goth metallers Moonspell talk to eGigs

ahead of their only UK date at the Underworld on Thursday 9 April 2015

Before goth metallers Moonspell's only UK date at the Underworld, eGigs.co.uk manage to sit down with keyboardist and guitarist Pedro Paixão to discuss the Portuguese troupe's varied influences,twenty years of existence and the past and current state of the Portuguese metal scene.

How are you?

I'm fine.

How was your tour withSepticflesh?

It was amazing because we're good friends with Septicflesh from long ago. The vocalist/bass player Seth (Spiros Antoniou) is also our designer for the last three albums so we're quite acquainted with them and it was great because the package was very much appreciated. They were doing a more melodic set to fit us and I think it does. Even though they do extreme music, it's out of the box like Moonspell. It's a little bit different, a little bit exotic and I think that fit it quite well. With the release of the album, the audience started to show up more and more and we started to get more sold out with the development of the tour.

Were the Septicflesh fans receptive to you?

Yes, of course I think so. There was one show where they didn't like it so much but for the rest if was very positive. I think both bands won with this gathering.

Why didn't Septicflesh come to London?

They had already booked Inferno Festival in Norway before the tour was confirmed. Then they booked a South Africa festival and so the plan was to finish the tour right here in London but they were moved to the festival, which unfortunately caused their premature departure. We have two extra shows but they are just for the way out of the tour.

How would you say your new album 'Extinct' compares or contrasts with previous Moonspell material?

From the latest releases, I think there's a big difference. Let's say that since 'Darkness and Old', Moonspell started to build a path more current. Not such big changes but not so dramatic as in the past like 'Wolfheart' and 'Irreligious'  to 'Sin' and then 'The Butterfly Effect', everything was quite different and we kept a more steady style. I think with 'Memorial', we started being aggressive more than we've ever been and we kept that until 'Alpha Noir'. This is an album where the aggressiveness is one of the elements. The dominance isn't just the powerful and aggressive sound produced by the music. I think this album has a lot of variety of emotions within it in a way that still has a lot of personality. Yes, it's quite different from the previous records but it's very much like the early releases as well but with all the influences from these last albums that we did. I think a lot of times we're asked our influences but I think after you reach ten albums, we start to be very much influenced by ourselves. You have to challenge the musical part of the band but with the original concept. It doesn't make sense to improvise. Oursound is already a product of influences so when we get in this case of being influenced by ourselves, we're being influenced by the older bands that created our sonic concept.

There is so much that you can interpret from the title 'Extinct' but what was the key concept you wanted to capture?

'Extinct' is a word that doesn't really close the subject. It's a very dramatic point so it's a concept that demands a wider view about the piece. The fact is that 'extinct' also provides a new direction; if something is lost, something will happen as well so it's not such as closed subject. The way I see it - the loss and how we deal with it. The loss doesn't necessarily mean you've lost something but all the emotions that lead you to hope you don't lose something so it's not just a past event, it's a future event. It constrains your life because you're afraid of losing something and the extinction concept for me is very interesting because even though it's very epic, you can easily apply it to your personal life because we've all felt like we've lost something in our life. The greatest thing about a lot of Moonspell concept albums is that most of the themes are very small and very intimate to your own being and individuality and they're represented as a universe of events. They're always presented in an epic way and I think that's quite Portuguese as well; we dramatise a lot!

So this is a concept album?

I wouldn't say it's a concept album; it's an album that has a concept but the music wasn't made conceptually. The songs were written without any specific targets. It's spontaneous writing, we just made sure the vocals would come in very early. There were only a few things about how we wanted the album to be. One of the things was that the vocals would be very melodic and go into the gothic music because there we have tonnes of weapons to experiment with and that's where we can explore the atmospheres and landscapes. The result is astonishing for us too as it is for a listener because you never know the final product. I was very keen about having the vocals come in very early because I like the vocal melodies to lead the song and not the other way round. That also turned out to be quite spontaneous so it's not a concept album but it's an album that ended up having a very strong concept throughout all the songs lyrically. The music was adapted to that. The concept came halfway through the writing.

