Brazil is home to many amazing bands, whether you are into death or thrash or punk or hardcore or power metal, a fan will always find something interesting coming from Brazil. One great example from this influential scene, is the band Confronto from Rio de Janeiro. Taking influences from different genres of heavy metal and adding hardcore to their sound, the band has been gathering fans worldwide for the past 15 years. Their latest album, ”Imortal”, was released in South America a bit over 1 year ago, and had legendaries guests like João Gordo [Ratos de Porão], Carlos Lopes [Dorsal Atlântica] and many others, and now in March the album is getting its’ European release, where the band will be coming in September for a tour to promote this terrific album. I sat down with the very friendly lead singer Felipe Chehuan to talk about the band’s history, the Brazilian scene, tours, their plans and much more.
Interview by Petri da Costa
Let’s start talking about the beginning of Confronto for those who aren’t familiar with the band. Where and when the band was formed?
The band was formed here in Rio, in this area called Baixada Fluminense and was basically formed by friends who used to skate together and that had a desire to form a band with a heavy sound but with also influences from the hardcore scene. We were inspired by that new school scene from the 90’s that influenced a generation of bands, we lived that period and in 1999 we decided to form the band, and around that time we released a demo. In 2001 we released our first EP, which was ”A Insurreição”, and through that we played in big festivals in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Rio, Espírito Santo and started to get some recognition in the south and south east of Brazil. From 2002 onwards we have been playing a lot in South America and also in Europe, and actually the band formation is the same from when we started playing.
What were the main musical influences for the band when you guys started?
We have always been influenced by heavy metal, like Slayer, Sepultura, Pantera and also bands like Congress, Liar, other European bands, and Integrity, Chokehold, Path of Resistence, Earth Crissis. Besides Sepultura, we listened to other Brazilian bands like Point of No Return, Reajuste and Oposição which actually influenced Confronto a lot.
How was the hardcore and also the heavy metal scene in Rio around the time you guys started?
It was weak. A lot of people from here say that we were sort like a turning point for the scene in Rio. In the 90’s the scene here was more about music, but didn’t have a message and Rio never had a tradition of having bands with a political message. When we started to play there weren’t bands like that, I mean there were the older bands like Dorsal Atlântica and some punk bands from the 80’s here in Rio, but we had more in common with bands outside of Rio. Then started to come bands like Reajuste, One Voice, Age of Quarrel, hardcore bands with a heavy sound but that also had a message about equality, respect, stuff like that. So around then Confronto came and got a new scene started in the late 90’s. We looked up to bands from Victory Records and bands like Ratos de Porão, which always influenced the band. The cool thing about Confronto is that even though our sound is heavy hardcore, we took influence from crossover, thrash, groove metal, old school metal and our sound comes from all that. What makes me proud is that even though we have so many different influences, we were able to have our own identity and our own path.
It was just natural. It wasn’t planned, I just started writing the lyrics in Portuguese and it suited the music. I kinda tried to make a different way from what I have heard before from other bands and I saw that it was possible. A lot of people said it worked and the cool thing is that it wasn’t planned, it was very natural. But that’s not the only way for the band, I mean we did 5 versions in English during the recording of our latest album, “Imortal”, so we aren’t bounded just to sing in Portuguese. One thing that worked out really well and which is amazing, is that even though I’m singing in Portuguese there was still this connection with fans from South America and also other parts of the world. Whether you accept ir or not, when you sing in English not everybody knows what you are singing about it, so singing in Portuguese brought our fans, especially in South America, closer to us, and a lot of these fans became friends. It’s great to leave Brazil and play in Europe, for example, and see some guys trying to sing in Portuguese, that’s something special. We had that experience in Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and in Italy, it’s somethig else seeing that. This breaks the notion that music should follow a certain pattern, music is much bigger than any language or even a style.
How the social situation not just in Rio but also in Brazil, influenced the band when you guys write lyrics or songs?
We come from a poor neighborhood here in Rio, we have seen all of our lives a lot different examples, sometimes in our own lifes, sometimes in our friends’ or our families’ lives. So we have seen many [social] problems that Brazilians may face, and to write about problems that you see and notice is a lot easier than to write about something you never experienced or have seen. You just need to open your door, be outside and you’ll see a lot of problems and injustice. We had the chance to play in many different countries abroad and that has opened sort of like a new universe for us. The band made that possible for us personally and that possibility to know other countries, which are more developed, made us angrier, made us feel indignation and at the same time a greater desire for change. So this is a subject which is closer to us, all these social problems, not just in Brazil but in South America too.
