Q&A with Brazilian blues band of The Headcutters, one of the most renowned bands with timbres and sounds from the 50s & 60s

"The Blues was certainly the main artistic movement of the last century. Since then, music has become a tool for the freedom of oppressed peoples. And apart from everything that happened afterwards with the songs that were created having the Blues as their roots. I want music to touch people's hearts and make them think how music is one of the greatest gifts we have in our existence, and it is always present in our lives."

The Headcutters: That's My Blues

Considered one of the most renowned blues bands in Brazil, with timbres and sounds from the 50s and 60s, they follow the line of the legendary blues labels in Chicago. The name comes as a tribute to the great Blues idols: Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Jimmy Rogers who in the early 50's were called The Headhunters, the name The Headcutters comes as an allusion to these masters who are the great source of inspiration for the band. With contagious shows, a lot of charisma and exciting performances, the band has been conquering the public wherever it has been. Founded in September 1999, it was formed by four childhood friends: Joe Marhofer (harmonics and vocals), Ricardo Maca (guitar and vocals), Arthur Catuto (acoustic bass) and Leandro Cavera (drums). They made four international tours, three in Argentina (2015, 2017 and 2018) and another in the USA (2014) 28 days with 14 shows, touring 5 states and 18 cities. The highlight of this US tour is the concerts at the legendary Festivals: “King Biscuit Blues Festival” in Helena, Arkansas and also at the “Pinetop Perkins Blues Festival” in Clarksdale, Mississippi.                                  (The Headcutters / Photo by Divulgação)

The Headcutters was the first Brazilian band to play at both festivals, a feat never before performed by Brazilians in the USA. The record of this entire tour is on the Documentary DVD - Walkin' in USA, released in 2017 and available on Youtube. The band participated in major Blues & Jazz festivals, recorded and played with national and international blues greats such as: Bob Stroger, James Wheeler, Rip Lee Pryor, JJ Jackson, Junior Watson, Jai Malano, Lorenzo Thompson, Phil Guy, Mud Morganfield, Eddie C. Campbell, Kim Wilson, Billy Flinn, Gary Smith, Billy Branch, Carlos Johnson, Wallace Coleman, Joe Filisko & Eric Noden, Ian Siegal, Lynwood Slim, Mitch Kashmar, Igor Prado , Blues Etilicos, Greg Wilson, Nico Smoljan and The Silver Kings . Their new killer traditional blues CD with Bob Stroger, "That's My Name" (2022) was recorded in 2019. The Headcutters, a supremely talented blues band from Brazil, who calls Bob their "Godfather!" This is remarkably Bob Stroger's first album as a leader for Delmark, after layin' down the bass (and being the heart and soul) on countless Delmark recording sessions.

Interview by Michael Limnios           The Headcutters, 2014 Interview @ blues.gr

Special Thanks: Kevin Johnson (Delmark Records) , Joe Marhofer and Ricardo Maca

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Joe: Blues emerged as a black people's freedom music, and I believe that the fact that I got involved with Blues, made me open my eyes to many important issues and above all many injustices that happened and still happen, and who loves the Blues or plays the Blues and doesn't think that way, I don't think they got the message.

Ricardo: They are songs of resistance, struggle, protest, but they can also rock a nightclub all night long. I always identified myself with this truth that the Blues have in everything, the history, the playing, the singing, the impact of the lyrics, that simplicity of only 3 notes that in the end are not so simple as it looks. Since I was young, all this made me want to be a Blues musician, and all the choices I made throughout my life were to make that possible.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?

Joe: I think I grew up in a very spontaneous and natural way, I'm still in the process of growing in this sense of being an artist but I believe that musical sensitivity was the biggest evolution I had.

Ricardo: I think I grew a lot professionally, the passion, the love for the Blues I always had, but in order to make a living from it, I noticed that I needed to be as professional as possible in all aspects. Look at it as a profession.

"I learned a lot by sharing the stage with several genuine North American Blues men, there were so many advices, It's hard to pick just one, but I always remember Phil Guy in 2004 at the backstage talking about singing, that you need to feel what you're singing, cry when you sing the blues." (The Headcutters, 2014 Das Antiga Bar - Balneário Camboriú - SC Brazil / Photo by Guilherme Meneghelli)

What has remained the same about your music-making process?

Joe: In fact, the process is still the same, I have my moments of study and auditions where I develop something in my own way and try to put that in our songs.

Ricardo: As a guitar player, listen and study a lot of the great masters from the past to assimilate and create my own language. As a composer, the process of creating the melody first and write the lyrics over the melody later. It's been this way since my first compositions and it's the way I feel most comfortable.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Joe: This quote is not mine, but I think it's super accurate and it's a great lesson I learned: That music is food for the soul, and more than that, if you don't like blues, you have a hole in your soul. 

