Exclusive interview with Fernando Ribeiro … Interview: Leo / pic by coutesy of Napalm Records.
entertaim.net: Welcome to Cologne.
Fernando: Thank you.
entertaim.net: Your new album „Extinct“ could that be kind of classed as a concept album?
Fernando: Well, I think so because I’m very into conceptual things to start with. Everything I like about music and art in general, I feel it kind of holds a conceptual kind of feeling. It’s not a conceptual album in the true nature of the word. It’s not about some extinction or it’s not a subject we are writing lyrics or writing songs about it’s also not a story album where you start with characters and you develop a story. But I think, all in all Moonspell needs this conceptual thing to start working. It’s kind of a continuous process for us, so definitely there is a concept beyond „Extinct“ but it’s not a very strict concept. It’s probably more in the grey area rather than just a black and white thing.
entertaim.net: This album is more melodic than your previous 3 albums (Memorial, Night Eternal and Alpha Noir). Those were all kind really of “in your face” albums. This one is kind of more in the direction of say „Darkness and Hope“. Is this intentional?
Fernando: I think everything is intentional with the band but many things are born from a gut feeling. We always wanted music to serve the concept of the music or even the spirit of the times and changing accordingly. So when we set ourselves upon to do „Extinct“ we knew perfectly what we wanted. Also because of all these in your face albums Moonspell had to either enter a comfort zone and go on with the foot more on the pedal or to rediscover ourselves as a band and to discover other elements of the band that have been not so present. They were not gone from the other albums. „Night Eternal“ holds a song like the title song but also „Scorpion Flower“ or „Memorial“ has „Luna“ but this time around we were completely really unafraid. The other times we weren’t afraid either but I think with „Extinct“ we didn’t really have on direction which we wanted to follow. We just let things happen and what happened of course is the result from the past repertoire but also what happened is Moonspell taking a breath of fresh air in our music. I think it is better explained this time because playing aggressive music and playing music that sometimes is violent definitely served us for „Memorial“, „Night Eternal“ and „Alpha Noir“ but when people listen to „Omega White“ they will definitely see an intention there of getting back to a more melodic approach of Moonspell. We definitely needed the lyrical universe to be a bit darker. It’s not so Larger-than-life like albums like „Alpha Noir“ which was about being brave and fighting. This is a more desolate album and I really like that the music turned out by its melodic appeal. It’s a little bit more redemptive as well. I think that’s what makes „Extinct“ a special album for Moonspell is that we think we really have reached the right contrast, we don’t have in your face music but we a more of an insinuating band. It’s not a mess of sound, it’s something else that reach is hopefully very differently from the other albums.
entertaim.net: Did the writing process differ from the previous albums?
Fernando: Very much indeed. Everything kind of changed because as I was saying we’ve existed for 23 years as a band, have made many albums and we are entering our 40’s as well for most of the band. Everyone except Mike (Gaspar – Drums) are over 40 years old. So I was personally afraid of falling into a comfort zone. I’m the kind of guy whose role in the Band is more to disrupt, you know? I arrived in the studio we were still entertaining the thought of touring a bit more for „Alpha Noir“ / „Omega White“ but this time around I arrived with an idea. It was musical, lyrical and conceptual and we just stopped everything and made the album. It was 90 days of very intense daily work with no breaks. While „Alpha Noir“ was recorded in Portugal in our own studio and have Mike record Drums in Denmark and mixing in Denmark with Tue Madsen. This time we went to a very old school kind of artistic way of making the album which was to have the whole band present throughout the whole process. Just recording 15 days in Portugal plus 35 in Sweden. It was a long time but I think that’s where strong albums are made because if you are at home and you need a keyboard line or just have one idea you want to try out, for me it’s not the same if the guy is there or if I have to write him an email or get him on Skype so we can send the file. Especially with this album we wanted this recoding and writing process to be very shared between the band and the producer. So we worked like this from an early stage. I remember one of the first songs we made, „Funeral Bloom“, was a very different song at the time but it still had some elements in it that led to the final version. I remember playing it 20 times in rehearsals and bands don’t do this anymore but we do it. It’s our way of making music and our way of strengthening the bond between the musicians and songwriters. Sometimes I feel that the writing and recording process for most bands is something they do from the safety of their own home studios and maybe people can’t notice the result but you can’t do an album that is totally audience driven. You have to have some fun and some challenging moments as well throughout the process and „Extinct“ is full of those moments.