Let’s start talking about the band’s currant situation and your latest album, “Imortal”, which was released a little bit over 1 year ago. How the feedback from the fans has been and how the gigs promoting this record have been?
It’s been great, from the pre-production of “Imortal” until now everything has been great. The response from the fans has been awesome, it was released here in Brazil by this great label, Urubuz Records, they have a good distribution of records through all Brazil. It was also released in Argentina through Vegan Records, and around February of 2015, I think, the record will be released in Europe through Deadlight, which is a French label. So there’s been a good distribution for “Imortal” in a lot of places, and during the gigs you see that the fans like the songs from that record, they know the songs well and they sing a long, so it’s cool. We are really happy, but there’s still a lot of places to go and play. We have travelled a lot through Brazil, and in 2015 we’ll be promoting the album in Europe, so it’s gonna be cool.
You guys had some special guests on “Imortal”: João Gordo from R.D.P., Carlos Lopes from Dorsal Atlântica, and others. So why you asked these particular guests and how was the experience to have them record with you?
Well, with Gordo happened like this: we were writting the song “Uma Hora”, and in this song there’s a very fast drumming at the beginning, which sounded a lot like Ratos de Porão, kinda like crossover, you know? So when we were rehearsing this song I imagined Gordo singing and I thought it’d be kick ass if he’d sing it. I talked to the guys and they said it’d cool if he’d do it, so the next day I talked with Gordo through the internet and mentioned this idea. We had played before many times with R.D.P., so we had contact with them, so I felt comfortable invinting him to do this guest vocals, and I was already okay with the fact if he’d have said no, but then he said it’d be great to do this coz he likes the band. For a guy who grew up listening to them, it was fantastic for him to say yes to this, so we went to São Paulo and booked a studio to record his guest vocals. We did that in Pompeu’s [Marcello Pompeu – Korzus’ vocalist] studio, Mr. Som, he was there with Gordo and actually he was going to do some guest vocals, it was an idea that came up at that moment. That’s something that nobody knows, I’m telling you now, but he couldn’t do it coz our producer was late and Pompeu had a busy schedule that day too, so it didn’t work out, so on our next album there’s gonna be somebody from Korzus (laughs). So with Carlos Lopes was also a cool thing coz actually it wasn’t planned. We were recording here in Rio, and Dorsal was also recording an album around the same time in the same studio. One day we just bumped into each other in the studio, we started to talk and at that moment this idea to ask him to participate came up. I asked him and he said “Why not?”. We were doing some backing vocals, so he participated in the backing of the “Flores da Guerra” song, he liked the lyrics a lot. We also had the vocalist from Unearthly, Felipe Eregion, and Jonathan Cruz from Lacerated and Carbonized, this death metal band from Rio, doing also backing vocals, so there were all these guys, it was a great feeling. Imagine, 4 different bands doing some backing vocals, everybody together for the same reason: heavy music, it was an amazing moment for sure.
Besides Pompeu, which you mentioned already, was there somebody else who you wanted to invite for the “Imortal” recording but couldn’t do it?
Not for this album, we got really talented and cool people to guest, so it was good the way it turned out. Everything just came in a natural way, and I think things are better this way when you don’t force for something to happen, you know? There are a lot of people who we admire and who we could invite for future albuns, but for “Imortal” that was it and it was great. I think this was the album which we enjoyed the most making it, we are really proud of it, everybody step up and improved musically too.
Can you tell what’s the idea behind the album cover? The name of the album and the design give sort of an idea of religion and war. So what’s was the concept behind the artwork?
We sent our lyrics translated to Patrick [Wittstock – the art designer], so he read the concept behind the lyrics and the idea for the artwork came 100% from him. Patrick is a guy who we admire a lot coz he understands the band for a long time. He also did the cover for “Sanctuarium”, for our dvd [“10 Anos de Guerra”], for t-shirt designs and now the art for “Imortal”. I admire him a lot coz he researched and went after the topics we’ve dealt in our lyrics, so it’s very admirable and it’s very easy to talk to him. So as soon as we saw the artwork we liked and were happy with his work.
You guys recently released a split 7” with Die Young, which has the songs “Imortal” and “My Hell”, both songs in English. So did you had to re record the whole tracks or just the vocals for these English versions?
