A NTS Radio transmitiu sets de DJ Firmeza e dos Blacksea Não Maya, para juntar a uma entrevista feita ao Pedro. Encantados! Cliquem no scan abaixo para ler em contexto e no link para ouvir.
NTS Radio hosted mixes by DJ Firmeza and the Blacksea Não Maya crew. Additionally, Pedro from Príncipe was interviewed for context. Thrilled! Catch the whole thing by clicking the scan and the link below.
For the third instalment of Spun Out, our feature focussing on the best new record labels, we’re delighted to be hosting PRÍNCIPE. Since its inception in 2011 the Lisbon-based label has been championing the overwhelming inventive – and ridiculously fun – electronic music being made on the geographic and cultural peripheries of the Portuguese capital, as well as opening eyes to talented producers from the centre. Having successfully begun a small cultural revolution in their hometown, the label has set out on a global dancefloor-conquering mission. The last edition of Unsound festival in Krakow saw Príncipe producers Marfox and Niggafox winning hearts and minds with one of the best party sets of the week, and each of the label’s releases has achieved wider and wider critical acclaim. Their latest, a split compilation featuring two DJing crews (Blacksea Não Maya from the south side of Greater Lisbon, and Piquenos DJs Do Guetto from the North), boasts both gorgeously precise melodies and the kind of frantic rhythmic energy that commands bodies to dance. The record was pressed in a run of only 300 individually hand-painted and hand-stamped 12″s, and unsurprisingly is well on its way to being sold.
NTS: So, Príncipe came about because you guys wanted people to hear the music coming from Lisbon’s suburbs and ghettos, right? Can you talk a little bit more about the label’s origins?
Pedro Gomes: Yeah, that music was my focus, along with my friend and colleague Nelson – that was part of what we had already been invested in for a few years. Our friends and colleagues Márcio and José had been wanting to work with us doing a co-op type of label. José was really connected with house and techno and electronic music, and all sorts of contemporary forms of music, but he and Márcio’s notion of what we were working on – the music you’re referring to, which is nowawdays the bulk of what we operate on – they were a bit far from knowing how rich that universe was, and is. It didn’t take them a long time to understand how brutally vast the quantity and quality of this kind of music is.
We had a few initial meetings where everyone clarified where they stood, how they like to do things, what [they think] important to do, what’s important not to do. And after that coast was clear we got into the [conversation on] what should be done civically, artistically, socially…because we weren’t and are not interested in dividing things, we want to look at all the angles that we can. As soon as we analyzed what was around us, it became very clear to us what should be our priorities. There was a lack of label activity [in Lisbon] in terms of a substantial part of the contemporary dance music being done here – no proper platform for it. This was around 2009, 2010. So all these abandoned artists – be they techno or kuduro or batida or funaná , or tarraxinha, or leftfield house – we thought we should unite all these people, and give them a little push, to contextualize them, and enable them to interfere in the music world in a way which they weren’t able to do themselves. That’s why and how it started.
NTS: Music journalists – notably those of US and UK publications – seem keen to characterize the music particularly music produced by Nigga Fox and other Príncipe artists as of the future. Why do you think this is?
PG: I think when you listen to something that sounds very new, or very fresh, it’s normal that you hear it as something that’s coming from the future, because it seems too far in advance from what you know. This has happened several times throughout history, and every time it does, this feeling gets more and more pristine, more and more refined, more and more potent. Incredibly enough, it has to do with the positive effects of globalization. It’s almost post-genre music: it’s not strictly kuduro, it’s not strictly afro-house, it’s not strictly deep house, straight house, techno… producers like Nigga Fox, and all the producers on our newest release – they’re not limiting what they do to a sense of genre. They have this intuitive notion of history which is based on their daily lives, on their quotidian habits of music-making and music-listening. I don’t think they consider themselves to be part of a [musical] continuum historically, per se. If you look at somebody like Arca, for instance, or the more recent works by DJ Rashad – these are people that are making beats. They’re not entrapped (or not too entrapped) by a formal reading of music history, [however] recent that music history may be. They’re amalgamating all this musical knowledge that they possess, and producing music in a post-genre, globalist manner.
