The Groningen Report
During this years Eurosonic Noorderslag Festival (ESNS17) in the dutch town Groningen I had the great pleasure to meet Nelson Graf Reis, founder of the group with the name “We Bless This Mess”. On the festival the band was featured in words like these ones: For fans of The Shins, Frank Turner, Against Me!, Mumford & Sons and Bob Dylan, there is the joy of We Bless This Mess. The five-piece band from Porto, Portugal is in fact a solo project by Nelson Graf Reis, that takes the punk approach to folk music and live performances, or equally, that plays punk songs according to the ‘less is more’ philosophy. Nelson’s We Bless This Mess is all about expressing positivity and carpe diem: “We breathe, we are alive. This is the greatest gift.”
Please, enjoy an outstanding interview with Nelson Graf Reis I had on january 12th, 2017 in De Oosterpooort in Groningen.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Thank you very much for making this meeting possible this early morning here at the ESNS17 Media Lounge. You responded the same day on my personal email request some weeks ago, which was a very pleasant surprise! Last night I enjoyed a great performance of you! Even though you maybe were stoned a bit….
Nelson Graf Reis: (Laughing) I got stoned after the show!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Yesterday it was your first concert here on ESNS17, right?
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes, it was.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Yesterday night I got the idea, it was very hard work for you. Of course, I can be wrong. You sing with so much energy and with a huge message for the people.
Nelson Graf Reis: Thank you.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Was it last night a heavy job for you?
Nelson Graf Reis: Of course, after a show you have to put your energy together again, but it’s not exhausting, it’s overwhelming. In the end it’s like you play football 90 minutes long or you are skateboarding for example. I am a skateboarder myself. If you do this for two or three hours, in the end it’s exhausting, but you feel good about it. In the music it is the same. I want to give everything I have and I do. Really everything, the vibe, the message, it’s all connected. Audience, me, even the space where you perform, it’s a living cell. That’s why I enjoy what I do. I don’t feel exhausted, it’s another feeling. Of course, my voice will be a little bit crachy, but it’s okay, because the next morning I go and meditate a little bit and everything is good again.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: I thought, you had maybe some problems with the smoke machine there last night.
Nelson Graf Reis: Yeah, the smoke machine gave me smoke, what was a little bit weird indeed. It dries your throat, but for the rest, it was all fine.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: You remind me a bit of Jeff Buckley’s singing. I visited two of his concerts in Hamburg, Germany, when he just started to tour in the beginning of his career. The way you were singing last night reminded me a bit of his way of singing.
Nelson Graf Reis: Thank you.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Do you have a connection with Jeff Buckley?
Nelson Graf Reis: No, I don’t.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Let’s talk about your lyrics. Your lyrics are like moments of contemplation. We both know, we both meditate and we have a deep connection with meditation. Your lyrics are telling things like “Life can be beautiful, even when you are alone”. Nice to hear that! Because many people today are suffering from depression, many people are suffering from being lonely, from being not connected with others at all. But you give a lot of straight forward hope! You thank your parents, you push positive thinking a lot. You give huge hope to your audience.
Nelson Graf Reis: Thank you so much.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Do you understand yourself as a new age priest?
Nelson Graf Reis: No, I’m just a friend, you know? I like myself as I like other people. I don’t see any kind of difference between people, I really don’t. I treat everyone the same. The same way I treat myself, I treat others. For me it is that simple. I don’t have labels. It is really strange to explain, because I really do get along with everyone. I don’t feel, you shouldn’t get along with everyone. No, I feel you should get along with really everyone. It’s cool, it’s good to make friends, that’s why you are here, you were born in this maybe crazy world, but people are not crazy. If they want to be really human beings, they can be a human being. It’s just more the way to start feeling and stop thinking that much. I thank you for telling me my songs give hope. I really feel thankful, because that’s the thing I really wanna give to people. And it is much more than hope, it’s a possibility. If you allow yourself to feel bad, why shouldn’t you allow yourself to feel good? If you have those definitions of past and future, why can’t you allow yourself to feel the present moment? It’s just another perspective, but a really intense one (laughing).
