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De terugkeer naar een harder Moonspell geluid wat vorig jaar resulteerde in het machtige 'Memorial' heeft nog een staartje gekregen. De band nam al hun oud materiaal terug op – waaronder opnamen die al lang niet meer te vinden waren – en verzamelde ze op het album 'Under Satanae'. Wie de band leerde kennen met 'Wolfheart' of 'Irreligious' kan nu zijn verzameling completeren en zal besluiten dat de magie van Moonspell al in de prille begindagen aanwezig was. Lords of Metal praatte met zanger Fernando Ribeiro die met weemoed terugdenkt aan de eerste stappen van een band die zou uitgroeien tot de populairste Portugese metal band ooit. Respect!

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder black metal

band imageYou recorded all the old stuff again. When did the idea of re-recording come into being?
I believe that the idea was always in the back of our minds when we originally recorded the songs way back in the early nineties. Because even though we felt that the songs had great potential – it were quite original songs for the black metal that was made and listened to in the early nineties – we always had a lot of trouble with the production. It was very hard to record metal in Portugal, because the producers did not take the bands seriously. So it was really a problem for the bands to get a decent production. Also I think in the beginning our ideas were too big for our technical skills, so we had to improve them. Basically I see 'Under Satanae' as our dreams come true. They were not dreamt right now, but they have been dreamt in the early nineties. If we could have done 'Under The Moonspell' and the demo like we did fifteen years later, now, we would have done. The reason for this project and re-recordings was to pay some justice to the songs and in our opinion I think it was achieved. The other reason was, during our travelling around the world and touring, a lot of the fans worldwide complained they could not find the songs. Especially the demo songs and the Morbid God song were impossible to find because they were only released back then as tapes. They always asked us to do a re-mastering, to put everything on CD, but for Moonspell that would not have been the thing to do, so we went further and just re-recorded the whole thing. They now can have something stronger, more up to date and I hope they definitely enjoy it.

I played my old version of 'Under The Moonspell' again and it really makes a difference sound-wise…
I think the room for improvement was definitely on the sound. Some find it charming, but where other people see charm, I mostly see… mistakes, let's say (smiles). Shortcomings in a way. I think definitely one of the most defined goals was to improve the sound.

And why did you choose Tue Madson and not Waldemar Sorychta you always work with?
Not any particular reason really. 'Under Satanae' was also a good album to experiment with people and we had already too much under our eye by the works he did with bands like The Haunted, Rob Halford and especially Dark Tranquillity. As a modern producer I think it will be great to see the clash between a very traditional, old yet original and wild Mediterranean black metal band to a more modern approach of recording stuff. Basically I think it was great to use him and we definitely like what he did. I think 'Under Satanae' sounds as good as 'Memorial' or any other Moonspell album. I can tell you that we are using him for our next album, together with Waldemar. We do the pre-production in Portugal, but then we will record the stuff in Denmark again at Antfarm Studios.

You are working at a new album already, I have heard?
Yes indeed. We actually only stopped in order to get more into 'Under Satanae', because even though it is a project and it is not our new album - and our new album is more important than these re-recordings – we did not want to make it a weak album. Actually the only condition we had for this album, the only compromise was: “If it sounds fake, we will not release it.” But I think it sounds very true and powerful, so that's why we released it.

You came back very strong with 'Memorial'. I think it was a great success, isn't it?
I believe it was. Obviously in our days music is very, very different and also the fans are very different from when we started. In the early nineties I think people were less cynical and more open-minded in their hearts and minds, nowadays it is a more difficult seduction. Basically Moonspell never has that many expectations when we release an album. We want to make good, powerful, original, atmospheric music. It seemed that 'Memorial' had these qualities and could enthusiasm people, never take that for granted. We have worked hard on 'Memorial', as we have worked hard on other albums in which people were not so interested. Basically I think it is all like a big cycle. And a band has to be ready for every response from the crowd, but also has to try harder to get our music across to the crowd. And 'Memorial' in times of crisis was appreciated. It feels good, because it is recognition for long hours and years of work and dedication.

