Interview with vocalist Fernando Ribeiro
16th November 2015 @ Der Hirsch, Nuremberg
Interviewed by Oliver M.
Eight months after the release of the widely acclaimed masterpiece “Extinct”, Moonspell started the second part of the Road to Extinction European tour to the great satisfaction of the fans who haven’t seen their most recent songs live. Before the beginning of their show in Nuremberg, we had a conversation with their mastermind Fernando Ribeiro about their last album and his personal life. Once again, I deeply thank Fernando for the time he has granted me.
Hi Fernando! First of all, how has your second Road to Extinction European tour been going so far?
It’s been going great! I mean, when we announced the tour, there weren’t many tours around. But everybody was touring at this period, so there was a lot of competition. The first tours were more solid but I was expecting less people because of all this competition concerning the shows. But it seems that our new album, the shows we did and our reputation are bringing more and more fans to us. However, in Sweden, it was more difficult for us because we were playing at around the same period as Ghost, Whitesnake and Carcass. Today, Carcass are playing again but despite that, the Moonspell fans and people who have come to our shows were excellent. We had excellent, packed shows in Germany, Helsinki and some other places we have started visiting with this tour. Eastern Poland was also awesome for us. I mean they really lived the show and for me, that’s more important than the quantity of people. They said praises like we’ve never heard before. I think that touring so much is a big advantage of course and brings a band to a stage, to a peak of form that we are probably crossing right now and that we can give to the audience. Yesterday, we played in a festival, just before the headliners Stratovarius and we had a huge packed show in Czech Republic where our new album has been considered as album of the year by several magazines. So, yeah! I’m very satisfied with this tour. You know, I never consider first part of the tour, then second part of the tour… For me, it’s the same tour. It started in March in Europe, then we went to the States, to Brazil, to the summer festivals and now, we’re going to be at home for a couple of months. Then, we’re going to be on the road again and hopefully with good results as well!
Next year, you will go on tour in the USA with Epica and then, you will do a short tour in the UK and Ireland. Have you planned to do any concerts or tours after that?
Well actually, we’re considering a lot of stuff because there’s fortunately quite a lot of demand for Moonspell shows. The UK tour is confirmed. The London gig is a festival we’re headlining. It’s a very interesting festival with a very interesting bill in my opinion. In The Woods are coming back, so that’s a pretty exciting news as well. Then, we will go to Dublin for the first time, which is something we wanted to do for ages. We have a very loyal fan base over there in Dublin, people who actually had to travel from their country to see us when we played in London. Now they can see us in their hometown! After that, we’ll go to Manchester where we’ve never played. It’s strange, we’ve played in places like China but not in Manchester! And then, we’ll go to Glasgow, which is a return. In the next weeks, we will be able to confirm a tour in Russia which is coming up after our UK tour. Maybe more shows in the US to take the chance we have there with Epica and maybe we’ll be able to do our own tour. That’s in the plans as well and some summer festivals are also starting to be announced. So, I think 2016 is going to be a heavy year when it comes to play live throughout the world.
In terms of sales and popularity, Moonspell have never been really successful in the US, which is very surprising as you’re one of the best gothic metal bands ever. How do you explain that?
Well, to be honest, I’ve never had this American dream although it’s important for a band to expand. I mean, we’ve played so many times in Europe that it can happen that people don’t want to see us anymore. Sometimes, a band has to try to move to other territories. The first time we played in the US (it was back in 1999), I knew it would be very hard and very difficult for a band like us because the gothic movement is completely different there. I went to a gothic party once and for them, gothic is stuff like Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails. They even didn’t know The Sisters of Mercy! You know, when you don’t know the basics, it’s very hard to get through a band like Moonspell. We had good tours there. I mean, we’ve quite grown a little bit in the States since our first tour there, especially in the big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago where people are more informed and more connected. Canada is always great for us, especially Montreal but Toronto was the best show for us on the last tour we did with Septic Flesh. So honestly, when I look at Moonspell, I feel ourselves much more of an underground band like never before because we didn’t make that step that bands like Epica did for instance. They turned out to be really big and played in front of 800 or 900 people in the States. We’re going to support them, which is important but I think we’ve never took a major fall as well. I think our career is very stable, it was never planned to get to the masses but we still have this appeal. When we play in Lisbon for 3000 people or in a big festival, I still feel that we could be bigger but when I look at our musical style, our decisions, the way we want to be on the road, the way we want to play our own shows, I think that part is the price we pay for having this freedom we have with Moonspell. It’s not like we have to make an album to go on tour like many bands do. It’s not like we have an agenda… We just feel whatever it’s coming like! We’re also very old-school. We’re one of the few remaining bands probably doing the same rooms or making the bigger venues but I don’t have any problem with that. I think that Moonspell has achieved much more than what I would have thought! So, everything now is quite of a bonus. So, we’re not quitters, we’ll go to the US, spending some time again there, touring hard and it’s not the same conditions as in Europe as everybody knows. But we also have to understand sometimes that the feeling is even more basic. We have fans there. Imagine what it would be if we never went there. They would never see us live. For me, that’s more important than anything else.
