Fernando Ribeiro of Portuguese goth metal act Moonspell was gracious enough to answer a few questions via e-mail. Alexei Raymar of Desert helped to make this interview interesting and informative by his knowledgable questions, on which he collaborated with myself.
Had the phoner worked out there would have been arguments regarding the religious outlook (cause that’s fun for me) but you’ve been spared.
MI: What were you trying to say (if anything) with the first track onthe new release, Halla alle halla al raba halla? What made you decide to use such Middle Eastern influences in your music?
FR: Portugal and Spain have been a part of the Muslim expansion that, here, reached its zenith between 700 and 1200 AC. They left a strong impact in our culture, music and poetry that persists to this day. As you know they were a highly advanced culture in all those aspects and their legacy in Portugal and Spain is quite overwhelming. Following this tradition and especially in the early nineties when our ethnic influences were stronger we used Middle Eastern scales and atmospheres since they were already an influence in Portuguese traditional music. I have to say there is no political meaning behind this track/intro, on the contrary we are depressed about the way Muslims are seen nowadays by the world in general and that many of their leaders mix politics with faith, a dangerous combination that is changing the face of our planet. Music has other codes and the freedom of it allows us to use Arabic percussion or blast beats in the same song if that is to be our choice.
MI: I see you write about Christianity in a way that is less than flattering. Why?
FR: There is nothing to be happy or to pay compliments to such a brainwash and futile religion. The values it preaches are contrary to what I believe and most of it obbeys purely to power plays, egoism, and keeping the herd quiet and fulfilled so it doesn’t raise problems. I am not a religious person yet I can find, sometimes, value in some of the principles that were made by Man to try to explain Nature, Spirit and things that were both in and “above” him. That’s the problem with Christianity in particular, it forgot its human roots and ended up enslaving it. The same goes for all the other bigger religions. For me and I am absolutely convinced of such: all is man made, man has lost control and now he is slave of his own creations. My life is guided by the principle of breaking that chain, of letting people know that There is no God but Man and Moonspell is one of the vehicles I use thereof.
MI: (completely disagreeing with the above statement – men don’t make trees or sunshine or eyeballs for example) Your site mentioned something about you possibly coming to play in Israel a while back. That never manifested. Is it still possible? Kobi Farhi sends warm regards, btw.
FR: We almost did in September but we had another date for that day in Portugal with Kreator. But I would love to play there, really. I have been in touch with the Israeli scene for ages, met so many bands and fans along the road and visited so many sites and exchanged so many contacts already that I believe it will happen. And when it does I promise all our fans there, that they are up for a one of a kind experience. Please send my greetings to Kobi, my good friend and brother in arms.
MI: Would there be a chance of a double bill with Orphaned Land and Moonspell on Israeli soil?
FR: Someone should make it happen. I believe the bands and crowds would be perfectly mingled and identified. Orphaned could end the night with their feast of light, joy and ethnic and Moonspell could start devouring the people with our gothic metal beast! Orphaned could also bring along their exquisite female friends to the show so that the night could be bursting with beauty!
MI: Do you know anything about the Israeli metal scene, such as the fact that Moonspell is very popular?
FR: I am a guy that praises reality above all under these terms. I am happy if you say that but for me only face to face with people in a show can one see if we touch their hearts or not. Music is a challenge for me, nothing is granted but the way you can seduce people with hard work, passion and truth. Of course I know the Israeli scene! Orphaned Land, Salem, all mighty old bands.
MI: Nina mentioned you just finished translating “I Am Legend”. It’s one of my favorite books ever. What were you translating it for, and do you have any thoughts about the book itself that you’d like to share?
FR: I did, yes. It was a huge responsibility since I love that book as well and for me is one of the most important and symbolic vampire books ever written. I took just a couple of weeks to translate it since I was damn busy with Moonspell but I am kind of happy with the result. It was great and bizarre at the same time to “share and live” for those weeks in the same house as the last man on Earth, go through the same problems, feel the same frustrations. I grew really attached to the character. The book is still pretty unknown in Portugal but I hope this changes now with the translation and the movie with Will Smith.
MI: Why did you decide to remix and release all of the old stuff for “”Under Satanae?”
FR: It is not a remix. We have fully RE-RECORDED it! We felt we could make some justice to these songs by correcting the original production mistakes and improving the technical level of it without losing, we hoped, some of the original charm and raw mysticism. If they asked back then in 1994 if we would do the same we did now, the answer would have been yes. The new versions of these songs are all we could dream of back then.
MI: Many of your lyrics deal with Satanism. Is it a belief system you adhere to? If not, what DO you believe in?
FR: Satan is just a great symbol for Man. But I do not forget it is also a man made one. Just that. It’s a question of representation. And Satan has features that can and must be attached to Man as we really are. If I wanted to be specific I would say I write a lot more about Luciferanism and the myths of Faust/Prometheus rather than about Satan. For me they are different things. I believe in Men, in our capacity for beauty and horror.
MI: Why did you choose not to use clear vocals on the last Moonspell record, Memorial? Also, on Memorial we see that Moonspell returned to more brutal roots. Why?
FR: I used some! Songs like Best Forgotten, Sanguine, Memento Mori, they all have singing vocals. But it’s true that this time around, due to the more epic nature of the music, I have opted for a stronger, less melodic vocal approach. The reasons are countless but besides the contour of the sound, I’d say screaming is a style I feel most comfortable with, less unsure. I am not that much of a great singer, I have to say! Saying Memorial is a back to the roots album is just seeing one part of it. Nowadays everybody says that, it’s easier. For me Memorial, like any album, is the whole tree: roots yeah, but also branches, fruits, and so forth.
MI: Do you take vocal lessons, or do vocal exercises? Alexei asks specifically because of your quite low, and clear vocal technique.
FR: In the past, yes, but now I can’t find time or an interesting coach in Portugal. Anyway I do vocal exercises plenty of times and especially I practise a lot. I already have a decent domain of the diaphragmatic breathing thanks to vocal lessons but also Yoga, Pilates and Bod balance classes. To know your body allows you to better master your vocal work. On top of that I do not smoke, avoid drinking in excess and stay healthy. Not a big secret formula. Just experience and hard work and will.
MI: In 1998 you were involved in the project DAEMONARCH – could you say some words about it and do you have any plans to bring it back to life?
FR: Not really. Also there is not much to say. It’s a black/death metal project that was kept at the lowest profile possible but everybody seemed to love it. But Moonspell is my only focus as a band right now. We might do also some theatre music soon but that’s about it.
MI: Besides Peter Steele, who are your main vocal influences?
FR: Quorthon, Big Boss from Root, Michael Gira from Swans, Carl McCoy.
MI: So you’re in the studio recording your new album. What are we in for? What should we expect? What should we not expect? Please tell us as much as you can about it
FR: Not yet. We are pre-producing it right now in Lisbon with Waldemar Sorychta. It has been ten days of very extreme work!!! But it is indeed sounding powerful and soulful and it’ll be a great follow up to Memorial. Both natures of Moonspell the more melodic and progressive and the more brutal and dark are even better balanced this time. Stay tuned to our site for diaries and updates. Thanks for the interview and see you all hopefully soon! Shalom!