Was the success of 'Memorial' another reason for digging a bit more in the past?
No, it has nothing to do with it. It were truly the reasons I said before. Maybe it was an advantage that 'Memorial' was a fast album. So we were a bit used to play the harsh stuff again when starting the re-recordings for 'Under Satanae'. But we want people to see this as a separate thing, as a tribute, like someone picking up an old photograph and reconstructing it. Not spoiling the original image, but to see it more clear in a way.

Are there things you will always remember from that period?
Our history, as every early period of a band, is full of episodes. I think that the recordings of 'Under The Moonspell' for instance were quite episodic. In the end all these episodes contributed to not being happy with the sound and the production of 'Under The Moonspell'. We released it anyway because we had no chance to record it again back in 1994. We drove to the studio here in Portugal near where I used to live, a very small studio and even though our label at that time had paid a deposit, we were instantly kicked out. The owner said that he did not find anything on his bank and he had a broken hand, so the first episode of the recordings was that we were kicked out of the studio and going home, frustrated. Then eventually we started recording it and in the midst of recordings more famous Portuguese bands came for their recordings and they just took over the studio. We were kicked out again. All our recordings and set-ups and equalizations were gone. We had to do almost everything again from the scratch. We recorded it again with much pressure from the owner because he wanted us to go, even though we paid. It was a very Portuguese thing to do. In the end we recorded it and we were getting ready for the mix. We had to mix it throughout the night. He was always trying to kick us out and the cherry on top of the ice-cream was that our producer's grandfather died, so he had to go. And some other guys came in out of nowhere and told us: “We don't like the sound, let's do everything again”. And that is why it is so unbalanced in a way.

What a story! You must have had lots of perseverance…
It was more patience. We were kids and we were very naïve. We were very repressed. By our parents, by everyone. In the studio was not a professional attitude, but we did what we could do at that time. It happened already with Morbid God and with the demo. The story was not quite different.

At that time you used the pseudonyms of your names, more than now. Can you tell anything about that?
That comes really from the tradition of metal, especially black metal. We did not feel like we were able to assume our given names, so we created “personas”. Those personas had names. Mine was Langsuyar; that meant something like an androgynous vampire. At that time everybody had to pick up a name and we thought in order to be more in tune with the spirit of this re-release that we would use the nicknames again, because I think they do fit very well this kind of music which is more mystical, less personal in a way, much more occult.

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There is a kind of similarity in the artwork too. Is it a mix between the EP 'Under The Moonspell' and the demo?
We are very happy with the idea of the cover art which is the idea of a friend of ours. He is a very good graphic designer and he used to play guitar in a very good Portuguese band long ago called The Cave. There was a big friendship between the bands back then because he understands very well the concept and all the spirits, the feelings of those ages, so we came up with the idea of making something alike the cover but instead of using photoshop or photography, using a drawing. There is actually a picture with that cover artwork and I think that's great because it is not so common nowadays and it is very, very old-school. It totally fits the purpose of this record and there are many elements. Not only from the demo and Morbid God and 'Under The Moonspell' EP, but here and there some elements that have to do with the band throughout the years and the symbols we have been using for Moonspell.

Like what?
Like for instance if you look attentively inside the crystal ball, there is the all-seeing eye there, the eye of Horus. There is the “moon-gram”, as we call it. There is the goat, which was the cover of the 'Anno Satanae' demo and so on. You can discover many things by looking at it. The finished product opens up with a big poster that reveals all the cover, that part on the promo is just a detail.

