Sweden might have Anti-Cimex and Japan might have Disclose, but Brazil has Besthöven, the one-man drunken army. And that’s saying a lot because Crust Punk usually isn’t the kind of music that spawns lasting bands, least of all one that plays and records non-stop for 20 years. Of course, listening to Fofão speak about Besthöven makes it clear that the reason his project still keeps going is because there is no band at all. Meaning, he does everything by himself. And selfish as that may sound, if there is no band there are no egos, no late or skipped rehearsals and no creative differences whatsoever.
Besthöven playing for two decades isn’t just a figure of speech, because even Fofão himself finds it impossible to keep track of all the releases under his moniker:
I’m really sorry, but I don’t have any way to check it now. I really need to take the time and make the count again. There are a lot of LPs, splits, EPs, CDs, tapes, CD-Rs, compilations in all formats,3 DVD-Rs and there’s also something like the 2 first EPs repressing. Also the 3rd EP has 2 different presses. The split EP with DISCLOSE has 2 different presses, so it’s really hard for me to say the exact number of editions, dude. I know there are more than 30 EPs, including splits, individuals or compilations. There are probably 20 tapes, maybe a little more than 10 CDs but most are compilations. And then there are the participation in tributes, like the Disrupt one, the Doom and the Disclose ones as well as my own tributes to Sweden and Japan. And it goes on.
This is definitely not the kind of band that makes it easy to accumulate all the stuff they put out, but if there’s not a sprinkle of chaos in all things punk, then what is all this good for anyway?
Even with such a massive amount of records, Besthöven never gets boring. They don’t just play a lazy D-beat version of their early years, and least of all of Discharge themselves. Besthöven also never fell victim to the kind of revision of Crust sound that fuses itself with Black Metal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Fofão puts it – he is definitely one of the live and let live type – but it’s just not his thing. His thing is 80s dirty rotten crust from Sweden and Japan with the inevitable dash of Brazilian punk-rock that makes Besthöven an ever-captivating listen. Especially because there aren’t really a lot of bands still around that ever lived under a dictatorship, something that still haunts Fofão and his music to this day. That is also something noticeable in his way of life. Asking him if he feels more leaned towards anarchism or nihilism, he answers without beating around the bush that, “I just wanna live and do what I believe without any god! Without any animal meat or blood in my hands! Without any bullshit prejudice.” That’s something pretty easy to gather from Besthöven’s music and the trail of destruction it leaves behind, listening to Fofão’s screams about the end of the fucking world, nuclear nightmares or absolute nothingness over the wall of devilish distortion of his guitar while marching to the unstoppable relentless pounding of the drums.
Besides the music, there’s also Fofão’s beautiful soul calling the shots here, and his raw and direct poetry shines through when he speaks of the objective of his music in such a straightforward fashion: “Expressing my feelings through my lyrics and resisting anyway I can in this big stone and concrete jungle.”
After so many years of playing and fighting against the status quo, you would think that things might have gotten better or Fofão would have just quit. Neither has happened, probably because he is happy in his own way, in spite of inhabiting a world filled with death and destruction in which the one real mistake he believes in, is the creation of mankind, who has become increasingly selfish and anthropocentric. That’s why he sees no changes and believes that mankind is about to self-destruct in many different ways and that will never change. Sad and depressing as that much despair may be for those who carry it, it breeds beautiful devastating music filled with blunt and caustic honesty and truth.
Regardless of all that, or maybe because of it, there is still an excellent punk scene in Brazil, which, despite what many believe, didn’t die out after Cólera, Olho Seco and Ratos de Porão. Apparently and according to Fofão, what limits the visibility of most Brazilian bands is that most of them just don’t send their records to Europe or America. But the proof that Brazil is alive and kicking is on the two-volume compilation put out by Fofão, entitled “O Som do Abismo,” which is essentially an mp3-filled CD-R with a lot of punk rock, grind, crust and metal bands.
Besides these compilations and Besthöven, Fofão still finds time to work 6 days a week. What would be enough for the regular man is no challenge for the one-man-drunken army which also has a small studio where he works nights. Don’t forget about his distro, zines contributions, putting up shows, producing buttons and keyrings for bands. And of course, he would also has a side project with a weird name, in this case Svartfaglars Begravning (link). Go check them out, but first take a couple weeks off to hear every bit of music Besthöven has recorded since putting out their demo in 1995, which got a boost from Força Macabra’s Otto and Disclose’s Kawkami. It would be hard to have a better start than that.