RockOverdose and Zisis Petkanas had the chance to chat with mastermind of MOONSPELL, Fernando Ribeiro on their new album “Hermitage”, coming up on the 26th of February 2021, via Napalm Records.
Ribeiro comments on the new album making process, details regarding their music evolution and about their recent line up changes.
RockOverdose: Fernando, welcome to Rock Overdose Greece.
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Thank you very much and Kalispera (good evening in greek). It’s great to be back, at least at the whereabouts of Greece, it’s been too long.
RockOverdose: Do you have nice memories from our country?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Yes, of course, nice memories, nice friends, Some bad memories, too, because the last tour, we were unfortunate we couldn't go to Athens and then we had a lot of problems to solve with Moonspell so we couldn't go to Athens again. So I took the occasion of also publicly asking for the Greek fans, especially the Athenian fans, to be patient with us and to forgive us. And we hope to come back, of course, soon.
RockOverdose: You were supposed to play with Rotting Christ.
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Yes, Sakis already forgave me. So, you know, he's the king of Greek metal. So people have to forgive us, too. It was a great show. We were stuck at home with a lot of personal problems. It was just before covid that eventually led also to the split of Moonspell and Mike, our friend and ex drummer.
So, yeah, it was a mess. And, you know, it was a great tour with Rotting Christ. We managed to go to Thessaloniki and it was an amazing show. I got to go on stage with them. But it was just disappointing that Sakis and Themis know, we tried our best, but, you know, so we really look forward to another chance that we won't miss. Definitely not.
RockOverdose: Ok, the time will come that you will be able to play here in Greece again.
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Yes, yes. I hope Greeks are patient towards Moonspell, because right now, with everything that is happening, music and outside music patience is a very nice virtue. And with what we have now, it's great to have patience right now.
RockOverdose: But I think that patience sometimes comes to an end as well.
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Yes. But nowadays I see it comes to an end before it begins. And now people are not patient enough for anything. I understand that, you know, I'm from South Europe and patience is not our best virtue. We are not not Nordic people. We have to fight for a lot of stuff. And sometimes we want things to be quick. It's our way of being the so-called hot - blooded, you know.
But yeah, nowadays, even if I grow older as well, I try to look at things and try to find out that time sometimes can be really slow. 2022, we're going to be thirty years of Moonspell. Sometimes I look at it and never believe it and I look at it. I'm like, well, it went down so fast because I still remember, you know, being touring in ninety five for Wolfehart, e.t.c. But then again if you look at it, I'm 46, I'm doing music since I was 16, you know, and anything else. So I have to be patient. Without patience, I wouldn't be here, you know, even talking to you and you learn this the hard way.
RockOverdose: Yes. Time flies.
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Yeah. That's for sure. Yeah.
RockOverdose: But you are here and you will be here.
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Yes, I'm still here. I talk a lot with Sakis. We are very good friends. We keep in touch over the pandemic and everything else, not just music, you know, and we always, you know, remember stuff. He always encourages me as well and vice versa. And sometimes we disagree in things, but in one thing we agree. We're not giving up without a good fight. We owe that to our fans, to ourselves and to whoever ever went to a Moonspell show or bought a Moonspell record. Because if you ask me, this will be the perfect year to say goodbye, kalinihta. The curtain is down because it's hard to reinvent yourself all the time. You know, first, of course, this is a political financial, social big crisis, you know, but we already have many crises.
We've got people downloading our stuff for free and saying, well, musicians can live from air. And we adapted with good results. Today, I was cleaning all my vinyl and stuff. I had some very good Greek metal, for instance Flames, I got Summon the Dead, that's a very good record. I didn't even remember I had it and, you know, the vinyl came back again. So maybe there's a kind of compensation that we can make. But, you know, every day, every year there's a problem and we have to go and we have to solve it. So musicians are probably like cockroaches. You know, we are always surviving. But maybe sometimes I think one thing will put an end to everything, and every year, it reaches closer.
Nowadays, there's no live venues, as we talk, there's no touring. Normally in one year I do two hundred plane travels. Last year, I did only one. I don’t miss going on a plane or airports. I hate that. But times are definitely changing and I can’t say it's a good thing. I'm not the kind of guy that says, oh, I have time for my kids and my family. I always have time for my kid and the family, to listen to music. But I don't like to romanticize the quarantine. This was shit for everyone. It shouldn't have happened.
