MASTERS OF DARKWAVE
Interview with Fernando Ribeiro
Interview by Christopher J. Kelter - November 20, 1999
Rough Edge: Thank you for spending time with Rough Edge; it is an honor to
conduct this interview and introduce Rough Edge readers to Moonspell. The tour started in San Antonio for the
November To Dismember metalfest. How did that turn out? How was the first show in America?
Fernando: Well, it was bizarre, in a way, because in Europe we are used to playing metal festivals. When we heard we were playing a metal festival for our first show we were excited, but technically it was chaos - festivals are usually chaotic. One the one hand, there were too many things happening: Crowbar were playing the main stage at the same time porno actresses were giving autographs and there was wrestling going on - there was too much going on. We were one of the bands going on at the end of the day and we had a lot of people interested - many people were interested in seeing us perform instead of the secondary aspects of the festival. It was a very good first experience for us and it was good to play in a prestigious line-up in the day's package of bands - we were the second to last band on the main stage. It made for a good first experience in America. We were surprised to find out that people knew the songs and were asking for particular songs.
How have the North American fans treated you so far? You've pretty much covered
the entire Eastern half of the United States - has any city been more favorable?
Fernando: Well, we did have better shows in one place than others, but that always seems to be the overall situation. However, it was very good. When we were getting out of the safety of Europe everyone was painting a very dark picture of the United States like we would only play for ten people, nobody would know Moonspell, nobody will buy our shirts. So far, the package of Moonspell and In Flames worked very well - we've had lots of people at the shows. We've had lots of diehard fans who would come to the shows anyway, but we've had lots of new people interested in the style of music. I'm surprised how open-minded the fans in the United States are because fans in the United States do listen to a lot of different styles of music. Fans here are enjoying the live performance as well as new songs from the new album. I will definitely go home with a very positive reaction of the United States considering my expectations were very, very low. Overall it was quite good - I think the fewest people we had was only 150 people which is not bad - the average attendance was always between 300 and 500 people. New Orleans was pretty good as well as Detroit and Chicago; there were sold-out shows in Montreal and New York City - these were good shows. Worcester (MA) was the worst experience because we had five power cuts. Tonight is actually is the last night of a very successful, for this style of music and this type of audience, first tour for us in the United States.
Rough Edge: Each new album that Moonspell has done has been a major transition and a major progression. Do you think your fans were unprepared for "The Butterfly Effect"? Or perhaps your fans have come to expect the unexpected?
Fernando: Well, I consider our fans to understand and appreciate any kind of evolution from Moonspell. I think there's always a problem with metal music being attacked by the mainstream press - bands have to defend themselves. That's why sometimes people exaggerate to the point of calling fans puritans. Music, in my opinion, is much more about experimenting than about being puritan. I don't think this new album will bring fans back to Moonspell that were disappointed with "Sin/Pecado." The new album is very complete in my opinion; it gathers a natural evolution for Moonspell which is sort of dangerous because the great vibe in metal in Europe is to be retro. However, we are looking more forward - we are looking to the roots, but also to the fruits that our music can have. On the other hand, there is an essential sound which is the soul of Moonspell which we've tried to put in "The Butterfly Effect." So it is an album that people may like or may not like - it's just like any other band when they have a new record. People are more than prepared to listen to diverse music; but I can understand different fan reactions because besides the music Moonspell is a great vehicle for emotions and sometimes we do not display the emotions that people want - it happens to every band. Sometime we do display the emotions that people want - and when we do, knowing how our fans react, we do it in a good, very deep form. Even if there are only a very few people who are into the music, I know that they are very deeply into the music - our fans are not fans because of only one album that we've done. I think fans will be very prepared for the new record - I think fans will give the new record a chance when they listen to it rather than relying on the opinions of the mainstream press, or their friends, or the black metal puritans. I think that when they hear the new album the music will convince them which is exactly what we want to do.
Americans like to categorize music and Americans would categorize
"Sin/Pecado" as gothic. "The Butterfly Effect" reaches back to more of the harsher overtones of the first two
records; was there a reason for that?
Fernando: There is no principal reason. "The Butterfly Effect" is inscribed in an atmosphere different from "Sin/Pecado," different than "Irreligious," different than "Wolfheart." When we work we always try to have a certain concept that we can direct our energies to, because we are not the kind of band that can improvise everything and then put it on an album.
Rough Edge: So, structure is very important?
