Saturnia Interview for Slowburn Magazine by Hugo Rodriguez 26/05/2007
SLOWBURN- A typical question, how was Saturnia born and why the name?
LUIS SIMOES-Saturnia started in1996, I had played in other bands bands before and was a bit tired and disappointed with the traditional work methods of rock'n'roll and wanted to do something different. I wanted Saturnia to be a multi-art-form free project that involved music, performance, poetry, film and painting. That was too ambitious and complex and it didn't work out.
The name came from the merge between the planet Saturn, the saturnia moth and saturnalia. So a natural, spacey and hedonistic concept.
Also the fact that Plutarch mentioned an island with that name, the fact that Handel had his “Awake Saturnia” and that there was a volcanic roman place with a slightly supernatural reputation, in Italy, named Saturnia contributed, although not directly, to the name decision.
SB- You, Luis, are the boss in this band. I mean, you compose every song and write the lyrics. Is Saturnia a personal project?
LS-When I started it, that was not my intention, it was quite the opposite actually, it is just that things evolved in that direction. I like to do things as good as possible and I need to do them all the way, but most people aren't like that and that as been the main problem in my life. The fact that I don't like to wait long for other people to do their thing has been an issue...
Music is a very personal thing to me because it is my way of breathing and, naturally, Saturnia has always been very personal to me.
I try to go with the flow and I think you feel that in Saturnia's music, but I don't like to sit down and wait for things to happen, I don't approach existence in a passive way.
SB- What do you want to express through Saturnia music?
LS-Saturnia's music allows me to feel more balanced with myself and the universe that surrounds me. The freedom, beauty, pleasure, spirituality, positivity, intelligence and calm energy that I feel with Saturnia is what I want to bring to everyone who hears the music.
Saturnia exists, and was born, in an inner revolution process for a free, different way of living and seeing things, that is basically what I want to express. A vibe.
SB- Do you think that rock music must express something important for the people?
LS-Personally I would never use my music to express something that I don't consider important, as I see it from a sacred/magical perspective. But I don't criticize people who see music in a more trivial way; if they want to convey something more banal that is ok by me, I think there is a place in this world for a good pop song.
If people relate to music, whether it is something of a metaphysical nature or a day-to-day commonplace thing, I think that is positive…
SB- Talking about lyrics (again!), do you write poetry? what do you think about poetry like a mechanism to express ideas?
LS-Yes, I have always written, independently from music, since my early teens, poetry and other forms.
Words are a conceptual prison vehicle for ideas, emotions and numberless other things, so I see them as an obstacle for feelings, because these can only be felt and never truly expressed in words. However words are also a fantastic simplification tool to get ideas through to people, words are like pills. That is why most of Saturnia's work prior to “Muzak” is essentially instrumental.
SB- I've here, on my legs, your last album, MUZAK, tell me something about it, who's the producer, what about the recording session, etc.?
LS-I produced it in my little studio: Butterfly Sound. This album was different from the previous ones because I didn't set a deadline to finish it, I decided it would be finished when I really thought it was finished, that's why it took so long.
I started laying down tracks in march 2003 and finished mixing in November 2005, it was a very slow process where I didn't look for any ideas, I just waited for them to pass me by and then tried to catch them. As you know I did it on my own and recorded all instruments, so it was a very intimate process of inner search. “Muzak” changed me in a strange way, because although I like all things I've done in the past, in and out of Saturnia, I have never been so satisfied with anything I've done as with “Muzak”. I had a few guests notably Nik Turner and Daevid Allen, they where brilliant.
SB- Tell me about the MUZAK artwork, why the cover? (I've an idea but you're the guy!), and why all those cigarettes? (just at the middle).
LS-When I was halfway through the studio process I started to gather graphical ideas for the artwork and debating them with photographer Eduardo Vasconcelos. Those ideas were very iconic and simple, as I wanted them to reflect the straightforwardness of the music.
Once that was brainstormed he them started doing photographs of things that were on the lyrics or related to the songs in some way or another and I worked them and organized everything in what the artwork is.
The breast photo got to be the front cover as it was the most striking, it sort of comes from the song “Nipple” and it reflects the way I feel about my roots, as this song is based on a Portuguese traditional, folk rhythm, named Chula.
