Interview – Fernando Ribeiro of Moonspell Relives 1755

Interview – Fernando Ribeiro of Moonspell Relives 1755

With their latest studio album 1755 recently spawned on the 3rd of November in 2017, the Portuguese Gothic Metal Masters known as Moonspell turn heads once again. Unleashed upon the world, the ever creative band this time focus on a hometown theme based on the historic tale of a devastating earthquake that rumbled through Lisbon, Portugal, recorded on November 1, 1755.

Nearly 262 years to the day, Moonspell capture an ominous feeling throughout 1755 with plenty of haunting and darkly demanding melodies. Matched with the lyrics sung entirely in their native Portuguese, the message comes through loud and clear with musical textures that make Moonspell who they are. Amidst their busy touring schedule, Lead Vocalist Fernando Ribeiro took the time to sit down and talk 1755, future tour plans, as well as some other intriguing insight into the world of Moonspell. – With current trials and tribulations as they are in our society, can you give us your viewpoint on the future of Gothic Metal and Heavy Metal, in general? Do you see an increase or diminish in its significance?

Fernando Ribeiro – Wow! That’s a hell of a starter. All I can say about that is that the future is not Moonspell. Creatively, Gothic Metal and the fans took their side: the great majority went to follow bands that “evolved” from Gothic Metal to Symphonic Metal. Most of these bands are female-fronted and that defined it creatively.

I think this sub-genre became more “predictable” and “formulaic;” for sure, it boosted the crowds and brought a change that is maybe natural and lovable for the girl power. Where there was black pepper, some times now there is sugar. Moonspell had nothing to gain from that change – it’s proved it’s not our audience at all – so what we do nowadays is a Gothic Metal guerrilla; we try to have fun and be meaningful while creating. The future is not in our hands: it’s in the hand of the listeners.

Century Media

Century Media – Well, many still see a great significance in what you offer to the scene regardless. As so many of your albums are deeply concept-based, can you describe the creative process of whether the music revolves around the concept or vice versa, and, specifically, how that pertained to your latest album 1755?

Fernando Ribeiro – Moonspell has developed a creative process that involves all of the band at an early stage, especially vocals. True that I had this 1755 concept ready and presented it to the band instead of something that was grown between us all like before, but they were quite fascinated by it and I am sure the conceptual, historical part of 1755 was a great drive to write music. You can draw many pictures in your mind about such an event and all the aftermath.

Words like earthshaking, quake – like if the ground was vibrating – some vocal choir Latin condemnations, were all words that floated around the studio. We made sure to have the Orchestrator Jon Phipps with us at all times so we could grow in arrangements as well, and basically it was team work together with Tue Madsen. We all pitched in to tell the story through music of the great Lisbon Disaster in 1755.

Napalm Records – That makes a solid base to start and you built on it well. You are currently quite busy touring around other parts of the world, including Europe in 2018. That said, do you have plans to tour America again in support of your most recent release, and when can we expect it to start, if so?

Fernando Ribeiro – We do have plans and will announce our return soon, possibly in a real cool European Metal package. I believe it will happen in 2018’s second semester. Having said that, we have no other plans. Like cats, I believe we have wasted our seven lives already as a touring band in North America; that territory is something that doesn’t click with our band and what we offer musically and visually.

Sure, we have many fans spread across North America but not enough to make Moonspell a good deal for promoters. They will forgive me, because they know I am blunt and honest, and I hate when bands say all is well and it simply isn’t. I believe that our visits will be even more rare in the future. – Understandable and also unfortunate. The North American market can be difficult, but there are many diehard fans out here in the States anxiously awaiting Moonspell’s return. Seeing Moonspell has been to North America many times now, how has your experience been?

Fernando Ribeiro – I believe I almost answered that question above! Always on a rush. Yes, I don’t think we have what it takes to make something solid in the States. Canada is a bit better but also not that much. We have toured there since 1999, over 14 times on big, small, and medium tours. Sold out and empty. Yeah, many bands toured 50 times but because they grew. Our fans can’t blame us for not trying hard. When your band turns 25, you have to consider more things, and honestly, we believe we paid our dues but are still a very insignificant band in America. Goth bless our few fans, because it’s not easy for them too. It is what it is, no excuses.

Moonspell live at Gramercy Theatre, NYC 5-17-15. Photo credit: Aint tellin photography – The fans here truly do appreciate Moonspell’s efforts through the years. Speaking of touring, what would your ideal next tour headliner be, and what is your favorite city to play?

