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Sergio Dias (center) co-founded Os Mutantes in Sao Paulo, Brazil in the mid 1960s.
An illuminating chat with Brazilian psych/rock legend Sergio Dias By Bill DeYoung | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s no wonder that the traditionalists of late 1960s Brazil hated the tropicalia movement. A trippy mashup of psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll (both the British and American versions) and Latin sounds and rhythms, with elements of beat poetry, jazz, early electronica and costumed theatricality, tropicalia was a wave created by long-haired young people. And in the ‘60s, waves created by long-haired young people — be they cultural, social or political — were automatically considered threats. So those who resented the westernization of Brazilian music referred to the movement derisively as iê-iê-iê (yeah yeah yeah). And the tropicalismos spoke out against the oppressive military regime that had taken over their country in a 1964 junta. This made the Brazilian government very, very nervous. Perhaps the most culturally significant of the tropicalia bands was Os Mutantes (“The Mutants”), consisting (initially) of singer/guitarist Sergio Dias Baptista, his bassist/singer brother Arnaldo and lead vocalist Rita Lee (who also played the theremin, that freaky sci-fi electronic wave-pattern instrument). Os Mutantes’ music was wild, colorful, celebratory, beautifully unpredictable. It’s also no wonder that
expressive contemporary artists like Beck, David Byrne, and of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes cite the band as a major influence. Beck, in fact, once described hearing Os Mutantes for the first time as “one of those revelatory moments you live for as a musician, when you find something that you have been wanting to hear for years but never thought existed. “I made records like Odelay because there was a certain sound and sensibility that I wanted to achieve,” he continued. “And it was eerie to find that they had already done it 30 years ago, in a totally shocking but beautiful and satisfying way.” Since 2006, Sergio Dias (as he is professionally known) has fronted a different lineup of Os Mutantes
— and it’s this version that will appear Nov. 20 at Dollhouse Productions, touring behind the all-new Fool Metal Jack album, supported by the most excellent Brazilian rock trio Capsula. Are we looking at Savannah’s Show of the Year for 2013? Iê-Iê-Iê! Sergio, what are you doing in Las Vegas? What a weird place. Sergio Dias: [laughing] Well, if you think about my life, and the history of tropicalia … have you ever walked on the Strip? It is a total kaleidoscope of craziness. Stupidity, nonsense, fantastic. But that’s not really what caught me here. I was here when we were nominated for the Latin Grammy. I never thought about putting my foot on Vegas. I used to live like 10 years in Manhattan. And I was driving all over the U.S. Never got interested in Vegas. I don’t drink, I don’t gamble or anything. When we stepped out of the plane, arriving specially, and saw the beauty of the nature … the mountains just really blew my mind. They keep on changing, the colors, and the energy here is so extremely magical, you can feel the entities of the Shoshones and the Navajos and all this, they’re alive here. And then you go 30 miles and you’re at Lake