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Moonspell - Interview #3

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Portuguese dark/gothic metal masters and one of the genre pioneers, Moonspell, are now approaching their 30th anniversary as a band, and have recently announced a new album, their 13th full-length entitled Hermitage, which will be released via Napalm Records on 26th February 2021. Building upon the sensitive facets of Hermitage, one can expect an entertaining and revolutionary, yet epic journey through the darkest days of human existence. The band which gave us works like Wolfheart, Irreligious, Sin/Pecado,... to name the first three, which are now considered as true monuments of dark/gothic metal, is responsible for giving shape to the genre in its early stages. The years have passed and Moonspell became even greater, and with albums like The Antidote, Night Eternal, Alpha Noir/Omega White and Extinct, they showed to the world that they can always offer something new, something dark enough and immortal. Besides being great studio musicians, the band is considered by many as one of the best live acts, and the fans can't wait that the world turns to normal and Moonspell hits the stages again. Recently Moonspell re-released their sold out "controversial" albums Sin/Pecado and The Butterfly Effect and will continue to do the same with Darkness And Hope and The Antidote in the near future. We interviewed the frontman Fernando Ribeiro who gave us some interesting insights into the new album, we also talked about The Butterfly Effect and Sin/Pecado, their new drummer, and of course about the recent situation in the world. So, reading this interesting interview, you'll discover new things about the great Moonspell.

Interview with: Fernando Ribeiro
Conducted by: Tomaz
Edited by: Jerneja

Tomaz: Obvious first question, how do you deal with this Corona situation, and how it affected Moonspell in general?
ernando: Moonspell is affected because we are professional musicians in an independent band, so we, kind of, lost our work with all the festivals being postponed. But on the other hand, we took the time to make some decisions about the band and to stay with our families, because we toured so much in the last few years. We try to keep a cool head and not panic. We understand we live in a beautiful country, in a small country that has problems obviously but doesn't have a problem as large countries like our neighbour Spain. As far as Moonspell goes, we try to keep it to our selves, and despite all this quarantine, we try to make something that keeps the standards of Moonspell. We even started to work on our new album that's coming out in 2021. I believe that even though it's unfortunate for everyone, especially for those in the music industry, business and scene since there are no concerts, festivals and live music, we will value this experience more when this is over. We also try to stay smart because, you know, the politics and all these conspiracy theories are coming up. I think there was also a lot of exaggeration, closing down everything... We try to keep our heads above the waters and do some stuff with the band, for instance, we did some TV shows here in Portugal, the national television hired some bands to record some live shows with small crowds. Like we say in Portugal, we all swim in mayonnaise, it's slippery, but we try to make the best decisions, so we re-released The Butterfly Effect, and we work on a new album. It's like you hibernate in 2020 and that you get back from the dead in 2021, which I hope it will be a better year for music and also for our lives, our kids, our families... It's very hard for Portuguese to be inside a home. But let see what happens.

Tomaz: Are you willing to share any details about your new album Hermitage?
ernando: We recorded it in October at Orgone Studios in the UK with a producer Jaime Gomez Arellano. He produced the last Paradise Lost's album Obsidian, which I really love, as well as some albums of bands like Ghost, Primordial, Sólstafir,... He has a great curriculum. Hermitage is going to be very different from our previous album 1755. First, it won't be sung in Portuguese, as that was exclusively made for 1755 because of the concept of the album, which was a great Lisabon earthquake disaster. Pedro and Ricardo composed most of the music, as always, and I did all of the lyrics. The album follows our previous albums, except for 1755, which is very specific. It picks up some things from Extinct, a mixture of melancholic, melodic but also heavy dark stuff, but we also tried to put it on a higher level as this is always our goal, as well as to surprise our public and keep things interesting also for us. We released the first song and its video on November 19th, so that our listeners would have something new from us also in 2020. But the album itself will be released in February 2021.

