Moonspell interview (07/2009)
Hot weather, nice venue with swimming pool: no doubt, we were in Toulouse, France, in one of the best venue of the country to do a nice interview with Fernando Ribeiro form Moonspell. The French Author Sire Cédric (who writes excellents and creepy novels with alternatives and metal culture inspirations) was with me, and we've spend a real good time with a deep, funny, charming and very interesting guy. Hope you will do as well while reading this!
- Marge: So, what do you think of the new Bikini (club)?
Magnifique! It's wonderful. The bikini is a club with a really good charisma because of its owner and other stuff. I remember coming here and he stopped the sound check to lay a table for all of us to eat together, so it was quite a very familiar thing, it's like what we do in Portugal. He gained our sympathy immediately.
And I knew about the "chemical plan", the blow out (referring to the destruction of the old Bikini) and it took a while to rebuild a new bikini but I think it's perfect: professional but also familiar. That feels very good when you're on the road and safer than playing in suburbs infested by rats. (laugh)
- Marge: How does it feel to be on tour with Cradle Of Filth again?
We met Cradle in 1984, we're both from the same generations we had the same influences, the same way of think things, we've lived into the underground golden times…Eventually on the road we'll become even more closer. There's no protocol on this tour, it's not strict. And we keep the quality of conversation, not only about beers…But about life you know, we're over thirty. So it's great it's like touring with friends.
- Cédric: You guys covered many songs. Would you ever consider covering a Cradle Of Filth song?
Why not?! We never thought about it. It's such a close band to us and when you think about covering you always think about covering bands that don't even exist anymore or very old songs…But I think it could work yeah. I'm really into what Cradle's doing nowadays, like "Nymphetamine", it's a great song, I love this song, I envy this song, even the title! I think the difference is that Moonspell has very simple songs compare to Cradle. Cradle has very different structures. I'm always saying to Paul (Allender) that if we pick up one Cradle song we'll make a Moonspell album. So if we could get that together it could be interesting to do something…The challenge would be how to sounds different from the original because Cradle's very distinctive. You put Cradle into a stereo and you recognize it immediately. Paul played with us yesterday so he'll probably join Moonspell on stage… it's always a nice feature for the crowd.
But yeah we could do that, we covered so many bands it would be a challenge to cover Cradle, specially the vocals (laugh), coz I can't do those screech. Only Daniel can do it!
- Marge: What represent the fact of being on stage for you? Is it the best part for a musician?
Well it's different. Music for me is a kind of inner thing so obviously it depends on the context, but you can be anywhere doing music and feeling that. So, from all the parts of you can be, the stage is where energies are concentrated. It's not theatre, because we're not fully representing characters but it has the same principal of gathering energies. I write the lyrics, and speaking or singing them, it was like I have a script and all the band follows along.
Of course the Bikini is an awesome place but you don't get these places everyday. Most of the days it's like 23 hours for one hour of what's really about and I think that the live thing, nowadays especially on those times of crisis is the best way the people can connect with the band. Nowadays there are too many middlemen between the band and the fan: there's Myspace, Facebook…I'm using that myself but I recognise it's a kind of a plague because people get to know a vision about the band very quickly, and it gets very strong and when they see them live it's like "well it's not what I expected". It happens many times to that so called Myspace generation bands. And to put up a show, like we do and Cradle does and most of the other bands like Turisas and Dead Shape Figure it something that shows me…and I'm every time surprised by the commitment that the people from rock or metal have especially when they get older. I've see Cradle so committed and having such a great time on stage and the same for Moonspell. I think the road is not the best place to be sometimes but a live show separates the men from the boys, if you know what I mean. A good live show shows you can pass something to people in the way of a communion, I think it's very interesting and when you form a band you don't expect to have this, you are shy, like you are. I was, many years ago, but in the end you have to have a sense of show, because nobody comes to a show to be bored, there's enough stuff to be bored already at home. And it's a more comfortable bored to be watching a show standing.
