Saturnia Interview for Progresiste Magazine by Alex wilhelm 05/2007
PROGRESISTE-Saturnia is a band that already has a long history and created several albums. Can you tell us briefly the story of Saturnia from its creation to date?
LUIS SIMÕES-I started Saturnia in 1996 with the intent of making a project that involved not only music but also video, photography, poetry and performance. In retrospective that was a very ambitious scheme, both artistically and logistically, and it didn't work. There is a demo from that period.
From a musical perspective the idea was to do psychedelic space rock in a contemporary, electronic, modern context; a genuine “noveaux” form of progressive, if you like.
I then turned to a purely musical direction and recorded “Saturnia” with Eduardo Vasconcellos on Keyboards in 1999, he left as he felt we should be a studio only band. Then Vasco Pereira came into Saturnia and stayed for about a year, also in 2000 Francisco offered to come in to play live. I then did “The Glitter Odd” (2001), “Hydrophonic Gardening” (2003) and “Muzak” (2006) on my own.
PR-Why Saturnia? Is there a specific signification for this name, linked to the music of the band?
LS-Yes, everything is related. The name is a word play between Saturn, the planet, and the word saturnalia, synonymous with orgy. I wanted the name to have something spatial and sci-fi like and also some sort of hedonistic sensuality and organic vibe to it. It was only after, me and Filipe Homen, mixing those two words that we realized that there was also a butterfly named Saturnia. That kind of wrapped it all up in a natural, ecological and biological way.
Not directly connected to the actual genesis of the name but also affecting the decision were other things like the fact that Plutarch mentioned an island with that name, which gave it a mythological dimension, the fact that Handel had “Awake Saturnia” and also that there was a volcanic roman town with a vaguely supernatural reputation, in Italy, named Saturnia which added a dab of classicism.
I feel that all this conceptually reflects Saturnia's musical philosophical positioning and atmosphere.
PR-Listening to Muzak (that I particularly enjoyed), I told to myself: “This! This is real Psychedelic Rock!” How would you describe the music of Saturnia?
LS-Glad you liked it, it is commonplace to say so but it is always great to be appreciated.
I think that is one way of putting it. I agree, but I also have to say that, although Saturnia is a psychedelic, space, head music band, there are also other musical components such as classical Indian music, musique concrete, progressive rock, Krautrock, easy listening, electronic trance, even Portuguese folk music and those shouldn't be overlooked while analysing Saturnia.
Although it is practical and functional to do so, and I also do that, I am not particularly fond of labelling art, whether it's music or something else, as labels are usually over-simplifying and somewhat diminishing, and tend to castrate the imagination of audiences and the possibilities of creative freedom for artists. The hermetical categorization and commercialisation of art is the main responsible for the awful, unimaginative state in which music is today.
PR-Is Psychedelic music a well-represented style on the Portuguese musical scene?
LS-The Portuguese musical scene is, generally speaking, uninteresting apart from a few bands. In what refers to the kind of music Saturnia does, apart from the old 1970's bands like Tantra or Quarteto 1111, there are a couple of artists such as Mahamudra or us, but not much more. A rather arid scenario, actually…
PR-Muzak made me often think of Pink Floyd. What do you think about this?
LS-They are one of the influences to anyone who's into this kind of music, and I am no exception, although I have to say that I feel that Saturnia is much closer to, for instance, a band like Pulsar or some of the German, “krautrock” bands. I think that although Saturnia as very defined; and unashamedly assumed, aesthetic influences, it also has a “melange” and vibe that is its own, and, in more than one way, quite unique.
I love all those vintage bands and am very proud of doing my part in carrying the flag for this kind of music and spirit in the present.
PR-What are your musical influences?
LS-I listen to different kinds of music, when something is genuine and true, whether it is Hawkwind or Portishead, I think the purpose of communication is fulfilled, and that is essentially positive.
All sounds that you hear and enjoy are, inevitably, going to filter their way into your music, so I try to keep an open mind and be in tune with the universe around me.
To give you a straighter answer, I like the psychedelic, space rock and prog bands from the sixties and seventies, classical Indian music and some contemporary composers but also more current things like the English electronic scene from the nineties.
PR-Your last album seems to me less « flying », more « nervous », more Rock maybe than the previous ones. What's your view on this? Do you think there's a musical evolution of Saturnia after 4 albums?
LS-I agree; this album was made with the purpose of optimising all of Saturnia's resources, not only from a lyrical or instrumentation point of view but also from a compositional and production angle. This resulted in an album that, I feel, keeps Saturnia's identity intact but is, perhaps, more edgy or immediate than, say, the two previous ones. “Muzak”, I think, is an album that can be understood and appreciated not only by psych neophytes but also by anyone who likes music, regardless of what style it is. I am quite satisfied with it, which is unusual.
