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In-depth interview with QUESTIONS!

I caught up with Brazilian hardcore giants QUESTIONS right before their upcoming European tour to discuss a lot of interesting issues. It is my great pleasure to present you this final feature. Please take your time and read the whole thing below!

QUESTIONS have just released 2 brand new songs off their new Seven Eight Life Recordings EP, featuring guest appearances of Andrew Kline (STRIFE) and Nick Jett (TERROR)! They are taking these 2 bullets along with the rest of their explosive discography and heading to Europe! Go, support their fight for freedom and see how strong they are! Helio, Pablo, Edu, Duz, it’s been a pleasure! Thanks!

Hey, what’s up buddies? How’s Sao Paulo this summer? :)

Hey Karol, everything alright. We are living in important times in Sao Paulo and in Brazil right now. Since last month, there’re regular demonstrations on the streets. It started with the struggle against the raise on the public transportation prices, mostly students, but the police repression were so stupid and violent that it got bigger and bigger. Many thousand people gained the streets of Sao Paulo and many cities of the country, so the government had to put the prices back down. It was a big victory of the people! Right now the situation is more consfused.. there’re still a few smaller demonstrations going on, but with generic causes like ‘against corruption’ and things like that. We feel good that the people stood up for something and forced the government to back down. But nobody knows where this is going. Just a detail, we’re on the other side of the globe! We’re on our tropical winter right now.

For São Paulo, it means the colder it gets is below 10º… sometimes on the night, maybe closer to 0. But no snow here! Pretty different from many parts of Europe!

Wow, sounds heavy, man. Hope you’re fine. Did you take part in these demonstrations? Do you think it’s one the best ways to talk to your government?

When the demonstrations started we didn’t go, honestly I thought it was just a small group of students and it wouldn’t go far. But the police was violent and the traditional media treated them like shit. And it got bigger. So I was intrigued with the situation and wanted to see it with my own eyes. I couldn’t believe when the news said they were vandals wanting to promote riots and break stuff. Me and Edu (our singer) went to 4th demonstration, around 10 thousand people on the streets, the one that police lost it’s mind completely and bombed us all. Pepper gas and rubber bullets against everyone. Two journalists were shot in the eye and many people were arrested for no reason.

I saw many young students there, but also all kinds of people. The only acts of vandalism I saw were made by the police.  Me and my wife were attacked by a cop with a nightstick, I got beaten and we were lucky we didn’t got seriously hurt. It was so wrong and absurd that, on the next demonstration 4 days later, over 100 thousand gained the streets of the city. It became something bigger than anyone could expect. After the 4th demonstration, when many journalists got hurt, the big media changed it’s speech completely, they started saying that people were peaceful and the police started the violence. So the government also changed the police behavior. They switched from “disperse the crowd by any means necessary” to “do nothing against anyone”. Even when thieves started to break into stores and grab stuff. Crazy times! But, the point is, after the 5th demonstration, the government took a step back and put the bus prices back down. Victory!

It should not be the best way to people to talk to the government, but it’s the only one that worked. In Brazil, we’re all so tired of being mistreated by our government since forever that something like this would happen sometime. The bus thing was the excuse everybody needed.

Would you ever consider having a career in politics in order to fight stupidities of today’s forms of governments?

I admire the few ones who do it honestly, the ones who dedicate their lives for the causes they believe in and stay true to them. My parents were militants against the military dictatorship in Brazil back in the 70’s, they showed me the importance of being present and active on the political process. But I never thought of doing something like this. I don’t feel motivated to take part of the traditional political structure, the bureaucracy of a party, or even on the NGOs, etc. The channel I found to put all my energy and will to contribute is doing this band. I believe it’s a neverending task: to fight against all kinds of intolerence, to build a less injust society. So far, to develop QUESTIONS is my full time political effort. If, someday, I get interested in joining an organized political group, I’ll do it. But it didn’t happen yet.

Is there a wider background for the current happenings in Brazil? Why now? What do these demonstrations mean?

Yes, the wider background is years and years of shitty basic public services: transport, hospitals, education… everything.  All of this have been fucked up forever. The great majority of the population works a lot and don’t get enough money to live properly. And have to pay a lot of taxes. It’s obvious that this can’t last forever. Why now? It’s hard to explain, a lot of people say that today it’s easier to connect through the social networks, I think it’s true… we had the Fifa Confederations Cup going on here at that time, World Cup next year… government spending millions to build stadiums… but for me the whole thing is much more complex than this.  I don’t know why it took so long for us Brazilians to take a stand, but I’m glad we did. Politicians should be afraid of their people, not the opposite.

For me the sad thing is the movement lost it’s focus after winning the bus prices battle. It got even bigger, but it turned into something very generic… like ‘against corruption’ or ‘against politics’ kind of feeling. Even right wing nationalists participated (yeah, there’s such a disaster here!), lots of Brazilian flags, people singing the national anthem… nothing to do with the original idea.  Lots of thieves took advantage of the police passivity also. And then it calmed down. At least right now, there are no big demonstrations going on. The whole process last for a month or so… anyway, I see it more positive than negative.

