Portuguese artist and Turquoise Records label boss Armando Mendes has become a recognisable name amongst the industry, with influences from the early Detroit and Chicago House scene and his diverse range of sound from jazz to deep house and electronica. He now makes his debut album ‘Parallel Universe’ in collaboration with some of the industry’s most powerful artists including Robert Owens, Ithaka from the N.W.A crew and Defected’s Jinadu.
We caught up with Armando to hear about his new release on his Turquoise Records imprint, working with some of the industry’s leading legends, influences from the Chicago and Detroit House scene and his plans for 2020.
Hi Armando, thanks for speaking to us, could you tell us what you’re up to currently?
Hi guys, thanks for the Q&A, it’s my pleasure to have this pow wow with you. I’m currently focusing on promoting my debut album which will be out in February and working on some remixes for next year as well.
What’s the music scene like in your hometown of Porto, Portugal right now?
Right now, Porto is thriving with music in all fronts, clubs, bars and the local underground network, it’s really pushing the city to be one of Europe’s references for nightlife and club culture.
The atmosphere in downtown Porto is vibrant and you can expect to hear the best international DJ’s and musicians in Europe. The music culture was always well embedded in the city’s DNA. Also music festivals like Neopop, Primavera Sound and Meo Marés Vivas have been excelling with stellar line ups in the electronic music scene and indie pop scene. I highly recommend visiting my lovely city.
We understand you were inspired by funk, jazz and soul in your teenage years and developed your own skills as a musician, as well as being surrounded with a variety of music from your family and friends growing up in Portugal. Would you say your broad musical knowledge has had a major impact on the content you create today?
Absolutely, Without a doubt! Since I was very young I always surrounded myself with music, my grandfather and my dad are also musicians, so it was inevitable for me to follow in their footsteps. At 7 years old my aunt gave me my first acoustic guitar and since then I never looked back on pursuing a musical career, getting inspired to compose and produce music by myself and/or with other musicians.
I’ve played bass and double bass in rock bands, funk bands, and I’ve even put together a Jazz Trio playing all over Portugal, it was fun for sure.
The variety of musical influences came later when I started working at Fnac in the music department, when I was there I got access to endless music including jazz, pop, rock, funk, electronica and so on. I clearly remember fresh pallets of records coming in every single day, so I got exposed to a lot of music back then. Happy days!
A couple of years later when I established myself in beautiful sunny Barcelona I started studying Audio Engineering and music production at SAE and also working on Vinyl & Distribution shop called Subwax.
You’ve also taken inspiration from the early Detroit and Chicago House scene with legendary artists like Frankie Knuckles and Madhouse label boss Kerri Chandler listed as some of your favourites. What was it about those artists that you admired in particular?
When I start working at Subwax with Jimi, the electronic music influence came naturally and I was heavily drawn to vinyl culture, the Chicago, Detroit and Berlin scene. These artists’ work was seminal in the way I approached my music production and vision. I had absolute freedom to experiment and express myself with synths, drums machines and weird sounds.
Obviously I did have some connection with the house and techno genres in the past but it was there that I polished it down and it had a major impact on what I wanted to do next in my career. Plus, Barcelona’s club culture was a massive launch in my DJ career as well.
Your debut album on your Turquoise Records imprint was made between LA, London and Berlin. You also worked with iconic artists including Robert Owens, Ithaka from the N.W.A crew and Defected’s Jinadu. Tell us some more about the project and what it was like working around the globe with such respected collaborators?
Like I mentioned above the freedom to express myself on another musical level rather than acoustically and without other band members, was extremely alluring. I’ve always had my own ideas on the music direction a track should go or sound, and how could that transpose to a collaboration with another singer or other musicians.
A very good example of that, is two pivotal records that influenced me when I was working at FNAC music shop early 2000´s and lead me to do this album, Kruder & Dorfmeister – K&D Sessions and St Germain – Tourist. It was hugely inspiring and it opened my musical horizons to replicate this in my own way and surely with my musical background as a live musician.