Now, let’s talk a bit about your new album “Extinct” that you’re still promoting during your current tour. I would like to discuss about the production. In my opinion, the sound is excellent. I think that Jens Bogren did a great job on the production. Are you considering working with him again for the next album?
Yeah, definitely! I think that our collaboration with Jens was perfect. I mean, there is no perfect production or perfect album. I think what we did and what we set ourselves to do was totally fulfilled and we were all so happy. It’s an album that doesn’t have an aggressive sound, it sounds the way it should, it really serves the music. So basically… Yeah, I’m definitely counting on working with Jens again if he’s not too busy of course! Because he’s working with many bands as well. I’ve heard the albums he did after Moonspell and I still think our album was quite special. We were doing something really different. So yeah! It’s too early to think about a new album. We’re probably more thinking about doing a live DVD or a live album as a next release but honestly, I think that Jens is on the top of our list for producing our next album, considering that it’s very important that he likes the music and the project. So, we have to see what he’s coming up with Moonspell as well.
In my opinion, the best produced Moonspell album is “The Butterfly Effect” by far. Even if it’s not my favourite Moonspell album, “The Butterfly Effect” is a very special record for me. The sound is so powerful, absolutely perfect. I think that Andy Reilly did an amazing job on this album. Is it also your opinion? Why did you stop working with him?
These were quite crazy times when we recorded this album in London. The band was going through this blue period. We really didn’t want to experiment outrageously. Actually, to come up as an album, “The Butterfly Effect” studio recording was quite chaotic. So, Andy helped us to have that powerful, strange and almost disturbing sound and he was important concerning the creation of the atmosphere, the songs and everything around. We have never worked with him again, not because we were on bad terms or whatever, but just because we knew it was a one-off album when it came to its musicality, the experience and also the production. I mean, we experimented with everything. Sometimes, I didn’t even record with a microphone and I was putting something weird in a dictaphone! And then it went to “The Butterfly Effect”! It was an album like this and we had to have definitely a production that suits the certain crazy atmosphere of the album.
If I remember well, “The Butterfly Effect” was well received by the press in the USA compared to Europe at that time and it was after its release that you did your first tour in the States…
Well, I think it was a coincidence. When we started touring in the US with “The Butterfly Effect”, it was really hard because we were touring in Europe and people knew about the album. The tour was going great, no problem. But the bottom line is that people knew much more when we presented ourselves. They knew much more about “Wolfheart” which was a quite well received album in the States but nobody was touring there back in 1995. Only a few bands could do that. “Irreligious” was also well received there. So yeah, “The Butterfly Effect” was actually a weird album and I remember we had a show there where we performed exclusively this album. But we also tried to adapt and present more songs from “Wolfheart” and “Irreligious” to get some kind of connection with the audience as well to start with.
Regarding Moonspell gigs in France, you’re of course aware of what happened recently in Paris…
Malheureusement! (Editor’s note: “Unfortunately” in French)
France has always been one of the biggest markets for Moonspell with a very strong fan base, especially in Paris. Are you planning to do an exclusive show in Paris to pay tribute to the victims of the recent terrorist attacks?