Ricardo: I've played with a lot of good people throughout my career, living legends, my idols, most of them teach a lesson in simplicity and humility in and out the stages.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Joe: It's very difficult to say which of the meetings I've had was the best, but for sure whenever I'm with Bob Stroger there are immaculate moments of emotion and knowledge for me and everyone in the band. And he always advises us to keep playing the Blues with heart and keep the Traditional Chicago Blues alive, and that's what we will always do! 

Ricardo: I learned a lot by sharing the stage with several genuine North American Blues men, there were so many advices, It's hard to pick just one, but I always remember Phil Guy in 2004 at the backstage talking about singing, that you need to feel what you're singing, cry when you sing the blues.

"Delmark is part of the history of the Blues. I grew up listening to CDs, Lp's, K7's and watching dvd’s. Their collection is incredible, it helped me a lot as a musician who lives outside the US to get closer to the Blues. Today I can't believe I managed to contribute a little to them, an honor to be part of this legacy." (Ricardo Maca, guitar; Bob Stroger; Leandro “Cavera” Barbeta, drums. Joe Marhofer, harp; Arthur “Catuto” García, bass / Photo by Lorena Jastreb)

Currently you’ve one more release with Delmark Records. How did that relationship come about?

Joe: We are super excited and grateful to Julia Miller and Elbio Barilari from Delmark for releasing the record for them. Our relationship started on the internet, when I got in touch with them because we were looking for a label to release this album which we had recorded here in Brazil with Bob. Then they heard the record and loved it! And then it all started, and we are very happy with the result. 

Ricardo: In fact, this is the first work with Delmark. In 2019 while touring with the living legend Mr. Bob Stroger here in Brazil, we took a few days off and came here to my studio (Grooveland) to gather almost 10 years of partnership in an album. The pandemic has arrived, we saved the project to wait for the right moment to release it. At the end of 2021, our manager and harmonica player Joe, along with Bob, got in touch with Elbio and Julia to send the material, they liked it a lot and decided to release it through the label.

What is the legacy of Delmark Records?

Joe: In my opinion it is one of the main legacies of the Blues for sure. I grew up listening to the recordings and always wondered how big and important Delmark is in history. And for us it's about two dreams coming true, one is being able to record and release an album with a Blues Legend Mr Bob Stroger, and the other is to release this album by the biggest blues label in the world, Delmark Records. Not bad for four Brazilian boys who love the Blues and have always been dreamers. Much gratitude to Bob and also to Delmark Records for belive in us.

Ricardo: Delmark is part of the history of the Blues. I grew up listening to CDs, Lp's, K7's and watching dvd’s. Their collection is incredible, it helped me a lot as a musician who lives outside the US to get closer to the Blues. Today I can't believe I managed to contribute a little to them, an honor to be part of this legacy.

"It's very difficult to say which of the meetings I've had was the best, but for sure whenever I'm with Bob Stroger there are immaculate moments of emotion and knowledge for me and everyone in the band. And he always advises us to keep playing the Blues with heart and keep the Traditional Chicago Blues alive, and that's what we will always do!" (Photo: The Headcutters & the legendary bluesman Bob Stroger)

Are there any memories with Bob Stroger from gigs, jams, and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Joe: There are so many incredible memories that we have with him during these many years of friendship and several dozen shows, that maybe just one would be too little to mention. The shows at the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival in Caxias do Sul - Brazil, (where we met) were always full of emotion, I saw several people crying to see Bob singing and playing… all these people touched by his stories and the Blues stories what he tells, I also confess that I cried a few times together. Another amazing moment was when we met in Clarksdale MS to play at Pinetop Perkins Homecoming Festival and there Bob told us a lot about the dark times of slavery, a moment I will always remember. And that moment is recorded on our DVD The Headcutters "Walkin in USA". And finally, a show we did in Rio Das Ostras, Rio de Janeiro for 30,000 people, was amazing too!!! 

Ricardo: Bob is a wonderful person, very kind to everyone, people loves him here in Brazil, wherever he goes. A memory that I really like is when we played live once at the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival in Caxias do Sul, Brazil, in a very intimate stage that he affectionately called “my house”. He sat on the stairs and told the audience “this song my father used to sing to me” so we started Key To The Highway, I remember people were emotional, crying in the front row while listening to him sing the Blues, he delighted the audience that night.

What is the impact of the Blues on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Joe: The Blues was certainly the main artistic movement of the last century. Since then, music has become a tool for the freedom of oppressed peoples. And apart from everything that happened afterwards with the songs that were created having the Blues as their roots. I want music to touch people's hearts and make them think how music is one of the greatest gifts we have in our existence, and it is always present in our lives. 

Ricardo: As I live in a country where the blues is not part of our culture, it's been a long journey to introduce the blues to people. At the end of the shows, several people have already said to me “is this Blues that you played? I didn't know it, I loved it” I think it's amazing that the Blues reaches all ages here, regardless of skin color, social class, musical taste, he catches everyone, everyone dances and enjoys it, even if you don't understand the language. The power of this music is impressive.

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(Photo: The Headcutters)

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