Moonspell: Brotherhood of blood


February 10, 2007

Portugal's Moonspell shows no signs of slowing down after the release of 2006's Memorial. The album brings the band back to its roots of death and black metal after more goth inspired albums, such as 2001's Darkness and Hope, and 2003's The Antidote. Songs such as "Finnesteria" and "Memento Mori" combine elements of the genres with a dark, evil grasp only Moonspell can provide, and surprises--see the haunting ballad "Luna"--abound.

Since forming in 1992, the band has released seven albums, becoming one of the most recognizable names in metal. Highlights of their much heralded career include high profile tours with bands such as Cradle of Filth, Opeth and Type O Negative, top-selling albums in Germany and their native country, composing for a ballet and participating in the first Portuguese horror movie I'll See You in My Dreams.

The brotherhood has reaped the rewards of its hard work and spilled blood: Memorial went gold in Portugal and has sold 10,000 copies, making Moonspell the first heavy metal band in Portugal to accomplish this feat. The band also recently completed a successful U.S. tour with Katatonia and Daylight Dies.'s Jeff Maki tracked down Moonspell drummer Mike Gasper, who answered a variety of questions, ranging from the history of the band, the background of the Memorial album and the possibility of another tour with Type O Negative.

Live Metal: To start off, could we have a little background on Memorial? What was the writing and recording process like and was there anything different the band specifically tried for this album?

Mike Gaspar: Well it's funny looking back at this point, we are head on in composition for the next album, but to look a bit back is always positive also at this phase. Memorial started with the spirit of looking into our past and remembering what was the most important inspiration for making Moonspell, also what we had been through, all the hard effort and blood we spilled for the band! Lots of issues, but that came out in the songs; strong and epic sounding songs is what we really desired, something that would turn your head around, many and many times.

All this was melted into the hands of [producer] Waldemar [Sorychta], one important element from the past that we had long forgotten was the magic between us both. Memorial came to life and still is in our hearts for that very special moment!

Memorial sounds somewhat removed from the last two releases, Darkness and Hope and The Antidote. It's much more of an aggressive sounding album, but still retains that gothic feel. Was it your intention to make a heavier and much more aggressive album this time around?

I think it surely was!! With The Antidote we had songs like "The Southern Deathstyle," "In And Above Man," "From Lowering Skies," and they all had great reactions live, lots of power and emotion was felt by the band. We loved the response, bringing us to search for more exciting and demolishing songs to work with!!

Albums like Under the Moonspell, Wolfheart, were very much in our minds, more challenging songs to perform but with a sound and execution that we could not have done at that time.

Also the heavier bands that we have played with these last couple of years have also brought out more of our metal side!!! The more sensitive side of Moonspell is still very much there, in the keyboards, lyrics, and atmosphere making the album complete!!

Are there plans yet for a U.S. tour and if so who will you be touring with?

Well we just toured with Katatonia and Daylight Dies!!! What a fucking tour!!!! The bands and music were one of the best we ever had, but the conditions that we encountered were a lot less from the quality of the package we brought to the States!!! I’ve seen many tours, and to have seen this one in some of the dives we played in is very curious to what the hell is going on over there!!!! I love playing the States and the fans in the end were the ones to make it worthwhile, but to go back like that is a bit hard!!!! I can only wish to continue making music and when the time is right go back for another shot, lets see what happens!!!

Having been together for over a decade now, what do you feel are the biggest accomplishments up to this point for Moonspell? What else would you like to do?

Well to live from the band is pretty awesome!!!! For many years we struggled and had nothing!!! At least now we can live and not need to have a job, like many musicians have!! Most figure that if you release albums and are famous, that means your rich!!! It's pretty sad to me people that think like that! Just to live from what you love should be enough, everything else is just about your priorities and what you want from life.

And we want the best always for Moonspell, we sacrifice a lot sometimes to have this dream. The great reward is to have so many great albums, fans, and countries we have visited, it has enriched us as people and the music!

What is the background for the members of the band? How did it all come together and give us a brief history of the band.

Well [vocalist] Fernando [Ribeiro] came from the underground and was possessed by underground bands, tape trading, fanzines and all that had to do with occultism, philosophy, history, you name it! He for sure was the most bright and outspoken, the knowledge and will for making a band was his life passion and to write his heart, lyrics, poems, stories, anything that will stimulate his imagination will do!!! There is so much you wouldn’t believe!!!

Pedro [Paixão] came from a more gothic background, only later was he into metal. He has always been very organized and confident with his actions, bringing the band a sturdy way of working. The keyboards were always his way of expressing himself, nowadays he plays guitar, but his true influence has always been making it all sound great together. He just loves making music, more than playing live at first, but needs it as much as we all do these days!

