Printed From: Progarchives.com
Category: Progressive Music Lounges
Forum Name: Interviews
Forum Description: Original interviews with Prog artists (which are exclusive to Prog Archives)
URL: http://www.progarchives.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=92868 Printed Date: October 21 2014 at 08:02 Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.01 - http://www.webwizforums.com
Topic: Torga OsteraPosted By: Kotro
Subject: Torga Ostera
Date Posted: April 05 2013 at 16:39
The moments that make up a fun day –
an interview with Torga Ostera
Torga Ostera in playful mood
would have thought that a Portuguese band I had been following with interest for some time
now would end up working in a studio not 10 minutes away from where I live? It
was a matter of time before we crossed paths, and what began as an interview
via email became an invitation to drop by the studio for a chat.
was around noon that I arrived at the Norton de Matos Music Academy in Coimbra, central Portugal, where the
band has set their headquarters. Two members of the band are teaching there, so
it is a highly convenient venue. I am greeted at the door by João Francisco,
guitar and vocals, avid Pink Floyd fan. As we cross the studio proper into the control
room, João Francisco introduces a new member of the band to me – I was getting
ready to shake someone’s hand when he proudly pointed to an olive-green metal
you recognize that?” he asks. Can’t say I did. “There’s one just like that on Pompeii”,
he explained. Turns out it’s a Binson Echorec, a 70’s echo machine as seen
being used by David Gilmour on Pink Floyd’s cult film - even before the
interview begins, the floydian influence heard on the band’s first album is already
seen in the gear.
a red couch opposite the mixing desk sits someone strumming a bass. Turns out
it’s the drummer, Renato Dias. Two more members enter the room, bass player
Eurico Moleirinho and keyboard player Jorge Marinheiro. I fail to recognize him
from previous publicity shots of the band. João Francisco explains:
band was formed in 2006 and there have already been a few line-up changes.
Renato himself has left and came back. Jorge is a new addition to the band; he
wasn’t part of the line-up on our first album. He’s an old friend, though, so
he doesn’t feel like “the new guy”, and his input has come as a blessing for
us. Right now, Torga Ostera is just the four of us.”
is a special day for the band. They are working on a follow-up to their first
album, 2012’s Queda Ascendente, have
a new toy to play with (the Binson), and have a photo shoot scheduled – this
means the whole band is present, something that doesn’t happen every day.
and Jorge are now based here in Coimbra, but
Renato lives in Leiria, and I’m farther away in Lisbon”, says bass player Eurico. “The
internet shortens distances, but there is nothing like actually playing in the
same room with the rest of the band.”
everyone finds a seat, it’s time to whip out some questions.
First off, what’s in a name?
“Torga is old Portuguese for “root”,
while Ostera is the goddess of
fertility and rebirth (ĒostreorOstara, from pagan German mythology).
There is an underlining idea in the name of the band of reaching for the past
in order to be reborn and build a future. The meanings of Torga Ostera can
differ and it’s up to each one to associate it with something personal.
However, it all boils down to the link with the idea of “roots”, whether
terrestrial (meaning natural), whether traditional (meaning cultural).”
How would you describe your music? What are
“We were motivated
by a feeling of lack in our country of a certain kind of melodic, harmonic and timbral
textures. With that in mind, British psychedelia and space rock were a starting
point when coming up with the band. We kept adding influences and assorted bits,
always following a guideline aimed towards conceptual music – creating a link
between songs so they would all sound like part of a whole. We took inspiration from many sources, but
mainly from those representing challenges both in terms of mindset and
execution, aiming to have the music stimulate reflection, helping to break from
the vices of modern life. Music is a superior way of expressing feelings,
philosophies and concepts. It is meant to be enjoyed, should be absorbed on its
own and not just as a soundtrack to the commute between home and work. We tried
to aim the “understanding” of the album at a specific audience, the kind that
takes a break to listen to a CD in the comfort of their living room instead of
shuffling through an MP3 player.”
What kind of instruments do you use? What kind of
sound do you try to attain?