In this time of reflection: what can you tell about your development as lyricist of the band?
Well, I always look to the lyrics as a very important part of any band. Whenever I got into a band, I'd try to do my best to make the lyrics a very fundamental part of Moonspell and that goes for all the albums and for every period. Basically the lyrics of 'Under Satanae' are lyrics that are very ritualistic, satanic and occult in a way, but these are also lyrics I wrote when I had a different understanding of things. It does not mean that I am totally divorced of this subject, but it means that I evolved as a person and I look to those subjects with much more maturity now than during this youthful rebellion I had at that time. But even singing now these old lyrics when compared to the actual black metal bands, it is still making this kind of subject available on the releases. It is great to see that the lyrics are still valid and good. But obviously with Moonspell we always want to create better and better lyrics and better stuff. Basically I think the lyrics were evolving in the way I write, in the use of English language and so on. For instance 'Tenebrarum Oratorium', these are good lyrics, still. But of course the Moonspell of de EP and the Moonspell of 'Memorial' has an evolution of ten years between it.

Can you tell something about the new album?
Of course we are still collecting bits and pieces. The record is … being born in a way. Not being born, more being conceived, let's say. So we have lots of scattered things going on and it should be too early to speak about the lyrical and musical direction. It takes at least some more weeks to see what comes out.

You won the MTV Europe Music Awards a while ago for best Portuguese band in 2006. How do you look at this?
It was quite a surprise. 2007 was a good year for Moonspell. Basically I think that the Portuguese metal fans wanted to make a statement by voting for us. It is nothing really more than that. It is a cool award, it is in my office but on the other hand it has not changed Moonspell. I don't feel we are a better or a worse band by winning it. I think it is a great change of mentality because our first approach with MTV was that they censored our video 'Opium'. Right now they give us this award. Maybe it means that they are changing their ways which is important because metal – like any other kind of music – needs a place to be executed and a place for the fans to watch the videos with quality. Obviously you can do that now on but it is always good to have some TV supporting the metal scene as well.

The release show of 'Under Satanae' is on the 31st of October. It is with Root, the Czech band with Big Boss as singer…
Big Boss sang on one song of 'Memorial'. Even though they are not a very famous band in the scene, for me they were very influential, especially now that we will play a lot of songs from the past, when the Root influence was very, very heavy on Moonspell. I think they are the best band we can have to support this show.

This summer a compilation of Moonspell was released. Did you contribute to it or was it just an idea of Century Media?
Yes, it was a best of. It was basically an idea from Century Media. Every label, when an important band goes away from them, they do a “best of” or something similar. I have chosen to involve myself because they would have released it anyway, but on the other hand it is good to have something to say because I hate it when bands don't do anything about it and later they complain. For me I still like Century Media a lot. They are going to re-release 'Wolfheart' and 'Irreligious' again as well. I am glad to help them, it is better for the fans I believe.

I told Fernando that I have 'Irreligious' on vinyl and asked him if he is into vinyl?
Yeah, very much. I had more vinyl in the past. Like many metalheads I have changed my vinyl into CDs. I regret it, but I still have many vinyls and here and there I listen to it. I think the sound is incredible. Better than CD or at least more charming. And on the other hand it is much better than any MP3. The other day I was listening to 'Atom Heart Mother' by Pink Floyd and it is a great record.

We had to round off because next interviewer was about to call and so I finished with the next question.

What are your expectations of the Bucharest show and did you ever played there before?
I think the Bucharest show will be postponed because the venue is not available. It is under construction. Whenever we get news from our agency, we will choose another date. We have played Romania, in Timisoara and it was great. We had like a thousand seven hundred people and the promoter was even expecting more for Bucharest, so judging from the Timisoara show, the expectations are very good. We will give the best of the 'Memorial' CD, the best of 'Under Satanae' and obviously all the Moonspell classics everyone wants to hear. We like to play live. People who have seen us live know that we not only do it to entertain or to create a show, but it is a ritual. It is one of the best moments in our lives as mortals and so we always give everything we have live. And the Bucharest show definitely will be one of the very few shows we have chosen to do before the end of the year. So I guess it will be great!

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