Ricardo [Amorim], well he's the allstar guitar player!!! He he. You see we had to get him from an underground band called Paranormal Waltz. They were not happy at the time!! But he was the only guitar player that we knew that played flawless and a perfect.

Ear [Aires Pereira], he could play anything, and still is growing as a guitar player and musician, each time better and more amazing, and his solos are always great!!! Got to love him!!!

I started playing in bands at 13, I wanted to rock dude!!! I was always the youngest in every band, not easy to find drummers that play and have equipment, so I was always quiet and kept to myself. All I cared about was playing and making music, never really cared for doing the cover band thing! Unless it was Venom, Bathory, Metallica and so on. Death was always fun too!!! And that is still the person I am today, always ready for a show, tour, recording, interviews, meeting everyone, having a great time, I'm a drummer!!! He he...what can you do!!!

Who are some of the band's influences musically or in general?

Bathory, Root, Morbid Angel, Samael, Tiamat, Carcass, Fields of The Nephilim, Cure, Metallica, and so on, this is a mix of the 4 of us!!!

Getting back to Memorial, what are some of the lyrical themes for songs on the album?

Well "Finisterra" in it's translation is “The end of the land,” meaning that it was thought that the earth would end on the coast of the Peninsula, Portugal and Spain! That feeling of being isolated, lost, with nowhere to go is a feeling that we have very much over here in Portugal. The fear and darkness is something we all love to talk about!

"Blood Tells" is another favorite. This song is very personal to the band, it tells all of our struggles and misfortunes, but the brotherhood kept us strong and believing that we could overcome anything that would come are way, as we did and will continue to do!!!

The song "Luna" is absolutely amazing. Who is performing the female vocals here and how did this song come together?

Well we had most of the songs done for the album and came to the conclusion that it was very masculine, heavy, extreme, --all that metal is known for. So it was important to balance it out with a dark sweet song, something that would catch your ear and give you a different but still dark feeling to the album. It's the perfect song for your kids!!! He he. For vocals we trusted our old time favorite, Brigit Zacher, she had worked with us on our very first albums, and before that we were fans from her work on Tiamat's Wild Honey. She's fantastic and delivers what you want in no time. I always look forward to work with her.

Are the orchestral parts of the release all done with keyboards or were any additional musicians involved?

Well all the parts were composed and prepared at our studio by Pedro. It made it great, and easy to have most of it done before going to the actual recording. It also was important for the practicing. I always loved playing drums to keyboards, it makes it flow a lot better, and not putting them at the very end without ever hearing them properly, it doesn’t blend as good!

For a touch of something human, Waldemar brought in a violin player to play on top of some parts; he was awesome, got the melody really quick and played it like a charm! We talked a bit about ourselves and it was so easy to get along, in 2 hours he was done and we had some badass strings on the album!!!!

I was not aware of this until reading up on it in the band's bio, but tell us about the collaboration with Ballet Gulbenkian and also the 2003 horror film I'll See You In My Dreams.

The ballet was very interesting for Pedro to do, something that made him very proud! To compose something out of the ordinary for people to dance is a unique experience. The director spent some time with Pedro and Fernando and demonstrated some of the moves he would use in the piece and helped show them what he desired. It came out great and helped influence a lot of the stuff on Memorial!

The horror movie was great fun. Producer/Director put all his money in this project and got a lot of talented people to do it for the mere excitement of the first Portuguese horror film. It came to our ears that he would love us to do a song for it, but had no money, so we decided it would be fun and great to be a part of it, so we did it for free! It’s a standard jazz tune, but we had to bring the horror into it. Once I heard it I had an idea of doing some Carcass type stuff to it, but also keeping it orchestral and evil! We did all of the recording at our studio and mixed it at a friends studio.

The pay back was to come later, he had promised a video, so he made it happen and got us playing in the middle of Zombie attack, we even killed some, it was like being a kid again, but actually being part of it, got to check it out, Zombies and metal just go great together.

It’s on YouTube. [View the video for "I'll See You In My Dreams" here]

And finally - how are the guys in Type O doing and do you think we'll see another Type O Negative/Moonspell tour in the near future?

Well I know they have an album coming out and are promoting it at the moment! A tour with them is always a pleasure, The best tours of our lives, our sound is a bit different these days but still, there is something that connect these 2 bands!

I wish them all the best and that they would play Portugal, they never have! I have so many friends that would die to see them, and I myself would love the opportunity to take them out and show them around our country. We have done so in Brooklyn and now it’s their turn!!! he he he

Thanks for answering my questions. Memorial is one hell of an album and we wish you continued success!

Thanks a lot man, we really appreciate people who do all they can for great music!!

All the best and keep it heavy!!!