She’s recently released her ‘Espírito EP’ and is boss of the excellent naive label, co-promoter of the mina parties, and an all-round underground hero. This month’s feature interview we’re very happy to talk with Inês Coutinho, better known as Violet.
Inês ‘Violet’ Coutinho is a walking talking embodiment of the ethos of underground dance music culture. She runs her naive and naivety labels, putting out quality authentic underground music, often from lesser-known names. She’s a very handy DJ, a committed community activist, she co-runs celebrated online radio station Radio Quântica and also promotes mina, a queer / trans-focused party. With naive, mina and Quântica, Violet has created an infrastructure in her native Lisbon that can provide a platform for women, PoC and queer people, whilst celebrating the very best elements of dance music and DJ culture.
Growing up in Lisbon has had a definite effect on Violet’s sound and approach, and she cites Portuguese hip hop as a big influence alongside UK and US dance music, and “a big punk rock/hardcore/ska phase” in her teens. Portugal only ceased being a dictatorship in 1974 which she says “stalled the whole maturating of what culture and music could be for 50 years… we were just out of a dictatorship when house music and hip hop were being invented elsewhere so I feel that for a while we had a delay and we’re still catching up. But we also came up with our own thing too… and I credit Lisbon for showing me stuff that wasn’t from here but that the DJs were really good at representing like dubstep, drum & bass, UK garage, I got in touch with that music via Portuguese DJs.”
Violet also points towards the demographic make-up of her home city as another factor that’s been “vital in the Lisbon scene, the whole community of PoC, people from Asia and Africa that live here and influence the sound a lot, labels like Principe that repurposed the [Afro-Portuguese sound of] Kuduro for dance floors, and other genres, I think that’s a big part of our like of broken rhythms and which definitely informed my influences.”
Over Zoom we chatted with Violet about naive’s ethos and how this is reflected – or not – in the wider ‘scene’.
Attack: Tell us about naive, does the label have a governing ethos or philosophy?
Violet: I don’t talk about it a lot but if someone made me say it, there’s something there that’s built itself though time, which is just doing something based on what’s happening in real life: the people I surround myself with, the friends that I love, the people I trust. So maybe it’s about love and community – and it’s definitely also about limitless imagination and letting people say their truth because I trust them. Most of the artists I release are really not that well known so that’s also part of the ethos, not picking out a huge artist that I love and seeing if they can release on the label – that’s not something that I do.
That ethos of love and community, is that how dance music is? Or should be?
It’s both! [laughs] It is in many instances, in others, it should be but it’s not. I feel that dance music is like anything under the current political atmosphere and the fact that we live under capitalism. Obviously, a part of dance music turned into something that may have a bit of truth in it but also has a lot of untruths – commercialisation and you know, the idea of climbing a ladder of credibility and money – and I’m not super interested in that at all. That’s just how it works in capitalism but there’s always pockets of amazingness and community that are willing to work together and actually interested in community work and mutual aid and not just in playing the best slot in the best club or having the best record on RA or whatever. And that is very much present and in existence and I’m so happy to know about all these different crews around the world that do something that I really believe in, that I could stand behind.
It’s like there’s two worlds of dance music…
Yes, there’s an underground and a super-commercialised thing that’s almost like a caricature of dance music. I sometimes wish there was more of a middle ground where the underground had a bit of space to breathe. And money to spend on food and stuff! but again, this isn’t just in music, this is something I see in society in every country in the world.
It really pisses me off when people say you should keep politics and music separate. I feel like if we are reverent to what music is about let alone dance music, then we will always have an eye on making things fairer for everyone because that’s what created dance music in the first place: the creation of dance music was marginalised communities trying to come up with something that they felt comfortable with, to be able to dance together in a place where they feel comfortable together. So to me, they’re inseparable and I hate it when people say they’re not.