Before Moonspell’s gig in Glasgow I was lucky enough to catch up with drummer Miguel “Mike” Gaspar. We chatted about the tour, the recent feud between their fans and Buraka Som Sistema, their latest album Extinct, mushrooms and what Moonspell have planned for the future, as well as many other subjects.
I’ve included the sound file for you to check out as well as the transcription. The volume at the beginning of the interview is a bit off but stick with it as it soon settles itself after a few seconds. The interview took place in the venue so there is also some background noise from the crew setting up and getting ready for the gig.
Martin: Hi, it’s Martin from Moshville Times and I’m here with Miguel Gaspar from Moonspell. Your currently on your Road to Extinction tour. How’s it been going so far?
Miguel: It’s been amazing. We started off in Portugal because we had an awards ceremony which was pretty incredible because we won best album of 2015. It’s like the Authors Portuguese Award so it’s not so common for a metal band to ever win it. It was pretty enthusiastic especially for the metal scene in Portugal because we never have much coverage. Then we had the show, a big festival show in Portugal, it was like over 2000 fans. It was a free show that the state was offering so it was kinda cool to be able to part of that then the next day we came straight to France and we had the tragic incident in Brussels because we had flights for Brussels so we had to come really early.
We got this flight into Paris and we were able to make it and do the first show in France. It was no effort compared to what happened, and what also happened at the Bataclan, we were also on tour the day that happened in Paris. We all have families, we all worry, but the show must go on. I think it shows a lot of faith in ourselves and seeing people still going to the shows. Then London, Doom Over London, festival. It went really well, we weren’t expecting so many people. Everybody treated us perfectly well. The technical system, you know, I think London has come a long way from the first shows we did back in ’95 when things were a little more complicated. Manchester last night we had never played there before in our lives. We had a lot of people coming from Portugal, and Poland, and even Iran, so I guess there’s a whole bunch of people living all over the world over in England, and now finally we’re in Glasgow which is very special for us because it was our first show ever on the Morbid Angel tour back in 1995. We had to drive up here from Dortmund, Germany, in the van. It was the first time I ever drove on the other side of the road. It was the first experience for all of us. We’d never been so North in our lives either so I remember freaking out a little bit like “Yo man this is really far from home”.
Martin: Really cold?
Miguel: Yeah well the cold we can handle it’s similar to Portugal because Portugal is hot but since we live near the ocean it can get a wet cold which is probably similar here. I think we relate a lot, we have some roots in common, like the bagpipe (laughs), it just an awesome part of our Portuguese folklore. It’s always great to be able to come here. I even remember the last time we played Glasgow, maybe ten years or something.
Finally we’re here so pretty happy about that but this is a short tour. After this we just have tomorrow, Ireland, which is going to be in Dublin also the first time. A lot of first times on this tour. We have two shows in Holland, one in Belgium, and then we head back home. We have like three or four days off then we head back for the eastern part of the tour which is Ukraine, Belarus, and we do three shows in Russia.
