Lasting Imprint: Márcio Matos and the unmistakable image of Príncipe
Príncipe Discos has harboured a generation of voices from the barrios surrounding Lisbon, exposing the world to their explosive Afro-Porto mixture of Angolan styles like kuduro and tarraxinha and their raw energy.
Despite the appeal that comes with any brand new sound, so far the label has remained truly independent.
Press, booking, A&R and artist management is all handled in house. The operation is so small, in fact, that all Príncipe artwork is handled by one of the label’s four founders, Márcio Matos. All copies of each release are individually hand-painted and stencilled so that every copy is unique. The images are distinctly DIY – from the blotchy brickwork that adorned their first ever release to the ink curling and trailing off the canvas on 2015’s Soul Of My Father by DJ Firmenza. For Noite Príncipe, their monthly party and MusicBox in Lisbon, Márcio uses a collage style. And for their upcoming party at London’s Dance Tunnel as part of the Clock Strikes 13 event series, Márcio has turned in a collaged piece where an over- processed image of Henry VIII has got two hand drawn swords poking out his eyes. It’s meant to be fun.
With Márcio submitting an exclusive artwork to Crack for this issue’s pull-out poster, we called him to talk about his work ethic, his influences and why the future belongs to the kids.
How important is it to you to keep your work with Príncipe independent?
It’s a natural thing. I don’t search for things that I don’t like. I don’t do posters for some brands because, for me, to use a logo it’s a bit complicated. Our records don’t have any references to any brands or anything. For me that’s the rule. If I had to put more brands on it I wouldn’t do it. I would prefer to quit.
The posters for the monthly parties have more of a mix of stencilling and word processed text and digital images. Is this an intentional separation?
The records are totally different and I had to mark the difference. I have two different ways of working; I have collages and I do drawings. [The parties] are more free, they are more pop. We need to contact people with images that they recognise immediately. I have sometimes done stencilling for posters, but I managed to blend the collaging in with it and for me it works very well.
How do you approach making artwork for the different artists? Nidia Minaj sounds very different to Niagara…
I adapt by thinking about the person because I know them all very well. Sometimes I ask them what they like. For example, Niagara – I usually connect them with waterfalls and horses. Sometimes it goes a lot further than the initial idea but I always try and connect with them. Nidia was our first girl and I think the cover is more feminine.
Since the label has taken off, have any other artists or brands approached you for your work?
Only when you guys asked to do this [poster], I thought for the very first time about the image of the label. I’m not expecting anything! I have been working in painting for 15 years. I’m not very social, I prefer to be on that. I’d prefer to do thousands and thousands of drawings. Most of them are lost – no-one will see them and that doesn’t matter.
Are there any other Portuguese styles that have influenced your work?
Of course, I especially like the renaissance painters. And our churches are beautiful, all the iconicism of that and all the symbols. The decor and the traditional art of the jewellers here in Portugal. For example,
the drawing for Alma Do Meu Pai by DJ Firmenza is very connected with that kind of Portuguese thing. It’s the Scorpio, it’s about friends and those things are already related with Firmenza. We managed to blend the old drawings and the Firmenza way.
What do you think the future holds for Príncipe?
Let’s see what the kids will do with their music. They will decide what the future is. The future has to come from the music. If you’re talking about Príncipe, then you’re talking about the music. The kids nowadays are very influenced by talking about the label and they are producing a kind of music that reflects the attention. That’s a concern. But there are some surprises coming. There are two new records coming, we’ll see what they will do.
Príncipe’s DJ Marfox, Nidia Minaj and DJ Firmeza appear at Clock Strikes 13, Dance Tunnel, London, 9 October