I actually re recorded 5 songs from “Imortal” in English, but just the vocals and also the mixing in these 5 songs, so the rest is the same. Davi Baeta had mixed and mastered the “Imortal” album, and Gabriel Zander had co produced the album, but when we did these versions in English, Gabriel mixed the songs coz he has a different approach in mixing. If you hear the two songs in the split, you’ll notice that they have a different sound compared to the album versions, that’s something that we wanted. I picked from the album the 5 songs that would suit better in English, there are some songs that have really long lyrics and in English wouldn’t really sound good. So we did this split with Die Young, a band that we love, we are friends and we’ve toured together in Europe in 2008, and Daniel [Die Young’s vocalist] came with the idea of doing the split. And there’s a split cd coming out early 2015 with In Other Crimes in Europe and Brazil, 4 songs from each band.
One interesting fact that I saw was that you have in the official Confronto YouTube page the whole “Imortal” album for everybody to listen. That’s something that not many bands would do it themselves, usually a fan or somebody puts the whole album on YouTube without the band’s knowledge. So why did you decide to do that?
Look, I personally don’t have a problem with that, if it wasn’t us, then somebody else would do that anyways. Any band that releases something new has their full album somewhere in the internet very quickly, so better that we do it ourselves. We are not encouraging free distribution of music, the band has costs, we have to pay for studios etc, but this kind of thing happens nowadays and that’s a fact. We have to deal with this somehow. The fan could be listening this album through another page, so better that it comes from us, from our page. I don’t have a problem with this coz if the guy is a real fan he or she will eventually buy the album. If he doesn’t buy there’s no problem either, he won’t be less fan coz of that. One way or another the music would be in the internet, so better this way. They can listen to the album, and if they like they can come to the gigs, maybe buy a t-shirt, maybe recommend the band to a friend, so this can spark a positive thing for us.
What do you guys think of this digital era that the bands face nowadays? Many bands have been affected by these modern times and many have to sort of live on the road to keep the band going since they aren’t selling many records.
It’s been tougher and tougher to sell records, nowadays the alternatives are the vinyls or tapes that are making a comeback. People are looking for alternatives like these options, people aren’t interested in cds anymore. The digital music is a reality, it’s a fact and everybody knows that, so we have to deal with it somehow. I don’t come from this generation, but I live in this generation nowadays and we have to adapt to whatever is going on in our society. It’s like you said, bands nowadays live on the road, they make some money from gigs and merchandise. Actually bands’ merchandise sells more than the albuns nowadays, it’s a funny situation coz before the fan would buy the album and go to the gig, but now the fans are more interested in buying some merch than the albuns. It’s a new generation that doesn’t have this “old” habit, nowadays music is played in phones or internet. A young kid nowadays doesn’t buy albuns, he buys songs, he may download some specific song, and he talks to his friends about a song, he’s not used to listening the whole album, he doesn’t have the patience to listen the whole album. Music nowadays is digital, it became that, but alternatives like vinyls or tapes are popular. I face this in a natural way, there’s not much to do about it, I won’t fight against it, I think there are more important things to worry about than this. It’s actually great to get on the road and play gigs, this is what we like the most to do.
As you were mentioning about playing gigs, nowadays there’s this overabundance of live bands, sometimes a fan can’t go to all the gigs coz there are too many gigs around the same time, and usually somebody films the whole gig or most of it on their phones. So how do you think this affects the bands?
Sometime ago I thought that this wouldn’t affect bands, but nowadays I think it affects. The internet can get people closer but also alienate, whether we are talking about social media or music. It’s like we are closer to people coz the internet makes the world feels smaller, but actually we are distant from most people, friends or family. So all this can affect a band, a guy can see a whole gig on YouTube, he can watch that through a big screen tv and feel like being in the gig. However, this makes the bands push themselves further, it’s a challenge, so it makes the musician improve himself, improve the whole gig experience and prove to the fan that the band is so good that fan has to come to the gig and really see it. It’s something we have to face it, I demand the best from myself more and more, I’ve given my best so far but I know can also improve in the future. I’m always looking for the best perfomance and that’s all I can do.
