelievable how your work shapes your personality. I can easily state that especially John (the orchestrator) has a very Logic way of looking into music and production which is a good thing because after all the program translates his feelings and ideas into the intangible reality of music and arrangements.

Me, I am a Word guy even though now I am cheating with Pages. I  can produce a fantastic graphic spot/grid, so to speak the way the text look and breathes. I use italic and bold and I know some of the rules behind its proper use. I love the text, how it looks, how the letters were printed noisily into paper by type machines and how they now materialise on the light of the screen. I love to move the text around with my shortcuts and slice it to perfection with chosen selections, one word if needed, letter by letter.

There are people in your life that have an importance they not know or realize. Sometimes,  it’s just a detail that sticks for life. No man is an island and everything is learnable as long as you pay attention. It might seem like a small deal all these shortcuts but I think of them as an image to life itself. Deleting, replacing, selecting, choosing, forms, shapes, colours, it’s all written somewhere in pages we can’t see but that sometimes pop up in a poem, in a newspaper ad, in a napkin note, in a suicide letter.

The recognition is rightful: In the beginning there was the word.

Until someone asks of you: Say your last words.

In the beginning there was the Word