Martin: You mentioned the award in Portugal for your last album which I didn’t know about but I was reading an an article by Fernando on his “The Portuguese Wolf” page called “The new intolerance” where he was complaining about the music journalists in Portugal being snobs, and he talked about a band called Buraka Som Sistema who the journalists in Portugal said had the “most significant international profile ever for a Portuguese band”. I believe Fernando commented on this which started up some kind of online feud between the fans of Moonspell and Buraka’s. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Miguel: Well the feud within the fans, because people are very sensitive to their styles of music, we always defend what we like more, but what he intended was that this journalist was being as he called it, a music fascist, because he was just preferring this style of music and thinking it was more international, or it goes over well into other nationalities, than metal and that’s so not true because when we see metal, and people have listened to metal their whole lives, we know how open minded we are, we know how many different countries, nationalities, religions, it crosses over. It’s just a question of him not knowing, and he’s in that little small market of his. These journalists sometimes they just write on what they like, and what they think, but they haven’t experienced the reality of how many tours we’ve done like these 24 years, and how many different countries we’ve been to, and how many different people we’ve met. Not just to mention that the other bigger bands, that came from Portugal, that represent a lot more culture that we think is like Madredeus, Amália (Rodrigues) of course that everybody knew she was a big fado superstar in the 60’s, and these projects were not even mentioned. They were put a little bit to the side, and Madredeus was huge. There were the first, even before Moonspell, they were probably the first band in Portugal to actually play in the amazing venues all over the world in the classical music genre of course, but for what we do for metal, and metal can go from underground to mainstream, and we’ve experienced that, we’ve played the most mainstream festivals in the world and we’ve played the most underground black metal tours you can imagine. I think that pretty much says it all. I think we can reach most people and Fernando was just very frustrated and also representing the band. That does happen a lot in Portugal, not only do they forget about us, but they also forget about rock and metal, and that there are a lot of fans, like AC/DC, they have to postpone the show because of the vocalist, but when they booked the show in Portugal, a small country of 10 million people, it was sold out in days, 45000 people. So if you have a band like AC/DC come, or like Metallica, that the first time they came to Portugal there was 90 thousand people, with the Black album, and I was 16 years old. You have so many people who are so dedicated and then you have your newspapers, you have your magazines, you turn on the television, you turn on your radio’s, and there’s nothing. There’s practically nothing and Moonspell has always been the one fighting against it, and sometimes people take it the wrong way. It’s not that we don’t respect the kind of music that Buraka does. I come from an area, where I was brought up, with a lot of kids coming from Africa, and you know rap, hip-hop, all the traditional African music, especially being the drummer I’ve always loved percussion. It’s actually part of our music in Moonspell, it’s always been an influence. If you hear our earlier albums we’ve always like dabbled from the Middle East to our own influences from the south, also stuff coming from England: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and all the classics, and we just mix it up because we also come from a very distant part of Europe where some people also have forgotten about the south part of Europe. They don’t even recognise that they can make good music or have good bands. It is unfortunate because there is a lack of it but if we don’t stand up for ourselves and what we believe in then there’ll be nothing for the future for others.
Martin: It’s pretty much the same situation in the UK really. Metal and rock are pretty much ignored by the mainstream…
Miguel: We feel that all over the world. In the case of Portugal it’s just outrageous because it is such a small, niche, of people. It’s these powerful journalists, or people who have you know. We see the difference in like a festival in Europe, the promoter will be a huge metal head and really knows his bands, in Portugal sometimes they just do the shows but they don’t really know about the music, they’re not so concerned about it, so dedicated, and that makes a huge difference.
Martin: For someone that’s coming along to the tour to see you what can they expect, what sort of material will you be covering?
Miguel: We’re playing a lot of Extinct of course because of course it’s the album we’re putting everything into. It was an awesome experience for us to be able to record it with Jens Bogren in Sweden but with over ten albums it’s impossible to just play that so we have a lot of classics from our earlier albums, from Wolfheart, from Irreligious, it’s impossible not to play and it makes people just so happy and the nostalgia is overwhelming. We just did like the 20 years of Irreligious on the 70,000 Tons of Metal, that went to Jamaica this year. For us it was, not like it’s strange, to play the whole album it’s mixed feelings as sometimes it feels like it’s awkward but at the same time you also feel like a kid again and you’re doing the stuff for the first time. I guess it must produce some very enthusiastic energy because people just are really overwhelmed with the show in general. Sometimes we can’t understand, we’re like struggling like “What’s that part again?” (laughs), but the audience just loved it, but also we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, that’s a characteristic of also being Portuguese. We always worry about things, about them going well. Then in the end things go well so it kinda makes us happy (laughs).
Martin: There are many bands around these days that seem to be content churning out the same album year after year and playing it safe with a tried and tested formula. You’re a band that always seem to be changing and progressing from each album to the next. Do you think this is true and why do you feel this need for change?