A lot of bands don’t like that there are people in front rows of gigs just taking pictures of the band, or themselves, or then just making a video. Most bands know that these people aren’t really enjoying the gigs, their attention is somewhere else, and this is something that didn’t happen 20 or even 10 years ago since it was forbiddeen to bring your own camera. Where you stand on that, I mean do you mind that there’s a fan who’s just taking pictures or making a video?
I don’t mind and don’t have any problem with that. Personally, I like better a gig with a more “human warmth”, you know? If there’s a guy who’s taking pictures all the time and is in front of somebody who just wants to enjoy, that can cause a problem. But if he wants to be taking pictures, he can be on the sides of the venue, but if he wants to be in the front who am I to take him out from the venue? I think everybody deserves respects and sometimes it can be a guy working, so I don’t have a problem with this. As I said, I like it better when the fans are singing with me and enjoying the gig, there’s a real feeling and it’s a lot cooler. That’s something I grew up with, singing and having this interaction with the band, unless it’s a larger event, like a festival, so it’s a lot common to see then fans taking pictures of making videos.
Let’s talk about some of the band’s plans for the future. Confronto did a lot of gigs around South America promoting “Imortal”, are there plans for Europe and US?
We did a lot of gigs around here and we’ll keep doing that, there’s a possibility for another South American tour before we go to Europe, but for now we know that we’ll do a tour in Europe in September 2015. So we are hoping that we’ll play in US sometime in 2015 or then 2016, we’ve never been there and we’ve been getting a lot of requests to play there, we have friends and some people who would be willing to help us out there. I think it’d be the right time and we’ve been wanting to play there for such a long time.
Any plans to celebrate these 15 years of the band?
Yes, we’ll make a new dvd, maybe we’ll record that in April of 2015. It’s possible that there will be this gig here in Rio, in this really cool venue, but I’m not sure if this gig will be the main gig of the dvd. Could be that the dvd has different gigs or then just this one, I’m not sure, but we have this idea to release this new dvd. It’d be cool to show where the band is at this moment, we did the 10 year aniversary dvd, so now there’s more material and the band has improved a lot over these 5 past years.
Like you mentioned before, Confronto has had the same band line up for 15 years. That’s sort of an accomplishment that many bands don’t have it, so how did you guys were able to keep the same line up for such a long time?
Yeah, very few bands have been able to do it, I think every bands wants to keep their line up and not change all the time, but it just comes down to the band’s harmony. Sometimes it can be an inside or outside problem that can cause that, so I’m very thankful to the guys in the band. I have two bands [Confronto and Norte Cartel] that give me fulfilment, and I know I can count on the guys in these bands whenever I need their help. Not only we are band mates, we are also friends, it’s priceless to have something like this, it’s very enjoyable. We’ve had problems and arguments, that’s obvious, but we learned how to deal with the problems over these 15 years and know how to handle things. You know, when you spend so many years with the same people, you know how to respect each other’s space and really listen to them, and you learn that well through touring, since you gotta spend many days or weeks with the same guys.
Looking back at these 15 years, was there any specific moment that you can consider the most important or the most memorable?
I think there are a lot, like the 10th aniversary gig which is on the dvd, it was a very emotional gig, playing in Quito Fest, in Ecuador, in front of 60.000 people was unreal. Playing live with Cavalera Conspiracy, Sepultura, Agnostic Front, Madball, Napalm Death and talk to the guys in the bands after the gig, it’s unforgetable, also having Gordo singing with us. You know, I can’t say which one was more important than the other, all of these moments were special. A lot of good things happened to the band, more than I expected, and when you don’t expect a lot and something really cool happens, it’s mindblowing. If you dream a lot, you can get frustrated if something doesn’t happen, of coure you gotta have some dreams or goals, but you gotta keep your feet on the ground and chase that dream. It’s more gratifying when you work a lot and get something in return, you just gotta believe and have perseverance.
Do you see the band going on for many years, how you see the band in the years to come?
I think Confronto will bother a lot of people in the future (laughs). For the four us, it’s not easy to have a band, it was difficult sometimes, whether it was buying an instrument or getting to the venue to play a gig. So once the band started to get some attention, we didn’t let it go and we won’t let the band die. As long as we are healthy the band will keep going, we are still motivated about playing, it’s like we are young kids. After 15 years, we are still excited and you can see that in our eyes. We still want to give our best and that’s very motivational.
Glad to hear it! Thanks a lot for the interview man!
Thank you too, I’m really happy to do this and anybody can get in touch with the band. We are the revolution, Confronto 2015!