Hélio Morais

Illustration by: Marta Macedo

Interview by: João Miguel Fernandes (originally published in 2015)

Occupation: Drummer

Click here to read the interview in Portuguese

1 – Who has influenced you personally and professionally in your life?

I’ve never had great idols, I’ve never believed in it very much. You know yourself and you know that you have so many good things as bad, people idolize others and forget that these idols are like us. It’s obvious that we look throughout our lives for some examples that many people give, but I think the biggest influences I had were my friends, the people around me. Besides the friends that play with me in our music projects, I also have a strong group of friends from high school, one of whom lives outside the country. Answering objectively to the question: my friends and family.

2 – What memory of your childhood do you remember immediately? 

This question is funny because I’m writing a text that was initially for my blog, but is already too extensive, which refers to my childhood and the time I went to study for the Charlot college. I was in a college from pre-primary to second grade. At that time I had moved with my father to Massamá and we let pass the enrollment date for the public school, so I had to go to a private college. I had to confirm this story with that friend that I mentioned in the previous question, the one living abroad, because when we are kids our memory plays with us and there are things that we mess up in our heads. Basically, at the entrance of this college there were houses where a man with his face burned lived. Our parents didn’t leave us in high school because there was a van that left us there, unless one of us fell asleep, which happened to me often, because my father worked in shifts and I lived alone with him, so it was normal to lose the bus and walk. All the students who left the bus had to pass through these houses that were already inside the school yard, but they belonged to the man with the burned face. Of course everyone was running pass through this area with fear, because we are raised with fear has a real thing. We were afraid of being caught and kept in these houses forever.

The other memory was a car accident on the way to this college at IC19. We were going in the school van and a car hit us. It wasn’t pleasant at all, of course. It was like hitting a wall with my face. Then I also obviously have other memories, like my parents in court fighting for my custody, which gave me a lot of nightmares.

3 – How did your connection with the Protestant Church begin and how did you ended it?

I think I’ve begun to develop critical sense (laughs). I lived alone with my father for several years and it was natural to spend a lot of time on the street playing football near a place where there was a Protestant church. And there was an older guy than me who was my evangelist and who listened to Metallica. He told me to go to church and learn to play any instrument I would like. At the time I thought about choosing guitar, but I ended up deciding on the drums, since I was a huge fan of Lars Ulrich. I was carried for that, I had faith for many years, until I began to feel that I didn’t feel that I had faith in a God who also rules by using fear, or maybe are the people who preach it that rule by the route of fear. The condition of punishment and not having the right to heaven for not doing ‘x’ or ‘y’ was something I didn’t like, so I gradually moved away. By chance many conversations I had with Cláudia Guerreiro, when we had around seventeen, were about it, she was not religious and I began to wonder if that made sense.

I think faith is super important for anyone who has it, clearly helps people and for several years was very important to me. I remember praying and believing that things were going to change, it helps you in your day to day life, it was an open communication. The fact that there were no mandatory prayers made more sense to me than the Catholic Church. First I must have become agnostic, I have disconnected myself from the Church in general.

4 – When did you decide you wanted to be a musician instead of an engineer? 

In a very pragmatic way. Between 2006 and 2008 almost all members of “If Lucy Fell” had jobs that didn’t satisfy them. At that time we played a lot in England, in 2006, we were very much on the road and that was our focus. Rui was doing a degree that he didn’t finish, Gaza was working as a freelancer and had some freedom, Makoto was also a freelancer and I worked here and there. In 2008 we did a tour of a month and in the end it slowed down a bit and I had to get a full time, that’s why I left university. I never liked programming or machines, generators, electrical installations, I always preferred math, but that wasn’t enough.

“No one can justify bad character because they had a more complicated past, that’s no excuse. You are as you are, you have your personality, your background can help you to follow a certain path, but you don’t have to follow it just because of your bad past.”

5 – You played football and rugby, the latter in a more serious way. Ever thought about pursuing a career in sports?

