by Charles Legraverand,
The return of Angra to French soil is news that is likely to excise many of you. That fine river of melodic progressive metal is coming again into your living room via a mini live album which makes it worth assessing these talented brazilians. Andre Matos and Rafael Bittencourt replied to questions from Rockstyle, both musical and personal, with sincerity and seriousness, then underwent a small ‘blind-test’ revealing a creditable musical knowledge which proves, as if there was any need to, that Angra is a cultivated group.
(The translation of the above paragraph is not so good. This is due to the journalist getting a little carried away with ‘flowery’language as we Brits might say.)
CL: Why have you brought out a live album?
Andre: Above all because there was an immediate demand for it, particularly on the part of the French market, and it is a live album recorded in France. In fact, it is not a live album, because there are only six songs on it. It is more of an EP. There are two reasons for the format of this album: We though immediately that it is a little too soon in our career to have already brought out a live album. We have only two studio albums and it would be better to wait a little longer before bringing out something more substantial, a double album, for example. On the other hand, all the songs that we have recorded from this concert were not of a sufficiently good quality that we could use them, because we had problems with the sound, with echo(??), equipment and <> was not exactly a hall best suited to (recording) live albums. All this forced us into bringing out just a mini-live. But we are going to return mid-April and that will be an excellent opportunity to record something in a real concert hall.
CL: This live album can then be considered as a present to the French public?
Andre: We see it like that in effect, because, since two years ago, we find that we have developed a certain relationship with our French fans and it pleases us to offer them this live album, recorded in their country, which few other groups have done. The majority of these albums are recorded in English-speaking countries; on this live album, one can hear the crowd scream in French, sing in French and try to pronounce the words in French, It is a completely different atmosphere.
CL: It’s true that the majority of French metal magazines have voted you as much as third in the best group category. What is your feeling on this subject?
Andre: We have experienced a great success in France since we were a young group. I think that it is thanks to this affectionate response, which unites us to the French public, that this has happened. It is the first time that we have experienced this and I must say that we are very proud of it.
CL: Is Angra your favorite group?
Andre: Not yet!
Rafael: For me, yes.
CL: Why ‘not yet’?
Andre: Because I think that one day we will be much better. I am very critical with regard to my activities and that is why I replied like that.
CL: You have only two albums behind you and you are already on the road to success. Are you not afraid of falling as quickly as you have climbed?
Andre: No. If we have climbed quickly, it is nothing more than a coincidence. But we do not play music that is in fashion nor subject to fashion and we will never do that. It is just a question of timing. We have been appreciated and the timing has been good for us. We will be able to stay in the shadows much longer.
Rafael: We haven’t worked on anything other than the quality of the music and above all, not on that which appeals to the market. We think that groups who play music of good quality will not die, their memory all the less, if their members go their own ways.
CL: You are perceived to be a ‘progressive group’ What does such a label signify for you?
Andre: No big deal. We do not think about being a ‘progressive’ group, nor a heavy metal group or anything else … We are just a group of musicians. Understand well that it is turned towards heavy metal more than anything else… But I believe that the public finds the name ‘progressive’ practical because they know what happens in music, the way of mixing different styles or different sounds, for example. But I believe that we are a long way from the true progressive groups like Yes, Jethro Tull or King Crimson. We do not sound like them, we are very different. If the public wants to see us as a progressive heavy metal group that’s OK. If they want to give us labels, we accept them.
CL: What is, in your opinion, the difference between man and animal?
Rafael: I believe that humans have the possibility of being stupid.
Andre: Animals live only for the present moment and do not project the past or future. They are also in better harmony with the biosystem in which we live.
CL: What is your philosophy of life, if you have one?
Rafael: Oh well… Mine is to find a harmony and equilibrium. That is to look for what I am at each moment. I try to be the same with each person I meet and not to change as a result of the things which come over. I must find my true self and it is very difficult. Above all, in this industry, where it is easy to be different with each person.
Andre: Hmmm…. Jesus Christ said – I am not particularly a believer but … – to try to be good and to do good in all things. And I believe that this is very difficult to follow:
CL: Do you believe in God and what are your arguments?
Andre: Hmmmm … (They both appear bothered)
CL: These are personal questions in the interview, but you don’t have to answer them , if you don’t want to…
Rafael: No, it’s no problems.
Andre: We like this kind of discussion. In one week, it is the first time that we have been asked questions that are a little bit different. Let us just reflect for a moment …..
Rafael: For my part, I would say ‘Yes’, I believe in God a great deal, it is a considerable part of my existence. When I was much younger, I had the intention of becoming a priest.
CL: Excuse me?
