Arnaldo talks about Let it Bed, Science, fans and the future.

Interview with Arnaldo Baptista via telephone, Belo Horizonte city-London city, July 2004

“Only after a while into the sessions I reached an understanding of what I was doing and my thoughts were: I do not believe I am doing something so good. Like The Beatles said: with a little help of my friends. This help has been very important.

When I listened to the final result it was like a Pandora’s box. They did it in a way that sounded excellent: kind of one man band. Another interesting side of it was the pragmatism of the lyrics. Because I have around me such different people, in terms of philosophy and ideologies, this led me to create lyrics seeking a total spirit of connection.

I also noticed some changes in my playing technique and I am now working on a better performance, experiencing more. But the most important thing was love: I played all the instruments on this album, but the most important thing was playing them with love.

Behind some Let it Bed songs

‘Gurum Gudum’ is part of my childhood. My grandfather had 14 children, worked in the army and built his own guitar. I remember my grandfather singing a song which I learnt by heart: could be a very old song or a folk song, or something that he made up. He talked about having a countryside life(style). This is what I tried to bring to the music.

‘To Burn or not to Burn’ is my Bass player side. The Bass line was what touched me the most. The inspiration for the lyrics, the philosophy or whatever came from Shakespeare: English literature, theatre and rock’n’roll.

‘LSD’ has a connection with Bach, who my mother liked very much. Back on his days it was very difficult to find an organ to play: Bach had to walk 15km before getting to the church and play the organ. This inspired me, because Bach created music for icons and gods. And ‘Louvado Seja Deus’ (Blessed be God) has to do with LSD, which is Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, about idolise something that you adore.

‘Deve Ser Amor’ ( It Might be Love): After a long day of hard work I think about what made me cope . Sometimes I think it is love. Can be wrong, can be right, can be researching. Rock can be strong or weak – depends how much love you are putting in while doing it.

In ‘Encantamento’ (Enchantment) I put my science fiction side and talked about a being of two heads in a single body – various thoughts inhabiting the same body. There is a tentative of life in the hybrid side, where predominates hunger, desire for wisdom and satisfaction above all. There is also ‘Cacilda’ which I did around 22 years ago. It annoys me a bit, because we have been together for 22 years and she already existed…

‘Ai Garupa e Tacape’. I travelled all over the world on a motorbike. This old song came from the drums, the beating rhythm of the kilometres, life, emotions and discovers: Born to be Wild.

‘Imagino’ (I imagine) is totally different, but has also a science fiction side, in which death goes in deep depth. In where mythic things are replaced for thoughts and about one living after death alone and alone: be loved without sex, hearing without ears, smelling without a nose. As an entity that reaches the eternity, that can be seen as ordinary to everybody or be seen as another part more challenging of the human race: in being eternal through the DNA.

‘Carrossel’ is a mix of piano studies with fun fair music. This same phrase is in ‘Emergindo da Ciência’ (Emerging from Science - song of 1978).

‘Tacape’ (Bludgeon) recalls the stone age, the origin of the species, Darwin. The origin of the species confuses itself with the side of the helicopters. Sometimes people fly an helicopter with all that power of atomic bombs at their disposal feeling the need of acting like a truncheon, wrestling with a tiger, which sometimes is more dangerous than fighting New York with an helicopter. So be it: ‘Tacape’ is a paradox between the modern culture and the stone age.

Dealing with computer and eletronic music

In a way it is a bit strange: to deal with drumachines, this connection with the machine, trying not to get too much involved with the machine. Slowly I am incorporating it into my sound. There is also the poetry colouring the sound.

It is being great. I keep taking notes in my little notebook. I am going to Belo Horizonte to get some programmes: you just press a button and everything comes up on the screen – much faster.

Fans of all ages: 13 to 55

Once I heard: is the media all that is to culture? My intention is to use my being to produce some effect in the people’s lives in the sense that we do things more harmoniously. It’s through that I measure my own importance, trying to modify
for the good. Either myself or them.

100 years ahead

The actual stage of human race is the pyromania, in which we loose ourselves burning petrol where we could use solar electricity that’s both clean and cheaper. But I could be giving my opinion about the human race too soon. Nowadays there is the criogenisation, where people can live eternally on suspension, criogenisated, for example. In short, I can face life in an eternal way. I’ve worked out a formula (part of my research and study about Time): T = M>C. Where T is time equals to the mass above the velocity of the light. Time can stretch, become elastic – as we can go faster. But we still a long way off these things happen, they will come in the next 100 years.


I’ve been playing on an acoustic guitar some new songs that might show up at anytime. They are half-finished. About 2 or 3 I’ve been labouring over for a while, though they still in an embryonic state.

Producing and recording of Let it Bed. Or: Taking off every morning.

Interview via icq from London, with Rubstrol and John Ulhoa.

Sonia Maia: Knowing Arnaldo and his history, what was the big surprise when you got the material Rubstrol recorded in Arnaldo’s farm-studio?
John Ulhoa: The impressive bit was how he methodically directed the sessions, even if the result sounded a bit chaotic in the beginning.