I mean, we always love to play in Paris. It’s not a coincidence that many great bands have recorded live DVDs in Paris. It’s a special kind of city, you know that. It’s a special kind of crowd as well. They like both extreme and atmospheric stuff. We feel it’s actually the crowd that understand the best our shows whenever we play in Paris. We played at the Bataclan a couple of times. I mean it was terrible for everyone and for people who have connections with that world of the Bataclan, the road crew, etc. It was something that made us think a lot about how fragile the world we live in is. I mean, once you’re on the stage to enjoy the music with the crowd and suddenly, you’re dead! It’s something that really plays with your mind. I think we should definitely play a show in Paris more than ever. It won’t happen this year because after this tour, we need to have a well deserved break! Then, we’ll go to the States but I think we should definitely play a show in Paris before we go to the UK. Anyway, I think it’s very important for bands (not now because everything is getting fixed) to signal they want to be back and that they’re not afraid to play shows there. So, we’re definitely going to play a show there next year on the first semester.
Let’s talk about your personal life. I’m frequently reading your own Internet blog in which you talk about your life as a musician, about the current situation in Portugal, your political views and other international subjects. You have been saying several times that being a musician in Portugal is very difficult. Have you ever thought about leaving Portugal to live in another country?
Well, in Portugal, who hasn’t? (Laughs) That’s something the Portuguese are used to thinking about! We think a lot that we should leave our country for opportunities. I mean, we’ve just had a big exodus last year: around 600 000 people left Portugal. A lot of qualified people who could bring a lot of wealth to our country are leaving. But I live in Portugal for romantic reasons you know. If we had settled ourselves in Spain or Germany, England or Scandinavia, we would probably have much more work and success as a band but I also think that we would lose our own identity, our peculiar way of being as a band. And this has a lot to do with the fact that we are Portuguese and that we live in Portugal. So, that won’t happen. Maybe it would be a smart move but I think we shouldn’t do only smart moves in our lives. So, I love Portugal, I enjoy living in Portugal very much. Yeah, we have our problems, our crisis, etc. Sometimes, yeah I’m very critical about the society because I think Portugal can do better and it’s very hard to be a musician in Portugal, especially if you are in Moonspell because things are easier for other musicians. We are just hostages of a circle of things that I don’t like myself. I hate to be in the Portuguese scene that way because it doesn’t bring me anything new but when it comes to live in, yeah that’s where I want to raise my kid and spend my life. I’ve got a very romantic connection to Portugal not a rational one. Even when everybody is pulling down Portugal, I’m still the guy who has some hope for our country!
You have recently written and promoted some books of poetry. For you, is writing books a way to remember your studies of philosophy when you were at the university a long time ago?
Well, not for poetry. I mean, poetry is something of a very free exercise and I’ve just re-released the 3 books as an anthology in Portugal and in Brazil. I’m working on an English translation, I will do it myself. So maybe next year, I will have these books ready for a lot of people who have been requesting them for quite a long time. When I write some articles or some things that are more like essays, I definitely use the things I’ve learnt from my philosophy studies. I mean I love writing. It’s a good exercise for me. Sometimes, I wish I had more time because when you lack of time, then it’s a vicious circle. When you lack of time, you’re not really inspired to write. So, I’m not doing much writing on this tour but I always do something. I’ve already written an article about 20 years of “Irreligious” to be released in a book with the most notable Portuguese metal albums. Both “Irreligious” and “Wolfheart” will be featured. So yeah, I’m always in touch with literature and writing in general.
To conclude this interview, I’ve got one last question: I’m very impatient and I love “Extinct” so much that I want a new Moonspell album. So, have you already started to think about your next album? Have you got some ideas already?
Well, we don’t want to speculate about a new album. You know, we’re a very emotional band and we always try to keep the spirit of the time. So, when we set ourselves to do the songs, then we will have that direction so to speak. What I really love about “Extinct”, what strike me the most in this album, are the symphonic, melodic elements versus hard parts especially on songs like “Breathe” and “Extinct”. I think these could be great guidelines for the next album but then we’ll see! I also love very much “The Future is Dark”. I wouldn’t mind making an album full of this kind of song. But yeah, as I’ve said before, it’s a good leap. Like many albums in our career, it’s an album that people look upon as a challenge to overcome but I don’t look at albums like this one. For sure, the next forthcoming album will have its own charm, its own identity, form and way of being. That’s what I look forward: to enjoy that composition moment that nobody knows and we are excited about it!
Special thanks to Napalm Records and Luis (Moonspell tour manager) for this interview.