Interview Moonspell: Fernando Ribeiro

Artiest: Moonspell

Geïnterviewde: Fernando Ribeiro

Interview afgenomen in: Biebob / tourbus

Label: Napalm Records

Op 14 maart trad Moonspell samen met Septicflesh op in Biebob (Vosselaar). De 2 bands, die beiden al zowat 20 jaar op de planken staan, konden gerust in een grotere zaal opgetreden hebben, aangezien Biebob uitverkocht was!  We hadden het genoegen er te spreken met zanger Fernando Ribeiro, hij begeleidde ons naar de tourbus, bood ons een lekker biertje aan en het gesprek kon beginnen.

Are you glad to play in Belgium again? It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Yes, I was trying to remember the last tour we did in Europe, I think it was actually with PAIN. We’ve been playing festivals in the US quite often and we are definitely very happy because it’s the tour for our new album and we love our album; I’m so ecstatic to play it live. Also because it’s a different tour, it’s a tour with Portuguese and Greek guys which is not very usual, normally there are always Scandinavian bands. Greek and Portugal are both in such crisis and we both come to Belgium and have our first sold-out show. So it’s definitely important and Belgium has always been supportive to us.

Is it the first sold-out show of this tour?

Yea, probably the only (laughs)! This one is sold out, Holland was almost sold out, we’ll also be in Portugal and some places in France.

Of course it’s important, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, it’s better to have more people then less people. Honestly, our state of mind is to present Moonspell to people again. To do a tour where we can headline. Not because we are better or bigger then Septicflesh but because we can play a lot of songs, we can have our own show without limitations. That’s the kind of show we are putting on the road; a very risky show with lots of new songs. I think it’s definitely worth the price, people are tired of always seeing the same bands that come 2 or 3 times to Belgium with the same show, always doing the same stuff. So we’re definitely trying to pursue an original path, even on tour. Coming to Belgium is always great, I remember coming here in ’95, the first tour we ever did and I’ll never forget this club. We were coming from the UK and we were starving because we were treated like crap over there by the promoters. And good old Bob fed us, welcomed us. That’s the reason why we are at this club today and nowhere else.

So, about the new album Extinct; how are the reactions from the fans on the new songs?

Well, it came out only a week ago ! So obviously now we start getting the responses. Everything has been so overwhelming with Extinct, we just started writing it 9 months ago. We recorded it and all of the sudden it was already out, it was a very, very fast process this time. From what I have heard, people are enchanted about Extinct. Not just because we are, our fans don’t have to think the same way as we do! When we started writing Extinct, I knew it would be a special album for Moonspell; the way it came into existence, the recording, the new producer, the fact of changing many things and getting out of the comfort zone, evolving as musicians. I think that’s paying off, we had absolutely great reviews everywhere and a  we have been ‘album of the month’ in magazines for a couple of times, that didn’t happen in a while. And especially the fans ; they are enchanted by it, they know it’s no ‘in your face’ album, they know it’s not ‘Wolfheart’ (laughs). They are appreciating the album without prejudice. As it’s such a musical album, I think they are really liking it.

There are a lot of oriental influences in the new album, what inspired you to do that?

I think that, if people know our repertoire, they always knew we are open to influences that are a little bit out if the ordinary for metal bands. When we started off in '94, we had an EP called ‘Under the Moonspell’, it was our first EP. Even though it was more occult black metal oriented, it had a lot of Middle East influences. It was something that was always there, waiting to be expended and that’s what we did with ‘Extinct’. Arabic music is something that belongs as a root of our own folklore, but before people start jumping in conclusions; I despise everything about Islamic fanaticism, but I can see through that, I can see it’s an unfortunately small,  powerful group of people who do evil things. It’s a shame, because Arabic culture sure is fascinating and it’s a big influence for us. For example the 1000 nights, … and everything there. We have lots of fans over there because of this.

I think it definitely connects to our music, playing with an orchestra from Turkey ( we recorded some stuff in Tel Aviv) is something as a musician I could have never thought it would sound so beautiful in our songs. It really adds up something that we couldn’t do ourselves. That’s perfects when you are having guests for your record and they add something Themselves. So it’s a quite natural influence that we wanted to work with because we wanted some songs in our albums to have that mysterious cinematic feeling. And for sure, working with string orchestra from Turkey ; the way they play, the way they understand music is completely different from Western kind of orchestras that most of the metal bands use when they are having an orchestra on their album.

The cover of the album has a lot of different versions, every edition of the album has a different cover, why did you do that?

