Interview: Moonspell

On November 3rd, the Portuguese metallers from Moonspell will release their new, special album, called 1755. DutchMetalManiac’s Tim van Velthuysen spoke with Moonspell’s vocalist Fernando Ribeiro about 1755, Portugal, as well as other things.

Hey Fernando, already congratulations on your new album, 1755, I really like it.

Thanks, that’s awesome!

What is the story behind it?

It’s an album with an story based on a big, tragic event that happened on the November 1st in 1755 in our capital city of Lisbon, an earthquake. When we were in high school we learned that our country has a lot more history than we thought. So when we grew up, studied and kept interested in Portuguese history we decided to make an album about it, because it is very remarkable for Portugal. This album is about to be special, because we sing in our native language. It’s the first time we do so on a full album. Of course we have songs, like for example Alma Mater, with Portuguese parts in it. It was probably a bit unexpected, but we are very much interested in our history and have very much inspiration. So we decided to make this our new album. It will be out really soon, it will be a bit different, still Moonspell, but it has a lot of novelty about it. Now I think our job is done, we have to go on the road. Now it’s up to the fans. I never focus too much whether it is different or the same, it’s up to the fans.

It seems Portugal is really important for you, is it?

Very important. When you are a band coming from Portugal, it’s logic that it’s a bit more difficult to get through the bands in Central Europe. We always lived with that, we traveled months away from home. We never wanted to move from Portugal, our mojo is here. Our families, our culture, our food is here. Even we act quite nomad as a band, we are that kind of people that need something that grounds them to the roots. For us, that is not wanting to move out of Portugal. Besides that it’s also the emotional and spiritual feeling. Coming out of Portugal with not having many bands around made us feel like bringing some responsibility for bringing Portuguese culture into other nations. Portugal is a big inspiration for us, always has been. On this album it’s even stronger, more generally for the fact that we are writing about an historical event from Portugal, in Portuguese. I don’t think language is such a barrier in metal. People are more looking for the experience, 1755 is exactly that.

You just released a bonus track, the Spanish version of Desastre, why in Spanish?

The original is in Portuguese, but we always wanted to make an tribute, a thank you note, to some of our biggest fans in the world, people from Latin-America and Mexico. In Portugal, back in the 18th century, there was of course Portuguese, but the language talked on the streets was a mixture between Portuguese and Spanish. The old books from that time are a mix between Portuguese and Castellano. We decided to have a bonus track totally sung in Spanish for that strong community of fans we have there. Another reason is that, while Portugal and Spain are of course different countries, there are lot of things tying us. We can also speak the language, but not as good as a native speaker. It’s also a very interesting language to sing in, I never tried it before and it sounds really aggressive and brutal like some bands I like. Even the music I am listening to now is not only in English. Since we do this album in Portuguese I am definitely more open to bands that sing in a different language than English. For sure, our new album, after this one, will be in English again, but I am really enjoying the experience with the band.

What are some of the bands you are into nowadays?

Solstafir from Iceland, they sing in Icelandic. I really like the new Ulver album, which is a dark pop album, but I think it’s a masterpiece, The Assassination Of Julius Caesar. The new Satyricon is really great black metal, back to their roots, not so much rock anymore, but really dark and grim. Lots of music sounds right, things from the past, things I found in Spotify. Metal as well as non-metal. I really love listening to music, music is always based on my mood. For these last days I also listened to a lot of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, because of the recent passing of Martin Eric Ain. For the memory.

What makes you proud the most for being Portuguese?

I can say football, but it is such an stupid answer. Football is just what we are known from. What makes me really proud of Portugal is our culture, because Portugal might be a country in South Europe nobody bothers about anymore, but we have thousands of bands and creative people that are recognized abroad. We have great singers, writers and they really tap into this. I think those are the ones who build the Portuguese culture, the ones who tell the stories through their music or books. That’s what I really appreciate about Portugal mostly. It’s definitely the culture.

On the track In Tremor Dei you have a guest vocalist, Paulo Bragança, who is a Fado singer. How was working with him?

It was great, he is a very different Fado singer. He is a Fado singer, but with a lot of punk attitude. He challenges the borders of our national music, Fado. Fado for Portugal is like tango for Argentinia or flamenco for Spain, but it’s a very different kind of music. It’s more melancholic or sad. I think it has everything to do with us as a band and as Portuguese people. But we wanted a very special singer and Paulo is like the fallen angel of Fado, which makes him more true in his performance. We wanted a guest who brings a new tone of Portugal into our music, something more desperate and dreamy. Paulo was just the right guy for the job, it was very easy to work with him. One of his favorite bands is Bathory, imagine that. So we thought let’s make this happen and I think he made a beautiful performance in In Tremor Dei.

How is the metalscene in Portugal? Are there any Portuguese bands you would recommend?

I think it’s much better than what it used to be. We have one of our cult bands here in Portugal, Filii Nigrantium Infernalium, which means Sons Of Infernal Darkness. There are really great bands here, even some singing in Portuguese. For people who are more into industrial metal I would recommend one of the older bands, Bizarra Locomotiva, which translates to Bizarre Locomotive. They are an amazing band, I also feature in one of their songs. They are going to support us on our Spanish tour. In doom we have Process Of Guilt who are already on the Roadburn festival, we have classic metal like Midnight Priest. It’s a good scene in Portugal, people work harder to get their stuff recognized outside Portugal.