I see all of this with enthusiasm, really, and I still haven't' lost it, even though a Moonspell tour is almost non stop like 6 month…We play every year at least 80 to 100 shows and then of course I like to be in a studio because it's quieter…it's a different exceptive, totally different world . But I don't like to mix both worlds. I mean I can write on the road coz I can pick note book or a computer and I write but we never set up a studio inside the backstage. Backstage is to receive guests and to drink and whatever.
- Marge: You have already played at Hellfest two years ago and you'll be there this year…did you keep a good memory of you gig?
Very good! Everything was very fast, we were planned for 40 minutes but I was great because it was very intense. I mean obviously Moonspell could play for two hours…
- Cédric: You should!
Yeah…we did that, our longest gig was two hours and 20 minutes in Lisbon! I think even the crowd was like "are we ever get the end of this". But sometimes a shorter set like we played with Dimmu Borgir and Danzig in the states and we had 25 minutes and we felt like having a shot of a very fine drink. People were enthusiastic; we were not boring them because people go to see Dimmu and we get the best response ever, even in the States. It happened the same with the Hellfest, we got to pick a really…
- Marge: Straight?
Straight set, and it's really good about it. For me Hellfest is the best bill in Europe.
- Marge: That's good to hear!
It is. Better than Wacken. But Wacken has a kind of different vibes; it is already like going to Metal Land. The bands met up but not as much as the festival if you know what I mean. People go there for a vacation, it's sold out. Headlines are not as strong as Hellfest. The Hellfest is really about the bands, and I'm proud to play with my favourites bands like Cathedral and some other bands I want to see. I'm thinking if I have time to fly for the "Crue Fest" (the Friday), coz I really like the new Motley Crue album, I think it's brilliant and I would like to see it live…
So I have good memories and expectations are good because if everything goes right…now we have a different visual show. We've worked with a Portuguese artist that makes video, and it's absolutely crazy, very good in my opinion, a lots of work, you'll can see tonight and we'll bring it to a larger crowd in the Hellfest and I think we'll have a good response. We have to work hard for that response but I'm confident. We're not playing at a lot of festivals this year, because I think we have 25 dates in the summer and it's like flying everywhere. Once we're playing in Norway, the other day we're playing in Greece, the next day in Portugal, get in the van to another show…So this summer we are keeping it cool because we're working on new material. We have a South and North American tour coming up and probably a European tour. But I don't know, we're still thinking about it.
- Marge: How can you explain the chemistry between the members?
It's all based on drugs, and alcohol (laugh).What can I say, it's like speaking about your own family in a way. We are four, plus Aires, which is a session member. Friendship is not enough to describes this, because I'm friends with someone else outside the band and it's not the same feeling. I think we're all grown men, and we know to respect and when to step in, and when to step out. And the stepping out is as important as the stepping in as this friendship can be intrusive, so we're quite good at feeling this.
And I couldn't see the band without anyone of us because it would not make a lot of sense. People sometimes center the band in me, but I can't write music! So with my words, I could probably do books or something like I do, but I couldn't do write anything else and music is more, for my opinion complete…we all depend on each other in a way, and it's good to depend. It's not so good to be totally free; otherwise we have our personality or freedom I think. So the chemistry…is not an erotic chemistry (laugh)…sometimes, but it's great yeah! I don't like to use the words like brothers, or family…we are a little bit of everything: friends, foes, brothers, cousins…sometimes we have to take the other guy to bed totally drunk like your mummy, you have to clean the puke. All of that is true!
- Marge: How would you describe the place of the band in your own life?