I sincerely hope it’s way different than the fucked up situation in Turkey. You know, Turkish Prime Minister links these protest with his own issues. “A foreign conspiracy”, “The posters are the same”, “The same game”, “The same trap”, he says… What do these two movements have in common?

I can’t say much about the Turkish situation, but I believe what we have in common it’s the regular citizens against the privileged ones. When people feel betrayed, disrespected, you can’t hold it forever. It will explode at some point. And politicians, inside the government or not, always try to look good to the audience. They try to manipulate the crowd and be the ones that represent the masses. I don’t know how it’s going there, but here, no politician could be related to the protests, they were all excluded. All of them are still trying to understand what’s going on and respond to the population, but their efforts so far leaded nowhere. I see is at least one big difference from Turkey: a lot of people died there. In Brazil, a few people died. Both are tragedies, but somehow their conflicts were even more violent than here.

I hope it will get better there, man.

Let’s move on to the band if you don’t mind.

For all of the kids not familiar with your pack, tell us about your early days and how you guys formed this group.

We started QUESTIONS in 2000. It’s been a while, hah. But we’ve been friends much longer than that, all of us grew up together on the same part of the city, we’re friends since we were kids. We had other bands before, but when Edu (our singer) came with the QUESTIONS idea and concept, we were focused on what we wanted to sound like, what would be the main themes for the lyrics, what we wanted to talk about. So we did everything we wanted pretty quick, like recording and putting out a demo k7, playing all around Brazil, doing an one hour video documentary on the Sao Paulo Hardcore Scene.. all of this in the first and second year. Our earlier days were pretty busy! And then, in these 13 years, we got ourselves into a point where we went beyond all of our goals ans expectations with this band. We played with every single band that meant something for us: SICK OF IT ALL, SEPULTURA, AGNOSTIC FRONT, MADBALL, RATOS DE PORÃO and so on… we’ve been to Europe already 3 times (and Russia twice!)and are going for the 4th time. We’ve been to places I’ve never dreamed of, like Turkey, Moldova, Greece, Estonia.. We released 4 cds, a 7 inch, did many videos.. Somehow we keep challenging each other to keep this band alive and always have new projects going on. It’s been hard, but we feel great about the whole thing.

Great! Is that documentary available somewhere online?

Non-officially, hah, yeah! Someone put it on youtube, I think it’s great!

Nice! Thanks! By the way, what is your stance on piracy? Does it help or hinder bands?

Through history, it’s always a tricky thing to pay for art and to support artists. Who pays for it and how much?

The fact is, real artists keeps expressing themselves anyway, even they get well paid or not. My point of view is the internet help bands a lot to spread their ideas, and the music industry model is what it a is: an industry to make money. So I don’t mind people downloading media and breaking this model. We have to support the artists, not the industry. I think internet created and will increase ways to support artists directly, which is good.

So shoot us a little teaser for your upcoming EP. What’s on it, how did you create it and how do you plan to show it to the world?

The EP is called “Out of Society”, the main concept behind this title is the way we feel about what’s going on in our lives. As we get older, we realize more and more that we’re not satisfied with what the “normal” work life has to offer.

You know, get a shitty job, work your ass off, live on the urge to make more money… we just don’t comply to these ideas. So we wrote 4 news songs with this concept on our minds. Musically, it’s a traditional straight forward QUESTIONS record, we tried to concentrate all the energy we could on the songs, also adding some new flavors here and there. We recorded in June and we’ll put out a 7″ just before the European tour. It will come with a zine full of picts and some texts talking about the ideas of the album. For me, it’s the best recording we ever done.

Why did it take you so long? :)

Since 2007, we managed to put out something new every two years. And we’re always playing shows… So we’re not that slow, hah! I wish we could rehearse more, write more songs, but as I said before, we do it for the passion, we can’t dedicate our whole time to the band. When the European tour started to get into shape and we had 4 almost finished songs, we figured that we should focus on them and release an EP and don’t wait until we have enough songs to record a full album.

What’s the story of your featuring with Andrew STRIFE and Nick TERROR?

STRIFE has influenced QUESTIONS a lot, and when we played with them in 2011, we became friends naturally. They were really nice guys. Then, some months later,  Andrew invited Iggor Cavalera (former SEPULTURA drummer, our longtime hero and friend) to record the new Strife album and they decided to do it in Sao Paulo. We knew we wanted to do something with Andrew. When we found out that Nick was coming too to produce the album, we invited them both to jam with us… we had a couple of riffs, they brought their ideas, we finished the song and recorded it on the next day. It was a pretty rewarding experience. We had a true connection with these guys, they play in two of the best hardcore bands around, yet they were really easy going and we all had fun doing it. I’m pretty proud of this song, to be able to collaborate with guys from bands that I respect so much, to see the hardcore speech is the same all around.

