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Heavenwood - Interview

Interview with: Ricardo Dias
Conducted by: T.V.

Heavenwood, one of the most important Portuguese metal bands (alongside of Moonspell), who are around since 1992, released in July this year their ultimate masterpiece, The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1. This is already Heavenwood's fifth album, a follower to the stunning dark creation from 2011' Abyss Masterpiece. The release of The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1 marks a return to their former record label Massacre Records, where the band's first two highly acclaimed albums were originally released. Like said before, Heavenwood were formed back in 1992, but at that time known as Disgorged and playing death metal. In 1995 tragedy struck the band as their current bass player committed suicide. Their name changed to Heavenwood, as well their music shifted into more gothic/dark metal oriented style. The band played with many most important bands of that era and performed on many notable festivals like it's German Wacken fest. Then internal problems appear and Heavenwood went on hiatus for almost ten years. In 2008 the band returned stronger than ever with gothic metal masterpiece Redemption and the rest is history. Drum sessions for The Tarot Of The Bohemians - Part 1 were done by drum virtuoso Daniel Cardoso (Anathema), who previously recorded drums for Redemption and Abyss Masterpiece as well. Also French drummer Franky Costanza, from Dagoba, Fadi Al Shami, from the band Aramaic (hailing from Dubai) and Sandra Oliveira, a Portuguese female singer from the band Blame Zeus, all appeared as a special guest on the new album and contributed greatly with their talents. The line-up of Heavenwood today consists of Ricardo Dias (vocals/guitars), Ernesto Guerra (vocals), Vítor Carvalho (guitars), Eduardo Sinatra (drums) and André Matos (bass). I had to do an interview with bands mastermind and founder Ricardo Dias, and we talked about many interesting things regarding the band, present, past and future stuff, but mostly about their new album, The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1, which was also selected as album of the month July 2016 right here on Terra Relicta.

T:V: Hi Ricardo! Congratulations for releasing such a stunning album, one of my favorite releases so far this year. How do you feel about it?
: It's a honour to know that the new Heavenwood album is one of your 2016 releases! We feel that The Tarot Of The Bohemians Part I is the demanded release for a band that released its first album in 1996 with Diva. Our previous album Abyss Masterpiece, released in 2011, was a big challenge for us while dealing with a more darker,  atmospherical and orchestral music landscape. That album was very well received by the fans and press so we noticed that we would have more attention and expectations from both parts. I think that the time, work and effort we spent on pre-producing, recording and mixing The Tarot Of The Bohemians Part I is being amazingly well recognized due to the fans and press feedback or great reviews from all parts of the world.
T.V.: The working process on this album must have been quite long, if I remember it right you revealed the first single "The Juggler" back in 2014...
Ricardo: Yes. First we had to structure the concept of the album in the musical and lyrical context, recording demo versions and afterwards went at Raising Legends Studio in Porto to record all the instruments and compose and record the orchestral parts. It's not easy to work in studio with this amount of tracks or to create a heavy sonority when you want to input orchestral arrangements. You need time to think, time to compose, time to record and mix. Although the orchestra is not a real one, every segment/piece was played and recorded one by one because we wanted a human expression of all those virtual instruments, it's one hell of hardwork!
T.V.: Yeah, I can imagine that! Now, after so many years you signed again with Massacre Records. What was the reason to re-sign with them and why did you left Listenable Records where your previous album was released?
Ricardo: Both parts got a common interest: Release the fifth new Heavenwood album. We had a very good experience with Laurent Merle and Listenable Records with Abyss Masterpiece in 2011, it was very important for the band regarding that we released Redemption in 2008 by a small Portuguese label Recital Records and we felt that this album haven't had the opportunity and international exposure needed to be more successful. I look at everything done as natural steps, up's and down's or down's and up's such as everything in life. Returning to Massacre Records is like returning home, where everything started and everything continues in 2016. We are very happy and thankfull to Thorsten and Thomas at Massacre Records that together with Filipe Marta, Heavenwood management at Avantegarde Management and André Matos at Raising Legends Studio, who all made it possible that this new Heavenwood album is released.
T.V.: It's certainly nice to see Daniel behind the drums again, but just as a session member. It seems that you don't have an interest to find a proper drummer or I might be wrong? Btw... who's the live drummer in Heavenwood?
Ricardo: Daniel Cardoso recorded three albums with Heavenwood and he played a lot of gigs with us, a great musician he is, and it's nothing strange that he is in Anathema because of his talent. Heavenwood have now five members with Eduardo Sinatra on the drum section.
T.V.: That's good to hear, and recently also Vitor from Demon Dagger joined the band and I wonder how it's the chemistry between you guys now?
Ricardo: It's great, he is a excelent musician and person, very experienced and it was very important for Heavenwood to achieve a stronger level and skill regarding the faster guitar lead solos for example. Now we have a stronger and more flexible guitar section with powerfull riffs together with melodic and faster lead guitars.
T.V.: Some pretty notable guest were present on the album, beside Daniel Cardoso there were drummers Eduardo Sinatra and Franky Costanza (Dagoba), guest vocalists Sandra Oliveira (Blame Zeus) and Fadi Al Shami from the band Aramaic. How did you came in touch with them and how it was working together?
Ricardo: First we invited them because we respect and admire their talent, secondary because of their personality and posture in music. Each of them contributed with a piece from their soul and their charisma is reflected on the songs they were invited to contribute. I think that our music won with their presence and this experience was remarkable for them too. Franky Costanza is a monster on the drums, such as Daniel Cardoso. Eduardo Sinatra is one of the best new Portuguese young drummers who firstly enjoyed Heavenwood as a fan. Sandra Oliveira from the portuguese band Blame Zeus is another Portuguese talent that gave to songs as "The Hanged Man" the perfect feeling and singing style demanded by the song itself and finaly Fadi Al Shami from Aramaic was the perfect guest for the oriental and exotic atmosphere needed on "The Hermit".

