interviews

[Interview] Violet, the Portuguese artist behind the soundtrack of Versace’s new collection :.

[Interview] Violet, the Portuguese artist behind the soundtrack of Versace’s new collection :.

Almost ten years ago, when Myspace was the best option to listen and discover new talent that was only at a distance of a mouse click, A.M.O.R., two female rappers from Lisbon (Violet and Honey), catch my attention with intelligent lyrics, really peculiar flow and beats that blended Hip Hop, Grime, Dubstep and blinking the eye to other musical hybrids. I never stop following them since then and what a better moment to ask Violet (Inês Coutinho) for an interview if not right now, following her recent collaboration with Versace for SS16 Haute Couture show?

 

Lacroixx: I will begin by saying that I still proudly keep your first mixtape, the CD-R “Cor-de-Rosa” from A.M.O.R., a captivating work since the beginning which let us with powerful tracks like “Game Over” or “Abecedário”. How did the group start to take form with your “partner in crime” Honey?

Violet: Aw, thank you – means a lot to know you got it at the time. It all began almost 10 years ago in Lisbon. It literally started on a specific day – 5th October 2006. It was a holiday and we had nothing to do – Maria (Honey) is my cousin and we would hang out a lot. We both loved hip hop, especially Portuguese hip hop, and we both had a vein for creating so we thought we’d write a lyric over a Sam The Kid beat off of his “Beats Vol.1 – Amor” album. We recorded it on my laptop, uploaded it to MySpace and from then on we just kept them coming.

 

A.M.O.R released in 2013 the excellent début album “∞” where Rap merges with instrumentals that go beyond Hip Hop. Can we expect the same irreverence in future works from A.M.O.R.?

Yes, I think that will always be inevitable for us. We relate to a vibe, not a genre – and it’s definitely a futuristic yet super emotional thing that we aim for. I feel like in the end, it is hip hop to be fair – just not a revival type of hip hop. We’ll definitely keep that edge in any music we put out in the future – we really can’t help it!

 

You were initially working with talented producers and beatmakers inside your group of friends like DJ Núcleo till you start producing your own music. How did Violet moniker and solo work start to take form?

Our first beat was by DJ Núcleo (Abecedário) and then we got some stuff from Photonz for “Game Over” and we fucking loved it. For the album we worked with Photonz, Shcuro, Niagara and Chainless, some of our favourite Lisbon producers. I did produce ‘Reality Check’ for A.M.O.R. around 2007 but didn’t pursue production very seriously until 2010 when I started playing around with Ableton more often. By 2011 I had some interesting material but no finished tracks yet, and it wasn’t until early the next year that I wrapped my head around finishing tracks (it’s a right mission for me) – the first track I finished was ‘Palmas’. I put it up on Soundcloud and it got signed straight away by Nazar from Wicked Bass, and that was a real push for me to finish more tracks as I had to come up with an EP for the label – and so I did. By July my 1st solo release ‘Collective Data’ was out.

 

I bought that EP, “Collective Data”. “Palmas” never left my Dj sets, was such a blow of fresh air when I first heard it. These steps in music production lead you to being selected for RBMA Barcelona. Did you feel that experience was influential in your career after 2008?

My time at the RBMA was amazing and certainly helped me shape the way I look at my ‘career’ (really don’t like this word ahah). The lectures with idols like Gary Bartz, Front 242 or Goldie inspired me to do my best and work on my dreams, while my co-participants were amazing humans that inspired me to really dig deep in my soul to reach for that creative, original drive… My artistry really. They were all so talented, phew. I came back really energised (no pun intended) and bursting with ideas and plans.

 

One of the things I truly admire in your work is the chameleonic way how you express with the same intensity the creation of explicit music for the dancefloor, other times more chill or even song writing where you also sing or rap. Do you have a preference when creating or it can result in a surprise at any time.

I guess like all humans I experience quite a wide palette of emotions daily. I tend to listen quite closely to them but I’m not great at ritualising my emotions: I’m not the kind of romantic who will buy flowers and chocolates or call my friends just because, but I’m the go-to person to talk about anything for hours on end when my loved ones need me. I love big hugs and real human contact, and I often find myself having a very meaningful conversation with someone at a café, over the phone or even at a big rave. I feel like this kind of non-conventional emotional intensity really bleeds into my music, too. If I were to be honest about my experiences when expressing myself through sound, I would 100% have to reflect this, and that’s what I do. I also think that the intensity you mention comes from the fact that I love so many types of music with so much passion. I’m a sucker for a Chicago acid banger as much as atmospheric, melodic stuff or a great pop song, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable limiting myself artistically so I think anything could come out.

