Diggers Directory: Trepanado

From his home of São Paulo, Trepanado (real name Augusto Olivani) pilots Selvagem, a party – and formally DJ duo alongside Millos Kaiser – that invites some of the most exciting DJs to play at their regular soirees in both São Paulo and Rio De Janiero.

As a record collector it’s curiosity that motivates him, an appetite for the unknown; qualities that translate into how he approaches his label, Selva Discos. Launched with the help of Optimo in 2017, the imprint is indebted to unearthing rare or overlooked Brazilian music, and, on occasion, inviting a producer to put their own spin on the original.

Alongside a two plus hour vinyl-only mix that weaves together Brazilian music from across the board; think no wave, disco, rap and house, Augusto chats to us about his life collecting records and what moves and motivates him…

DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?

Haha not the case if we’re talking about a “record collection”, even if I’m proud of the music I was exposed to when I was a young boy. I’m no Thomas Bangalter, I’m no Dewaele brothers, of course, or any of these people who inherited deep record collections from music aficionado daddies and mommies, that’s for sure.

To begin with, we didn’t even have a turntable at home in the 80s, that was something for fancy houses – at least growing up in Brazil in the 80s was. I’m a radio kid, a tape kid. My first “record” was A-Ha’s “Hunting High and Low” K7. Anyway, my mother, who I grew up with in the countryside, loved pop music, specially the Brazilian kind of it – like Lulu Santos – but she also loved disco music and Michael Jackson. My father lived in Sao Paulo and was more like an international pop kinda guy – say, Tears for Fears’ “Songs from the Big Chair”. But I also had a grandfather who loved his opera and bolero records and he would get really excited listening to it on an old Phillips home system when he got hammered. I also had a nerd uncle who opened my eyes to a lot of weird, exquisite stuff – books, comics and… records. And there was this particular record that struck me a lot when I was 8, or 10, which is Pat Metheny Group’s Offramp. I remember he said it might be “difficult” to like it. Anyway, there you go, I was digging “Are You Going With Me?” before puberty which is pretty balearic.

People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?

Before records, I was buying CDs and bootleg VHS tapes of heavy metal bands when I was a teen, which is an embryo of my record amassing. I was looking for unique stuff. I took pride of having a particular recording that no one else had, say a Sepultura concert in Japan or finding a side project of a Cannibal Corpse member, and finding out it could be better than the common releases. Then I got into fusion jazz too – the dollar exchange with the Brazilian real was one for one around 1994 and it was great to import CDs, so that’s how I developed my hunger. The format changed but the approach system just got more sophisticated.

I started buying records when I moved to Sao Paulo in 1998, that’s when I sold my heavy metal CDs and used the money to go vinyl. For a while I used to go downtown to look for stuff and later I started importing through websites like Gemm which opened a whole new world for me. My first travel to the UK in the year 2000 was also formative. Years later I started traveling because of my job as a journalist and I would take every schedule break to find a record store, be it in Genova or East LA. Anyway, it always felt like having an eternal hunger for music, and I never felt like I’d had enough. I don’t consider myself a collector in the “completist” sense of it – my point always was building emotional memories of moments I could have lived in another time and place, to travel without moving, to expand my vision, it’s the curiosity that moves me. But collecting is also a vain attempt to seeall, know all – only to fail every day, which is great since music never ceases to amaze me. It never disappoints.

Where do you store your records and how do you file them?

Part of my records are in this totem in the living room specially designed by an architect when me and my wife married – she didn’t like the classic vision of records stored sideways, which I have to agree with, that says nothing apart from that you have too many. The greatest view of a record is to see the cover (when there’s one) so this furniture allows me to display 20 covers at once while storing around 1,000 records. But that’s the “Instagram” alternate dimension – the reality is that I have records in my closet, in the basement, thrown around on what’s supposed to be a studio, but apart from that there’s a logic in the way I keep them – disco 12”, disco LPs, classic rock, rock 12”, classic house and techno, new electronic stuff, leftfield/balearic, jazz and blues, soul and funk, reggae and the many many different Brazilian genres… I’m fortunate to have a pretty good memory so I never felt the need to develop a system – so one will never find my records with fancy, colourful stickers or post-its with BPM and other notes. I find it kinda cute though.