entertaim.net: In the new album I can hear a more Sisters of Mercy / Type O Negative kind of influence in comparison to the last albums especially in songs like „Last of Us“ and „Medusalem“. Was this also intentional?
Fernando: I love Sisters of Mercy! they are one of my favorite bands and even though their heydays have gone I still get the same energy when I’m listening to their music and I believe that they were one of the greatest bands to walk the earth because they were quite a dark, even disturbing band here and there. They were a rock band and not a metal band and for me the pure definition of Gothic meets Rock is the Sisters of Mercy. So yeah we are very influenced by this and people who know those bands definitely can find big nods to Sisters, to Type O, to Peter Murphy. Curiously enough the Gothic Metal or the Gothic genre was gone very, very far away from bands like Sisters of Mercy. Of course you have the 69 Eyes and stuff like this. We tried to make a more Rock /Metal album that was a bit more exuberant with all the eastern influences that Sisters had as well with „Temple of Love“ with Ofra Hasa. We fell it is necessary as well not only for ourselves but for the scene because everybody connects Gothic nowadays to dreadful things like Evanescence or electro-goth.
entertaim.net: Like EBM
Fernando: Yeah, and for me sorry, there is a place for everyone and I respect everyone’s tastes while mine are respected as well but I don’t want to dance and dress in phospherent green on a Gothic festival. I want to listen to Sisters of Mercy. I’m not going to do the black metal thing, trve or not. Those bands I’ve mentioned even if they deny it, those are the true gods. They are the originalls and we will always pay respect to them in our music.
entertaim.net: You mentioned just then about eastern influences. These is an Arabic kind of thing happening in „Medusalem“. Is this due to the Arabic influence in Portuguese culture? Was that also so something conscious?
Fernando: I have a big passion for Arabic culture. Unfortunately the way that the world has changed today when people think of „Arabic“ they don’t think of their culture. They brought centuries of discovery and enlightenment even to western civilization. Coming from Portugal I understand this really well because the Arabians were there for many years until there was the Reconquista when the roman catholic kings took over Portugal and Spain. They left us with many things that people don’t even imagine, even our way of speaking, our way of farming the land, our way of writing and especially our music. Of course we have Celtic and Latin roots but there is a lot of Arabic influence in our traditional music. Also the proximity to Morocco and Africa and all the trades we have spread out this really even after the Arabic culture was out of Portugal. So we’ve always had this in our music since „Under the Moonspell“. We’ve always been fascinated by the eastern-like scales.
entertaim.net: On song is even called Halla alla……… (I’m having difficulty trying to pronounce the title of the “Under the Moonspell” demo song “Halla alla halla al rabka halla”)
Fernando: (Laughs) I don’t know how to say this myself. We even recorded recorded the intro in a mosque in Lisbon. We have great relationship with our many fans in the Middle East and they are crazy about this participation with Turkish musicians because their way of understanding and performing something totally beautiful and it added so much to our music. So it was more a question expanding the influence we already have and to make it more real and to play with a real orchestra and real musicians. Also avoiding going the same way that many bands go to Prague or London and book the orchestra there. It sound great but it sounds ……western.
entertaim.net: Typical Hollywood sounding
Fernando: Yeah a little bit but this sounds more like „1001 Nights“. I wouldn’t go as far as Bollywood, it’s something else. We didn’t want that kind of Horror soundtrack kind of thing, even though I love horror soundtracks. We wanted definitely the „1001 Nights“ feeling and it turned out to be a great highlight for the album and like I said, it’s expanding the sound and also finding new ways of making that sound work with your music.
entertaim.net: I find that Arabic music kind of has an underlying sad tones due to the micro tonality which really came out in “Medusalem”.
