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In Words: Moonspell

- Fernando Ribeiro - February 2000 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Moonspell: Fernando Ribeiro - live 2000
Claudia Ehrhardt

Fernando Ribeiro - Cologne (Germany), February, 6th 2000

It's been quite a while since I met the guys in Moonspell and talked to Fernando.... Now they are touring with their latest album The Butterfly Effect and I took the chance to chat about the album and more...

Your new album The Butterfly Effect is again different to the predecessor. How been the reaction so far?

Well, I mean they are quite good. I think that people nowadays are pretty confused about metal music so far. There is a lot of competition, but this quantity doesn't bring quality at all. People are relating to The Butterfly Effect, I think, exactly because of that. Even if it's not an album which follows the tradition of what so ever are the rules of metal, it's an album done with honesty and quality. Of course there are people who doesn't like it, but there are a lot of people who like it. It's selling very well in Europe and the best reaction is that the people respect Moonspell! That's exactly what we were searching for.

You talked about honesty, I think people understand you, coz that honesty is obvious due to the changes you been through since the release of the debut. The changes always been risky, you could have loose a lot of fans, but you did it, coz it was what you wanted to do at that moment in your lives. And people respect that, I think.

I hope so!!! I think that we play the stuff we play with conviction. We don't follow any trend. We were lucky in 1996 that Irreligious became a big album for whatever it is in Germany and people turned into this kind of music. We easily could have done Irreligious Pt. 2! But that won't make sense, after all... Our music is a gathering of emotions and motivations which we represent. This is, of course, what we were searching for ourselves as persons in Wolfheart which was not the same that we were searching for in The Butterfly Effect. I think that even work without saying it and for sure we developed our own style. We want people to recognize that it's Moonspell, but we also change a little bit.

I think it's also important for yourself to change a little bit...

Well, I mean you have to... When you do a new album, why call it new when it's a kind of repetition of the last...

Yeah, but there are a few bands which do that more or less successful...

There are a lot of bands.... There are bands that I like, even if they sound almost the same and I understand that. But we are searching for something else. We are different persons and therefore we have different emotions which makes us different to the mentioned bands. We kinda need to transfer these emotions into our sound. Nowadays it's trendy to sound old and to be into the past or whatever. I can understand that it's not only in the metal genre, you can see the 80's revival in music in general. For us it's important to stick to our own generation and for us to be contemporary is a must for Moonspell! Of course you learn from the past and but shall try to escape from it.

Hopefully, coz many don't learn from the past...

I think we learnt some stuff, some songs we didn't like, we don't repeat them.

And I think even the touring experience coursed some changes. When you started you came from Portugal which for us who we are not from Portugal, has almost no metal scene. Through the touring, I think, you got influenced, coz this experience influence you as a person.

Touring is a very fast life, but on the other hand you have all the time in the world. A lot of time is waiting and you just play about 1 hrs. or 1 ½ hrs., when you're headlining. So you have a lot of time to think of certain things. Moonspell is in my opinion a band which reaches the fans through the live show. When we released Wolfheart it wasn't because we thought of this, no. It was a kind of marking our territory or trying to do that. Due to that fact our nationality was a part of it, songs like Alma Mater for example. When we released the album, just a few people were into that and that changes while we toured with Morbid Angel in 1995. That turned a lot of people into the music of Moonspell, especially here in Germany. Even nowadays we still think as a Portuguese band, we are still differ from a lot of other bands due to the fact that we are Portuguese. People who know us from the touring or people who worked for us on tour, know what I'm talking about, but it's hard to explain. On the other hand we have a more universal approach as we don't wanna be Moonspell from Portugal. First we want to be Moonspell and just on 2nd spot we want to be Portuguese.

I think the aim is to bring both into your music whatever it'll sound like.


To bring you universal side and your Portuguese side together.

Yeah, it's a balance. Honestly we have a problem with Portuguese people, coz... Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe. Actually, people have a very mixed background. In the past every ancient culture been in Portugal from the Romans to the Arabian and all this kinda created the Portuguese mentality and personality. So the Portuguese culture is very universal, in my opinion.

For most fans you are the only band they know from Portugal....