“First off there’s
the basic setup of a rock group: drums, bass, keyboards and guitar. Specifically,
we use some Hammond, Fender Rhodes, synths (including a Nord that delivers that
great Mellotron sound), Fender Stratocaster and dozens of pedals. The main
point is getting the best out of analog, getting a fuller, warmer, more organic
sound. We did considered using traditional Portuguese sounds as well, however
we felt it wasn’t the moment to do so yet. Maybe in the future...”
Isn’t it risky to sing in Portuguese? Don’t you fear
being confined to a smaller fringe market?
“Funny enough, we initially sang in English,
but soon realized that we were worryingly close to the sound of some British
bands. The process of reverting to our mother tongue was complicated because
the songs didn’t sound too good in Portuguese, but it became our intention to
make space-rock sung in our native language so that it would be more easily
understood by the audience. In the end, we don’t believe language will
necessarily be a barrier or an aid towards internationalization. Portugal itself
is a small place with a political structure that doesn’t seem keen to invest in
culture. That issue affects not only newer projects, but also popular artists
with fifteen, twenty years of work.”
What inspires the lyrics?
“The lyrics are a
reflection of each person’s daily life. Even though we were around 25 year of
age at the time we were working on Queda
Ascendente, one might look back and smile at that “mature naivety” that
became perpetuated on the record. Love, envy, disappointment and fear are all
episodes that will certainly be common to all listeners and that served as
inspiration to the eight tracks on our first album.”
Care to guide us trough each one of them?
“The opener and
closer represent the key concept, that of “almost”. “Quase nós” tells of
everything that one might have wished to achieve but never really got to. It centres
on bad luck and cowardice as a wake-up call, featuring a nervous and weeping
guitar: “(…) someone half-dead is still alive, but someone half-alive has
“Balada ao Ensandecer”
is about madness, ending up in suicide.
dos Ventos” is about getting to know your inner self, a cardinal, directional e
Homens” adresses the idea of the Wizard of Oz, in the way the poem’s “me” sounds
bigger and stronger that he really is. He’s actually an aggressive,
manipulative being without scruples that ends up being defeated by the
“Saber Porque Não”
is a straight-to-the-point song dealing with the worker’s apathy in the face of
“Não Vi Nenhum Tentar”
tells of greed, unwarranted criticism, inability to cooperate, to present valid
“Sol da Noite Acordada”
borders on surrealism, the metaphor of the moon and the woman.”
Queda Ascendente has a very distinct Floydian sound, reminiscent of Dark Side of the Moon or their later
works. Don’t you fear being dismissed as clones?
“On each genre of
music you’ll find timbral, melodic and rhythmic elements that allow you to
identify different types of music. Our idea was to take the Pink Floyd sound as
a starting point and explore from there. Naturally, this being a debut album,
the band wore its influences on its sleeves, but we aren’t worried about that.
Every band sounds like something or someone, no matter how good they manage to
hide it. Queda Ascendente was a
laboratory of experiments for the band – it took five or six years to record
because we kept finding some vintage keyboard or guitar pedal that we couldn’t
resist trying out on the studio. We wanted to experience the way recordings were
made in the old days, how to achieve a certain sound, and hence getting close
to Pink Floyd. However, Torga Ostera has a distinctly Portuguese feel and in
the midst of our pseudo-psychedelia you’ll find a sound very much the band’s
The windrose as metaphor for the
search for meaning, a very Portuguese concept
What do you think of the way the album’s been received?
simultaneously disappointed. The band created the album for the satisfaction of
its own musical ego, knowing that this type of music isn’t very well known and
accepted in Portugal.
The weird thing was that the album was well received by less demanding
listeners, but completely ignored by fans of the genre. On the other hand,
despite being sung in Portuguese, it was surprising for us to see it so well
Playing live is
another story. It’s not easy getting gigs, and when we do, it’s rarely the
right audience. Promoters seem to go for easy pop or high complexity, not the
middle ground where we stand. In some concerts we can really see people not
getting it - «what the hell, four minutes into song and no one is singing
yet?». That kind of reaction.”
Can you tell me a bit about the album’s production,
from the idea to the physical disc?
