About Me

Interview with Moonspell

Loved by some, hated by others, Moonspell has always caused a stir. Their success worldwide in their early years was not recognised in their own country, Portugal… and the wolves proved everyone wrong! After a successful career of almost 30 years, “Hermitage”, their 13th full-length album us about to see the light of the day and they’re keeping truthful to their controversial roots! Pedro Paixão and Hugo Ribeiro had a lengthy chat with Metal Imperium about the long career, the success, the pandemic and, obviously, the new album. 

M.I. - First off, many thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Secondly, congrats on the new album! “Hermitage” is the 13th studio album by Moonspell! Do you consider 13 as a lucky number?

Pedro - No. And I hardly can say something about superstitions…

M.I. - Some fans have expressed their disappointment towards the new tracks already revealed. Why do you think this happens? Do you think that some social media bullies comment on the album and say shit about it just because they are frustrated with themselves?

Pedro - I’m not a psychologist or a sociologist to speculate publicly about the bad reactions and attitudes that all new albums create on the fans, specially not their motivations although we are conscientious that this new album of Moonspell may cause disappointment on some of them due to its sound change, and the fans reflect their feelings on social network. That’s unavoidable if we take our art with honesty.
From a more personal point of view, I wouldn’t go to any band’s “homes”, I mean on bands’ instagram, Facebook etc, and say bad things about the band. I think that wouldn’t be rational but it would be only destructive. Still, I try to understand these emotional reactions as our music is emotive too and touches people so deep that a lot start to see Moonspell as something of their own. The way one feels our music is definitely of his own. But the band isn’t. It’s not even mine.

M.I. - I’ve listened to the new album and, in general, “Hermitage” is more mellow than the others. Was it your intention to slow down on the harshness?

Pedro - I wouldn’t call it an intention, no. I would say a consciousness! We were aware that slowing down the harshness could be a consequence from the path we were going to when we started to understand the nature of this album. We were looking for more melodies, more feeling, more developments, more progression and, above all, to have the main atmosphere quite present throughout the album. I think the last album, 1755, misses sensitivity… I mean, it wasn’t supposed to have it, so I actually don’t miss it in the album but rather on Moonspell’s music. That’s what might explain the lack of harshness.
On the other hand, Moonspell has some heavy albums like “Memorial”, “Night Eternal”, “Alpha Noir” and “1755” but also and more representative quite a few lighter albums like “Sin”, “Irreligious”, “Darkness and Hope”, “Extinct”, “Omega White”.

M.I. - Hermitage refers to “a place where a religious person lives on their own, away from the rest of society” and seems to be quite an appropriate title regarding the times we’re living in… has the virus and the lockdowns been determinant to this choice?

Pedro - We could jump in the trendy matter but it’s just not true! Both the title and concept are at least a year and a half older than the pandemic. It’s been a while we feel an alienation of and from humanity. The great challenges, the great problems and the ground questions have been out of first world radar. With all this social network, tons of information, some true, some false, some incomplete, we’ve developed a recipe of fantasy and illusion that cannot end well!
Hermitage, the album, isn’t a place. It’s feeling, it’s desire, even a dream. To experience the lockdown from March, last year, did enhance this feeling. It was precisely then when I’ve redone the songs to what you can listen now!

M.I. - Is “Hermitage” the result of the lockdown in 2020? Or were you already working on it before the pandemic hit the world?

Pedro - Even though I’ve answered part of this question on the previous one, I’ll complete it. By the summer of 2019, we had enough music to do the album and so we booked a pre-production to consolidate the songs on September that year, so we could record the album during winter. A tour got in the way and, with time passing by, we realised the songs and the album wasn’t what we were looking for. By January 2020, we already decided not to record the album also because we were about to change many other things besides that. Yet Ricardo and myself went on writing more songs, three, until the first lockdown in March 2020. Being forced to stay at home, I picked up all the songs we had and redid them to exhaustion in the search for something truly fulfilling. Don’t take me wrong but I looked at that period as a blessed one, when all the inspiration made us have these songs which we are so proud of. 
When we got back together, we just had to work with Hugo, the new drummer, to develop the drums we had programmed, and he did it in such a passionate way that on frequent moments we actually changed bits of the songs! During August, we met Jaime (producer) and worked a week in our studio, on which he stripped a lot of parts, finding them too busy and hiding the best voices. We recorded right after, in October.