Rafael: Yes, I had the intention of becoming a priest more than a musician. For me, being a priest means believing in and serving God through the Catholic church and being a musician means believing in God through music. I thought
that the second situation was more interesting for me!…
CL: Do you sometimes go to church?
Rafael: Yes, it occurs to me to go there, when I have the time. When I visit a church, when I think that it is a beautiful building, I sit down for a moment and try to take in the atmosphere and think of several prayers. Generally, when I am going to bed, I address several prayers in a similar manner.
CL: And you Andre?
Andre: Sometimes I believe in God and sometimes I don’t. It seems to me that God has abandoned us for no apparent reason and I am always looking for proof concerning his existence.
CL: What reasons would drive you to commit suicide?
Andre & Rafael: None at all….
CL: Think about that again. Is there truly nothing?
Rafael: No, truly none at all.
Andre: No because humans have the facility to always have hope. In any case, it is like that for me.
Rafael: You must know that we live in a country which suffers from a very low suicide rate. Our culture is founded upon hope. The people of our country are used to suffering because there is a lot of misery. I believe that, whatever happens, faced with a desperate situation, one will think and that will certainly not be to commit suicide. The situation is never that catastrophic.
CL: Imagine that you have a cancer or AIDS in your veins?
Rafael: Yes, I know, that is terrible, but I believe that I will continue to do what I have to do. To die is a situation of culpability. (admittance of culpability)
(Not sure of the translation of the last sentence)
Andre: I would be very unhappy with the idea of killing myself. That is an enormous thing to do. We have power in our hands over our life but I believe that it is a false power, because those that use it are sick or not accountable for
Rafael: I believe that at the moment when I put the pistol to my temple, I would be in the process of telling myself that I don’t have any reason to stay here, but at the moment of pulling on the trigger, I am persuaded that I would find something more important, so as not to do it.
CL: If the law tolerated murder, would you be capable of killing an enemy?
Rafael: No, I would not kill even my worst enemy.
Andre: If murder was permissible, there wouldn’t be anybody left on earth.
Rafael: People kill each other sometimes, in any case. That happens frequently in Brazil. It is a very violent country.
Andre: Someone damages a car, the owner gets out a pistol and kills him. The majority of people own weapons, over there. Violence is natural and it is very primitive.
Rafael: Last week, I believe, some guys killed a cop because he has given them a parking ticket for illegal parking. Its a place which can easily become very violent, because it is a contagious phenomenon. You are made to pay, just for a parking ticket?
Andre: If you have a pistol then necessarily you are the first to shoot if someone attacks you or frightens you. Fortunately the law forbids murder in a general manner.
Rafael: Well, it tries to… I imagine that it is a phenomenon due to the overpopulation in Brazil.
CL: What do you hope for after death?
Rafael: (Disillusioned) A better place… I think that in fact as we are made up of physical energy (Rafael means atoms and molecules), when we die, this energy does not disappear but finds itself converted into other things or becomes useful for other organisms, (to say nothing of the worms that I am going to nourish after my burial). I believe that death is nothing more that a movement of energy and that that of your body or mine finds itself elsewhere at another moment.
CL: And you, Andre, what are you waiting for?
Andre: I’m not waiting for anything. If something good happens, I would be pleased. If there is nothing, I would not be disappointed.
We made Andre and Rafael listen to a series of songs which were very diverse – that’s the principle of ‘blind-test’. However these were just short extracts of songs, often deprived of their vocal parts and hence difficult to recognize. With musicians such as those of Angra, one could afford to spice up the affair ….
Andre: (after a certain time). I would say Deep Purple.
Rafael: With Ian Gillan?
Andre: What song is that?
Andre: It is clearly an old album. That was a super extract and it was made before we were born!
Rafael: The formula Gillan/Blackmore is truly extraordinary. Blackmore is a talented guitarist who must have influenced so many people.
Andre: (after several moments) No, its Dream Theater. As you can see, that’s why we are considered Progressive. That is one of the best groups at the moment, consisting of musicians who are excellent and creative also! This is a group which opened new horizons , above all for groups like us. The audience of Dream Theater is capable of listening to our music. It is one of the groups that I like very much.
Rafael: Its Extreme, I adore what they do. The guitarist is truly excellent.
Andre: They tried to sound like Queen on this album. They are capable of lots of melody.
Rafael: (Immediately) That is one of the caprices of Paganini. Euh… I don’t know the number, 8, 10? It was played by Steve Vai in the film <>. It is a phenomenon of virtuosity, but everyone knows that. I like the richness of the themes. One can’t understand very well what is going on and where all the ideas are hidden, even after hundreds of listenings. He was truly a great composer.
