Self-Portrait: Pedro

Sometimes a debut release is enough to break convention and act on straight away. In an unusual turn towards broken beat, soul and jazz, Wolf Music put their faith in Pedro last month to release his first solo project, in collaboration with D.C. singer Jenna Camille. It’s accomplished enough to make you search the Discogs credits for a veteran producer starting a new project, but not so with Pedro. This is a 22-year-old producer wise beyond his year, learning and accruing knowledge from his ideas as fast as he can. His back catalogue is peppered with other aliases sparse, yet this Pedro project feels like it’s got legs even after a few steps. We wanted to put that to the test with a mix of original and unreleased music and an interview exploring his methods of music production.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

I have a very vivid memory of dancing in my living room with my aunt. I don’t remember what we were dancing to though, I just remember dancing.

Have you had any professional musical schooling? What first led you into music production?

I picked up the guitar around the age of 12, mainly influenced by a music teacher, and pretty soon after that, I started playing in some bands with my friends. We were mainly playing punk, but always original compositions. Funnily enough, some of those clips are still on YouTube… terrible music. Later on I got into a heavy phase of blues then jazz, which lead me into studying guitar at the Porto Jazz School. Production came posteriorly, with the necessity of creating music by myself, without depending on anybody else.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track? How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

There is no set process, and if I feel that a process is starting to get mechanised I try to change it and not to repeat myself. Having said that, I might be playing the piano and an idea comes up, or trying to emulate some bass lines that take me somewhere else, or even just sampling Richard Spaven and trying to build something over it. The quantity of sampling really varies. In this latest EP, the only material that was sampled were the drums. The rest I ended up playing and recording by myself. I make an effort to not limit myself in terms of sampling. If I feel the sample is enough, I don’t add any instruments, but the contrary can also happen. I might do an entire instrumental and in the end go search for a sample to add. Everything depends on the song and what the song is asking for.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio? Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

If the track asks for it, I try to put myself in that particular mindset. In this latest EP I actually did that quite a lot. Before I even started working on the initial music drafts, I already had a precise idea of what each song was going to be about. So when I went to the studio my headspace was pretty clear and I knew what I was looking for. But this is not always the case. Sometimes I might go to the studio with specific objectives: making my drums sound like Chris Dave or trying to emulate a Flora Purim solo. Sometimes I don’t really have anything on my mind and I just create whatever needs to be created.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

I would say that I am quite happy with first takes, but the most important is knowing when to stop. It might be one take and it’s done or it might take three months of mixing and rerecording parts.

What’s the most important bits of kit that makes a Pedro track?

It varies a lot. Right now I’m into playing and learning the instruments so
I am using a lot of the Motif keyboard, bass and guitar. If there is any sampling evolved I might go into the MPC2000xl. I run every track into the mixing desk and then record everything to the four-track cassette deck or to the digital eight-track. And even though I have this equipment, there are tracks that are just Ableton Live, from start to finish. I have a couple of different ways of doing everything and I try to use that in my advantage.

Are there any producers or artists who have had a big impact on the way you make music?

Although there are a lot of people who had a big impact on my music, Theo Parrish and Kaidi Tahtam are at the top of my list, each one for different reasons.
Theo because of the ease he can make each song say something, with the least amount of elements. I was perplexed the first time I heard ‘Solitary Flight’, and remember asking myself how it was possible to deliver such an intense message with such a simple song. Kaidi, well, he is just a broken beat god. I’ve studied his music as much as it is possible and there are a lot of elements that I use that are straightforward “Kaidi tricks”.

You’ve just released your debut solo EP on Wolf Music (above), collaborating with Maryland singer Jenna Camille. How did that partnership come about?

After having the EP well organised and knowing the intention of each song, I felt that using words and a human voice were the easiest and strongest ways of materialising it. After randomly listening to Jenna’s first album on Bandcamp and watching some interviews with her, I knew she was the perfect fit. I sent her a message, saying that I would love to work with her on something. After that, things occurred quite easily and naturally. Jenna is a beautiful soul and I am incredibly grateful to have worked on this EP with her.

The EP is a sound strongly aligned to the jazz and broken beat of London. Have you taken much inspiration from what’s happening that at the moment?

