Intreview and photo: Martina Šestić | firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the festivals I covered this year was Hungarian jewel – Rockmaraton – which takes place in Dunaújváros. Among the many bands in the festival’s line up there was Moonspell the one band that always surprises me in a good way, a band that is a bit “schizophrenic” to use the term that Ricardo Amorim, band’s guitarist, chose to describe Moonspell’s discography. On the band’s latest studio record “Extinct”, Ricardo was the one who caught most of the attention with his outstanding emotional and beautiful guitarwork which blended perfectly into the most sincere and personal Moonspell record to date. Which is why I used up the opportunity and met with Ricardo in Dunaújváros couple of hours before their festival performance.
Ricardo is usually not the one giving interviews and is very sincere about the reasons.
“I am a bit shy when it comes to that [interviews]. I can talk to people, of course, but as soon as there is a microphone, something blocks inside of me. But I think that mostly Fernando is the guy who has the most accurate vision of what the band is all about. And I am just a quiet guy.”
It was in 1995 that Amorim joined Moonspell. “I was actually fan of the band when I was invited to fill in the shoes of the other guitarist. I felt very proud. I said “OK, this is something worth fighting for and it’s going to be a great adventure.” That’s how I felt at that time and I would do it all over again,” and further continues telling about his first impressions of the band, “I knew the guys even before I was in the band. The impression I had is that they are very focused, want to achieve something and have clear image of wanting to be different. And that resonated with my personality. I found them very interesting.”
It was Irreligious, Amorim’s first record with Moonspell, that became the band’s breakthrough album with the band’s all time hit tracks Opium and, of course, Full Moon Maddness.
“I guess I was at the right place in the right time. It was a lucky success. The events that led us to do that album and what was happening to music in those days, was that people were trying to do something different and we were a part of that stream of bands that were trying to come up with something original. Back in the day it was all black metal, death metal and then thrash and what we came up with was an interesting alternative to all of that. It was great. Suddenly everything started to happen, we were playing in front of bigger crowds… It was a very exciting time for us as such young people that we were in our early twenties.”
But Moonspell wasn’t his first band. He was a part of many other projects that never surfaced but they built him in his first days of pursuing specific artistic style.
“We all had these projects with neighbours that never develop as they should. They stay bedroom projects. But I was involved a bit more seriously with a band called Paranormal Waltz. It was the band where I played right before joining Moonspell. A time when I took playing a bit more seriously. We were doing doomy, atmospherical, death metal with various soundscapes. We were very inexperienced, it wasn’t the greatest music ever but we were doing something creative.”
Being a musician in a band influences also one’s artistic vision and development. Some artist find being in a band too restrictive but there are also those that find creation in the frames of a band somehow comforting.
“I think for a man, and when I say man, I mean mankind, to express himself fully, he needs to be completely free. Music and aesthetics of Moonspell resonate with my personality and I feel that I can express lots of emotions and a lot of things from within me. But to fully express myself I believe that I would have to go solo and still have a lot to give. It goes to infinity… It is not that easy.”
As I mentioned above, Ricardo’s guitars on “Extinct” were splendid and he modestly commented that “it wasn’t planned. I didn’t come and said ‘yeah, I’m gonna put the best solo in there’. No, it was just the way the songs were evolving and also our producer pushed a bit and everything started to flow very spontaneously.” But in the end he admits that he’s very proud of the final result. “I think art should be a spontaneous thing. It doesn’t matter how much you play, it’s how spontaneous you can be and still serve music to make something beautiful. At the end of the day it all comes down to songs. Sometimes when I listen to it and detach myself from it, I feel very proud.
After some time you need to detach from the record. You start playing the songs live and you don’t listen to the record. But sometimes you listen to it and your live performance changes.”
I must say that it didn’t hit me before when I saw them live, that Ricardo has a hard task of being the only guitarist in a band which is known for having complex music.
“Our music has many layers. It is not just one guitar that I’m doing – it’s lead, rhythm… And Pedro is a 100 % keyboard player again and I had to think how to compensate the lack of another guitar. So we had to rewrite it a bit but stay as close as possible to the original. There weren’t dramatic changes on what I did but this is just the way you express a note or two or how the band comes together because the record is what it is – everything is tight and clean – and live – there is the human aspect where you make a little mistake or perhaps the band feels a little bit more laid back and we play slower or rush a bit and you know it’s funny to hear this stuff.
But, I have to say with Extinct, not that I hit the jackpot but I am very proud of it. I got people’s attention, that’s for sure.”
