I have a hair ball that lives inside my stomach. Most of the time I forget that it’s there, it sleeps and I can live normally: last week I cut my finger while cooking; a few days before I managed to run seven and a half miles in an hour on the treadmill; I have been working on the two records I am producing while following up the mastering of the other one which I have finished the mix; I am taking the Massage Therapy and the Traditional Chinese Medicine courses to earn the Portuguese certificate so I’ll be able to work here in Europe; I have been reading a lot and practicing meditation. I finally managed to find where a good zafu is sold here in Lisbon, I left mine in São Paulo cause it was impossible to stuff that nine pounds thing inside the suitcase when I moved here. Interestingly, the Swiss lady’s studio that crafts them is two blocks from home.
And then, last Saturday, the hairball woke up and got stuck in my throat. But first I need to tell you about the last time this had happened: it was in November 2019, when I was in back in Brazil for a couple of weeks and I tried in vain to see the CSS’ revival show that those forty year old girls did at the Popload festival, playing songs that I had written and using tracks I had recorded as backing tracks.
A few days before the show I wrote them saying that since I would be in São Paulo for bureaucratic reasons I thought it would be a good chance for us to finally meet after all those years. I told them that it didn’t have to be on the day of the show, it could be before or after, at some cafe and even if they didn’t want to see me, I would love to see them play. Surprise, they never answered me.
This CSS issue for me was dead and buried. At that time, November 2019, it had been eight years since I left the band and in that time I had produced a lot of amazing brazilian artists like Marcelo Jeneci, Thiago Pethit, Jota Quest, Bruna Mendez, Dani Vellocet. I made two very successful albums with Tiê. We composed the most played song on the radio in 2015 (“A Noite”), then in 2017 we wrote the romantic theme for the Rede Globo teen soap opera “Malhação Vidas Brasileiras” (the song “Mexeu Comigo”). I had a project called Madrid with Marina Vello from Bonde Do Rolê, we released an album and an EP and we did two tours in Europe. Plastic artist Carlos Dias and I resurrected Caxabaxa (a collaborative project we had back in 2004/2005/2006) and recorded some of the best songs we’ve ever done. I released about four solo records plus a handful of EPs. In 2018 I took a one year and a half long Massage Therapy course, started studying Traditional Chinese Medicine and by the end of that year, when Bolsonaro won the second round of the presidential election in Brazil, I moved to Lisbon.
In 2017, driven by these unresolved issues with CSS issues combined with a lot of working stress, I developed an autoimmune disease and I almost died. In the process of healing, I firmly believed that I had managed to transmute the hairball into a record called Nine Times in which I wrote a song called “So Sorry” where for the first time I talked about something that happened at the time I left the band:
“Oh baby, I’m so sorry … I got sick and I made up some stories”.
In early 2011 I found out I was sick. The band had just released its third album and was touring for a whole year so I delayed as long as I could my going to Brazil for treatment. I did not give them details about what I had because it was a personal matter and at the time a little shocking to me, but I stressed that I was sick and that I had to get treatment in Brazil. It was already October and they had to hire a substitute bass player until I came back a couple of months later to end the tour.
A few weeks after my arrival in SP, on 11/11/11, I received an email from Ana saying that they would no longer pay me the band’s salary because I had abandoned the tour (I later learned from a friend who was selling merch on the tour that they repeatedly said that I invented a disease to escape to SP, that I was no longer enjoying traveling and playing and was unhappy so it would be better if I didn’t come back) and as I didn’t share my writer royalties with Ana, Luíza and Carol, it didn’t make sense for them to pay me my salary since I already made a lot of money by “other means”. “Other means” that in this case provided them with songs to play at the shows with which they earned a salary and had something to do with their lives, like enabling them to be seen as artists.