I was in the national junior team of rugby. I played in Agronomy at the time they started getting a good team. That generation that played with me brought very good things when they got to the senior level. I don’t know if at the time we won the junior championship administratively, because there was a mess with a game that was halted and I think that we were withdrawn from that victory. I just know we’ve won more games than the other teams. When I was in junior year there was a game in which two guys gave me a high kick in the neck and I lost my senses, I went to the hospital and my father didn’t like that too much. Unfortunately I left rugby. Since I was being called up to the national team at the time, I would probably have continued and would have achieved a high competition status and would have entered university at first try, but that’s life. I still thought for several years to come back, especially when I was at ISEL, because they had a team, but as I was also more involved in music, so I ended up not coming back.

6 – Tell me about a challenging moment in your life.

That was when I had to work because my dad had a stroke. At that time we didn’t had any income, because “Petrogal” had closed and he still hadn’t obtained the invalidity pension. I had to go to work full time at a time when I was in school and I also had the music thing going on. The worst of it is that you see your father feeling bad, but things end up happening, as long as people don’t become martyrs and don’t act like they are poor souls. No one can justify bad character because they had a more complicated past, that’s no excuse. You are as you are, you have your personality, your background can help you to follow a certain path, but you don’t have to follow it just because of your bad past.

7 – If you had to choose a band to play a movie, what would be the band and the movie be?


I would really enjoy watching a movie with a soundtrack created by “Filho da Mãe”. I don’t know which movie, honestly. It could be a movie about my brother Rafael, who is my hero, a boy with a lot of strength.

8 – What do you think has changed within the music scene in Portugal since you started playing until this day?


The most relevant thing that happened was that we, Portuguese musicians, have stopped thinking that our differences are a handicap, but a distinctive factor. The fact that we incorporate cultural roots into our music is important. We have a much stronger voice of our own and many things only happen by being made here. Nowadays with internet access you are influenced by many things and this ends up being reflected in the national production, but with a voice of its own. I think that in the nineties the bands still had a lot of that myth that they were going to be “Pearl Jam”, that they would make a lot of money if they made an album just like theirs. That’s because there was a lot of money back then. I have several friends who played at that time and who got cars from the publishers for signing a record. That is impossible today.

At the moment there are many more people making music they like rather than the one that in theory will sell more, this is because you have nothing to lose, it’s a matter of personal fulfilment. If you make music just to sell and if it doesn’t, then you will feel very frustrated. If you make music that you like and if it doesn’t sell then it’s different. Obviously it’s also a punch in the ego, but you still believe in that song. Times of crisis bring this positive feeling of  “if it’s not to make money then I will make music as honest as possible, without having to worry if it will sell.” I think crisis frees creativity, but I don’t believe that the growth of creativity has to come from a painful path. It would be desirable that all should be paid decently for what we do. People still think that the arts are the whims of rich boys, maybe because in the past it was really like that, but this is not the portuguese reality, because if you don’t have a patron it becomes very complicated to live from your art. Others received many subsidies, even because they wouldn’t exist without such subsidies, such as an orchestra. There are things that must be subsidized, the problem is that there are many people who got used to these subsidies only and stopped using tools that would allow them to live without these subsidies.

9 – What have you learned from all the tours you did?


Well, on the last tour I brought in a skin allergy (laughs). Essentially you bring knowledge and the notion that in Portugal there are great technical teams and people working very well. Spain is far behind Portugal. I think that what the Portuguese technicians and bands do with the bad conditions they have is incredible, there is no comparison. Of the tours we also bring a experience and cohesion that would not be possible otherwise. I remember in 2006,  “If Lucy Fell” played with seventeen-year-old kids with much more cohesion than us, this is because in England they do everything, they work and play in a band. They do a lot of tours, they play a lot, and that’s pretty good. I feel this with “PAUS”, there are no big breaks between songs, we rarely rehearse, there is great cohesion. We play in big rooms and festivals here, but outside we also do festivals and we play in very small places, some with very few conditions. That makes you a better musician, inevitably. With “Linda Martini”, we’ve been used to pretty good conditions for some time, so you’re not used to less. I remember leaving a four-star hotel in Porto with “Linda Martini” and sleeping the next day in a occupied house with “If Lucy Fell”, so you feel the difference.

