INTERVIEWED: IVO MARTINS
INTERVIEW: Joana de Deus DATE: April 2016
How and when did you start doing radio?
I started in 1986, in Rádio Delírio, a pirate radio from Porto. Music always interested me and I had friends there.
At the time there were a lot of pirate radios all over the country, made by small groups of people. There was
where O Baile dos Bombeiros [The Firemen’s Ball] was born.
What’s the story behind the name of the program?
I came up with the name because I had seen Milos Forman’s movie and because the firemen’s parties had a big
tradition in my home town (Santo Tirso). They are part of my childhood and adolescence’s imaginary. To my
parents and grandparents they were very important social gatherings, where people would go to get to know each
other and to dance. There were some balls every year and they would always go. On the other hand, I did not
want the title to have a direct connotation with the type of music I played, it had to be ambiguous enough not to
impose limitations in terms of genre or format… and it stuck until now.
How was the BB [Baile dos Bombeiros] in 1986?
Similiar to what is now: a “signature program”, every Sunday night, two hours long, a record in each one of the
hours. The only major difference is that it was live and there was more talk. In any case, I always insisted on
playing the records in their entirety because that’s the way I listen to music. I like to hear a record from beginning
to end, in its original sequence. It’s like reading a book or watching a movie. Of course I feel like going back to
specific parts, revisit excerpts, but that’s not my habit.
What kind of music would you play?
Jazz, improvised music that was being made at the time, Weather Report, Wayne Shorter... records that had just
come out, recent recordings, that excited me. I remember playing In All Languages (1987) by Ornette Coleman
or Letter From Home (1989) by Pat Metheney.
How did you find new music? Where did you buy records?
I was always looking after the records. I would buy a lot in Tubitek, in Porto, and would also go to Vigo. Every
time some friends travelled to England or to the United States I would ask them to bring some records. I’d
discover music in shops, in books, in conversations, but mostly in magazines. I would go as far as to buy eight or
nine magazines each month, both north american and french. Some I would order by phone, from Lisbon. And I
subscribed Cadence. The magazines were essential when it came to prepare the texts for the program, they had
all the info I needed in order to talk about the musicians and the records I played.
What would you talk about?
I would prepare a bio to contextualize the listener and talk a little about the path of the musician or group that
was being played, focusing on particular aspects of their work. Each text had an average of twenty pages. That
was about twenty minutes in blocks of five minutes between tracks. I also talked about what I felt for that
particular song, about my personal experience, without fixed classifying schemes or genre divisions, in order to
free the program from the component associated with the artist’s biographies. I prepared the texts as creative
excercices that mixed information and emotion. Radio helped me a lot when it came to express myself and to
have a writing routine. Even more because to write in order to be read out loud has got nothing to do with being
read silently. It’s another matter altogether. As it is to read in radio without a radio voice standard... I always
hated the radio tone, the radio voices, beacause of their impersonality.
And the theme music?
The theme song changed three times throughout the years, but had always something to do with the firemen’s
marches. During my childhood and up until the mid 90s the two fire brigades from Santo Tirso had their own
bands that would rehearse in the headquarters near my house. Sometimes, on Sunday morning they would go on
street parades and gather donations - they were volunteer. I remember listening to them since forever, the music
that they played is very familiar to me. I tried to choose theme songs that refered to that kind of sound, that
Which were the theme songs?
The first one was a Thelonious Monk track called “Jackie-Ing”, played in a crescendo... something like Ravel’s
Bolero arranjed by Mark Bingham. It was not really a march as it is today, it was a repeated melody building up
and ending with the orchestra in apotheosis. The second one was a march by John Philip Sousa played by Bill
Creeggan and it's called “Izzy”. The last couple of them were already done for RUM - Rádio Universitária do
Minho [University of Minho Radio].
How did BB ended up in RUM?
Rádio Delírio closed, as did a lot of other pirate radios when the radio law came out in Portugal in 1989. It was a
crime to shut them down, they were tens, nobody was making money with them. They had no funding, no
advertising, many were in improvised studios in people’s houses. They were what internet is today, a place to
express and to share, where anyone could come in. Meanwhile BB was in Rádio Fundação, from Guimarães, for
about three years. It was through Miguel Laranjeiro, who at the time was a journalist there. We were introduced
by a mutual friend from Guimarães and I tried to take the program there. In 1993 the Rádio Fundação authority
changed and I thought it was a good time to find a radio station that shared the BB spirit, that wasn’t as
generalist... a radio more driven towards music and “signature programs” like mine. I had already listened to
RUM and it seemed to me the ideal place. I cannot remember exactly but I think I phoned them, I talked about
the program, showed interest in working with them and that’s how it happened.
From 1993 until now what changed?