The fact is that Ana, Carol and Luíza wanted me (and probably Lovefoxxx) to share our writing royalties with them, which didn’t make any sense and it still doesn’t. They never got involved in the creation of the songs (Luiza Sá still helped a little when I asked her a lot; she completed some lyrics here and there and in 2010 she wrote a very good song called “Cats” that unfortunately wasn’t included in the last album). They also barely recorded their instruments on the albums (Carol was more helpful in the studio but that didn’t mean she should be given royalties as a songwriter. Carol has a share of Alala’s composition for simply touching the keyboard and playing three or four notes at the time I was recording the noisy synth solo of that song and I was very naive to have given her any composition credit for that). They assumed I was greedy (and Lovefoxxx wasn’t?) for I was being paid for the composition of my work and not sharing it with them. It was not enough I was composing songs for Lovefoxxx to write some lyrics (because I wrote several lyrics) and even sending her melodies ideas for her to write the lyrics over (Lovefoxxx never sent me a song idea, I was the one who sent ideas for her to complete) and by the end of the day they (Ana, Carol and Luíza) would have a successful band to be traveling back and forth posing as artists. They wanted more.
When I received that email accusing me of abandoning the tour and stating I wasn’t going to be paid my salary I freaked out and asked to leave the band. I was not well, I had just started a treatment with a very strong medicine full of side effects and the first one was having cataracts in both eyes. I got blind of my right eye and lost 45% of the sight in the other. I was constantly sick, my head felt like it was going to explode, I couldn’t sleep, I had constant panic attacks. I was pretty fucked up. I went to the psychiatrist and started taking quetiapine (Seroquel). And during that process, they refused to talk to me and negotiate basic things like paying the agreed fee for the production of the band’s third album. After a lot of talking to their manager (since I left the band they never replied to any of my attempts to negotiate) , he paid me a value that was not the agreed one knowing that I had to pay for the one-year rent of the studio where we recorded the album, pay for equipment we bought to record it, pay the musicians, pay for the instruments setups and on top of that, pay the lawyers to mediate my legal departure from the band… They didn’t even want to give me back my instruments, pedals and personal items that were on tour. They also refused to reach an agreement regarding the backing tracks that contained my intellectual property that they used in their shows, they were even using my backing vocals. The manager constantly reminded me that “you can’t sue them because you live in Brazil and now they live in the USA”. My lawyers agreed, there was almost nothing to do.
I wanted to die, several times I considered committing suicide. I went back to the psychiatrist and told him that the only way I could fall asleep was by planning my suicide and he increased the dose of quetiapine to a point that I can’t even remember what happened back then. I know that at one point they sent me a cancellation form that I signed after giving up fighting with them and with my lawyers while just trying not to die or commit suicide. According to the cancellation, I gave up everything: I released the using of the backing tracks for them and stated that they owed me nothing. I spent a fortune on lawyers to sign this shit and give them everything they wanted.
I don’t know how do you call this, but my mom taught me that doing what they did to a physically, emotionally and psychologically ill person is called abuse. I was abused at the worst time in my life by those ones supposed to be my friends. After they underpay me for the production of La Liberación, I paid everything I owed, paid the lawyers and I had almost nothing left. I had no way to pay for my eyes surgery so I was blind for almost a year. I was very angry and anger made me sicker. In order not to be angry I agreed with myself that everything that happened was my fault, maybe if I had told them what I was going through, what my disease was, things would have been different. In this whirlpool of contradictory emotions, I was committed by a very crazy Stockholm syndrome and I started to apologize to them, the hijackers of my conscience and intellectual property. But they never answered any of my emails, I think they were very happy that they got rid of me. And they continued to play shows using my backing vocals and keyboard lines pretending to be an all gurrrrrrrrl band.
I constantly dreamed of them. That we all met and hugged and cried, then I would wake up and really cry, it was exhausting. I felt a sadness so thick that it felt like I could scrape it off my skin, it weighed on me really bad. It was very difficult to live the years after I left the band, I took a lot of medicine, I had panic attacks and was deeply depressed. Time, work and medicine took care of making everything lighter, more compact, until what I was left with was the hairball in my stomach, an autoimmune disease and many songs. And a very expensive lesson: keep distance from lawyers.
