Black Bombaim interview with Tojo Rodrigues
Black Bombaim is one of those well kept secrets, obsessively followed by those that know and respect them, that the rest of the world just seems to be catching on to. They have been cultivating their monstrously hazy stoner rock for almost five years at this point and if their latest endeavor Titans is any indication of where the band is headed from here then they are going to be a genre crushing machine, defying limitations out outperforming expectations left and right. Black Bombaim’s one of those rare breed of fuzzed out shredding stoner rock bands that bothers to right material beforehand, and you can tell. While there might be a fair bit of exploration and improvisation when it comes to certain elements of the songs ninety-nine percent of it is meticulously planned and painstakingly performed. Seemingly endless soundscapes of apocalyptic doom metal boom and trundle their way into your subconscious, the massive riffs nestling themselves like demons in the dark corners and folds of your mind. Join me as I unravel the mysteries behind the beginnings of Black Bombaim and travel with me as I learn about where they are headed from here in the smoked out fuzzy haze that is Black Bombaim.
Listen while you read: http://blackbombaim.bandcamp.com/
What is the band’s lineup? Is this your original lineup?
Black Bombaim is Ricardo Miranda on guitar, Tojo Rodrigues on bass and Paulo “Senra” Gonçalves playing the drums. We used to play with another guitarist, Fábio, but that was a long time ago before we had released anything. Since the 2009 EP, we’ve been a trio.
Are any of you in any other bands? Have you released any material with them?
Ricardo and Paulo play in a garage rock band called ALTO! You can find their releases here. Ricardo also plays synths and keys in an electronic duo called PHASE.
Where are you originally from?
The three of us are all from a small industrial town in northern Portugal called Barcelos.
Where is the band currently located?
We’re still based here in Barcelos.
How would you describe the local scene there?
Barcelos is a very curious case regarding the local music scene. It’s even caught the attention of the national mainstream media who are wondering why so many bands, including some extremely good ones, have come out of this small town. A lot of people call it the “Portuguese Capital of Rock”, whatever that means… I still think the main reason for so many bands starting here is boredom; and the fact that Barcelos is such a small place that you get to know everyone, so if someone starts a band it automatically inspires you to start one too. It’s either that or playing soccer.
Are you very involved with the local scene? Has it played a large role in the history or evolution of Black Bombaim?
I like to think so. Barcelos has had two major “band booms”. There was one in the 90s with a lot of experimental and alternative bands that caught the media’s eye and made people start looking at this town differently. Then another sprout came in the mid 2000’s, this time more focused on rock. It inspired us to start the band and to look for gigs outside Barcelos. And now, in 2013, you see loads of new bands coming out, kids that were about fourteen when we saw them at our shows, and they’re keeping the scene alive, playing and promoting shows in town.
How and when did you all meet?
We probably met ten years ago in high school. Well, I’ve known Ricardo all my life, as he’s my neighbor, but we met Paulo in high school. We all had this big group that got together between periods to smoke some and trade music on burned CD-Rs, and we heard Paulo played drums with some friends and had a very small rehearsal space under his parents’ supermarket. To this day, we still rehearse and write all of our records in there.
What led you to start Black Bombaim?
Probably out of boredom, and a wish of taking our love of music to a different level. We were very young, about fifteen or something.
I don’t like to label or classify music, how would you describe Black Bombaim’s sound to our readers?
Heavy instrumental psych rock. That might sum it up.
There are some pretty apparent influences in your music, but the more you listen to it the more layers and textures you find to the music, the complexity of something that you make sound, for lack of a better term, “so easy”, is incredible to me. Can you talk about some of your personal musical influences? What about the band as a whole as opposed to just personally?
It’s difficult to explain how your influences connect with the way you make music yourself, but it certainly does happen. When you play rock music it’s obvious you’re reaching, as far as blues and classic rock n’ roll, which we all love, but we like to employ various influences to make it interesting for us, even if they’re not so obvious. We all love fuzz drenched guitars and psychedelia, but even if you can’t tell by listening to our music, we are very influenced by African grooves and German electronic music. I think it expanded our horizons and made us feel different about rock music, which was very important when we were writing those songs, even if it’s not a direct or apparent influence.
Alan Forbes has done several pieces of artwork for you guys. How did you become involved with Alan? I love his work!
Alan is amazing! We got to know his work by seeing incredible art he’d done for bands we really liked and we had wanted to work with him ever since. When we got the opportunity to work with, I just wrote him and he replied right away and started working on it! He’s really an amazing artist and wonderful person.
Do you give a lot of thought to artwork or the visual aspect of the band?
Artwork definitely yes! We think it’s very important, especially when you play psychedelic music. There are a lot of synergies between music and visual art and when you release music on vinyl, artwork’s taken to a different level. We also love to play when there are psychedelic projections but we haven’t done it enough. Now if by visual aspect, you mean how we or the stage looks when we get up there, we don’t really care.
