Luis Clara Gomes

Illustration by: Vicente Niro

Interview by: João Miguel Fernandes

luis clara gomes moullinex

 

Occupation: Musician

Click here to read the interview in Portuguese


1 – Carl Sagan talked many times about the possibility of the existence of extra-terrestrial life somewhere in the universe. In one of your interviews he says that if there is the possibility of being contacted by someone, it will undoubtedly be by someone more advanced than us, since only recently we invented the wave communication. Do you think there is extra-terrestrial life? What to do you think about this possibility? And how do you imagine these creatures may be?

I think the universe is too big not to exist extra-terrestrial life, especially because in the most recent years of astronomy we started to study the extra solar planets and came to the conclusion, by means of studying at a distance the atmosphere of these planets, that they may have a composition, in terms of gravity and distance to their star, which allows them to host life. I think the odds are so big, because we are talking about a huge number of planets. However, it is interesting to observe that if intelligent life exists, it has never contacted us, which may be a deliberate decision (laughs). In Star Trek, the first line of Starfleet’s code of behaviour is that we shall not contact a civilization that has not yet reached, by their own means, the solar system. This is the most pragmatic and realistic view possible, because I don’t believe in esotericism or conspiracy theories, but the truth is that probabilities suggest so, in such a vast universe, and considering that in other planets the geological evolution led to the same conditions that originated life in our planet. Actually, one of the evolutionary theories is that life in our planet started with element external to our planet, such as an asteroid. It would be scary if we were alone in such a vast universe

2 – Carl Sagan also said that both religion and science look for the same thing. To what extent they are different for you, are you somehow religious and what should be the role of religion in today’s world?

I think religion is a way to deal with our biggest fear, which is death. Death is one of the factors that most leads us to make decisions in life, that’s why we want to leave a mark, leave descendants and search for a meaning for our existence. I understand the need for spirituality that people may have, what I think is that there are different ways to find spirituality. Spirituality as an abstract concept is something which I totally respect, but I have troubles with any power structure used as subterfuge to control other people, that includes any organized religion, football, and some political systems. I think that the fact that we afraid of death makes it easy for someone to approach us like the prophet, seducing and controlling us and that is something that is both magical and scary in spirituality. I am not a very spiritual person, religious I am not for sure, but obviously it’s comfortable for our existence to think that this has a meaning, but the truth is that most of the time I let myself be dictated by science and by evidences and until now there is no proof that there is some big creation theory resulting from an act of someone or of an external entity and that is why I am and continue to be a militant agnostic atheist.

“I think that what unite us more is the fact that we share these basic feelings like love, the search for love, the search for peace, the search for spirituality, as well. I think the fact that we feel and have conscience of our feelings is what unites us the most.”

3 – In your opinion, what are the main characteristics that bring us together as human being?

We all feel, that’s the first characteristic common to all living beings and all of us, as human beings, are capable of reflecting about our feelings and to make rational decisions based on such feelings. I think that what unite us more is the fact that we share these basic feelings like love, the search for love, the search for peace, the search for spirituality, as well. I think the fact that we feel and have conscience of our feelings is what unites us the most.

4 – Cities from the North of Portugal like Porto, Barcelos, Braga and Viseu seem to have a greater musical union when compared to Lisbon. What is different in the North?

I think I agree with the symptom, I don’t agree with the reasoning. I think this is not something exclusive from the North, you also have this phenomenon happening in Leiria, Açores, etc., but it has more to do with the idea of a small environment of us against the world, which makes people coming together. This happens at a macro level, it is happening with our country, with the national music scene, despite being very diverse, very heterogenous and pointing at all directions, from the underground to the mainstream, rock to metal, followed by ambient; despite being very heterogenous we have a collective feeling that we belong to something that is bigger than the sum of the parts. And I think this happens in the small scenes, like in Barcelos, Braga, Porto, and also happens in some particular genres, like in electronic and rock. I think that’s this idea of us against the world. As I am from Viseu and live in Lisbon for quite some time maybe I can see both sides, which is when we were growing up in Viseu we thought we did not have many opportunities as artists, because things would only happen in Lisbon and in some sense that it’s true, most people who visit us pass through Lisbon, Porto, Algarve. In Viseu we always thought that we were put aside and that made us look for people who inspire us and motivate us, in our friends, and that creates a great feeling of belonging to these micro scenes that later takes form in a very distinctive identity, because deep down if you have always the same designer doing the artwork for all the bands in that city, if they all record in the same studio, there will be someone that wants to get ahead and starts an editor for them and that ends up being something that is close to us, which creates and identity; and I think that’s very beautiful.

5 – In a previous interview you said that “being an artist today is also being an editor, designer, producer, singer and marketing specialist, and all this at the same time”, what is lacking in Portugal in an educational level to better prepare the youth to be all this as an artist?