Throughout these years I eventually wrote to Lovefoxxx. I told her how much I missed her and hoped she was doing fine. That I thought very fondly of her and how I hoped her to answer me some day. For years she never replied. (That’s a lie, once in 2014 she answered me very rudely, writing “Life goes on and I don’t have space for you to happen again”, which Carlinhos and I transformed into the song “Dinovo (Amigo Só De Chapéu)” by Caxabaxa, quoting her exact phrase as the song’s chorus). And then, on 03/24/2017, when I was already presenting many symptoms of the autoimmune disease I had developed, I wrote her and she answered me (I have never been so thin). She proposed we met at Buenos Aires square, close to our homes (yes, we were neighbors in São Paulo). We met and spent the afternoon crying and holding each other (just like I been dreaming all those years) and it was so comforting. She told me about her life, I told her about mine, she said she had forgotten me, that she thought very fondly of me. We kept in touch afterwards, but she moved to Santa Catarina (a state in south Brazil) and we lost contact. That day she gave me two frames with CSS´ artworks, which are stored with great affection in my farm back in Bragança Paulista, São Paulo.
Last summer Lovefoxxx got back on Instagram and we exchanged messages. For four days straight we sent each other several audios, she told me about her life, I told her about mine again, everything was very intense. She told me how her life on the beach was going, how she collected rainwater because the land she had bought lacked of water source, how she was doing to wash her clothes and that she was writing music again. I said I was very happy about that and that if she needed anything, including help with making some music, that I would love to help. She thanked me, we exchanged a few more messages and, as usual, she disappeared.
Her Instagram posts caught the attention of an acquaintance of mine, who happens to work as Universal Music’s A&R and he asked me if I could put them in contact. Since Lovefoxxx had not yet responded to my last message on Instagram, I didn’t want to push any boundaries so I wrote Ana about that. She and I had exchanged several emails about the band’s business, from CSS company contracts and cancellations, bank account matters, the release of the first album on the Brazilian Spotify and even about the launching of the band’s first demo on the streaming services. I told Ana that a friend of mine who happened to be A&R for Universal Music saw on Lovefoxxx’s Instagram that CSS would be writing new material and if they didn’t have a record label he would be willing to talk to them about releasing their new album. In the same email I told her that I had managed to gather CSS’ first demos and that I was going to distribute them to the streamings soon. She replied a couple of days later, we exchanged some more messages and everything seemed so normal and peaceful that I thought maybe this was a good time to tell her what had really happened in 2011, the reason why I had gone to Brazil. So I did tell her.
It took her a few days longer than usual to answer me and her answer was standardized. She said she was sorry for everything I went through but what I had done was unforgivable and there was no way for us to be friends again or have any kind of relationship because she was so traumatized by everything I did. She also asked if she could tell the girls what I had just told her and I said I didn’t mind. Maybe I hoped some of them would write me, which didn’t happen of course.
Let’s recap what I did: I got badly sick so I had to leave the tour before it ended to go to Brazil to get treatment so I wouldn’t die and when I got there they plotted to get me out of the band and not pay what the band owed me and then they ghosted on me so heavily that it drove me out of control and I ended up being labeled as crazy, a toxic male and a son of a bitch. Like, calm down Beyoncé. There is a big difference between being friends and having business together. I don’t want to be friends with people who did what they did to me but I would like to remind you, Ana Maria, that as long as you insist on continuing with CSS we will always have a relationship. CSS will always play my songs. To make matters worse, you play these songs in the shows accompanied virtually by me on the backing tracks. What the fuck? You have a lot of courage to say “there is no way we can have any kind of relationship”. Courageous. Delusional. And it just shows that when they “forget” that the songs they insist on playing are mine and they also play accompanied by me at the shows, for them all, music is and has always been just a detail. It’s like they think I have ceased to exist.
But seriously, what had I done that traumatized her so much?
Was it because I wrote a post on my blog saying that she was more concerned about making Guns’n’Roses-style riders for our small shows than thinking about how we could spend less money transporting obsolete equipment, like the two huge Orange amps she used for playing just three songs during the shows? Or was it when I wrote that she was obsessed with ice buckets and treated our tour managers real badly when there wasn’t one in the dressing room? Or was it because after trying to leave the band in a fair way and having been manipulated and abused I lost control and wrote emails cursing them because I was blind and didn’t have money to pay for the surgery? Is that what I did? That I said that she couldn’t play? And it did destroy her life? It badly ended her dream of being an artist and she had to undergo therapy to understand that she really wasn’t a very good musician? That I made her life a living hell because I didn’t put her name as a songwriter even though she didn’t write anything? Or was it because I dared to tell the truth about the dynamics of the band’s artistic creation, deconstructing the public’s perception that Ana, Luíza and Carol had some creative input? Mysteries.