There are a lot of bands and a lot of talent! It's cool that people know Moonspell from Portugal and especially because Portuguese fans can talk to e.g. Swedish fans according to Moonspell. But we are not the first heavy metal band in Portugal and we won't be the last. Most bands can't offer a musical project which catch the interest of people. That was a problem when we started touring outside Portugal, we got criticize a lot, especially from the people in Portugal and by other bands. I don't know what's the reason for them to criticize, I think every bands wants to expand. We were very much criticized in the beginning and I think it was because we wrote good music which the people been interested in.

Usually if a band makes it from the national to the international scene like Moonspell did, there are other bands following, but in that case there are still a very few bands... Most people, I think, don't know any other band from Portugal. Do you have an explanation for it?

It's been...

I think that you have the chance to bring other bands into the public eye...

We tried, we already advised some bands to our label Century Media. It's quite hard to support the Portuguese scene. Sometimes the bands is not seriously into the music or whatever. There are a lot of circumstance which make us fail to help other Portuguese bands to make it on an international level. Moonspell is known since 1995 and Heavenwood played in Germany and made themselves known with 2 albums and they played Wacken. There is a death metal band called Sacred Sin which did a European tour. But still there is a big gap! The impact Moonspell do have is not big enough, even if we are part of the European scene and have a big following. You are right, if you look back there is no one following our trace. Probably the fans are just into Moonspell and aren't interesting in other bands from Portugal.

Perhaps it helps that you try to drag these other Portuguese bands into the spotlight and recommend them to labels, etc.

I hope so. I mean, most important is their work, not our recommendation.

Right, but probably without your recommendation, people would never be aware of a band...

We talk a lot. We have a lot of friends and... When we worked on Morbid God there was a double compilation album of unsigned Portuguese bands and I was in my apartment and I looked at the record and all these other bands split up or doing nothing. Beside Morbid God who eventually became Moonspell, nothing happened! There is no substance and we can't help, if there is no substance... At the beginning it was very hard for us, now they are looking at us...

Probably it's coz you had to fight your way to this level of your career and other bands gave up to early. I think that's one of the reasons.

Yes, when we first toured for 8 weeks on a van, it wasn't easy and I don't know other Portuguese bands who would have done that. Especially if they had a good deal like we had with Century Media. Portugal.. it's not just metal music, it's a general problem of the arts. Also the industry... It's the country of the small glory, it's always this "15 min. of fame"-thing. It's easy to get on a TV show or get a record deal these days, but it's hard to get a career. Moonspell is a long term band, we don't have immediate success and we never had it and for sure we'll never have it.

You're still working on it.


But you are fortunated, coz you can do a lot of touring in Europe, you're on the road for several weeks, that's something many bands can just dream of. With this package you're touring several weeks and I think to have Kreator on this package make some people come to the shows who won't come just to see Moonspell. Kreator are well-known and I think that helps you to expand your following.

I know that they are well-known!

I think it's a good package, coz due to their change they got musically closer to what you're doing.

Definately it's a good package. Kreator been well-known and they sold a lot of records and because of that they have a problem, their past! The trend is the past and the fans think that they been very good in the past and that the future is not existing. It's mainly the vibe of metal nowadays, but they did a very elegant grow, I think. Endorama is a very good album and I think it's their best album for a long time. It sounds like Kreator, but it's contemporary. It's cool to team up with them and our audience is more used to that kind of stuff. People who listened to them in the mid-80's won't come to see them these days. It's an interesting package and we get along very well. Even if Moonspell is headlining, it's a good co-operation and it doesn't feel like headliner - support... Got me?

Yeah, I think they are around for years and they know that this is a special guest spot and they can handle it. They know that this is the right thing to do at this moment of their career.

That happened to us before... In 1996 we played a lot of festivals and Cradle Of Filth played before us and nowadays if we would play festivals we would play before them. We don't really concern about that, if we play 60 or 90 min., as long as we can play, it's fine for us!

And you give your support a chance and treat them very good...

That's right, I always tell them that they have no limitations. Moonspell have their own show and special stuff put up for us. We use that and we pay for it, so... Beside that they can use everything.