 

Very honestly, as long as there is no disinvestment in education as it has been the trend in recent years, I think everything is being well done, meaning that from a pedagogical point of view our generation got out of the universities very well prepared and the “tending-towards-free” educational system worked. I studied engineer but I was exposed to all types of knowledge, I had designers as friends, scientists, musicians, biologists, so I think that the fact that we are prepared to solve problems with the resources we have been provided with, which is something that defines engineering, is spreading to other areas. You may not have the most ideal conditions to do something, but you will do it, it’s more important to do than theorizing about the way you do it. There is a giant gap, because we are prepared for all this and then we arrive to the reality of the working world, or of the artistic world, whatever it may be, and it’s a bit of a reality shock and a lot of people do not handle it well because they aspired to be a plastic artist and have to do Instagram banners for a brand. The fact is that maybe what we are missing is to understand that we have already invested so much in all these areas and not all of them are areas which generate wealth, but they generate cultural value and that’s why Portugal is an attractive country, because people want to be fed by our culture, from what means to be Portuguese and what makes us Portuguese. For me, is like we are building a big garden and filling it with plants, which represent us, and then we don’t install an irrigation system for these plants; how do they grow up? I think that is what is missing, taking advantage of the fact that these people already want to do something and to align ourselves as a country with things which are already happening to maintain our cultural relevance.

6 – What are for you the similarities between engineers and artists?

 

In the previous question, you focused on the fact that we are multidisciplinary and I think that in engineering we learn to be exactly that and an artist nowadays many times is often the same. A musician needs to have a visual identity and often, as we need to do everything ourselves, that comes from us, we do it ourselves, which means that such multidisciplinarity is very important in the arts world. Anyone who is emotionally connected to their feelings and succeeds to transform them in an artistic output can maybe do so through photography, or other area, because the tools are available almost for free and in an accessible way to everyone.

I believe that those who are willing to learn and explore have an advantage today and this is a characteristic I can observe in scientists, as well as in engineers and artists.

7 – Do you think that this multidisciplinarity in arts is only possible thanks to the Internet or do you think it is related to other external factors such as schools, learning with them?

 

Internet ends up being this evolutionary milestone in which we passed from the age of communication to the age of information. I believe that sometimes we have to pause and think, how would it be like if I take my smartphone and show it to my 1994-me? You have a tiny object that fits in your pocket with permanent access to all the knowledge produced by humanity anywhere. Have you thought about the philosophical and existential implications and artistic of this? We live in an time in which we have permanent access to all information, and this means that consequently we have more and more access to knowledge, as the entry barrier for everything is easy, anyone with a phone or Instagram is a photographer, anyone who has an Apple computer has Garage Band installed and is a musician, anyone is a writer, journalist; but the truth is that in these areas time was lost, there is no longer time to reflect on things, there are no more thinkers because even the online text is increasingly oriented to bullet points, because no one has the time to read four pages about a subject, but maybe you have time to watch an episode of twenty minutes on Netflix which explains you how a certain thing works. In other words, the biggest reflection I do on this is that despite we are being bombed with information from everywhere, our capacity to assimilate it has remains and, therefore, imagine, if you were a mum, with a limit of attention, the time you had for one kid is different than if you had ten kids. Academic studies are more and more oriented for the rankings, references, etc, and much less for matters of substance; it’s a bit like in art, art is increasingly oriented to trigger immediate sensations and to be super aesthetic, so we don’t think too much. Obviously, I’m speaking in general terms, luckily there are a lot of exceptions, but the truth is that it ends up being what we have time for. Ok, I love this photo which is in my feed, but the attention I give it is less than five seconds and that creates little space for a greater narrative. Also, nobody listens to albums anymore, the playlists’ culture is continuously orienting the music consumption for singles. The tools dictate the output and the tools are increasingly simpler and less aimed at introspection.

 

“Why is hate such a strong force in humanity? Because by hating someone, we strengthen ties with people who hate the same entity or idea. This is allegedly an evolutionary advantage, but the truth is that echo chamber effect results in spreading at a global level an idea which may be wrong, which may not be factual and such leads to situations like Brexit, Trump, and so on.”

8 – How can this immediate consumption lead to a cultural setback of the population?

 

I think we look less at things. We are falling into a cliché of “I don’t have an opinion on this”, but I watch a documentary done by someone that lives inside my bubble, and therefore, thinks like me, and we end up surrounded by people that tell us yes – this is biological. Why is hate such a strong force in humanity? Because by hating someone, we strengthen ties with people who hate the same entity or idea. This is allegedly an evolutionary advantage, but the truth is that echo chamber effect results in spreading at a global level an idea which may be wrong, which may not be factual and such leads to situations like Brexit, Trump, and so on.

 

9 – Would it be interesting to see how the current politics would survive without Internet?