Miguel: It’s the way we are, it also has to do with, coming from Portugal, not having like a huge band that represented that sound internationally, like you will think of that sound you will think of Portugal, that didn’t exist before Moonspell. We were getting influences from all over from England, from Sweden, from Norway, from America, from the thrash scene and all that, we kinda had to create our own sound, also with the Gothic influence. In Portugal there’s a lot of (sorry…couldn’t make this out) we called it at that time. They were like the pre-Goths and they would listen to Bauhaus and Sister of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim. Somehow we found a middle ground for these styles of music and started to mix it up and I think that was what made Moonspell interesting to other nationalities because it was more rare to find, that style of music and I think we just continued doing that and coming back to Portugal after tours, it’s not like you live in L.A. , New York or London and you go hang out with the other bands at the pub. We would go back home and go back to our typical normal Portuguese lives, and this thing I was talking about journalism and the attentions that metal get in the press in Portugal kinda make us be a bit distant from reality and what was going on in Europe. So each time when we go back home, even if it’s just six months so much would change in Germany or the bigger metal markets that we wouldn’t really know what was happening or what people were into until we come back year after year and pick up a magazine and go like “Oh this band is big now”, “Oh people are into this now” so sometimes we were ready to do it in our music, somehow we are not only a little bit lost but it is good ’cause it makes us be true to ourselves and do without any outside influences and that’s maybe one of the reasons that we stray so much.
We like to have that freedom cos we never were that band….I don’t think it was our extreme black metal that made us famous, I don’t think it was just the Goth part that made us popular. I think it was the combination of it all, and also especially with the lyrics, the poetry, the influence that we bring from our country. We’ve had fans go to Portugal to see places that we talk about like Sintra, or like Alentejo. I think it’s more spiritual in a certain light, it’s not just the music, with certain bands you have that like with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath of course.
Martin: I remember hearing….the first track I heard by you which was “Vampiria” on a compilation album, and there was Type O Negative around but you guys had a sort of Goth influence combined with some Death Metal and I’d never heard that kind of combination before.
Miguel: yeah but the 90’s was very rich with so many great bands like Tiamat, Samael, The Gathering. These were all our friends and people that we toured with. I think we’re from that generation where we were not only like into extreme metal of course but then we saw the other side of music, you know the beauty of music, going with the orchestral parts, going with the female vocals. It was something that at the time like a true metal head would be like “Hey that’s gay” (laughs). For sure they would never accept that but these days look what happened. We never imagined we’d have bands like Epica, Nightwish. In our days just The Gathering and a few others existed with female vocalists and look what our genre and our influence did. It made all these bands. It does exist that possibility to have a fusion in music, just like in food, the Portuguese love food (laughs), we like to eat everything (laughs).
Martin: I recently interviewed Amorphis and they also did their last album with Jens Bogren who produced your last album. From what I’ve heard he seems to work bands pretty hard, having to get up early in the morning etc… How did you guys find working with him?
Miguel: yeah well he was the same with us we did everything really quick. He flew to Portugal where we worked straight ten days on pre-production then we just had the weekend. We flew to Sweden. I was building a drum kit next day I was doing tracks, and he would wake us up early in the morning, not that we played immediately it was just to get us up (laughs). We’d have at least two or three hours especially with the vocals, sometimes he’d wake Fernando up really early, and he’d just be awake and he’d be like one more time. He really tries to go for the perfection and get the moment when you’re at your best. Then he likes to…until he gets it he won’t stop. Then when he gets then you have a bit of time to rest. We were there for thirty-five days or longer, I’m not sure, almost two months I think and it was separated from Fascination Street (Studios) in Stockholm where we did drums, guitars, and bass. Then we went to Örebro where he lives and he has a smallish studio where he does mostly vocals, and mixing, and sometimes some guitars. It worked really well. I think he’s an amazing producer, and he’s a true fan of this style of music, and he’s able to capture some of those essences that we had in the beginning that we somehow got sick of because we’d done it so many times but he’s like “no this is you” (laughs). He’s like a good coach. I think every band should have a good coach especially when you’ve been together for over twenty years. To make a great album you really need someone to trust you, and inspire you to get the best. Jens never said like it was bad, he was always saying it could be better. It sometimes makes a huge difference when you’re stressed out in the studio you know (laughs).