Bernd Ihno Eilts: But you don’t feel like you want to give people a certain message? Like giving it a try to choose different ways in life?
Nelson Graf Reis: It’s not just my songs, you have what I write, you have Osho, you have Prem Rawat, you have a lot of sources speaking the same thing. Of course, I want to feel I’m one of them, because it is really cool to understand I’m doing the same job than all of these other great sources. That’s what I want to keep doing. And I think it is easy to do the click, the switch, once you recognize. It is just you wanting to be free and happy, that’s all. It’s up to us. That’s why I’m really happy being on stage, I just give myself and my message. Either you take it or you leave it. Life will flash in front of your eyes and you will not see it. You will recognise it now or in the moment you will give your last breath. But you will recognize that this life is a gift. You will! Everyone will. You can recognise it now or later (laughing).
Bernd Ihno Eilts: I think, in my opinion at least, there are always possibilities. You can be in a bad mood, but still you can reach a bright moment in there.
Nelson Graf Reis: Exactly.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: You can suffer from sickness or from bad environments, but still you can see flowers.
Nelson Graf Reis: Exactly.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: And feel the sunlight on your skin. This can make a difference! But of course you have to be able to be open for having this experience. Many people don’t have this. Many people are just suffering so much, that they can’t feel the light anymore.
Nelson Graf Reis: I’ve been there. The thing was, again, it was me wanting to be happy. I am now twenty four years old. When I was about nineteen or twenty years old I was in that place. That place where everything seems to be wrong, everything seemed to turn against me. One day I thought I really need to stop doing this. And if I need to stop doing this, I need to act in a different way. Then I just started with stopping being miserable, I stopped feeling bad and within all this I started searching for answers, not questions. That was the important thing. My search was for example reading “The Power of Now” (Ekkard Tolle), “The Power of The Subconscious Mind” (Joseph Murphy) and a lot of books from Osho.
Suddenly Nelson had to sneeze. My comment on this was, there is pepper in the air!
And we all were laughing!
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes, it started there. I looked for the information, because it is just everywhere. You have shitty stuff to watch, but you also have really cool stuff to watch as well. It’s you choosing what you want to watch. Nobody else! Wherever you go, Youtube for example, the DVD’s you borrow or the movies you download, the TV channels you choose and where you stay with, it’s always your choice, no one else does this. You need to focus on the things you want. It is really important, if you want to be happy, that you make that choice. But it’s not just happiness. If you want peace, it’s different. You really need to go there. I don’t watch news or a lot of television, because it all comes from that pain body, that collective pain body. Many people are just addicted to pain. Then they think, it’s natural to be in that state. Because they are hypnotized. 99% of the world population has been hypnotized. Now, with the globalisation concept, which is in my opinion total bullshit, all are just globally hypnotized.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: And it’s working very well.
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes! That crazy president in the United States shouts and everyone is just listening. That’s how they do it. It is even really simple. You have fear and fear controls the mind of human beings and then they can’t live happy anymore. There is always a fear factor available, always. You don’t see it at the first time, but it appears in the right moment and blocks you. Fear leads to anger. When you feel fear, then you feel insecure, then you feel anger. And because it is you and the world, you feel a big distance between yourself and the world. That’s what fear does to people, not just to people, also to animals. If you beat your pets, they will fear you. They will love you and will fear you, that is not respect, it is fear.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: What happened in your life that you had to deal with bad situations?
Nelson Graf Reis: What happened was the typical thing. I didn’t like school, the situation with my friends that time changed, I had some issues with myself, I didn’t understand why people did bad stuff to each other and I was always thinking about these things. I got the idea, that I didn’t want to live in a world like this. For sure not like this, in this bullshit bad situation and environment. I felt, people couldn’t be really honest and true. They were just playing mind games with each others and that happened all the time. Again: I didn’t want to live in a world like that. That all left me in a really bad state. But when I hit the top of the bottom, I started to realize all this, what I’m talking about with you right now. I don’t think, everyone needs to be in that state, but it was just my personal experience. Then I started to realise, that life is not about that. That I needed to understand and that happened.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: I think, it is a really strong situation, that you felt all that and even started choosing differently. To realise all that is one thing, but to choose really in daily life within all ups and downs, to go through all this differently is really something!