M.I. - The album was recorded in October, at Orgone Studios in the UK, with producer Jaime Gomez Arellano, famous for his work with Paradise Lost, Ghost, Primordial,… why have you chosen him?

Pedro - Our friend and author of Moonspell’s biography - Wolves who were men - suggested him based on his deep knowledge of the music scene in general as well as on Moonspell, supported on the productions Gomez did, all sounding honest, organic and expressive. He said to me “this guy makes the bands sound like bands, not like a production”! Once we started to pay attention to more than the productions we knew (Paradise Lost and Solstafir), we’ve confirmed that the soul of the bands was always there and there were no other patterns or templates. Each of his productions sounded completely unique which is quite rare on metal producers. 
Fernando told Ricardo and I to make this decision. We didn’t hesitate. Then I talked to Jaime the first time after I sent him our songs and I was immediately confident about our choice.

M.I. - How was the recording done? Exactly like with the other albums or were there any changes because of the pandemic?

Pedro - Every producer and every studio has its own ways and things. Of course, there’s also a lot of stuff that is the same (computer, monitors, equipment). The pandemic didn’t make that much of a difference besides we couldn’t go to the pub for the first two weeks. Orgone Studios were perfect for Hermitage. It was in a middle of nowhere, but near enough to little villages in a beautiful region where he opened his house to us. Every night we would cook dinner and have it with wine. Gomez is Colombian, very British nowadays, and culturally he’s closer to Portuguese than to most central and north Europeans (with whom he gets along very well). 
Tue Madsen is also a producer who became a personal friend of ours. So, it’s not the first time. But it’s strange because I feel I’ve known Gomez for years. You can definitely relate him with people I know here!

M.I. - “Hermitage” is like a new beginning, this time from isolation. Why is this a great “concept”? Now that “The Butterfly effect” has been rereleased, the world seems to be going through a butterfly effect. Never did we think we’d ever go through something like this… has this misfortune been an inspiration for you somehow?

Pedro - I don’t know if it’s a great concept! I know it’s better than the nihilism we are all living in. “Butterfly Effect”, “Extinct”, “Night Eternal”, “Alpha Noir”, these are the dark waters where Moonspell sails!

M.I. - The cover is quite explanatory, beautiful and it embodies the whole “concept” of the album! Who designed it?

Pedro - This time we went for a clearer graphic message! Fernando did all that production of the artwork and released product. The cover and inlay pictures were painted (I think I can really say so) by Arthur Berzinsh.
The design on putting all together was done by João Diogo who worked with us on our previous release and on most of the rereleases such as the “Butterfly Effect”.

M.I. - According to Fernando, this album will be “much more mature when it comes to lyric writing and song writing”. What does this mean exactly?

Pedro - This isn’t an album for kids and it isn’t coming from any young folks, that’s for sure. “I love slow, slow but deep” sang Dead Can Dance on the song “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” from the album “Into The Labyrinth”. We reached an age where we have to be honest with ourselves. We might don’t know what we want but we are sure now of what we don’t want!

M.I. - Moonspell parted ways with Mike Gaspar and this is the first album featuring the new drummer. How much has the lineup affected the band? How’s the chemistry between the band members?

Pedro - It’s premature to talk or analyse at all how did the relationships within the band change because not much time has passed yet and this time was, by itself, enough to change any existing relationship. There were changes, yes, but I can’t say too much about it because the current circumstances oversize any other factor.

M.I. - After “The Greater Good” and “Common Prayers”, “All or Nothing” is the third of four videos you are going to launch before the official release date. Which will be the 4th?

Pedro – “Hermitsaints”, a heavier song for metalhead delight! This has a lot of Bathory influences.