“The process of
building the songs would take us to different spaces and times. 99,9% of the
songs began with the music rather than the words. João Francisco would come up
with the basis of the song, a possible poem, and the band would work on it
until a definitive structure was achieved. We basically had a structure for the
album within a week, but we then spent months polishing it before we even got
to the studio. We recorded it in Tomar, at Zero Estúdio with producer Pedro
Carvalho. It was recorded with a mix of digital and analog technology. The mics
were similar to the ones used on Pink Floyd’s Meddle and Dark Side of the Moon.
We only used tube amplifiers and all guitar pedals dated back to the 70’s. Throughout
the process the themes metamorphosed and at each phase the songs would gain
new, more pleasing textures. The end product turned out to be a pleasant
surprise and it was exciting to get to hear the mixes at home.”
Speaking of which, you had to get a foreigner to do
the mixing. Why was that?
“Asking Jon Astley
to do the mixing was our producer’s suggestion. We weren’t really aware of the
good or bad a mix can do to an album. Turns out we just don’t have the proper
material or skills in Portugal, so we sought a producer whose work we liked,
tried sending him the album and see what he could do. We really enjoyed the
mixing on Roger Water’s In the Flesh,
so we set that as a model, and were very pleased with the result, to the extent
that we might get in touch again with Jon to mix our second album.”
So the band is working
on a second album. We again discuss the Floyd influence on the first record. João
Francisco confesses to having shed some of that influence.
first album was an experiment, a mix of foreign influences and Portuguese
original thought. The sketch-like artwork of the album kind of reflects that,
like something you scribble on a diary. The album was like that, a diary of
experiences of a band finding its way.”
own different influences have changed the music when playing it live”, adds
Jorge Marinheiro, the most recent member of the group. “When we play it at a
concert, it’s like it evolves into something different altogether.”
with our second album, it’s time to take off into other landscapes, leave
behind that sense of security that following your influences closely might
give, and find our very own sound.”
we sent Floyd out the window”, summarizes drummer Renato. With a background in
funk and punk rock, he’s quite far from João Francisco in his appreciation for
the English space-rockers. “Hardly ever heard them before working with Torga
Ostera – not my thing. They have grown on me, though”, he confessed.
offer to play me a two of the songs they are working on. These are unpolished,
working versions, recorded at rehearsals. I gladly accept.
might come as a shock if you enjoyed the first album”, they warn me.
not shocked, but rather pleasantly surprised. Despite being only hints at what
the final songs may sound like, already there is a change in sound. The first
one, “Malmequer”, displays a kind of aggressiveness not really found on Queda Ascendente, while the other one,
“Maçã”, is a clear indicator of the song-driven formula the band are working on
for the next album.
only after the first album, and listening to it, I felt there was great music
there, but it lacked real songs”, says Jorge. João Francisco agrees:
want to concentrate, but not compress, all that musicality of the first album
into a simpler formula, so next record will be more song based, but will sound
more concise and organized. The relationship between the music and the lyrics in Portuguese will
come more naturally. It will be a conceptual piece, where
each song will be a chapter in a story.”
not a compromise in order to make it more accessible”, adds Eurico. “It’s good
to go for a different sound from the first album, to surprise ourselves and
others. Like Mikael Akerfeldt did in Opeth, except we have the freedom to do so
immediately on our second record.”
So what awaits Torga Ostera further down the road?
“Someone once said
the road isn’t predetermined… it unfolds as you travel!”
Any contact with labels or distributors in sight?
“No. The only
thing selling in Portugal
is pop, compilations and children’s music at Christmas. Of course, we’d like
the album to reach more people. We were contacted by Greg Walker at Syn-phonic
who was interested in stocking it, answered back but haven’t heard from him
What difficulties have you bumped into as a
progressive rock band in the 21st century, in a country with little tradition
and representation in the genre?
is for an elite, it’s complicated to live from it, especially in Portugal!
One remembers the (in)famous 10.000
Anos... by José Cid: he didn’t get any backing, was probably branded a
maniac and forced into the inane pop career we all know! Or that other time, which
was extremely frustrating, when promoters rejected a David Gilmour concert because
they considered it too instrumental and guitar-oriented. In PortugalOn An Island was a number one record and not a concert round these
parts… Says it all!”
