» Fernando Ribeiro - Moonspell
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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.

But 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 in English?

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.

It's 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 our ears.

Portuguese 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.

And 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.

It's 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.

There 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 bless them.

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.

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