M.I. - The band has broadcasted a show on Halloween and has already played live with the rules of social distancing… how different were these shows from a normal concert? Some bands say they prefer doing concerts like that than doing none at all, do you agree?

Pedro - To me there’s nothing to agree here. It is what it is. I would play to people in bed if that was the rule (I’m not being perverse). What I prefer is a different question, but we’ve played seating shows during 2020 and people feel the same way. The difference is that we, as a band, and ultimately the audience, don’t get this feedback of growing emotions and it ends up feeling a bit cold. But that can be cool as well. People are deeper in the show. Their senses are focused and the band has to play the music really well! 

M.I. - You have toured extensively to promote “1755” and, besides being great studio musicians, the band is considered as one of the best live acts. But now things are looking not so good for tours… what are your plans now? How will the promotion to “Hermitage” be done?

Pedro - Interviews, like this one. Creating products to hold (DVD, Files) or share in the networks. Secret shows, streaming, the wolves will find a way to feed. And sooner or later we are coming back on tour.

M.I. - Hermitage is also available on tape. This format was almost dead and now is making a comeback. In some formats, the album includes “Darkness in Paradise” (Candlemass cover) and “The Great Leap Forward” to attract more people. In this age of digital streaming, does it make sense to have tapes and vinyl? Who buys them?

Hugo - Surprisingly, there are still many passionate people who love those older formats that were thought to be long gone for years. It can be for various reasons, nostalgia or just for being and sounding so different from the digital age we are in now. Also, collectors are another frequent type of buyers of those older formats. Physical media can last forever if properly taken care of, while digital media may not. Streaming media is very convenient but can also create certain insecurity because it needs some sort of internet connection as a supplement. Another disadvantage is that the streaming corporations control it, so if they want to shut the service down, they can. Streaming is the biggest format now and, unfortunately, it’s the format that artists get “skinned alive” the most, regarding payment from those services. In the end, I think physical media is here to stay, even if it’s a much smaller portion of the market.

M.I. - There’s a post on your Facebook page stating “Main songwriter, multi- instrumentalist and co-manager of Moonspell will be inaugurating a series of Q&A's exclusively on Wolfpack fanclub, powered by Patreon”… is this an idea to help you cope with the virus while you can’t be active live? How do people accept this? Many people joining?

Pedro - Wolfpack is our very organised fan club based on Patreon.com, with exclusive access to the fans to Merch, to us, to pre-releases, to new, to live concerts streaming, playthroughs, lectures, access to meet and greet and even shows! The subscribers can choose one of the five triers or status, from 3€ to 50€ having more or less access depending on the fans choice. It has been vital within these pandemic circumstances, but it was planned since the beginning of 2019, if not earlier. We always wanted to have more control of our relation with the fans and free the chains and walls that kept us apart in many ways. Our Patreon, our Wolfpack is already a reason to be proud. The reviews have been great.

M.I. - In the press release, there’s a statement by Fernando which says: “We know that we are entering the final years of our career as musicians: the winter of our lifetime. We don’t care about people saying we’re still young at heart, or “leading” wolves in a pack. We are not! But we do care about how those around us feel about us, and this album is all about how we feel, our answers to your questions.” Isn’t this too negative? You’re still so young! Many bands play well into their 60’s and all…

Pedro - Each one of us has its own way of dealing with ageing. Fernando seems to be well solved with that. I’m in denial. To say on my defence the fact I still have both of my grandparents alive (98 and 103 years old) might distort my life duration perception.
I still feel pretty fit to face some more years on the road but I think a lot about it! Old band members headbanging give us more hope but I prefer to make sure we do and play the music accordingly with our age and how we feel it. Nick Cave had brilliant albums when he was young - Let Love In - and on a mature stage he did “The Boatman’s Call”, a masterpiece. 

M.I. - Moonspell are now approaching their 30th anniversary as a band... what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in these 3 decades?