Nelson Graf Reis: It is a way to really want this. If you want peace, you need to practice. It is all about practice. If you want to play violin very good, you have to practice the violin very hard. If you want to play football very well, you need to practice. Even when you are talented, you have to train yourself. If you want peace, you have to practice peace.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: How did you practice peace?
Nelson Graf Reis: Practicing peace is within every single moment of my life. I do meditation and that works really really amazing. When I have my eyes open, which is almost 23 hours every single day, I really try to make it the best day of my life. Every single day again. Because it is the best day of my life. Because it is today. And today I am living. Here and now. For me, past and future is just a mental projection. There is no future, there is no past.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: It’s all there now.
Nelson Graf Reis: Of course, there is future and past, if you want to go to your memories or your wishes and plans. But this shit in reality is just a frequence, a projection. The present moment is the only reality.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Let’s talk a bit about your life as a musician. And we meet here because of your music. How did you become a musician?
Nelson Graf Reis: Since I was two years old I was always in music. I wanted to play music and I was asking for instruments to play with. My father is a musician, he is from Brasil. My mother works as a stage manager and she is from Portugal. I was born in Portugal and went to Brasil and came back again. I always wanted to play and be in music. When I was nine years old, my father gave me a violin and started teaching me playing the violin for one year. Then I entered the classical school. I started to play in bands when I was fourteen years old. In that period we always promoted and booked our own shows. And the important thing was, I didn’t do this all alone. We were a team. Like this we still work together. I have the band and I run my own record label. I really love music, it is really a very deep love. The connection and expression in music is very strong. If you, as a human being, put all what is inside yourself through the quality of an instrument, it is a very strong and beautiful act.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: It is a very strong activity.
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes! Even using your own voice, even the singing act is like the best medicine you can have. Especially for me! (Laughing). If I feel strange I just start to sing. That’s cool and I feel better the same time. It’s cool to sing, to dance, to do all those natural things (laughing). To laugh and to talk.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: And have a drink! I read you started playing Rock ‘n’ Roll, you played even Punk, Punk-rock and all that stuff. How did it change for you, the way, you play now?
Nelson Graf Reis: It was a really cool and random thing. I was playing with my band Black Jackers, we were a crossover punk-rock band. It was punk in attitude, because we played any style in one. But the attitude was punk. The thing was, my brother Marcello went to do an Erasmus study program in Estonia in 2013. And he was the drummer of our band. So I suddenly was in a situation I had nothing to do anymore. At least not like before. But I had an acoustic guitar and like this I started playing some songs for myself, but also playing for my friends. Like that it started actually. One of my friends is a photographer and he always told me to work more in this way. He always told me, my songs were good. But I always told him: “These are our songs, we played them always for each other”. In the content of the songs I didn’t want to be misunderstood. Then I was playing with my friends and just experiencing that, what was really beautiful. People think, that being famous and succes is all. Funny is, in that period of time I was really succesful. Playing for my closest friends was already amazing and a big success. Very often they told me to record my songs. Then slowly I started recording them and started playing some gigs with some punk-rock bands as well (laughing). My first show was with the Dutch band Interlectual. That was my first gig in Porto, Portugal. Then everything started, all just got out of control (laughing). I wasn’t expecting anything. That was the most cool part. I was just having fun doing it. People looked at me with a different perspective. It wasn’t punk anymore. It is what it is now, right? I don’t want to label my music, but these are just honest songs and singing.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Right now, do you have the feeling, music is the most pure inside of yourself?
Nelson Graf Reis: I feel good. Of course, I really enjoyed the punk-rock time and those gigs with that band and I really want to play with them again. But like it is now, everything is good, the timing is good. This you have to understand. I don’t want everything at the same time. All things happening now are fine and i just accept it. I go with it. Now I’m doing “We Bless This Mess” and everything is going great. I’m really enjoying the way it’s happening. Yeah, it’s really cool.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: I think, it’s a big difference, when you play in a band with your friends and it’s just for fun. You don’t think about the possibility, to make a living from that. But now it looks like you are becoming a professional, you are travelling a lot, you have many concerts, now you are even here on the ESNS17. Can you explain me maybe a little bit, how you made this step?
