2015 saw us some very fine releases already. Among them was the new record ‘Extinct’ from the Gothic metal pioneers Moonspell. Frontman Fernando Ribeiro was kind enough to pick up the phone to tell me, and you all, something about this new record, the songs on it and that Moonspell will not be going extinct. At least not yet.
Congratulations on another very good record! How are you doing on the day before the ‘Extinct’ release?
“We are all so damn busy, always on the day before the release. We are going on tour on Monday (9th of March), we are practicing the songs as hard as we can, so we can play them live. We kind of became oblivious to all the excitement that comes with the release of the album.
The band has now experienced these moments in the past and I think the band has the feeling of euphoria a little bit earlier. When you finish recording and you go and sit down, have a drink and listen to the result.”
Quite ashamed I must admit that I never listened to your music before, but after ‘Extinct’ I gave ‘Alpha Noir’ and ‘Omega White’, the last release, a shot. It seems that the new album is much more in line with ‘Omega White’.
“Well, ‘Alpha Noir’ was the third album in a trilogy of heavy albums, together with ‘Irreligious’ and ‘Night Eternal’. They are all very dark and good albums. But after recording ‘Alpha Noir’ the band was hung-over by the true “In your face” metal. And that is where ‘Omega White’ comes from. That is what Moonspell is all about, it’s too special to be in a genre.
And now with ‘Extinct’ we have combined ‘Alpha Noir’ and ‘Omega White’. I can say that this is truly the right moment to present the new album.”
After releasing two single’s already, the YouTube comments section is exploding with reactions. There seem to be two sides on this. One that misses the really heavy parts, and one that praises the softer side of Moonspell. Are you never afraid to lose fans with a new album?
“It’s common sense to not want to disappoint your fans, but Moonspell is not only heavy, it is also very moody. So we try to do what we like and experiment. Most bands these days don’t dare to experiment anymore. They are too afraid to do so.
If you experiment like we do, there is always a price to pay, that may be a problem for some bands, but in our case we don’t think the price is too high.
Some people will say that this album is amazing and maybe some people will think it’s shit. I think our music has survived the test of time. A lot of people have said bad things about us in the past, but it is also about yourself and real life. It’s probably not a fast climb to success like many other bands did!
But in the end, we’re from Portugal without a real metal scene, so I think our creative expectations are definitely fulfilled. The rest is a struggle, you know? Crowds are something that’s very hard to please and when you do, I personally am very suspicious about the “Crowd Pleasers”.”
Are there a lot of bands that stop experimenting with their style and just go and please the crowd?
“Well, metal is massive these days, but I don’t think it is as creative as it used to be. From the scene I come from, from the 90’s with bands like Tiamat, Samael and Type O Negative, I don’t find it hard to say there were a lot more bands that gambled with their music.
That was right before metal became some kind of a formula. In the 90’s people slowly wanted their rock and metal to be more meat and potatoes. So all the exotic went away from the scene, but it definitely came back with bands like Katatonia, Opeth and Paradise Lost.
We followed that path as well as we are from the same generation, with the same way of thinking. So now we have more fans again! I think that some people may be displeased by what I’m saying. There are lots of fans listening to metal bands doing fast riffs, singing about war or pirate ships. But there is also a place for bands with other insights in metal. And I think there is an audience that is growing more and more into that as well.”
It is also about the message. It’s the poetic message that you want to convey and I think the more you know about it, the better the message will get through as well. I don’t know if other bands care about this part as much, but I do take this part very seriously.
When I first heard the song ‘Domina’, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was written for someone.
“Well, at the end of the day these kind of songs are written to our wife. I am a very romantic guy. Love is a feeling that you cannot really tame. And I tried just that a couple of times, also with dark music, because love can also be very dark, sometimes.
I think ‘Domina’ is really about the way I feel about women. Sometimes it is very hard, especially when you are in a relationship and it gets in the way. And sometimes you cannot really explain the kind of power that keeps you with your family and not let you run away with a 28-year young fan, you know what I mean? I think that is a kind of domination, not a domination with ties or something, but with the power of mind, the power of body.
Also, the quarters of the Roman gladiators were called the “Domus” and the mistresses in those “Domus” were called “Domina”. So I took the title from the ancient Roman times, because I think it is a perfect way to describe the feeling with a woman. It has nothing to do with “50 shades of grey” or something like that. It is something of my twisted way of talking about love.”
In that same song you repeat a certain sentence quite some times. “In this world or the next” made me wonder, what is your take on the afterlife?
“Well, I have a very common sense thing about the afterlife. With doubt, obviously, but I’m also intrigued by it. I don’t have an answer, but I do have a lot of theories about it. But the way I use it in ‘Domina’ is more of a metaphor for “the next day”.
It’s something really important if you live an intense life. If things don’t go right, with yourself, or with the band, darkness sets in, but also the next day is inevitable. So the resurrection I talk about is happening overnight. One day we might be in one life form, but the next day we might be someone else. In the terms of spirits and will of facing the challenges.