“If I would rule the country we would go bankrupt immediately (laughs), not that they made a difference, but utopically I believe in a country where culture would be respected, where jobs would be well paid, where “green receipts” ceased to exist because they are all false, the government is the biggest employer of “fake green receipts” and it’s incredible how this can exist. “

10 – Regarding “Linda Martini”, did you ever think about making tour outside Portugal?


Yes, we thought about it. We have a member that has a full time job and this becomes a bit complicated, because he already has to take off several days annually to go to the concerts and festivals, besides the ones that have to be taken to be with the family, so I don’t see that we can do more than a two-week tour. So, yes, it’s in our plans, but we have not yet been able to materialize that due to lack of time.

11 – Which current national artists would you like to highlight?


“Capitão Fausto” are incredible kids. When I started to listen to more music on the internet I was about twenty-two, they had twelve, so the mentality is different. I remember Domingos telling me about buying a book that was called “1001 essential discs” and he was listening to all of them. This would have been impossible fifteen years ago. These are people who grew up with a completely different musical background. I have enjoyed a lot some of the things I heard from the last album of “Éme”, but I’m also suspicious, because I really like “B Fachada” and this album has a lot of Fachada there. I would like to see him away from this influence, but I think he has very good ideas and that he will be a very present name in the national music.

Then there is so much that it hasn’t got relevance yet, but that I think it can happen. Makoto and Fábio Jevelim are producers and often show me incredible things made by very young people, musicians far better than we were at their age. From my generation I highlight “You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown” and “Filho da Mãe”, from the following generation there is the Tó Trips, “Dead Combo”. There is also “Capicua”, who writes like no one else.

12 – Do you think an agency still makes sense or a person alone can do that work in the same way?


It’s possible, I have done it with “PAUS”, but it’s very complicated to manage everything. For example, this year I spent about ninety days out of the country, I have very little spare time to sit at the desk and work “PAUS” as I would like. Besides, I’m also the agent of “Charlie Brown”, “Capitão Fausto” and “Filho da Mãe”,  so what happens is that since I don’t play in any of these bands, I feel that I have a greater responsibility for them, and when I’m out, my focus goes to these three projects , because “PAUS” members understand that I can’t do such a hard job because I’m touring with them, but the other bands don’t have to deal with this. And I feel at times that I don’t push “PAUS” so much, which obviously doesn’t make me happy. I think the structure of an agency can be useful and help a lot when it comes to promoting an artist. I honestly think that when you reach a higher level it’s necessary to have the privilege of having an agency working with you. It’s possible to be only you, but it is very complicated.

13 – If would rule in Portugal what would you do considering the economical crisis we are living?


If I would rule the country we would go bankrupt immediately (laughs), not that they made a difference, but utopically I believe in a country where culture would be respected, where jobs would be well paid, where “green receipts” ceased to exist because they are all false, the government is the biggest employer of “fake green receipts” and it’s incredible how this can exist. I believe in a country where people have social protection because they pay taxes, but it’s too utopian, the mentality of all generations has to change and this can only be achieved gradually. I see this country more and more as part of a whole, I don’t see a federalist Europe, but there should be a real exchange without big frontiers and without great differentiation, but I don’t know how this works exactly. Miguel Sousa Tavares and Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa would be good people for this, because they think they know a lot. I would wipe out these people who think they know a lot when they are not working with things and the problem is that this is taken for granted by the general public and this may not be positive.

One thing is theory, another is execution, and many of these people have already been in power and have done nothing. I guess it’s not easy. I think we have to get out of here. There is the example of Bráulio Amado, who is between New York and Portugal and who has now had a font on the cover of the New York Times, a guy who didn’t go to college and who tried his luck out there and got it. This generation that has nothing here should follow this example, if you have nothing to lose you can try everything.


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