ARTHUR VEROCAI: NOTHING TO DO WITH TROPICALIA
Stream: Arthur Verocai “Caboclo”
Brazilian composer and arranger Arthur Verocai’s self-titled 1972 album is counterpart to American masterworks like Inspiration Information or Songs In The Key Of Life. After releasing this single album, Verocai left music for thirty years, returning only recently to composing and arranging. This upcoming show will be his first performance in America ever. This interview by Chris Ziegler.
Is this the first time you ever performed live in America?
Yes—the first performance live in America. But I go to New York two times, I go to Miami two times. I have work in recording studio, and I buy equipment and I travel as a tourist.
Where did you first hear American music as you grew up in Brazil?
The first American musicians? The best for me that I loved playing jazz was Wes Montgomery. And there were others. All the great jazzmen I loved. And classical music—Debussy, Maurice Ravel—Heitor Villa-Lobos, the Brazilian composer. And many others. Rachmaninoff. I like any type of good music!
You studied civil engineering, correct?
Yes, I was a civil engineer.
You’re the second composer in this series to have an engineering background—is there something connecting the two?
I think one thing don’t have anything to do with the other thing! Engineering is different—it is mathematics. It’s not like art.
Was it unusual to have full creative control on your first record?
My first album—at that time, my name was grown-up, and I asked the record label, and everything was given to me. Twelve violins, four violas, cellos, trumpet, sax, trombones, two percussionists, and piano, guitar—everything that I want, they accept. To be a composer in Brazil is not easy. But there have been others who had that opportunity. But I don’t know them.
And you used synthesizers that weren’t available in Brazil at all—what were they?
I had a guy that I knew who had a synthesizer in that time—and I contacted him and I go to his home and they explain and make a little audition of the synthesizer. But it had no keyboards. Only the synthesizer without keyboards—only electronic effects. Of phasing. And electronic effects. And I want to put in my record—the synthesizer—to make a different color of sounds. To give a diversity. Because the album was very diverse—many styles influenced. There was samba, baio, soul, rock—to do everything! Bossa nova—everything influenced me! And the album was a mix of all the ways of the music. I used them because I loved all the types.
What is the song ‘Presente Grego’ about?
About the lyrics? ‘Greek Gift’ was a metaphor—there’s a lot of metaphors because my partner who did the lyrics in this music was a guy very left political. The left side of politics. And he was very revolted with the dictatorship in Brazil. He wanted to say the things but the country was censored. He tell from metaphors—through metaphors. It means the dictatorship was giving to Brazil a Greek present—a present that was not good!
Did you ever feel threatened?
No, no—it was very light, very metaphorical. We did not have aggression and violence in the lyrics.
Did you feel any connection to tropicalia?
My music had nothing to do with tropicalia. Nothing. I was influenced by my friend Milton Nascimento. And another Brazilian composer. But not tropicalia.
What do you think of your acceptance within DJs and in hip-hop?
I love the DJs. It’s proof for my music and my songs that I composed 36 years ago that they are now found by hip-hop and makers of beats. Because they don’t compose—they compose with the sound of other people. They compose with the remixing. I like this! I am inviting it. It’s very good.
Why was there such a long time between your first album and your new work in recent years?
In 2002, it had been thirty years—and I hated the studio now because it’s not for artists. But I was working in advertising and television and commercials and scores and tracks. And jingles! Too many times. And in 2002 I want to come back to my beginning, when I begin studying bossanova, and I make the album because I stopped for too much time. I stopped my career of arranger and composer because I was not in time in 1972 and 1973. The phonographical market did not understand—did not want my work. My work that I want to make is not what they want—what the market want. And my way was to go make music in advertising. And I was very happy—I go along and my sons grow up. I am excited with this—I don’t have problem. But in 2002, my patience stopped. And I sold the studio but before I recorded the second album, and after this I begin composing. I composes pieces off guitar players—quartets and duos and guitar solo. And I compose guitar concert—for guitar and orchestra. Concert number one. This year I will release this concert.
Are people ready for your work now?
Now, the American market. The market here is very hard. There are four styles to play only in Brazil and the sound is very poor in quality. And not have harmony and good arrangements. But in United States, the people—my songs and my first albums—many samplers, huh? And I love it! I go to Los Angeles for people who like my music.
Are you working on new music?
Now am I arranging the concert. To revise all the parts. Many things! There’s a lot of work.
What is your favorite cocktail?
I like to drink whiskey. And a little wine. But I like more whiskey.
ARTDONTSLEEP, MOCHILLA AND VTECH PRESENT ARTHUR VEROCAI WITH ORCHESTRA PLUS MADLIB AND DJ NUTS AT THE LUCKMAN FINE ARTS COMPLEX AT CAL STATE LOS ANGELES, 5151 STATE UNIVERSITY DR., LOS ANGELES. 7 PM / $22.50 / ALL AGES. FURTHER INFORMATION AT VTECHPHONES.COM/TIMELESS.