Pedro Primo Figueiredo

Illustration by: Mariana Cáceres

Interview by: João Miguel Fernandes (originally published in 2014)

Occupation: Journalist

Click here to read the interview in Portuguese


1 – What reasons have led you to choose the “Communication and Culture” course at the Faculty of Letters of Lisbon?

Basically I wanted to take journalism or something, but I had no grades to take the course at “Universidade Nova”, which had a fairly high average. I didn’t want to leave Lisbon and what I found closest was this course at the Faculty of Letters. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a journalist or not. In the end it had everything to go well, it wasn’t the biggest school of life, but it didn’t treat me badly, and as I liked to communicate and everything related to culture that decision made sense.

2 – You were the director of your universities newspaper, “Os Fazedores de Letras”. What do you think of the newspaper these days?

I lost touch with most of the staff. At the time I went to the newspaper through the contact of a friend who also was the director. We liked the overall content, but found the newspaper a bit limited. As we liked more music we tried to increase this area, because the newspaper was very devoted to theater, poetry, etc. At the time we were three directors, I was there a year and such, then the direction changed. I still have contact with some people I met there, but I lost contact with the newspaper. The flow of the newspaper is more internal, I don’t know if it’s still active or not and I have not been to university for too long.

I completely lost the notion of the newspaper these days. I always thought it was a very elitist newspaper and that’s what I wanted to change. When I was in my early twenties, poetry is ok, but the truth is that we also liked music. I remember interviewing Rita Carmo and João Lopes, two very interesting people who, although they were not mainstream, fit well in the context of the newspaper and its audience. At the time the university also had some kind of underground concerts, even “Vicious Five” got to play there. The newspaper nowadays could eventually reach a larger audience, although it’s difficult to print more newspapers, but perhaps the path of the digital pdf could allow further expansion.

Of course I’m in favor of a printed newspaper with good design, good pagination, but if you can’t get there physically then go for the digital. I never had a very strong academic culture, although I had been director of an academic newspaper, I have no academic nostalgia, for me it was like going to high school, the difference is that I had to get more transports to get there. I’ve never had the cult of the praxis. I continued to live in my parents’ house, a shy boy, stuck in my world and feeling well at home.

3 – How did you end up at DIF and how do you end up being responsible for the culture part until this day?

Today I’m less connected to DIF. When I went to Brussels I had to disconnect a little because I wasn’t physically present. I started collaborating with DIF with the previous direction, with Francisco Vaz Fernandes. However, a divergence emerged and PARQ emerged. I can’t remember how I got into it, but I estimate I sent an email to write about some stuff, that’s for sure. I had already written some things, but I was in my early twenties and no one was going to come to me to write. I just went to the technical part of the website and sent an email.

I remember that the first texts I wrote were about The Killers when they were a credible band. At the time I must have made great compliments, but with time I know I wasn’t right. This was back in 2005/2006. I still wrote few things for PARQ. DIF is a brand that still has influence and quality. There was a time when I took the lead of the musical part and made some contacts. In the meantime I went to Brussels and stayed a bit without the central role I had, which is totally natural.

4 – What are the main cultural differences between Belgium and Portugal?

Latinos are different from all others. When I was in Brussels the people with whom I identified most were mostly Latinos. We can leave everything to the last second, but the truth is that when we get into things we do more and better, even if we have fewer possibilities. I think it also has to do with time, in April you have sun and just want to be on the balcony relaxing. With this style we like to go sunbathing, catching some air, going to the beach doing nothing. If the Germans or the Norse had this they would also be like us. They have to go home or go elsewhere because during the winter time, at 4 pm it’s dark and it rains all winter.

We have one thing that’s impressive which are the gigantic malls. When I lived in Brussels there were two small malls and it’s the center of Europe. They had lots of small centers that closed at 8pm. This reminds me of a curious story that happened to a Slovene ex-wife of a colleague of mine, who was immensely astonished to come to Portugal and at 10 o’clock to go and get some pants. So much sun and at the same time so many spaces to close us.

“I was working with almost everything to have fun, I was in the university and I could always save some money. Even today I’m friends with most of the people I was writing with.”

5 – Tell me about your working experience at “Clix” and other websites that you have collaborated with.

My first ever interview was made at Clix. It was for “Scissor Sisters”, in a five-star hotel in “Marquês de Pombal” (Lisbon). They were playing for an MTV thing at LUX. It was very cool, they’re cool dudes. It was a friend who challenged me to write some things about music. It was a strong entry to write about records, interview some guys and go to concerts, but the motivation was not even money, it was really the thing of meeting musicians and listening to music for free.

When you’re a kid and you go to a five-star hotel interviewing an international band everything is new and very cool. Scissor Sisters have their own style, but for the interview they were dressed informally, jeans, t-shirts, it was funny to see them that way. I was working with almost everything to have fun, I was in the university and I could always save some money. Even today I’m friends with most of the people I was writing with. I had to leave some of them because I started working and unfortunately can’t do everything. But still a few years ago, people from “Rua De Baixo” invited me to “organize” some concerts in PT bluestation and it was cool. Nowadays we are always in touch with everything and everyone, even with the musicians, there is no longer that journalistic separation.

