Interview conducted March 5 2018
Interview published April 2 2018
"It's hard being bored in a band such as ours."
As Portuguese metallers Moonspell came to visit
Stockholm, Sweden, as supporting act to British outfit Cradle Of Filth,
Metal Covenant sought up the band's lead vocalist Fernando Ribeiro
for a little chat.
Tobbe: It's been about 4 months since 1755
was out and was that record harder to make than all the other records
considering its story?
Fernando: Not really. I mean, musicians always
value their work a lot and we're always telling [Whispers] "Oh,
it's was so hard and so difficult." and sometimes we forget that
that's actually the most pleasant part of being in the band, 'cause
we're able to tell such a story, because this story is so important
to the Portuguese people and for me personally I studied it both in
school and at university. So to answer your question, it wasn't hard
to make and we were very inspired by it. It wasn't supposed to be a
full album; just an EP.
we got carried away and Napalm was cooling off, you know, to let us
change all the plans. And the fact that it's in Portuguese and that
there was this concept that was so strong and evident for us, I think,
really helped the making of the album, in all aspects, from lyrics to
storytelling, up to everything, you know, and Moonspell always considers
albums. We hate when people say albums are dead; "No, they are
not dead. They are the most noble form of expression of a musician.".
So, it's great to make a little concept that grows up to play a whole
tour, singing in Portuguese everywhere, and the artwork and everything,
so yeah, I think things have really fallen into place with this one.
Tobbe: And does something feel different
inside of you when you sing in your own native language instead of singing
Fernando: I think so. I mean, I've sung in my
native language many times before, but not just on a full Portuguese
written album. You know, we'll always have Opium, Alma Mater, Full Moon
Madness and other stuff I did in Portuguese. I mean, I think first there's
way less switches to pull when you're singing and thinking in Portuguese,
you know. Even though I always try to improve my English, my accent,
my vocabulary, Portuguese is just natural to me. It's just as natural
as breathing. You know, I wake up at home speaking Portuguese; not on
tour though. [Laughs]
But on the other hand, no other language could
add to the experience as much as Portuguese does. That was the key factor
for us picking up Portuguese. And when we started, especially as a singer,
it was really cool because I wanted this album to be full of dramatics
and a lot of the music were already spot on there with all the arrangements
and the tragedy. People say symphonic, but I hate the word symphonic.
I don't like symphonic metal; well, not most of it. And live, especially,
I go to different places, I think, and that's very good for me, because
I want to go to these places when I write in English as well, even if
it's more troublesome.
hard to describe the feelings, but I have this story with a friend of
mine [Paulo Moreira], who wrote our biography book [XX - 20 Anos/20
Years], and he was there for me in many rehearsals, you know. So when
I was doing the vocals, or singing, not only he, but also some Portuguese
friends, were, like, looking at me, all scared and shit, saying like
"You're very angry. You're very emotional. It's just a rehearsal.".
But I can not sing this otherwise and that's even on the soundcheck
and everything, you know. So that's really nice in fact, definitely.
Tobbe: Normally you would write the music
and put lyrics on top of them, but here you had a full story and
Fernando: Yeah. But that's not really the way
we work with Moonspell. I'm a very productive guy with lyrics. I love
to write and to read and one thing adds to another. So I always have
a lot of stuff, good stuff and shitty stuff, and some of it can definitely
be used for the band. So with Moonspell we kind of do these things simultaneously.
Sometimes I have the lyrics and they have songs and they show me the
musical parts and say "Well, it's time to give a name to the song.".
But I think that it really helps the music, especially on 1755, because
we kind of consider the lyrics also to be kind of a script, you know.
So I think the music sometimes follows the script
a little bit, or the music can be the script and I can write something
accordingly as well. But probably, unlike other bands, as a lyric writer,
and especially if we get this chance, I hate to save everything for
last and just do some lyrics, you know. Because music has to have lyrics
and I think music is music and lyrics, you know. So we always work on
things as a group and these things can not really be separated in Moonspell.
Tobbe: Is 1755 the only album you will ever
make that's completely sung in Portuguese?
