Ratos de Porão – We are important to Brazilian metal INDEED!

From underground misfits to national heroes

When MaF generalissimo Scott Adams gave me a green light to interview João Gordo (Fat John in Portuguese) it was like a dream coming true. Ratos de Porão (meaning Basement Rats), the band for whom Joao is vocalist, has existed since the first times of punk, metal and rock and roll in Latin America. Through sheer persistence they started to gain respect and to be the favourite band of 9 out of 10 Brazilian kids. 

But João Gordo has always been controversial during his career. From misfit punk rocker from the tube to a pop star on Brazilian television, his sui generis ironical way of expressing himself and his sudden attacks of moodiness can transform him into the funniest guy in a matter of seconds. 

He’s for sure a legend, but Ratos de Porão was not formed by him. The band dates back to 1981 when Jão (they have the same name, different nicknames) and his cousin Betinho formed a punk rock band using the worst possible equipment. The drum kit was made of garbage cans. With this kind of DYI attitude imported from England they entered the punk circuit in São Paulo and then went on to conquer the rest of the country when they adhered to crossover (or punk metal if you will), rallying headbangers and punks alike to their cause. 

During their career bands like Sepultura covered them, and João Gordo himself participated in a couple of their albums as a guest vocalist and Andreas Kisser even recorded a solo for an album in 1987. Recently he shared vocals on the last Krisiun album The Great Execution singing the song Extinção em Massa.

30 years and several lineups later they released a documentary where they explained step by step this long journey into underground music, in and out of the country. To tell more about this history, the man himself talked exclusively to Metal as Fuck:  

 Hello João, how does it feel to play with classic bands like Anthares and Executer? Has Ratos de Porão had the opportunity to share the stage with these bands before? “Ação Direta, of Executer and Anthares, is part of our history and the history of Brazilian metal you know? Who is true knows them, who is a fan knows them, and we are what we are and we show some respect. We are like wine, the older the better. You are in the game, aren’t you going to know them? They are good man!”

Do you consider yourselves the first crossover band from Brazil? “We are the oldest in Latin America (in this moment he corrects me when I said that I thought they were the first in the world)… of course not, we have influences from a lot of things like SOD, Discharge, DRI, we were trying to synchronize with the guys in that epoch and this gave us the nickname of traitors of the movement (Ratos de Porão are accused by punks to have betrayed the punk movement by transforming themselves into a metal band), the bands that we liked started to play metal, we did the same!! Then came Metallica, Venom, Slayer and Kreator, then it was all screwed up! 

How was the invitation to record with the label Cogumelo? (the former label of Sepultura) “Cogumelo was fucking cool because it had projected us inside the metal scene, you know, we came from the album Descanse Em Paz, which was an attempt to make a metal punk record, and in that time Cogumelo Records made things happen, and it opened the doors to metal for us! Metal saved Ratos de Porão! Then you get nowadays some segmented magazines and the guys don’t give a fuck for Ratos, but Ratos is very important to Brazilian metal! It is as important as Sepultura, Korzus and the other old bands.”

So were you the first band to record abroad, even before Sepultura with the German Producer Harris Johns? (Sodom, Helloween, Kreator).  “Yes, Sepultura recorded Beneath the Remains in Rio de Janeiro with Scott Burns, and we went to Berlin to record with Harris Johns. Virtually our conquest was greater than Sepultura, but as we were a bunch of Brazilian dullards (he uses a derogatory term “Baianada” and I start to laugh like a crazy), we didn’t speak English, a bunch of punks we were, we started to look for punks and squatters and the guys of Sepultura were more metal and things happened for them and we fucked ourselves!”

What was the worst thing that happened during this period?  “We can’t say that, wrong things happen as you go and there is no show whatsoever. There were lots of them, I can’t remember man…”

What do you think about the album Carniceria Tropical? “Carniceria Tropical is the best album of Ratos in my opinion, for the recordings, for the producer, for the musicality of that time, but at the same time, it’s an album that has bad memories for us… It was an epoch of transition and a lot of things were blended, but at the end of the day it’s not the gestalt of the band.”

How did it happen that you got to sing with piece of cake in the mouth? “It was trip of mine because of SOB… Do you know SOB from Japan? (which I promptly say NO, I don’t). It’s a grindcore band from Japan that is no more because the guy killed himself, but I did that because of him!”

What were the grindcore bands that influenced Ratos de Porão? “Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror, I’m the kinda guy who listens to grindcore nowadays. I listen to thrash, death, hardcore, I like it all, but if I’m going to buy a record, I’ll buy a grindcore one!”

How about the documentary Guidable, how was it produced? “Guidable was a initiative of mine with Rick of Black Vomit (Films) and he’s like Coffin Joe, he likes horror movies. It took two years for the documentary to be released and when it was released it was well accepted! It sounds truer than any other documentary." 

Are you going to release something in 2013? “Man, we are with a new record with, I don’t know, 10 or 12 songs, and we are going to enter into the studio, completely ‘virgin’, in August. But we have a lot of songs, lyrics and whatnot, there is a name, idea, cover, but, is going to be released”

So I saw a black metal band from Switzerland that you posted days ago on Facebook, and then they made a cover the name is BLACK SPUTUM. “Yes Black Sputum, it’s a Swiss band and I think the bassist is a Brazilian guy, and the guys were playing Ratos in black metal style, I found it weird as fuck, But I liked it dude…. (then he starts to make a black metal harsh vocal of his own song: AHHHHH, AHHHHH, AHHHHHHHA, AHHHHHHH) .. and so there are some black metal prople saying like: wow Black Sputum, but the band is small, but as they are obscure black metal the guys think they are valuable. “

How did the idea to record with Krisiun come about? Did you write the lyrics? “ Man, I’ve been a Krisiun fan for several years, the first time I heard Krisiun, it was Black Force Domain, I was catching up, I laughed a lot, I’d never had heard something so BRUTAL in my life! I was laughing, and I became a fan of theirs, I said what the fuck?, and I’ve been a fan and a friend for several years, and they always wanted to coverize Ratos de Porão and I said, bros, let’s make a song together? And then it happened! I went to their rehearsal, they did the song, I did the lyrics and the result was that.

How do you see the audience today? Are you thinking in retirement? “I think the people only will give some credit to Ratos when we are dead and gone, and Jão (then he points to the founder of the band) is dead, we survive you know man? But we’re continuing because it’s cool!

So thank you João for your time! “Thank you man!”