6 – With the increase of cultural blogs, do you think that digital journalism is the future?

I have to separate the areas. I have a job at Lusa and I love doing it, but then there is the type of cultural journalism I also do, from websites, etc. I don’t think it’s a question of being or not the future. It’s simply a part that no one can neglect, both musicians or promoters. At the time “Rua De Baixo” was born there were far fewer websites because it was difficult to create and explore them in a simple way. Nowadays you can see a good gallery of concert photos almost instantly. In fact they are a great platform to start writing. The problem is that there is no money in this area to evolve. If you look at it as fun and a way to write more loosely, less agency, then it’s cool. It will always be part of the future because it’s essential for musicians to reach out to other people. If you are dependent only on the big media, TV and radio, then you are much more limited. In TV, for example, there was until recently “Planeta Música” in tricky schedules, as well as “Poplusa” and other type of programs, but they have little room in tv and nowadays with the internet you can see it in youtube.

Newspapers are also complicated, they sell less and less, there are supplements disappearing, or with less focus in music. Of course for musicians to reach to just one of the online websites will not give them more viewers, but getting to ten yes, will no doubt increase their exposure. For example, “PAUS” with small interviews for small websites and blogs, end up benefiting more than if they appear only on “Epsilon”, for example, because their audience is wider, it’s more scattered, it’s better that they reach everyone. It’s very good to have people that are willing to create such websites and keep them. There are people who volunteer to organize all this.

At this moment websites are already in a second phase, when I started it was mainly people of the college and university, nowadays, and for example in “Altamont”, I have my job, there is another that is TAP commissioner, another works in a radio , another has a hostel. Of course there are also new collaborators, but most do it for pleasure. It’s people with their jobs, but they still find time to write some “shit”, in the good sense. It’s good to get to a level where bands share what we write and we get lots of page views.

 

7 – How has been the experience in Lusa and how was the experience of working for a year in Brussels?

 

When I finished the course I made an internship at a communication company, but I wasn’t really enjoying it, even though I was getting paid for it. Then I had the opportunity to do a three-month internship at Lusa and since I was living with my parents I decided to take the risk. I happened to be staying in Lusa, with different contractual regimes, until today, this since 2009. I started working with the culture area, then I went to country, I picked the municipal elections of 2009, later I went to media, within economy, but on TVs and newspapers, then I joined the economy and had the opportunity to go to Brussels for a year as a correspondent, which was amazing. When I returned I returned to economy and I moved to politics a few months ago.

On one hand it’s good to move around different areas, I have already covered the fires in the mountains, I have already done macroeconomic graphs, I have interviewed Suede, Durão Barroso, etc, but on the other hand it’s tricky because I haven’t managed to stay more than a year in the same place , so I haven’t yet had that stability in an area. It was really good in Brussels. Lusa has a delegation with three people there and one of them is rotating year after year. And they gave that opportunity to the youngest, a chance to be away for a year. I got an “excellent” year, from the pure and hard crisis, a Portuguese president, there was a great Portugal inherent therein and Brussels is a city that is very easy to adapt, very global. It’s a city where you have fifty nationalities and a large Portuguese community. For us journalists, there were three Portuguese, but then there were other journalists from other entities and you ended up meeting more people. At the cultural level it was a great school of work and life. Lisbon is already a very strong city, but Brussels is the center of Europe on a cultural level. When there was a concert I wanted to see I had to buy the ticket well in advance.

The difference for Lisbon is that on a Tuesday and Wednesday there are always concerts and often sold out, at completely affordable prices and with a lot of competition. There are also many museums and other cultural activities. In Europe, I think that only London is better, everything goes to Brussels, you take the train and you have France, Germany, the Netherlands, among others, it’s an excellent centrality. It’s an excellent city to live for some years, because it ends up not being a mega metropolis and at the same time you have everything. If you’re a sociable guy, it’s a great city to meet people.

8 – If you had to choose a person who influenced you outside the professional area who would you chose and why?

 

The most obvious to me is my mother, by far. My parents in general, my mother more, my father influenced me in the musical part, because I had heard a lot of good music since I was a kid, my mother doesn’t really care about music. My father wouldn’t come up to me to show me his records, but he would play them and I would absorb them. My mother has shaped me a lot, I’m a great product of the people who have influenced me the most and my mother is the person who knows me the best and who has been in my life for the longest time, and being a boy and an only child, it’s normal to have a greater proximity to the mother, at least I have this idea.

I really like my father, but there are things I tell my mother about, on the one hand it would have maybe made more sense to tell my father, because we are men, but no. The things that I value most in me come from my mother, although I know that I have several defects, I shouldn’t be so impulsive, for example. The job is something that I value a lot, because I have it today, but tomorrow I may not have it. The working culture comes clearly from my mother.