It took me several years to get it the way I envisioned it to be sound wise, sonically speaking, and the conceptualisation of it when it comes to producing an album that dwells throughout the electronic and acoustic music spectrum. It has to make sense and be cohesive.
An album tells a story and guides the listener through a journey of feelings and emotion. Also, getting the right artists to work with and collaborating on these 12 tracks was a very long and careful selection process.
For instance, Robert Owens and Larry Heard were my introduction to Deep House I revered them and I reckon they are the pioneers of this genre with Fingers Inc. I met Robert in Berlin doing a warm set for him at Chalet club. We talked for a while and I knew that we could do something together for my album, it just felt right and was meant to be! That’s how the fifth track of my album ‘No Regrets’ was born. I also need to mention Robert for the legacy he has built and his contribution to the Chicago House scene, he’s a gracious and wonderful human being. Bless him and may he live a joyful long life!
Ithaka is an L.A. poet, I came across his albums in early 2000´s and I love the simple concept of the spoken word in a track. Many people don´t know but he´s the voice of the timeless Portuguese banger tune ‘U.S.L. – So Get UP’ by DJ Vibe and Rui da Silva! I loved working with him and the album opens with Ithaka, giving a lyrical motivational spoken speech, backed up with a lo-fi downtempo composition and it’s one of my favouriter tracks of the album, if that’s not being too biased.
Jinadu, is certainly one of the upcoming rising artists and voices in the electronic music scene coming from the UK. His work never disappoints, whether it’s a House track, Tech House, or Downtempo genre. His deep melodic voice grasps your soul and takes you to another state of consciousness! Like the track ‘The Melody Inside’ we made together from the album, captures precisely that essence and emotion. I´m very fortunate, blessed and grateful to have all of these amazing international artists on my album.
You’ve released many records on your Turquoise Records imprint which launched in 2014. Do you have any plans for the label next year and are there any artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I founded Turquoise Records in order to have full transparency of my music in the business, and insight when it comes to promoting and exposing yourself as an artist and other artists as well. I`m a firm believer that music should be respected and never underestimated. Nowadays there’s practically no filter on what comes out to the public and that´s misleading, confusing and deceitful at times. My aim is to bring good quality music to people, release as much music as I can so I can touch as many people as I can.
You’ve had a busy summer with sets in Malaysia and Thailand, and have previously shared the stage with Robert Owens, Ben Pearce and Tensnake. Can you tell us a bit more about your musical journey over the past decade?
These past ten years I’ve been pushing my career internationally playing all over the world from Russia, Asia, Australian and back. I believe it’s important to expose yourself and get out of your comfort zone, nothing good comes out of your comfort zone. Traveling, meeting new people, experiencing cultures and liaising with other artists across the globe gives you a bigger picture and enriches yourself as a human being and in your musical journey too.
Where’s your favourite place you’ve played at over the years? Are there any clubs or events you’ve performed at that have stood out from the crowd?
Berlin is definitely one of my favorite cities to play at, the crowd is just receptive to everything. You can play disco, house, techno in just one set, as long as you know where to fit those genres in a set of course. It’s amazing!
Give us three of your favourite records from the past and present?
Bill Evans- Explorations
Kruder & Dorfmeister – K&D Sessions
St Germain – Tourist
Ambrose Akinmusire – Origami Harvest
Kamasi Washington – The Epic
Aphex Twin – Syro
Have you got any major plans for 2020 as a DJ, artist and label owner that you would like to mention?
Definitely, I’m very excited for my debut album release on Turquoise Records, also touring all over the world promoting it and presenting it to everyone. It will come out on Vinyl and Digital on the 7th of February 2020 in all physical and digital shops, so to whoever is reading this out there make sure to have a listen and send your feedback or support, it’s much appreciated and sending Mad Love to y’all.
Also to say that Music is 4 Lovers have done a great job for the past years I follow the premieres, interviews and mixes very closely. Thanks for your dedication, contribution, and effort guys. It´s been a great pleasure to have this little pow-wow. Cheers!
That’s very exciting to hear and we thank you for your support! We can’t wait to speak again soon.
‘Parallel Universe’ is out on Vinyl on 31st January/ Digital 7th February 2020.
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