Interview with Brazilian Vasco "Manoblues" Faé - one of the biggest references to local blues scene nowadays

"To me the Blues means looking towards my problems and facing them, the Blues means transforming some bad feelings, experiences, etc., in a good thing to sing and dance."

Vasco "Manoblues" Faé: A Beautiful Blues World

"Manoblues" as Vasco Faé is called, started his professional career in 1992, but bought his first harmonica in 1987. He was the first brazilian that seriously explored the technics of playing harmonica on the holder. Today he is one of the biggest references to the Blues scene in Brazil. His set is composed by harmonica, electric guitar, kick, snare, loopstation, voice and some effect pedals. He also played in some very important bands such as Blues Etílicos, Andreas Kisser & Brazil Rock Stars, and since 1992 still plays with Irmandade do Blues which is one of the most important Blues bands in Brazil.

"I learned that my problems are much smaller than I thought they were before I started studying a little from the history of the Blues. At the same time I learned that it doesn't matter what your problem is, the biggest trouble is the way you deal with your problems."

During those 22 years he shared stage with many notorious artists such as Eddie C. Campbell, Larry MacCray, Caetano Veloso, Herbert Viana, and many others. As a producer Manoblues created some interesting projects such as "Blueseiros do Brasil" that brought together more than 70 musicians into studio to record jam sessions that have been released in two CDs. "Manoblues" talks about the local blues scene, Brazilian music, Eddie C. Campbell, John Hammond and James Wheeler. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

Well, I learned that my problems are much smaller than I thought they were before I started studying a little from the history of the Blues. At the same time I learned that it doesn't matter what your problem is, the biggest trouble is the way you deal with your problems. I also learned that I'm a good person, and each person has different points of view. I could learn that from any other situation but I learned with the Blues.

To me the Blues means looking towards my problems and facing them, the Blues means transforming some bad feelings, experiences, etc., in a good thing to sing and dance.

When was your first desire to become involved with music?

When I was a child I never dreamed about being a musician, not even when I started playing professionally. Despite I played since I was a child, not as a music student, but as a pastime, I didn't think I was capable of playing as a professional musician. I had many jobs when I was younger, such as gas station attendant, shop assistant, metallurgy, salesman, etc …

When I was 22 I started playing in a band which became the present band that a belong to, called Irmandade do Blues. I had some experiences with some other bands before that but none of them had given me the feeling of doing something so real. At that point I really thought about doing only that for the rest of my life. Two years later I quit working with my father on metallurgy to dedicate myself exclusively to music.

"One thing I 'm afraid of is people that believe in pure Blues or nothing, you know? I believe mixed Blues is so important as classic Blues, one helps the other to keep the flame burning. So I hope those people will learn that nobody is perfect and we all are complementary."

How do you describe Manoblues sound and songbook?

My sound is very intense, groove, balanced and has lots of dynamic parts. I love to improvise on arrangements making unexpected pauses and things like that. I believe my sound is very truthful, I play what I like, I don't see myself as a bluesman but a Blues player. I like to do kind of a self-duello making improvisation in harmonica then in the electric guitar, one after the other until it gets in a high climax. I also like to make improvisation playing harmonica and electric guitar solos in unison.

One year ago I bought a loopstation which allows me to build a guitar base, this way I can make electric guitar solos. I also use some pedals such as T-wha, octave and digital delay. The octave pedal I like to use with the loopstatio building some bass lines.

My songbook has lots of styles, I like to play many many things, from Tom Jobin to Black Sabbath, but the main influence is the Blues. People say that, I play many styles but never get the Blues out of sight. I like to do some versions in Blues style, picking some Brazilian traditional songs such as samba, and others, and I transform them in a Blues as you can have as idea with "Trem ads 11/Hoochie Coochie man", but I do that with other songs that aren't Brazilian too.

What characterize the philosophy of One Man Band? 

Well, I don't know in fact if there is a philosophy but in my case I have something that I realized plain that style. In Brazil there wasn't anybody doing that by the time I started, which was in 1994. At the beginning I only used a harp in a harmonica holder with the guitar and singing. After some gigs I thought about using a kick and then a snare, and other stuffs. I didn’t plan to do it the way it got it; I just thought there was something missing when I played alone. But I think that happened because I already had some motor coordination skills cause I played the drums. But the main fact is that I needed more space to play my songs in the band, but the band didn't have that space. I can tell too that playing as a one man bad was the best way I found out to deal with my egocentrism. I can be selfish as I want playing like this, so when I play with the band I can be less.

What are the secrets of One Man Band?

I think the most important secrets are two: 1) to develop well your motor coordination (there are lots of technics)

2) to learn and practice each instrument separately, and then put them together. But only time will bring you the best results.

