Brazilian producer Lincoln Olivetti remembered by friend and colleague Kassin
by Allen Thayer
Just months away from completing his first solo album in decades, the prolific arranger, producer, synthesizer pioneer and Brazilian “studio wizard” Lincoln Olivetti died as a result of multiple organ failure on January 14, 2015, at the age of sixty. A Brazilian Quincy Jones minus the patience for celebrity, Lincoln (often with his regular partner Robson Jorge) ruled the Brazilian airwaves and masterminded the most popular telenovela soundtracks during their heyday in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Along with the hits, higher paid jobs, and famous friends came the backlash, the accusations that Lincoln and Robson’s productions were “pasteurizing” the sophisticated songs of beloved MPB (acronym that literally means Brazilian Popular Music, but effectively means middle-class Brazilian pop music) stars like Caetano Veloso, Rita Lee, and Jorge Ben.
Following the tragically premature passing in 1993 of his closest friend and musical partner, Robson Jorge, Lincoln slid deeper into the shadows of the Brazilian music industry, but his perfectionist work ethic and engineering excellence kept him continuously employed into the ’90s and 2000s. In his final years, Lincoln befriended the younger producer and multi-instrumentalist, Kassin, who welcomed Lincoln back into the spotlight with a number of projects. First, it was adding some string arrangements to the mythical Tim Maia Racional Volume 3 tapes, which were unearthed lacking string parts. After that project Kassin and some other younger musicians friends of his encouraged Lincoln to perform publically under his own name for the first time since 1982, resulting in a handful of sold-out shows in Rio and São Paulo in 2011. Most recently nearly the same team were all working on a new Lincoln Olivetti solo album, the long awaited follow-up to his now legendary masterwork from 1982, Robson Jorge & Lincoln Olivetti.
Before we hear from Kassin about his friend and mentor’s final years and some memorable stories, I will share the most basic timeline and biography of Lincoln’s life as his story has rarely been told with the level of detail it deserves.
Born Lincoln Moreira (Olivetti—it’s not clear if this is actually part of his given name) in Nilopolis, a neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro in 1954, Lincoln was a child prodigy studying piano by the age of three and playing organ in a professional dance band by nine. Ostensibly to please his parents and to understand how his instruments and studio tools work, Lincoln studied electric engineering. “I also know everything about electronics,” Lincoln shared immodestly in an interview from 2011. “I love it when I fry some gear!” Studying electrical engineering by day, Lincoln moonlighted as leader and organ virtuoso with his own dance band. Even more impressive, when Ed Lincoln or Lafayette (who were the two leading bandleaders dominating the Rio nightlife with their swinging and syncopated dance bands) found himself double-booked, they would each call the teenaged Lincoln to keep their organ stool’s warm and funky in their absence.
By the age of eleven, he was earning enough money and accumulated enough gear to rent the house next to his parent’s home to rehearse and store his and his band’s gear. Lincoln’s first studio recording, Hot Parade No. 1 dropped in 1970 at the ripe age of sixteen years old and you can believe it looking at the photo on the back of the LP. The album is a fairly forgettable with typical instrumentation for of these ubiquitous organ “hits” album with a mix of international and Brazilian tunes. A couple years later we know that he moved to São Paulo, around 1972 to ’73, where he stayed for a few years playing gigs and occasionally recording, most notably on sessions for pop-crooner Antonio Marcos. Lincoln arrived in São Paulo known, if at all, as an organ player and up and coming bandleader, but he returned to Rio a few years later as a road-tested arranger. It was in São Paulo where Lincoln got his first taste of his future career path when he found himself playing keyboards on a recording with the legendary arranger for Roberto Carlos (among others), Chiquinho de Moraes. During one of these sessions Chiquinho told Lincoln, “You should be an arranger. You have an arranger’s mind,” according to the story Kassin heard from Lincoln. Chiquinho gave Lincoln his first recording arrangement, pushing him even more in this arranger direction.
Lincoln returned to Rio de Janeiro around 1975 to ’76 as his name begins appearing on records cut in Rio as early as 1976. Through the legendary Brazilian soul man, Tim Maia, Lincoln met a whole new crowd of soul music–inspired musicians, most notably his future musical partner and friend, Robson Jorge. Robson, like Lincoln, was a child prodigy and played professionally during his teen years sometimes on bass, or guitar and even drums. He also sang really well. You can see a young Robson on the back cover of Cassiano’s 1973 album, and he was even a core member of Tim’s legendary house band Vítoria Regia during their infamous Racional phase. It must have been shortly after Tim returned to irrationality that Lincoln connected with Robson giving birth to a magical musical partnership that would last for over a decade. One of their first projects was likely Robson’s first solo single on CBS “Tudo Bem.”