I have. Not only at the moment, but also from what happened in the past.
As a 22 year old I didn’t had the chance to live broken beat when it was happening, but tracks like ‘Hold it Down’ or ‘Transcend Me’ still had a big effect on me. As a matter of fact, they still do, because I play them out in clubs every time I have a chance. But the present is important as well. I’ve been following very closely this new and exciting UK jazz scene, and besides being excited about what’s coming next from household names like Nubya Garcia or Shabaka Hutchings, I am even more excited to see what musicians like Femi Koleoso, Mansur Brown or Shirley Tetteh will bring to the table as their own individuals.

Why did you feel Wolf was the right home for this body of work?

After finishing the EP I flew to London to give out some demos. I got in contact with some label managers, but unfortunately/fortunately there wasn’t any concrete invitations to release the record. I came back to Portugal, and I made the decision of releasing the record by myself on my own label – Hear, Sense and Feel. In the process of understanding how to run a record label and how the market really works I ended up messaging Sharon at Shine PR. Sharon really enjoyed the record and showed it to Stu. I didn’t think of WOLF at first, but
it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for: I flew back to London to meet Matt and Stu and after a couple of beers and understanding what they were about and what WOLF is about, I was sold to the idea. The deal breaker for me was that Matt and Stu not only understood the record, but more importantly, they understood my music and where I might go as an artist and they took the
risk. Also a label that has been doing this for almost 10 years, with an impressive back catalogue… this can’t be anything but love for the music and this was exactly what I was looking for.

You also make music under other aliases. Could you fill us in about those and how they differ to your Pedro output?

At first sight you could easily say that Bababa and Hai are just different genres and me trying different stuff. Part of this is true, but the reality is that Bababa and Hai are as much Pedro as Pedro is. I got to the conclusion that this change and variation in music direction is part of who I am as an artist so I decided to embrace it and stopped worrying about names and aliases.

Anything popping off musically in Porto you’d like to shout out?

Porto has a really interesting history when it comes to dance and electronic music. Porto Electronica 1985 -2005 is a great documentary about the
days I didn’t have the chance to live, featuring some key figures of the city.

Having said that, there are a couple of independent promoters operating today that are crucial to keep the city alive:
Segmenta ran by Gonçalo and Joana, are responsible for bringing names like Maurice Fulton, Interstellar Funk and Fett Burger to the city.
Fuga is a collective operating in Porto and Vila Real
Alinea A is a platform responsible for bringing together a lot of different artists.

I also have to shout out all the people working behind the clubs and bars like Passos Manuel, Plano B, Café au Lait and Industria that are responsible for keeping the dance alive.

On a different note, I would definitely like to shout out Porta Jazz, the label/promoter responsible for putting out some of the most interesting Jazz coming out of Porto. Definitely worth checking out.

This mix is comprised of 100% original material. Could you tell us where you recorded it and a bit about its contents? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

I recorded this mix at home. It’s mainly compose by unreleased tracks and some due to be released really soon. I tried not to limit myself by tempos and beat match. It was more about each track and trying to make that one hour of my music make sense.

And finally, what else have you got on the horizon that you’re excited about, musical or otherwise?

Music wise, I am working on my next release that will be out on WOLF in January/February. It will include the song ‘She is’ (included in the mix) plus some other songs I am still working on. I am also releasing two tracks in two different V.A. from two Portuguese labels: Paraiso and Tooli Créme.

On a different note, I am moving to Barcelona next year to pursue a Masters in Music and Sound Computing. I am quite curious to hear what might come out of that, joining my desire of reaching a more acoustic and non-electronic sounds with the possibility of having technology do whatever I want it to do.

Pedro & Jenna Camille – This Is What I’m Going Through EP is out now on Wolf Music – buy from Sounds of the Universe and Juno

Tracklist

Pedro – Rhoda S.
Pedro – She is
Pedro – If u Ain’t Saying Anything, Why The Fuck Are u Doing This
Hai – Outro
Pedro – Bel
Pedro – Help Me Dub
Pedro & Jenna Camille – Keep it H 2000 [Forthcoming Wolf Music Recordings] Pedro – J skit [Forthcoming Tooli Créme] Pedro – Fam

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