Eu não quero ir à máquina zero (Rui Veloso) (I don't want to go to the zero machine) 50cm x 65cm. Indian ink, coloured inks, crayon & pencil on drawing card £350

This is a weird title for a drawing, even by my standards! It's the title of a Portuguese song by a singer called Rui Veloso. After I first heard the song in about 1990, it became a staple on my walkman for a long time. I only half understood the lyrics, enough to know it was sung by a man who doesn't want to have to do military service, and how good pacts & alliances were because they keep the officers occupied, singing about this máquina zero (zero machine) in the chorus which he didn't want to go to. But what was this máquina zero which the singer so dreaded? I didn't know. But that didn't stop me drawing it anyway. And I had poor old Van Gogh fleeing from it. Maybe the máquina zero could be a hazard in my Centre of Infinity! I imagined something apocalyptic, and duly forgot about it.

Fast-forward to 2000, some ten years after I did the drawing. I was working on a film shoot in La Coruña, Spain, chatting to the Portuguese set decorator, João Carvalho. He had been living in London in the early 70s, at the time of Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil's exile from Brazil, and claimed to have introduced them to Portuguese singer-songwriter José Afonso, Zeca, in London in 1970 to record the album Traz Outro Amigo Também. Anyway, João told me that máquina zero was Portuguese slang for barber's clippers, & by extension national service. What a disappointment! I prefer my much more sinister zero machine!

Gil & Caetano