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

Downtown São Paulo is pretty much all you need. There’s a few boulevards with loads of stores in there and even if you visit regularly, they’ll just keep coming randomly – you never know where the next loot will appear with the goods. It’s also great to go off-route and expand your reach. There’s a cool spot in Guarulhos (where the international airport of São Paulo is located) that I visited recently that has loads of records and you can score a hat-trick. Recently I also found a couple of places in my hometown Ribeirão Preto too which was funny – I don’t visit that often these days but now I may. I also had a great time in Recife downtown last year in what we call in Brazil “shopping chão” (our slang for the sellers that have no proper store and sell on the streets) near Guararapes avenue – didn’t take long to get drinking beers and eating fried shrimp sticks with some of them, which later allowed me go to their “warehouse”.

Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?

Tony Hits from the legendary store that carries his name, Jorge from Casarão do Vinil (the legendary house with “a million records”), Celso from Cel-Som, Carlinhos from Discos 7, João from Lado C, Márcio from Tropicália Discos, Chico from Zico & Chico, these guys know how to run a store, they know the role of being behind the counter, sourcing stuff constantly and keeping their game up-to-date even if through the thick and thin. But talking about characters… the owner of Deform Records in Istanbul and his smoking and tea-drinking ability; the guy that used to run Wombleton Records in Highland Park in LA that looked like the Undertaker from WWF; the redhead guy at Dope Jams in New York who got into the booth to show me some amazing house records on a similar tip I was looking for; the legendary Charlie Grappone from Vinylmania; the Viktor Kiswell place in Paris; Gil from Praça XV in Rio; the creepy guy at 72 Records in Brussels that annoyed the fuck out of me complainig about the way I was handling the turntable; and of course the guy we nicknamed “soup nazi” who used to have a second hand store near MTV in 2000 that didn’t allowed me to buy a copy of Can’s Soundtracks because I was too young to listen to such music (I was 19).

Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?

I guess there’s no record that will not show up if you’re patient enough (or if you have deep pockets) but it’s been a while I’m looking for Hareton Salvanini’s obscure “Saudades de Caminhoneiro” 1989 LP.

Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?

I used to like enjoy having a diggin’ buddy but the fear of missing something out that you get from “competition” is not the best vibe, so I enjoy more as a solitary process since I’m more like a loner in this case. But it’s great to rely on a local friend if you’re moving into unknown territory – say, Tokyo, Seoul, Istanbul, Moscow, places with a different culture and, most importantly, different alphabet.

Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?

Usually I scan the sections to check what kind of store it is, then I do the tourist tour looking at the wall or at the main sections to see what kind of music they are pushing, then usually I go to the lower racks because that’s where you can find its DNA. I try to find out in advance if they have a listening station or if they allow you to bring a portable turntable, if I’m hitting a new place that I know beforehand. I also try to visualize some records that I’m after to attract some positive vibes – sounds silly but it worked in the past. If I can find a small bench it’s good because of my hurting knee or my back (yeah I’m getting old).

How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?

Very little actually. I’m way past the illusion that a great cover means great music. Actually it’s more likely to find great music with a shitty artwork or design. Of course it’s great when both match – if that happens it’ll get displayed at my living room as a true scalp. But I’m more interested in the back cover where you can find the players involved than in the front cover.

Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?