Fernando Ribeiro – I don’t know. We have actually been all around the world. My ideal tour is a club tour for 500-800 people, hopefully packed, a cool stage set as we have now for 1755, and including bands whose music we love supporting as our guests. Bands like Sorcerer, Bizarra Locomotiva, Ulver, and Rotting Christ. This could all happen at a nice theatre in Moscow, Russia. A tour where everybody could smoke weed on the bus, where nobody would be anal about alimentary genres, a tour for grown-ups without childish stuff, and VIPs. A tour where you could play Venom loudly and spill Jack Daniels on your guests while the TV is playing Bad Taste (1987) from Peter Jackson with no sound. That sounds like a great tour for me! – (laughs) That is such a great and appropriately visually raunchy movie to include. That dream tour also sounds fun! What was your first introduction to the Gothic Metal world? That in mind, did you know then that it was your calling?

Fernando Ribeiro – In high school, I was already very much into Celtic Frost, Bathory, and King Diamond, but I hung out with a group that was more into Indie music like Pixies. Some of them had impeccable taste, so they introduced me to Nick Cave, Fields of the Nephilim, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy, and I really got hooked up.

When Pedro entered Moonspell, he was totally into that Gothic stuff, so we connected. My first Gothic Metal record was Paradise Lost’s Gothic (1991). It does stand as the genre’s first rock, I have to say; it’s dark, heavy, with low vocals and fuckin’ cold and emotional. Pure Gothic Metal. My calling was many things but I really loved when Type O Negative came up with Bloody Kisses (1993), that felt like a call.

Century Media

Century Media – That is funny you say that. An ideal lineup would include Moonspell, Paradise Lost, and Type O Negative, but sadly we could only have the possibility of two out of the three together. Being at the head of the class in Portugal in the genre of Heavy Metal must dominate your intermediate choices in some way. Certainly the importance of your culture and history is heavily grasped on the album 1755. Do you believe your unique heritage has helped or hindered your success in any significant way?

Fernando Ribeiro – Not really. Our input is more for the history and the so called “artistic” impulse of telling it. In fact, being the head of the class in Portugal is not the same as being the head of the class in Germany or in Sweden, so no big deal. The fact is that for the Metal scene in Portugal, Moonspell is business as usual. Not for the fans though, and that’s why we don’t need anyone else supporting us in Portugal than the fans. Twenty-five years of being the elephant in the room, gimme a break.

When it comes to Portuguese culture and history, which is long and eventful, my feeling is different and every day I wake up in Portugal I feel grateful for that history, culture, and architecture; I feel special. I walk 500 meters and I see a 13th century monastery. I go inside… that does affect us when we write songs, that might even make the difference. Even when not, it’s still a Moonspell idiosyncrasy, for sure, being from Portugal. – It sounds like a beautiful and unique culture to grow up around. You excel at Gothic like delicate tones versus the heavily harsh mix of melodies. In fact, many would agree you are capable of polishing both styles in just one song. Do you see yourself ever changing course to leave one behind or do you feel most comfortable with a balanced mix?

Fernando Ribeiro – That would depend on when it comes next. I like albums that are homogenous as long as all songs are good and not like a sausage factory. Having said that, maybe Moonspell is at its best mixing worlds: the answer is given with every album. We take tips from concepts we do, like 1755, which is not the follow-up to Extinct (2015), but also we can look at a very diverse repertoire and pick and choose.

Right now, I feel like eliminating all Gothic Rock drive and guitars and making it more musical and complex, not that square. Songs from Extinct, like the title-track, “Breathe,” “Malignia,” and “The Future is Dark” are good setups for the future. So are songs people know less, like “Shadow Sun” from Night Eternal (2008). In a way, what confuses our fans, the diversity, is what makes us free to choose. Quite a dilemma.

Napalm Records

Napalm Records – That is still a good dilemma to have though. Can you shed some light on how you are monetarily treated in Europe versus America? Does one treat you better in terms of pay and contracts?

Fernando Ribeiro – To tour the U.S. is to lose money for almost all European bands, at least on Moonspell’s level. For the promoters, it’s quite hard because it’s simply not a good business and we have to accept that. Merchandise is okay, tickets so-so. Sometimes the fans, while supportive, don’t realize the effort and money spent to play for 50 people somewhere in New Mexico. Visas are hard, expensive, and all visits are under scrutiny now more than ever. We pay 30% tax, and on top of that, we pay the papers to reduce some of that tax.