For the next five years Lincoln and Robson’s names are virtually inseparable with Robson usually credited on guitar, sometimes keyboards and background vocals and Lincoln would be credited for keyboards and arrangements. Their first hit as a studio maestros was the tune “Fim Da Tarde” sung by a Diana Rossesque songbird, Claudia Telles, in 1976 that sold over 500,000 copies. Projects started rolling in for singles (Mielé, Dedé, Viva Voz, Tony Bizarro, Marcos Valle and Jon Lucien), albums (Tim Maia, Jorge Ben, Marcos Valle, Rita Lee, Gilberto Gil, Erasmo Carlos, Gal Costa, Emilio Santiago, Marcia Maria) and most famously their work crafting the biggest songs on the country’s top telenovelas made the duo the most in-demand studio wizards in Brazil.
“He was very friendly and quiet,” Ivan Conti aka Mamão the legendary drummer from Azymuth and countless recording sessions told me over email. Mamão played drums for Lincoln on recordings sessions for Jorge Ben, Rita Lee, Gal Costa, and he’s even featured on Robson & Lincoln’s 1982 album as well as the two live shows for that album. “Lincoln was peaceful to record with and fully dynamic. He asked musicians to do what he wanted the musician to do without all the usual stress.” When asked what he attributed Lincoln’s success as an arranger/producer to, Mamão said, “I think it was his creativity with well-placed arrangements, always full of lots of brass!”
By 1980, Lincoln and Robson were living the life (in the recording studio) working with the biggest artists in the country and shaping the sound of Brazilian disco and pop, most notably on a couple crossover albums by Rita Lee from the late ’70s and early ’80s. In 1982, Lincoln and Robson delivered the only recordings to feature both of their names and faces on the cover and despite the fact that Robson Jorge & Lincoln Olivetti was mostly an instrumental album, it miraculously received significant radio play in Brazil alongside contemporary U.S. pop and R&B artists, like Madonna. DJ Meme (famous musical partner of Lulu Santos) wrote in a post on Facebook about the album after hearing of Lincoln’s death: “The album was played from start to finish at all of the Black Balls in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. My God, what a great album! There were references to virtually everything I had already heard. It was as if I had discovered a friend who spoke the same language as me.”
The album was a substantial hit, despite being mostly instrumental and naturally there were invitations to play the songs live. Mamão recalls playing these shows. “We took a trip to São Paulo, to a soul event in a gym. It’s in the early ’80s. That band had Lincoln, Robson, myself, Ariovaldo Contesini, Peninha, Zizinho, Fernando, Bidinho, Serginho, Leo Gandelman, Marcio Montarroyos, Zé Carlos Bigorna, and Tony Bizarro. We were all on this small chartered plane and the captain didn’t want to take off because the plane was packed with the whole band and all of our equipment!” The whole band made it to São Paulo and back safely, but Lincoln felt that the shows were fine, but lacked the technical perfection of the studio versions and the logistics of running a band were not where Lincoln’s priorities lay, so back to the studio he and Robson went for another ten years.
One day in 1993, while working on a new production with his old partner, Lincoln, Robson Jorge left the studio on foot to walk home. He was found dead, passed out on the walk home at the age of thirty-nine. Officially cirrhosis related to his alcoholism was the cause of death, but anyone who knew the insane pace and intensity in which Robson and Lincoln worked, knew that Robson lived fast and hard and alcohol was only one of the culprits. The journalists that bothered to report on the passing of this once-important musician were not kind to Robson and Lincoln’s legacy. “I was marginalized,” Lincoln said about that devastating period of his life. “I didn’t ever want to respond to those critics who were really derogatory in their comments.” Lincoln continued to work throughout the ’90s and 2000s, but kept a very low profile.