Pedro - Personally I’ve learned there’s no perfect recipe to make a living. From Mexico to Marocco, from Finland to Spain, there’s always clever interesting human beings that keep me hooked to life. Then there’s such an overwhelming amount of information we’ve learned throughout these decades, it’s become hard to focus on one! I’m sure the cliche “art is 10% talent and 90% hard work” was one of the lessons we’ve learned!

M.I. - The band’s rereleasing older albums via Alma Mater Book & Records. Are they remastered or released just like the original ones? Have these albums been better received by the metal community now?

Pedro - When possible, when there’s an unmastered version still on us, yes, there’s a remastering for real. But for instance, for “Memorial”, although we searched deep, we couldn’t find anything but the final mastered version. There was little to do usually balancing the eq to the vinyl standard.
The album, so far, most appreciated among these rereleases was our black sheep Butterfly Fx. I’m among this people that digs vinyl and I totally get why the strangest albums for the community are more appreciated among these guys! Usually, they are more opened to wider music limits and taste when compared to regular fans. 
Overall, people love these rereleases! So do I!

M.I. - Wolfheart, Irreligious, Sin/Pecado are considered as true monuments of dark/gothic metal and are responsible for giving shape to the genre in its early stages. How does it feel knowing you have influenced a metal genre? Knowing Moonspell are listed as someone’s influences?

Pedro - It feels great! It feels we accomplished one of our main goals when I stepped into Moonspell - to have a cult not a hit!

M.I. - However, in the early days, Moonspell were worshipped outside of Portugal but it took them a while to be recognised as a true metal band in their own country. How did it make you feel? How painful is it having to prove yourselves to your own people?

Pedro - Once, in 1996, we played at the main Lisbon venue, one song, for the main magazine music awards and while setting up my keys I said to one of the production technicians that I usually do something regarding monitors, can’t remember what, and as he helped, he said with bitterness - “oh yes, what’s foreigner is better, right?”. I never got why we Portuguese love what’s from outside and hate our own! I am Portuguese, and so were my fellows. And Portuguese technicians are on our top list worldwide! Why were there so many people defensive towards our foreign “success”?
Nowadays is a lot better. We’ve learned that information sharing is a lot more progressive and developed than holding little secrets and keeping the status quo.
We had the fans with us, and that was the most important. That made it easier. 
To me, it was harder when we proved to be what we are, about 10 years ago, and the media wouldn’t consider Moonspell the most international act coming from Portugal. Not only were we not recognised but we were even despised - like the huge white elephant in the room everyone pretends not to notice. You don’t have to like our music, you can even despise metal but, as a Portuguese fact, we exist and we are the most international act this country has ever had.

M.I. - In your opinion, how’s the metal scene in Portugal these days? Better than it was when you started off? Now, metal fans and society in general are more open-minded and there are some bands coming out. Name a few Portuguese acts you think the metal scene should pay more attention to.

Hugo - Well, disregarding the pandemic, the Metal scene in Portugal is very strong. There are many good bands and a lot of shows and festivals of all shapes and sizes. I think Metal music in Portugal has evolved a lot and has been very healthy for the last 10+ years. Back in the 80s and 90s, the options were a lot more limited regarding venues, studios, and technology in general. Nowadays a band can have a great sounding album for a lot less money than 25+ years ago. With the evolution of technology, recording productions are much better and you can get a lot more exposure through the internet than back in the day. Of course, there’s always a down side because it creates a much bigger saturated market and makes it harder for newer bands to make some sort of dent. A few Portuguese bands that people should pay more attention to is Gaerea, Kandia, Sullen, and of course there are more bands but this is just off the top of my head.

M.I. - How much has corona virus affected Moonspell, being a band that lives of music? Do you have a plan B in case this virus is here for longer than experts have anticipated?

Pedro - The hardest is not to be able to play live and face our fans. That’s by far the hardest! Last year wasn’t bad at all, financially, because we manage the band in a way that we have a safety net. Besides it was an album year meaning we could make money out of its production and we did some shows. If this situation prolongs more than what’s expected now, we are in trouble but it’s not too dramatic. Moonspell has a B plan, but I prefer to call it our adapting skills. They were always our best feature as a band!
Furthermore and, personally, I believe I have other skills than music. As long as I’m healthy I can do a lot of jobs.

