It was an absolute pleasure to correspond and put together this interview with Vitor Sousa (Deployment Strategies) and Joanna Jago, whose style and music I’d come to admire through the ‘Resistance is Futile’ shows on Seance Radio, and by checking out their music on Bandcamp, and Joanna’s video and artwork at joannajago.com
Both artists have a strong musical back catalogue, and new music out currently. Joanna has ‘Conversion’ on Labareda vol II, a powerful and in places unnerving track, with distorted tones swirling around a popping, punching beat and some seriously weighty bottom end and skittering percussive stabs. There is a huge amount going on in this, really inventive stuff – the tags describe it better than I can – ‘electronic drone house music noise techno and variations’!
Vitor’s latest is ‘Show me your way of life, and show me your identification card’ – referencing, along with the song titles (‘Finite planet’, ‘Reducing the scale of the human enterprise’) some of the issues we face in the world today. The music is thoughtful and incisive, building inexorably towards powerful conclusions. The standout track for me being ‘Reducing the scale of the human enterprise’ with its bit crushed, distorted melody cycling and panning around the head, whispering electronic warnings to the planet.
The pair have lived in a number of cities around Europe and have recently opened a restaurant in their current home of Porto. I was intrigued about the possible link between techno and ramen, so I got in touch to find out more…
Thank you both of you for taking some time to talk to Seance. Can you tell me your earliest experiences of music?
Joanna: Music has always been a part of my life, from my dads record collection, to Top of the Pops, passing by Radio Cornwall and a lot of classical music. I started playing the piano when I was 5 and dabbled in guitar-playing as a teen so it took me 10 years of concerts and musical experiences from Pearl Jam to trance for me to discover my true passion: techno!
Vitor: Apart from the mandatory flute classes (which I didn’t particularly enjoy) in the early days of school, I came into more intimate contact with music as a listener in my late teenage years. In a time where the internet was still a child, I had to, like many others, go through the proper music digging… and looking back, there was a lot of shit music! Around 95 or so, I came across the first tape recordings of rave parties; someone would appear with a tape that a friend of a friend got his hands on and several copies were made and we kids would bang all week to that hardstyle. Later into the 90’s I got into a more chill, ambient and downtempo phase, maybe to relax from the techno parties I was beginning to go to, and also because most of that music was arriving to me in digital form (CD) with its new digital clarity.
I see you have recently opened a ramen restaurant! Tell us about your love of food.
Joanna: Good ramen and good music!
Vitor: It’s called ‘Ramen Break’ (tum tum pa…!) and it’s a joint project with my partner in love, music and food, Joanna. We love to eat and cook together and of course, after some time eating out, if you want something different you have to start doing it yourself at home. Ramen is a passion we came across while living abroad between 2012 and 2015. We discovered it, loved it and ate it a lot!
Coming back to Porto, where no ramen place existed, we cooked it ourselves and introduced it to our friends. Seems like we had a pretty good recipe and we were kind of challenged by friends to get into it is as a business. It’s been 3 months now since we opened and I have concluded two main things: one, it feels good to bring something new into people’s lives and two, people care much more about food than music!
How is the music scene in Portugal right now?
Joanna: I think the musical scene is thriving, we are a small country with not enough party people and a lot of DJs! Things are very diverse, a lot of different beats, and a couple of decent venues that cover most genres.
Vitor: To be completely honest I haven’t been paying much attention to it. Before I came back to Porto I lived in Berlin for half a year, and when you are an electronic music enthusiast the chance is that you are always busy in Berlin. So, coming back made me get more into doing my own sounds, getting lost into finding that modulation – all the time I have for music I spend it in studio exploring the 20 to 20k framework of hertz!
One thing I remember from the electronic music scene in Portugal is the same thing that made me sad in Berlin and Barcelona (and I believe it happens everywhere). Good intentions, hard work and skills doesn’t matter that much if you don’t have the new millennium ‘social’ skills to deal with the blood suckers that orbit the electronic music scene nowadays.
What is the thing that currently inspires you most?
Joanna: Life itself inspires me, I have always drawn on experience and the different levels of reality.
Vitor: The unknown. Right now, when I go into the studio with the objective of starting a tune, I have no idea what I want or what will come out if anything at all. Literally no idea! I can suspect I’m going to build a techno tune and in the end it comes out an ambient one. It’s like theory of evolution… I am the finch and my beak adapts depending on which island I am on! The only difference is that I am on the island not out of survival and necessity but because I want to be.
Joanna, you are also an artist and do visual work, can you tell us more?
Joanna: I love working within the visual representation of sound, that’s why I started out as a VJ in 2006 and started making music videos in 2012, it is something that I really enjoy as it creates a more immersive experience.
Vitor, as well as producing you run a record label and audio engineering service, how is that going?
Vitor: Not well! The label, as a business, practically doesn’t exist. It does not generate revenue and does not promote me as an artist. For now I don’t mind that, especially because I don’t invest that much time in it. I want to make music and put it out there, and if by chance people come across my music, like it and buy it, then perfect. If not, no problem, because I have already done the part that amuses me, the music.
The audio engineering service has one big client (me!) and a smaller one (Joanna!). The problem is that, as an audio engineer, I usually don’t charge myself and Joanna has a big big discount! Of course I’d like to have more projects to work on. But the reality is that those projects would have to be willing to pay the fair price for the job, as I would have to move time from what actually pays the rent right now to those. But well, all in its time and I still have a long way to go until the studio meets the standards I want for it.
You have moved around quite a bit, living in Barcelona, Berlin and now Portugal. Do you have a favourite?
Joanna: It’s really good to be able to live if different places, and most cities will have ups and downs and details that you only discover by living there. I have moved about quite a lot, from Penzance, to Faro, Porto for university and Milan for a year back in 2001. That said Barcelona and Berlin are and both magical and disappointing, but living within cycling distance to Berghain was a interesting advantage! Porto is a really easy going city and the place we choose to come home to.
Vitor: No favourite. I consider them different contexts that affect one’s mood positively or negatively depending in which phase you are in your life. Luckily for me, they were and are the right context for what I was/am doing at certain points in my timeline.
Finally, what is your musical dream that you want to fulfil?
Joanna: To be able to create freely with time and resources to develop experiences on multiple levels. And it is always a plus if other people can enjoy the experience as well!
Vitor: It is to never be denied of the possibility of making music and the pursuit of what sound still has to tell me.
‘Labareda vol II‘ and ‘Show me your way of life, and show me your identification card‘ are available from the artists bandcamp pages
Ramen is also available from their restaurant should you happen to be in Porto!