Since the late 1980s the Red Hot Organization has released over a dozen music compilations to help raise funds for AIDS research with help from artists as varied as George Michael, Wu-Tang Clan, Nirvana and Alice Coltrane. This year the Organization will be releasing Red Hot + Rio 2 – a star-studded return to Brazilian shores focusing exclusively on the Tropicalia sounds of the late 1960s. The double disc collection features songs and appearances by most of the major players of that psychedelic revolt – Os Mutantes, Tom Ze, Caetano Veloso – as well as current marquee names like Beck, of Montreal, John Legend and Beirut. With over 30 songs the album took longer to compile than the movement actually lasted. Producer Paul Heck, who has been with the organization since he spearheaded their No Alternative release in 1993, sheds a little light on the project.
LA WEEKLY: How do you go about picking artists for these releases?
Paul Heck: Just people we love. People who are making great music now. Some of it comes indirectly thru suggestions from other artists or producers. There's so much excitement now about discovering new bands — we didn't shy away from approaching artists who've barely released any music like Cults, Quadron, Superhuman Happiness. I think people have come to know and trust that they'll find out about new artists on Red Hot albums.
What has changed since the first Red Hot + Rio was released in 1997?
Brazil seems to be a bit more ascendant now as an interesting kind of world power, especially with the next World Cup and Olympics scheduled to be held there in 2014 and 2016. The whole music industry has obviously changed since 1997. RIO2 focuses on the songs of the Tropicalia era, instead of Jobim and Bossa Nova. The way artists make music now is more self-contained, so the whole recording process is opening to more tinkering and transforming, instead of just getting people together for a day or two in the studio. But great songs are great songs. That never changes. I think there are some really successful re-interpretations on RIO2. That always makes me happy to hear a song in a whole new way.
How familiar were you with Tropicalia before going into this project?
I've been a fan of the music and cultural movement for years. I read Caetano Veloso's great book Tropical Truth when it came out a few years ago. One of the best books ever written about music. Fellow producer Beco Dranoff grew up in Sao Paulo so music and the Tropicalia movement were huge parts of his life. He is always an incredible source of information that you might not get from books or records
How do you decide on the sequencing?
John Carlin of Red Hot kind of obsesses over that the most, listening to the tracks for months leading up to release. Beco and myself, we kind of kick it around and tell him what we like and don't like until it feels right. I don't like to over-listen to the songs until most of them have been submitted.
What's the next project for Red Hot?
Many new projects are in development including a new album that will focus on the music of Fela Kuti — a kind of follow up to Red Hot + RIOT. But don't call it a sequel.