A couple of things because the context changes. I stopped doing it live, RUM had already technical conditions,
the programs started to be recorded in beta. But the emergence of the internet was the biggest change for me
because the information that I passed to people was starting to be all available online. On the other hand, I also
started to write in other platforms, various magazines, the texts for the festival [Guimarães Jazz]... it was all too
much. So I began adapting it: I continued to play two records every program, one in each hour, divided in four
minutes of pre-recorded takes. I would go there once in a while and prepared between 40 and 50 takes, in real
time, without notes. I left the records there and Sérgio Xavier would assemble the program. It was a new learning
cycle for me, I managed to try out ways of expression and improvisation in real time and it helped me a lot when
it came to speaking in public and dealing with my shyness. At the same time it allowed me to reach unique levels
of freedom of expression and spontaneity that writing would never grant.
Still, recently, you chose to stop recording it...
It was not really an option. In 2010 I got sick, I had a year full of health issues and was not able to go to the radio
and record. At the time Sérgio Xavier, who always took care of the production, replaced me. I would send stacks
of records to the radio station that I recorded at home and Sérgio would do his own research on those records
and introduced them on my behalf.
Why didn’t you got back to it in the meantime?
Because I liked to listen to Sérgio, the brief and sharp way in which he hosted the program throughout that year,
and felt that I wouldn’t do any better. On the other hand, with the amount of information that proliferates every
day, it makes less sense to me to say something other than the music I choose and want people to listen to. The
only difference was that they would listen to my voice introducing the records and not his. This doesn’t mean that
BB is not gonna change, that I don’t feel like doing other stuff in the future...
If you had to select a record for each year that BB is in existence, representative of the
program and your/yours history, which would you choose?
There were a lot of records and different aesthetic approaches. It is hard for me to pick some and leave behind
some other excellent works. I prefer to mention some records that were played in BB and had some personal
John Scofield - Loud Jazz - 1988
Wayne Shorter - Phantom Navigator - 1987
Heiner Goebbels - Der Mann im Farhstull - 1988
Bill Frisell - News For Lulu - 1988
Ornette Coleman - In All Languages - 1987
Gavin Bryars - Jesus Blood Never Feald Me Yet c/ Tom Waits - 1993
Vandermark Five - Target or Flag - 1998
Heiner Goebbels - Shadows/Landscape With Argonauts - 1993
John Zorn - Masada - 1994/97
Ruichi Sakamoto - Beauty - 1989
Dave Douglas - The Tiny Bell Trio - 1994
ICP Orchestra - Bospaadje Konijnehol I - 1992
Django Bates - Music For The Third Policeman - 1990
Miles Davis - Tutu - 1986
Material w/ Bill Laswell - Seven Souls - 1989
David Binney - Free To Dream - 1998
Clusone Trio - I Am an Indian - 1993
Willem Breuker Kollektief - Metropolis - 1989
Tous Dehors - Dans La Rue - 1996
Carla Bley - Sextet - 1987
Carla Bley/Charlie Haden - The Ballad Of the Fallen - 1983
Michael Brecker - Michael Brecker - 1987
Jaco Pastorius - Portrait of Jaco: The Early Years, 1968-1978 - 2003
Peter Erskine - Poet Motion - 1988
Bass Desires - Marc Johnson, Bill Friesell, John Scofield - Bass Desires - 1985
Liberation Music Orchestra - Dream Keeper - 1990
Lester Bowie - Brass Fantasy - Serious Fun - 1989
Vince Mendoza - Start Here - 1990
Uri Caine - Wagner e Venezia - 1997
John Abercrombie, Peter Erskine, Marc Johnson - 1989
Don Cherry - Art Deco - 1989
Art Ensemble - America, South Africa - 1990
Pat Metheny, Ornette Coleman - Song X - 1986
Bob Berg - Short Stories - 1987
Bob Moses - Story of Moses - 1987
Jamaladeen Tacuma - Renaissence Man - 1984
Matt Wilson - Smile - 1999
Mal Waldron, Jeanne Lee - After Hours - 1994
Italian Instabile Orchestra - Skies of Europe - 1994
Steve Lacy - Anthem - 1990
Sonny Sharrock - Ask The Ages - 1991
Chano Dominguez - Hecho A Mano - 1996
Archie Sheep, Roswell Rudd - Live in NY - 2001
The New York Composers Orchestra - The New York Composers Orchestra - 1990
Ernest Dawkins - New Horizon Ensemble: Sounth Side Street Songs -1994
Herb Robertson Brass Ensemble - Shades of Bud Powell - 1988
Wayne Horvitz, Butch Morris, Robert Previtte - Todos Santos
Nguyên Lê - Tales from Vietnam - 1996
Jon Jang - Two Flowers On A Stem - 1996
Keith Tipett - Linuckea - 2001
Gerry Hemingway Quintet - Special Detail - 1991
Pino Minafra - Sudori - 1995
Don Byron - Tuskegee Experiments - 1992
Butch Morris - Testament: A Condution Collection - 1995
TRANSLATION: VASCO VASCONCELOS