Giving it a pretty generic description, it’s a Brazilian music mix that covers a lot of territories from my music digging – avant-garde, new wave, no wave, samba-reggae, jazz-funk, punk-funk, psychedelia, disco, house, rap, candomblé chants, balearic ballads… It features 38 tracks. Some of it is rare, some of it is overlooked, some of it is pretty much unknown – I tried to keep a healthy balance. It feels great when you find an ace track in a record that people see often in stores but they never listened to it, you know? Like, it’s in our face and you just have to give it a try (I tell myself – how many times have I ignored something just to find out there was something great in it?). Anyway, all these tracks pretty much reflect my approach with digging, trying to find an out-of-place tune that totally resonates with me. There’s an ambient track from a prog-rock album; a disco-funk tune from a no-wave record; house tracks taken from pop-rock albums; jazz-funk and disco from soap opera actresses albums… A couple of international tracks that were local hits in Brazil for some crazy reason, since they are pretty obscure in their countries (and these are my only cheats). It starts dreamy, lazy, then you get a wake up call, it gets more agitated, it gets sexier and more exotic, it builds up to that “dancing in the chair” moment and it keeps up there, then I land the plane smoothly.

Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?

I don’t want to spoil any surprises in here and if you want to know a track from this mix you’re free to hit me up on Instagram, but since we’re facing a terrible political moment in Brazil where the Amazonian forest and the indigenous communities are in real danger, I’m mentioning the wake up call from the 90s that is Gente Brasileira – Amazônia followed by Novos Barbaros – Terras Brasileiras – the “hands in the air” moment in this mix.

Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?

Keith from Optimo is always my top choice, he’s been a good friend of mine for the past 15 years, he presented me loads of records and showed me countless new paths in music so I can never thank him enough for this. Also abroad, kudos to Ewald Dupan from Brussels whose taste in music is amazing.

In Brazil, regarding diggers (and sometimes record dealers), shout out to João Fernando (JF), Caio Yoka, Pino Henrique Pedra, Rodrigo Facchinetti, Paulão Tahira, Mimi da Silva, Rodrigo Gorky, André Urso and Kassin Kamal in Brazil – not forgetting my former Selvagem partner-in-crime Millos Kaiser.

And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?

Abroad, I would mention some friends like Valery aka Sputnik from Moscow, Jelmer Schutte from Amsterdam, Niall Kirk from La Casa Tropical (an irishman in Canada), Simon and Norman from the Bayete crew in France… In Brazil, Aires/D, Lucas and Matheus from the Disco Veneno crew and Giu Nunez.

You’re based in São Paulo, can you tell us about the music scene there… Is there anyone – promoters, venues, artists – who are doing great things for the scene?

Well, it’s a pretty diverse scene and it’d take me a whole interview to talk about it with the needed depth. For the past few years the scene has been moved by independent party crews that change regularly the location of their events. The club scene is really slow – you have some small venues, but nothing life-changing (and yes, D-Edge stills open).

From the party crews I mentioned, most of them are rooted in the techno scene (techno was always big in Sao Paulo): Mamba Negra, Carlos Capslock, Vampire Haus, ODD, Blum… There’s Gop Tun, which is more like a house music festival. Some of these crews I mentioned do operate as mini festivals: two or three stages, loads of DJs and live-acts, events for 2,000 people… There’s Batekoo too, that brings a different flavour – the favela funk – to the mix. There’s Caldo, that keeps doing street parties. I love to play at Dando, the most sweaty and raw LGBTQ+ party where I can present a different kind of DJ set playing my dark, sleazy house stuff. And of course the dub sound systems that are also a major force in the scene (I’d quote two collectives formed by women: Feminine Hi-Fi and Ruído Rosa). But it’s a tough scene to survive: gentrification plays a big role, it’s a constant nightmare to find venues if you want to do it by the book (which I do at the Selvagem parties), and all the crews I mentioned raised the bar to the point that there’s a new audience that’s kinda spoiled; it feels like they don’t acknowledge all the hard work that is put into the production of these events. But I can’t complain, it’s a beautiful, diverse scene where different crowds (and promoters) get along well.

