Hanging Out With João,
Portuguese Musician and our inspiring Photographer.
Meet João, Portuguese bass player, composer, producer and also our Photographer here at +351.
João was born in Lisbon and grew up in the country-side of Alentejo. At the age of 6 he had his first contact with Music and Photography. Since then, he has been recording memories with his photographs, experiencing and making Music, from Jazz to Electronic.
Get to know him through this journey.
Can you tell us your story so far?
My name is Luísa, I was born and raised in Lisbon, and I love this city. I took a Design degree and I am extremely passionate about color and graphics. Music has always been a big part of my life, it helps me to focus on work and to never stand still. Ever since I was little I have experienced a lot of different genres of music. My mother was always listening to Fado at home, so it’s a genre that I keep very present.
Four years ago I received my first vinyl record, an album and ever since then I haven’t stopped buying music. After that I took some beginner lessons in Djing with a good friend of mine and have become more and more interested in this craft. New opportunities to play started coming up so I began to focus more on Djing, playing mostly in events and clubs. Nowadays I have a monthly program at an online radio - Collect Radio - where I play lounge and dance music.
I fell in love with Surfing couple of years before and had the idea of designing my own home in shipping containers, send them to Portugal and start my new life together with my girlfriend and daughter close to the sea.
Why Pt? Because I was travelling Portugal in my Van for more than 12 years and every time I was spending a couple of weeks at the coastline, first Zambujeira do mar, later I went South where I started to surf. The amazing nature, the Portuguese lifestyle and surfing, it was a dream for me to come there. So at the end I got things done and moved close to Budens / Vila do Bispo, where I enjoy my time, improve surfing day by day and working on my creative projects.
Can you tell us your story so far?
I was born in Lisbon in '86 and moved to Alentejo when I was 1 year old, and grew up there in a house in the middle of the countryside, near Monsaraz. We moved because my parents were fed up with the city and did not want to raise their children in Lisbon. I lived there until I was 10 years old, and then my sister went to study violoncello in Évora, so we all moved to Évora. My first contact with Music was at the age of 6, my parents put me to study piano, I enjoyed it but then I realized it wasn't really what I wanted. And when I was 14 I got tired of my piano teacher. At the time I didn't want to be a professional musician and that teacher thought I did, he was pulling me to be a piano soloist and I didn't want to be that. One day my sister offered me an electric bass and I started playing bass. I stayed in Évora until I was 18 and afterwards I came to Lisbon to study Music. I studied here for two years and then I went to Amsterdam to study double bass at the Conservatory. After Amsterdam I came back here and started to play Jazz and teach at Hot Clube, I played with Luisa Sobral, Salvador Sobral, Tiago Bittencourt, these folks. After I went to Copenhagen to study for a Master of Contemporary Music for 2 years.
And that was it, I started to make Electronic Music from there and I dropped the connections I had with Jazz, almost all of them, because it didn't make sense to make that kind of music anymore. It didn't make sense because of the way people think about things and think they are creative or that they are doing something new, when in reality they are just imitating something that was done in the 60s. So I started making Electronic Music and playing Experimental Music. And now I also write music for TV, Ballet, movie and theatre.
At the age of 6 I also started photographing, my grandfather was a Photographer and maybe because of his influence I started on Photography. At 14 I stopped photographing too, I lost interest in the thing. But I always went for options, in the beginning it was the piano, then came the Photography, then it was Astrophysics, Ornithology, and then it was Music, and Music was the one that lasted the longest, until last year, because now I came back to Photography. But that was it, last year I came back because I was already getting tired of music, making music, and the processes of making music, etc. So I bought a camera again.
Next steps for you?
It depends a lot on what's going to happen with all this Covid stuff. But the options are, continue in Portugal and try to work more with Fashion and Photography, and today I also decided that I want to make a new record next year, just two singers and Electronic Music. The other option is going to Paris or somewhere else, leave Portugal again, because it is difficult to work here, you pay a lot of taxes, you have no return, no support and no scholarships. It is super difficult. Next year I also intend to start my Doctorate in Aesthetic Philosophy. So these are the two options, stay here and do what I do more and better. Or to leave and start basically from zero somewhere else.
Best spot in Portugal for you?
Alentejo, Monsaraz. It's incredible. This area, the interior of the Alentejo is incredible. For me, more than the coast, I like the coast too, but it is already crowded, many tourists, even Portuguese. The interior still has that fucked up scene, you wake up at 7am and it's already 40 degrees, and it's incredible.
What does style mean to you?