Fernando: Well, when we made it we thought so,
of course. And also to make it special in a way. But I can't lie; there's
many things I wouldn't probably do, or would do with Moonspell, but
after 1755 was recorded and done and the ideas were all there, I have
to say we were quite happy with the album. We didn't know what would
really happen to the album, because it was just a one-off, like, thing
in Portuguese, besides in Portugal and in Brazil. But great things happened,
so I don't think it's a closed door, but an open window, because we
found a different Moonspell after 25 years. That's awesome for us, because
it's still Moonspell, still our sound, but it sounds really fresh in
history is long and eventful and I think this is the top, like, historical
fact or event that we wanted to cover, because it's so similar to the
last, you know, lyrical orientation and very apocalyptic and thinking
about the end, like the child of The Cold War that I am. And we had
this tragic, apocalyptic event, and people thought it was the end of
the world, just in our city, in Lisbon, in our capital and it was a
great subject to write about.
Tobbe: After being around for so long as
Moonspell has been, does a band need to do something different too, in
order to not get bored?
Fernando: It's not a question of being bored.
It's hard being bored in a band such as ours. You know, we have a lot
of stuff to do, we have a lot of touring. It's more a fact of being
creative. I think a lot of bands weigh their importance in success,
or money, or likes, or whatever to feel meaningful in the scene. I think
our way of feeling meaningful is definitely to be creative and I think
that's why the future has always been so important for Moonspell and
also, if you look at our discography, we admit it's a bit crazy, but
it's also honest because we did whatever we wanted, you know.
Regardless we were doing big or small, or that
we were trendy, or if gothic metal was like this or like that, we never
really cared about anything else than writing music, and people can
just listen to our records, out of our very own ideas. Sometimes against
the advice of, you know, management and label. We never made a big deal
about it, but we were always very straightforward. Many things will
be out of our control as a band, but not the music. So I think it's
more a thing of being creative.
I think it's a very joyful moment for a band,
especially when you have made so many albums, this is our 12th album,
to find that there's still places to go, and even though there's many
stages now in the Moonspell career, and going to a very recent one,
I think both our last album Extinct and 1755, even though they're very
different, are very adult, you know. It's not a boring word, becoming
an adult, and for me it means maturity. And also, you know, try to always
have this thing that early Moonspell has, which is a strive or hunger
to be original; to have our own sound despite our influences.
Tobbe: Does everything you do today still
gets compared to what you did in the '90s?
Fernando: Not really, but some people are still
whining about it. But every time less really. Like, for instance, we
came on this tour and we play one song from Wolfheart, that's it, and
nobody went home unsatisfied. We play a couple of songs from Irreligious,
but we play so much more from 1755. And it also depends on the message
you give to people, you know. Like, Moonspell is 25 years and last year
we did some shows, playing the whole Wolfheart and playing the whole
Irreligious, and we've even recorded a DVD with those shows, to show
people that our past is something very important for us, even more important
for us than for probably all the fans.
Wolfheart was such a big surprise for everyone and we were, like, the
most amazed about it. I remember coming home in the plane listening
to a tape, of course, and I was like "I can't believe we can sound
like this.". I was really happy, because "Wow! This is the
sound of a band.". But "We have a lot of work to do. I have
a lot to learn as a singer and as a lyric writer. The other guys as
well. But I think it's a solid start.". But then again, we didn't
know, and now Wolfheart is an album that is quoted in every metal history
book, by all the fans, etc.
So, I don't think we get that very much, but
there will always be people grabbing into the past, you know, and when
you are in the band you understand it a little bit better. I don't mind
that and we still love to play those songs, but I don't wanna be, like,
a Moonspell tribute. I wanna be Moonspell, not Moonspell tribute. Other
people can do that; that would be such an honor; but not us, you know.
Tobbe: It was a different musical climate
back then of course and if I mention today's musical climate for bands,
what comes to your mind then?
Fernando: I don't wanna sound like an old goof
and I'm always speaking about the future. But the future for metal I
think was born in the '90s, really. The '90s were so important, because
there were all these big bands still and then there was the black album
[by Metallica] and then it seems like metal went to a very popular mass
revolution with, you know, Black Sabbath again, Kiss came back, etc.