“I’ve known Lincoln Olivetti since I was a kid in my Aunt Maria’s house in Ramos,” Ed Motta, Brazil’s biggest soul/jazz star and nephew of Tim Maia, reminisced after Lincoln’s death on Facebook. “I remember him in the late ’70s with Robson Jorge at the legendary BBQs of the Maia family.” Like Kassin and fellow ’80s youths, Lulu Santos and Ed Motta sought out Lincoln’s production as soon as he got liner-notes literate. Ed remembers his first adult encounter with “the maestro” recording his 1997 hit “Daqui Pro Méier”: “Watching Lincoln rule over the string section was a clinic, total military attitude even in the studio, without having to ask please in a fake bossa nova guy style.” More than just his attitude or technique, Ed really appreciated Lincoln’s musical ambition and professionalism: “He went the distance. In his studio in Rio de Janeiro he put everyone in a truly international setting like you don’t see here anymore [in Brazil], not for lack of talent, but for laziness. It takes work to get it right in the studio… He deserves a giant tribute as a name that represents accuracy, competence and futurism.”
“It is gratifying that he has in recent years received the attention of the younger generation [of musicians],” Ed wrote, “with honors, and the most important invitations for him to continue exerting its wisdom in the studio.” Indeed, thanks to Ed’s and other younger musicians’ support—most notably Kassin—in the past few years, Lincoln experienced a resurgence in popularity, based on his enormous and body of high quality output in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Just as Hall & Oates are now “cool” again, the Brazilian ’80s is ripe for rediscovery. And it wouldn’t be an overstatement (Kassin’s got my back on this) to write that nearly all of the most successful, highest quality, recordings from Brazil during the prime years of 1977–1984 had one thing in common: Lincoln Olivetti. So, once again, like or not and he most certainly didn’t seek out attention, Lincoln got caught up in the rising tide of cultural relevance once again, leading to and in no small part in thanks to the encouragement of his close friend and fellow producer/arranger, Kassin. The younger producer called him up to work on missing string arrangements for the mythical Tim Maia Racional Vol. 3 album and from then on they’d been working closely together, first on a live show helmed by Lincoln and more recently a new Lincoln Olivetti solo album.
Lulu Santos, Ed Motta, Marisa Monte and Kassin grew up with his unique sonic blueprints mapped to their impressionable musical minds. His seclusion was not because he wasn’t friendly, it’s just that he preferred to do his work in peace and it was only at the urging and sometimes insisting from these younger musicians that he would make public appearances or do anything beyond working in the studio. Internationally, it was inevitable his records became staples in top DJs bags worldwide providing countless transcendent dance floor moments chanting along to “Aleluia,” doing your best samba-funk to “Amigo Branco” or two-stepping to “Eva.” Lincoln’s work is featured heavily on two (count ’em!) Brazilian “boogie” compilations released in recent months (and with a review by yours truly coming soon).
Say what you will about “Yacht Rock,” “Dad Rock,” or whatever visual counterpart that completes the ’80s stereotype in your mind, but the songs categorized as “AOR” (“Adult-Oriented Rock”) are a treasure of recordings, some famous, most of them rarely heard. It’s no mystery to me why six of the eight best selling albums of all time were recorded between 1976 and 1982. During these years you saw the intersection of high quality pop song production and the peak of analog recording technology.
In Brazil, Lincoln Olivetti dominated those years and those recording conditions. Musically like a hybrid of Quincy Jones, David Foster (keyboard player and arranger/producer on countless hits) and Nile Rodgers and looking like a young Dr. Emmett Brown from Back to the Future, Lincoln Olivetti spent most of the ’80s in recording studios. He was the consummate studio man, even nicknamed the “Studio Wizard” and “Pop Magician” in his heyday. “I’ve always been ahead of my time,” Lincoln said in 2011. “I love electronic music and my daughter’s a DJ, how about that?” Lincoln Olivetti loved cutting records in dark studios with other friends and musicians. His life was cut tragically short at just sixty years old, leaving an enormous body of work that rivaled the best productions worldwide, his unique touch gracing thousands of recordings, some classic and others made memorable through Lincoln’s sensitive and professional attention.
I’ve attempted to capture a simple summary of Lincoln’s life and a few quotes from some of his fans before we hear from his good friend and recent musical partner, Kassin, who’s best known for producing indie and mainstream Brazilian artists (Gal Costa & Erasmo Carlos) as well as playing in groups such as the + 2s and Orquestra Imperial alongside his solo work. Among other things, Kassin and Lincoln shared a passion for hard work, technical nerdery and synth bass.
Wax Poetics: Did you have any idea that he was not healthy?