Tomaz: I'm glad to hear that the new album is going to be a kind of continuation of Extinct because this is one of my favourite albums of Moonspell... Would you tell me something about the album's title?
Fernando: We've been in between the titles for quite some time, and we defined it as H, just a letter. For Extinct we've already had a title because it was a concept album. This album is not a concept album, but it has a general subject. I think it has to do with certain zooming out, and historically or lyrically it has a connection with all Moonspell's albums. Night Eternal was like apocalypse meets a new beginning, Extinct was about things getting extinct, not just in the animal kingdom, but also a lot of our memories and the other things that we were used to, are not coming back, in a way we let them die. The main concept behind the Hermitage album is being alone, what I was thinking about a lot before this pandemic. And now that people actually have to spend more time alone, it seems quite a coincidence. Nowadays, there is a lot of talking about new beginnings. And in a way that is the mood behind Hermitage. A new beginning, this time from isolation.

Tomaz: This might be a delicate question, but still, what can you say about the departure of Miguel Gaspar?
Fernando: I'm not supposed to talk about this because we signed a contract with him that obligates us all to abstain any further comments regarding this matter. What I can say is that that was a cycle that came to an end, what happens in bands all the time. Mike was obviously an important piece of Moonspell, but we had to take this option together for the good of the band. We wish Mike all the best for his plans. I think that he is going to procede with the music business, but just on saparate way as Moonspell.

Tomaz: I think Miguel Gaspar is one of the best drummers in this scene. What can you say about your new drummer Hugo Ribeiro? I haven't heard about him before.
Fernando: I think he has big shoes to fill, but he is a good drummer and a nice guy as well. When we split with Mike, I didn't want to choose a new drummer myself. So, Hugo was Pedro's choice, since he is also a musical director of Moonspell, and I believe he made a good choice. He is not related to me, even though we have the same last name, but Ribeiro is very common last name in Portugal. He used to be a session musician, and he recorded drums for many bands, and he still does that. He brought something new and positive to Moonspell. There was a lot of even more famous drummers we could work with, but we wanted someone from Portugal. That's always our priority. If we were in Sweden, or Germany or America, it would probably be an easy process, because so many people play quality metal. Of course, this is a big thing for our fans and himself, I can understand that, but this is also a part of the band's dynamics. Moonspell kept its original line-up for many years, and there is always a price or a sacrifice to be done. As a singer and Moonspell member, I think that Pedro really made a good replacement, because Hugo is very talented, he also has a different style from Mike, and I think this can bring something good for Moonspell.

Tomaz: You re-released two of your albums within one year, first Sin/Pecado in December 2019 and then The Butterfly Effect this August. How come you decided to do this?
Fernando: Well, it's a "ball's" breaking, I have to say. There are many reasons to re-release this old stuff. First and foremost, we have our label here in Portugal, Alma Mater Records, and one of our compromises with our fans is to have everything from Moonspell available for their collections. Even though we have a lot of people following us since the '90s, we have a lot of new fans as well. And for them to get these albums' CD or LP is nearly impossible. So, we tried to buy whatever stock Century Media had. And all these records from Century Media, years from Sin/Pecado to The Antidote, they are all sold out, and you can't find them anywhere. So we decided in collaboration with Alma Mater Records, Century Media and Napalm Records to reprint them and make them available again, especially in these pandemic times. The plan started with Sin/Pecado, that went very well. The Butterfly Effect is being a cool surprise considering that we took big chances in redesigning it and revamping it a little bit. I think it's a great cover, different from the original, which is always a risk, but I think most people loved it. Next step will be Darkness And Hope and finally The Antidote. Moonspell has a history as the European metal band, and our records are alive, they are not records that people forget about them. When we released Sin/Pecado, many people were talking about it, some even saying "oh, I misunderstood this album, but now I like it, you know, different times". With The Butterfly Effect, we had a smashing response, that kind of surprises me because it's a very crazy album, that broke many ties with our fans. It's a very industrial and apocalyptic album that could almost be heard and seen in the light of today's pandemic situation. Someone made a mistake in the East and created the pandemic that stopped the world. That's what butterfly effect is, a small event creating huge events. I think that with the quality of re-edition etc., people like this dynamics and it keeps them busy as well, and also keeps Moonspell on the radar until a new album comes out.

