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Moonspell: Working hard, playing even harder

This is the part where I give a brief introduction to the band that is about to be interviewed. But come on… It’s Moonspell, you know who they are… we all do, but for the newcomers who may be wondering, I do hope this brief synopsis and interview of the band peaks your curiosity into opening the doors to their discography. Hailing from the lands of Portugal, Moonspell originated in the early ’90s and since then have gone on to release 12 albums and a slew of other materials in between. The band plays a mixture of Black, Death, and Gothic Metal where certain parts of their discography differ from the next due to their success in blending the genres seamlessly to craft an organic aura throughout their music. To you the reader, I do hope the following interview ahead will be most enjoyable for you, and for those who may be new to the band, may the conversation spark an interest.

Welcome to the Metal Digest! Firstly I would like to express my gratitude for having the opportunity to conduct this interview (alright… I’m sorry for sounding rather corporate there haha) but seriously, I was rather ecstatic when the chance appeared that I became speechless…ending with my fanboy moment, the first question I’d like to ask to get the ball rolling is that the band has existed since the early 90’s and since then Moonspell’s catalog has been quite extensive and rich, from the early conception, I have always wondered, did you see the band morphing into the titan it is today? Also, if it’s not too vague to ask, what was the mindset during the initial conception of Moonspell, I’ve always been enthralled as to know what was the driving force/motivation behind bands such as you all.

Hahaha, thanks, no bother about the fanboy thing, that’s the glue that keeps the scene together, after all, we’re fans of each other in a way, and that’s the reason Metal, especially bands formed in the nineties,  could grow, the lack of rivalry, the feeling of community, maybe now things are slightly different, I don’t know I am not keeping track to be honest. As far as Moonspell being a titan, I agree to disagree. Our reality is much different and in fact, we must work really hard and on a daily basis to keep the band on the radar of the fans. I don’t know what happened yet it feels that we never fulfilled our full potential for “stardom” on the contrary of some contemporary bands of ours like Nightwish, Amon Amarth, ArchEnemy, In Flames, those bands became really huge and we kind of stayed at the middle of the scale. Having said that, I must say I am not unhappy at all with that. It was what it was meant to be and the fruit of chance, circumstances and decisions, some bad, some good. We had a lot of hype with Irreligious but Sin was quite a cold bucket of water for the press and most of the fan community but somehow we managed to go on, and that’s great too. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with it. Finally, I have to say that I never expected to achieve not even a tenth of what Moonspell did in almost 30 years, at all levels, the places we visited, the music we wrote together, all the adventures. I don’t know if it’s a habit that drives us or not but, all in all, we still feel great making new songs, playing the repertoire live, there’s a nice, warm and simple feeling inside and that keeps us going, yeah. 

Keeping on the same tracks of the past, I see you are working on a reissue for the 2007 compilation album, ‘The Great Silver Eye’, how has the process been in revisiting those singles of the past? I must ask do any particular tracks bring back any memories which you are willing to share with us…also I’m rather curious to know when venturing back into this catalogue containing a time capsule of singles, are there any elements you wish that could have been better or improved upon when looking at them through new lenses.

Well, it’s not really the band, but Century Media’s licensing departments who is behind this reissue. True to fact that I have always involved myself in the making of all things Moonspell, we know the band dearly and we can come up with ideas, suggestions and bonuses that make the whole thing so much more interesting and valuable for the fans. I am up to get our material running again, all the time, if it’s well done, with quality and pertinent. As for putting together a “best of” it’s easy and hard at the same time. It’s an experience where nobody will quite agree in the end and there are people who feels that some songs should be on the list, others shouldn’t so, yeah, it’s tricky. What I believe is that Moonspell has always been a band that focused on making good, even memorable songs, not all of them are, but plenty do fit the criteria so that’s what we think it works and yes you’re right when you say that, many times, the songs are brought under a different light and that can be only good for both parts.