Can you talk a little bit about Black Bombaim’s writing process? Is there a lot of jamming or does someone come in with a riff or more polished idea and present it to the band? You guys are fairly open about your usage of drugs, at least marijuana and psychedelics, are they a large part of the process?
Most of it is jamming in the rehearsal space until we find something we all like. Sometimes somebody has an idea, a riff or a groove and we try to develop that, again by jamming to it. We only try to figure stuff out and really work on something after we jam on it a lot, it gives you a better idea of what’s possible and the feeling of the whole thing. Well we used to smoke a lot back in the day, but we have since slowed down a bit. It’s cool and all, but I don’t think we really need it to write or to play; we do enjoy having a good time of course!
I know you guys have discussed the details of many of your albums with Klemen in a previous interview, can you tell us a little bit about the recording of Titans? Where was it recorded at? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?
We had a great time recording Titans even though it was a very different experience from our previous album. It was a more cerebral process on how to let the various parts flow together as one and how to connect the guests with it. We recorded it with Zé Nando Pimenta, an excellent producer and engineer on his property near Famalicão, in northern Portugal; a beautiful place with forests and lakes, we had the whole Led Zeppelin IV vibe recording there. He also has a huge collection of vintage microphones and a wonderfully sounding Neve 8088 console, which practically makes everything sound amazing, and that was basically it. We recorded 90% of it live in his studio and then our guests recorded their parts in various studios across Porto, Lisbon, Oakland and San Francisco.
What was the idea behind having so many amazing guest appearances on the album how did that all come about?
The idea came loosely to us after a big drinking night with the number one man at our label Lovers & Lollypops, Joaquim Durães. We were talking about what to do for the next record, and we wanted to do something different, and then the idea came to us; why not do a record with people we met along the way, who we like and admire playing on it? We know that idea has been overdone so many times, but we thought our music could be expanded, and there was a lot of room to explore. So, that journey began.
How did you handle recording with all the guest musicians?
It was all relatively easy, everybody was so cool when we contacted them, and were interested from day one and excited to play on it. We just sent them the songs and said, “Do whatever you want on it”.
What does the name Titans mean or refer to? What about Saturdays And Space Travels, I love that title and always wondered exactly where it came from.
We always struggle to find titles for stuff we do, songs, albums, even the band name! But I guess Titans simply refers to the people that played on the record, and since it is quite long in duration we wanted something that was “big-sounding”. Can’t go bigger than a Titan. Saturdays And Space Travels came from the times we spent in our rehearsal space where we would get together on Saturdays and space out while we jammed. Simple as that.
Can you talk about your collaboration with GNOD recently? How did you come to play with them? What about the decision to release a record of the performance?
We first met them when we were touring the UK. They actually helped us find a couple of shows where we could share the stage with them. At that time, Joaquim from Lovers & Lollypops, that also runs a festival in our hometown had already booked them to play that year. We had a great time and we were telling them cool things about Portugal until they told us they weren’t gonna take a drummer to the festival, they would electronics only do. We told them they should do two shows, one more electronic oriented and another one with us together on stage playing their songs. When they arrived we were drinking a nice bottle of Alentejo wine at our place when we decided, “Fuck it, let’s just get everybody on stage, and improvise something”. That’s what we did. We had no idea at all what to do beforehand. It was super fun, and by chance, local radio man Manuel Melo recorded the show from the audience with just this tiny Zoom recorder. Dave from Cardinal Fuzz, who we met playing with GNOD in Manchester, heard about the recording that was made and released it!
What about the track “Marraquexe” that you recorded with Rodrigo Amado for the Bodyspace 10 Anos compilation?
Bodyspace is the best webzine in Portugal regarding music, and when they celebrated ten years they invited a great number of people and bands to pair up and record an original song together. They put us together with Rodrigo Amado, an exceptional saxophone player, and since we were listening to a lot of Arabic music at that time we decided to call it “Marraquexe”. Funny thing, we recorded our part in northern Portugal and Rodrigo in Lisbon without knowing each other, and only met a few months later in Lisbon to play the song live!
Do you have any releases planned for this year?
Not for 2013, but we plan on releasing a new Black Bombaim record next year. There’s also another collaboration with a more jazzy and post rock band La La La Ressonance. We got together to write some songs together for a live show, and decided to record and release it. It was crazy. Nine people on stage, doing very different stuff from what we’re used to, but that connects in a very special way. We’re really proud of that recording.
Where is the best place for US residents to buy your records from and what do you still have in print? Where’s the best place for international residents to purchase your music?
I know that Permanent Records in LA and Chicago, and Thirsty Moon Records in San Diego stocked a few of our records, but don’t know if they’ve still got them. Rough Trade in London and Norman Records in Leeds, UK should have a few left. There’s always our own Bandcamp page, but the US dollar to EURO rates and the ridiculously expensive shipping costs don’t make it easy on the fans’ wallets.
What do you have planned as far as touring goes this year so far?