So you’re coming back to Europe in a few days, right? Tell us more about this trek.

It’s our fourth time! Going to Europe represents a lot to us, since we drop the normal routine and get focused only on playing for 25 days. It’s such a cool thing to play shows on week days, we still didn’t develop that culture in Brasil. This time we’re going again to Russia, one of the countries we had the best shows before, and we’ll play for the first time in Ukraine, Finland and Kalinningrad. Also Poland, Latvia… fucking cool! We’ll play on Ieper Fest, which a big accomplishment for us and we’re also will have the honour to play with bands that were decisive when we were growing up, such as SOIA, AF, MADBALL and INTEGRITY. We can’t wait!

Here’s the full list of dates:

29.07 – Dresden/DE @ Chemiefabrik w/ Clearview
30.07 – Kaliningrad/RU
31.07 – Riga/LV @ Depo Klub
01.08 – Hyvinkää/FI @ Zoom
02.08 – St Petersburg/RU @ Zoccolo Club
03.08 – Novgorod/RU @ Клуб 39
04.08 – Moscow/RU @ Дождь мажор
05.08 – Voronezh/RU
06.08 – Kiev/UA
07.08 – Zhytomir/UA @ God’s Garage
08.08 – Ivano-Frankivsk/UA
09.08 – Nowy Sacz/PL @ Jazzgot
11.08 – Ieper/BE @ IeperFest
12.08 – Oostende/BE @ Twilight
14.08 – Bochum/DE @ Bahnhof Langendreer w/ Agnostic Front
15.08 – Hameln/DE @ Sumpfblume w/ Agnostic Front
16.08 – Koln/DE @ Sonic Balroom w/ United & Strong
17.08 – Lubeck/DE @ TreibsAND w/ United & Strong
18.08 – Lindau/DE @ Club Vaudeville w/ Madball
19.08 – Hamburg/DE
20.08 – Berlin/DE @ Cassiopeia w/ Integrity and Clearview
22.08 – Freiburg/DE @ Waldsee w/ Sick of it All

Why did you decide to visit our lands again? How do you remember your first Euro run back in 2007?

A trip like this keeps the band motivated, you know, you have something to look forward to. You force yourself to a deadline so you have to write songs and lyrics, record, think about the cover, shirts, everything… In other words, it keeps the band alive. Why Europe? Well, it’s the great experiences we had before, the possibility of playing everyday, the chance to discover new places where we never played, like Ukraine or Finland, the whole package. Maybe sometime we’ll get the chance to see other spots we want, like China, or Mexico..

We remember 2007 very well, of course! To be able to play outside of Brasil was something that we pursued for long seven years, so, when it finally became true, it was a very special moment! We were so much into doing it that we booked almost 40 shows, hah! We’ve been all the way from Portugal to Estonia, from Hungary to the Netherlands… We’ve been all around, we liked it so much that we kept doing it. A lot of people that were into hardcore in 2007 are no longer involved, many things changed, but we made friends on this tour that stayed in touch since then, it’s a great feeling!

Any particular shows you can’t wait this time?

Kalinningrad, Russia, Ukraine, Ieper… the shows with the North American bands, everything! So many things to be excited about! We don’t have to play in front of hundreds of people to have fun. As long as the crowd gets involved, we give them the best we can every night and enjoy ourselves.

Do you have some plans to chill out on the road, take a few days off to bathe in the sun and take some vacations?

Not really, unfortunately. We’ll have only 2 or 3 days off. And these are going to be long travel days. That’s the main thing I miss on these tours, I’d like to spend more time at places to know more about the people, the culture… But you can’t have everything, right? At least we have the chance to see a little bit of many different places, so maybe someday we can come back to chill and visit the ones we liked the most.

Being active for so many years, how do you manage to live your private lives and actually still develop this band so strong?

Good question, hah! It’s kinda crazy, sometimes. We all work and make money for living outside of the band and pay the corrupted bills. It’s not easy to find work here if you are not part of the mainstream. The drummer and the singer work hard cause they chose to work with ‘art’. Eduzinho is a drum teacher who works many hours per week and Edu, the singer, is unemployed right now, he try to sell his paintings, zines, etc to earn some money. And we have our families, our interests not necessarily music related. But this band, we do it for the passion. Because of our connection as friends, because of all the things we have been through, it’s still make sense in our lives. This is the weapon we found to fight against all the shit the corrupted government does to all of us, day by day.  So we’re always struggling to find time, keep the wheel turning and tell the world that Brazil’s not a paradise like the government want to sell.

If you weren’t involved in hardcore, what type of life path you would have chosen? :)

Hah, I have no idea, honestly! Hardcore chose us, so we’ll keep pushing it the further we can!

Thank you sooo much, fellas! Good luck on tour and let’s keep in touch! Cheers!

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