And the Portuguese fans?

They are amazing and sometimes I think that they don’t get enough respect, which is why we created our own label to take care of Moonspell things here in Portugal. It’s the better service to the fans, the gigs here are full, big bands come here and are sold out. We have club shows every week, but I still think, unlike many other countries, metal isn’t seen as a valid genre of music here. The fans are the better people because they are very supportive in the metal scene. Not only the older generations but also a lot of new kids who listen to metal in Portugal. I think more than ever before, to be honest.

Lanterna Dos Afogados is a cover of Paralamas Do Sucesso, why did you decide to cover this song?

I have to say it’s not a song people, even my own band, expected us to cover. Because it’s a very popular pop song from Brazil that we used to listen to when we watched soap operas from Brazil here in Portugal. We felt really attracted to the song because of the lyrics, which are quite sad and melancholic. I decided to bring this in with the band, because the lyrics are about the fishermen who are going to the sea and the women that stayed in the harbor and the villages. They used a lantern, so the boats could see that they are still waiting. Even while it was written by a Brazilian band, it’s a very Portuguese subject. We still have that happening, right now in 2017. People that go to fish in the sea with poor conditions and they never return because their boats sunk. So I decided it was a perfect note to end the album. I think it is a very doomy song with lots of nods like Type O Negative, our favorite band. I think it’s a great song to do after such an intense album.

The cover art is created by João Diogo, what made you decide he was the right person for this job?

João Diogo is a very known designer here in Portugal, he worked with many bands. He was under my radar for a couple of years. I decided that, because he is from Portugal and he understands and knows this history himself would qualify him more, together with his talent, to make the cover artwork for this album. I really love what he did, it’s very Portuguese. It depicts Lisbon and a climate of fantasy that was a little bit going through the air. Of people not believing that their city was actually destroyed and that God couldn’t save them. For us, 1755, is a story that needs to be told. Of course through the music, but we also tried to pass this on into the cover artwork. So that people get the story and the drama also through the visual parts. We will also apply this to the concerts.

Next week you have three special album release shows, two in Lisbon and one in Porto. What special things can fans expect on those shows?

These release shows are very important, because they are the start of a big tour that will take us all over the world for sure. It’s good to start at home, we feel at home in Lisbon and everywhere in Portugal, so Porto is definitely included. We are preparing a bit more special setup, we’ll try to recreate some of the atmosphere of late 18th century Lisbon on the stage. Through scenarios and extra’s, it will be a really atmospheric and visual show for the fans. Of course we are going to play the new album and some fan favorites. Having a good time after that earthquake show. We are working really hard to make it perfect and to make it with an theatrical approach.

Besides those release shows and some Spanish dates, you are going to tour with Cradle Of Filth in 2018, looking forward to it?

All the time, we know Cradle Of Filth since 1993/1994, so we kind of toured with them many times and I think the bands musically click very well. I think that’s important for the fans, sometimes you have bands that are too far away from each other. I think this is a match made in hell. Of course we look forward to play our new songs and I think it’s important to give people something in Portuguese, something theatrical. We definitely look forward to bring this 1755 circus on tour.

Recently you revealed a new beer, called 1755 Amura, how did you come up with this idea?

It’s a collaboration that we have already, we did a Moon & Spell beer with a brewery here in Portugal called Mean Sardine. To celebrate the launch of the new album, we decided to have a handcraft beer, 1755 Amura, to present it to the fans. It’s actually a good idea, I think the connection of beer and metal is very good. We already sold out all our older beer. I think it’s a nice gesture, many of our fans are beer drinkers and I think many of them want something with quality. A real beer, with a different taste, not the festival piss as some would say. It’s a very welcome idea and our plan for the future is to also make red wine. It’s one of our favorite drinks and I believe many fans also agree with this.

You also wrote some books in the past, is that something you still do?

I formed with a book publisher, so together we are setting up different stuff. I am working on the English translation of the three poetry books I wrote in the past. It’s almost done, so we will release it internationally. Having it translated in English, will hopefully also make it being translated into other languages. Many people asked me why I won’t translate my books, well I am not a poet, I am a musician. I don’t really have the time or talent for it. I think in 2018 people will be able to read my poetry books and from that moment on I’ll start publishing more books, not only by myself, but also through the label. I really like books, they are my biggest hobby and passion outside music, so I want to be more involved in there.

But not writing a new book at the moment?

Well, I am writing my memoirs but it will take some time. There will be a Moonspell biography written by a Portuguese journalist, which is coming out in 2018, in Portuguese. It will be translated in English and Spanish.

Besides the album getting released and touring, do you already have any other future Moonspell plans you can already tell us a bit about?

After this album, we are going to release our DVD, which is already ready. It’s up for release in spring 2018. It will be called Lisboa Under The Spell, which is recorded here on a big three-hour show for four thousand fans. It’s going to be a little movie about the last days before such an important event. So it will be a kind of different project, not only a concert, but more like a film with a concert inside it. Than eventually we will start working on a new album, we have some new stuff lined up. It will be a follow-up to Extinct, being 1755 more of a standout album. We still have that on us and will travel around the world.

Thanks for your answers! Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?

Thank you for the interview and the support. Your country is always very hospitable to Moonspell, we have great friends there. We are coming back there with Cradle Of Filth, it’s a nice chance for meeting again and for supporting 1755. I hope you like the new album, sung in Portuguese about a tragic day for Portugal.

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