Interview with vocalist Fernando Ribeiro
13th December 2016 @ The Underworld Camden
Interviewed by Demitri Levantis
Concert photos by Oliver M.
The Portuguese Gothic Metal act Moonspell were recently in town to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their second album Irreligious. Metal-Rules’s UK team caught up with vocalist Fernando at the Underworld to discuss how the album has changed and what it’s been like making metal for the last 20+ years.
How do you think Irreligious has held up over the last 20 years, do you think it has shaped Moonspell’s music?
I think one of its biggest achievements, back in 96 was to get Moonspell as more of a band when it came to songwriting. Our goal back then for Irreligious was not exactly to follow up what we did with Wolfheart, even though we had such a good response, but we were happy at the time to do an album that sounded more like a band. Given the quality of the songs it helped to define the Gothic Metal back then which was really simple: a metallic structure as seen on Irreligious. And then there was the dark gothic elements coming from the likes of Paradise Lost, Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim, who were doing something we really appreciated. There wasn’t as much appreciation for them as the likes of Led Zeppelin so it was good to show our appreciation of them. Irreligious is one of the crown jewels for many Moonspell fans.
Is there a particular favourite song from Irreligious that you personally enjoy the most?
Some, I’d have to say ‘Full Moon Madness’ became a suspected anthem, we thought this was going to be our biggest song for sure. So it’s a very important song. My personal favourite has to be ‘Mephisto’. You see, I’m 42 now and on Irreligious I was 21-22, I was studying philosophy and struggling with my English but we chose it as our language like a lot of bands all over the world and when I finished up I was really amazed with the Mephisto lyrics. It still buzzes me when it comes to thinking how I’ve come along as a lyricist.
What do you make of Portugal’s metal scene in general? Does it have a good one at the moment?
I have mixed feelings, everyone over there into metal would say the same. You get lots of bands from places like Greece who have these recognisable sounds like with Rotting Christ or Septic Flesh, and Portugal doesn’t have that right now. The problem is, and I’ve been pretty critical of this, is people didn’t crave for originality or something dramatic. When Moonspell turned up, everyone said we were too theatrical, everyone else wanted to clone Anthrax and Metallica who were the biggest bands when we grew up. Fortunately we now have all kinds of bands playing Black Metal and all that. We have a good Death/Doom band called Desire who are a great band too. But when you look at the bands we grew up with in the past, loads of the people from back then are still alive but not all the bands. It takes a lot of persistence to carry on. I still think the scene is good and we’re looking forward to helping new bands come on world tours with us. You have to look deep to really get into Portugal’s metal.
With what you said about Greece, are you thinking of collaborating with anyone like Sakis Tolis from Rotting Christ anytime soon?
I’ve been listening to Rotting Christ since I was a teenager and Moonspell will be 25 next year and they’ll be 30. Sakis is a veteran of the scene and we’ve known them for ages and had an excellent career – each time an album is released I compliment Sakis who were really important for me but no, not any collaborations anytime soon. I met with him recently in Athens so there’s always the opportunity to do stuff in the future because of friendship. The last thing I did as a guest vocalist was a song called ‘The Seventh Room’ with the Italian band Theatres De Vampires it’s on their Candyland album.
Are there any other particular bands you have a good relationship with and love to tour alongside?
We don’t really have a bad relationship with any band but this is a really weird lifestyle so things get intense sometimes. Most people are cool but sometimes you might get someone who makes a bad impression and some may not give you the chance to make a good second impression. Rotting Christ and Septic Flesh are on the top of our list, Amorphis from Finland are great friends of ours too. Behemoth as well because Nergal was a big fan, we recently hung out with them in Lisbon as Nergal loves all the old architecture and churches over there. We met Cradle of Filth in 93/94 and they’re still making lots of good music, Dani’s always been a gentleman to us.
Have you got any new material coming out anytime soon and if so, do you know the release dates?
In two years time Extinct will have its anniversary and it made a big impact on the fans. The band will be 25 years too next year and for that we’re recording a live DVD of the Lisbon show to celebrate that date. From then on we’re going to hit it hard on celebrations, do a 25 year anniversary tour in Portugal, Europe and South America. At the moment we’re working on a bonus for the DVD and the concept is the earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 and we did a five song EP recently and now we’re going to make it into an album. What makes it stand out is it’ll be our first album in our native language. Language I don’t think is a big thing so long as you can tell a good story, one of my favourite bands is Solstafir and they’re very good at making people feel the atmosphere of the words even though most fans don’t speak their language.
Did you expect the band to last 25 years when you started out?
Well when you go to a psychotherapist or something they say: ‘Take it day by day,’ which is a really good piece of advice. In bands we had to do that in the 90s because we were another underground band from Portugal and we got a call from Century Media and we did Wolfheart and went on tour for 8 weeks with Immortal and Morbid Angel. And then Irreligious came out and then we evolved a bit as a band. This was around 1999 and we were now professional musicians and didn’t have much time to do anything else in our lives. So for the first 10 years we were just rushing against the wind trying to find our way. But we’ve stayed creative and I hope this new album about the Portuguese earthquake will be our earthquake as we’ll shake the creativity from the past to show we’re still strong. But no, in the beginning I didn’t expect 25 years but once you celebrate your 10th anniversary you begin to think the band is here to stay. Time goes a little faster. We couldn’t envision it, certainly not in Portugal.
Which bands do you listen to most at the moment?
When it comes to metal I was really into the latest releases from Metal Church, Anthrax, because we don’t always credit bands who’ve been around a long time. I was quite taken with the last Metallica album too as I read nothing about it online and listened to it once it came out and I think it’s a fantastic effort. I’ve listened to the new stuff as well as old as it’s good to keep up with the scene. Then there’s all the other bands I listen to often like Ghost but also some bands who play things like Doom and Jazz fusion. There’s great stuff in all music as long as it’s not predictable and doesn’t sound like it’s been made in a factory, I love challenging music which I loved about the last Metallica album, it felt like a challenging piece.
Finally, what do you like most about being in a band?
I think the very first things I thought were good about being in the band was the ability to express myself. Being creative and how it builds you as a person is what sticks Moonspell together. To be a band member it is always meaningful to have new ideas all the time and with Moonspell we self manage so it’s difficult but rewarding to be independent, that’s what I like about being in a band, this feeling of independence from the world. When there was a big crisis in Portugal once we weren’t affected because we were touring a lot but our friends were so I think it’s great to have all these privileges.
That was a very insightful interview, thank you so much and good luck tonight.