Moonspell: Pink memories from the end of the earth
Moonspell, the major Metal export from Portugal, reminded the scene recently with their album “Memorial”, that they are not about to retire. They still have a busy schedule with their ongoing tour and many festival shows (check STALKER tourdates!), but still singer Fernando found time to talk with STALKER about music, maturity and memories of the 90s.
How is the Metalscene in Portugal?
It exists since the 80s, even though unfortunately not many bands are breaking out of Portugal, except for Moonspell and a few others. But I think it´s gone through a lot of stages, it never actually took of what is for me personally a shame, because there were always very good bands in almost every style of Metal, from Death to Power to more traditional Metal to Grindcore, you name it. Right now there is a renewal with very good upcoming bands. One of them is called “Process of Guilt” who play a kind of Modern Doom Metal with influences from My Dying Bride or Isis” for instance. And another band I like are called “Maneater” who play in the style of Mastodon There are many bands like “Dawnrider”, a kind of Cathedral- St. Vitus stuff. Yeah, I hope that people either through Moonspell or through the Internet find more about Portuguese Metal, because there are too many bands coming out of always the same countries, like England, the US or Sweden. Sometimes people miss out bands who come from countries that are not expected to have Metal music at all. Regardless of that there are good Metal musicians and a very good Metal crowd in Portugal as well.
The first time I saw Moonspell you played before KISS, a long time ago. Moonspell went through a couple of style changes. Why this, and what will the future be for Moonspell?
Well, we do music from the heart. And how it is with hearts, it´s not concentrating or set upon the same things every day, or every time we do music. And also in the beginning of our career we where inspired by bands who toured quite restless within their own compositions, like Bathory or Celtic Frost. Therefore I have always embraced change. And progress is a part of music.
And while other band s are happy in doing small variations of one style or just go along with the same style every time, for Moospell it´s a bit different. But I think actually there is a place for both kind of bands in the scene. There´re people who like bands like Manowar or Hammerfall, they have done almost the same albums every time. And there are people who instead like bands like Moonspell or Tiamat or Samael who have grown going through borders. So there is no particular reason for that, I think it has to do with the way we feel creating. And the way we feel creating is made out of ruptures in our music. Obviously there are some guidelines we stick to, to sounds as Moonspell must sound in a way, but out of those lines everything is quite possible.
Our last album was very focused on our Metal legacy, it´s very powerful, very direct and somewhat enthusiastic to play live. We are already writing new stuff, and it´s too early to speak about it, but so far it´s a bit more melodic but darker and more painful than “Memorial”. But then again we´ll just record it in October or November, it will follow the line of the last two albums “The Antidode” and “Memorial”, what is a line we love very much to play, but it will have novelty as well, definitely.
Tell me something about the lyrics, what are the main points in “Memorial”?
There are a lot of points to be perceived in “Memorial”, but a I think there are two main subjects in this album, which is memory and isolation, and they touch each other in a way because musically we wanted to bring back a certain spirit from the 90s, not from the 80s, to our Metal genre, the spirit of bands like Paradise Lost, Samael, Tiamat, of bands that were not afraid to dare, to experiment. That spirit, in my opinion, was a little bit lost in Metal nowadays. Bands are a little bit more formatted, a little bit more predictable in a way, so we tried to do this album with enthusiasm and remembering people, without being nostalgic, how good this kind of Metal was when it started with albums like Tiamat´s “Wildhoney”, like for sermon purpose...
Then there is obviously the theme of the past, of memories, of preserving your memories and using them, not as something to attach you and to hood you in the past, but rather as something that you could use constructively. You build yourself as a human being and as a musician, that is the message of the album.
A lot of songs deal with isolation, that has to do with the feeling of my home country Portugal; it´s kind of a lost country in southern Europe that is surrounded by Atlantic ocean and Spain on the eastern side and for us, in the middle ages, Portugal was called “fina terre” as the end of the earth. We even called the first song on the album like that and I think to this day Portuguese people, myself included, still feel this isolation, haunting you like a ghost.
So I think, music is for me the privilege and the channel to express all these emotions, if they affect me they will be put into a Moonspell song and that´s normally what happens ...