Tomaz: When I listened to The Butterfly Effect yesterday, I was surprised by a different effect it had on me in comparison with that effect 21 years ago, when it was first published. You mentioned that many of your fans had the same experience with both Sin/Pecado and The Butterfly Effect. It seems like these albums are more actual and better accepted now than they were back then. They were kind of ahead of the time...
Fernando: I don't know. I think that's up for the fans to answer. Many years have passed, many pieces of music have been done, other bands have been experimenting a lot as well. Five or four years ago, metal was too predictable, and bands like Leprous, Zeal & Ardor, Katatonia, Opeth changed a lot, especially in the way that people started to like experimental bands more, what consequently made a more welcoming environment also for The Butterfly Effect. Regarding being ahead of time issue... I'm just well-read, and besides music, I also like history a lot. I think that everything, all the answers and even the future can be a little bit predicted from the past. But when it comes to music, it's a little bit like this, I always say people, who say how Wolfheart was a great album or how great were the times when Irreligious came out, that I agree with them but also that these times are over. And unlike the times are over, the music is not over. It's not like when you go to a restaurant and order a dish, which you either like or not. Music is not tangible, it's immaterial and a little bit immortal when recorded. And I think to have albums that still provoke reaction, whatever reaction that is, and the curiosity in our fans is the win situation for Moonspell. I don't think that we were over creating or ahead of time, but we have always been a free band, we always did with music what we wanted to, and I think that a lot of people appreciate that. We never followed the music agenda, and we never wanted to be the flavour of the day. We always took risks, and I think this is the nature of the band. There was a lot of risk-taking with Wolfheart, which wasn't a typical black metal album released in times when black metal was so dominant that there was almost no room for other things but the Norwegian black metal.

Tomaz: I remember that when Sin/Pecado was released, most of "metal heads" didn't like it, but when it was recently re-released, they thought of it as one of the most important albums in the Moonspell history...
Fernando: That's true, I was there, and we took a lot of bad reviews but also good ones. I think that one of the main problems was that we did the cover of Depeche Mode song "Sacred". At the time, people were kind of afraid of Depeche Mode, but nowadays they've learned how to love this pop band. But it's a great band, great musicians and great songwriters. Nowadays, even extreme musicians like Nergal make projects that sound like Nick Cave and Johnny Cash, and people don't have a problem with that. So, if Moonspell contributed at least a little bit to more openmindedness of this scene, I'm happy. But at the time I remember perfectly, bands like Hammerfall were getting big. With all the respect, I never liked that kind of music, although I liked Helloween from the beginning because I thought it was very genuine and they started that power/speed metal. The main point is, and I say this almost in every interview that sometimes the object or the music is not the problem itself, it's just human nature that tends to judge things too quickly, mostly because of the associations. Music, in this case, is just a soundtrack, and if it reminds us of something good, for example, our youth, we tend to automatically like it better, while some other music needs more time to be accepted. So, I'm happy that people are re-discovering and being a little bit nicer to Sin/Pecado and The Butterfly Effect.

Tomaz: The lyrics of The Butterfly Effect are very philosophical and all about a chaos theory. How do you think or feel about them now, over 20 years later?
Fernando: The Butterfly Effect has a little bit of poetry, literature and social behaviour, even though it comes out of the scientific concept of the butterfly effect. I think that nowadays the lyrics are even more actual, so I can still identify with them. I was defining humanity as a species that has created a lot of wrongs, and that can do good as well. But when let to choose, we somehow always choose the wrong path, which is very disgraceful but also very truthful for us. We have the power of choice, but sometimes we don't have the power within to make the right choice. The Covid, which is the reality of all of us in these days, is as I had already mentioned before, a perfect example of the butterfly effect. One small thing causing such a great worldwide crisis that kills our people not only for the disease but also for the aftermath. I think that this is just a consummated example of what I meant in 1999, my a little bit naive way of saying that humanity is a bit out of control, and nowadays we've even given up control. Philosophy is my background, so sometimes people ask me how to separate fake news from true news, and I suggest them to read the whole news not just big lines. It's the same with Moonspell. Sometimes we put online some news for our fans, and people are quick in misunderstanding, but mostly because they only read first lines. I think the main problem is that people have just given up understanding.