It's hard to distinguish…obviously Moonspell is…my life. It's what I do, it's what I like to do. For me it's not "you have to be professional, you have to do things with quality" We always try to do things with quality, but for me it's much more of a passion than really work. I have passion for other things and music is on the top of them. It's not only about being in a band, it's about listening to music everyday, not only metal or gothic. Knowing what you are…the self discovery is really important and it's a very long process. I couldn't see myself without Moonspell even though it's a scenario that obviously I don't want to be seventy on stage, there would be meaningless. I think there many ways into music. I really like the songwriter stuff like Nick Cave, Cohen, Bonnie Prince Billy all of this. I think music have a future on that thing which is still dark and melodic, which I love…
Sometimes people say that I live for music but always forget that we live to music as well. That's exactly what Moonspell does. We always try to be ahead of what we did in the past because I think it's quite important. We're not the kind of band that likes to find a formula, because in the end of the day it doesn't' exist. We're just doing the right music and people are opening up to it. I don't have really a logical perspective about being in the band because it is not logical. For me it was something that happened, like completely out of the blue. I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to be connected to the academic life, which it very boring…but I like the teaching stuff, it is kind of a stage as well, transmitting something to people.
- Cédric: That brings me to another question though, you talked about growing up, and maturity…In the past every Moonspell album has been very different from one to another as you're experimenting new things every time. For the last two albums, you look like you found your kind of identity…do you think you've found your style now (even though it was there) or at least what can we expect for the upcoming album? A new evolution?
Well, I think in arts, music, literature, whatever, there's always two needs: you need to represent yourself, and you need to wear a mask, if you get my train of thoughts. For Moonspell, as we listening to lot of kinds of music and connected with other forms of arts, almost all my friend are practically from the art business, not necessarily music but theatre, literature…and I learn a lot from them. And I think seeing a butterfly effect was coming exactly all the time we wanted to wear a mask. Obviously this is a point of view of within side, as an artist. The point of view of the audience is sort of completely different. When I create music I'm one person, when I listening to music I'm another person. Obviously, it's contaminated because sometimes I understand when a band is trying to go somewhere else: sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don't convince me but in the end it's not important, I respect the band, they always have a room for progress.
Like after "Memorial" I think with "Antidote" we shaping up our sound because we always wanted something that was heavy and dark because I don't like gothic metal that was smiling on stage. For me that is not gothic metal, that's probably something else. When I smile I don't refer to the Gathering coz Anneke, she can smile on stage because she is like a light. For me, gothic has to be heavy, so we have the heavy parts coming from "Antidote", coming up from "Darkest Hope".
Then with "Memorial", we said like we're going to do a real metal album because we were listening to a lot of metal. We were turning back into being like teens again, listening to those old bands we used to listen to. For this album, "Night Eternal", I think there was always room for progression because there was discussion within the band. The other guys wanted to do a blacker album, faster…I understand why because they play, and live is more impressive but I wanted melodic songs, I don't want to go in a way that is totally metal because for me metal is just one of the parts of Moonspell. So I insisted a lot for songs like "Scorpion's Flower", "Dreamless", "Spring Of Rage" because I wanted to mix stuff around. I think there will always be this wearing a mask feeling for Moonspell, but since "Antidote" we're definitely more concentrated in being ourselves. There's always a place for being progressive, for progression, but we are more considerate of being ourselves and I think Night Eternal is already more a fight: song like "Shadow Sun" for instance, it's very advanced for Moonspell. Listen to that I say, this is something that a fan would listen, you would challenge them in a way, and it's one of everybody's favourite songs in Night Eternal.
- Marge: What could be the greatest compliments you would hear about Moonspell and what are the things you would never want to hear?
Well, the things you don't want to hear you definitely hear those. People talk too much and act too little; I always said that about metal, especially when it comes to the forums and all that crap. It's not going anywhere really. But that's quite residual: they make a lot of noise but my question to them is always "well, why don't you form a band yourself"? "What don't you do a Moonspell like the way you have it in your head?" and obviously the part of thinking into working is a very long path, and nobody is willing to take it, really.
