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Interview with Moonspell
18 July 2013
Interview by Roland Oei
Moonspell released a double album in the form of Alpha Noir and Omega White last year to critical acclaim. Alpha Noir is one of the bands heaviest offerings in its 20 plus year career and has a unique blend of Gothic and Thrash Metal influences. The music on Omega White on the other hand is more traditional Gothic music. Roland Oei talked with vocalist Fernando just before the bands sold out show at the Underworld in London. Here’s what he had to say......
Your latest album Alpha Noir has a big Thrash Metal influence. Are there any bands in particular that are responsible for that?
Yeah I know there is a Thrash revival going on and some people were like maybe they are just trying to adapt to the times but we started listening to thrash metal when it was big when we were in high school. I always liked the more obscure bands like Artillery and Onslaught but our guitar player who writes most of the stuff he is a big Testament fan and it happens that with this revival all these bands started to play again and we got into it and hung out with them and one thing led to another but we branded it with a bit of our gothic thing. I think it is a good vibrant mix and something not tried before and the crowds have responded well so it is a winning idea, definitely.
Is this one of the heavier albums that you have done?
We are quite moody as a band and we have done extremely sad gothic almost doomy albums. Since the Antidote album which was in 2003, we started going in a direction that we were not really up to and not really where our heart was or where our influences were so gothic metal was getting sweeter and just combining beauty and the beast vocals or just female fronted. We got heavier as a response to that so Night Eternal is a moody album but it has almost death metal influences and Alpha is a very angry album as well. It is vibrant and has lots of riffs. That is why we also did a special edition.
Did you write the songs on Omega White at the same time as those on Alpha Omega or were they done at a separate time completely?
Some songs were contemporary of each other. It was the time frame of the songs that led us to make a double album because we wanted to do something different and concentrate on the heavy part just by itself and the atmospheric part on its own and see the result of it and we were happy with the progression. We had a couple of Omega White songs written and then after Alpha Noir we did the rest of the songs and I mean the writing process turned out to be smooth. The split of the songs originated the idea first and then when the idea was consolidated in our heads we did the rest of Omega White and decided to put it out as a full album as well.
How limited is the special edition and are you concerned that the real fans may not be able to get hold of it?
There is a limited edition and I don’t know how many were made, it’s a label secret. One of them is sold out and there were a couple of vinyl editions but the double album we told the label to make plenty so that is not a limited edition but a special edition. There are more than two versions. There is one with a pendant and there is another with a double album, with a double digi-pack and then there is one with just one album. If you want it you will find it.
Can you tell us about the writing and recording of the albums?
It was a long process because we did a lot of touring in between as well so that counts for a lot of time and energy spent on the road as well so we recorded Alpha Noir first and we sent our drummer Mike to Denmark where we recorded the Alpha Noir songs and then we did the rest at our studios in Portugal. We used to have a rehearsal studio and then we expanded it and we invested money in equipment that we can keep and use it for Moonspell and it was cool because we could do everything else in there. The process was to record the drums and then have the producer in Portugal just to set up the sound and then we did all the tracking and then we mixed it and then for the Omega White album and it was like doing two albums because then Mike returned to Denmark and Tue Madsen returned to Portugal but for me as a singer it was lovely to spend the long hours and the small hours recording at night if I wanted to as I didn’t have to conform to any schedule.
Is there a concept to the album?
There always is. Even if it sounds a bit cocky, I have always liked conceptual music and conceptual albums. Even though they are not by the book concept albums like different chapters of a story around one theme so every album we do has a concept going on and Alpha Noir and Omega White are very distinctive albums obviously musically and lyrically and the thing with Alpha and even the title was to talk about the new beginning and the reinvention of ourselves as human beings and as citizens because it is highly needed especially if you come from a country like Portugal. We have a lot of things we want to keep up like traditions and legends but in many ways we need to start changing stuff in order to be the country that we once were and we decided to write about the willing and power of changing and inspiring others around. Obviously it isn’t easy and it is not going to happen because of Moonspell or any band. It is the way we are and luckily we have fans that read the lyrics and they will get it. Alpha Noir is an album about fighting and Omega White is about grieving and being in your room listening to some cool gothic music and feeling depressed and moody and a lot of people are ashamed of being like that but it happens to everyone so we kind of tried to create the soundtrack to it as well for that state of mind like many bands have done before us like Type O Negative.
In one interview you said that you had the finished recorded product before you got a new record label. Did you ever think of going it alone without a record company and self releasing it?
Well believe me it is a complicated story and it is hard to understand the internet repercussion on music. Many bands, especially the younger bands try to rebel against the labels but for me personally we have been working with labels since 1995 and I am not the kind of guy that is going to sit at their table eating dinner and then is going to bitch about it. I was never that knave. I knew if I went to dinner with the label I would be the one inviting so I am very pragmatic about labels. I think the bands have to have more independence like Moonspell has like we have our own crew, our own studio but we want to be musicians as well. What happens to bands when they take care of everything is they lack the romantic parts of writing and playing live and we don’t want to miss that so we approached the agents and the labels and on a more face to face label. We had a project and it is all done and it is better for everyone. We know what we want and they give us suggestions. I am not denying that promoters and labels and agents are still very important and without them there wouldn’t be a scene. There are a lot of people that talk a lot on the internet but those people are not booking shows. They have their ideals but reality will show them otherwise.
Tell us about the making of the video for Lickanthrope.
We didn’t have much time because we could only have the place for a couple of days so I personally worked for 26 hours with breaks and the other people like the crew were working for more than 30 hours straight. It was very intense work. I wanted a very simple video like an idea like a masquerade with a lot of outcasts from literature like the big bad wolf and red riding hood, lots of fantasy characters then I called a friend of mine who loves horror movies and the video is an extension of what we are so he had a lot of connections in the film community in Portugal and there were extras and choreography and the makeup was prosthetics and it was a very long process and the video already won an award in Portugal by a cinema club that is quite big.
What is the best show the band has played in the last year?
That would be our release party in Lisbon. We played a 3000 arena that was packed for the release and we got to play Alpha Noir and Omega White, both albums and we never did that after and it was quite special because the album was just out and it was a very bold thing to do. That was a good show but we have just been to the States and we had some really cool shows over there. Small clubs and I think we are having good shows all around.
Are you still learning new things in the business?
This business is always under mutation so nowadays with all the internet I think things got more real and a musician nowadays has to be talented and passionate and when I talk to most musicians nowadays they don’t want to know if I like my music or if I am passionate about it. They want to know about career moves. They want to know addresses and business cards so that stuff with the professional music is annoying and it won’t get you anywhere. What I have learned is regardless of your success or your exposure, if you don’t have a deep passion for what you do you are definitely in the wrong business. Many bands go away after their heights because they were only concerned about being professionals. I have lived for music since 1996. Moonspell came together in 1992 and sometimes I had a shittier life and sometimes things were better and it always comes and goes. Now we have a positive vibe and so what I have learned is that it is a cliché but there is always something to learn and to get back from the past and nowadays how music is done, besides the internet, there is more care, and we have decided to do a small tour so we can dedicate ourselves more to the people. A couple of years ago we only did festivals or supported in bigger places and all people want to see is for example at the Underworld and not some other place in London. I think that is something that you should never forget.
Have you got any message for your fans?
Well get hold of a copy of Alpha Noir and Omega White, they are a cool musical expansion of Moonspell so you will like it because it is a very complete album. Catch us live whenever. Carry on listening to good music, Metal or otherwise.