How is Moonspell working on music, how is your creating process?
Well, we don´t have a specific method unlike other bands. For us composition is a day-to-day thing, we do not reserve like six month or one year just to compose. We can´t do that for Moonspell; in order to survive from music we have to be constantly playing on tour, doing stuff and doing albums. And we are totally fine with this, we are totally used to this as well, because we do it for over ten years now. So basically for me composition is one of the most interesting parts of being in a band, and I keep it interesting by the fact that, like I said, it´s a day-to-day thing. It evolves, it grows with you as a person as well. So basically this is the most important.
When it comes to methods, we own a little studio in Portugal, I go there to write the lyrics, to stay with the other guys as well. Basically the ideas come from everyone, even though Pedro and Ricardo, our Keyboard and Guitar players, have instruments to allow them presenting stuff like riffs and melodies and lot of that. We all work together in the songs, we all suggest each other what to do, and the important thing is that everybody is in the same mood in a way, it takes a while to find that mood. We started working on a that set of new songs, about three month ago, we are going to record them during the winter time, and only now I think we have found what we used to call the color of the album, and from that moment on, and also during the tour, I think the stuff will progress from that into an album.
How long do you have time for writing songs?
I think time is what we do with it, you know, and I think with Moonspell we do see time as something we can be in charge of. So basically, like I told you, we set ourselves to do the stuff, because for us the work never actually stops. Inspiration and composing for me is not like work, you cannot sit down and write songs from 9 to 5. If you have a very good idea at 4 am you have to wake up and record it into the computer or just write it down. So basically we have time, so it took three years to compose and record “Memorial”.
But this time around we take less. And also those three years were not relaxing on the beach but touring. We have toured the US twice, longer tours, now we toured Europe twice as well, we did twice the festival season. Basically we had all the songs but just needed the time, you know, like two months to get them all together and going to the studio for another month.
What do you do on tour when you have to wait?
Touring is waiting, and if you don´t have the ability to wait than you are totally in the wrong business. There is much stuff to do, it depends on the tour... there were some tours I was more restless and and wanted to do stuff, because when you support you play for 40 minutes 45. When you do your own tour you play for 60 or 90 minutes, so a very short period of a day is actually filled with work. I´ve done so many tours, there is a lot of stuff to do, sleeping is definitely one of my favorite, because you get to rest. In Portugal I have a very busy live because I take care of the Moonspell business as well; I´m always on the phone or on the computer or working in the office or working in the studio. Basically for me touring sometimes feels like a vacation, feels like a break because I just have to play.
And personally I like to listen to a lot of music, that´s what I do the most, and read a lot. And I have a hobby of translating books and writing books in Portuguese, therefore for me touring is not boring, because there is a lot of stuff to do. And it´s also a nice way to travel, when I have time and will I go and visit the city as well. Unfortunately there is a lot of engagements for us, like interviews or in stores or soundcheck, so we do not get to see a lot of the cities. Still I think there is plenty to do if you are willing to, it´s not only about sex, drugs, about getting drunk and partying and hangovers the next day, not for me. For me touring is something of a passion and something of a job, so I hate it when bands drink too much and then the next day they disappoint their fans by having a lousy performance. And Moonspell is not getting younger, I could do that maybe in the Wolfheart times... but now we are more mature, too, and touring is more demanding for us ...
Finally, can you tell us a funny tourstory?
Well, we have plenty because touring is very fertile in glory moments on the stage when people like your songs, but also it can be very humiliating and very embarrassing...
I remember once we went to Mexico, to the heart of Mexico to a city called Potosi and to promote the show. The promoter asked us to do something what we never do, which was a playback in television, one song. Our keyboardplayer Pedro said, “yeah, nobody notices us in Mexico, Metal fans will come to the show anyway, and if the promoter thinks it helps, let´s do it, why not” and he asks: “okay we are going to play in the TV studio, but please don´t put the pink scenario”. But when we arrived, there quite curiously the scenario was all pink, we were playing in a talk show with the subject sexual education and condom using, and then after us came bodybuilders. So it was embarrassing, funny in a way when you look in retrospect, but we felt like blushing and very ashamed at the time...