Listening to the music, there is a large variety of differing styles, for instance 'Medusalem' has Arabesque melodies. Where did the origins of these come from?

A lot of black, power and gothic female singing bands use orchestras and I dig that. Septicflesh does that and I love the orchestra but in Moonspell, we prefer the fantastic orchestra, the more synth sound because we like the fantasy in our aesthetic. Now we wanted to use an orchestra, Fernando (Ribeiro, vocalist) was insistent on that. I think it was a brilliant idea from him or the producer that we use a Turkish orchestra because we still have the greatness and overwhelming feeling of an orchestra but it's ethnic so it locates you somewhere and it's a really different orchestra from anyone else. That's the sparkle on top of it because yes it's an orchestra but it's Turkish and it's very interesting to have this Occidental sound mixed with an Oriental influence. It's something that we used in the past quite often but this time, it was real.

Was this something that you had in mind before you had the song penned?

Not really.Like I said, our producer brought up a lot of effort for this to happen and how it came out. Once the song was recorded by the band, we still didn't know how the orchestra would sound so we have to pay that complement to the producer. He had these remote people working in Turkey while the album was being recorded and the fit it quite well in the mix. That was brilliant.

Just looking at the imagery of the album, which was done by Seth from Septicflesh, how does it tie in with the extinction theme?

I wasn't involved at all with the design process but we talk while we drink red wine and sometimes you get the main idea of it and I think he wanted the shocking moment and the unexpected opposite of extinction. It's my interpretation but when you look at the figure, there's a lot of life there, just dead life.

With the amputations.

Exactly. That's something that stops but there's something that starts as well. We also, especially on this album, we gave a lot of freedom to everyone who collaborated in the whole production of this release.

The video of the title track is very evocative. What was the concept behind that?

I also wasn't involved in the production of the video! I have to say, it's pretty impressive. He's a brilliant producer; he's a good friend of ours. He also worked in the States for a while, he's a sound engineer and he did our video clip for 'White Skies'. He did a brilliant job, didn't he?

Absolutely, it's very beautiful to watch and unusual as well.

Unusual, yeah. That's the thing we always want to keep in mind. Not only to retain attention because in Moonspell everything has a meaning and some intellectual content behind it and everyone that works with us also has these feelings. In this case, we want to be different all the time. We don't want to be like the others. If we have a message through art, it must be distinctive especially since a lot of the other ones do it a lot better. In Portugal, a lot of the bands try to copy foreign bands and they sometimes do it very well but you still can listen to the original and I think it's quite important for the bands to create their own atmosphere so people can relate to it once they hear it.

It's twenty years since you released your debut album 'Wolfheart'. Portugal is a small country but you're the biggest metal band from there. What kind of impact did you have on the metal scene? Were there people that were inspired by you or copied you?

There was a funny band that tried to copy us directly and we even went to see them live. They were from the same area where we started out and it was brilliant, it was funny. But seriously, we thought that we had a step in the door that we opened to other projects but Portugal is still a long way to go in regards to rock music in general and metal music. Nowadays, I have a feeling that the bands I get to see live from Portugal, they are a lot more professional. There's starting to be a learning process but they're missing a bit on the originality of writing, that's my main criticism. We also had the opportunity – I don't know if it's from our talent or luck, I think it's a combination – to work with hard people. I think that actually is not a really Portuguese thing. When we have hard moments, we try to react positively and try to overcome so we can level with these people that are teaching us. With 'Wolfheart', we went to Germany and the experience was so dramatically different to any other studio experience that we had in the past, it was really demanding. All the new experience and new methods – it was really hard for some of us to make it work. Some of us learned with it and got over the process and we started the line up chance that got us to today.

Would you say there were alternative, and not metal, scenes in Portugal who were inspired by what you did?

There was a band right after Moonspell succeeded, a band from Porto and they were quite talented but I think when they came up to hard times, they didn't have solutions; they just melted. By that time, there were very few skilled musicians. We learned immediately the hard way. We weren't that skilled as well but we got to Germany and we started to be very focussed. Democracy was still recent. In 1994, we had 20 years of democracy so our parents didn't listen to rock so these ears weren't used to Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. It takes a few generations before people start to act naturally in rock. With Moonspell, we were just a different band.