So I think ‘Domina’ is also a song about regenerating yourself and the way that humans can do that. People who have severe losses, how they deal with pain. Sometimes someone’s father has just died and he’s working after that very soon. So that resilient capacity of overcoming pain, is something that really fascinates me as well.”
I think ‘Domina’ is a perfect way to describe the feeling with a woman. It has nothing to do with “50 shades of grey” or something like that. It’s just something of my twisted way of talking about love.
What was the reason for the band to do the ‘Road To Extinction’ DVD with the new release?
“It kind of happened, to be honest with you. We wanted to have some footage from the studio to release online. So the fans could see that we were busy with writing and recording. And I also just wanted to buy some GoPro camera’s.
But then I saw everything online and I wasn’t happy about it. I thought that it could be something else. So we called a friend (Victor Castro) that has also helped make some music videos, he also made the ‘Extinct’ video. He came to Portugal and lived around us so he shot some footage of the studio, also when Jens (Bogren, producer) was here. And one thing led to the other, so he went with us to Sweden.
So when we looked we saw that we had a full 80-minutes documentary. We did not only have footage of the recording, but also of our day today (day before release), which is always funny to watch. And also we went to see some authors and professors that are researching the preservation of species, which is on camera as well.
So it will be a very cool film to watch, if you get the chance to watch, just do it. In the end it overcame all my expectations and now we have our very own Moonspell film!”
Why was the visiting of these specialists so important to you?
“We visited some professors, because we wanted to learn more about the theory of extinction. I also wanted to see if there was a connection to make between the world of poetry and metaphors and the world of science. So we came op for the documentary with the idea to interview certain biologists and scientists.
We even interviewed Ville Friman from the band Insomnium, because he has a PhD on evolutionary ecology, believe it or not. So we went there to talk about extinction, but they don’t always think the scientific way, they also talk about it with a lot of emotion. That is what we wanted to capture.
For instance, we interviewed a professor from the “Grupo Lobo” (Group Wolf) here in Portugal. And he fights, on a daily basis, to safe the Iberian wolf. A species that also used to be well populated, but now it is endangered. Every time when a wolf gets killed, by a car, or by accident, it feels like it is the loss of a person, or even a family member. That’s the kind of struggle and emotion we wanted to experience.
I don’t know if other bands care about this part as much, but I do take this part very seriously. It is also about the message. It’s the poetic message that you want to convey and I think the more you know about it, the better the message will get through as well.”
You have been around for over twenty years now, which is quite some time. Do you still have dreams and goals to achieve?
“I think so, I mean, time flies really fast when you’re in a band. Our first album ‘Wolfheart’ is twenty years old this summer, but we still have very vivid memories of what happened at the time. And also of the effort that it took to make the album and to kickstart our career as a band.
But there is always stuff to achieve and you learn that through time. Very important, for me, is to spent time with the family. I know that this will be almost impossible this year, but I know that they love my music and I’m willing to pay that price, gladly! Even so, I think that everybody, not only musicians, always try to have a comfort zone. So that they can come back to home, to the kids and the family. I think that it’s very important to me to have that kind of structure. When you live on the road you just try to survive, there is no structure there.
But from the top of my mind. We never played Australia and Japan and we know that we have fans there that would love to see us.”
And then there is that last, strange, track. It’s called ‘La Baphomette’ and it is in French. Why?
“Well, that’s always a good question, because I ask that myself as well. ‘La Baphomette’ was a song that came to be while we were just working on the album. At first we thought that it would not be on the album, because it is such an avant-garde song, not a typical metal song. But we wanted to do more with the other stuff that we listen to, like horror movie soundtracks. Our bass player came up with this song and he had a very great story behind it, and I love crazy stories, so I said that it was cool so let’s try to make it happen on the album.
I viewed it as a song for something like a funeral parade, while the band was playing this song. When we did the piano thing, I immediately thought of the burlesque theme and the contrast with the other songs. It’s like a song for a cabaret! So I thought French would be a good idea, because it sounds really cool.
The guys thought I was crazy, because they couldn’t speak French. But I know perfectly how to read French and to write it, but not really how to speak it. But hey, for a song I can put together some lyrics, so we tried it and everybody loved it. From there it kind of grew up to its own place on the album. I think it is the perfect way of closing the album, it’s like the end of a show so you can relax after you go ‘extinct’.”
Do you have something to add for the readers?
“For the Dutch fans: Please come to our shows in Holland. We will be in Haarlem and Nijmegen. I think it’s going to be a great time. Holland was always so supportive and open-minded to our albums and extravaganza. We definitely look forward to it, it’s always a great place to start with. It’s a positive vibe, all the time.
Also, listen ‘Extinct’ without prejudice and we will see you on the road to extinction. That is also the name of our tour, because it will be so long that at the end we will be a story for another band to tell.”
‘Extinct’ is out now through Napalm Records