Kassin: The last thing we did was on December 12, around then. I’m producing Gal Costa’s record, the new record, and I called Lincoln to do a horn arrangement for one track. And he came here and had strange breathing, like he was breathing heavy, and he didn’t look like he was feeling well. And we did the session. The arrangements were great like always. At the end me and the trombone player, his name is Marlon, we tried to take him to the doctor. We tried to convince him and he said, “I don’t like doctors; it’s too expensive!” We said, “Look we’re going to your house on Saturday and then we’ll check if you’re okay and we’ll also discuss the arrangements,” and he said, “Yeah, that’s perfect.” I had to travel on Monday. And we kept calling him all day Saturday and he didn’t pick up. Then I was travelling for my holidays and I was sending emails to him and Marlon, the trombone player. Lincoln never replied, but one day Marlon replied saying he went to Lincoln’s house and they worked on the arrangements for the record and most the stuff was there already and he was feeling great, so nothing…
I was mixing on Tuesday, the day he died, the same track for Gal Costa when I heard the news and what I realized was that he was probably sick for a long time, and he was avoiding going to the doctor. Remembering now some of the days with him, I felt that like he already knew it. He knew something wasn’t right…
He was an electronic engineer; he actually graduated with that degree. Along with being a musical genius, he knew how to do all of the audio stuff, like he could open my compressors and keyboards here and fix them… Incredible guy! He had a very crazy studio. He was brilliant with electronics and things like that and computers—in his studio he had four different computers running different operating systems synced by an external clock—normally you don’t need more than one computer in a recording studio—he had a very nice home studio and he built it all by himself.
Before he died, he listened to the record with his friend, he had a friend at his house and he started crying, which his friend felt was a bit strange and he came to his studio and he turned everything on. He turned all of the lights on and the air conditioner on and he closed the door and gave his friend the key. Then he said to his friend, “Look, you should give this key to my friends.” He had the mind to make sure everything was working because his studio was so complicated.
He was one of the most intelligent people I ever met… I imagine he already knew his health situation and he was planning.
Did Lincoln and Robson meet in the early ’70s in Rio or only after returning from São Paulo in about 1975?
I think they met through Tim Maia after [Lincoln returned from] São Paulo. He told me Robson could pretty much play anything and sing well. He was sometimes playing bass on sessions, sometimes keyboards, sometimes guitar, drums, and percussion.
Lincoln always told me that he [Robson] was the creative part of the duo. Robson would come up with the crazier ideas, like to have vocoders. They both liked the same things, but Robson was the guy with the more futuristic vision. Robson would always bring fresh stuff. When they were working out an arrangement, Robson would always [spontaneously] sing stuff over what he was hearing and Lincoln was always recording what Robson was singing because he’d have these fresh ideas, even before they’d begun playing [or arranging the track].
So, Robson and Lincoln got together somewhere around 1976, because they’re together on Robson’s first single from that year and albums from Lafayette, Tony Bizarro and then in 1976, they had their first hit with “Fim da Tarde” by Claudia Telles…
Sometimes, Lincoln and Robson were doing all of the arrangements, playing and calling in their friends to play on the tracks, but they were not credited as producers. Most of the time they were not officially producing a record, but arranging it, but actually they were producing from behind the mixing board.
Did Lincoln and Robson work closely together up until Robson’s death in 1993?
Robson left his house and passed out on his way back home. They were working together and Robson died on his way home. Walking around he passed out on the way back home. He officially died of cirrhosis.
He was an alcoholic, right?
He was a lot of things. They were on heavy stuff. Heavily. It was a crazy, crazy environment.
Maybe influenced by their friend Tim Maia?
And that’s why I think they died so early.
How of much of the work they did was as a duo and how much of it was just Lincoln, because if you read the backs of the records you’ll see Lincoln’s name more often?
Lincoln worked much more because Lincoln was the arranger, the guy who had the ideas and would put them on paper. I saw him doing things that were incredible, like recording a huge string section with arrangements made by Eumir Deodato. I called Lincoln to conduct the strings and he would say things like, violin 24, on bar 31 you should play E. And he was right, but even the guy playing it wasn’t hearing it and it wasn’t even his arrangement! He can hear anything!
I think that’s why Lincoln’s been continuously employed.