Martin: Yeah when you’re stressed criticism doesn’t go down well…
Miguel: Well everyone gets stressed. I’ve heard stories of the most amazing musicians, that you wouldn’t believe, that once they see that red button, “Record”, things go to shit (laughs). So it’s a different world of course. We’ve adapted to both of them, we love both of them. Sometimes you just get too used to one of them but with our career, with all the demands, we have to be in and out of studios and playing live.
Martin: The album cover for Extinct was created by Seth Siro Anton from the band Septic Flesh. How did you come to work with him on it?
Miguel: Well Seth is an old friend of ours. We’ve been fans of Septic Flesh for many years and we’ve toured with them lately, a lot also. He already did the Night Eternal album and he also did Alpha Noir so this is actually the third cover he’s made. I think he has a very interesting perspective on Moonspell, the way he sees us, like in the case of this new cover, like this album wasn’t the most aggressive album that we’ve released but the artwork was, and we were like well isn’t this going to be like a misinterpretation but he was very like “I think you guys need this kind of cover, it’s going to work perfectly as it’s going to blend better with the music” and he was so right. It does represent a lot of what we’ve done and who we are. It delivers more to also the crowd, when you see this kind of artwork you know.
Martin: Yeah I was just looking at the t-shirts there (our interview took place next to the t-shirt stall)…
Miguel: In the beginning people thought this was very scary.
Martin: Yeah it’s quite an intense piece of art.
Miguel: Yeah well most of the pieces are. I like that one (pointing to one of the shirts), it’s also very aggressive but I think things have evolved, you know, people aren’t so scared. If you show this to a kid and he’d get used to it and he’d just think like “it’s a monster..ha ha”. I think it’s pretty ridiculous, those times that we live, that they think horror, terrors, will like influence and make you a mass murderer (laughs). I think this goes very well with our audience and how we feel about the album because it is a dark album in the end. It’s about extinction, it’s about disappearing, and so many species have already disappeared. It’s something that we actually care about. It’s something I actually do think about once in a while and it worries me, especially coming from a beautiful country like Portugal so we’re blessed that it’s still that way, and when you go to other cities with all the pollution, especially like Brazil with the Amazon forest, when you’re actually there and you see how it’s changing, even there the quantities of pollution is just unbearable and scary. So if we continue at this rate you know, we are going to be extinct pretty soon (laughs).
Martin: Going back to the artwork again. Was this something Seth had already produced and you thought “well that’s cool we’ll have that” or was it something he produced for you and then you maybe gave him ideas?
Miguel: Well in the beginning, the first album he did a lot of artwork and we had an opportunity to choose, but on this one we actually gave him complete freedom to do whatever he wanted. Like I said it’s the third album we’ve toured him so long he’s actually like a brother. He is a brother (laughs). There’s no other way to describe it. We’ve shared a lot of time together these last few years and we’re very happy with the success of Septic Flesh. Finally starting touring and getting their things together, and now with their new drummer, Krimh is amazing. He understands our, he’s actually forty something, so we speak the same language if you can say that.
Martin: Your last album Extinct has been out for a while now. Are you working on any new material just now?