Nelson Graf Reis: I don’t think about this kind of stuff. It is really cool, you ask me this, because I really don’t take the time to think about it. It is all happening in a natural way. I don’t even think I’m becoming a professional musician. For me, music was always a very serious thing. It is something, that really matters to me. Even if I’m an amateur or a professional or a semi-professional, those labels do just not exist in my opinion. I really enjoy what I do, I feel grateful for all that is happening now in this natural way. How it started was even easy going: I started with some shows, I kept doing these shows. But instead of having twenty people in the audience, now there are maybe fifty or a hundred or even two hundred. It is good to see, the first twenty people showed up in the same gigs. It is not a fan based situation, they were friends. It is really cool to see, that I’ve met many people in the way they were fans of the band. Now they are really close friends.
For example (laughing), I know a friend, he came to see three or four shows in Portugal and he was like: “Hey man, I really like your music and love your lyrics”. And I was like: “Man, that’s cool, let’s have fun, let’s do stuff together”. Then he came to Porto and he stayed at my place, those kind of stuff. There is no such thing as artists and non-artists. We can be all together in one situation, as one family. That’s even better, you never know, who you gonna meet, for both sides. One fan meets the artist or the artist meets the fan. You never know, what this relation will lead you towards. That’s why I treat everyone the same. In the musically environment the guy in the audience, or you Bernd, or the sound engineer, we are all involved in the same thing. Otherwise it wouldn’t happen the way it happens.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: But now you are running your own record label.
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes (laughing).
Bernd Ihno Eilts: That is also very special! That means, you are absolutely independent from the music industry.
Nelson Graf Reis: Exactly! And this is what I want! I want to see the music industry as a compliment. Not like something, I need to be part of. Of course, it is amazing to know all the people in this special environment. Because again: We are all people. I don’t look at the labels. I don’t see them like: Oh, you are from this big major label or from that one. You have to go with the flow. If you meet the good people, it doesn’t mean it’s important what he does – in a good way. I don’t care about what people do. I care about what people are (laughing). Because who and what you are, you put all into your actions. In this way you can really feel comfortable. It’s true, I have my own label, I started this almost one year ago. My label is called Oh-lee Records. It’s a really cool experience. I am booking everything myself, the shows and everything around. At some point, I’m doing this all not only for myself, but also for my friends. I do some releases also for them, helping producing and so on. It’s really cool because I get in touch with more lucky people and I feel, that I’m useful with what I’m doing. When I’m helping everyone feels good. There is no other thing to describe this. I do it, because it feels good. I run a label, because it feels good. I play music, because it feels good. I put all together, this is why I always repeat myself. This is how I see things and stuff, how I really feel this. That’s, why I’m always talking (laughing)!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: You are not just talking, you are also singing!
Nelson Graf Reis: Yeah! (laughing).
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Even when you are talking, you are singing!
Nelson Graf Reis: Exactly. At least I’m not fooling anyone. This is what I am and I’m not more or less that this. This is it (laughing)!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: You toured already a lot, like in Brasil, Germany, UK, now you are here. Could you please share some tour-stories with us?
Nelson Graf Reis: I have a lot of really cool stories. Well, this is just one story to break the ice, okay? Once I was playing in Belgium and when I stopped playing one guy came along and said: “Man, I really enjoyed your show! Take this”! And I was like: “Okay”! I thought, what is this? Then I opened the little gift and inside were four pills of Exstasy! (Laughing). Why did he gave me this? He was like: “Take it, take it please”! I didn’t took them that night but two nights later in London. And, Jesus Christ, that was really good stuff!
But okay, funny stories! There were so many moments all the time, really cool moments, it’s a bit difficult now to choose. Well, let me check. Okay, I have one and this one happened in Portugal. Last year in September I had a tour together with other singer/songwriters. I was organising that tour with my label and everything. The first day the tour didn’t start really and we were just hanging out in Porto, together with the UK guys and the Belgium guys. There we were all together, slowly getting ready for the tour. We went downtown in Porto, to the river and started drinking a bit. At the end of the day I was in my studio together with my brother and some other guys. But that moment we were all just too drunk and couldn’t do anything anymore, so the party started!