It was the case for decades that you would have to fit into specific styles. But now if people are really reacting to the work of an up-and-coming kid from whatever part of the world, it’s probably because he or she doesn’t think of him or herself as a trap producer, or as a footwork producer, or as a kuduro producer, or as a hip hop producer, or a rock and roll guy, or a jazz musician, or whatever…They’re not viewing themselves as part of a genre or part of a lineage. I don’t like the word global because it’s connected with a world music type of milieu, which is a problematic milieu, but some [young producers] are transforming all the things they know into this unified singular vocabulary. When you do something like that you’re not just working quantically through time but pancontinentally, through cultures. If you do that in a way that is not a fetishized, stylized fusion of cultures, but just naturally who you are – this automatic processing of all these cultures and idioms – it sounds futuristic, to whoever is listening to it, because it is a new way of processing a new reality.
NTS: So you’ve been running the Príncipe club night at the Musicbox in downtown Lisbon for a few years now, right?
PG: Two years in February, yeah.
NTS: In the recent interview you gave to FACT you spoke of how the music that you’re releasing on Príncipe had previously had “absolutely no repercussion” with the central Lisbon scene. Beyond the Príncipe night itself, has much changed? Is the city’s landscape changing musically?
PG: Yes definitely, on a number of levels. Socially, these parties were the first time – the first regular events – where black and white folk in central Lisbon got together to listen to what mainly is black ghetto music. And it was a bit confusing for both parties at first, especially for the black community, to see that white people were so crazy about it. It took everybody in these neighborhoods, I would say, half a year to get used to it. And still every month some new kid from whatever project comes to the club for the first time and he’s just paralyzed for three or four hours – he just can’t believe it. He has to be tapped on the shoulder every fifteen minutes to snap out of it. So that’s been fucking great.Also, this summer was the first time that I heard afro-house – Angolan, not Portuguese – playing in an upper-class disco. A lot of the local journalistic work done about us has been very invested in talking about this music’s story. Thinking of one particular article, the journalist was saying that what we do is more important than a million political rallies – socially and culturally, because it directly interferes on a number of matters that are usually never affected – the ghetto stays the ghetto, the projects stay the projects, and the centre of the city stays white, for the most part. But this journalist was saying that [the music we’re releasing] is not African music done in Portugal, or even Afro-Portuguese music – it’s Portuguese music, done by black Portuguese people.
In the suburbs and the projects, gradually we get more and more proposals from producers and kids sending us their jams, and they feel more and more at ease with us. They’re finally understanding that we’re not a newer more advanced specimen of the white devil, but we’re actually into properly working with them in a way which is constructive and benign, so we’re getting a good rep. And the results are getting better and better daily, in terms of music production: a lot of old school guys are coming back, and the younger kids that were demotivated are carrying on and improving. So yeah it has changed a lot, locally, in a very short amount of time.
NTS: So I guess that leads on to my next question – do you think this kind of music will remain your focus, or do you hope to broaden the Príncipe releases over the coming years – with a sub- or sister label as things progress? Do you think you’ll stay, as you’ve been termed, a “dancefloor label”?
PG: Obviously the bulk of what we work on is this music and its future evolutions. But of course we’ll keep working with people we really admire, namely Niagara, and there’s another new project which I cannot mention right now. But we wouldn’t call ourselves just a dancefloor label. This is not just DJ music – it’s supposed to work on the dancefloor, but we try to organize these musical objects so that they also work for a little house party, or people that are just sitting on the couch. The music obviously has a functional aspect, although I think its poetics transcend that. But yeah, for now, there’s gonna be a kick drum in there, somewhere!
NTS: The UK press has been totally enamoured with the latest split compilation from the two crews, and with Marfox and Nigga Fox, but can you tell us a bit about Niagara as well? The EP you released by them was amazing.
PG: I’m happy to hear that. They’re a trio comprised of two brothers, the oldest [of whom] has been our friend for years. They’re both incredible boys. So it’s António and Alberto, and Alberto’s girlfriend Sarah, and they’ve been working together for three or four years. What makes them really stand out from most house and techno we’ve been listening to is that no sound is too patternized, no sound is too constricted in a four by four structure. It’s always alive, it’s always moving somewhere. To use a very overused word, it’s very organic. In terms of the narrative of what they do, the sequencing compositionally – even though they’re very schooled in dance music (Alberto has been DJing since he was 13), they always find something surprising for them, and if it surprises them it usually surprises everybody, because they really know their shit.
