Interview / Pedro Guinu / Razor-N-Tape

Brazilian musician, Pedro Guinu, an in-demand session player, makes his solo debut with the Brooklyn-based label, Razor-N-Tape. While the imprint, in the past, has been more commonly associated with house music producers and dynamite dancefloor editors, it`s begun embracing ensembles, groups and bands – such as afro-funk phenomenon Underground System. Pedro`s album, Palagô, is an incredible live-sounding set, which slots right into this new canon.  

Pedro Guinu

Where are you from and where are you based? 

I’m from a small town called Vale do Mucuri in the interior of Minas Gerais state. Where I grew up is very different compared to where I live now, in Rio de Janeiro. It was very simple, but I was lucky to always be surrounded by art, music and culture in general.

I’ve been living in Rio for the last 10 years. Where I live though, and where a lot of the album, Palagô, is set, is the axis between the downtown and the North Zone of the city. It’s a very different world to the postcard views of Copacabana and Ipanema, but this is where a lot of the culture converges. 

When did you first start making music? 

When I was a young kid, I received a toy piano that I began making noise on, and I guess I’ve never stopped.

What inspired you to do start making music?

My parents both worked a lot so I spent a lot of time with my uncles, who were all professional musicians. They still play to this day. They gigged at night but rehearsed during the day at my grandmother’s house, where we all lived together. They were drummers, and the band always rehearses at the drummers house, right? Because of that, I was always surrounded by musicians. They were always playing records too, a lot of music from the `70s and `80s. Everything from Led Zeppelin to Gilberto Gil. Basically everything began at my grandmother’s house.

What kind of music were you making? 

Almost always Brazilian music, particularly Afro-Brazilian styles like afoxé and ijexá.

What instruments can you play?

I primarily play the keys…piano, Fender Rhodes, various synths. I also play the drums.

Have you had any formal training?

No, I never studied formally. I learned to play by ear. When I got older I took a few piano courses focused on technique. Mostly classical stuff.

What equipment do you have? Do you have a favourite piece of equipment? 

My favourite piece of equipment will always be the Fender Rhodes. No sound can compare to it. In my studio, I like to use the Nord Stage 3, Wave and Moog Sub 37 synths.

What’s your relationship with Rafael Arosa?

Rafael had heard some of my music online and got in touch. We discovered we were almost neighbors and became good friends which led to me working with him on his last album. I co-produced Força Vital and Virtagem, played some keys on Toda Essa Gente and Stellar Smile. 

How did the two of you hook up with Names You Can Trust, and Japan’s Think!

You’d have to ask him that, but I know that Monk Uno at Names You Can Trust runs a very cool label and is always looking far and wide for cool sounds to release. I believe he was able to hook up with Think! to get a Japanese pressing for the album as well as a few singles, like Stellar Smile.

Is there any more music coming from the collaboration?

He has a new album out soon that you should keep your eye out for.

You’re an in-demand session musician. Could you tell us a few more people that you have played with? 

I’m currently working with Baco Exu do Blues, a Brazilian rapper from Bahia, and Planet Hemp, the legendary Brazilian hip hop / rap fusion group led by Marcelo D2 and BNegão. They have their first album in 20 years coming out soon that I played on. Recently, I produced the new album for Zé Bigode Orquestra. They’re a cool fusion of Brazilian jazz and Afrobeat. I’ve also worked with artists like Thami, IZA, Luedji Luna, Donatinho, YOUN and Arosa, among others . 

How long did it take you to write and record your new album, Palagô? 

To write and compose the entire album was probably about a four year process. When it was all ready, we recorded everything in just three days.

Are there any other players involved, or are you doing everything? 

Palagô was recorded by myself, with my brother Damilo on drums, Gustavo Pereira on guitar, Leo Mucuri on percussion, Floor Polder on flute, George Mason on violin on the track Chorando Pitanga, and Marcelle Mota, Yumi Park and Tati Monteiro doing background vocals. The album was engineered and mixed down by Tercio Marques. I also want to mention Daniel Vincent Gomes, who illustrated the cover that references the whole album. I think of his artwork as the album`s 11th track.

Where was the album recorded?

It was all recorded here in Rio, at a friend`s studio.

The sound has a very live feel. Was this intentional? 

Yes, absolutely. The album was all recorded live.

How did you hook up with Brooklyn`s Razor-N-Tape? 

I linked up with an American DJ, record digger and researcher of Brazilian music who lives in Rio named Tee Cardaci. I shared my music with him, and he told me that he really believed in it, and wanted to work with me to find a home for my music on a label where it could reach an international audience. That began a two-year process that resulted in Tee bringing the record to Jason Kriv at Razor N Tape, and executive producing Palagô for me. Jason has spent a lot of time in Brazil DJing and, although this album is a bit of a departure for the label, the music really resonated with him. There will also be a separate 12″ coming out featuring some amazing remixes off Palagô that will appeal to the DJ crowd.

The press release states the influence of Brazilian greats, such as Eumir Deodato, Marcos Valle and João Donato. Would you be able to give me a few personal favourites from these artists? 

With these masters, it’s so hard to pick one but here goes… For Deodato, I love September 13 off of Prelude. For Marcos Valle, I’m going with Os Grilos, and for Donato, and again this is so difficult to pick one, but Surpresa comes to mind as a favorite.

Brazil has such a rich musical heritage. Would you be able to give me a few new Brazilian artists that we should watch out for?

There is an amazing scene of contemporary music coming out of Brazil right now! I suggest checking out artists like Russo Passapusso, Mestrinho, Luedji Luna, Michael Pipoquinha, Josyara, Caio Nunez, Zé Ibarra, Amaro Freitas, Zé Manuel, Pedro Martins, and Jonathan Ferr, just to name a few.

Music in Brazil also has a history of being used in protest. Is this still the case? 

Absolutely. Just to be a musician or artist right now in Brazil, under this want-to-be fascist, anti-intellectual, culture-hating regime, is a defiant act of protest.

Rio is often portrayed, in movies, and on outside news channels, as a dangerous place. Is this true? 

Yes, sadly, it can be for sure. It’s a place of extremes. The danger and violence is also juxtaposed against amazing beauty and art.

Do you have any plans to tour the album? To play live? 

Yes, I definitely hope so! My schedule until the end of the year is pretty full with shows with Baco Exu do Blues and Planet Hemp, but I hope in the coming year to tour Palagô outside of Brazil. If any of your readers want to talk about a Japan tour, hit me up and let’s do this!

What other plans do you have for the rest of 2022? 

2022 is pretty booked up, touring with those guys… but in my down time, sitting in the hotel room, I’m already working on material for a new album.

Pedro Guinu`s Palagô is out today, on Razor-N-Tape, with a stack of remixes to soon follow. 

Big Thank You! To Sharon Andrews at Shine PR for the hook up!

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