When we are on tour, it’s totally different. We are all together in the van and travel towards all these places. We share the pizza and all. Last year in December I was in Brazil and that was really cool. We went to the showcase festival and had the conference tour and in the end I was going to meet my family in Brazil. That part was really nice. But in general it is always very hard for me to take a favorite day or a favorite song or a favorite dish. I have to focus a lot to answer that question, because it is really difficult.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Okay, I understand. But here on the ESNS17 it is your first time in The Netherlands?
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Here we have the situation, that Portugal is featured in a special way. How did you get involved to this festival?
Nelson Graf Reis: I applied for this festival and we already knew, that Portugal would be the big country focus this year. Then I had to wait until they told me, I’m selected. That was it! (Laughing).
Bernd Ihno Eilts: So, it was not like everyone in Portugal was talking about this years Eurosonic?
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes, of course. There were 20something bands and all their representive companies. So, everyone had a chance to be here. I think, it is really fair, how they did it. Even though, every country has its own competition, but I don’t think people are looking at it like this. Or better: I hope, they don’t see it as a competition. There is just no need for competition. Because that just leads us towards isolation and collaboration is the opposite. If we cooperate with everyone it’s way easier to do the work.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: I think, you mentioned in one of your clips Prem Rawat. What do you like about him?
Nelson Graf Reis: Prem Rawat is first of all a speaker, he talks about peace since he was five years old. He was the one, who really changed my life. The meditation techniques I practice every day came from him. He is an important person in my life and has a special meaning for me, he is my champion! Through him I get more in touch with myself and that is really important for me.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Meditation is also very ancient.
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes, exactly. I think, it is a more than 3.000 years old tool.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Mediation is a tool, for what?
Nelson Graf Reis: It works in a level, that is really hard to explain. It changes your perspective, but not just your mental one. I just feel different now. I meditate now three years in august and my life became totally different. Of course, I was living for 20 something years without meditation, and now my life is totally different. The way I see the world, the way I get in touch with people, the way I express myself, it’s all more easy now. Talking about my wants, not to hurt anyone when I’m talking (and singing), because in my past I had those kind of insecurities. I thought, I’m maybe not really polite, you know what I mean? Sometimes being yourself overcomes being polite. My family was always like that, they pushed me a lot towards the direction of being polite in my life. But sometimes seeing how you really are is the best way to get in touch with people. These meditation techniques really help me feeling who I am. I feel like a five-year old kid but at the same time with the responsibility of someone with my age. I don’t believe in ages. For me, this all is very difficult to explain in which way it really helps. It helps me in so many ways! Even in all the possible ways! It is a really important thing in my life.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Thank you for this very open answer! Can you please tell me about the meaning of “We Bless The Mess”?
Nelson Graf Reis: In general it’s about what I am doing and all the other people are doing too. The mess I’m talking about is the mental mess, overthinking, all those diseases that do not appear in the newspapers of this world. People in general do not realise they suffer from these diseases. That is the mess I am talking about. “We Bless this Mess” is about the power we all own. It is about the will to change the mess. And that is a blessing! I use the word we, because it is about all of us. If you want to do that change, it’s not about only me. I don’t care, if I did a change. People just change themselves, not anyone else. I change myself. I can talk to people, I can try to convince people to believe in what I feel, but the only change happens inside, not outside. The real and only change happens inside. At least if you want this change to happen. That’s why I use the word we.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: You compose your music and your lyrics. How is that working for you? Do you need some inspiration for doing this, a special place to be in? How do you compose?
Nelson Graf Reis: Usually it’s like a click. When a song comes, all comes together. Then I need to grab a piece of paper and start to write. I start listening to the song in my head and if I have a guitar in that moment, I play. But if I don’t have an instrument, I wait because I already know how it sounds like. When I get home then, I play and probably change something, but in general it is intuition that works, when I’m writing or composing. I mix those two components together. When I’m writing, the melody is in my head already. This makes all easy going.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: So, you follow your intuition.