SM: Did it remain chaotic? I mean, which was the difference between the finished material and the one of the early days?
John – I think Arnaldo’s recordings come from the factory, with an inbuilt chaos. Once he got more into the process, he got more relaxed. But in all phases his takes had to be decoded so we would be able to capture his intention at the maximum/highest level.

SM – Rubstrol just commented that Arnaldo works mainly with symbols and symbols have a universal resonance completely independent from the language…
Rubstrol – Hey John! Please don’t go: ‘this is Rubs problem’.
John – What attracted me in Arnaldo is that he is a guy whose limits are beyond the average of the artists. There is no censorship, there is enormous creativity and, because of the circumstances, a practical difficulty in mixing it all to a 2 channels mix. I think we worked as translators of Arnaldo in this album.

SM – How was that?
John – Bugger me, I was trying to interfere minimally but at the same time interfering a lot. Because a lot of choices had to be made: which voice track to choose. Shall I leave a piano playing from begging to end? Do I edit some bent notes? And all time thinking: “this” Arnaldo would like, “this” is the kind of thing I would expect from him. It was complicated, because he has himself thousands of faces. I think another producer would do a different album with the same material.

SM –Do you mean, the final decision was maximum fidelity?
John – Each song presented some thread that you could follow…In some of them the voice is everything (I consider these recordings of him singing nowadays extremely moving). But other times I followed technical criteria, something like: “In this one I think the bass is sounding better, so let’s build everything around it.”

SM – Could you comment on your preferred songs?
John – ‘LSD’ or ‘Louvado Seja Deus’ is one of the most iconics. It is psychedelic, full of puns, very much Arnaldo’s style, making statements about things. Others remind me the humour typical from Os Mutantes, as ‘Everybody Thinks I’m Crazy’, a cover version of 1941’s Woody Woodpecker cartoon’s soundtrack.

Sometimes I got worried that the album could end up too introspective. But Arnaldo’s cracking sense of humour was always back into the scene and this helped to show off his laid back attitude to things around him.

Rubstrol – There is ‘2 Burn or not 2 Burn’, kind of Arnaldo’s Bigbeat. This one is for the dance floors.

SM – The DJs are going to love it.

John – There is something that is going to be important for some people, but is not important to me: it is not a rock album, it is an album of songs. ‘To Burn...’ is already a hit amongst those who heard it. There are others, as ‘Bailarina’ (Dancer), in which you can clearly see the new Arnaldo, a great artist exposing himself in a non conventional way at a time where everything is too conformed.

Rubstrol – Sonia is asking me to pass some comment about the songs. I think I am not taking up the job, because it will be useless to describe the jumbled mass of sounds that Arnaldo is capable of creating. I use to refer to his method of recording as ‘Capture of Acoustic Steam’, which basically explains how Arnaldo can in his mind be at the same time in A and B, stopping to rest in C. The little and big noises that he created during the month I spent with him are among the most memorable I heard recently.

John – Two songs were made in a different process. ‘Cacilda’ came from an old cassette demo-tape with voice and piano only. I got that and built the arrangement around, putting some piano, orchestration, doubling piano’s phrases with strings etc, something I was a bit worried of doing – I was trying to interfere as minimum as possible. But I did a bit and he liked and I finished afterwards. The other is ‘Tacape’, actually an old recording, without any interference: I only did some audio restoration.

SM –Any new ideas for Video clips?
Rubstrol – It could be great to make a clip of him flying around the city… talking to animals. ..going to the future and coming back to the present…

John – Arnaaaaaaldoooo!!!!!!!!!!!

(1) Quoted biographies for further reference: A Divina Comédia dos Mutantes (1995), a 400 pages book written by Brazilian music journalist Carlos Calado. Although it was considered by the trio a non authorised biography, it was acclaimed by critics. Piece written by journalist Thomas Pappon, published in two editions of ‘Bizz’ magazine.

(2) Pato Fu is one of the most creative rock-pop Brazilian bands, a title they have been carrying since the beginning of 1990. Famous for a recipe that mixes refined styles and noises, Pato Fu was in a top 10 list built by American journalists for ‘The Times’ magazine in 2001. John Ulhoa, who leads the band alongside Fernanda Takai, is also the band’s main composer and producer.

(3) Rubstrol lives in London since some time in the 90’s. He works with people with learning difficulties and produces videos. He is also one of the most clever and witty composers and poets of the 80’s Brazilian rock-pop, although out of scene since his band, Sexo Explícito split in the end of the 80’s. Nowadays he continues to produce songs in is home studio in London, which are occasionally used by Pato Fu as part of their repertory.

Sonia Maia was one of the most important journalists on the coverage of the Brazillian rock-pop boom in the 80’s. The majority of her pieces were published in ‘Bizz’ magazine, the largest music magazine at the time. Her main interest was discovering new bands, which lead her on a five years tour around the underground of the largest Brazilian cities. She lived in London from 1999-2009, when she moved back to Brazil.