Honestly, I don’t understand. I was a horrible dick, I was. But I was horrible after they abused me, deprived me of what was rightfully mine and rubbed it in my face that I couldn’t do anything about it at a time when I was fragile and sick, both physically and emotionally. Saying they did not know about how serious my situation was does not make things less cruel, after all I left the tour to go to the doctor in Brazil and this has always been a very clear thing for everyone. It took them years to return to me my basses and pedals. They were diabolical with me. And they still are.
So,in November of 2019 there was finally a chance that I might be able to purge my hairball while watching a show of them, my four haunting ghosts, playing my songs accompanied by me and feeling like a well resolved adult. When I sent the email talking about the show in SP, I sincerely just hoped to look them in the face and, suddenly, see in them some trace of humanity. “Yeah, they were really people”. Just like i saw when I met Lovefoxxx that afternoon in Buenos Aires square.
But no one answered my email. I was really in shock, deep down I still had some hope that they would treat me with some humanity. Specially after knowing what had really happened back in 2011. They could have written something like “don’t go to the show, we don’t want to see you, fuck you”. But no. They canceled me out again. And at that time their silence was just a little more of psychological abuse in this shitty potty, the hair ball went up and almost choked me. Suddenly there I was in SP, a place that I hate and that I should have never gone back to in 2011 when I left the band, spending 5 weeks that seemed more like 5 years immersed in that toxic artist-wannabe-privileged-gurrrls sanitary pit, so progressive and visionary and heroine and ecologist, empathetic , bragging about a show whose music came from the depths of my soul and on top of that, again, one more time, playing accompanied by me on the backing tracks (shit, I am getting tired of writing that), refusing to reply an email that objectively asked them for ONE ticket to see the show and maybe, maybe, meeting them if they wanted to. It was horrible.
It was horrible being in Brazil at the time of the show. All the time people I didn’t even know well sent me via Instagram chat prints of “feminist gurls” cursing me on social media. “They removed the shitty male and now the band is perfect”. “The toxic male got fucked”. Well, me, the supplier of the artistic raw material for which they existed, was a “toxic male”. I was so depressed that I chatted privately with one of those girls who was cursing me and told her everything that had happened. “In 2011 this happened and then this and then this, I found out I had this and they treated me like this, like this and that”. The girl apologized to me and was so horrified with what she’s done that she deleted her twitter account. A couple of days later she came back and sent a message telling me how the internet is a horrible place that makes people act horribly without realizing that they may be hurting others. Sure. Millenialsplaining, yeah.
Ignoring my request to watch the show may have been the last straw. I pretended I was dealing well with the fact that I was summarily ignored and asked the organizer of the festival for a ticket on Twitter. “Is it too humiliating to ask Lúcio Ribeiro (I marked his @ on the tweet) for a ticket to the CSS show to see them playing my songs?” He promptly responded and gave me two tickets. An UOL (biggest Brazilian news portal) journalist saw my tweet and asked for an interview. I said I missed them, that it was going to be beautiful to see this show and I was sure it was going to be a great show. The Stockholm syndrome took Poliana by the hand and they were happy ever after. But the truth is that all I wished was that a lightning struck the stage and burn the hell out of them, all streamed live on the internet.
I watched the live streaming of the show, it was pathetic. Luiza Sá can’t play the bass. Ana still seems to want to show off more than Lovefoxxx and plays the keyboard with one hand, poorly doubling the lines that are in the backing tracks that I played. Carol was there with that nasty face. Lovefoxxx was beautiful, she really has THE magnetism that makes things happen. She was quite out of tune as usual, but who cares? Go watch The Voice for tacky vocal techniques.
On the stage screens, a lot of activism. MST (the Landless Worker’s Movement), Free Lula, Fuck off Bolsonaro. Feminism. Ecology. Empathy. All of that with songs I wrote back when I was very happy and naive. And there I was virtually on stage with them using my intellectual property on the backing tracks which they can prove to be theirs because they forced me to sign a cancellation when I was doped with quetiapine so it’s legally theirs.They were not doing anything wrong! For me it felt like they were stepping on my corpse. Nothing wrong with that, right? Why should I be allowed to have feelings and why should these feelings matter to anyone?