Their DJ sets have become fantastic throughout time, and their live set right now is outstanding. They just played Lux, the most respected, biggest club in town a couple of weeks ago, and it was all done live – live dance music like you haven’t seen. Maybe you’ve seen it if you saw Autechre – it’s that kind of a structure, where the music is constantly shifting and reshifting all the time, and the patterns are always developing. It’s really joyous music, we don’t know anybody quite like them. We have a different strategy for their future than we do for other future releases, because they’re being a bit swamped, undeservedly – they’re not getting half the attention the other music is getting. Which is understandable, because they’re more traditionally Western, and as fresh as they are it’s just incomparable to the culture shock fascination most people feel when they listen to something as futuristic as the other work. They have over two hours of music which is ready to release, and its all just top notch, top drawer…top shelf!
NTS: You’re pretty committed to the physicalization of this distinctly digital music – can you talk about the design and the visuals on the label?
PG: It’s all done by Márcio, who’s a co-founder of the label, and is probably our favourite poster-artist in Lisbon at the moment, and the most requested one – everybody just loves Márcio, as they should. In his artwork, as in his DJing, he’s incredibly intuitive. He just does shit that just works, people get it. His two most commonly used words are “hot” and “power” – he’s a monosyllabical demon. He’s a guy from a volcanic island off the atlantic coast of Portugal – there’s a volcano, and a lot of ocean. And granite.
What he does, you could call it iconographical work. He works with icons, 700 year old icons, 3000 year old icons, two year old icons…the work he’s been doing for Príncipe deals with our contemporary culture, with Portugal processing our imperialist phase dealing with it postcolonially (or not dealing with it). Márcio is also an urban interventionist, if you can call it that – he’s a very experienced stencil artist. Everybody just falls in love with his artwork. We outlined everything very carefully before we started – we’re trying to do the artwork in a way in which all the records look like they came from us, and hopefully they’re gonna get more and more wonderful, and when you’ve owned sixty or seventy Príncipe records hopefully they’ll be a glorious little package. Márcio does all our artwork for us, including the artwork for our club nights, and the logo which is crazy, I love the logo. It’s the face of everybody, the face of nobody – everybody and nobody’s king. Or queen.
NTS: So there are four of you running the label –
PG: – four plus one, our friend Andre has been doing press and helping with booking work internationally – an incredibly intelligent and cultured young man.
NTS: – so five of you, but I guess this question will have to be addressed exclusively to you: what would you say are labels that you respect aesthetically, musically or politically?
PG: I’m gonna sound really arrogant – and I apologize in advance for it. Factory Records, Kranky Records, Siltbreeze Records, Strictly Rhythm, Impulse! Records, Revenant Records, Ariwa records – I mean there are a lot of great labels. Trax, obviously, Basic Channel. Personally what I appreciate most in labels is character, artistic and ethical integrity – the treatment of the artists, how fair they are. How much they invest in the community surrounding them, how much they positively interfere with their surroundings. And how brave the labels are in terms of what they believe in. Like Vini Reilly, of the Durutti Column – in his own words he’s a creation of Factory Records, he said he would never be who he is unless there was Factory Records. That’s obviously an extreme example, and we don’t do that, but that is an inspiration – that you can motivate people to be more demanding of their own work, more enthusiastic about doing new stuff and getting better at it. I’m also into label loyalty, with the artists – Warp is an inspiration in that regard too. Autechre, Aphex, etc…absurdly important labels, all of them.
Nowadays it’s very simple to do a label (and it’s good that it’s simple) wherever you’re at. If you’re in Paris and you want to have on your label somebody from New York City, Sydney, Berlin, Cape Town – you can do that. But we’re more interested in looking at our city, and acting on what we think it needs. So we carry that philosophy and that practice to Príncipe.
NTS: And finally, what’s next for the label? I know there are some Príncipe appearances confirmed for some upcoming festivals, with Marfox playing at CTM for example.
PG: That’s right, yes. We’ve got a lot coming up, this is a huge year for us. We took our time to start, and do the second batch of releases (from Niagara and Nigga Fox) because we were doing some intercultural groundwork, let’s call it that. But I hope there’s not an a-bomb in 2014, because there’s a lot of absolutely wonderful music that we have the privilege to be releasing this year.