Also, he had the studio. The studio where he recorded all that stuff in the ’80s that was his home studio. The studio he was working in before he died was the second or third version of that original studio with all the same equipment: two-inch tape setup, a proper console and all those keyboards, plate reverb, everything hooked up and working perfectly. And he also knew how to make it sound good.
He came here to my studio, the first time he came, and I was already working here for a while and he looked around my studio and said, “Wow!” Nothing was playing; it was total silence. It was only him and me and he looked at me and said, “Wow, this room sounds really nice, no? The only problem you have is that you probably have 1db of 70hz.” He knew acoustics. He looked at the room and made the calculation of the size of the room and he told me the exact frequency where I had a problem and the exact amount of the problem.
Was he working solidly through the ’80s and ’90s?
Something very sad happened to him in Brazil… I didn’t speak to anybody in Brazil [about Lincoln’s life and death] and I wanted to speak to you because the mixtape you did made him really, really happy. Like, we were crying here when we listened. He was so emotional about it to be recognized outside [Brazil]. It was really, really meaningful to him.
I’m so happy I could do something that made him happy. I’m humbled . . .
No, it became something that was kind of pushing him…We started making the [new Lincoln Olivetti] record and you made this mix and that’s when I showed it to him and it became something that really pushed him to make it [the new album] really good.
Coming back to your earlier question, from 1980 to ’87, he was the top producer in Brazil. Nearly every number one song during those years was something he worked on and then the press started saying horrible things about him and Robson, like they were “pasteurizing the sound of Brazilian music” and “everything they do sounds the same.”
Like, for every record he was putting out, people would say things like, “What else can you expect, because it’s only Lincoln Olivetti that could have that kind of fucked-up sound?” The press was applying pressure to put him down.
But these were the critics, right? Were his productions still dominating the charts?
Hey, they were hits. Number 1. From the Top 10, he would have about seven songs [that he produced, arranged and/or played on].
And all the big artists, right? Gal Costa, Caetano, Gilberto Gil, Rita Lee…
Everybody. But then the Brazilian Rock thing started in the ’80s and they [Brazilian music industry] started to think of Lincoln as old-fashioned. At the time when Robson died in 1993, they had this horrible story in the newspaper saying that he died and they were saying like, “We won’t miss him.” The reactions from the press about Robson’s death were really, really offensive.
Or, something like, “Now he’s going to heaven where he will probably not find a band to play with, because there’s no shortage of great musicians in heaven.” It was really mean…
I was eight years old. It was 1982. I started playing guitar and my downstairs neighbor was Edson Lobo (from bossa nova duo Edson & Tita). One day, I told Edson I really liked this song playing on the radio, I love this instrument doing this thing. It was Rita Lee’s song called “Mania De Você.” Edson told me it was electric bass and then he started giving me lessons. [Editorial note: This is the instrument Kassin is best known for playing.] Year later, I looked at the credits and saw the instrument that I wanted to play was actually Lincoln playing Moog, it was a synth bass.
I started working at Globo [Brazil’s largest entertainment/music company] when I was nineteen. I started producing and every time I started thinking, “This is a good song to call Lincoln.” Everybody would say, “No! He’s too crazy, he’ll never show up…” Everybody had a story. He had such a bad reputation of being too crazy or eccentric… Everybody was jealous about his success and capacity and all the time people would put me down [for wanting to work with him].
He doesn’t strike me as being somebody like Tim Maia who was known for being crazy and eccentric and impossible to work with, but I don’t get the impression Lincoln was the same kind of crazy…
No, he likes to work in the dark…
For example, if you’re going to record with him he’ll put the air conditioner at [59 degrees F] to be as cold as it can be and no lights.
And wearing sunglasses, right?
Yeah, all the time. At night. Two AM, sunglasses. So, people would get a little scared of that and a bit jealous, I think that’s why.
At the time, I didn’t know him well and then I met him for the first time… I love his music so much, that I called the sound engineer that was working with him, to work with me. It was Eduardo Costa. One day we were in the studio, Eduardo, and me and Lincoln was in the other room. And then Lincoln came to the studio and joined us for lunch. And I’m telling you, I can’t talk…I was looking at him like [slack-jawed and goofy]… And he was really, really nice. Very nice and soft, very curious about my MPC [sampler/drum machine]. He invited me to his studio to check out the MPC asking about it, saying he was really into samplers. He was very fresh, very open, very, very nice person. We had a quick chat together, but then never had the chance to work together during that period.
And then years later, doing Racional 3…
Yeah, how did that happen?
