AMERICA NOIR tour interviews, continued
Fernando Ribeiro (Moonspell)
Meeting Fernando Ribeiro, vocalist of Moonspell was a real thrill. They’ve been one of my favorite bands since I discovered extreme metal and Fernando is one scary dude on stage. And in a leather jacket and pentagram-laden black t-shirt he still looked the part when he approached me with a mighty handshake inside the club. But talking to him, his passion for music is undeniable.
First I asked him how a tour with Leaves’ Eyes and Atrocity came together:
“[Last year we did] a tour with Marduk and Inquisition, kind of a more extreme bill, called Voices from the Dark. It went down really well. We kept getting feedback from the US fans to come up and have more time to play and do a co-headlining package tour. So our agent, Rock the Nation, thought about that and thought it’d be a good idea to change the musical perspective of the tour. Moonspell has a very symphonic, gothic feeling into it even though there’s a lot of extreme metal in what we do as well. So this was the perfect solution musically because Leaves’ Eyes is fronted by Liv and they have the symphonic, gothic arrangements going on. And Atrocity have played many styles throughout their career, but nowadays it’s more of a death metal set. So we all agreed it was a good and different package and we could reach a different crowd.”
Fernando calling his band “gothic metal” struck a chord. That term seems to have an ambiguous definition, but he has his own view on what it means. Ribeiro says the “gothic” elements come from a number of influences:
“I’m referring to bands that introduced gothic with a more metal background. Not only Moonspell but for instance Tiamat, Type O Negative (who have a little bit of gothic with the punk and hardcore) and also bands like Fields of Nephilim or The Nephilim, which actually for me did the perfect gothic metal record called Zune, which is heavy and fast like Slayer but also greatly atmospheric. It’s something dark, not necessarily sung by a woman, featuring female choirs or solo singers. I think the way Moonspell was conceived and born as a band – it’s harder to define Moonspell than to say define a thrash metal band or grindcore band because the way we reach this sound has to do with the age we were showing up and the context of the scene. In Europe there was a lot of room for avant-garde bands mixing darkness with metal. That was our generation in a way, so we listened to that but also in time to be a part of that movement in the ’90s.”
We chatted about his vocal approach and lyrical inspiration a bit, but I was very much interested in learning a little bit more about the band’s heritage. I am hard-pressed to think of another metal band from Portugal, so I don’t know much about the country and its relationship with the genre. I asked Fernando what the scene is like out there, and what Portuguese influences are in Moonspell’s music:
“So far [being from Portugal and playing metal] it’s a very lonely position. Even though there is a metal scene in Portugal and it started in the late ’70s, no other band could break through internationally as much as Moonspell has so far. It’s not a question of talent; it’s probably a question of opportunity. Even though we love our country and culturally and lyrically it’s an inspiration for us we knew the metal scene [in Portugal] wasn’t what we were looking for. [A lot of bands] were doing the Metallica, Slayer, and Sepultura thing then and we thought ‘Why would someone listen to a Portuguese band that sounds like Sepultura or Slayer?’ We always have this in mind and always have originality as something really in the forefront in our sound and as the message of our band. By putting some Portuguese elements in our music, that kind of was the charmer for the European scene and the German scene.”
Fernando admits that it’s difficult for Portuguese bands to break out, for a number of reasons. He says the same of Spain. He cites Inhuman and Heavenwood as two “contemporaries” of Moonspell that had their shot but didn’t take it. “There’s no pleasure in being alone,” he said. I reminded him that I wanted to hear more about the Portuguese influence on the sound, which he did expound on:
“We’re Portuguese. Everywhere we go, like if we go to a diner or something in the States, people might not think we’re from Portugal but they’ll know we’re from a weird country. Like we’re not supposed to be in Twin Falls eating pie or whatever. So they ask us and are very intrigued about our country because it is an intriguing country; there is some mysterious kind of unknown feeling about our country. That adds to our music greatly. Music-wise you should be listening to something called “fado” – it’s our traditional music. The Spanish have flamenco, the Argentineans have the tango and fado is our tango in a way. It’s melancholy, it’s longing, and a more fragile kind of thing, kind of like a visit there.”
We continued discussing the “Moonspell sound,” which is an ever-changing sound yet still recognizable. Fernando says there is a strange dichotomy to that idea; sure, they’re not a twin-guitar heavy metal band or a proper thrash band or something like that. But with each new album they want to push the boundary on what the “Moonspell sound” really is. I told him that I thought the most recent albums, Night Eternal, 2008, and Alpha Noir, 2012, have a bit more viciousness (a bit more “bite,” haha, wolf pun) and attention to brutality. He agreed:
“Night Eternal is a very apocalyptic and crushing album. Even though it has songs like “Scorpion Flower,” it’s an album that flirts a lot with death metal. I mean we love it as well and we like to play it. If you pick up the Night Eternal title track it’s a good example, I think, of what is gothic metal. It’s heavy as shit but still has the soprano and the moving feeling. I see a lot of people going wild in the pit but I also see a lot of gothic girls dancing to it as well. That’s kind of a perfect song for us. When it comes to Alpha Noir, we packaged the album Omega White in the special edition [and it’s Omega White that has more of the gothic songs.] But Alpha Noir is a very angry album. It’s an album that demands a new world. You can not do that in a subtle way. I think it’s time for a new world and Alpha Noir is our manifest so it’s a loud one. We have a lot of fun playing Alpha Noir songs because they are very intense and have a punk feeling and a dirtiness. And sometimes we hit it fast.”
The rest of our chat concluded with talking about having an intense stage presence and making sure they keep the dark intensity up on every show, which is something that I have witnessed first hand a number of times. We ended the conversation with Fernando saying that it’s time to calm down the touring and write a new album. He anticipates another headlining tour in 2015.