 

I like history, but I’m not a history scholar, I see the description of feudal systems in the Middle Ages, where they used the fear and ignorance to rule; and in many ways we have  changed our churches, the conventional ones have lost importance, but the churches of Apple, Facebook, among others, keep growing. In the other day, I entered an Apple store in London and it is a church, there is a cult, priests, a pilgrimage to visit that worship place and I feel that there are many parallels between the feudal system and what we live nowadays, because in the end we live with the crumbs we are given with, work is seen as an obligation and the less people think and the less they reflect, and the more you impose ideas on them, the more people settle in and accept that this is the reality in which they have to live in, is that thing “you have to work, you have to work”, of course yes, great, work is a great source of meaning in life, but why are we working for others? An Uber driver, for instance, works for a company and pays them a monthly fee, but why doesn’t that person open a company himself? Ah, because it is complicated, and then there’s the taxes and so on. I don’t blame the person who does not do that, these are little devil advocates living inside us who prevent us from chasing our dreams. I am not criticizing the company that has employees, nor the employee that doesn’t want to start his own company because he does not want to live in fear of economic uncertainty. The truth is that living in fear facilitates things for others.

10 – For many years there has been a debate that Portuguese music should be valued more. What is the Portuguese music?

 

Can you define French music? Does it have a language? Does it have its own instrument? I think in Air, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Daft Punk and Stromae and I don’t see a prominent style, an instrument, etc.

It’s like in the USA, you have the Californian scene which takes form in Kendrick Lamar, Low-fi hip hops, Kamasi Washington, garage rock bands, etc. But what is the abstract idea of the French music? Is that it is sophisticated, romantic, even though there are exceptions of course, I am trying to say the words that come to my mind, it’s also melancholic, cheesy sometimes, elegant. What is the Los Angeles music? It’s sunny, relaxed when compared to the cold of New York. In other words, I think that investing in Portuguese music as a genre is not a strategy, is an abstract idea; we can be the California of Europe or have a collective and individual identity and the two are not mutually exclusive.

I feel part of the Portuguese music. If someone tells me that the Portuguese music has to be sung in Portuguese, I still feel part of the Portuguese music. And I feel that iZem, a French producer, of Algerian origin, living in Lisbon, makes Portuguese music. I feel that someone that is not even Portuguese and comes from Moçambique and lives here makes Portuguese music. Someone that lives in Toronto and sings in Portuguese makes Portuguese music. I believe this is an abstract connection to a community and that’s why if we worry about fragmentizing it, we are missing the point.

I think we can be a lot of things, someone singing in Portuguese in Toronto may also belong to the Canadian music. It is of great importance that there are no barriers to what a person can be, you can make rock and dance music and you don’t have to belong to a tribe.

11 – You have a particular relationship with Mexico, why? How did it start? And how do you feed this relationship?

 

Mexico is a country that I have a huge affection for and I love it with all its problems and incredible things. This connection emerged right in my first years of my career, there were some Mexican blogs talking about my project. The Mexican people in general consume a lot of music, besides being many millions, and therefore you have Mexico City with so many people which means that there is space for all the projects, including mine. This has led to radios and blogs to invest in me and it became a micro-phenomenon at a national level. I have been going there almost every year, more than once, I made a lot of musician friends, people from the editors, promoters, people not related to music and, thus, I try to strengthen these ties whenever possible. It’s a real and emotional connection to Mexico.

Maybe there is a factor in my music which is connected to the Mexican audience, because it’s a positive style of light, I look at it at an artistic level.

12 – The actor Billy Porter (Pose) wore his tuxedo gown at the Oscars and said that clothes have no gender. How do you see this? What is your opinion about the growing phenomenon of not distinguishing genders?

 

 I would like people get themselves less and less in shelves or tags, because they can be several things at the same time and the truth is that we are what we feel and when I sometimes see some sort of homophobia or transphobia, I believe that no one loses time putting themselves in the other person’s shoes, because if they do… Once I went to a medical conference about the gender change surgery and when I realized the violence of the surgery that is necessary for someone to change his genre, I realized that no one can think that one is playing with this, because it’s indeed very serious for someone to feel he is not okay with his given body and wanting a change; because what that person will have to go through – not to mention the reaction of society and family – is so violent that only someone who really wants to do it can do it.

It’s not anyone’s job to criticize the someone else’s options as long as such options do not interfere with their personal freedoms. There is a social pressure to segment and divide ourselves into pieces, but we have to resist that, and maybe that was the realization I got when I did Hypersex; not wanting to make a manifest album evidencing what’s wrong, but rather a manifest album which highlights what’s right, which is we still like to dance with each other and as long as that happens there is a meaning in dance music, there is a social, political and spiritual meaning in dance music. We tolerate being close to other people across the dance floor and that’s very beautiful – and if this is my hallmark then I’m proud to have it.

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