  On the vein of reissued content, so far you have reissued a number of you main albums (my personal being Memorial… not that it matters haha) and I also see you have been working on reissuing ‘Darkness and Hope’ that is also set for an early December release, my question would be how is the process when digging into these past albums in deciding which one should be reissued? Also does nostalgia ever overtake you when re-visiting these albums, like thinking to yourself “has it really been that long since we’ve released this album?”… like before, I am most curious to hear any stories ( even from the Memorial days… hint hint )

It’s a practical matter also. Most of our back catalogue (and often newer releases) are either sold out or out of print. In a scene where everybody bitches about poor sales, well, first and foremost, we must make things available as many times as possible. Some people complain about it, yet a considerable number of our fans have the collector’s vibe, and they are happy about the opportunity of either having a different edition or replacing their long, worn-out copies. So, all our albums will always get this retreatment, as often it’s called for. That’s the case of Darkness and Hope, as it was the case with Memorial. I don’t have any nostalgic trip going over the past, I just try to make the best possible editions and make them work for the fans. Darkness and Hope was a bit of a sad and depressive time for the band, we were coming from a quite harsh run with The Butterfly Effect and we thought nobody loved us anymore so we were so sad hahahaha.

 This past February (2021) you released your 12th album, ‘Hermitage’ (congratulations by the way, spoiler alert for those reading … it’s amazing), from my listening experience it seems once again the tides of your musical creativity has shifted as the album seems to contain more progressive and subtle ambient elements driven by the frequent usage of atmospheric clean vocals, at times it feels like an amalgamation between Fields of The Nephilim and Katatonia. So my question is was it a conscious decision to take the music within this direction or did it unfold naturally during writing, as in the ideas flowed in that manner?

Is music ever conscious? I don’t know but from my own experience, for what is worth, music is quite the gut feeling something that feels good or not, or so-so, or right or not right and it’s in that blink of chaos that we’ve been deciding our directions upon. Also we are often very quickly tired of what we just did and while we don’t think we can make it “better”, we feel we can make it different and go “places”. I believe that sort of “unsatisfaction” is quite important to make new music. So, I guess, that with Hermitage was the same and things just started taking shape. Some of our goals were to dare more, venturing into more melodic and more modern, taking bits and pieces of prog and metal and to explore more guitar atmosphere, loops, keyboards, and clean vocals. Something hypnotic, trance-like, quiet like a hermit in his home, alone and silent just watching the clouds go by.

Seeing as this is the first album to be released during a 4 year gap, how has the reception been for you as the creator, meaning your thoughts of the finished album? How did those feelings differ from 2017’s ‘1755’?

I love that people love what we do but if they don’t it’s okay too, there’s nothing I can do about it really. Music is self-expression, trying also to convey people’s sensibilities into the picture yet we might not be on the same page. To be honest we got the most amazing reviews ever on some magazines and online, but we also got some flaming opinions against our music. In my opinion now it has little to do with music but more with people wanting to be opinionated and to find their place online. Best scenario is that the album sold solid on its first month, better than 1755 and it has grown on people, I guess. But I am not checking it daily. Music needs time and almost nobody has time so it might happen along the way some other people will get bored of it, while others will pick it up, that’s the nature of music and nothing we can do about it but die laughing 😉

In 2019 you all released a book titled, ‘Wolves Who Were Men – The History of Moonspell’, written by your very own, Ricardo Amorim. Can you describe the thought process behind chronicling of this book, how long was it in the works for? Also… how different is it for the brainstorming process of writing material for the book versus a new album? I’d like to think the writing went rather smoothly seeing as Ricardo Amorim is a living testament to the history of Moonspell, however, if there were any challenges, would you mind elaborating on a few?