This is being an Underground band. For sure, growing is what matters, no excuses, but that’s out of our control; we can just try hard and live with it. Hands down, Europe is easier and fairer to everyone, but being successful in the States makes you bigger in Europe. As far as Moonspell is concerned, like I told you, touring North America will be harder from now on.

Moonspell live at Irving Plaza, NYC 1-21-16. Photo credit: Zenae Filmz – Yes, it seems as though getting to the States is much harder than ever before. Hopefully it will not keep you away for too long because the passion in the music is what sets us free in the end of all struggles. Moonspell is also a very visual band. How important is your image on stage to you in terms of fashion and stage equipment, and how well do you think your visual concept translates to the audience?

Fernando Ribeiro – The 1755 show is designed to be an experience. The stage set and what we wear reflects that. It’s a stage-sized Lisbon with a 3D backdrop, big crosses, lots of smoke, plague doctors, and whatnot. We also prepared to have it as complete as possible on small stages, when we are supporting, which will be often. It’s true that we can’t take the paraphernalia with us all the times we wish; the question of the band’s true dimension. The show doesn’t rely only on that, but also in what the band puts into it, which is a lot. – That makes sense as it is a unified vision, but the music also speaks for itself. The Regent Theater in Los Angeles, CA, or a compatible medium-sized venue, would be a great space for that concept to work in. Last question, in the past, when you spoke with CrypticRock, you mentioned you are in fact a big Horror film lover. We wanted to ask you, what are some Horror films you have seen since we spoke last that you enjoyed?

Fernando Ribeiro – Indeed. I loved Alien: Covenant for its philosophical value; pretty good movie. 1922 was pretty good. I am also a fan of the Lady Gaga era on American Horror Story. Get Out was pretty good. Not such a big fan of It but I never was  a fan of the original, although Pennywise does rock. Other than that, from Europe, Raw is excellent. There is lots of new things happening in the genre, so all is well in darkland!

Focus Pictures

20th Century Fox

2018 Tour Dates:
18.01.18 CZ Prague, Roxy
19.01.18 CZ Ostrava, Garage
20.01.18 SK Bratislava, MMC
21.01.18 HU Budapest, A38
23.01.18 PL Krakow, Kwadrat
24.01.18 PL Warsaw, Progresja
25.01.18 PL Gdansk, B90
27.01.18 DE Leipzig, Hellraiser
28.01.18 DE Berlin, C-Club
29.01.18 DE Hamburg, Grünspan
30.01.18 DE Bremen, Schlachthof
01.02.18 NL Tilburg, 013
02.02.18 NL Haarlem, Patronaat
03.02.18 DE Osnabrück, Hyde Park
04.02.18 DE Cologne, Essigfabrik
06.02.18 DE Bochum, Zeche
07.02.18 DE Frankfurt, Batschkapp
08.02.18 DE Nürnberg, Hirsch
09.02.18 DE Saarbrücken, Garage
10.02.18 CH Pratteln, Z7
12.02.18 IT Milano, Live Club
13.02.18 IT Bologna, Zona Roveri
14.02.18 FR St. Etienne, Le Fil
15.02.18 ES Barcelona, Salamandra 1
16.02.18 ES Madrid, Mon Live (former Penelope)
18.02.18 FR Limoges, CC John Lennon
19.02.18 FR Paris, La Machine Du Moulin Rouge
20.02.18 FR Lille, Le Metaphone
21.02.18 FR Besancon, La Rodia
23.02.18 DE Stuttgart, LKA Longhorn
24.02.18 DE Mannheim, MS Connexion Complex
25.02.18 AT Dornbirn, Conrad Sohms
26.02.18 AT Wien, Simm City
27.02.18 DE München, Backstage Werk
01.03.18 BE Antwerp,Trix
02.03.18 DE Flensburg, Roxy
03.03.18 DK Odense, Posten
04.03.18 NO Oslo, Vulkan Arena
05.03.18 SE Stockholm, Fryshuset Klubben

w/ Cradle of Filth 

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Purchase 1755:

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Lisa Burke
[email protected]

Lisa is a metalhead at heart with a variety of musical genre interests, and the determination to save the world, one Metal show at a time. Her professional passions range from Rock n Roll and Gothic Metal inspired fashion design to Heavy Metal and Rock n Roll journalism for live and album reviews. She currently contributes these reviews to Metal Assault and CrypticRock.


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