By José Oliveira Journalist/Photographer – Rock At Night France, Switzerland, Portugal
“Portugal is my home! It has many disadvantages and inconveniences, but there is no other place where I would prefer to be!” So says Vincent McCALLUM. A lovely Scottish Folk Troubadour, who has a perfect way of living in Portugal. He’s touching people with his last compilation work “LIFE & SPACESHIPS”. A human story of songs with resonant political lyrics and a blend of rural folk.
RAN– You seem by nature incredibly modest but, let me tell you that this last work is just a treasure!!! Good songs, nice words and a great rough voice!!! What’s the meaning of the title “ LIFE & SPACESHIPS”? And what’s about the cover photo?
VIN– Thank you very much for your kind words, they mean a lot to me because I know you are a great music lover.
The title of this compilation CD came from a comment made by my youngest son, (Calvin), when he was a little boy, I asked him what he was thinking about and he simply replied, LIFE & SPACESHIPS, I love it. The cover photo was taken by my wife Rose at the Aqueduct in Pegoes Tomar, Portugal, it represents someone trying to eat their way out of a society and world that they never asked for.
RAN– Were you fascinated by music from an early age?
VIN– My first recollection of music was when I was very little living in Aldeia do Juizo near Sintra (Portugal), we were having a family walk in the woods and there was a party there with a band playing, would have been mid sixties, I started pulling at my father’s hand but they wouldn’t allow me to go see what was going on. I was fascinated and curious.
RAN– Can you remember buying your first singles?
VIN– We didn’t have a record player until the seventies. I remember buying Pop Corn, Elton John, Rolling Stones and Genesis singles.
RAN– What was the first song you can remember making an impression on you?
VIN– “Samba Pa Ti” from Carlos Santana! That was it, it blew me away, still does.
RAN– What were your musical influences?
VIN– I suppose that we are influenced by what we like to listen to. I’m quite a mix because I like all genres as long as they come up to the standard that I set myself for listening to.
RAN– How many years have you lived in Portugal? What brought you to live in Portugal?
VIN– I have been here fifty five years as resident, on and off over the years. I came here with my parents in 1963.
RAN– Living in Scotland has advantages and disadvantages, like the climate for example. Does living in Portugal present many advantages and few inconveniences?
VIN– About Scotland I don’t really know because I have never actually lived there. Portugal is my home! It has many disadvantages and inconveniences, but there is no other place that I would prefer to be!
RAN– Back to your work, I see that you are so prolific as a writer! All the 19 songs come from you. It’s rare to see that nowadays? Isn’it? Where do you find your inspiration? Music comes first? or lyrics?
VIN– Yes, all the tracks were written and composed by myself except “Cutting Down The Green”. This is by Trace McCallum, she also contributed with sections of lyrics on some of the other tracks. Normally the music melody with some scattered words kicks it off, then it just sort of writes itself. I don’t really think about it that much. Inspiration comes in the form of a good bottle of Portuguese wine!!!(laughs)
RAN– How did you build this album? Do you play all the instruments? Was it recorded in any particular studio? Were there guest musicians?
VIN– It’s a compilation Album with 19 tracks taken from 4 previous CDs. I play most of the instruments myself, but I also have guest musicians. Most of it was recorded and produced by myself at JDO Studios in Portugal.
RAN– Apart from a great diversity of different music styles, there is a strong Folk influence in the majority of your songs. Don’t you agree? Is this the horizon that characterizes you?
VIN– I am definitely quite a mix, sometimes difficult to categorize. I now call it POWERFOLK, and I’m mainly influenced by late sixties early seventies music.
RAN– In “Tempos Que Já La Vao”, one of the 4 tracks written in Portuguese on this CD, do you think that it was easier to live professionally of music then or nowadays?
VIN– I have always made my living within the music industry, performing, producing, managing, sound engineering etc., and I have always survived!!! It’s all about making choices and what your expectations are. Everything is in constant change but as for it being more difficult now or not, I really don’t know.