RockOverdose: I agree with you. So the reason why we are catching up with you today is the release of the new Moonspell album. Has this year affected the recording process at all? Or maybe it was a good opportunity to stay at the studio?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Well, not really. I mean, we started writing this record in 2017 and it turned a lot. It was somewhat like this, somewhat like that. So we felt thankful and grateful that we could go to the UK and record it with the producer we wanted, Jaimie Gomez Arellano of Paradise Lost. We are also evolving to a more psychedelic, atmospheric, more musical thing, not so heavy on the arrangements and not so operatic like 1755, kind of more a redux moonspell, just music, like playing in a room. So I don't think that the pandemic affected even the concept or the music or the time that we had, we had to improvise here and there and adapt.
But we were lucky enough to go on with the process and the recordings more or less the way we wanted to, and more or less with the logistics in the organization. But we really loved the time there because it was even more special. You know, everybody was at home and we were in lockdown. We were forbidden to travel. Then the next day everything was all right. You know, you have the same in Greece. So when I was in the plane to go and record the vocals and could enjoy some time just making music, I was like, wow, this is a privilege I know that many of my colleagues don't have. And nowadays it's not only the covid, it's also the stupid Brexit. We did an album in the UK, but maybe next time if we wanted to go to UK, we can't. So the world is really complicating our lives.
I mean, it's not only about music, whatever we can record in Germany, or in Greece. I wouldn’t mind recording in Greece, but it's just that sometimes I feel not very free, you know, I think that's what we really losing towards, it's not inspiration, it's not the music because you like it or you don't like it. We are free to to to do so. But then it's very hard to move around. But we have this album all prepared and all in our minds already. We finished in January 2020 and then we we were just expecting a window of time and opportunity to go to the UK and record. And we did.
I remember Gomez was in Portugal and then everything went to lockdown because Portugal was in the black list and then you try to buy a plane ticket. It was just very confusing sometimes.
RockOverdose: Yes, of course. And “Hermitage” is your 12th album. Is the creation process getting easier with each release?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): It gets different, I think that Moonspell is never happy with the music we do. It's been like this since Wolfheart. Everybody thinks this Irreligious. And for sure, I respect people's opinion. But insatisfaction, it's our true engine, you know, so it's not that we hate it, it's just that we feel we can do different.
Not better. Not worse, hopefully, but different. So that's the kind of engine that we use mostly for the songwriting. It works for us because for us making music, is not about sticking to a plan or to a formula. Maybe we don't know how to stick to a formula. I think a lot about this. So we try to go and do something that we find original and that we find good enough to share on an album. And Hermitage was not different when it came to that to that process. Pedro and Ricardo wrote the all the music, I wrote all the lyrics. I had the concept, we were many times together.
And then, as I said, in January 2020, we were still working on it. In March, we took a break because of the covid. And then when we could circulate again, we went to our studio to produce it and be together. So it was more or less the same process also with the new drummer, but different songs, different goals as well. And what I told Pedro and Ricardo, because there was a time I thought the music was like, can I say not going to the place that we were trying to? But I said, well, I think you guys are too stuck probably to the musical tradition or to the fear of losing fans and I believe hermitage is an album that not everybody would like, but true Moonspell fans will like it.
I'm sure this is very personal between us and them because he has a little bit of everything that we did. And it has an underlying statement that it's Moonspell playing in your room. It doesn't have special guests, it doesn't have girl singing, doesn't have, with all due respect, of course, doesn't have like orchestras. No, it's just, you know, what five guys in the band can do with their instruments and their capacities. And I think that's the message of the album. Honestly, I think that nowadays for us to keep together as a band, it's very important to make new music that is meaningful for us. And on the other hand, I know perfectly that we want to reach a great number of people, I think it's time. Our audience is already solid and the right people.
That's what we we want to do in the last years or in the few years that we still have left, as Moonspell. To play for people that love the experience of listening to music. Not to those people that are always like “ Aaah just back to the past”. Come on, I wanted to get back to the past, of course, when I had all my hair and I was a young wolf howling through the streets of Europe. But that's gone. So life is different now and music is different because of it as well.
RockOverdose: So it’s about evolution.