So I think the musical climate is very interesting,
even though you have to be more careful with what you choose, because
especially the new bands' love is wrongly centered, you know. I don't
mind them; it's their education; it's like they wanna have success,
they wanna spread the music, they wanna do everything, they wanna go
to the merch booth every fucking night, you know, to get the fans. And
I think we never treated our fans like our clients, you know.
just free for all; you can like Moonspell, you can hate Moonspell. It's
much better for us if you like us than if you hate us, but we always
understood that there will be two forms of reaction and I think people
nowadays just wanna be loved, you know, unconditionally, and then, when
they get shit online, they are, like, busy defending themselves. And
I think that's the actual climate for today. More bands playing safe,
more fans wanting to be customers and not fans and I don't like it because
it affects the creativity of music.
Tobbe: Not so many Portuguese metal bands
get big in Europe and is that because the scene is just too small in Portugal?
Fernando: It's a very tough question to answer.
I mean, Sweden is a great example; there's a band everywhere and I think
you guys even see this: it's too much, probably. In my opinion, there's
a lot of bands in Portugal as well, and there's very good bands. Now
I have a label [Alma Mater Records], so I'm going to release some of
them to help them out. Yeah, it's stupid, but sometimes people say "Oh,
it's Fernando from Moonspell. We know their band. Let's pick up their
label.". So we're gonna release Portuguese
music, Portuguese talent as we say, but more into the metal thing.
So, there's this old band called Desire, a doom
band, a very good band from Portugal, but then, you know, shit happened,
like in every Portuguese band. Our education is, like probably the European
education, but South European education is just, you know "Study,
get a job, get married, get kids
grow a belly.". And Moonspell
never actually had this, because we were exposed to touring very soon.
We wanted to do that and we loved that. And sometimes I feel like name-dropping
and there's some very good bands: Desire, and now we're gonna sign a
death metal band with a girl singing, which is not such a novelty, because
in the underground times there was Derkéta and there was Nuclear
Death and they all had female growlers, you know.
were fewer female growlers, but it was not something that was invented
by Arch Enemy, you know. And there's many cool bands, like Ironsword,
that is a band of an ex-Moonspell member [J.M. Tanngrisnir/Tann]. Very
good band and I'm also trying to work with him; he's my brother-in-law,
so. My favorite band from Portugal is an industrial band called Bizarra
Locomotiva. So there's many bands, a lot of talent, but there's this
scene, especially with the death/thrash bands, like the Machine Head/Pantera
rip-offs that have been doing this since the '90s and I think they really
spoil the opportunity that people outside can take Portuguese metal
seriously. Because they are talking so much about it, everyone, Moonspell
on top. I mean, if you find a magazine and you see that, you'd say "I
don't wanna interview these guys.". And I think they shoot their
own leg. You know, they hate me for saying that. Cheers to them. God
But sure, we are to blame. I mean, for Moonspell,
the Century Media contract didn't fall in our lap. We had to work hard
for it and we had to be ready and available and we could not be mommy's
boys wanting Portuguese food. No, we were starving in England. [Laughs]
So it takes a lot and sometimes I think that's the problem with Portugal.
Our bands are not resilient enough. And Moonspell, musically I won't
discuss, of course I prefer Moonspell, it's my band, it's our ideas,
but in the aspect of strength and commitment, for sure we are the best
Portuguese band in metal and nobody can compete with us when it comes
to work and to sacrifice stuff.
I mean, we've been out since the 18th of January
and there was no mama's food and no one was hugging their sons. There
was nothing and why do we do that? 'Cause we fucking love music, you
know, and I think people forget about it, like "We're going on
tour. Yeah! We have all these goals.". Fuck your goals! I think
that the ability of playing music live for people is something very
rare and very special and it's the best you can give them in a world
that is so filtered by internet and facebooking and friends and I like
this band and if I like death metal I gotta hate Moonspell. You know,
we didn't have this. I mean, I remember so many times, sharing the bills
with Cannibal Corpse, Immolation, etc, and all their fans loved us as
well. Even they really liked us, because it was different.