The good things, the positive vibes and for me the best compliment is when someone comes to me and says "Moonspell has changed my life." In any way, whatever…"I met my girlfriend, I had sex with my girlfriend" has happened so many times, I should earn some royalties…People getting married, people cutting themselves…Music has a lot of influence, it happens a lot that people finding Moonspell discover other stuff like books through us. A lot of experiences, places, and the true fans want to go a little bit further; they want to understand what the band is about.
I didn't came to music to change lives, I came to music without a goal, let's see what happens. But the bands I like and the bands I'm mostly into otherwise they changed my life, like Type O Negative, when I've heard "Bloody Kisses" I have a different vision of love and pain. When I hear Bathory I have a different vision of culture and black metal. So it's good when you have your own band and people react like this. I couldn't think of something better. I can but…not in music.(laugh)
- Marge: In your opinion, what is the position of music compared to other forms of arts?
Music is very open. It has good parts and bad parts. The goods parts it's that's it's probably the most democratic form of expression. A Moonspell show in Portugal is quite mainstream so there are people who have lots of money and there are poor kids. They just came from the suburbs and probably stole a wallet to come to the Moonspell show and I like that mixing because that's reality in a way. Music has this.
The down part is that except for erudite and classical music, people always consider music as entertainment while I think rock and metal and gothic are definitely a culture. They have their own codes and their own lexicon and subcultures but I don't like to sound like a sociologist talking. I hate this shit.
The others arts…it's hard to get into them because they're very seIective. In Portugal for instance, music is not sponsored by the government. But everything else is: cinema, literature here and there, especially theatre. So they are closed in their creative ballet and they forget there's a crowd to see them. So sometimes they're very snobbish, very academic and very elitist. I go to all kinds of shows and I'm welcomed there because they know I'm important and I'm in a metal band, something like that, but I don't like the way they deal with it.
My girlfriend is an actress, and she's not like this obviously, but sometimes we talk about it. So I think that music is definitely…when you want to reach someone, like fully, is through music, definitely. It's much more powerful. Because it has the good parts of literature: the words, the codes, the message and it has the emotional things about the sound, the music itself. I prefer sometimes to read than to listen to music because it's not so full information, you can put more of yourself in a book than in a record but its different kinds of stuff. You cannot really pick up a book and headbang. It wouldn't be good (laugh).
- Marge: And how does it feel to inspire other artists, and authors like Cedric?
It feels great!
- Cédric: Seriously, you've changed my life. And you influence what I do when I write.
I don't want to feel too proud about it because I think when people find a craft and find a way for that craft like Cedric is doing is because he has talent. And they could manage their influences as well. That's what I think about Moonspell. If people go about our music they will find a lot of Bathory, Celtic Frost, Root, Katatonia and Type O Negative. I've done it not to copy or even to tribute those bands but to have our own vibes. But I think… if you don't want to influence you're not doing music.
Personally I don't like those "oh I don't take myself seriously, it's all a joke" because it is! It's just a form of the artist protecting himself. Obviously we are here to influence, and to create. Sometimes when it's a negative thing we call it vicious circle but I think this one is a virtuous circle because it goes and keeps us alive. The fact that we know that we're not preaching to the fishes or in the desert, there's actually some people that listen to it. You know that hundred people or two hundred people will pick that very to the heart and ten people will make work of art themselves. People always think of a big picture with music but I think the small picture is what counts. That's what keeps the bands like us or Cradle on the road, with ups and downs but constantly making good music and good shows. It's the fact that we know about the big picture but the small picture like the guy that really takes it to his heart is the one that matters.
There is always bullshit about black metal and underground but they forget this thing, this very basic underground principle which is about the thousand people we expose and maybe one who'll be a very true fan. It's like…you know the film "The Perfume", you know he kills a lot of people to pick drops of perfume and the very sense, I think that's quite important for music and that's also a very good reward for musicians. And for fans. For everyone.