Are there any Portuguese metal or goth rock bands that you listen to at the moment?

Oh yeah, I'm a big fan of Bizarre Locomotive and he growls and speaks in Portuguese and they're between Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and Young Gods, especially. They're a band I really like. These guys are industrial. Death Combo are a great band but they're very bluesy with a New Orleans sound but very gloomy, mixed with Portuguese tradition. It's just two guys with guitars. They're doing really well, I think they're touring in the States actually. It's a good band. In metal, I cannot mention any really good bands, maybe because I'm ignorant. I hope so and there are good bands because I'd be really happy if there were successful metal bands coming out of Portugal because that means the country wants to change. People in metal, at least the fans, are very clever people often and people that get to good professional positions and they actually have a good power to change and I like that. That would mean for the whole society that more metal bands come out there.

Fingers crossed. Being around for over twenty years, how would you notice the gothic metal scene in general is changing because once it was related to female singers and corsets and obviously you guys are different to that. How do you think Moonspell have lasted through all that?

It's strange. There was the gothic with the frilly shirts and we always were placed aesthetically into the Fields of the Nephilim style, Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy of course which is one of the biggest influences of us and still is, as you can tell by 'Medusalem'. But the fact is that it was really strange to watch gothic turn to a very different direction with the female singing. This is really weird to me because gothic has nothing to do with that in my opinion but I'm not against it, it doesn't offend me. The concept changes, the world changes. Communism was a concept that was completely different than what my brain shows me because communism was a different political view and concept and when it's applied, when you say 'communism', I think of this new concept after it happened. It's the same with gothic, it's development, it's natural, the meaning changes. I like to consider Moonspell a gothic metal band because we own, even if it's a minority, part of the gothic fans. I'm not dressing gothic but I love the gothic bands and gothic clubs. The other extreme is the nearly pop stuff like She Wants Revenge and those kind of bands as well.

So you're a lot more open minded.

Yes, we listen to all sorts of music, especially me and Fernando.

Do you incorporate influences into your music that aren't gothic or metal?

Of course but the thing is that a lot of the bands are already fossils in our influence. I say Fields of the Nephilim but I don't see any songs where we were directly influenced by them nowadays but I see it in the past and maybe we're influenced by that nowadays.Still, Sisters are a musical reference for us. The good thing about a band is that you can have two people liking different bands but hating the other's but when you mix it together, it works. Some guy likes AC/DC and some other likes Project Pitchfork and when they play together, it's something unique. The difference gets there; you have to keep your eyes wide open, at least in my point of view.

What are you future plans?

First, we're going to Mexico and America this month for a month and then we start the festivals. We're playing Wave Gotik Treffen - how appropriate for the timing of the interview! Then we do some festivals, not really big ones, because we're saving up for 2016. Maybe something will show up because Moonspell is doing really well with this album and you can tell that people are having a growing interest in Moonspell. We actually get agents contacting us. It feels like the business is actually starting to talk to Moonspell, which is great after all these years. We've been growing slowly but perhaps on this album, it really grows hopefully. And if not, we're still here, don't worry! We have another tour to play the Eastern part of Europe as we didn't have the chance to go there and probably at the end of summer, we'll go to South America. I don't know, we're still designing it.

That's the end of my questions. What are you final words?

My final words [laughs]! It was nice, the opportunity to travel to different places and different cultures with the band and this is helping us to gather a lot of inspiration for an album like 'Extinct'. It's really good to hear that people are really happy for this album. They're spreading the word so I hope you guys, the fans, keep it up. If there's a band that deserves some success, it's Moonspell. I never thought we'd be doing this for this many years and still keeping it up. The fact is that this time, we still have the feeling that we can still jet ahead after so many years and still have the youthful enthusiasm.

Definitely thank you very much for the interview.

Thank you.

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article by: Elena Francis

published: 13/04/2015 14:29


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