When I do an improvisation I must focus separately, so one instrument will be played more mechanically and my mind will be able to think about the other.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Once I met a kind of prophet here in Brazil, his name was Profeta Gentileza and he taught me that kindness generates kindness. My father gave the best advice I could get from someone. When I worked with him I started to play professionally and everything became very confused. He used to say: You can't follow two masters at once. Well, I decided to follow music, and he is one of my biggest fans. Another advice I got when I was playing with Al Broussard, and I invited him to play in my first CD which I was recording at the time. I cross the whole town to pick him up, two hours driving and when I got there he told me he couldn't record with me. I got so angry with him, but he told me something I liked very much: "Vasco you've got to learn how to deal with circumstances"

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, festivals, studio and busking time which you’d like to share with us?

Wow, there are so many memories in 22 years of career. So many tellable and so many untellable. I played for several months in the streets selling cassette tapes, and then CDs and once I was playing at Paraty Bourbon Festival. That day I didn't have anyone helping me and people just got crazy buying many many CDs, but they just put the money on the floor and took the CD, at one point there was a small amount of money on the floor and a wind passed an took them all on a fly, wow, man, there was money flying and people trying to help me catch the money. After that I created a box and a sign saying "Self-Service CD - Get yours and put the money on the box (get you change if there is).

Another time I was home recording a harmonica on a song and in the middle of sound check my little dog started singing along. Well I finished that and set a mic for her, and I recorded both of us playing together. Later I filmed her doing that and uploaded to YouTube. People get crazy when watch it. They ask me if she sings because she feels pain in the ears, but I believe not because she just comes close to me when I'm playing and start singing with me.

"My sound is very intense, groove, balanced and has lots of dynamic parts. I love to improvise on arrangements making unexpected pauses and things like that. I believe my sound is very truthful, I play what I like, I don't see myself as a bluesman but a Blues player."

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I don't miss anything, I think Blues is a changing form of art; we still have the traditional Blues, better recorded nowadays. I like the most to hearing very old Blues such as Charley Patton, Leroy Carr, Robert Johnson, Bib Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Buckawhite, Leadbelly. Some not so old as Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy II, Little Walter, … But I don't think there is anything in those Blues that nowadays recordings should have, reality changed, we can't make people play like use to be.

One thing I 'm afraid of is people that believe in pure Blues or nothing, you know? I believe mixed Blues is so important as classic Blues, one helps the other to keep the flame burning.

So I hope those people will learn that nobody is perfect and we all are complementary.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Well, I would forbid musicians to play for less than a fixed price. But I was a beginner once too, so I can't desire that. I just wanted that people weren't so prejudice on musicians.

Which memory from Eddie C. Campbell, John Hammond and James Wheeler makes you smile?

James Wheeler was the first time I played drums with in a jam, I remember the drummer called me to play one song, but he got very jealousy. I didn't have much contact with Mr. Wheeler.

John Hammond was an idol for me when I met him in 2010. I got so shocked to see him in the same dressing room as I was with the band that I couldn't even ask him to take a picture with me, a friend of mine did it for me. We didn't have a conversation so long, but I was so pleased to know him. Because of him that I started plain harmonica on the holder.

Mr Eddie C. Campbell (photo) is an incredible person; we stayed together for some hours and have lots of fun, very funny guy.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Brazil. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

The Blues scene in Brazil never stops, it changes addresses constantly. But I think it has never been better than nowadays, there are plenty of festivals all over the country all year long as the musicians are getting better and better.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from USA to Brazil? 

We have some artists in Brazil that often bring Blues players from all over, and we have some festivals such as Oi Blues By Night from Giovanni Papaleo, Ibitiblues from Flavia Oliveira, Garanhuns Blues and Jazz Festival, Guaramiranga Fest, Paraty Bourbon Festival.

What are the similarities between: Blues and traditional Brazilian music and Bossa?

I don't see many similarities talking about music itself, in fact they are pretty different, the only thing I could tell its alike are some lyrics. Not all, because Brazilian music has very poetic lyrics and Blues is not so poetic. But we have some samba composers that have really Bluesy lyrics. It’s kind of difficult to compose Blues in Portuguese. But there are some kinds of music in the north of Brazil that could be played perfectly along any Blues, and you could also play any Blues along that style I tell you that are called Baião, Forró.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Because Blues music is very beautiful.

"The Blues scene in Brazil never stops, it changes addresses constantly." 

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local music circuits?

I always laugh a lot with my friends when we play together. I play alone most of the times, but when I get together with them guys its always very funny. And it touched my heart when my son plays with me, he is 8 now and he is very very shy, but he just loves to be on the stage. The other day I offered a song to my wife and it really made the tears roll down my eyes.

I have a skin disease called psoriasis for 15 years in both hands, and it’s very hard sometimes, and I feel very touched when someone sees my difficulty and helps me to carry stuff.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Well, if your question is talking about Blues, I would like to be in the day that Blind Willie Johnson recorded "God moves on the water".

Vasco Faé o Manoblues - Home

 

 

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