The highlight of the show was the last song, Superafim. A song composed by me, Carlos Dias and Clara Lima.
Going back to the beginning of the text, last Saturday. Clara Lima was the one responsible to make the hairball revive. On that day the CSS’ demos were released on the streaming platforms. I even reopened my Instagram to spread the word. I chose photos from 2004, when we recorded those songs. I put photos of the whole band including Ira, Maria Helena and Clara on the post I did about the releasing of the demos. Clara called me and told me that she was not well. That since her troubled exit from CSS (which will be worth another text) her life has turned upside down. That she was so traumatized by the way we all treated her before she left band that she went living in the USA and went to work as a waitress and she was terrified that someone would find out that she was part of CSS. She was so disappointed she no longer wanted to work with fashion, she wanted to die. It felt terribly familiar to me. And that in last November, when she heard about the CSS show in São Paulo, she had asked Luiza Sá for a ticket but heard from her “friend” that she, Clara, had nothing to do there, that they had no ticket to give her. “What do you want? Do you want money? We don’t make money” (oh, shit, really?). Then Clara told Luíza that she wanted Lovefoxxx’s phone number but she heard a “send her an email”.
At the end of the show, it’s highlight, they sang Clara’s (and mine and Carlo’s) song. Whoever accompanied the band from the beginning knows that Superafim was always the grand finale of the shows, it was the moment for Clara, who shared the vocalist position with Lovefoxxx. Superafim had a very important role in CSS’ career, it was our greatest hit in Brazil which gave us the viral projection that made us popular. But they didn’t even mention Clara when they sang it on the show. “Look, this song was written by Clara and Adriano and Carlos. Clara sang it. Indeed, this Superafim slang was Clara who invented. She used to say it all the time.”. Not a word. Was that ingratitude? Dishonesty? Lack of education? Where was the so called empathy that those progressive people so much talked about?
It is as if I, Clara, Ira and Maria Helena had never existed. And my songs and specially the song I wrote with Clara and Carlinhos that they played as the apotheosis of the show were a mere detail for the genial existence. They own it all.
But bad for me they are too traumatized to answer me an email. But not enough to go up on a stage, play songs that I had written accompanied by me. Would it be called sheer hypocrisy?
How come these people who are so progressive, correct, empathetic, who give interviews and say everything that everyone wants to hear, can be so petty, stupid and mean? They owe us satisfaction, an apology, an answer, whatever. How long will they hide behind the silence? They have to talk about it in an adult and honest way with us. They cannot continue to act as if they are some kind of victim in this story. This is revolting, this is dishonest, this is stupid, unacceptable and that, in an ideal world, would disallow them to have any kind of attention. They would be summarily canceled for unquestionable reasons.
It made me sick. That made Clara sick. This also made Ira sick, Maria Helena sick. Pinguim sick. Mike Bell sick. This band made a lot of people ill. I may some days manage not to think about it but I wanted to have a way of not getting sick when I thought about it.
Nobody asked them for a VIP ticket with access to the backstage. I even said that in case they were uncomfortable meeting me, it didn’t have to happen. I just wanted to see the show where they were going to play my fucking songs. But the trauma they claim to have is too big for them to acknowledge me. It’s just not big enough to refrain them from playing my songs accompanied by me on the backing tracks. Hypocrites.
Again: this is unacceptable.
Yesterday I dreamed of them. I was in São Paulo, there was a CSS show and Clara and I were not invited. We bought a ticket and went to the see the show. We were right in front of the stage and Carolina kept looking at us with that nasty face, telling us to go away. Then Lovefoxxx calls Ira on stage, she comes in to play Let’s Make Love, they all hug and talk about friendship and how important love is. I start to cry, I don’t deserve any of that. I woke up crying and this time it was with anger. I couldn’t sleep anymore and decided to finish this text. I can not stand it anymore.
Maybe now I can write about other things. And who knows, that toxic shitty male might spit out that hairball of abuse and humiliation once and for all. Enough.
Today a friend showed me this:
The forty-year-old girls promoting the reissue on vinyl of the band’s first album with a current photo that does not match the formation of the band at the time of the recording. A bunch of crap. “Look at us, we didn’t even record in the album but it’s ours”. Shit eaters.