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): I think so. I mean, evolution is something that you do a lot in metal, sometimes even a bit too much. You know, I think just bands just mean well, they try to do whatever they they feel like. And some people like to please the fans more, some others like more to experiment. I believe there's a place for everything and if you you're not stupid about it like many people are, it goes into everything.
I mean, I have Bathory records, Hellhammer, I've got Craft, I got Rotting Christ, but also I get bauhaus and cigarettes after sex and Nick Cave, you know, even though my main music collection is metal and rock, I like to listen to other stuff. And even inside the metal, you can have Blind Guardian that I really like, especially imaginations from the other side. Katatonia as well. So I never saw why people were dividing. “Oh, this is true, this is false, this metal, this is not metal”.
I mean, I definitely consider Moonspell as a heavy metal band, maybe a dark metal band with some kind of different influences. But for instance, in the 90's, nobody had a problem with Tiamat doing Wildhoney. And it's Pink Floydish too. So I think, yes, you can say they've changed, but then you have to stay focused on the important things. I think that's very, very important for everyone, you know.
RockOverdose: And what are the first reactions from the press and the fans?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): I think most of them are very positive. I'm not obsessed about reading them, to be totally honest. With all due respect, I think our job is done when we leave the studio and then it's promotion, it's marketing... Someday you wake up and you like it. The other day you go to sleep at night, “Oh, this is not what I wanted”. And then the next day. I think people get crazy and kill themselves, the musicians, because of their need for attention and to see what people are saying, what people are not saying, I get everything from the label. I never read it.
It's like, I have to wake up with myself every day. And I do Moonspell on a daily basis. We also do the management, the merchandise, etc. So I think if there was any really bad thing, I will know, I'll lose my job as well. So I think most reactions, from what I gather, are very positive and from the sales it seems to be selling really well. Some editions are sold out as well. I know the videos have a lot of people seeing them, even though they are not your typical YouTube band. And I'm happy, but I think it's not in my hands anymore. I think when you give it to the crowd, it's a necessary evil. Some people will say bad things and people will say good things.
I still believe on Hermitage to be a solid album, different album as well. I know that some people will get divided, but it's been like this since, especially since Sin. So it's nothing new for me. Nothing surprises me anymore. Maybe a pig flying or something like this. But I've listened to everything with Moonspell, from “Oh you can’t sing anymore” or “the best singer ever”. But it’s just music. So, if you like it, I'm happy, if you don't like it, see you in the next opportunity. Maybe you’ll like the next album so don't make a big fuss about it. I hope people like it because without fans the band is nothing. But if they don't like it, what can I do, go to their places and convince them? No, I can't. So why bother?
RockOverdose: That's right. Comparing this album with your previous eleven albums, with which album would you say that it's closer?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): It's very strange, because I wanted to pick up from Extinct, but Extinct has a very rock gothic feeling and some oriental feeling. And this album doesn't have anything like that. I think I can compare it to certain moods of songs, but not to a full album. I would say even to an album that is very popular. There's always a little bit of that. But this album we did for often was called Omega White.
I think this album picks up from songs, like The Future is Dark. But I think this album also picks up from other songs that are a bit more aggressive from Antidote and stuff like that. So it's hard for me to to really compare it with any other album, because I think we've tried a lot of new things. Obviously, my way of singing, the way of the band, performing, etc. I think it's very characteristic of Moonspell, but it's hard to pick up like, “well, this reminds me of Irreligious or Wolfheart or Sin of Butterfly Effect”, because it really doesn't.
For me, it reminds me of Pink Floyd and Bathory, Twilight of the Gods era. That's my two main influences. Or I think what comes across with the album, the rest is just like a big mash up of everything we do and listen or not, you know, and I think that it's hard to compare it to anything we did before. It's not a new beginning, but it's also not a revolution. It's something that has to do with what you get from all the albums, maybe these kind of Moonspell energy and songwriting.
RockOverdose: So what about your new drummer?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): You know, I was a big friend with Mike. Everybody knows that. So it was kind of heartbreaking (All the process). We can’t speak about it, because he asked us not to speak a lot about the the reason. And we had to sign a confidentiality deal, so I told Pedro, because Pedro works with musicians, I say, well, find us a new drummer (because I don't want to be involved in this process). I trust you, I'm sure that you will find a very good person and a very good drummer. And we were afraid that we couldn’t find it in short notice.