Miguel: Well…we have an idea that we haven’t announced yet, but we are gonna work on maybe an EP, this summer…so it’s gonna be in-between festivals and like I said in the studio. It’s gonna be maybe, I think the idea is to do it only in Portuguese and it might be about some historical events that changed the life, in a big way, in Lisbon (laughs). So that’s gonna be, I think not only the Portuguese fans but even…sometimes we are afraid of doing these things because what made our mark was singing in English of course so people could understand it, but it wasn’t the proper English that also made it I think it was that contrast, so to have Portuguese I think is interesting for other cultures especially coming from us. We’d like to get the same effect as Rammstein, nobody thought that singing in German would ever attract the world but it did, in a big way and that’s all they do. Not that we are going to sing always in Portuguese from now on but we had the experience with ”Em Nome Do Medo” which is in Portuguese and works very well. We also have a huge Hispanic community that loves us, so for them it’s also amazing to be able to actually sing something you understand. Even if our language is different it is very similar…
Martin: A lot of bands do stick with English and they shy away from their own language but I quite like to hear the way it sounds like…
Miguel: Yeah, the way we mix it. Sometimes we are just afraid to do it over the top but since this is gonna be something specific and it’s about historical events in Portugal it makes really sense. We are pretty excited to do that.
Martin: It looks like you guys are going to spend a lot of time on the tour bus in the next few months. What do you do to keep yourselves sane?
Miguel: Usually the Internet is always something that everybody wants, not that you can have it all the time (laughs) it’s not easy but with sound checks I usually like to calm my nerves and check my drums and there are always fans, friends stopping by and time goes by quicker and they bring us presents, alcohol, food…like I have said have so many fans from different parts of the world, they live in other countries, it’s kinda like the united nations constantly specially since we’ve been in the UK and even in France we had a whole bunch of Portuguese. I think people are travelling and living in different parts of the world each time more. I remember twenty years ago you’d go to Germany and there were just Germans, in England just English, especially London it wasn’t so much like now, but now you go to London and it’s like: a huge Polish community, people from Czech Republic, people coming from Portugal, Italy, Spain, people from all over. I think that makes it pretty awesome and that’s also what we felt on the cruise. This cruise that we just did hit the record: 72 different nationalities on the metal cruise (70000 Tons of Metal).
Martin: What’s the craziest or funniest thing you’ve experienced on tour? Do you have any funny stories?
Miguel: We have many but most of the funny stories involve mushrooms (all laughs). Those can be pretty dangerous (laughs). Those nights were pretty funny. Once I spent almost two hours laughing non stop, it was very funny but I couldn’t stop so it’s not natural (laughs) but I wasn’t the only one.
Martin: You probably can’t even remember what it was you were laughing at.
Miguel: there was also a lot of activity going on on the bus…but we’ve had so many different adventures on the road.
Martin: You have good fun on tour?
Miguel: Yeah, a funny situation, we had an English tech, and we were so young and he had some weed and we didn’t smoke it, we didn’t do nothing, we did not even drink alcohol we were so young, and I think one of us saw it and he thought it was like just trash and was like “What is this?”, and he threw it out and this guy was always with his eyes closed, we could barely see him, and at that moment his eyes almost came out of his face (laughs). It’s like “What are you doing?” (laughs). Then we learned that it wasn’t trash.
Martin: Final question, what’s next on the horizon for Moonspell after this current tour?
Miguel: We were talking about the E.P, we were also planning on doing a DVD in Portugal. We should record that in August. We’ve just booked a big show for the end of the year, for the 2nd of December, we’re going to do the twenty years of Irreligious, and I think we’re also going to play Wolfheart and maybe Extinct. It’s going to be a big show because it’s a big venue. It’s like for 5000 people so we’re trying to get as many people there as possible. I’m sure that this event, like in the past, will pull other people from other countries who’ll want to visit Portugal to be able to see that show because we did a huge show for Irreligious back in ’96 and we had booked this place for 2000 people, it was very beautiful architecture, an old building, that’s very impossible to use these days I don’t know how we managed it back then, and we had people coming from all over Europe and it sold out. I even had friends I’d gave tickets too and they gave them to friends thinking that when they got there they would buy some and they didn’t see the show (laughs). It was completely sold out, so we’re trying to have a nostalgic moment like that again.
Martin: Thanks for your time, and for the interview…
Miguel: My pleasure.
Martin: ….and we’re looking forward to seeing you tonight.
Miguel: Cool. Thank you man.