RAN– I notice that OCEAN, RIVER, WATER navigate in your texts. Right, Portugal and Scotland have frontiers with water, how do you explain this? How is songwriting in Portugal.
VIN– In the nineties I went through a higher consciousness that in turn took me to a spiritual state of mind, elf’s and long-lost lands, journeys into the unknown etc. In different ways I think that both Portugal and Scotland have a mystical feel to them. Songwriting is divided in Portugal, the same as anywhere else, awesome and f….g dreadful.
RAN – You do have a sense of political lyrical style. “VERGONHA” is a nice example. Is it right?
VIN– Yes, I’m an outsider!! One foot in, one foot out! “VERGONHA” is, as quite a few of my songs are, accusations against greed, corruption and general stupidity of the people responsible for all this shit!!!!
RAN– The track “They’re The Ones to Blame” is exceptionally beautiful!! It deserves being in the European Top Ten! Tell me more about its creation.
VIN– It started off as an acoustic track. Then I decided to go for a full production by myself in my home studio. It took me about three weeks, I ended up chasing a blue bottle fly down the corridor as the local bus was passing, gave a great atmosphere to finish it off. I still enjoy listening to it.
RAN – Performing live, does that give you a bigger charge than recording in a studio?
VIN– I used to be a studio animal but now I am definitely a live performer.
RAN– Do you like playing in festivals? Did you do any of the Portuguese summer festivals?
VIN– I have played various summer festivals in Portugal and around Europe over the years. (Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany…) I always enjoy performing, but where I really feel at home is playing intimate concerts.
RAN– There is an enormous movement towards tourism in Portugal nowadays. Many Europeans retired people chose Portugal because they don’t have to pay taxes for 10 years! What’s your sentiment about this?
VIN– Yes! There is an enormous influx, mainly from the UK and France. In one way it helps the Portuguese economy. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem fair that our children have to go abroad looking for a living because tax is so high and wages so low, when others can live in a tax-free paradise!!! But after saying this, many are actually also paying tax here.
RAN– I know that recently you are evolved with helping Expats with their construction and property problems here in Portugal. Can you explain this a bit please?
VIN– Yes, it started because I heard so many stories about people being ripped off. So now I have become a kind of Robin Hood character, sorting out other people’s fuck ups!!!!
RAN– Is Brexit a mistake? Do you consider yourself Scottish or European?
VIN – Yes, Brexit is a big mistake in my opinion! I’m a citizen of this planet and simply a human-being! If I’m Scottish, English, Italian, Jewish, French or Portuguese, it really doesn’t matter. In fact; I’m probably a Chameleon!!!!
RAN– When are you gonna be doing your next record?
VIN– I’m already working on two. One instrumental and another with songs that never found their way onto CD before, for some reason or another. Then I have new material to record at some point in the future but for the moment I’m just enjoying LIFE & SPACESHIPS.
RAN– Many thanks VIN!!! It was a great pleasure to share this great chat with you by phone to Rock At Night!
Hope to see you soon in Portugal !!!!
Thanks to Rosine Alleva for editing and publishing.
I was born in Portugal and lived the Sixties exploring the great UK Rock magazines: "The New Musical Express" and "Melody Maker". Ray Charles and Pat Boone were my father’s fav. I became “The Great Pretender”. Cliff Richard was our Elvis Presley. As a beach boy, with my first guitar, I met a beautiful French girl on the beach! It was the Summer of 69!! We got married and rock music was our dowry. In France, I became a Wine Genetic Research Scientist. One of my works contributed to the decoding of the genome of the vine! As a rock journalist, I’ve worked twenty years for the Portuguese and Brazilian Rock Press. I ‘ve interviewed so many great artists. Then, one day I met FRANK ZAPPA! I got into trouble for introducing my wife to "Uncle Meat"!