When Joaquim Paulo started working at the radio in 1984, he was just aged 17 but already owned a record collection that could barely be reviewed. Since his early youth he was fascinated by the sheer inexhaustible diversity of Brazilian music, which since some years now is arriving on European shores in the form of ever larger waves of numerous reissues and compilations. Mad about new forms of expression in bossa nova, undiscovered gems between funk, jazz and tropicália as well as the thousand facets of música popular brasileira, Paulo founded Mad About Records at the beginning of the last decade. The ambition: Helping the country’s underground with its exotic musical mavericks to connect to a contemporary audience that is interested in Brazilian sounds beyond big names like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil or Tom Zé.
»From a very young age, I was a very attentive spectator of the world of record labels who did their promotional work with the radio stations where I worked. This was my first contact, and I would say where I learned the most. Over the years, I met and became friends with the heads of other labels who inspired me. Perhaps the experience that inspired me the most because I watched it very closely was with Whatmusic of my great friend Gary Corben. I remember the day I entered the office in London. It was an impact and partly marked my decision to feed this dream of having a record label«, Paulo remembers during the interview.
Just like Mad About, Corben’s label Whatmusic is specialized in reissues of Brazilian music but also has an eye for works of those lesser known artists between funk, jazz and soul coming from countries like Belgium (Open Sky Unit), England (Graham Collier Septet) or Finland (Quintessence). During the first couple of years the number of releases on Mad About was rather reluctant but offered nonetheless excellent albums by Cecil Taylor, Randy Weston or Toshiko Akiyoshi before the frequency of reissues gained momentum halfway through the 2010s. First in a quarterly rhythm, then almost every month Brazilian rarities were curated and released, most of which even experienced crate diggers didn’t have on their radar and if so: they had to pay insane prices on Discogs for them. Thus it became clear quite quickly which reissues were to be included in the label’s catalog – and which were not. »The records are chosen in a very simple way: they are the records that I really like.« »The records are chosen in a very simple way: they are the records that I really like. Then there are other factors that I consider. Its rarity. The absurdity of astronomical and unrealistic prices that sometimes reach platforms like Discogs. Obviously I get suggestions, mainly from close friends who have a very strong connection to the world of music«. Those connections are in line with the label’s policy neither restricted geographically nor musically. Two of Paulos closest friends: Brazilian songwriter Ed Motta and Gilles Peterson from Brownswood Recordings. The latter of which gave Paulo an almost pristine copy of the 1983 soul-jazz gem »Out Of The Blue« by Imani, which back then was only available in an extremely limited edition before Mad About released a high quality 12” reissue last year. »Gilles Peterson is certainly one of the biggest influences ever. I have known him for many years in the offices of Talkin’ Loud. He is a very generous person who helped me, for example, in a recent reissue of Mad About Records, the Imani LP. He sympathetically lent me his copy, which was in much better condition than mine. Above all, I respect his work as a great educator since decades.«
It is an unwavering open-mindedness for the whole spectrum from funk to jazz and soul, from swing to folk and obscure soundtracks that Paulo and Peterson have in common – both collect and listen to virtually everything in their scope, both have lost any idea of how many records their collections contain by now. 25, 40, 50 thousand? Who really cares since the quality of new reissues is guaranteed through the sheer numbers either way until kingdom come. Even considering the ludicrous rate of new reissues which Mad About is knocking out in the last two years, friends of Brazilian music of any kind can count on top notch obscure rarities for the foreseeable future. Any examples needed? Well, in July 2018 there was the bawdy score for Brazilian soft porn »Procura-se Uma Virgem« (Looking For A Virgin) from 1971, composed as well as arranged by pianist Erlon Chaves and recorded together with the Orquestra St. Moritz in a wonderfully chilled manner. Purring organs, vivid strings and wind instruments, beautiful melodies – there has got to be more of these erotic grooves, even if they are sometimes wrongly ridiculed as background tootling. Lo and behold, barely one year later Hareton Salvaninis 1983 »Xavana: Uma Ilha Do Amor« (Xavana: The Island Of Love) was reissued, a porn score whose tenor might be a bit too cheesy for love making after all but will fit any end of the day joint more properly than your average reggae playlist. Only two recent highlights in the still young Mad About oeuvre. »These records were chosen for their musical excellence. The fact that both are soundtracks for softcore films is pure coincidence«, Paulo insists. »These are records that I have had for many years and that I always dreamed of reissuing them. The originals are very rare, very expensive and deserved to be available. Hareton Salvanini’s record was of elementary justice to be reissued. He is one of the most unfairly ignored composers of Brazilian music.«
The sweet sins of summer are also known to other artists which Joaquim Paulo is helping to establish late or in part posthumous reputation among friends of the underground. Mostly with great success. How about the reissue of the extraordinarily accomplished »Flavor« by Mike Selesia, which despite its perfectly arranged instrumental diversity was literally unknown to most jazz afficionados until Mad About took the chance. Or the eponymous second album by Ronie & Central Do Brasil, sweetened by this beguiling lukewarm ease perfect for every scene at a bathing lake. Or »Mystic Beauty« by Reggie Andrews And The Fellowship, first released in the summer of ’69, then quickly forgotten between Post-Bop and the hippie hype but resurrected half a century later as unbeatable feel good music? Or »Gods In Brasil« by the already mentioned Gary Corben, who besides the work at Whatmusic and co-productions with Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso also wrote his own songs, gathering dust in the drawer since the mid-90s until producer Kassin and Mad About released them? Or the atmospheric Latin jazz on Jamans »Sweet Heritage«? Or, or, or.
»2020 is going to be a very interesting year for Mad About. I have a very ambitious editing plan.
Respect for the music and its creators can be heard and seen in every Mad About reissue – from the appropriate mastering to the clean pressings and the lovely designed sleeves. Yet there are unfounded accusations in the not so social media claiming the Portuguese label is committing copyright infringements and is ignoring artists or their families. »The only thing I can say is that all editions of Mad About are official, fully licensed. I despise all kinds of piracy. I like music too much, I have too much respect for musicians and as such the opportunistic approach is something that I repudiate. I know it is a fact in the music industry, often even from Labels apparently beyond suspicion. I am aware because of having a presence on social media I am always exposed to all kinds of malicious and lying comments. It is the reality of the new world of social media. But with that, I can do very well«. Rightly so. Why bother with the haters? Mad About already has too much accomplished for music of the past and too much envisioned for the future, there is no reason for letting the label be walked over by anyone. Inside the sound archives and collector basements of this world there are still countless treasures to be lifted. This year, the story will continue with the zeal and vigor Paulo is known for.
»2020 is going to be a very interesting year for Mad About. I have a very ambitious editing plan. I promise wonderful records. There are plans to launch unpublished music, such as that which the great Brazilian musician Luiz Eça composed for cinema, the beginning of a series of compilations and finally reissues in 7”-format. For the beginning of this year, I am very excited about the reissue of an album by musician Guilherme Coutinho that will surprise many people. A totally forgotten masterpiece. 2020 will also be the year in which I will publish new musicians. The first edition is the record »Gods In Brasil« by Gary Corben and produced by Kassin, and there are still plans for the edition of a record by Alberto Continentino, one of the best musicians and arrangers of the new Brazilian music.«