Rihanna's Percussionist Lost 125 Pounds And Has Been Drinking Coffee Since He Was A Baby
By Abdullah Wali — / Death Wish Coffee Blog
Gus Conde is a musician who loves coffee. It makes sense because as a Brazil native, it's been in his family and life since he was a baby. After moving to the United States, he found success as a percussionist for everyone from Rihanna to Rob Zombie, and Megadeth, traveling the world and shaping albums with his Brazilian sound. Now, he's taken his passion for both coffee and music to help others. On one side, he works with elders to teach them drums and rhythm to improve their quality of life and on the other, he shows off the rich coffee culture in Brazil while teaching people the health benefits of a daily brew.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and who you are?
I'm originally from Brazil but I lived in Los Angeles, California for 11 years. I've been a musician my whole life and I moved to the U.S to pursue music with $130 dollars, a backpack and a pair of drumsticks. I had a rough first few years, but ended up in the music industry as a hand percussion for the pop singer Rihanna, and working behind the curtains as a drum tech/stage manager for bands such as Deathklok, Billy Idol, Velvet Revolver, Rob Zombie, Megadeth, Dark Angel, Fear Factory and few others.
For the last few years, I have been in Brazil shooting a documentary film on Brazilian rhythms and following one of my passions and missions in life: helping people to achieve a better wellbeing through music on rhythmic workshops. Then linked to that, usually in the same workshop is the lecturing on productivity, memory skills, nutrition and coffee of course!
What is the work you do with elders and music?
I teach drums and rhythms to elders, usually 60+. In this age group, we're using rhythm to improve their life in overall aspects: motor skills, memory, focus, and balance. It contributes greatly to their self-confidence, showing its possible to learn something new and giving them a new perspective of life. [Ed Note: Noisey featured Gus's class recently, video above]
With that I also work in companies, focusing on stretches for people who work long hours on the computer, lecturing on productivity, memory skills, and motivational skills. I also teach how coffee can help you in pretty much any diet protocol by debunking most of the popular myths about coffee. I show people how to use it as an ally, discuss the importance of high-quality beans and give them tips to prepare a better cup at home etc.
How did you get into music?
I got my first plastic drum kit at the age of 3, my mom used to paint me like Peter Criss from Kiss, so I'd be in my room and spend the whole afternoon beating on drums...at 7 got my first real kit, and never really stopped.
In the U.S, I formed the band Odum, which we toured California extensively. After my move back to Brazil and due to my really busy travel schedule for workshops, we got the opportunity to write songs and soundtracks for movies and video games. That allowed me to work remotely with the band. It's crazy because nowadays technology lets you have a band even with 6,000 miles apart.
What was it like working with Rihanna?
She's just awesome!! As I mentioned before I've worked with many artists as a drum tech/stage manager, and I've seen many of that "pop star attitude" but she is like super cool. One fact that caught my attention is the fact she calls everyone in the camp by their name which sounds simple but is not always the case.
Other than that, it was a great pleasure to be able to bring some of my Brazilian rhythms to her music. Besides live performance (including the American Music Awards performance) I did some studio recording as well. The idea was always put a Brazilian percussion feel to songs already done.
You said you're currently doing a “coffee tour.” What is that and why is it important?
My hometown, Santos, is the mecca for coffee trading, we have the biggest port in South America and 85% of all coffee in South America goes through this port, so all the coffee traders offices are located downtown, Santos. The city breathes coffee.
We're bringing people from different places to tour the city of Santos which is the one and only coffee museum in Brazil. We'll bring them down the famous downtown streets, through the warehouses and the famous roasters. They get roasting classes from some of the master roasters, and they get to see everything from the farmer way of roasting to the more sophisticated machinery and SCAA approved roasteries.
Then we visit the coffee farms, so people can see up and close and actually get hands-on in the whole process, "from the bean to the mug." Besides being a cool caffeinated knowledge gaining trip, it also gives a chance to establish connections with local farmers for future business.
Why do you love coffee so much?
My family has been somehow involved with coffee for 3 generations, and I remember drinking coffee out of a baby bottle! My passion for the whole process of coffee truly started a few years ago, when transitioning from vegetarian to vegan, that's when I started to read and study more about coffee and discover how many benefits it holds, and how many myths there are behind coffee based on popular belief.
Along with this, I started taking classes on tasting thru SCAA associates and roasting with a few roaster friends, really in love with the whole process, and the more you study the more interesting it becomes.
Coffee brings happiness, for any and all coffee drinkers. Any coffee experience puts a smile on their face, whether it's going out for coffee, drinking coffee, shopping for coffee, or studying coffee. Coffee is a synonym for joy.