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes! I practice a lot following my intuition. It is amazing how it works and what it does. It is way more important than reason. Sometimes a reason tricks you. Intuition doesn’t. It is like it is and this you feel. When it is something intuitive, you feel it. When it’s reason, you believe it or not. To know is to feel. To believe is to think about something. That’s the big difference.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: When you compose, you write and you play, you also play the piano?
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes, I play some piano, but normally I compose on the guitar. When I’m recording I start with the guitar and vocals and then I do the arrangements. I put some piano, bass, extra guitars and a violin.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: So, you do all the instrumentation!
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes! I really like to work on the arrangements. It’s really fun for me. I like, how the music grows in the studio, it is a different approach. When it is live, I really like this raw and punk feeling. That is the organic way and straight forward. In the studio I want to work in the vibe of that piece. That is a different and funny approach. I develop kind of a world into one track. Each track has its own universe around it. That is really cool! (Laughing).
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Would be cool to see you maybe in your studio.
Nelson Graf Reis: Be my guest!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: You put your music and your message in videos. Now in this world we need images. You work with this new visual need a lot. Your videos have a very strong message, their quality is very strong too. In the beginning of my interest in you there was not much information I could work with. But still, I choose to ask you from a mountain of many possibilities, don’t ask me why. I thought, it would be great to have an interview with you, without even knowing you and your music. This of course changed. Your videos helped me a lot for doing my research. They own a transportation of images and music.
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: You work on your videos also yourself?
Nelson Graf Reis: These videos are works of my friends and myself, we do this together. We work on the concepts and try to bring the vibe of the songs together in a huge process. We always start very simple and we try to develop that message into the quality of an audio-visual concept. It’s funny, because the videos have different directors. But they are all directed and made from the same group of friends. We all know each others very well. The video of the song Joy was made by a very good friend of mine, Fabio. Contemplate & Silence was made by Nuno. It was the guy who advised me very much to record my music in the beginning, he made that video! He is a really important person in the development of the band as well. Darling was made by Niels Gramsen, he is from The Netherlands. He was studying in Portugal through Erasmus and he was like: “Oh, I have a final work to do, and my wish is to make a music video”. I agreed totally with his idea and so we started first with a concept and worked very well together on the message of the song and the video around it.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Your videos are really strong. I think, you are really doing an excellent job!
Nelson Graf Reis: Thank you!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: How do you choose, which song to put in a video?
Nelson Graf Reis: That’s a good question! It is intuition again and like this, it’s just happening. With Darling, it was Niels, who came with the idea first of all. With Joy it was a little bit the same. It’s just a natural thing, I don’t force a process or a decision. I just try to keep it natural like a flow in time. The flow is very important, so you can feel the flow (laughing).
Bernd Ihno Eilts: I think, this is working very well!
Nelson Graf Reis: Thank you so much.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Now you are here in Groningen for the first time, how do you like it here?
Nelson Graf Reis: I really enjoy it here. It is really cool here. I had a lot of fun yesterday, we were playing ping-pong together with the other artists (laughing). We were playing kind of rotating ping-pong. Around the table we were five people and we switched places all the time, that was really cool!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Your hotel is on a boot, right?
Nelson Graf Reis: Yeah! That was really funny there! I opened the closet in my room and there was a life vest. For me it was really cool to realize, sleeping in a place with a closet with a orange colored life vest (laughing). But this way you feel just comfortable knowing you have one of those in your room!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: How was the breakfast there?
Nelson Graf Reis: The breakfast was amazing! I had some fruit and peanut butter.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: You knew peanut butter already?
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes. I am a vegan, so I have to know peanut butter and love it. Hummus as well! And they had amazing hummus there.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: They have a really good kitchen there in The Artist Village.
Nelson Graf Reis: The kitchen there is fantastic. I really enjoy everything! (Laughing).
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Tonight you have a second concert and even a third one tomorrow?