Tomaz: So, after this situation with Corona settles down, are you planning any shows where you would play songs from Sin/Pecado and The Butterfly Effect again?
Fernando: As I mentioned before, we played a couple of shows for the Portuguese television. One of the songs that we picked up immediately was "Soulsick", which is a great song, I believe, and definitely a must for live shows. It's also time to get rid of some songs that we played a lot, and to introduce our fans with new songs and those which we haven't chosen in the past tours. Especially now with the new drummer. And with the albums coming out, I fell the necessity of changing the repertoire as well. We broadcasted online show on Halloween, and we published two new songs because I think that our fans miss us, and that's also a compliment to us. We decided to do that now when people are keen to move on, and not at the beginning of the quarantine when people had other stuff to concern about, their families, their health, their money.

Tomaz: I expected to hear some songs from Sin/Pecado on your previous tour with Rotting Christ and Silver Dust. I attended your show in Zagreb (Croatia), but there was a lot of chaos, you were running late, you cancelled all the appointed interviews, and Silver Dust didn't even perform...
Fernando: It was a hard week, and I have to apologise to the Zagreb crowd. We tried at least to keep the show, but we couldn't afford to do anything spectacular. Even though I remember it was a good and felt show. We had a lot of problems on the Turkish border due to bad organisation from the touring part. After that, we didn't even have time to eat. We played some songs from Sin/Pecado ("Mute", "Abysmo",...) in other places, but in Zagreb, we didn't even have time to make a soundcheck. I hope we've learned something from the mistakes. But it was a great tour, except for some weeks, when we were going through hell. I remember playing in Bucharest at 3:00 a.m., which was very hard for us and the fans. Many other bands would probably cancel and give up, but the promotors wanted to keep the show, and also we wanted to play.

Tomaz: It's been three years since Moonspell released 1755 album, which was totally sold out in Portuguese. Since this is a specific album, I wonder how it was accepted among fans and how was the response on the shows?
Fernando: I must say that much better than I expected. In a way, we all kind of fell in love with the concept of our history. We didn't think that this mixture of metal and Portuguese history would have such a great response. 1755 was not even supposed to be an album but to be an EP. But when the music calls, you have to follow it, that's why you are a musician, that's why you are giving up everything else in your life, in order to make this and to be there when the "muse" calls. To go on a road with it is not as safe as to go with the other albums. I felt like I was on tour with a small theatre group. As a performer and a singer, I really liked the experience of 1755 and the way the world of Moonspell reacted, so positively. But now I think it's time to go back to more familiar fields, do the follow-up to Extinct, do the songs in English so that anybody can tag the lyrics easier. And if you pay attention to Moonspell, we move on really fast, so although we enjoyed the two-years tour with this album, it's now in the past for us, and I'm already looking forward to the future.

Tomaz: Would you like to say something to our readers for the end?
Fernando: I wish everybody health and luck. I think that right now is the most important to stay safe, to create your own theories, to protect your family and friends. These are hard times, even more than hard they are unexpected. I hope that our dark/metal lifestyle, playing live, meeting up, will be back soon. If everything goes well, I think next year we'll have one of the best years of our lives, and that is something we should look forward to.

Pre-order the new Moonspell album Hermitage HERE!

Moonspell discography (albums only):
- Wolfheart (1995)   
- Irreligious (1996)   
- Sin/Pecado (1998)       
- The Butterfly Effect (1999)   
- Darkness And Hope (2001)       
- The Antidote (2003)       
- Memorial (2006)
- Night Eternal (2008)
- Alpha Noir/Omega White (2012)
- Extinct (2015)       
- 1755 (2017)       
- Hermitage (2021)

Moonspell line-up: Fernando Ribeiro (vocals), Pedro Paixão (keyboards), Ricardo Amorim (guitar), Aires Pereira (bass), Hugo Ribeiro (drums)

Moonspell links: Official website, Facebook