In terms of talent, you have Teto Preto, Cashu, Badsista, Zopelar, My Girlfriend (Zopelar and Benja Sallum), Vermelho, Amanda Mussi, Tessuto, Casal Bela Lugosi, Akin from the Metanol crew, the Gop Tun DJs, Renato Cohen, Benjamin Ferreira, Fê Carlim, Gabto,  RHR, Linda Green, Pino Henrique Pedra, Mario Golden Goat… Too many to mention.

You operate under a few different aliases including Trepanado and Selvagem, is there a clear distinction between your efforts under each name?

Actually, for the sake of clarity, Selvagem now is just the name of the infamous parties that I’m the founder and sole leader now. Selvagem as an artistic alias for DJ appearances and productions does not exist anymore. So, as an artist, so to speak, I just use the Trepanado moniker for more than 18 years now – my given name is too formal, if I’d used it I think people would say I’m an Italian prog-house DJ (not that Trepanado is super easy for people to remember and pronounce). Exception to the rule is the compilation I did for Hello Sailor Recordings called Street Soul Brasil, released in early July, which Renata do Valle, the label owner, thought my real name added some flair.

Out of curiosity, Trepanado is the alias I adopted after I had a hole carved in my skull after a life-changing trip to Peru during my mind-altering, shamanism days – after which I decided I’d drill imaginary holes in people’s minds through music. When it comes to the occasional remixes I do, or edits, you can always expect it to be groovy, percussive, heavy on melodies and slightly out-there.

Alongside your production efforts under these different guises, you also run your own label Selva Discos which focuses on unearthing and reinvigorating Brazilian music. How’s the imprint going? Busy release schedule ahead?

There are the two reissues of Fernando Falcão I’m putting up on my label Selva Discos – first Memória das Águas on August 16th and then Barracas Barrocas on August 23rd –, then there’s the 4th volume of the Brasingles series by early September and I’m working to get a new series on the label out before the end of this year, a series dedicated to new paths in Brazilian music showcasing new electronic artists, starting with Pedro Zopelar (known for his Teto Preto and My Girlfriend work) and then the duo Balako with their collaboration with the legendary guitar player Manoel Cordeiro. Then I have to put in motion all the 10 projects I have lined-up for Selva Discos in 2020, including the release of the posthumous, unreleased Lincoln Olivetti album (alongside his last band members Kassin, Davi Moraes and Donatinho) which is a major responsibility.

You released the compilation Street Soul Brasil earlier this year, which presents a unique take on the genre through your Brazilian background. Can you tell us a bit about the process? 

Making a compilation was a longtime dream of mine. Around one year ago, Renata do Valle of Hello Sailor Recordings approached me with the idea of putting up one as she wanted to open a new path for her label and doing a compilation sounded like the perfect fit. Since the beginning, we agreed that we had to do it right (meaning: to properly license all the songs) and that it should present a different side of Brazilian music. I had been toying with the idea of the Brazilian version of UK’s street soul for a while – it’s not street soul per se, but you could get a similar vibe either from pop records or from rap records, since all these artists were also influenced by the likes of Soul II Soul, Loose Ends, SOS Band, etc, including a mellow, slow song in their albums. Of course, they have this special Brazilian flavor that appeals so much to international ears. It was a tough job to get all the licenses even with the assistance of a specialized lawyer, since not only did we have to track down the artists but the actual owners of all the songs and half of it was owned by major labels, but in the end we got everything we wanted in the compilation and the feedback has been amazing – not to mention the fulfilment I feel for giving life to such a beautiful project.

Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?

Yeah, pretty much. Aside from the label, I’m doing a Euro tour in September. The Selvagem parties are going strong here in Brazil, between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro – this Friday with François K and in October with Jamie Tiller, Orpheu The Wizard and the Good Block guys from London. Then I have to put in motion all the 10 projects I have lined-up for Selva Discos in 2020. And hopefully a follow-up to my compilation Street Soul Brasil which was released earlier this year!

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