Hi Mike, how are you doing?
Fine, but very busy! We have the release, the release party, the interviews and I have a one and a half year old baby now… a daughter…
Wow, that’s really hectic!
We have three release shows here in Portugal, then in Spain and some more shows in Portugal. It is a great production with special guests for the single and we have to rehearse for that…
Well, Moonspell has always had that Portuguese tinge in the music, but this time it is everywhere on the album, with the central topic of the Portuguese earthquake in 1755…
This has been a famous subject since I was a kid, because I grew up in the US and we always got training what you should do in case of an earthquake. In San Francisco it has always been an issue where I grew up. But this earthquake has affected Portugal in many ways. So many people have lost their lives. Napalm Records was very enthusiastic about it, because originally we wanted to include four songs on a DVD about it, but the topic was so huge that we decided to expand it to a whole album. It was a huge disaster in Lisbon. Not only the earthquake was devastating, but the fires, the plague, the sicknesses it caused… In the end they just threw dead bodies into the Atlantic, because there were so many people who had died. They have never been buried, they have a common grave in the ocean. It almost sounds like a horror movie. It is sad and still people ignore it if an earthquake happens in Mexico for example, but we should be aware that we have to live with it. And do something about it.
Did people interpret it as a sign of God at that time?
Yes, that’s the whole thing and it felt incredible for us. At that time we were still one of the most Catholic countries of the planet and it happened on the first of November, one of the most famous religious holidays. So people saw it as a sign of god. It was just an earthquake, but it ruined over forty churches. Not only we had the earthquake, but many fires occurred and then the tsunami came on top. Many people were devastated, but as a good thing seismology came on top as a science. Something that can be explained, at least we had a notion of what was going on. That’s why I am so excited about the subject. This earthquake was felt all over Europe and people all started to write about it. It was felt until and had 9 on the Scale of Richter. With this catastrophe we also want to warn people these days, because it can happen everywhere and again. People should be ware and especially in schools I think there is no program anyway about what to do when an earthquake occurs. Nobody knows what to do. I was born in Massachusetts and since we have a lot of snow storms and hurricanes, I was taught as a kid what to do in case of these events and save yourself. I think that is very important. It is also a wakeup call for my country, because long ago countries were already very open-minded, but we were still living in the view and shadow of the church. They were burning people as witches for a long time. Just not so long ago we had these thoughts about what is right or wrong, I still feel that in our country and I hope that this album can bring people to other thoughts, more free, more decent, more happy. I am so happy in my metal community and I like to stick with that. If you see what religion has done to the world… it brought so many wars. Especially when I am looking at my daughter, so fragile and young… it is so hard to explain the future. I cannot understand that someone would hate you, because you just have another religion. That is one of the reasons we started making music: making people aware of open-minded lives without dogmas. When I see what happens in the US now – I have been living there until I was twelve – it is so unbelievable. Since I was eighteen I toured the world, but when I see all the security in airports now, that goes beyond imagination. It is very strange now. When we went to Colombia and saw military services at the entrance, we somehow expected it, but now in Belgium and the Netherlands you see armed guards at the entrance. This is incredible! All the metal detectors and controls have come to our areas. We had to go through a huge tent of security before flying from Brussels and tanks were outside in case something happens. These are different times, it seems… we were on tour when the attack in Paris happened, these are things we never thought it could exist…
When coming back to the album… what changed after the earthquake…
People used all the rocks from the churches to build up their own houses again. What do you want? They had nothing anymore. They tried to survive. The streets changed after the earthquake. Marquis von Pombal was very important for that. He built up large parts of the city again with renewed facilities. The harbor and our trade was damaged. That needed to be developed again. All through Europe changes were happening.
Is Marquis von Pombal still honored in your country?
Yes, he is very famous. One of the most famous rulers we ever had.
Fado singing is very famous in Portugal, but as you said, metal is still not mainstream in Portugal. How did you meet someone like the fado singer Paulo Bragança and what about this contribution?
He is a fado singer, but he is special. In the fado tradition he has always been like the black sheep of the family. He has always been very open-minded and free, while fado is ultimately traditional. The true traditional fado is about sadness, sung with a lot of pain. He sings like that. We met him in the nineties and the only guy we went along with at a traditional evening was he. He got drunk, he played guitar, he was friendly and he sings barefoot for having more feeling with the music. A friend of mine calls him ‘the fallen angel’ of the fado scene in Portugal. After that meeting he disappeared for years. First when we tried to contact him, we could not find his trace. But fortunately through Facebook, last minute he answered and he said he would love to participate. He did an amazing job and he will be on our release show in Portugal. Fado is our root and we cannot ignore it and I remember that from a Finnish producer we once worked with, Hiili Hiilismaa… - he has been working with HIM and Apocalyptica - he was the first guy who said that our guitars sounded very different. A Finnish metal guy would never play like that. He called us a fado metal band (laughs). I never forgot that. We had to sing in English to be part of the metal scene in the beginning, but even though we sang in English, there have always been Portuguese influences. Since the beginning we had small parts in Portuguese and these parts have always been very special for the audience. Like ‘Alma Mater’. I never really noticed it until now. But it seems to be important. That’s why we don’t worry about this album being sung in Portuguese. We have Rammstein, Sólstafir, Finntroll… nobody understands them… and as a matter of fact… when we tour, half of the world does not speak English haha (laughs). We have seen this in the past. I think it is important to do this for a band like us, because not so many bands do that and we even have made a Spanish version of ‘Desastre’. That will be a bonus track and it will be fun to play when we perform in Spanish speaking areas. The idea came into being in Mexico. I think people over there will go crazy when they hear it.
Who is the band Paralamas Do Sucesso?
They are a huge band in Brazil and we decided to do a cover of them, because it is the same language and because of our connection with Brazil. We have so much amazing memories of touring over there. Our version is a lot more doomy with Type O’Negative influences. We also liked to work with Jon Phipps for the orchestral arrangements. This was the second time. I think the team making this album was really amazing.
Soon you will go on tour with Cradle Of Filth and that will not be the first time I guess?
It is a great tradition over the years indeed. We have a special connection. The first time I met Dani was in 1994 at this festival in the North of Portugal. We were camping and I remember I met Dani and their drummer Nicolas and we gave them our first EP and in return they gave us ‘The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh’. We traded T shirts, ate traditional Portuguese food. After that we stayed in touch and they decided to come and play in Lisbon, we supported them in that same year and we helped to organize it. They stayed at our houses. They weren’t known at that time. We felt like kids among each other and after all those years there is still a bond. I remember their first show. It was the first time I saw a band with corpse paint and they had candles with fire all over the stage. Wow! I thought it felt like a ceremony, only for us, one that we invented and we were proud of it. Our generation. And that feeling still lingers on. Of course all the band members in Cradle, they have changed a lot, but Dani is still there. The current drummer, Marthus, actually has a photo with me from when he was sixteen. We played in Czech Republic at the ‘Irreligious’ tour and he came to the show with his father. Isn’t that cute? And now we will tour together again!
And you both got famous in the nineties…
Yes, we have a big history and it will be a long and big tour!