Just a few here and there, shows in Portugal, nothing much. We want to focus on writing the next album.
You have played with some of my absolute favorite bands over the years including Earthless who are without a doubt legendary in my mind. Who are some of your personal favorites that you’ve had the chance to play with?
We played with a lot of bands along the years that we really love, like White Hills, Russian Circles, Radio Moscow, Kyuss Lives, Endless Boogie, GNOD, Cuzo, the list goes on, almost too many to remember!
Is there a funny or interesting story from a live show that you’d like to share with our readers?
There might be a few, but it’s hard to tell them, as we’ve might been wasted and don’t remember the whole thing. But definitely, weird stuff happens at shows.
Where is the best place for our readers to keep up on the latest news from Black Bombaim like upcoming shows and releases?
Probably our Facebook page, we’re updating it frequently. We’re working on a website too which will have more complete info on things, but we don’t really know when it will be online.
The psychedelic and garage scene has been receiving a lot of attention, growing steadily over the last few years. How do you feel about the progression and growth of the scene internationally over the last two years?
I, personally, think it’s great. A lot of good stuff is coming out and there’s a better general awareness of psychedelic music now, and as long as it doesn’t implode, we can all be happy of so many fine records and festivals happening.
I love having a digital copy of an album to listen to when I’m on the go or whatever, but there’s something irreplaceably magical about a physical release. Having an album to hold in your hands, having something to look at and physically experience while listening to the music makes for a more complete experience, at least for me. Do you have any such connection to physical releases?
Of course! Digital music comes in handy a lot of times and is indeed more practical, but, and there is no overstating this, everything about vinyl is better!
Do you have a music collection? If so can you tell us a little bit about it?
Not a big one, sadly. It’s mostly made of records I really want to buy to support the band and small bargains I find from time to time. There’s no specific musical genre or anything, just random records. I wish I could take it more seriously and had more money to spend on it!
How do you feel about digital music and distribution? While it’s rapidly changing the face of the music industry it’s an indispensable tool for those of us fixated on discovering new bands that aren’t exactly in our backyards, exposing me to a whole universe of music I would never have heard of otherwise.
I guess we need to think about digital music like a big important part of the industry nowadays. Like you said, it’s the ultimate tool for music discovery. Hell you wouldn’t have ever heard about Black Bombaim and this interview wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for a couple of mp3 files flying away in the internet. It’s great and sometimes a very lucrative business for major label with iTunes and whatnot, but we can’t forget about the big picture. Like Neil Young says, it sucks when musicians spend time and effort doing what they love, as well as thousands of dollars in making something sound and look beautiful, only to be blasted out of some kids’ earphones with ridiculous compression, sounding nothing like the original. I mean, digital is good in many aspects, but it should not be the ultimate form of listening to music.
I ask everyone this in an attempt to keep up with the amazing bands out there, who I be listening to from your local scene or area that they might not have heard of?
There are quite a few bands in Barcelos worth checking out from various music styles. I’ll just name a few, The Glockenwise, Aspen, Killimanjaro, La La La Ressonance, Dear Telephone, indignu, etcetera.
What about nationally and internationally?
I hate doing these things, as I keep forgetting most of them and feel bad for leaving them out, so I’ll just name the three national ones that come to mind right now; you should seriously check out Sensible Soccers, Gala Drop and Norberto Lobo.
Is there anything that I missed or you’d like to discuss further?
Think we covered everything!
– Roman Rathert
(2007) Black Bombaim – 2007 Demo – Digital – Self-Released
(2009) Black Bombaim – Black Bombaim – CD-R – Lovers & Lollypops / Sonic Infusion Records
(2010) Black Bombaim – Saturdays And Space Travels – 12” – Lovers & Lollypops (Limited to 300 hand numbered copies)
(2010) Black Bombaim and The Notorious Hi-Fi Killers – Alexandra b/w You’re Going To Be Free – CD – Noisestar/Lovers & Lollypops (Limited to 50 hand screen-printed copies)
(2010) Black Bombaim and The Notorious Hi-Fi Killers – Alexandra b/w You’re Going To Be Free – CD-R – Noisestar/Lovers & Lollypops (Reissue, limited to 50 copies)
(2011) Black Bombaim – Live At Passos Manuel – Cassette Tape – Tapes She Said (Limited to 77 copies)
(2012) Black Bombaim – Titans – 2×12” – Lovers & Lollypops (Limited to 500 copies)
(2012) Black Bombaim – Saturdays And Space Travels – 12” – Lovers & Lollypops (Limited to 27 copies with alternate artwork)
(2012) Various Artists – Bodyspace 10 Anos – CD – Optimus Discos (Black Bombaim and Rodrigo Amodo contribute the track Marraquexe, album available for free download at http://optimusdiscos.pt/discos/destaques/coletanea-bodyspace)
(2012) Black Gnod – Black Gnod: Inner Space Broadcasts Vol. 3 – Cardinal Fuzz (Limited to 160 copies)