The guy I was working with at that time, William Luna, he found the tapes at his father’s studio. His father was the owner of Haway Studio [“Hawaii Studios was the Studio One of the Black Rio bands” according to Ed Motta). I thought it was a good thing to call Lincoln. I thought it was a good thing actually to have the players that were playing around that time like Paulinho Guitarra (guitarist for Tim Maia and Ed Motta), to complete the songs. And some of the parts were missing. It was an 8-track [tape] but there were two empty tracks and a long intro. There were strings missing. The horn section was there, but the strings, no. So, I called Lincoln to do it and about that time we became really good friends. Like I was going to his house, he was coming to my house. We were listening to music together. We became close.
Then one day there was a very small theater around here doing live music daily, really nice. A good venue for a hundred people seated. Then one day the guy from the venue called me and told me the theater’s gonna have it’s first anniversary and he thought it was a good idea to have a concert with Lincoln, his dream, and he knew I was close to him. Lincoln already turned him down, but maybe I could convince him…
I called Lincoln and I said, “Look, why do you not want to do it?” He said, “The guys I used to work with are not in the same mood anymore, Robson died, and they’re all not playing this kind of music anymore. I would love to play if for example, you would play with me, but I’m sure you wouldn’t have time…and Davi Moraes, the guitar player that plays with me. And I was like, “You don’t know us…we would pay to play with you, we’ll pay for the rehearsal space so you don’t have to put any money out!”
In one hour, everybody was ready to go. We booked the dates for the anniversary show and then something very strange happened, I got a phone call and this guy from [legendary Rio venue] Copacabana Palace, and he says, “We’re having a festival here, and I had this crazy idea of having this concert with you and Lincoln Olivetti and we have the proper budget to make this happen.” I asked him, “Did you talk to anyone about this idea before calling me?” And he said, “No, I had this idea in the morning and then I was trying to find your phone number…” Very, very strange. We had done Tim Maia Racional 3 already, but it hadn’t come out and people didn’t really know we were hanging out… I said, “Look, we already booked this concert, it’s at this theater, et cetera.” So, we ended up doing five or six concerts. We went to São Paulo and then we tried to convince Lincoln to do a new album . . .
What was the repertoire from these concerts? Stuff from the 1982 album only or other stuff?
Everything together. We were playing “Spinning Wheel” from Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Lincoln picked all of the songs. One of my favorite songs that we did live was “Lorilee” by David Gates. It’s a great tune from his solo record. It’s a very obscure song, I don’t know how he got that, but he said, “I got this song I want to play, I wanna play ‘Lorilee.’” And we’re like, “What the fuck is that, ‘Lorilee’?” It’s an instant classic and he did a great arrangement.
He also did this song, “Mongoose” by [Elephant’s Memory].
This is crazy, because I’ve never read anything about Lincoln, like an interview…
He didn’t like to talk. He didn’t like tours.
…So I have no idea what his influences are or his personal story. Did you ever talk to him about his favorite groups? Hearing about David Gates and Spinning Wheel and Elephant’s Memory is blowing my mind here!
One of his favorite bands was the Who. Led Zeppelin he loved. He loved all of the things you can also expect, like Earth Wind & Fire and the duo, the blonde guy, very ’80s…Hall & Oates, he loved that. Boz Scaggs. He loved that kind of L.A.-sounding production and he loved rock, the heavy, psychedelic rock.
But he never really produced in that style.
Nobody ever called him to do it… But he had that feel. When he was playing rock songs on the organ, he was killer, like Deep Purple style organ, he’s incredible!
He loved Chromeo and Daft Punk, which is funny because they kinda sound like him.
He became the master of ’80s R&B production. He became known for one thing and that’s what everyone ever asked him to do…
He wanted to make a rock album. When we were making this last album, he told me, “The next thing we should do is a band with you playing guitar, me playing keyboards a drummer and everybody singing, like a trio, I’ll do the bass synth.” Basically, he wanted to make a rock album with moog!
Did you record anything like that?
We didn’t have the time.
Why do you think he only did that one solo album with Robson? It was a popular album right?
Somehow that album got radio play. It may be the last instrumental record to play on the radio [in Brazil]…like alongside Madonna. The only other instrumental hit I can think of was Banda Black Rio’s “Maria Fumaça” from a few years earlier.
So why not another record?
