Protest strong, an interview with Felipe Munhoz

Publié le par Sylvain Thuret

In 2006 Neil Young stated the young generation of rock’n roll didn’t beat much around the Bush. And so was Living with war, a full on album about leaving the Bush era behind. Then he went on the road with some old friends and made a landmark movie about the whole thing called Dejà vu. Moreover, he finally found out about these Young voices - call it the Youtube generation - the biz would never catch up with. To the point of opening an entire part of his official website to these artists rallying against warmongers. Last time I checked the 600 and counting entries a couple of months back, a young man called Felipe Munhoz was and still is number one with a video song called Bombas. As I instantly bonded with it, I wondered about its promising author. And Felipe was kind enough to answer my questions for la Mensuelle.  


Dear Felipe, who are you and where are you from? 
Well, I was born in São Paulo, twenty years ago, and soon moved to a small, small, small beach town called Riviera de São Lourenço. We were one of the twenty families living there. I was the only child: which means a real lonely childhood. So I started reading and reading compulsively. I believe that dragged me, inescapably, like the Greek tragedies, to the work I’m doing today. Back to the capital, I was eleven and fascinated by words. It was when I started writing for the press, in a big journal – until sixteen. 

What is the name of the journal and what kind of articles did you write for them? You say it ended when you turned 16. Like Cameron Crowe's character in Almost famous? Damn I feel like Jon Landau discovering Springsteen
I’m really having a good time answering this. The journal is Gazeta do Povo. It’s located in Curitiba, another city. I wrote, like Cameron Crowe’s character, about music; about cinema, theater, and so on. Mostly about art. I’m sure that the time I’ve done, so young, inside the newspaper office – all that phones ringing, all that pressure, everything so crazy – affected me, and my personality, in many ways. And I can say that those years were like a dating relationship. Up and down, up and down. It was great at the beginning, up; but, at the end, something was consuming myself, something like a sinking ship. It was time to quit. I gave my best, sometimes it worked out, sometimes not; today, from the journal, remained the best memories to keep, but the worst ones too. As you mentioned Springsteen, aren’t we always working on a dream? I don’t believe that it has to always be the very same dream. So, at sixteen my press dream was exhausted.

And what about music? When did you record Bombas for instance?
Meanwhile, I was composing some songs, playing a little live. Four years ago, in my first semester at the University (Communication – I’m finishing it this year), Bombas was recorded. 

What is the name of your university where Bombas was recorded? Where is it located?
Federal University of Paraná (UFPR). In Curitiba too. You see, I’m out of São Paulo, although always around, for years. It was recorded secretly in the University radio studio. Only two or three takes. We had to be fast, a student wasn’t allowed to do anything personal there. 


Who is the "we", the band of companeros who helped you recording it?
Oh, yeah, I got the help of two good musicians. Gustavo Cunha, at the sound mixer; Leonardo Cunha, playing the bass. They’re brothers and very close friends.

About the song : what did you want to express, what was the energy at the time, what did you want to convey through the images in the video? The lyrics are so strong, like “I hope bombs are going to Boomerang” or “We are mutants but we don’t change anything”...
It’s an old song. I think that I was trying to express not only a war protest, which become explicit through the images of the video, but an inside war too. "I hope all bombs are gonna boomerang". They can be the killers, literally, as can be the lies we have to face everyday, the bleakness, the coldness: killers too, but in other way – and realizing now, in the serial way. I think I was tired of how things happen, and repeat, in life; tired of seeing so much misery and pain everywhere; tired of dreaming, but work on a song – even more on being a protest song – isn’t another form of work on a dream?

How did it end up number one on Neil Young's website?
Well, I saw that there was some protest videos at the website and sent mine. It was a great surprise when I saw it there, and greater when I discovered it well ranked. There is no way to express the feeling, great honor. Only to think maybe Neil has seen the video, is really something. 
Did it bring interest from media and bloggers like myself? 
No. But the personal satisfaction is enough.


I can’t seem to find other songs of yours. What happened after Bombas was recorded and published online? Have you penned other songs?
I took a break. I was pretty disappointed with the stage. Things weren’t working the right way: I was singing unknown protest songs (and love songs too) by myself, unplugged, at punk clubs. And Leonard Cohen’s too. Can you imagine a punk audience listening to "I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm"? 

I totally do. You know Leonard once stated that the Phil Spector album found its way among the punk scene. This is really juicy Felipe! But please go on...
Maybe some of them like that kind of music, you never know, but doesn’t it look like an empty lung? I was feeling like that, breathless, disappointed with music, when I met Ingo Schulze, the German writer. We were staying at the same hotel in Paraty – a pretty historical small town. Ingo was one of the FLIP ( guests that year. One day, suddenly, I was having breakfast with him and his wife, Cees Nooteboom and his wife, and Tom Stoppard. Surreal for a boy of eighteen. Can you imagine? Ingo and Cees talking in German, I believe; Tom and I in English; and at the table next to us, Fernando Vallejo was cursing something in his low and ironically sweet Spanish. We became close friends during the week Ingo was here, unfortunately, somehow we lost contact. I tried to write via his website e-mail, but nothing. I still keep in touch with Tom. It’s impressive how small things can change our lives. And Ingo changed mine when he gave me his book, Handy, before leaving Paraty that hot winter mourning. And I realized how those stories were Ingo. And so I realized that wasn’t necessary to create a Stephen Dedalus; I just had to write about my own life, my own deceptions, my own loves and hates. And this is the two years of musical break – to write my first short stories book. Like the University, I’m almost finishing it. The book, the break. 

This collection of short stories is great news. Can you tell us more about it? 
It’s dark, really dark. Besides the whole coldness, each line has all my passions and hopes, all my remorse and memories. Has something I see on the streets too. But there’s no rope tying the stories. 


Are you thinking about a full album as well?
I’m missing the stage, it’s time to return. You see, I’ve never been disconnected with music, never stopped composing. It was nice to ripen some aspects, to improve others. The voice is a little deeper; the lyrics, much better. I’m planning to record some songs until December; and maybe a full album next year. Let’s see how everything happens.

Afterword: a few days 
after this interview was complete, I got news from Felipe. He had just been granted a 12000 euros shcolarship from FUNARTE to finish an essay about Philip Roth.

Sylvain Thuret 
july-august 2010.

Photo kindly provided by Felipe Munhoz.


Felipe's Bombas on Neil Young's website : 

Felipe'interview about FUNARTE's shcolarship (un Portuguese): 

Déjà Vu for real cheap :

Publié dans Musique

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