Fernando: Yes, structure is important. "The Butterfly Effect" deals with chaos theory, deals with the unpredictable, deals with both very soft and very aggressive parts. We just wanted to make a musical sound that could reflect this. "Sin/Pecado" had a more melodic orientation - it was album that was more intimate, it was more relaxed and laid-back, with different melodies than the Moonspell style on certain cuts. I think it is just different - it's a different side of the band. I don't like to hear new albums from bands that sound exactly like the last one - I consider it a sequel. With "The Butterfly Effect" we have not compromised to the past or to unhappy fans. I don't want to make a second-rate "Wolfheart" or "Irreligious." Now that we are in 1999 we want Moonspell to be important to our generation of bands and musicianship. Believe me, if we did "Wolfheart" in 1999 no one would be paying attention to it. Nowadays, people are saying that "Wolfheart" was such an amazing album four years after we did it! This proves to me that "Wolfheart" was up to our mission, our vision - we were marking our territory. I think it is great to hear in 1999 from a fan who was young when "Wolfheart" came out but that now it's his favorite album. It doesn't offend me at all, because we've accomplished what we set out to do. People will listen to "The Butterfly Effect" with a different set of ears than they will listen to "Sin/Pecado." I would really like to have lots of people to be receivers for our art, but I cannot control how people like or do not like it. I cannot be paranoid about pleasing everybody because then I would be no better than the Spice Girls or Michael Jackson. I do what I want from Moonspell.
Rough Edge: Waldemar Sorychta is obviously a talented musician and producer; Moonspell utilized his producing talents for "Irreligious" and "Sin/Pecado."
Fernando: And "Wolfheart" - Waldemar was an uncredited producer on
"Wolfheart," but that's another story.
Rough Edge: For "The Butterfly Effect" Moonspell decided to work with a different producer. What does Andy Reilly bring out of the band?
Fernando: We were not very happy with the collaboration on "Sin/Pecado" between us and Waldemar because I think Waldemar is a little bit burned out of his producing talents. Even though he is a very creative person, especially for upcoming bands like it was for "Wolfheart" and "Irreligious" in the case of Moonspell, it is not possible to produce twenty bands and having a special touch with each one. With "The Butterfly Effect" we definitely wanted to break routines. One of the routines we wanted to break was to stop working with Waldemar. It was a professional decision. Even though Andy Reilly was not as influential on the creative side for "The Butterfly Effect" as Waldemar was for "Wolfheart," Andy Reilly brought the ability guide the best of our performance especially for me vocally and drum-wise for Mike. He was able to create an atmosphere in the studio that was very much like a laboratory for experimenting, but not in a clinical way - it was experimenting in a much more wild way. We recorded everyday in the small hours between midnight and six a.m. - we were producing material in a very good vibe in my opinion. We could express in sound exactly what we wanted - the dynamic production that has a lot of noise and a lot of melody - the music really developed with him. I think that Andy Reilly as a rock producer was the perfect person to help us do that even though we came into contact with him when the songs were almost done. He was in Portugal for a short pre-production for a week. When we went to London to Trident Studios which was also a great help in our sound we were able to come up with the best result sound-wise and production-wise for Moonspell.
Rough Edge: The band is well on its way to being one of the more prolific acts in the metal genre. A lot of bands have trouble coming up with an album's worth of ideas every three years, yet Moonspell is putting out twelve songs every year. How does the band approach songwriting?
Fernando: I believe that the music and artistic creation cannot operate or obey a calendar. It's more a question of concentration and inspiration rather than to have to produce new stuff all the time. Even small bands that go home and practice for twelve hours and write two songs - I cannot really believe it. Of course, we have a method - but being inspired is about being very open to the outside and inside worlds. On the other hand, a band always has to be prepared to catch inspiration by carrying a dictaphone, a note pad, a DAT machine. I think it is more about concentration and inspiration than about timing. "The Butterfly Effect" was born in a very simple way - it was started with the title and the concept, specifically my interpretation of the butterfly effect. I just give it to Pedro, our sampler and guitar guy, and he understood very well what I wanted. There was empathy between my ideas and his musical ideas - Pedro was the main music composer for this album. The songs just started with a lyric and then he wrote the musical landscape for the lyrics - sometimes it was the other way around. It was inspiration and not closing ourselves to our perspective in our lives - we experience a lot and we express it through music. We have no problems with our experiences to put on our albums.
Rough Edge: Some other critics - not me, of course - have said Moonspell "sounds" better than the actual songs. Any response to that?
Fernando: I don't respond to critics because they are paid to do it. It's tough to criticize because you never truly know the intentions behind the words or the music. People don't have to like our music or to relate to our songs. Moonspell is just a project - for us it's important and it is our lives, but for critics it is just another band. It is very difficult for critics to speak on the same level. Moonspell, in the dark metal scene, definitely has an audience. It is our intention that the music be original, genuine, and having quality - we want to convey to others that Moonspell is not an amateur band, that we know what we are doing, a band that knows what they are all about. We've come a long way from 1992. But I've read the most crazy reviews from critics and I have learned that I should not even concern myself with it or even respond to them because I am at a totally different level in appreciating my own music.
What are Moonspell's plans for 2000 and beyond?
Fernando: After this tour, I have only one plan - to sleep for a week because it has been a tiring experience. We will have some shows in December in Portugal - a couple of big shows for our native community of fans. For next year we are booking a headlining tour of Europe - support bands will be Kreator and Katatonia; other bands will be at the shows but they're not scheduled yet. Then we definitely want to come back to the United States with a bigger show, more production, and more bands. Basically what we want to do with "The Butterfly Effect" is to tour a lot and to give the new album a little bit more time to breathe because we are not interested in doing another album already. For 2000 we want to see how "The Butterfly Effect" does because we really worked hard for this.
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