Arnaldo Baptista wants to make a comeback

Tired of the quiet life in the country, the songwriter has plans for a new album and invitations to perform with Lobão and Sean Lennon

Tom Cardoso
Arnaldo Baptista is slowly regaining the will to live and make music. Ever since he flew out the window of a hospital in São Paulo, about 20 years ago, and came out of a deep coma, the former Mutantes member has not made much music. He became a voracious painter, and this is his main activity, today. Although he hasn't overcome all of the traumas that still hunt him, the musician seems to be ready to leave the quiet life in the country behind. The first invitation came from Lobão, an old fan and longtime fellow - the two shall perform together at the Abril Pro Rock festival, on april 22nd, in Recife.

The projects go farther, though. Another illustrious fan has decided that he wants to take Arnaldo along on his world tours. Sean Lennon got obsessed with the Mutantes from the very frist time when he listened to it, on a tape, in his car. From then on, Sean was turned into a sort of official promoter of the extinct group outside of Brazil - he illustrated the cover of the album Tecnicolor (recorded in 1970 and released in 2000). The both had a first meeting last September, during the Free Jazz festival, in Rio de Janeiro. At the time, Sean asked Arnaldo to sing with him a version in English of Panis et Circencis, a classic taken from Mutantes' debut album.

Arnaldo also recalls his brief contact with deceased Nirvana leader, Kurt Cobain, with whom he exchanged a few notes back in 1993, when Nirvana played the Hollywood Rock festival, in Rio de Janeiro. It hasn't been easy for him to regain the shape as a songwriter who penned pearls like Balada do Louco and Ando Meio Desligado. Nonetheless, it is not that hard for him to engage in conversations and to write, as it was during the years that followed the accident. So much so that he's already thinking of a new album - and Universal Music has made an offer.

Although he's been lucid and articulated, Arnaldo is still keen on bringing about nonsense debates, such as his passionate defense of the Gibson guitars, which, according to him, will always be way better than the Fender guitars. He claims that this is the reason why he won't talk to his brother, guitarist Sérgio Dias Baptista. He has no contact whatsoever with former wife and Mutante, Rita Lee - and there goes any possibility of a Mutantes' reunion.

In this interview to AllBrazilianMusic, Arnaldo Baptista talked about his plans; his performance at Abril Pro Rock; the friendship with Sean Lennon, the late acceptance of the Mutantes outside of Brazil and the current Brazilian music scenario. "I saw Charlie Brown Jr and thought that it was cool", he says.

AllBrazilianMusic - Lobão managed to talk you into playing the Abril Pro Rock fest, in Recife. What is your expectation to sing in a large festival after so many years away from the stages?
Arnaldo Baptista - I'm very glad. I've been reading articles on the festival and realized that it encourages the new acts, the underground artists. It has everything to do with the Woodstock spirit (1969 edition). There are no major labels involved.

AllBrazilianMusic - Is there a chance that you'll sing any new songs?
Arnaldo Baptista -
I'm not sure, yet. Lobão and I have decided to do new versions of Sanguinho Novo and Sr. Empresário. The other day, I rehearsed a song that I like a lot, Traduções (from the 1987 album Disco Voador). From the new stash of songs, I might do one that I wrote recently, called Deve Ser Amor o que Eu Estou Sentindo.

AllBrazilianMusic - If you're writing new songs, you must also be preparing a new album...
Arnaldo Baptista -
I've been writing a lot, but haven't yet managed to market these things. There have been offerings from Universal Music and Virgin. I don't know when it should come out, I'm not in the know.

AllBrazilianMusic - A lot of people support you. Sean Lennon, for instance, is a big fan of your music.
Arnaldo Baptista -
Curious, huh? The son of my idol is my fan. Sean has just invited me to accompany him on international tours. He wanted me to go to Japan with him, where he would introduce me to some friends of his. But I ain't going, I'd rather stay here.

AllBrazilianMusic - How did the two of you get together?
Arnaldo Baptista -
I did a song with Sean, in his concert, here in Brazil. We talked a lot about Beatles and Mutantes. The distress between John (Lennon) and George (Harrison). He told me he was driving his car when he first listened to Os Mutantes. He stopped the car right away and exclaimed: "This is wonderful!"

AllBrazilianMusic - Does it surprise you, this late recognition that the Mutantes are getting abroad?
Arnaldo Baptista -
Yes, in a way. I get tapes from other countries, people wanna show me their music. Others send e-mails praising us. And many of those people, I know they are known worldwide (Foo Fighters leader, Dave Grohl, and Beck Hansen are two of them).

AllBrazilianMusic - Do people ask about the return of the Mutantes?
Arnaldo Baptista -
I have recently been with Serginho (Baptista, his brother), and we went to his studio. There were six Fenders around. He refuses to play on a Gibson, even though he's perfectly aware that it beats the Fender anyday. It's been more than 20 years discussing because of that. There's no way the Mutantes are getting back together.

AllBrazilianMusic - But don't you think it is silly to go on with that discussion? Isn't that too vain a reason to separate two brothers and music mates?
Arnaldo Baptista -
I don't think so, because the Gibson is essential so as to define the sounds. I'm not fighting for it, anymore, now I'm only gonna do what I want.

AllBrazilianMusic - Which Brazilian artists have you been listening to? What do you think of electronica?
Arnaldo Baptista -
I went to check out (rock/rap band) Charlie Brown Jr. I liked it. What I do like, really, is Zeca Baleiro, I like the way he writes music. I'm still a baby, when it comes to electronica, and for the time being, I don't need it. My instrument, the piano, cannot be replaced by electronic gadgets.