As a matter of fact, there are two Ricardos! And they share the same name, so it’s a normal confusion, don’t worry. One of them is indeed our guitar player but he’s not into book writing. While the other Ricardo Amorim is a part-time Rock journalist with a flair for books and writes frequently. As he’s also very close to the band, I invited him to document our history together in that book. I knew Ricardo, as he reads a lot of band and musician’s biography too, had the perfect style and balance to take this work into his hands. He was interviewing everyone, former and current members and besides the history of Moonspell, he also wanted to give you some context about Portugal, the way Metal was seen and embraced here, the nineties Underground, which was the atmosphere Moonspell became a band and of course some of our personal lives and important happenings. All in all, I think it’s a great book, I don’t even remember all that is told there and sometimes I don’t even agree with some of the “facts”, yet it’s a living book and the band changed so much lately than an update should be in order.

So I’d like to switch over to influences, I have read that bands such as Paradise Lost, Type O Negative, Tiamat just to name a few were influences upon your music ( correct me if I am wrong) in some fashion or another, my question is since the years have passed and Moonspell has grown into band whose legacy is well known, how does it feel to have newer bands (or just bands in general) seek out your discography and site you as a creative source of inspiration?

You’re perfectly right. I love those bands and many others. I listen to a lot of music, many styles and in the end they all influence me even if some are not really showcased by what we present on our own albums. I am not that aware, to be honest, of Moonspell being often cited as an influence or a deal-breaker for many bands. Yet, I do feel a lot of respect maybe since we are in business since 30 years, almost, doing crazy swings with our music while also releasing stuff that stood the test of time like Wolfheart, Irreligious and even later stuff. I am not the kind of guy to feel like a gothic metal guru or influencer but I appreciate the fact when bands do cite us, it’s a continuation of a cycle we didn’t expect to be a part of in the first place ,  so I am extremely humbled and  thankful to any band that quotes Moonspell as an influence.

Seeing as a number of your shows and festivals were canceled (I’m looking at you Wacken) due to Covid-19 how has the time away from the road and playing affected you? I usually read that musicians tend to have a profound realization of the time they spend away due to touring is rather valuable and precious while some miss the lifestyle immensely… how has it been for you and during the downtime? Also was the new album written during the pandemic or was it conceived before?

It changed my life, my body, my trust, my hope. Covid hell, and I am not theorizing about it or even giving my opinion here, has affected profoundly my way of being and while it didn’t bring me down, not without a good fight, it placed a redline between what I lived in the past, dreamful freedom, against a present and a future that is ugly, made of hard realities. I expect nothing, I think I lived my course already and while I am fighting still, I know the state of the world will take over me and the others, including the ones I love and the things I love too. I feel Covid has the first stone of a metaphoric extinction of sorts. I don’t romanticize it like many musicians as welcoming it as a nice break from all the heavy schedule touring, that’s just shallow; yet I don’t think I have lost myself, not yet at least. The new album was written before and during the quarantines and we also traveled to the UK in order to record it, which was in itself a small adventure in the post-covid world.

 This last question is from me, as it’s a personal favorite to ask as it gives a further insight to the artist’s work and mind, so.. What have you been listening to? Any music old or new that you mind sharing with us? Or any interesting books that you would recommend?

I am mainly listening to…Death Metal! Massacre, Death, Cancer, Morbid Angel, Sarcófago, Possessed, I just entered this stage of listening to a lot of the brutal stuff again, it just feels right and authentic. Also I love what Ulver is doing and just purchased their “Halloween” album. I also been into Lingua Ignota lately, great stuff and the new Cradle of Filth is a damn fine jewel. I read more than I can possibly can, I am quite the bookworm. It pacifies me. Last book that was really impressive for me was An Ancient History by Jonathan Littell. Also I have been reading some Cesar Pavese poetry and random stuff like short History of countries  (England, Germany, Mexico) and a lot of Portuguese authors too.

In ending with this interview, again I want to say what a pleasure it has been in preparing these questions and how truly grateful I am for you to take the time to answer them. I’ll leave the last remaining words to you… anything you would like to tell the fans and the readers of Metal Digest?

Thanks again for your very kind and in-depth questions. I am sorry it took so long to get back to you. The world is a stupidly hard place and I do hope, at least, that our music and shows present some minutes of much-needed solace and emotions. Blessed be, health, and luck everyone. Much love from Portugal, under the spell!!

– Fernando Ribeiro


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