I think the mutations in the Saturnia sound, from one album to another, are quite visible and positive. In the first cd the idea was to bring the grandeur of the old days to a contemporary dimension; that was the basis. I've developed from that. What you hear between “Saturnia” and “Muzak” are the cycles of refining, personalizing and developing in a progressive way the original concept.
PR-By the way, what's the meaning of “Muzak”?
LS-I used that because I see Saturnia as ongoing hypnotic, mood music, or muzak. And music is the centre of the whole Saturnia idea, it is what moves me to make yet another album against all odds. That love for that particular kind of music and vision of the cosmos is what is inside the cd. I didn't wanted to call it “Music” as it was too general, and the word “muzak” was already part of the piece “Nipple” which also provided the idea for the front cover breast photograph so, to me, it all made perfect sense and was obvious.
PR-What's the creation process of an album of Saturnia?
LS-I have my little studio so, I have the luxury of recording all ideas I have as soon as I have them, and therefore I am always in production mode. To me, recording and composing are two angles of the same creative motion. I usually start recording tracks and improvising randomly around initial, core ideas, generally a rhythm or a chord, with instruments or sounds I feel may work. After gathering all I feel may be useful for the piece, I then start to pick things or sections, editing, re-recording, etc, basically creating a shape out of a mass of ingredients.
I have the same aproach that other people use for other artforms like literature or painting.
Still, I try not to be attached to a particular way of creating; sometimes music comes from the strangest places and in the strangest ways; I like to watch and see in which direction the wind blows. I see myself as a butterfly hunter in a forest waiting to catch colour and beauty out of the thin air.
PR-Saturnia, is it the project of only one man? Or is it the result of the collaboration with various artists who were part of the band during its long history.
LS-Saturnia has always been a bit of a one man project, I played all instruments in both "The Glitter Odd", "Hydrophonic Gardening" and most of them in "Muzak"; I just never wanted to give the impression of a solo project because Saturnia isn't about me, it is an entity on it's own. That is also why the information on who played what was never very clearly shown on the two cds before "Muzak".
When Francisco popped up in the picture, in 2000, "The Glitter Odd" was almost finished; I was never happy with Vasco's playing, so I started recording on my own.
When I first started, it was not my idea to do so many things on my own, it was quite the opposite, it is just that things slowly went in that direction. I like to do things well but people aren't like that and that as been an issue in Saturnia.
To let people into my bubble, I have to like them on a vibrational level and all the collaborations that happened in Saturnia were exceptions that happened because of my respect, affection and admiration for those guests, whether it's Daevid Allen or Nik Turner, João Gomes or Flapi.
PR-Muzak is the first album signed with Elektrohasch that is a label that signs more and more bands classified as Psychedelic bands (Hypnos 69, My Sleeping Karma…). Is it your wish to join such label or is it an initiative from Elektrohasch?
LS-I got to Elektrohasch through the web, Stefan liked the album and I licensed it to him. That was basically what happened. Saturnia is a self-produced artist that owns its albums; this guarantees total creative independence and freedom, which is a foundation stone of Saturnia. On the other hand there are problems in not being permanently attached to a record company, particularly in terms of developing and working a band name through time.
This situation, with its pros and cons, as made me be on the lookout for labels each time I want to license a new Saturnia album with the purpose of improving Saturnia's situation. In this album's case I think that we both liked each other and the vibe was ok, that's the thing. That's why I had better financial offers for this cd but didn't take them. It would be good to stay with Elektrohasch and develop a relationship.
PR-How is going the collaboration with Elektrohasch?
LS-Based in my experience of what the “underground” is, I have only good things to say about Elektrohasch. Stefan Koglek's view of music is something I relate to, so, until now very good.
PR-Have you contact with other bands also signed with this label?
LS-Yes, but only on a superficial level, through the web, on myspace or places like that.
PR-How do you see the future of Saturnia? Do you have already ideas in mind for another album?
LS-I try not to anticipate too much and just go with flow, so the master plan is to continue to do more music and more albums regardless of the trends or whatever. On a more immediate future I am planning to do some shows this year or next and work on the next Saturnia record. Yes, I already have some 20, very rough, pieces that are the starting point for a new album which I would like to finish later this year or early 2008, let's see how it goes.
PR-What would you tell to our readers to invite them to listen to Saturnia's music?
LS-Saturnia is about letting yourself go, I feel that Saturnia's music is evasive and, for me, it is a dream machine, built with the purpose of floating free. Intimately I'm trying to feel more acquainted with myself through music. The freedom, beauty, pleasure, spirituality, intelligence, peaceful energy and the different way of seeing things and escaping to new dimensions, that I experience in Saturnia, allows me to have equilibrium and harmony between myself and the surrounding universe.
All this, is what I want to bring to everyone who hears the music. So if this sounds good to you, come on in, you're welcome.