Nelson Graf Reis: Yes. It is out of the official program, in ‘The Dogs Bollocks’. Tonight I will even play the violin with my friend, tomorrow we will perform another different program where I play with two other friends together.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: How are you in private when there is no music around?
Nelson Graf Reis: I like to skate, I am a tatoo-artist as well. I like to draw concepts of tatoos. But of course, I am running the record label and within that activity there is a lot of work to do. I am attending a lot of these showcase festivals and these ask a lot of work, like following emails, new contacts and so on. The label is in a situation I really need to work a lot for it. It is nice, because now I have more people working with me.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Where can we buy your cd’s?
Nelson Graf Reis: I sell cd’s after the concerts and you can buy them online of course. But I like more the personal approach. We are still looking for a physical distribution and for now, I do take care of it myself. We ship the cd’s everywhere when people ask for it. Usually I write something for the people on the cd cover, so all stays very personal. And like this you establish a relationship.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: How much is it to book you for a solo concert?
Nelson Graf Reis: When I play solo, it depends which kind of venue. But usually it is around € 200.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Okay! Nice to know your rate!
Nelson Graf Reis: If I can put three or four shows together for a small tour, all is very easy. One show then pays the trip and the others pay for food and everything else. When I come back home then I have some money to invest also in my music. My rule is to invest almost everything into music. I always have only a little in my pocket but a mountain for investments. In this early stage I need to do that. I am not here for the financial success. I feel, if you do your work good, the abundance of money will be a consequence, even a natural one. It’s not something, you should aim for.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Good you say that.
Nelson Graf Reis: It is like that. If it would be different, you would just loose yourself into bullshit. It is a problem of all industries, not just the music industry. All the industries work for and with the big money. But in art it shouldn’t be that way. Of course, the music industry is established and I respect that. Everyone is doing a great job. But I feel that some stuff has to change. The only change I can do is in my own environment. If I can tell my friends that we can do things the other way, then it’s perfect. Those things like focusing on the quality of the work and the quality of the songs, the vibration and everything. Instead of focusing on the result, the success. Success is just an idea, just a concept. Again: If you feel happy, it is success already. You are succeeding, you are alive and you are happy with your life, that is what success is all about. You don’t even need half of the stuff you want to feel good with. You don’t need anything to feel good. That’s the thing! (Smiling). You just need to be able to understand this. The special thing is not what you’re doing, it’s how you’re doing it. It is how you do stuff. If you feel doing stuff really cool and chilled, the result is within the vibe you put into it. If you do these things in an angry state, you can do something you love, but if you are angry, you are just angry (laughing). You are not loving it anymore. I talk by experience. Once I played and I was angry. That is not fun. It’s not what you’re doing, it’s all about how you do things. It is really important to realize that as soon as possible. Then all is fine, you are able to do whatever you want, because you are a human being. It’s just about keeping the focus on the real stuff, not the ‘Oh, I want this, I want this, if I don’t have this I’m so miserable’. (Laughing). We always rely on things that are not certain! But you have to rely on the certain things! The uncertain will turn certain, but you need to feel good first (laughing).
Bernd Ihno Eilts: What are your future plans? Let’s say for the next six months or the next five hours?
Nelson Graf Reis: Well, my future plans are to establish more contacts with booking agents, so that I can have a cool network, a really nice environment as well to work in. I really want to work with people who understand this mindset. It is for sure really important that they do understand the mindset. I work with a collaboration vibe. We are all doing this together. Again: It’s not about a project or a label, it is about the people who work together. I do not really care if I work for “We Bless This Mess” or “Oh-lee Records” or even another band. We just need to get connected and if we are doing something we have to do it good. With people you like it’s the best. The big problem with cooperations is, they just choose random people to work with. When people do not like each other, they cannot create a good work environment. All the companies should look after it as well. The work environment is what defines the company. But all the business is like that, not just a label. If you own a restaurant or something, you need to have a good environment. Otherwise it will crash (laughing).
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Thank you very much for being that open and kind with my questions and myself!
Nelson Graf Reis: Thank you so much! It’s my pleasure!
For more information, please check: www.facebook.com/nelsongrafreis and:
Interview: Bernd Ihno Eilts
Photography: Zoltan Acs