Touring life is not something that comes easy to a musician so I ask what are his feelings towards tour buses and travel. “Yeah, I like it. I mostly like European tours. And best venues, tour bus, it’s holidays somehow. I’m just not a big fan of flying all the time. I freak out. It’s starting to be harder. You don’t sleep much, always under stress at the airports. And I get homesick more often…”
And talking about tours, I recalled a case from several months ago when Moonspell had to cancel South American tour due to issues with booking agency. I also pointed out that Moonspell is one of rare bigger names that addresses these issues in public. “I think people have right to know. It is the most cliché answer I could give you but it’s the honest one.
Some of the bands can afford to be overprotected and decide whatever they want and don’t get affected by that. We think that people look at us and think that we decide everything and that we can do whatever we want but that’s not really true. When we cancelled that tour we had to take many things into consideration and things were going very, very bad. We were taking a chance to make a tour in South America and suddenly it turned out there were shows that were confirmed but unannounced, no payments… Nothing was happening, no flights, no nothing. When we tour we want to know exactly what’s going on. We are not in our twenties anymore nor so irresponsible. Everybody has kids now. And we care about this. We care about our well-being. It’s no longer just about us, it’s our families too. And sometimes you just have to say no to certain things. You can’t put up with bullshit all the time.
We tried to explain the best we could our version and what happened. We promised to return and make it up to those people as soon as we can.”
That being said I ask how is the situation in Portugal regarding metal and rock music as it seems that finally now Moonspell is reaching bigger exposure in their home-country. “We hit the charts, we got some one or two awards. But still I feel that people there look at us with prejudice. Right now we are very lucky to have fans all over the world because I am not sure if we could support ourselves just by playing in Portugal. We still, however, have shows and do important stuff there. I think we do good. Like I said, I think, concert promoters like the other stuff better like hip-hop, Brazilian, African music. Rock is still weird animal for them.”
Earlier this year Moonspell announced release of their brand new album entitled “1755” with all songs sung in Portuguese. Knowing the band’s discography is all but formulaic, it seriously makes me wonder in what direction has the freedom and musicality of their native language taken them.
“We were thinking about [doing an album in Portuguese] for some time now. Em Nome do Medo from ‘Alpha Noir’ somehow triggered it,” he explains. “I mean it’s Portuguese, the words sound nice. Look at Rammstein, I don’t understand what they’re saying but it sounds good and it moves me. So if you find the right words you can always do something interesting. The other thing is that we were expressing ourselves in our own language which made the message more clear so the music came easier to make. When you read the text, you don’t need to translate and try to understand the meaning because it’s all just there, you know what colour to put to each word. The words, they are suggestive.
Guitar work for this album  is less atmospherical, it’s heavier but it has interesting riffing. It also uses lots of orchestrations, we left a space for orchestra to shine a bit, but yes, it’s catchy, heavy and moving.”
Depicting the 18th century Lisbon, capital of a country with rich cultural heritage and long colonial history, “1755” covers a year in which the city was almost completely destroyed in a big earthquake and Ricardo continues giving the input on the new music: “We were working with Jon Phipps, he worked with us on Extinct in few details, song Extinct for example, and we asked him to do orchestral arrangement for ‘1755’ and he did something amazing so we decided to work with him through the whole record and explained that we would like to recreate the environment of Lisbon of the 18th century. It’s not something that you need to explore too much on the classical aspect. You already know the picture that you want to paint and Jon did a good job in recreating that. Like those little details that belong to that specific era.”
I mentioned a tragic coincidence of “1755” coming out around time when Portugal faced catastrophic fires in central regions. “I think Fernando is a wizard sometimes. He comes up with these topics and things start to happen. When he came up with Extinct all the musicians started to die. And then this, when we started to work on the album there was a big earthquake in Italy and now this horrible tragedy that happened in Portugal. I hope it’s not related, I hope he is just guessing things.”
Whether Fernando is a wizard or not, we will never know, but to continue with the topics of the upcoming record Ricardo continues: “But the message of the record is very clear and it’s good thing that it’s coming out now. When earthquake happened, mentality had to change, we had to stop explaining that everything happens to us because God wanted it that way, and we begun to see the things as they really are, natural manifests – through science. Lots of people had to reboot their mentality and become more pragmatic. We can also apply that to these days in which we live in. You see how the world is at the moment.
“It seems that message is just from Portuguese to Portuguese but it goes to the whole world. Things have to change somehow or who knows what will happen with our world. I don’t know how far can all this greedy behaviour take us. Nothing lasts forever. And we should be aware of it.”