One thing he told me is they did only two shows for that album, because there were so many layers it was impossible to play it live properly. One in Rio and one in São Paulo.
“When we were playing live we only had one mini moog. It was impossible to do all the parts live—the songs are polyphonic,” Lincoln told me. He thought it sounded like a normal band playing those tracks. They thought at the time that it sounded cheap.
And he probably got too busy with his other productions…
Like to put a band together and to hire the guys, it was expensive and for him it wasn’t sounding like what he wanted it to sound…
When I think of Lincoln and I try to think of an artist in the U.S. to make a comparison to so that people over here will understand, the first person I think of is Quincy Jones… Is that a fair comparison?
I think it’s a fair comparison. I think the other one for me, the guy who played keyboard with Boz Scaggs…David Foster
In a way, what I think is really impressive is that Lincoln can play bass and guitar really, really well. Drums. Two years ago when he had a girlfriend and she wanted to learn to play violin, so he bought her a violin and she started learning. And then he started watching tutorials on YouTube to show her how to play, and he actually learned how to play violin. And this was two years ago. He came here one day and he was playing violin great! In his late fifties, like fifty-eight.
He never stopped thinking about recording music. If there’s something he didn’t know, he’d ask. “How are you doing that?”
So tell me a little about the record you were working on with Lincoln before he passed. Will it come out?
We hope so. Everybody involved in the record feels a debt to make it happen, because we were all friends of his. I mean, we want it to come out. But it’s so recent, his death. I will meet the family tomorrow. I’m going to his studio to try to recover the parts. I’m pretty sure the family will want it to happen. Even if they don’t want [the album to be finished], I think everyone involved wants to at least have it ready and then they can do whatever they want to do. The rights should go to the family. We have no record deal, nothing, and luckily we have the studio and the opportunity to finish it.
How would you describe it compared to his past work?
It has elements of that, of his signature sound, but it’s also a modern album, it’s not looking to the past. The way he did that was really, really brilliant. He had for example little jams he recorded from the ’80s on cassette and then he’ll take parts of that and sample and write arrangement over that. He sampled things he never used. He sampled keyboards from things he played in the ’80s, things he’d never used before and the album sounds really fresh because it has that sample feel—you can hear that there are samples going on. There’s one track with two cassette samples, one DAT sample—it sounds really avant-garde, a bit of a collage that he’s playing along with and great horn arrangements. He was writing for eight or ten horns—a really big horn section.
What’s left to be done?
We have nine songs. Here we recorded drums, bass, guitar, the vocoders, and talk-boxes. We recorded a little bit of percussion and he had the keyboards on MIDI. I don’t know if we’ll keep them all [Lincoln’s MIDI keyboard parts]. We’ll probably keep some and replace some. Donatinho, João Donato’s son, is also playing keyboards on the album. He’s playing all the talk-box stuff. And last month Lincoln wrote the horn arrangements. The rest of the personnel are: Wallace and Cesinha, drums; Davi Moraes, guitar; Donatinho, keyboards and effects; Kassin, bass and keyboards; and Lincoln, keyboards, samples, and arrangements.
Were you the producer on the album or was Lincoln the producer?
We never talked about it; we just started doing it. I think he’s the producer. I mean, it’s his record! We were pretty much doing it together. Most of the things we did together, me, him and Davi Moraes.
One of the frequently repeated critiques of Lincoln’s productions is they don’t sound “very Brazilian.” Do you agree that his productions don’t have very much Brazilianess?
I think this is a shitty way to put it, because nobody is “Brazilian.” If you put it that way; nobody came from here, we’re not natives. What I could say is Lincoln was focusing on quality, in perfection, in doing things right. He likes things to be well done, perfect, TOP, the quality. And Brazilians [within the recording industry] at that time, there was no quality; the recordings were poorly made and if you put them side by side with an American album from the same period, they’d probably sound shitty. And if you listen to his record [Robson Jorge & Lincoln Olivetti, 1982] and a record from 1982 in the U.S., it’s the same level of quality, there was no gap. I think he was mainly fighting against this gap.
It’s not that he was Brazilian or not, he wanted to be professional, he wanted to be one step ahead… He wanted to put out a record like a record he likes from the U.S. that sounds at the same level with nice arrangements, instruments in tune, the proper instruments. It’s not that he was not Brazilian. Of course he was not making Samba, he was not doing something exotic. But I mean, he was super Brazilian in a way, no?
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