What do you think of modern progressive music, in
general, and the Portuguese scene, in particular?
“We find that
modern progressive music, in general, has become much too technical and has
lost the sense of melody. We find it’s easy to extend compositions into long
tracks, and we could easily play more complex arrangements, but that’s not what
we’re into to. We’re also not concerned with doing something original for
originality’s sake, but rather something new that still sounds familiar.”
interview is curtailed by the arrival of the photographer. The group strikes a
pose for a couple of shots. Against their better judgement they ask this
improvised reporter to take a picture with them.
Hairy reporter meets talented musicians
is now 2:30pm and no one has had lunch yet, so we head across the street for
some sandwiches. Conversation at the table drifts from promoting the band, the
inner workings of ProgArchives, current politics and, inevitably, gear - the
boys sure know their material. After the quick lunch, Jorge Marinheiro kindly
invites me to return with them to the studio as they work on the guide tracks for
the new album.
Eurico Moleirinho works on some bass
lines with Jorge Marinheiro, working on the guide tracks
the control room, Eurico and Jorge toss around different ideas for the bass on
one of the songs, the loud clicking of a metronome making sure no one skips a
beat. For someone like me, at the far end of the music business, it’s a
privilege to watch a band at this stage of the recording of an album first
hand. In the time I’m there they do three or four takes before settling on a
couple of minutes they’re satisfied with, for the meantime. Only a wall
separates these two from the other half of the group, who are in the studio
testing out their new toy, the Binson Echorec.
João Francisco and the olive-green gizmo
at his left, with Renato Dias providing a beat.
work around riffs and power chords, the metallic echo of the machinery taking
me back to that time I never lived when experimentation was the rule. João
Francisco sounds quite pleased with the device, which he actually got cheap
from an auction website.
the whole band walks into the studio to jam for a while. They ask me in, and I
can’t resist taking out my phone halfway and film them, no matter how poor the recording:
all round after this small distraction. The band surely is in high spirits and you
can feel the chemistry among them.
your ears okay?” jokingly asks Renato, before he eventually leaves for a
doctor’s appointment with his pregnant other half. Eurico will soon follow,
having a bus to catch that will take him back to Lisbon where he lives and works. Reminders
that there is much more than just music to these boys’ lives.
Francisco seems to approve Eurico’s work on the bass, while Jorge Marinheiro
takes out an Alesis Ion synth to work on soundscapes for a track. Jorge is keen
to get some work done before nightfall, when the studio reverts back into an
after-hours teaching room of the Norton de Matos Music Academy – a small price
to pay for excellent conditions.
the first album was full of hustle and bustle, with constant trips, quick
decision making, constant pressure. Here we have a great laboratory, a
comfortable space to work, and it’s closer to home, giving us time to be
more question to ask.
Finally, anything you wish to say to the ProgArchives.com
We’d like to
praise the overwhelming, intense and rigorous research work by the Admins and
Collaborators at ProgArchives. It’s important to reinforce the work being
developed regarding research and promotion of Portuguese progressive rock on an
international level. It would be great if foreign interest could stimulate the
creation of more music in this country, because internally we are rotting due
to the lack of culture and support. On our behalf, we appreciate having been
added to the database, and we intend to deliver more and better music!
------------- Bigger on the inside.
Replies: Posted By: infocat
Date Posted: April 05 2013 at 22:18
Excellent interview! I don't have any Portuguese music; think I might start here.
------------- Frank Swarbrick
Belief is not Truth.
Posted By: Kotro
Date Posted: April 06 2013 at 18:23
Excellent interview! I don't have any Portuguese music; think I might start here.
Thanks! Kudos to the band for giving me their time and providing me some insight.
It's a good starting point, if language is not a problem. Familiar sound but the singing in Portuguese gives a peculiar nuance.
------------- Bigger on the inside.
Posted By: Kotro
Date Posted: May 20 2013 at 07:54
Torga Ostera's mastermind João Francisco has made a low-fi version of their 2012 album Queda Ascendente available for listening at Soundcloud: