Paulo César Gadioli: How PKM Changed My Life

Paulo César Gadioli: How Please Kill Me Changed My Life

Paulo César Gadioli is an extremely modern young man, born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, of Italian and Portuguese ancestry. As a child, he and his family did a brief stint in Germany where Paulo, thrust in a linguistic sink-or-swim situation, learned to read, understand and speak German in a hurry.

When his family returned to Brazil, Paulo continued his education, and taught himself English—utilizing video games and a dictionary as tools. He graduated from college at 22, with a degree in journalism, and a love of music and movies—which led him to a course in film-making in New York. That’s where an astonishing coincidence brought Paulo into the very home of Gillian McCain, co-author of his all-time favorite book, Please Kill Me.

Currently Paulo is shooting music videos and commercials in Brazil. He is also creating his own production company, and tries to find the time to pursue his first love, journalism. He says: “Writing is a bit secondary now, but it’ll forever be a passion and, most of all, a need.”

Danny Fields sat down with Paulo and worked with him to unravel his amazing story.

Paulo’s first band ever (an Iron Maiden cover band). Paulo is on the right.

D: What interested you about the book, Please Kill Me?
P: At first it was the title because it translated what I was thinking but couldn’t write down, because I was feeling really angry but not wanting to be a part of things. I thought the book was a little bit weird at first, because I was mainly used to reading fiction; I wasn’t used to reading an oral history.

D: Had you known anything about the musicians—and the people around them—who are the main characters?
P: I had heard of Lou Reed, and I’d heard of the Velvet Underground as well, but I knew very little about them. I had this friend who I asked about the Velvet Underground and he said, “Oh, the guys with the banana CD?” I said, “I don’t know, I think so.” And then he played some of it for me.

D: Did you like it?
P: No. It affected me somehow, but I had no clue what was going on… up until that point I was like, “Listen to this shit! Fuck it, I’m never listening to this again!”  I had this very strict and asshole kind of way to relate to the world, you know? But something in their music got stuck in my head and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I was itching to hear it again even though I didn’t like it. Then I did something that I had never done up until that point, which was try to re-listen.

D: Itching, okay.
P: So that’s when I started going after all the music in the book. It was different for me, because I was discovering the roots of what I liked. I was really into Metallica for example, but without the Stooges, or the MC5, or Iggy, there wouldn’t be a Metallica… I think.

“Fuck it, I’m never listening to this again! I had this very strict and asshole kind of way to relate to the world, you know? But something in their music got stuck in my head and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I was itching to hear it again even though I didn’t like it.”

Not only Metallica but all the other bands. That’s when I had two realizations: the first one was that there’s a lot of shit to discover. Like, “Okay, I like this band but that’s not enough, now I need to figure out who they like.”  It broadened my horizons. Up until then it was only, “Okay, who released a new album?” And it was thrash metal only and I was wearing the shirts with patches from bands from the 80s,  with white shoes that came all the way up, trying to recreate the Bay Area from the 80s and all that stuff…

“That’s when I had two realizations: the first one was that there’s a lot of shit to discover. Like, Okay, I like this band but that’s not enough, now I need to figure out who they like. It broadened my horizons.”

D: Okay, what was the other thing?
P: The other thing was that during that time I was playing the guitar and I had created a few bands with some friends and I got really into the rock star dream like, “I gotta make a band and we’ll be famous—I wanna be playing to a stadium and everyone will be screaming my name,” and stuff like that.
But when I read Please Kill Me, the other realization is that… I kind of began questioning, “Is that what I really want?”  Like the coolest thing is to be the rock star and all that stuff but can’t it be cool to not live the story, but to tell the story? Like, be a part of it, but not directly? To be someone who’s watching what’s happening and try to put it in such a way, so you are able to pass on what’s happening? I started thinking that being a rock star might have been your dream of when you’re fifteen, but now it might be a life that doesn’t interest me as much as getting to see what’s happening and put it down and kind of pass it forward.

“Is that what I really want? Like the coolest thing is to be the rock star and all that stuff but can’t it be cool to not live the story but to tell the story? Like, be a part of it, but not directly?”