We wanted someone from Portugal because sometimes it's harder for us to work from distance with people. But lots of bands have a foreign drummer, like Septicflesh have Krimh and he's probably one of the best, (if not the best) drummers around from this new generation. So Pedro came up with Hugo and obviously I was waiting and seeing to see who's coming to Moonspell. So the first time we met, I thought he had a really good energy. He was a very humble person. Not that I want a humble person, but he had a good energy. He was not too nervous, not too impressed. He was just being himself and and then, the fireproof came when he sat down to play our old songs.
I remember playing stuff like Mephisto or Wolfshade and he nailed it. It was like he knew the songs very well, he was very well prepared. He has his way of playing, he uses only one drum kit, for instance. And then he jumped into the new songs and we did four live shows last year. And I think he's the right person for this spot, because of his personality and his musicianship. I think Pedro made a great choice. We're very lucky we found him at such short notice to jump on the Moonspell boat and to play live for a few shows we have, the TV shows we have, the album we have.
And it was a weird year to join the band, because we need that bounce that comes from touring and spending lots of hours together. So we know the good and the evil part of of ourselves that happens on tour. But I think that, yeah, it was a great blessing that he joined us. And it's definitely the man for the job.
RockOverdose: That's great. So you re- released two of your albums within one year, first Sin / Picado in December 2019 and then Butterfly Effect this August. How come you decided to do this? And what are your next plans for re- releasing your past albums?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Well, first and foremost, most of the Moonspell past repertoire is sold out or out of print. And I think that's a shame. You know, I like when people collect Moonspell stuff. I collect other bands’ stuff. And when they spend their money on these calls, from Irreligious from ‘96, I think that's a different thing. And I respect that because I like that myself. But I think it's so stupid from labels not to have the albums around (that nowadays it's happening to us as well with 1755, Alpha Noir/Omega White).
You know, we have to reprint those albums too, because people are always regenerating themselves and the fans we have right now are very dedicated. So they really want to buy, especially on vinyl. So in order also to support us financially, we decided to reissue some of the albums to give them a little bit of a touch, like Butterfly Effect, we gave a total revamp and people loved it, it sold out. Nobody's complaining about it. I have albums from the 90s, I have vinyl. But some people nowadays, even if they listen to Spotify, YouTube, they want to own the album, that's something very precious for the metal community, you know. I think that's very, very good. So we are doing this. We already did, because I approached Intermedia and SPV and we started with Wolfheart and Irreligious. We're going to have a 25th anniversary Irreligious reissue this year.
And also we are going to work on Darkness and Hope and the Antidote. And then whenever an album sells out, not as limited editions, but whenever there's nothing in the market, even CDs, we're going to have it because we form our own label, Alma Mater records and we have our own distribution shop online. So we want to cater for all the Moonspell community. So there is a kid of 14 years old that says, “well, I want to listen to this on vinyl” and even knows what's a vinyl or an LP. I think we should take care of it. And that's why we are doing it all this intermediate years.
Where we will do it is just two albums short, which is Darkness and Hope and Antidote, that will come up maybe this year, maybe 2022. And we have a lot of things in store, because I think that also it's our path, so we should take care of it. It's like a museum. You know, you have to have stuff for people to buy through the gift shop.
RockOverdose: Of course. Are you planning to release anything in a cassette format?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): We have everything in cassette already, from Hermitages, Memorial, Night Eternal is on cassette as well, which is really cool for me because I grew up listening to LPs and cassettes and then I have a shitload of CDs as well and I like it. I like the sound in my car. I listen to CDs mostly.
And so we have a lot of stuff already in tape or music cassette and we have some best stuff. But for instance, for the 30 year anniversary of Moonspell, we are going to make with a German label the Celtic Frost, Immortal, Secrets of the Moon, etc.. We are going to make a special box just with the cassettes from the past, the demos, under the Moonspell and the Wolfheart, we're going to make that up to ‘95, the early years.
We're going to make that in a very special and limited edition. I like this. It excites me. I always like to trade tapes and to receive stuff, EPs, et cetera. So I think that this renewal, the revival of the more underground formats, for me, it's something that I really, really love.
RockOverdose: Great times, with cassettes and vinyls.