T.V.: Tell me about the album title The Tarot Of The Bohemians. I find it pretty interesting, also the whole concept behind it that is inspired by French occultist Papus. How did you came to this idea? I know it's just a part of a larger concept, but still... What can we expect in the future parts?
Ricardo: I do identify with his Principle of Humanism and Occult studies, I felt he deserved this musical tribute. The work on this album is inspired by one of his books "The Tarot Of The Bohemians" and his deep study of Tarot. The Second Part will respect the same orientation concerning our musical interpretation to each card. We "gave life" to each Tarot card creating their very own musical identity.
T.V.: So I believe that the next part of this concept is already in preparation. When can we expect it to be released?
Ricardo: Yes, we decided to work it in two parts due to the imense amount of information and study regarding the "The Tarot Of The Bohemians", book and concept. If we decided before to work and release it as a single piece we would release this new album perhaps in 2018.
T.V.: More or less everything around Heavenwood is about occult, magic and such things. How much are you personally interested in such stuff?
Ricardo: It's something personal, but I think that everyone experience magic in their own life experiences. Who never felt the experience of loving some one or a piece of art, a nobel gesture or even music itself? I believe we are more than just flesh and bones, then I do also believe that we should know, or at least try, to discover a lot more about ourselves in many ways or forms regarding, for example, our own existence. Some choose the easiest way and other the hardest one.
T.V.: I might be wrong, but in those lyrics I can sense something that reflects the modern society...
Ricardo: In the past we used horses, now we use cars. In the past there were arenas with gladiators, now we have football stadiums and "gladiators"...
T.V.: Are you fascinated more with historical events or present things?
Ricardo: With all mostly, because time, although being a subjective concept, is very important to understand the balance of mind and matter along history.
T.V.: And what's your personal opinion of the recent troubled times, especially in middle east and now consequently in Europe? Where do you think all this leads?
Ricardo: I think there were always troubled times since man's existence and creation, it's the inner quest for domination and at the same time the demonstration of superiority through luxury and power between nations or the implement of raw models. Many of those aspects were revealed along time and history through tribes, empires and nations. Our animal instict is still present in our behaviour and I think it will take a lot of time for man to gain a stronger consciouness and sensivity regarding is own destiny. At the same time technology and space exploration will lead us to discover new worlds, new challenges, new perspectives and a new concept for humanity values.
T.V.: Ok, let's return to music. How would you compare The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1 with Abyss Masterpiece? Somehow it follows a similar compositional process, but yet it's more intense and rich album.
Ricardo: Abyss Masterpiece is darker, colder and is the musical reflection and interpretation of a Portuguese woman, the very first female Portuguese poet D.Leonor de Lencastre (Marquesa de Alorna), living in a Portuguese society which was controled and dominated by men, back in the XVIII century. She was imprisioned in a monastery since her youth. Nature and poetry served her as inspiration for her words. Then The Tarot Of The Bohemians Part I is a sort of a musical mirror, a deep travel within yourself, the past, the present and the future. As above so below.
T.V.: You are active in the music business since 1992. Formed back then the death metal band Disgorged, one of the first heavy bands emerging from Portugal. Still, how do you feel the difference between early 90s and now? What everything has changed for musician like you?
Ricardo: I think that everything can be resumed to these words: Less is more and more is less.
