Q&A with Da Lata from Agogo Records

Da Lata is one of those groups that you will instantly fall in love with. They are well known for their amazing spin on afro-brazilian styles of music and for good reason. These British funk-masters set the bar for modern day recordings of the style and with the release of Fabiola, the threshold was set even higher. Chris Franck and Patrick Forge formed the group in 1996 and have cultivated an amazing following with Da Lata’s trademark sound. Chris and Patrick grew together with shared inspirations from the amazing Fela Kuti to the world of amazing orchestral brazilian dance music. Taking and incorporating different elements piece-by-piece, Da Lata has developed a unique perspective on tonality and they definitely deliver a truly unique sound. For this most recent release, Chris and Patrick assembled an amazing set of collaborators and performers to work up a new set of tracks and the final product is out of this world. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Patrick from Da Lata to talk a bit about the group, the exciting new release, and what we can expect next from Da Lata.

Nick: Thank you so much for sitting down with us today, we really appreciate it!

Patrick: Thank you! My pleasure.

Nick: Picking a favorite song from the new Da Lata album is a really difficult task, every single thing I have heard is mind blowing to say the least. How does it feel now to be back with a new record after 10 years?

Patrick: It feels amazing, and this one has been the most enjoyable journey, from the first demos to the final cut, it’s been a very rewarding experience on many levels.

Nick: Da Lata is two decades old now. Can you tell our readers how the group first came to be?

Patrick: Da Lata grew out of Batu which was the first project we had together. Batu was a seven piece band but we always felt it was too difficult working with so many others. Da Lata was born out of a desire to be more in control of the creative process and so we could work and collaborate with different people. Over the years we’ve worked with some really inspiring people and the Da Lata family has grown, and that’s what it is, more of a family than a group. Though all the players in the current live band were involved with making this record and they’ve bonded amazingly well on the gigs we’ve played so far, so maybe in some ways Da Lata is more of a “group” now than it ever has been!

Nick: Where did the ‘Da Lata’ name come from?

Patrick: Da Lata meaning “from the tin” in Portuguese comes from Brazilian dope smokers folklore, it’s the story of how some exceptionally good quality grass was washed up along the coast. The expression “da lata” has subsequently come to signify something special.

Nick: Can you talk about the Afro-Brazilian influence? Who were some of your inspirations and what are your favorite aspects of that style?

Patrick: Well if you listen to “Ronco Da Cuica” on the album, our version of that tune kind of tells that whole story. It’s a version of Joao Bosco’s Brazilian classic but our arrangement is very much inspired by Fela Kuti, so you’ve got those elements, a samba tune with an afrobeat treatment. This arrangement goes all the way back to Batu, so we’ve always been prepared to mix up those influences. We’ve never wanted to be slavishly authentic, but we’ve tried to respect and embrace those traditions. What we’re really interested in is where those influences can take us. As much as we love the richness of Brazilian harmony or the loose fluidity of an African groove we’re looking to create something that reflects our own lives and experiences, so there’s a big London element too.

Nick: I would love to hear more about Fabiola. What was a normal day like during the production/recording phases?

Patrick: Well obviously the days when we were recording drums or rhythm sections or any kind of performance were very different from the pure production days. Recording days are always exciting because you never know what you’re going to get. Chris, myself and Toni (Econimides) have worked together so much and know each other so well, there’s plenty of banter!! You’re in such a bubble in the studio it breeds it’s own peculiar but very enjoyable kind of madness!!

Nick: Can you introduce our readers to some of the wonderful musicians who made Fabiola possible?

Patrick: Well for a starters there’s all the UK based musicians who feature in the live band, drummers Davide Giovannini and Tristan Banks, bassist Ernie McKone, percussionist Carl Smith, keyboard maestro Mike Patto, sax and flute player Finn Peters and singer Jandira Silva. They’re the core, but Da Lata has always been about collaborations. We’ve got some amazing singers featured on this record, Mayra Andrade from Cape Verde, Luisa Maita from Sao Paulo, Luis Gabriel Lopes from Minas Gerais (he features in two amazing bands Graveola And Tiao Dua) and a Canadian, Sacha Gabriel. There’s also Diabel Cissokho, kora virtuoso and singer who lends his talents to “NYJ”. We’re also really pleased to have a string arrangement from L.A.’s Miguel Atwood Ferguson who’s a phenomenal musician. However as it’s me answering the questions I can happily say that the one musician who made Fabiola possible is Chris Franck whose talent as a writer, player and producer continues to blossom, I’ve just been lucky enough to be able to lend him a hand!

Nick: You have a couple shows lined up in the UK, do you have any plans to take the Da Lata live show to the US any time soon?

Patrick: We’d love to play in States, and we’re hoping to get back to Japan next year too.

Nick: What has it been like working with Agogo records?

Patrick: Agogo have been really good for us, they’ve been a pleasure to work with.

Nick: What is next for Da Lata?

Patrick: Hopefully lots of live shows next year, the chemistry between the players in the band is really something very special, the kind of magic that music’s all about, so the more they get to play, the more that magic has the opportunity to grow and develop.

Nick: Thank you so much for your time!

Patrick: My pleasure.