The Brazilian Electro Prince Speaks
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Daniel is Brazil’s fishnet/spandex underwear/make-up/blonde tressel-donning gyrating posterboy of electropop fusion, and though he’s no longer the frontman of his former band Montage, his new solo act hasn’t changed him a bit. His debut album Shine is a blend of club pop and headier industrial beats that hearken a dank, debauched Rio speakeasy . Even conservative listeners may feel inclined to take it all off.
Speaking of which, Daniel took it all off — metaphorically speaking this time — in an interview with us, which we conducted after he won our Artist of the Week competition. We asked him all about gay pride in Brazil, about his preference for nudity, and about his song “flei,” which translates to something we can’t say aloud.
You started performing young, traveling to sing and play the piano when you were just a kid. How did that happen? Do you come from a musical family?
I don’t have musical parents, although they loved art! I was born an artist — at 11 I was already traveling around Brazil with a theatre group, and all that prepared me for my future responsibilities — touring and doing shows. I was just a gifted child, an artist by birth!
Why did you make the switch from Montage to solo?
With Montage, I wasn’t working alone, it was me and my partner Leco Juca. Leco decided to leave Sao Paulo, where we were only living because we were working there. He even suggested that I continue using our band name, but I didn’t think it would be honest to the public who were his fans too, not just mine! So, since I was alone, I used my own name! When we’re able to get back together in the future, we’ll use Montage again! Because of that, I made sure to change everything, from the music to the lyrics, so the public would know that it was a different time, a different thing.
You’re from a conservative part of Brazil, right? How is your music and performance received back home?
There’s a lot of pride, because my work blew up nationally in Brazil really quickly! There was a big shortage of innovation and I really filled that gap in that period! I played all the venues in my city and had the audience singing along with my songs. For them, my work symbolized possibility! And that’s what happened! A lot of other really cool things came out of it! It was liberating for a lot of young people, for example, to wear what they liked, to talk about subjects that used to be taboo, being themselves and being happy that way!
What do you say to the haters?
I’ll quote Fernando Pessoa: With the stones you throw at me, I build my castle.
Last year you sang the theme song at Sao Paulo’s Gay Pride Parade, the largest pride parade in the world. Do you consider yourself a gay icon?
I sang the theme and I wrote it too! It was the first time that I protested politically about a gay cause. I tend to think that I’m sparking a revolution in my own way! I’m a man, I come from the most macho and homophobic part of my country, but I sing wearing make-up, in a dress, I preach diversity, and I have a two-and-a-half year old son… I think that in this way, I’m spreading my message in an educational fashion. Just by showing that I’m equal, while also being gay. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to be part of an event for four million people who needed to know what I had to say — it was time for me to raise a flag…About being a gay icon, I believe that yes, I am! Exactly in the way that gays feel my truth, without my forcing anything! I’m like this, I’m in the media being who I am, so I’m already doing my part!
Brazil legalized same sex civil unions last year annd you’ve said that you’ve never felt held back by your sexuality. So do you think that Brazil is a gay-friend country? How’s it compare to Europe, where you’ve toured a lot?
Brazil still needs to progress in this sense! Unfortunately, I hear stories of violence against gays all the time. This makes me sad and worried. It depends a lot on where you are whether you feel safe, I don’t mean to generalize since Brazil has 200 million inhabitants! All families have gays, absolutely! But not all of them have the necessary education to face this with love and tolerance. I feel a lot safer here in Europe in this sense, in every city I see gay couples in public without anyone around them staring, insulting them, or even beating them! But in Brazil, we’re still on the path towards this — it’s hard work, social change! But I know it will succeed!
Tecnobrega originally came from traveling parties that played “brega” music in Para. This is totally different from your music, but did you see anything like that when you were growing up that gave you ideas?
The folk culture of the North and Northeast of Brazil is immensely rich. In that region, you find endless inspiration for every kind of art! I grew up in the middle of this, soaking it all in in the streets, at home, in school…Tecnobrega and forro are only two of the elements that I used, and I still want to go deeper into those scenes and try to bring some of my roots to the rest of the world. All this becomes so beautiful when it mixes…The foundation of my work is mixing this, forro, electronica, tecnobrega, samba! Maybe I’m creating a new sound, a new style mixing all this up. My major goal is to bring the ghetto culture of my people to parts of the world where most people don’t know about it. This is how I’m trying to make a difference.
What is your favorite outfit to wear onstage, and why?
I love to come onstage wearing really fancy clothes and then just take it all off, I feel free naked…I love the body as an object of expression and nudity helps with this!
What’s it like to have your songs remixed? Particularly the more intimate ones…like…ahem… “Flei.” : )
Hahahahahaha. I’m used to talking about things that people like — that they do or have done — but don’t have the courage to admit. I’m not afraid of the truth…FLEI is a typical expression from the north/northeast of Brazil that means that anal oral sex is great, hahahahaha! Why not talk about it? Why not say that I trust my drug dealer? People hear it and they understand…this, for me, is the better payoff! Music unites people, especially when there’s truth in it, truth and courage!
What’s next for Daniel Peixoto?
My album came out yesterday globally and I’m really happy about it! It can be purchased in all major stores, like iTunes. I have three new music videos ready to release soon. I’m looking like crazy for a booker at the moment, that’s my priority. My booker in Brazil doesn’t work with other countries, and I’ve done it all by myself, which is how it always is when you’re independent…I have shows booked here in Amsterdam, where I’ve lived, in Switzerland, Israel, France, Germany, Belgium, and England, but all through my own contacts…With the album, I believe that this will change for the better! Also, I want to open Madonna’s next tour, record with Massive Attack, win a Grammy, and never stop dreaming…
Photo Courtesy of Daniel Peixoto