D: That could be called “journalism,” and did it have to do with your going to school to study journalism?
P: Yeah. At the time I read the book the word “journalism” was something that was really far away for me but by the time I finished it… In Brazil, you have to decide at age seventeen—before you go to college—if you want to be a doctor, or an engineer, or whatever, but in the span of one year—mainly because of Please Kill Me, which I read when I was sixteen,  I had to make this choice about the future. When I first started reading the book I never even thought about journalism, but in the span of one year I made the decision that would affect my whole life, and I chose to go to journalism school.*

D: Were there magazines in Brazil that cover this kind of music?
P: No. At the time I found this magazine that we have in Brazil called Roadie Crew

Roadie-Crew magazine

D: What kind of magazine was that?
P: At the time it seemed like kind of a good magazine; they ran reviews of new albums, and shows that were happening and interviews; but later I kind of figured out it was a very tight circle for people to promote their own things and it was really shitty.

D: What did you find that was better? What did you have to compare it to?
P: I got into—that’s the Internet’s fault, thank God—a couple of Creems and Rolling Stones from that period, and even some Rolling Stones from now, and my English was better so I was able to read what was happening over here…

D: Did you ever read Please Kill Me in English?
P: I haven’t. I’m buying one here, I really want you and Gillian to sign it for me and then I’m going to read it in English. I really wish I had mine, my edition of the book, it would be nicer.

D: Did you mark places in it?
P: Yeah, it’s a beat down thing. It’s all scratched, I mean, it’s not pretty. I made a bit of a mess with the book because I carried it everywhere—

D: Well, its yours. You’re allowed to. You can always buy a new one. It’s not like a painting, you’re not scratching it.  Anyhow, now that you’re  a journalist, what’s your dream?
P: Well, one thing that used to happen a lot that doesn’t really happen anymore are those kind of reports where the journalist kind of goes on tour with the band. I think if I was the head of a magazine or something I would do it, or I’d have someone do it. I think it’s an amazing concept.

“It’s all scratched, I mean, it’s not pretty. I made a bit of a mess with the book because I carried it

D: Let’s go back a little earlier, to when your taste in music started to form, when you bought your first record, things like that.
P: OK, well, one day when I was about thirteen, I was at our house in the countryside with my whole family, and at one point two of my cousins said, “Let’s go to the car—we want you to listen to something. It’s going to change your life.” Then they put in a CD that they had burned, and I heard three songs that I had never heard before in my life. “Crusader” by Saxon; “Holy Diver” by Dio— and “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden. So that’s when things started to change… Iron Maiden became my favorite group. They are to this very day. So the first thing I did when I got home was to sign up for guitar lessons at this place near my house that was very cheap.

D: Electric guitar?
P: Yeah. Then I told my teacher there that I had listened to this band Iron Maiden and really liked them, and he made up a list of the Top Five Iron Maiden albums that I should hear.

D: How many albums did they have?
P: They have… over fourteen I think.

D: You were lucky to have a teacher who was a fan of that band, right?
P: Yeah. And that’s when I went to the store and spent all my savings, and these first five albums changed everything.

Paulo with friends in 2007
With friends at Wacken Open Air 2007. Paulo is top row on right.

D: Did you listen to them at home on speakers or on earphones?
P: I listened to them on speakers, and I was reading the lyrics and I couldn’t stop and I spent like—I don’t know—four or five hours listening to all the albums, and reading all the lyrics.

D: Did you look at their videos to get a better idea of what they looked like?
P: No, because it was like 2004? 2003? So YouTube wasn’t that big of a thing then. It was like a huge pain in the ass to download a video; it took forever. But you could see the photos on the albums and that’s when I decided to grow my hair long for the first time. My brother, who’s two years older,  had dyed his hair red, like really ugly and weird. I don’t know why he did it. No one talked to him about it to his face but you could see that everyone kept thinking that there was something wrong. … he stood out.

D: Did you have any problems from your family when they heard what kind of music you liked ?
P: A little bit. I kind of kept the worst things hidden, for example the album The Number of the Beast, because, uh, the family I come from they’re not very religious, but they believe in God and they go to the church and…

D: They don’t follow Satan.
P: Yeah. Anyhow, about the same time, I got more into reading because of Iron Maiden in particular. They made me discover literature, because the lyrics often referred to books—

D: Like what?
P: The have a song called “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

D: That’s a poem.
P: Yeah. It’s a poem that, well,  I don’t know—I would probably get to read it sometime, but the fact that they were making a song about it made me want to read it then.