 

Your cover of Underground Resistance’s “Transition” inspired all the team of Donatella Versace and the fashion designer herself which created an “empowering” collection for women that helped introduce a new concept, the “Athletic Couture” Spring/Summer 2016. What was your idea when you first started to develop your version of Undergrond Resistance which has magnificent voices from different female collaborators.

For “Transition”, the idea was to celebrate International Women’s Day by re-working a classic I absolutely love. I felt like it would be great to get together with a group of girls and write that amazing piece of history again, from a female perspective. It’s a track that influenced us all so it really made sense. I did my version of the beat and Nancy Wang, 88, Nightwave, Mamacita and Coco Solid added their beautiful vocals. It wasn’t until 6 months later that Simon, the music consultant for Versace, got in touch to use the acapella for the Prêt-à-Porter SS16 show. It was a mind-blowing experience to watch the actual show streaming live – my boyfriend and I, eating toast in our kitchen in London, jaws dropped.

 

From the initial solicitation to use your cover of Underground Resistance till the invitation to create the entire 15 min of Donatella’s parade, it was a very small step that resulted in the soundtrack “Body/Soul 2.0”. How did all the process happen and how has been the feedback?

After the Prêt-à-Porter SS16, Versace got in touch to ask for an original piece for their SS16 Haute Couture show. That happened early this year. I locked myself in my bedroom-studio and came up with a set that merges some of my favourite tracks I’ve produced alongside an ace remix Ursa’s Reef (a.k.a. Photonz, my boyfriend) did for my track Miami. I wrote additional percussion and tweaked the tracks for hours on end, wrote lyrics with the Athletic couture in mind – Ms. Donatella Versace sent me a few pointers on the vibe of the collection and what emotions she wanted to convey. Such an amazing woman to work with. Simon, Versace’s music consultant and Photonz were both instrumental in the process, helping me through my nervous breakdowns and  pointing me towards the best decisions be it length-wise or arrangement-wise (the show timings are very precise). My boyfriend mastered the track and we both got on the Eurostar to see the show live in Paris – it was an unforgettable experience. The people at Versace were super gracious and down-to-earth while very inspiring and professional, and they really adored the piece which was a great feeling. I got very nice feedback from lots of places, from instagram to facebook, media and real life. It was very humbling to get so much love from it.

 

Together with Photonz (Marco Rodrigues), your boyfriend, both have been collaborating in different fields of music such the creation of D55 label or the most recent Rádio Quântica, which delivers radio programming with focus on Portuguese artists. It seems to me it works also to stir people’s minds, not only the radio heads but the listeners themselves. Do you think there is a lot to do to provide a voice to Portuguese talent?

Marco (Photonz) and I work very well together. We really thrive on bouncing ideas and making things happen – trying to illustrate our common dreams in this reality is something we have a penchant for. We both felt, when we started Quântica last year, that Portugal’s most exciting talent had little to no representation in the radio medium. We felt the same about the political and philosophical ideas we believe in: they seemed to have no place in radio (or any conventional media). With the radio station we aim to make that music, that art, those ideas more accessible to everyone: kind of a cultural fast-forward, as Marco brilliantly puts it. There is still a lot that can be done to make the local artistic playground a fairer one, and we’ll be sure to keep contributing towards that goal.

 

You live for some years now in London, was the search for new musical challenges that made you leave Portugal?

We moved to London because we see living abroad as a very enriching experience on so many levels. The artistic level is one of them, and it’s a city that can really push you to be more assertive and productive with your passions. On the other hand, it’s a place where the possibility of being a freelance DJ is very real, as there are so many venues and opportunities, and flying to other European countries is so accessible from there.

 

Picking up the two main subjects of this interview, the women and the Portuguese music scene, can you leave us five names of Portuguese female artists to discover?

EDND, she is half on Roundhouse Kick, one of One Eyed Jacks’ (the label Photonz founded and my primary music home) mainstays. Her music is both beautiful and honest – I don’t think I can recall anyone who can convey their emotion so clearly in their music.

EMAUZ, she crafts a really interesting and vibey blend of acid and techno, but there’s also a very soft and soothing vibration to it.

mariavapordagua, is half of A.M.O.R. but she also makes her own beats. The first one will be released on the new Labareda compilation and features really fresh and original drum patterns and a super tight bass.

Caroline Lethô, a young producer who is really inventive and passionate. Her productions can be quite nocturnal yet energetic, great stuff.

Sonja is a DJ who plays regularly in Lisbon and blends a deep and vibey combination of genres in a variety of atmospheres with real style. She’s also putting out an all-girl compilation on her label Labareda, where you can finds lots more Portuguese girls who are making music.

 

VIOLET

Soundcloud | Facebook

Rámon

March 28th, 2016

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