M.I. - With all the lockdowns, the cancellation of tours and festivals, the whole music industry has been affected… after all this, who will “survive”?

Hugo - The bands who will most likely be able to survive are the bigger and more established bands. Since they already have a good amount of fans, they can find new ways of support through their followers. For example, fans can buy merchandise and other goods that those bands can put out. Of course, bands have to be creative now more than ever because of the lack of live shows. There are also great websites like Patreon that can be a big factor for supporting the artists. It’s great for creating exclusive content for those willing to pay to support their favourite bands. Like mentioned before, we have our WolfPack page on Patreon as well. 

M.I. - If you compare Moonspell now to the Moonspell circa “Wolfheart”, which would be the biggest differences?

Hugo - Since we’re talking about a span of 25 years, it has been an obvious huge difference. Like mentioned previously, the market and technology has evolved so much in 25 years that it obviously influences the various aspects of any band. The songs throughout these years have evolved not only sonically, but also stylistically, lyrically, technically and with maturity. Moonspell is also that type of band that doesn’t stick to just one formula or sound. Anyone who knows the band minimally well knows that, and I think it’s always expected of our fans. One of the stronger traits of Moonspell is exactly that. Like I said, it’s not the “rinse and repeat” type formula that some bands have. You never know exactly what is coming next. It’s that surprise factor that makes Moonspell so special, successful and still relevant today after almost 30 years of existence. 

M.I. - And how different are the Moonspell fans now compared to the fans in the 90’s? Do you think they are still the same?

Hugo - As our sound evolved through the years, more fans came along with it. Obviously, it’s impossible to please everyone, so that creates a division of some sort. By that I mean, that there are fans who still prefer the older era of Moonspell as well as fans that prefer the newer era. Of course, there are still those that really like and accept all the eras. Besides the newer, more recent fans, we are one of those bands who have very dedicated die-hard fans that stuck with us from the older era into the newer era and we are very lucky in that regard. Although some disagree and complain about some of our musical and sonic choices, they still stick with us.

M.I. - Of all the songs you’ve written, let us know which one you are most proud of and why!

Pedro - I’m not sure about who wrote what. Ricardo and myself write so much stuff together that I tend to forget who came up with the original idea. So, I’ll answer as Moonspell and, in that case, I will have to choose among more than 100 songs… 
Future is Dark, Fireseason, Evento, Em Nome do Medo, disappear here, Mute are indeed songs I’m very proud of because I think they really take you somewhere else, somewhere over the notes and beats. My favourite ones and the ones that make me really proud of are among the “Antidote” album and “Hermitage”. Some of the arrangements I did, I can’t even believe I did them (like entitlement B part). Maybe that’s why they make me so proud - because I feel they’re not mine any longer! 

M.I. - Moonspell have associated themselves with the movement “A nossa música na radio portuguesa” which counts with over 450 Portuguese artists who claim the right of the listeners to listen to more Portuguese music on the national radio stations. Don’t you feel supported by the radio stations? What’s going on? What’s their agenda after all?

Pedro - Well, there’s two ways of approaching this matter: the first is if the radios are responsible for what we listen or are we to blame for it? Do private radios have a social roll? The second question is: since radios obey to a playlist sponsored by the labels and agents that represent the main notorious artist (so called commercial music) why wouldn’t they should be forced to do a share for national artists? 
One must understand that a lot of artists depend, now more than ever, on their royalties out of air playing. Without shows, it’s understandable and appropriate that artists try to protect and promote their work as much as they can.

M.I. - Please share a final message with our readers! Many thanks for your precious time and for the awesome music.

Pedro - Our message is our music so I will try my best:
Support Moonspell! We are the best band ever! 
Oh, and be nice to other people. We must live with each other, anyway!
Listen to our music, which is at least better than my words!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca