Perhaps one of the most underrated and unnoticed releases of last year was this gem of a collaboration by Portuguese psych wizard Saturnia and Setúbal stoner rockers Um Corpo Estranho. Together they have created a perfectly exotic mixture of psychedelic space rock and desert rock tribalism, all sang in their native tongue Portuguese, which gives the album an outlandish and mystical feel.
The music runs the gamut between hazy and rhythmic desert rock that at times reminds of Queens Of The Stone Age at their dreamiest, and folky tribalist space rock on the other side, definitely more the Saturnia influence on it all. Of course Luís Simōes’s sitar plays an important role, but Um Corpo Estranho‘s rhythmic approach and multiple vocals layers definitely add to a rich more = more approach that works terrifically well for this project.
Perhaps the only big mistake these brilliant Portuguese artist made is that they did not bother to market their album outside their home country much. That’s why a lot of psychedelic and hazy rock appreciators out there will unfortunately miss out on this gem. So in order to counter some of that error I contacted Luís Simōes to talk about his life and about this great record he made. This is what he had to say:
How have you been these past Corona times? Has it affected your musical career in any way, and if so how?
Luís Simões – I’ve been OK, as Saturnia is primarily an artist that mainly does albums and I don’t play live a lot, it didn’t really affected me that much; I did a one off unique presentation for a film festival over here in Setúbal and two special shows with O Místico Orfeão Sónico.
My internet activity increased significantly, and at a certain point, my CD and LP sales had a boost. As I am basically a loner, the confinement that the authorities forced had little difference from my usual day-to-day life. I know a few people who got COVID really hard, and sadly, I lost a relative.
You released two brilliant records last year: Stranded In The Green as Saturnia, and a great collaboration with Um Corpo Estranho, congratulations! How have the responses been so far?
Luís Simões – Thank you very much for your kind words.
The reactions have been very good. Stranded in the Green had a very good response from both the public and the press, even more so than usual. I think it’s one of the best works in my discography and it shows. The O Místico Orfeão Sónico album with Um Corpo Estranho also had great reactions.
Can you tell me what your average day looks like? How do you keep creative?
Luís Simões -Well, there is really no specific usual routine. I basically hang around with my set up always ready to record and when something comes up, I just try to capture it. That’s it. My mind and spirit are permanently wandering and drifting into odd interior universes, creating fantasies and plots of a conceptual, visual, lyrical, and musical nature. It has been like that all my life, it’s the way I am. In my experience, you should never force creation; instead, you should always be open and ready to pick up when the muses grace you with their presence.
Can you tell me about where you live in Portugal, and how it affects your music?
Luís Simões – I am from Linda-a-Velha a middle class suburb of Lisbon, known for its Hardcore scene but I’ve been living in Setúbal, the first main city one hour drive south of Lisbon, since 2007. When I was in Lisbon the vibe was more uptight and I was much more an alienated bedroom suburban dreamer, maybe because of the snobbery of the capital, everybody just pretends to be cool, I never liked the poseur-ism…
I love Lisbon but Setúbal is a city that retained its more traditional vibe, I feel really comfortable and have a real sense of belonging, I have real countryside, beach and mountain nearby, not to mention the wine… So, since the Alpha Omega Alpha album I think my music became much more pleasurable and total because I live in a much more pleasant place.
What can you tell me about Saturnia, how did you start it, how did you get into contact with record labels, how did you decide on your style and sound?
Luís Simões – I started Saturnia in a period when I needed to work in a different way that I had worked up until then, which was a Heavy Metal, Rock modus operandi. I was tired of being locked all day long inside a dark room with a couple of guys, just banging away in a noisy atmosphere. For several reasons, not just musical, I needed peace of mind and had to go in another direction.
Initially, I had no real Stylistic plan, I just wanted to work from home and do a type of music that happened naturally and felt good, picking a few elements from several types of music, mainly Psychedelic and Space Rock and to a much lesser extent Prog. Saturnia always had many influences, that range from indo-Jazz to Classic through easy listening, ambient Electronica and musique concrete.
Initially I meant Saturnia to be like a multimedia artistic collective, but I quickly realized that it would be wiser to just stick to a more orthodox band format, but as time went by I just started doing everything on my own and Saturnia turned into a one man band with some friends helping out on live shows. Curiously, although early Saturnia was consciously a bit removed from Rock, with the passage of time my Rock roots worked their way back in and what Saturnia is now, and has been since the Muzak album, it’s pretty much inside the area of what is traditional Rock music.
Your collaboration with Um Corpo Estranho is very special, as it brings together two unique sounds and really melts it into one. How did the two bands find each other and how did you decide to make this record?
Luís Simões – Me and Pedro Franco, guitarist of Um Corpo Estranho, just kept bumping into each other over here in the Setúbal night scene and talking for hours and hours about our favorite music and bands and also about music gear and general instrument fetishism. It was always clear that we could do something together and at a certain point they had a song that they wanted some sitar in and that was what triggered the whole process.
We started to work together, sharing ideas and then we realized we had a full album in our hands, it really happened that naturally.
This O Místico Orfeão Sónico album with Um Corpo Estranho is one of those situations when you never know where things are going, just take a chance based purely on feeling and hope for the best. We fused naturally and it was a pleasure to surprise them and be surprised by them. I think the result is quite unique and we did a very strong album at a level that Portuguese music hasn’t really heard for quite a while.
Can you tell me about the beautiful artwork and the lyrical concept? As I don’t understand much or any Portugese I feel like some explanation is very welcome 🙂
Luís Simões – The cover was made by Illustrator Paulo Buchinho, he did a colorful composition with elements of our own personal universe and some Setúbal historic references such as eighteenth century Arcadian poet Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage and lyrical Singer Luísa Todi. Lyrically the album is a loose concept about Setúbal and its river Sado with Classic mythology and Tarot mixed with our own personal experiences.
The album has a great production and sound, and the songs are really good too. Still, the release felt a bit restricted to Portugal only, was that intentional? I feel like a lot more people would be enjoying this if they knew about it!
Luís Simões – Thank you for your kind words.
Yes, it was intentional, we see this record mainly as a Portuguese experience that is why we never even looked for any distribution, its a boutique thing, we have the album and sell it ourselves and that’s it. I agree, this album has qualities that could reach a very wide public.
Can you tell me about your future plans? Was the album with Um Corpo Estranho a “one off”? Will there be more live shows also in Europe? Will there be a new Saturnia album? Anything!
Luís Simões – Although for the O Místico Orfeão Sónico we never thought of doing more than one album, we already got carried away and we do have new material, if this turns into another album or not its still early to say. Yes, there Will be a new Saturnia album, i have lots of material for a new album but everything is still at an early stage. Regarding concerts with O Místico Orfeão Sónico outside Portugal I don’t think that’s possible due to everybody’s agenda.
Regarding Saturnia, I would truly love to tour Europe constantly but without some sort of agency or booking structure support, which I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to find for years, that is just not possible. That is one of the main reasons why Saturnia is mainly an album artist and not so much a live artist.
What is your ultimate life goal, personally or musically?
Luís Simões – To be free, to do art which is authentic, honest, pertinent, based on instinct and intuition but crafted with Intelligence with intrinsic quality regardless of any opinions or trends. I don’t really separate personal from artistic that much but on a personal level its the same.
Who are your heroes and inspiration?
Luís Simões – I have respect for a lot of different artists and I am a fan of lots of things in art in general and music in particular but i am simultaneously also very critical of my heroes and to a certain point an iconoclast.
What I mean is that I don’t love all albums by my favorite bands, when something sucks, it just sucks, I can’t and won’t brainwash myself to love something I don’t love.
Some of my main references: Johann Sebastian Bach, Nik Turner, Bill Brufford, Steve Harris, Ray Manzarek, Mike Rutherford, Klaus Schulze.
What will you do after this interview, and what should the Weirdo Shrine readers do? (and especially: where should they go if they want to buy your records?)
Luís Simões – Well, after this I’m going to finish the mixes for a live show of O Místico Orfeão Sónico that my friend, film maker João Bordeira kindly filmed in January, I’m also remastering the second Saturnia album, The Glitter Odd, for a possible special LP limited release and start organizing the new material I got for a new Saturnia album.
Weirdo Shrine readers should do whatever they like and just keep it Weirdo!!!
To get our albums the best thing is to contact Dave Schmidt on Sulatron records or myself through our respective websites or Facebook.