It's a tough question. But the experience I've had so far, and also maybe more in the last two years, because it is a subject that interests me a lot since I'm studying aesthetics in Philosophy, either in Architecture, Painting, Music... The question of style is basically the personification of the process that you use, which means that everyone incorporates things from the outside, we make a mix here inside us and then send it outside. Style is the way you have to improve that process. This process can go through several filters and when you decide "okay, it's this filter, it's this filter and this filter", what comes out is Style. It doesn't matter if it's your style to play, your architectural style, of making houses or designing chairs, if it's your style to dress and walk in the street, or your style to listen to music. It is always this process of assimilation, of transformation within you, and what you can send out next.
Where do you find inspiration?
I became more aware of this process of inspiration in a documentary by a Pianist who is Keith Jarrett, he is a Classical Jazz Pianist, and he says he seeks inspiration in Poetry.
Because the inspiration of Music doesn't come from Music, it's the same thing as saying that babies come from babies. That would be a closed cycle.
With me it's in Literature and Cinema, above all, that's basically it. I'm not going to get inspiration from Music, nor am I going to get inspiration for Photography in Photography. What I feel in Literature is that when you read a book, you're the director of that film, but it's a book. I mean, you're reading a book and you're making a space in your head, you're listening to a dialogue, eventually a song, and it's highly stimulating. And above all it's an unconscious process. I don't realize myself at the moment that I'm doing that, but I'm falling asleep and going into a dream and hearing things that eventually came from there. But it's hard to find out from where things come from.
What do you like the most about Music and Photography? And for you, how do you think these two art forms connect in your life?
So what happens with Music is that of all forms of art, Literature, Poetry, Cinema, etc, Music is the least figurative that exists. That is, in a photograph, I say traditionally, I'm not talking about experimental Photography, you're capturing something that happened and that is quite real, has a form, has a subject, has a context. In writing the same thing, these are words that are also sounds but these words are linked to various connotations that you already have. And in Music that doesn't happen, because Music is not trying anything that exists in nature. In other words, Music is not trying to represent the sounds of crickets at night in Alentejo, it may be in a highly poetic and abstract way but you won't have an orchestra like "cri, cri, cri...". Obviously there are pieces that were written like that and were part of a time but in Music you don't have anything directly, that's basically it. The Music will trigger something inside you, it's like a trigger that's going to wake something up. When you see a movie there's clearly a story, a script, there's an action, which also awakens things in you, but it's something much more direct. And Music is the only thing that doesn't have that, that's what I like about it, the fact that it is so abstract, open and wide-ranging. The fact that it is not so direct and restricted to the reality we know, the visual or concept reality, or whatever. And at the same time it can mean so much to so many different people.
In Photography I haven't understood what it is yet. But it has always intrigued me a lot the way we deal with memories, for example, we think that an event was in a certain way and then it had absolutely nothing to do with it, it was something else but you, over time, have been shaping the memory. And Photography does not let this happen, at least not in a very radical way. I like that, it is something that pulls memory a bit to reality, not that it is necessary but I find it interesting in Photography. Apart from that I still don't understand what fascinates me most about it.
From what I have just said, these two Art forms in my life are only complementary. While one is abstract and completely open, letting be whatever it is, Photography pulls you into a more concrete reality. And perhaps it is this balance that pleases me. But the process is more or less the same, the creative process, it is only the technical matters that are different.
What's the Band / Music Style / Music Artist that inspires you?
I really like an Estonian composer named Arvo Part. He makes mostly Church Music, Choral Music with organ and things like that, super minimal. There's a concept called collective consciousness, which are basically memories that we all have in common and that usually comes from 0 to 8 months old. That your perception of the world is that: you have a mother, and you exist, and eventually you realize that there is to be another figure that can be the father or some other father figure, and your experiences during these 8 months, without any major traumas, are always about you and those people. And this composer has a gift of entering into the collective consciousness. Everyone who listens, whether they like that style of Music or not, hears it and is like "fuck, this shit is fucking good. It's very good for sleeping, it's beautiful.
Also, I really like a guy named Jon Hopkins, who is one of the fathers of Modern Techno, he was a Classical Pianist too, and maybe that's why he makes Electronic Music in a very different way from what we're used to listening to. I like everything from an aesthetic side but enriched by some other side. That is, I don't like Techno that comes from Techno, I don't like Classical Music that comes from Classical Music. I like things that have been fed by other aspects. And Jon Hopkins is one of them.
Besides, I like those Indie bands, like Fleet Foxes and Radiohead (who haven't been Indie for years). Basically they're bands that brought a new style, and enriched their main style.
Any guilty pleasure worth mentioning?
YES! So I eat Indian food day in and day in (laughs). Yeah, I'll die any day from cholesterol. My favourite dish is Chicken Tikka Massala and my best Indian Restaurant in Lisbon is in Praça da Figueira, on the first floor of a Kebabs house, it is called Caxemira.
Apart from that, I like a song called Starlight by a band called Risqué. 80's pumping!
Photographed with analogue camera by Ana Penha e Costa.