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Yes, I still have them.
RockOverdose: So you've been in the band for nearly 30 years now? Is there anything that you would have done in a different way?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): I mean, I don't know. Maybe here and there like functional stuff and not the things that, on the contrary of the Greek gods, I don't think that I can change destiny, fate, you know, not that I don't try, but I can only learn from it. So sometimes, yeah, I had regrets. We could have solved this problem or played better in the show or play better in the studio or sing better. The life of the band is full of those regrets, but there's nothing really you can change. So I don't waste my mind thinking all this should have been done like this, etc.. It's more things of the moment.
Sometimes I think, “oh, we should have put this online or not”. But nothing in the general picture. There was nothing I could have changed even if I wanted to. So I don't think so. It's just it is what it is. I don't take anything for granted. I know Moonspell is sometimes a hard band to follow through, because we are always changing our music because we were a band in the 90s and then in 2000 we were almost another band. And then nowadays we are even more different, but we still have our personality.
So I don't take anything for granted. And whenever we make an album, I put myself in the in the shoes of a beginner band and I don't take anything for granted and we always restart.
RockOverdose: So what in your professional career are you most proud of?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Well, good question, because, you know, I'm more surprised than proud. We have some achievements, obviously. I'm just proud that these happened because I never wanted to be a musician. I never dreamt of it. And with all respect for people that are so, I don't know. I'm proud of Moonspell, don't get me wrong. But it's not like something that fills me with pride, it was just something that happened. And I was lucky enough sometimes to be in the right place, doing the right music.
It just happened. You know, I'm fortunate. I think when it comes to pride, yeah, we have some gold records. We had some MTV Awards. But sometimes I'm more proud of smaller things, like, for instance, a kid that comes and tells me “I started singing because if you”, where like, “are you crazy? What are you doing with your life?” You know? But yeah, I think that everything that happened makes me proud, because everything was very unexpected.
RockOverdose: Fernando, are you familiar of any Greek bands?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Oh, yes.
RockOverdose: Yes, I know. Except for Rotting Christ.
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Yeah. I mean, I know the most famous ones. I know Rotting Christ, obviously, Septicflesh, Nightfall, Necromantia, Varathron, Flame. I love Greek metal. I have a lot of stuff, because I think it's so different and it sounds in a way, because of the accent and the guitars and everything, especially since Rotting Christ did Theogonia, I think they became a little bit even more Greek with all the mythology, everything.
So I think there's an amazing scene, even smaller bands. So we know a lot of the Greek bands (like Scars of the Sun). I mean we've been around Greek metal since the underground days. One of the first people I knew on the scene through tapes was morbid. Sakis or Themis or Jim. So yeah, I'm really envious of the Greeks. I think it's an amazing scene. When somebody puts me a record, I can notice it's Greek metal and I would love for Portugal to have that.
RockOverdose: Are there any other news about Moonspell?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): Well, I mean, we make our goals so we don't get crazy. It's important these days being a musician, it’s important for you to have goals. Even if they don't work out, you know, because we have many festivals planned, we have everything planned, but we're not sure if this is going to happen or not. And that's everything I can say. But I hope that, you know, people and the world gets a bit better, so that we can go back on the road again.
Obviously, we have some small plans of making some shows here in Portugal to make a live streaming. We already did one and it was very successful. People loved it. But you cannot do this every month because otherwise people get bored and tired, I think. And it's hard to set it up properly as well. I mean, we’ll just wait and see, we hope to play some shows in Portugal and outside in 2021 and hopefully going on tour in 2022. Yeah, but making plans now my friend. It's important but it's a mistake. You always have to play plan A to Z. That's what we do these days.
RockOverdose: Would you like to leave a message to the Greek fans and readers of Rock Overdose?
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): I would like to thank you very much. Apologizing for absence in the Athens show. We will make up for you as soon as we can. And if you want to support metal and Moonspell in particular, just pick up the new album, “Hermitage”, coming up now in February. And we love it. So I hope that we can spread that love to you as well, our beloved Greek audience. So Efkaristo (thank you in greek). And thank you so very much.
RockOverdose: So thank you very much for your time. And I wish you the best.
Fernando Ribeiro (MOONSPELL): I wish the best for you too, all the health and luck for you.
Questions by Christos Doukas