- Marge: Night Eternal was released about one year ago now, what opinion do you have of it now, what are the qualities and weaknesses?
I'm really happy with Night Eternal! Honestly I think it was an album that we set ourselves to do songs. And Moonspell is about songs. Memorial was an album that was more like an album; you have to listen to it fully, it's hard to explain but it works more as an album. With Night Eternal I worked very hard to make very special songs, and I think that we've done it, in my opinion. Night Eternal, Scorpion's Flower, Shadow Sun… they're all very distinctive songs. For me personally it's one of the albums that come closest to the picture we have, really. With Memorial it was likewise. In this album I think there is the more enthusiasm but it has the songs as well. Obviously I'm happy with Night Eternal, I think it's a very fresh album, with a very fresh sound, I really like the production on it. I can pick up stuff that we could had done differently but we've worked so hard and so detailed on the songs to be frustrated. We really did this work, very fine and clear work.
Obviously, we got to move on, even though Night Eternal probably is a biggest, I want to go to another place. I don't know which, I've got it on my mind in a way but it's hard to explain because it's very fresh but lyrically I already have the layout for the album, and the concept, and the title. I think it will be, I don't know…stronger than Night Eternal, I want to make a stronger album, very good guitar riffing and metal influences. It's hard to say because it's going to be a Moonspell album. The lyrics are already a step forward, very different from almost everything I wrote so far, more direct. I have been listening to a little bit of punk music, but I'm not doing social lyrics, I'm doing vampire lyrics with attitude. (Laugh)
From left to right: Moocher, Cédric, Marge and Fernando
- Marge: When you begin the recording of an album, do you have a very precise image of the final result are does the album follows is own path in a way?
Every time we got a more of a final picture. Every time it's different. We don't like to spend two month in a studio. That spoils the spontaneous feeling of the album, so two or three weeks is enough for us. Obviously we have to record in a very tight schedule and very fast but what we do nowadays is that…inspiration can come anytime so we're always writing stuff, eventually after touring we're just put things together and it's a very cool period because I tend to name the songs, and then the songs are completely different. When you have a name to a song, the song changes completely into a song! It's like giving a name to someone you know, it becomes a person or whatever (laugh). It's the same with songs.
For Moonspell there is no trick but we do pre-production. A, B, C and D, and then we can have a bit of C, and D, and create a little bridge, that kind of composition that's done with the producer one the pre-production and then what we do is make a set list and we play like it was a live show. We play it so we can get the feeling of the band, because then we will separate again to record, but when you get the feeling of the band, you already have it because we have played with each other. It's not mechanical it's human so…sometimes mike up, and I'm behind and all this is really cool because it makes the music more human.
And then we go to the studio, feeling great, having the spirit to record, relax and it's much more about putting on tape or the hard disk and all of this feeling and not to think about the composition anymore, but to give your best anaemically and technically.
For a singer it's different. I already recorded with some candles and incense but then fuck this, that's bullshit, the inside it what counts. Nowadays I put all my lyrics on the window, so the window by the end of the session is covered with paper (laugh) and nothing else.
And probably I'll record my vocals in Portugal because it doesn't matter nowadays. When you are a kid "oh I want to record my vocals in a vocal studio" you can record in any place with the same quality, no need to go to Germany. You can spend more time home with your cat. (laughs)
- Marge: What can we expect for the show tonight?
A shit show (laughs).
Actually a very good show, visually the videos we're using are meaningful. All the videos were seIected not taking into account what looks great to the eye but what make sense in the head, too. Around this culture, with the skulls and the pentagrams properly done…and the band is in shape which is good, and the set list is very good I think because it has the aggressive Moonspell and then it has the songs of Moonspell that we never get to play that much in France, so it's going to be romantic…sick (laugh) and hopefully good.
And now I go for a swim.
Thanx a lot to Roger, Cédric, Jeff and Fred for the photos and Craig for the proofreading
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