Some people considered it pornographic or erotic but they are completely wrong. For instance, the Moebius strip is a graphical depiction of infinity and it comes from “Infinite Chord”; the cigarettes in the disc come from “Analepsis” which is a song about emotional alienation from time and space, the ashtray is as a metaphor for a subjective time measuring mechanism that uses cigarettes to count time instead of seconds or minutes or hours. It's vaguely autobiographical.
These, and other things, and their visual representations are part of my life, that's how they got to the “Muzak” cover.
SB- Your first demo appeared in '97. What can you tell me about it? If I'm not wrong, the musical style was different?
LS-The first Saturnia recording just happened. I was recording stuff without any purpose of starting a project or a band, and then I realized I had some pieces that where part of a whole thing, that's when I noticed something was going on.
That first demo was more electronic oriented; it was chill out trance with guitars and vocals. After that came the first Saturnia cd, in 1999, in which I really started the fusion between the old spirit of head music and its modern electronic reflections. That first cd was the basis of the Saturnia concept and I've developed from that. There wasn't really an identity yet, just a concept, although I feel that there were great tracks in it, already carrying the Saturnia trademark, like “The Twilight Bong”.
SB- these days, space rock is everywhere (Elektrohasch is a label that rules in this kind of music!). What do you think about it, is Saturnia a space rock band? I know that the psychedelic element is there. Space Rock is just a concept but...
LS-I like all kinds of music, when something is genuine and honest, whether it is baroque music or the Beatles, it's good for me.
All that you hear and enjoy is likely to filter its way into your music, it's quite inevitable, so I try to keep an open mind and see what happens.
Saturnia is, obviously, a Space rock psychedelic head band but there are other influences like Progressive Rock, Indian music, dance music, easy listening, musique concrete, electronic trance, even classical music. I think those should be also taken into the equation of what Saturnia really is, from not only a musical but also conceptual and artistic point of view.
It's fine to be inside a style of music or artistic movement but I don't like being trapped inside a style name, it's too diminishing as it means you can't do anything else other than “Psychedelic” or “Progressive” or “Space Rock” or whatever.
SB- Do you think that MUZAK is a new way for Saturnia?. Why?
LS-In a way it is, because although I approached the music with the same philosophy, instrumentation and aesthetics of the previous albums, I tried to do a record that could be understood not only by hardcore psychedelic people, but also by any music lover. I opted for a more universal approach as I think that if I'd done it like I did the previous albums, I would be repeating myself and that is exactly what I don't want to do. I want to keep Saturnia fresh and in constantly evolving cycles. Having said this I want to point out that, for me, all I really did in “Muzak” was the same I did in “Saturnia”, “The Glitter Odd” and “Hydrophonic Gardening”: the best I can.
SB- What do you think about Stoner Rock music?
LS-I don't like labelling art and I am not really sure of what “Stoner” really means. That's because I've heard people classifying bands as different as Kyuss or Pink Floyd as “Stoner”. Basically I just like music.
Still, to give you a straight answer, I have a lust for overdrive and played heavy music for quite sometime. There was a period in my life when I fed on Black Sabbath and Cathedral, so I suppose I like Stoner Rock.
SB- How is work with Elektrohasch records (Stefan and Colour Haze)?
LS-Very good, Stefan works efficiently and in a very active way. His perspective of practical respect and love for music is something I identify with, and based in my experience of what the “underground” is I have only good things to say about Elektrohasch.
SB- Please friend, I don't have many Portuguese bands in my collection. What can you tell me about the rock scene in your country and what bands do you recommend me?
LS-Not a lot, the Portuguese music scene is fairly uninteresting. I would advice you to listen to Mahamudra, a free form space-prog band; also Francisco's band Cool Hipnoise a classical groove funk band, Cartel70 which is hardcore electronic drums'n'bass music and Blasted Mechanism, which is an indefinable multi style band that I am also a member of.
Apart from these modern/living groups I also like the old stuff like Tantra, Filarmonica Fraude, Quarteto 1111, Banda do Casaco and Salada de Frutas. All these might worth a check.
SB- Future plans?
LS-I am currently starting to work on a new record, which I hope to have finished later this year or early 2008. I am also planning to do a couple of shows this year, let's see what happens.
SB- Some last words for all the south american readers?
LS-Stay chilled and keep enjoying the type of music you enjoy regardless of the trends. Always be on the lookout for good bands outside the mainstream. Be true to yourself