Madredeus/<Ao longe o mar>> (Fado – traditional Portuguese music)
Rafael: (after a little time). Ah! Madredeus! I don’t know the title. I have listened very briefly to these albums, without recalling the song titles.
Andre: It is one of the most popular forms of Portuguese music.
Rafael: Without hesitation, it is Metallica. It is taken from the album <, but I’m not able to tell you the title. That often happens, because most of the time, I put on the album and listen to it without looking at the titles.
Andre: We like Metallica and they are very good at what they do. I also like their last album.
Rafael:I prefer the old albums, but as much as we are musicians, we can understand that they felt the need to evolve and they were led to change. We defend this right, it is legitimate. No-one can blame them for changing their taste no more than one can blame them for cutting their hair. They are not in prison!
Andre: My favorite album of Metallica remains, all the same, ‘Ride the Lightning’.
Andre: One might say Bach … Ah no! These are the Beatles. It is >! I adore the Beatles. <> is my favorite album.
Rafael: I didn’t recognize the title. They have too many good songtitles to remember!
Andre: But the harpsichord introduction sounds like Bach. I love Bach and the composers of the Renaissance in general, like Palestrina. I also appreciate the more modern composers like Debussy or Poulenc.
Rafael: As far as I’m concerned, I also like the music of the Renaissance. I love the Romantics like Brahms or Mendolssohn, then Wagner. I like the emotion in this style of music. But at the level of the guitar, I would say David Gilmour! … I also like Jethro Tull and Rush.
Andre: Those whose singing I like are Bruce Dickinson, Freddy Mercury and Kate Bush.
Saigon Kick/<>/<> (an extract in the ‘Bossa’ style)
CL: No …
Andre: Do they always play this style of music?
CL: No, they also play heavy stuff. That’s more how they are labeled.
Andre: Ah! I see! It is a song that we have played during a concert with Vanden Plas. I don’t recall the title, but it sounds very good. That was a good time.
Ferenc Liszt/<> (Number 3 of Transcendental Studies After Paganini)
Andre: Hum … It is a composer from the classical period .. It’s Mozart?
Rafael: Its not Mozart, but it’s certainly from the same period. Haydn?
CL: No, its Liszt, after a study by Paganini.
Andre: Oh yes. I know these a little, but not this piece. I haven’t listened to them a lot, I wouldn’t have recognized them anyway. It is an extraordinary piece of work and the adaptation of a piece on an instrument which is not that on which it was composed, often gives unexpected tones (sounds).
Rafael & Andre: Queensryche!
Andre: <>. It is one of my favorite songs. This album is fantastic, one of the type which last.
Tribute to Pink Floyd/<>/<> (by Shadow Gallery) (just the solo)
Rafael: It is without doubt Pink Floyd. <>, the extract is <> and the solo is fantastic, as is all of the album.
CL: Yes, but it’s not Pink Floyd who are playing. You have spoken too quickly.
Rafael: Ah … Indeed… I don’t know … The song is well played, in any case. As I have already said, David Gilmour is one of my favorite guitarists.
Rafael: Paradise Lost. It is the last album, but the title … It’s a modern Pink Floyd with lots of emotion and darkness.
Andre: Yes, more than anything it is the drums, which give the impression of resemblance.
(I’m not sure of the translation of the last sentence. I’m unsure or what is meant exactly by ‘ces coups de crash appuyes’ – I’ll have to check that!)
Rafael: They are one of the groups which I like the most, I think that make good stuff.
Rafael: One might say Russian music.
Andre: Ah yes … (He hums along with the extract which all the world will know serves as the music during the majority of cartoons where a cat is chasing a mouse …)
Rafael: I don’t recognise it..
CL: Its Brahms, which you told me that you like. Shame on you!
Andre: That’s true, but I don’t know everything, above all this theme, which all the world have already heard, but which no-one can name!
Sepultura/<>/<> (only the solo)
Andre: (after not much time). I would say that its Sepultura. I think that it’s the album <>… Is it <>? I don’t know anything other than that song title. Sepultura are good at what they do. We are familiar with their albums, even if we are not completely fans of such extreme metal. Yngwie J Malmsteen/<>/<>
Rafael: One might say Yngwie J Malmsteen, but it’s not him.
Andre: One of those guitarists who copy him and sound like him!
Rafael: One cannot guess which one, there are too many of them.
CL:What you have said is funny, because it is indeed him…
Rafael: I seem to have already heard this riff or some part of it, from him or another guitarist. Yngwie is a good guitarist, but I believe that he is a prisoner of his style … Euh … Can I have your cassette?
Charles Legraverand – Rockstyle (May/June’97 issue)