Nowadays, I see people who don’t have the minimum good education and that shocks me a bit, because good education is the minimum you should have. I never had a street culture, we moved house many times, through Queluz, Massamá, until I was twenty years old, so I never had the concept of neighborhood friends, my friends were school friends. Then I met people related to music and journalism.

9 – Do you have any specific memory of your childhood that comes to your mind?

 

Yes, my grandmother. I grew up with my grandparents. And my paternal grandmother was, along with my mother, the person who most influenced me. She lived in Queluz, where my father grew up, in a neighborhood called the colonial neighborhood and she lived on Timor Street. She was picking me up from kindergarten, and I grew up with her in a very present way until high school, because I had classes in the morning on the tenth, eleventh grade I was having lunch at her house several times a week. It’s a memory that I have, which I have lost, she passed away when I was in the university. I remember once that in her yard I picked up some of the red things she had in the garden and put them in her mouth, I suddenly screamed because they were chili peppers. To this day I don’t recommend this.

“All crises compel you to be better and this is not necessarily bad. Of course this is not great either, but we have to know how to enjoy the less good times. In good times we take for granted what we already have and sometimes in times of crisis we tend to try harder.”

10 – If you could rule Portugal and had to send the crisis away what would you do?

 

It’s very difficult because it doesn’t just depend on us. Being so attached to this is tricky to answer properly, because my vision is a bit scattered. I have some bases of economy, of the political game that unfolds, but unfortunately I can’t answer objectively. It’s not possible to get around this crisis with a flick of your fingers. I would like that the crisis wouldn’t be so comprehensive in people, but it’s very difficult because it’s a machine superior to all of us, of markets that dominate everything. I would like for people to have life quality and that the crisis were managed alongside people’s lives.

People know they have to be less ambitious, but the tone shouldn’t be so negative. I think this will turn, but it will take a few years, yes, but I think that regardless of the political color, things are moving forward in a positive way. It’s necessary that the people won’t be destroyed until then.

11 – Do you think that crisis makes creativity bloom?

 

This is a good idea and yes, I think that all crises foster creativity, be it related with love, finances or identity. If you can do your art without the crisis not closing you and blocking you, of course. There are many bands connected to political intervention, since slavery in America, that have experienced serious crisis and managed to pick it up and create music. It’s true that all crisis boost creativity. I feel that in some areas better texts are created if the person is more emotionally fragile. At least in writing, in music, in other areas I don’t know, but it makes sense. In more general crisis, people have to work harder, because the support and resources diminish a lot.

There is less room to book concerts and make money. In the past it was possible to invest more on new bands when you had great artists, with everybody with a chance to make money, but nowadays you can only pay the headliner. We just need to talk to any musician, they will say that it’s complicated in Portugal to organize a tour. And so people have to work harder and fight more, to invent, to create other things. I remember the euphoria after Silence 4 in which several bands appeared singing in English and thinking they would go outside of the country and have a career, nowadays one doesn’t think so much about it and that euphoria has calmed. All crises compel you to be better and this is not necessarily bad. Of course this is not great either, but we have to know how to enjoy the less good times. In good times we take for granted what we already have and sometimes in times of crisis we tend to try harder.

12 – Tell me about a person from your professional field who has influenced you or taught you something.

 

I have two professional fields, one as a conventional journalist, connected to politics, economics, etc., then I have the other field, which I have for the longest time, the field connected to writing on websites, about music, etc. Starting with the first one, especifically Lusa, there is one person who influenced me a lot in the middle of the course, André Campos, who is the head of the Lusa delegation in Brussels. When I was there he was an absolutely decisive person in my integration, he gave me another type of journalism and experience out of everything I had. He brings great talent to what he does, and he is currently a great friend of mine, so it was a special year for me, a great transition. He appeared at a time when I wasn’t so young, but eventually influenced me on a professional and personal level, here and there.

From the other professional field I will give a slightly different example, David Fonseca. When I was a kid I didn’t listen to “Silence 4” very much, but there was always someone in the school who played their songs. At that time I saw David Fonseca as a famous guy, with a very successful band. David Fonseca is connected to the two national projects that have sold the most in recent years, “Silence 4” and “Humanos” and we must recognize this. As I was advancing in my career it’s curious to see that I have been creating a reciprocal affective relationship, whether through comments, messages. To me this means that I have been doing something right in my life, because basically I feel that we have both evolved. And he is super professional, I remember I was interviewing him at 7:00 pm once and David was giving interviews since 9:00 am. I was a kid at the time, and he kept all his posture, with all the professionalism and sympathy. And this is a sign of a person who knows how to work. Besides, that’s the only big fan of Ryan Adams in Portugal besides me. I can also get the example of “Linda Martini”, specifically the Hélio Morais to whom I’m closer to, because they played in my old school in the old bands, I ended up growing up with them, although they are a little older than me.

Then it’s nice to see the evolution of people, since playing in schools, sheds until today, for example Hélio has a great respect of the younger people and that’s great, it’s people that I admire and I have great memories of. We’ve all been evolving and I like to see that. I hope that ten years from now everyone will be playing music and I will be writing about music somewhere.

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