T.V.: This might be a bit silly question, but still. After your first bass player commited a suicide you changed the bands name and music style. I don't want to fire up those things, but why those drastic changes occured back then?
Ricardo: Well, regarding the musical style I do believe we got influenced by that episode but the bands name was a logical decision from the band and the label.
T.V.: Somehow it's impossible to ignore the fact that every Portuguese band is in the shadow of Moonspell, and so it's with Heavenwood. Do you think of Moonspell like of a rival or as a band which opened some doors for metal bands in your country? Are you in any kind of relation with Fernando and company?
Ricardo: Yes, we do have a very good and "ancient" relationship. They are a great example of work, strength, belief and progress not only for Portuguese bands. I do believe Portuguese bands forgot to or don't know how to open doors or "windows" honestly. We have very talented bands but they lack the management skills.
T.V.: Time to do some promotion for those talented Portuguese bands... can you give us some names?
Ricardo: Sinistro, Equaleft, Legacy Of Cynthia, Miss Lava or Bizarra Locomotiva have a strong musical charisma, they can create their own musical spectrum and personality.
T.V.: Thank you, I believe that our readers will check them out. Recently you released a video for the track "The Empress". Pretty good one! I wonder how do you enjoy the process of making videos and can we expect any other track from the album taking a video form?
Ricardo: Yes, we will do something more. Meanwhile we will do two Diva 20th Anniversary Shows and for the Porto gig we will be the first Portuguese band to record it live in 360 mode.
T.V.: Twenty years since Diva,... I remember it like it was yesterday. As well the live video you shared of your live performance at Vagos Metal Fest is quite stunning. Tell me, can we expect more live shows, maybe a tour around Europe someday soon?
Ricardo: We have some gigs booked for 2017, also the main metal summer fests would be important for Heavenwood, so let's see what happens!
T.V.: Can you reveal to me any concrete dates and places?
Ricardo: For now I can only say that we'll play in Spain and Germany.
T.V.: If you'll have an unlimited option to choose a band to play with, which one would that be and why?
Ricardo: Heavenwood, always, because it's me through music.
T.V.: A couple of months ago Massacre Records re-released your 2008 album Redemption. Can we expect also re-releases of Diva and Swallow? And why did you took the decision to re-release it in the first place?
Ricardo: There are plans for some surprises to be revealed. Regarding the Redemption re-release this year with Massacre Records it's simple: It was the only Heavenwood album that we didn't have avaiable worldwide once it was released in 2008 through a portuguese label. I think that Redemption is a great album, still fresh, great mixing job by Jens Bogren at the original Fascination Street Studios, there were those amazing special guests such as Jeff Waters from Annihilator or Gus G from Ozzy Osbourne/Firewind and of course the songs are quite remarkable.
T.V.: Who's Ricardo in his private life? What are the most important things for you and what enthuses you the most beside music?
Ricardo: I'm a hard worker and a family man. I enjoy doing social work for example, I like to feel that I can contribute for a better society in many forms.
T.V.: What was the latest music album that you've actually bought?
Ricardo: Celtic Frost - Monotheist, digipack!
T.V.: This must be a silly question, but I couldn't find the answer anywhere... What's the deeper meaning of your bands name, Heavenwood, if there's any?
Ricardo: "Beware the ghost of lady Judith Heavenwood wandering in the forest of Heavenwood."
T.V.: "Then I saw a scarf wrapped in my hand With the inscriptions J.H", haha. Ok Ricardo, thank you for taking your time to answer my questions. The last words are all yours...
Ricardo: Thanks for this great interview and opportunity for your readers to know a little more about Heavenwood.

Heavenwood links: Facebook