Well,  Seth, the singer and bass player of Septicflesh, is a good friend of mine and he is definitely an artist. With Seth (and with no one else Moonspell works with), we have a concept and we talk a lot about it; we change visual stuff and we change ideas, but we let Seth do his work, have his own ideas and execute his own ideas. For me, working with an artist or a designer as Seth is not like going to order a pizza; you can’t say ‘this or that’ and ‘I want extra cheese on it’. I hate that process, whenever we work with people for video clips etc., its’ people I trust and have conversations with, but in the end then it’s up to them. I think Seth captures the mix between horror and beauty very well, he’s a complete artist when it comes to that. So I think that our covers since Night Eternal are definitely totally evolving. He did a very disturbing cover, but I think that contrast is really great. Extinct is every album on everything, but the music is more redemptive in a way and I think the cover we did with that mutilated figure, that one of a kind woman, is also the process of extinction, especially made by mankind. It’s a strong cover but it’s also another way of telling the story behind the album. We couldn’t have achieved that by just putting the band logo or a picture of us that nobody wants to see. Obviously Seth is such a great artist and with Moonspell he always does a little bit extra, they are the covers he has the most response to as well.

It was just remarkable that every version has a different artwork!

It’s also for the fans, because nowadays, people have to think twice before buying a record. Well it’s not so very different from my time, in my time I remember saving up the school-lunch money to buy a Bathory record (laughs). But what I thought was; if Seth created so much, why keep it in the drawer? I love the vinyl cover, that’s my favourite, so I said ‘I want this one for vinyl’. It’s great that people have to choose ! We’re not the kind of band that just has one song, does the video of that song, plays that song and makes everything for that song. It’s a work in progress and obviously I think people like the idea of something that is actually different and not buying something that is different just because of a detail.

‘Alpha Noir’ and even the two albums before that, with the exception of ‘Omega White’, where a lot heavier than this one, was it a conscious choice to make this album softer or is it more like a follow-up for ‘Omega White’?

'Omega White' is a good album to understand some of the mood of 'Extinct', it served as a kind of bonus to 'Alpha Noir'. It was an album that, unfortunately, some people missed out. I think 'Extinct' is not really Alpha or Omega, it might be both in a way. Also, Alpha and Omega were an experience we did with ourselves and our music, they had limits; Alpha is aggressive, Omega is more melancholic. That was the thing and we loved doing it. Honestly, we didn’t want to be another band making ‘in-your-face’ music. Sometimes, the faces of people are smashed because everything is ‘in-your-face’, everything is loud, everything is direct, everything wants to grab people at the first listening. Sometimes they don’t spend enough time on the music. I think ‘Extinct’ is a much more insinuating album, when compared to albums like ‘Night Eternal’ and ‘Alpha noir’, which were flirting with heaviness, with metal riffs and the gothic atmosphere as well. It’s not aggressive , people won’t find aggression in our last album, but they will find another side of us that we’ve been exploiting for some years. I think it was the right time, actually I don’t have a perfect answer because we weren’t thinking about it, it was more like something we wanted to do as well with ourselves. It’s a breath of fresh air for us, to play with these balances and for me to sing more. We wanted to do this more than keep on making more aggressive stuff, we’re no Cannibal Corpse or Behemoth. People sometimes think we are an extreme band, but we are not. We are a band that is much more about fusion, has much more to do with bands like Opeth, Katatonia, Paradise Lost, … than with the extreme bands. We played many extreme shows with extreme bands , I have great friends in extreme bands but that’s not our thing, our thing is definitely the romance, not the aggression. Especially with ‘Extinct’!

You’re all coming from Portugal, when you look back at the beginning years with Moonspell, how would you describe the evolution of the metal scene in your own country? How did metal evolve over there?

It had to evolve, like everything evolves! Just like we are not riding in carriages anymore but in cars or even electrical cars (laughs).  I remember the metal scene in the 80’s and in the 90’s and I remember it perfectly, I have no problem with saying that everybody was trying to be the Portuguese Metallica , Sepultura or Paradise lost. What separated us from those bands was that we had our influences but we didn’t want to be like them, we wanted to do something original. I think that has always been a problem with the Portuguese scene and the Portuguese bands. That’s why, unfortunately, there’s no more bands coming up from Portugal and people only know Moonspell, even though there’s more than a thousand other bands. There’s a band I like very much called Bizarra Locomotiva, it’s an industrial metal band, I sang a couple of songs with them.

At the end of the day, why should someone listen to a Portuguese version of a bigger band? I think that’s something the Portuguese bands never actually got, they are not very original. It’s not like I was just sitting there and some guy called me up and told me ‘do you want to have success with your band? come and tour with me.’ (laughs) No, it was hard work, it was leaving home, giving up jobs and school, sometimes I don’t feel like a lot of Portuguese people are ready to come out of that comfort zone. Having said that, of course the scene is better, we have shows there, we have our own festival there . It’s no ‘Wacken’ (laughs) , but it’s definitely a good thing to happen in Portugal.

Which festival?

Vagos Open Air ! It's a festival where bands like Opeth, Katatonia and Primordial play. It’s a metal festival for  5000 to 10000 people. Portugal is not a big country. Well Belgium is not a big country either and there’s a lot of people attending the shows! It’s a question of mentality, we’ve already played for a lot of people in Belgium!

If you look back to the beginning years with Moonspell and to your evolution, is there anything you would have liked to change?