D: What else did they  do that influenced your taste in literature?
P:  They have a song called “Murders of the Rue Morgue,” so some Edgar Allen Poe. At the time I was thirteen so I wasn’t going to understand it too much. It’s kind of the same thing that happened to me when I really got into Woody Allen movies and he would like reference Ingmar Bergman movies all the time and I tried to watch Bergman movies and I felt like I was in way over my head. So it’s kind of the same situation, I think. They show you something, you go after it even though you may not be fully prepared to understand it, but you go after it and I think that’s what matters. That’s the thing, they started showing me  that there’s a lot of stuff out there, but it’s up to you to find it. It’s one of the reasons Please Kill Me is so important to me was because that was like the final kind of… reality check, if I could say so. It’s like what Iron Maiden started, the book then consolidated.

D: Now how do you get from reading fiction, short-stories, and poems to a book—which I guess you’d call  a documentary, if you related it to something visual—how do you come to be reading non-fiction, like journalism.
P: I guess the key element that binds all of this together is the same thing that made me buy Please Kill Me, was that I really like to just walk in a store and—

D: Wait, Please Kill Me in Portuguese, yes?
P: Yes.

D: And like you said before, the title hit you. Mate-Me Por Favor. Did you open it and look through it?
P: Yes, because by that time I was in a more rebellious state—

The Portuguese edition of PKM, and the flag of Brazil, where Portuguese is the native language.
The Portuguese editions of PKM (Vol I and II), and the flag of Brazil, where Portuguese is the native language.

D: How old?
P: I was fifteen or sixteen.

D: Were you the only person you knew who was reading it?
P: Yes. I even asked my friends if they knew it but they weren’t that into reading—

D: So you bought the book?
P: I was in the point of my life where I was feeling like—I was listening to mainly a lot of thrash metal, which I got really into. Like Creator, and Metallica, Megadeth, and all that stuff, and all that music has an element of feeling very left out. But it also translates into hate and anger, so I was in a state where I was—

D: Looking for more of that?
P: Not feeling sad because I felt the way I felt, but feeling really angry about it—

D: Can you figure out now who you were angry at or just in general?
P: In general,  the things I was angry at before are kind of the same things I’m angry at now but on a different level. I think when you’re like fifteen you take everything  way more seriously, you think that everything is personal and you think that everyone’s got their eyes on you, you don’t fit in and you don’t deserve to be there—

D: The whole world is about you but usually against you at the same time?
P: Yeah…

ABOVE: Paulo playing with D.K.R., his hardcore/crossover band.

D: You mentioned Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergman, were you into movies?
P: I got into movies later in my life, which I’ve become kind of obsessed with, the same way I was obsessed with music.

D: When did that happen?
P: I was already in college, I was maybe eighteen or something?

D: Starting with what movie?
P: The first one that really woke me up was A Clockwork Orange. It was the first time I kind of saw the engines behind the thing—at first you really hate this guy, and then you end up feeling kind of sorry—and I was thinking, “How can someone make me feel this way through movies?” There’s something going on and I can’t understand why, so I started to see the engines, the mechanics; the screenplay, the lighting.

D: How did you follow that? Did you follow the director?
P: Yeah, I became obsessed with Stanley Kubrick, I still am. He’s still one of my favorites.

D: Who was another favorite director?
P: The next director was Woody Allen actually.

D: His movies are very wordy, don’t you think? Do you like that?
P: Yeah, I kind of got to practice English that way. They taught English in school but it really sucked. It was the verb “to be” for like five years in a row and no one really cared. The way I learned it was mainly through playing video games. I really liked those RPG’s where there’s a lot of role-playing games.

D: You are the captain in the spaceship and blahblahblah?
P: Yeah. I’d spend hours playing that kind of stuff. And there’s a story and you have to follow that story, I couldn’t quite understand what the story was about so I began to get frustrated, so I began playing with a big dictionary by my side. It took me twice the time but it was more toward figuring out what the story was and what my character was doing and all that stuff. It was mainly through that and through the movies that I learned to speak English.

D: And Woody Allen helps you with your English?
P: A lot, and from that streak of Woody Allen movies I saw that’s really one of the reasons I’m here in New York now.

D: Why is that?
P: Because he’s so in love with this city that it really translates for a guy who’s never been to New York, like, I’d be thinking, “Oh, I love New York! From Please Kill Me and from Woody Allen… I gotta get there someday,” you know? And here I am.

D: How does it match what you saw or thought or anticipated?
P: It matches—I don’t know, because I had such a romantic view—

D: I guess every place that is different and far away is romantic, huh? And once you get here it’s really not mainly a romantic city.
P: Well, it’s a big city.