I think that has something to do with the culture you grow up with. I found out that bands from Southern Europe or South America are more willing to give a helping hand and that they taking it more as a challenge. They want to kinda win a fair fight and not because they have the better equipment.

I think that's a healthy competition on stage. When we played with Morbid Angel we had nothing! But we wanted to be better as Morbid Angel and after the tour we sold more records than Morbid Angel! I mean I like the band, but we kinda won this competition! It felt good for us, coz we played under shitty conditions and been treated bad by their management sometimes, but we could pull it off. So that's what I say to all bands... Bands like Type O'Negative, we learnt a lot from them. I remember that we played somewhere, I can't remember where it was, but we had projections and stuff and they had the trees. Pete Steele went on stage and told the crew to take off the trees, coz it wasn't part of our show. You have to learn from the best. We toured with a lot of bands, a lot of smaller bands and we were smaller and we had a lot of limitations then. After all, when you're touring with a package, it's just the way it is or you tour alone...

I think that's the way it should be, but many bands don't see it that way...

I know, I met a few of these bands...

Back to the album.... How you came up with the title The Butterfly Effect?

It's a theory which always was interesting for me, coz I'm not a very scientific person, but I like some branches of it. And I studied some branches of it, so... I always liked the chaos theory, coz it's more than just science, it's science of the unpredictable and it killed a lot of this boring rational things and the environment we are living in. I mean, the butterfly effect is originally a scientific theory which was created by a guy called Edward Lawrence in the States and... He started with... "How big like a natural disaster is coming without a course?" During his studies he comes across that there was a course, but it was so insignificant! The science did not comprehend it. And so he created the famous sentence about the butterfly flying in Japan and which can created a tornado in Texas, etc. And even if this is scientific, it's true and beautiful at the same time, coz when you apply to life it's exactly like this. We are starving for the absolute, we are supposed to be driven by the absolute, but what really controls our life is the insignificant! And I was trying to do an album like this, because it's something that I live through every day. And the title could represent it, so butterfly effect was perfect.

It's an unusual topic for a metal band...


...most bands don't have interesting lyrics like that, they almost write about daily life. I mean, this is about daily life also, but in a different way. In a more scientific way and probably people will think about it...

I don't know... I don't know, if it's good or bad... I can't say it's normal or not. I don't know if it's a privilege or a fault... Perhaps I have different thoughts or codes than other people and vice versa. For me when I speak about daily life or something, it can be real or unreal... The album is written in a more abstract form... Not in a concrete scientific form. The Butterfly Effect is probably a heavy title and people might think I try to be intellectual. But if people learn something from Moonspell as they did with Opium where they learnt about this Portuguese poet or at Wolfheart. Metal is not only entertainment! We can entertain people, but I think that the educational part of the music is very important. So why not getting people used to different stuff? I think in the big picture of all these metal titles and the dragons and fantasy and this and that, it's good to have some bands which can create something people have to think about. Moonspell wants to be part of it, even it's harder to do. It's much more rewarding when you go on your internet page and you see people from Poland reading Fernando Pesoa! And it's just because they get in touch with it due Opium. I think that's really art! That is really grateful and I think we'll stick to it. We won't do the obvious things...

You talked about your web page. I guess you have a webmaster, but how much are you involved in it?

I'm very involved and first I respect very much the work our webmaster is doing! It started not really as a joke, but I didn't know much about internet at that time. Almost nothing! I just heard of that, it was somewhere in 1995... When I leant more about it, I got more and more into it. It's a great vehicle for information and it's something that doesn't need to be cheap... Together Adriano, our webmaster, I'm trying to do a page that can stand also a little bit in difference to others, a little bit like what Moonspell is doing sometimes on the dark metal scene. It's a page which besides all the usual stuff has another kind of subpages which are more turned to arts, philosophy and stuff. I keep there an article monthly called World of Infamy which is about the spiritual references of Moonspell. We try to have a page which can represent us. Our page nowadays is more than flash technology and animation, it's also this articles, there is a forum where people can communicate with us. Not only about Moonspell, also about instruments, tabulatures, etc. We have also a place where we present new bands who allowed us to put there stuff up. Not only bands, also other artists, poets, etc. We have a lot of different stuff and actually it's a lot of work! It's a page where you can spend hours visiting...