Fernando: It does, it does. It’s exactly the way that they played the notes and the way they played within the timing that’s not so strict. There are a lot of contra tempos and glissandos that are a bit longer and nothing was added. It just fitted so well to the music and like I said it’s a way of totally understanding and performing music we are not used to. Even though we have these influences we are from the west of Europe. It’s kind of an exotic country, probably because of all these influences compared to central Europe. But it was hard to get them to play, the communication alone was hard but when they did it was really magic. It was a magical experience to listen their files alone. It was just “Wow, this is awesome”. Even in my In-Ear-Monitors I have my vocals and the full orchestra. It helps me to keep in tune and they played so brilliantly.
entertaim.net: Looking back over the last 23 years what would you point out as the high and low points of your career?
Fernando: I never look to our career like that because I know both were coming. I knew for sure that the life of a band from Portugal would be very different from that to a Scandinavian, German or UK band. Even though people work hard in those countries as well. But for us just to get noticed, just to get our standing was definitely harder than if we came from a country that was more established scene-wise. Also on the other hand I think maybe we would have not been so interesting if we were Swedish. The fact that we’re from Portugal has been our calling card as a band and also to the fans and definitely to ourselves. So my moments of personal success, and we’ve done a lot of stuff, Festivals, Sold out shows with just our name with thousands of people and just dozens of people (laughs). So there are a lot of these. My moments of personal success since we’ve made a demo in ’92 is to listen to what we’ve done in the studio for the first time without any kind of public knowledge about it. That’s something that people may find small but for me it’s the biggest thing as a musician is when you get to the work in peace and quiet, all of the things that happen when communicating the release of your new album hasn’t happened and that’s a moment of personal success. The others? It’s more of a daily thing. I remember touring with Morbid Angel and Immortal in a van back in ’95 and we had a huge response with “Wolfheart” and we were signing autographs before jumping in the van a sleeping without a bed. Nobody could fit there. So I believe that glory and humiliation are very close together and are just around the corner. I think the lowest moment in our career was when we had to split up with our former Bass player, Aries, which founded the band with me because he had a really bad attitude. It was a time where we had to be even stronger to go on with Moonspell with a shitstorm going on around us. But that moment lasted a couple of years so it was a big moment (laughs).
entertaim.net: What do you see in Moonspell’s future?
Fernando: This tour bus (laughs). The future of bands….
entertaim.net: .. is dark (“The Future is Dark” is a song from “Extinct”)
Fernando: The present is dark, but inside the darkness. What I see for Moonspell is a big struggle because nothing is ever accomplished, nothing is ever 100%. We’re not that kind of band where people put down the red carpet for. We have to bring the carpet (laughs). On the other hand in a practical way of seeing things there’s lots of tours ahead. We’re just finishing up this European tour right now then after a couple of days at home we go to Mexico, we go to the U.S., we go to Canada and then we come back to play the Wave Gothik Treffen in Leipzig. That will be our first festival of the year. Then a couple more festivals then we’ll be in South America. We’ve just been confirmed for “Rock in Rio”, which is a really important show because it’s the original one. We played the Lisbon one, which was amazing but now were going to play in Rio de Janeiro, which is great and take it from there. Before the end of the year we’ll go on another tour covering the territories we have done. The European territories to the east, Austria, the Czech Republic. Last time we even made it as far as China (Laughs). If it will happen this time, we’ll see. But up until the end of the year and probably into next year is the touring cycle. Then we have plans to make a live DVD. I think that’s going to be the next release for Moonspell but we’re still thinking about it because we want to record it in a special place and maybe with the Turkish orchestra based upon the “Extinct” album an do surprises. We’re still cooking it up (Laughs). Maybe next year or maybe 2017.