Paulo playing with Mângo, his reggae/dub band. BELOW: Mângo music
Paulo playing with Mângo, his reggae/dub band. Mângo Music at Bandcamp.

D: Yes, I guess it can even be romantic. It’s full of whatever you want.
P: It is kind of a shock. I’ve been to a lot of places but I don’t I feel as good in the other cities that I’ve been to as I do here.

D: Do you feel like you know this city better because you read that book and you saw those movies?
P: I feel more… at home.

D: Really?
P: Yeah, definitely.

D: More at home here than you feel at home? Or more than you feel in other foreign cities?
P: Ahh, more than other foreign cities, definitely. I wouldn’t say I’d like to compare it to my home because… I might get a little emotional since it’s my last weekend here…

D: OK, so what was it like when you met Gillian? You were in school with this guy named John McCain, right?
P: One thing led to another, like the book, as I told you before, led me to journalism, and in journalism school I got more into movies, then I started writing about it. I wrote about it for the College Society, like for their website and blogs and stuff, but there came a point where writing about it wasn’t enough anymore and I had to try to make some of my own.
I had this desire to make a movie and since I didn’t have a steady job at home, I said, “This is the perfect time for me to travel, to spend some time somewhere else.” And I always had this fantasy to study at the New York Film Academy but I didn’t think it would be possible because it was so expensive.
But then I started putting all the pieces together. Seeing how much money I had and all this stuff, and I began to see that it was possible. So the movies led me here because I came to the States to study cinema, film-making, and there I met John McCain. It was only an eight week workshop, and with such a very short-term program everything is laid on you, and you’re already on the streets. By the second week you’re already filming.
And for each assignment we divided the class into crews. The teacher said, “You’re going to be on his crew,”  and I ended up on John’s crew. I hadn’t really talked to him before. All I knew was that he was from Canada and he was staying at his aunt’s house. Okay. So then he told us to meet him there to shoot his movie, and when we arrived we saw a couple coming down the stairs.  They were leaving this house, and they were very nice and we were, “Thank you for letting us shoot here.” And they wished us good luck, and we just shook hands and it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Then, as we were shooting the first scene, John said, “Hey, man, get me that book,” and I didn’t even look, I just picked up this book and gave it to him and he put it down next to him, like some book we could use in the scene—

D: A prop.
P: Yeah, a prop to make it look like it was some book I was reading. I hadn’t really noticed exactly what it was, and John said, “Yeah, we can use that one, it’s a book I’m reading, I’m very lazy. My aunt wrote it but I didn’t read it until now.”
And I was like, “Wow, your aunt is a writer?” I hadn’t put the pieces together. I was in that house, and I thought something was… a little different. I saw a lot of Iggy photos all over the wall, and Bob Dylan, and lots of records; so I thought that someone really cool lives here. And I was like, “Yeah, cool, your aunt, she’s a writer,” and, “Yeah, and that’s the book she wrote, the one you just handed me.”
So I went to pick it up and I just stopped my hand halfway, like right there. And I stood looking at the book for like… ten seconds? I can’t tell exactly how many because I had totally spaced out, I think I had made a bit of a fool of myself. Just standing there, staring at this book. I was so dumbfounded that I was at the house of, you know, Gillian! Of the writer of this book that’s been so important to me.
That was one of the weirdest experiences I’ve had in my whole life, like how much happened in my life for me to be here and she just walked right by us and I didn’t recognize her! Then, the whole time on the shoot I was hoping she wouldn’t come back because I wouldn’t know what to say and I was so excited. I’d be like some fan boy, “Ah I love your work, you’re so amazing, I love you,” so I didn’t know what would happen if she came back, but thankfully she didn’t because we finished early and it was like five o’clock and, “Okay! Bye, John. Byebyebye!”
I tried to explain it to John, he’s Gillian’s nephew, and he hadn’t read it, and I don’t think his friends are into that kind of music or all that stuff. So I tried to explain how much it meant to me but I don’t think I could explain it that well. That, for me, meeting his aunt was like a 12 year-old meeting Justin Bieber, it was just a dream. Like, “What?! I was just in her house!”
And he told her about me and her book, and I guess she was curious or happy to hear about it, and then they invited me over for dinner, and introduced me to you.

Paulo, in Brazil, interviewing (in ENGLISH!) Harry Potter star Tom Felton.


Goofing around in front of the Louvre, 2007. Paulo is on left.
Goofing around in front of the Louvre, 2007. Paulo is on left.