I think people like pages like yours, they appreciate when there is more than just news, biography, tour dates, etc.

We have that, too.

It has to be a part of the page, but everything else makes it more interesting probably.... And it gives the fans an idea about the persons who are Moonspell.

But I always say to the fans to prefer the music and not the persons, coz it's much more mystic in a way...

But if they won't be interested in the music, they won't be interested in the persons behind...

Sure, but Moonspell is a band we control very much, fortunately, beside all the engagements we have with labels, etc. We do what we want and that's it! On the other hand.... Besides this control there is a big research space for people, that's why people tell me after the release of The Butterfly Effect that they didn't like it. I told them to listen to it again and again and probably they kinda discovered it and like it now.

I think the communication between the fans and the band probably shows you how people feel about the songs... How they interpretate the songs and that may effects you.... That is much easier with internet... You can keep in touch with people you probably will never meet...

It's interesting, coz sometimes you learn, not every time... Even if I'm very much into our website, I'm not very much in our conversation channels. It's not just talking about Moonspell, it's about many different things and on our page we can control that. On the other hand people married in Poland because of our webpage!

Isn't that crazy?

It is! It's crazy in the way that we control the band or at least we try, but when you listen to things like that it overcomes you. In another way it's interesting, I heard a lot bad things about Moonspell and I also heard a lot of very interesting things about Moonspell which influenced me lyrically and also influenced our music!

That's what makes inter­net interesting and it makes the communication possible.

At least people write and that's very important!

Of course there were the possibility to get in touch before we had internet, but it takes more time to write and to post a letter. It's faster and I think you'll get more reactions from the fans.

Definately and from more people!

Especially if people can see the band live or at TV or listen to them on radio...

In Portugal we don't have much magazines and they are full with bands who have a big lobby. But we have a lot of radio stations on local level which supporting metal. Even if they broadcast in the night, they do have a faithful audience. But internet is pretty cool, if I want to put some news up, it's faster to posted it on our page... Faster than anything else! Fortunately we had many visitors until the time our server was down for 3 or 4 days due to the many people who wanted to access the page! The page is a cool thing and we want to keep it. We're organizing our fan club, but so far the internet information is a more direct contact.

They album is out for quite a while. Now you're touring. Have you started writing new stuff already?

No, not yet. It's strange for us. The album was recorded in July and was out at the end of September. Then we toured in the States with In Flames until the end of November. We spend the December in Portugal and now we are on tour in Europe. Later we'll return to the States, so it's hard to compose something in the meantime. But then again,... For The Butterfly Effect... It's a different album, we wanted an different attitude. This stuff we wanted to play live, we don't want to put down the old stuff, but this songs have live a different meaning and we would like to play them live a lot. The best reactions we get always for Opium, but for Can't Be we almost get the same strong reactions. So we want to see how far this is going. I think after the summer we'll start working on new material.

You said that you toured with In Flames in the States and that you'll return. So it seems to be pretty good for you there.

It was very surprising for us. We were expecting nothing! People thing that there is a kind of safety in Europe, but Moonspell are doing so much different stuff in Europe... I remember 1997, where we play 30-something festivals which is almost every festival which can be played! It was quite good to see that the reactions in the States are quite good and that the turnover of people wasn't what we been expecting. The Europeans need to see Moonspell live to see what Moonspell is about... The vibe at that tour was quite cool, so we'll be back there with a new package.

Okay, so what was the most bizarre place you ever played?

Nothing really bizarre, coz due to the fact that we come from Portugal it was bizarre to play there before we did the international tours. We had a very exotic gig in Istanbul, we've played Chile, Columbia, Argentina, but we've still to play the most exotic places like Israel. I would love to play there! We tour the States, but we still missing to play in Japan and in Australia which we really would like to do.

I can imagine that!

So we had to end the interview, other journalists waited for Fernando. There were answers that I didn't expect that way and I think somewhere in future I have to pick up the scientific topic again.... Definately an interesting conversation!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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