Not really! Some circumstances, definitely! But not when it comes to the music we released on albums. Of course I would have liked to sing a little bit better on some albums. Honestly it’s an exercise we never do, to muse about the past, otherwise you get crazy because there’s 23 years of history in this band. We have a very healthy relationship with our past, all albums being different, but have something in common. They tried to capture the spirit of that time and there’s nothing we could change about how things happen, why things happen and how they evolve. Of course I would have liked to avoid certain situations, like with ex-band members, but we knew no better. We’re from Portugal so no one could really say to us; ‘do it like this or this’ , because no one was doing what we were doing as a band. There’s nothing really to regret about, even when I think about it I have no idea what we could have done otherwise. There’s so many opinions and so much stuff happening that, when you will listen to everyone around you, you lose yourself. Moonspell has always been very keen on having the band; for the fans, but also as a sort of self-expression for us. It has always been like this and that’s what keeps the band together. It wasn’t record sales or sold out clubs, it was definitely the way we are and the way we see the band, which is a connection that can’t be broken by anything, bad or good experiences. Eventually we will end as a band but we will still definitely be friends or a family in the future, that’s how we see the band. I formed the band together with another guy, the first records I did (that is 20 years this year), were ‘Under the Moonspell’ and ‘Wolfheart’, I was 21. There’s definitely a lot stuff that happened since then.

Are there any long-term achievements you have in mind that you still want to achieve ?

I think so, Moonspell is much more of a struggling band than an established band. I know this because I work on it on a daily basis. It’s not a walk in the park, it’s not like everybody is saying ‘yes’. We had our times where that happened, especially with irreligious in ’96, but nowadays we are a struggling band. To struggle, you always have to have goals and achieve stuff. For instance we have never played Japan or Australia. We were actually trying to go there but then I came up to the studio in Portugal and said "no, we’re going to make a new album instead" (laughs). Like I said before, we’re from Portugal, we already did so much stuff that we never thought we could do. So I have a lot of long-term plans. I’m a father since three years, so my kid is definitely my long-term plan, I hope to enjoy some of his growth. This is hard for a musician when you tour, a lot of the time absent from home. I know that Moonspell only makes sense to me when it’s challenging, creative and has a vitality about it. I don’t want to drag it as a band that only plays old stuff, that’s not what I want for Moonspell. Here and there we can perfectly do it, we did ‘Wolfheart night’ for instance, that was great. But it shouldn’t happen on a regular basis; sometimes we do it, sometimes we don’t. For myself I definitely see 5 to 10 more years with Moonspell. We’re from Portugal, we’re not Black Sabbath and I’m not Ozzy (laughs).  I don’t have that kind of presence in the world that allows me to be 65 and still rock out. I admire him for it, but the way I see myself, it’s to do everything that needs to be done now for Moonspell, try our best and work our hardest, which is exactly what is happening right now. But to be honest, when all the rock ’n roll circus is over, I see myself in a little house near the seaside of Portugal, reading books, smoking pipe, …

The good life!

Yea, a good life... because it’s 20 years that we’ve been on tour! People tell me ‘you tour for 3 days’ but no, we tour for 20 years! We were never a band that took a sabbatical, I don’t even remember having one full month of vacation since '95.

In the past you have done a collaboration with Anneke Van Giersbergen for Scorpion Flower, Is this anything you would like to do again? With Anneke or another artist?

I think so, I really like collaborations and I would invite Anneke to sing on all our albums, because I love her voice, we are good friends since the early days of ‘The Gathering’. When she joined the band, her first tour was with Moonspell. We have a great relationship, she came to Portugal a couple of times to sing with us and people love her. So I wouldn’t mind to have Anneke in any album of Moonspell, but I understand that it can get boring for people. From the gothic metal scene, I don’t see anyone I am crazy to work with, but I know people from other scenes. I would love to work with a singer called Jarboe, she used to sing in an independent band called ‘Swans’. She’s great, she’s very evil. I’d love to work with another singer called Suzanna Deihim, she’s a Sufi singer. We also did stuff with Mariangela Demurtas from ‘Tristania’, she’s in the family now because she’s together with our guitar player. There’s many, many great talent; P.J. Harvey, Björk, … . I’d also love to work more with this Turkish orchestra or other musicians. Yossi Sassi (from ex-Orphaned land) is also playing in our album on a song called Medusalem. We love to collaborate and Anneke did a beautiful song with us, Scorpion Flower is such a big song thanks to her. She was so kind, she recorded everything perfectly. She went to Serbia at the time to make the video with us, even though she has a life, she has a band, she has a husband and kids. She’s great and we would invite her anytime!

One last question: any summer festivals?

Alcatraz! We’re going to play Alcatraz this time, I think it’s in august. That’s going to be our presentation here after Biebob. Maybe next year we’ll play at Graspop again, which is a festival where we played many times but we can’t get enough of because it’s so cool and has such a great atmosphere. So between 2015 and 2016, our plan is also to play the big festivals! There’s a gothic festival I love, called Eurorock festival. I wanted to play it this year but unfortunately we’re in the states with Septicflesh.

It starts today with a small show, then let’s see what the future brings!

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