One of the most recognized gothic metal bands in Portugal have just completed headlining an impressive 50 date tour, including many sold out nights, with Greek black metal giants Rotting Christ. This 5-piece ball of darkness that has been around since the early 90’s, have recently released a concept album, “1755”, sung entirely in Portuguese, about the earthquake which happened in Lisbon that year. I had the opportunity to speak to Mike Gaspar, who has been the drummer on the band, since the very beginning. Read on to find out how they were called before they decided to changed their name to Moonspell, what inspires and sparks creativity in Mike and what he thinks about the modern world of technology.
Moonspell band pic
Hi Mike. How did you choose Rotting Christ to be featured as your special guests on this tour? (read all about their London live show here)
M: We’ve been friends for over 20 years; we did a tour together with Sakis in 1996 with Samael. It was a 56 show tour and we have been friends ever since, we’ve been wishing for this opportunity for a long time and we kept on talking about touring together. We’ve done some festivals once in a while and one off shows throughout the years, but never had an opportunity to do a whole tour through Europe, especially at this age, it’s pretty cool!
What is the significance of this big tour for Moonspell?
M: I think this came from our agency who have been preparing this tour for over a year and the way we were set out, we couldn’t say no because we get to play a lot of places. We’re even taking the bus up to Turkey, which we have never done before, we go through the east, then we of course have all these shows in Europe and to do it with our brothers in Rotting Christ, I think its kind of special because not many bands come in from the South and we have that kind of Mediterranean connection, you know, all the things that its hard to find on tour especially with other bands coming from other countries. So, we connect very easily and I think that makes it a lot more fun and enjoyable to be on tour. The purpose of all tours is to get to the fans and play as much as you can; we’re still from that generation where you have to play live if you really want to reach people. Its one thing listening to the music in your home, in your room, but it’s not the same as actually seeing the band live. I think that’s what is missing a lot more these days, they’re connected with their iPads and smart phones, which is normal, I do the same. I have a little daughter and I can see the difference there is with the real fun like playing in the park, being in nature, going to the beach and then the obsession with the technology which starts to fry your brain a little bit.
It has been two years since the release of “1755”, are you working on any new material and if so, when do you plan to release your next album?
M: We wanted to keep the next release, not like posting every single minute that we’re working on a new album. Of course people are gonna be suspicious that we’re working on a new album, we just don’t talk too much about it this time. We want things to be different. You know, sometimes the over exposure for bands like us doesn’t make sense. These days there’s too much on Instagram and Facebook, so we really want it to be like a surprise, so we’re taking it slow and we’re focusing on this tour right now of course, but next year for sure there’s gonna be something new.
How do you feel your style has changed/evolved since your debut album? What has changed for you, if anything, in terms of writing?
M: Well, I think we’ve evolved, and we’ve also tried shit lots of styles. That’s one thing with Moonspell, you never have an album that’s the same, and that can be a good thing but can also be a bad thing, depends on your perspective. But I think we’re at an age where we’ve experienced so much and tried so many different things that we know what fits better for now, and also for this generation. It’s impossible to recreate your first album. Like at 18 was when I recorded my first album, which was “Wolfheart”, and “Irreligious” I was 19. So, we were all very young and in our early 20’s when we did all of those albums. It feels frustrating when you are always trying to find your new self when you are not anymore. So, we try to get feedback from our fans, our friends and try to put this into the music. People who we work with like Jon Phipps who did orchestration in “1755”, which is a big part of the release. And also trying to re-create the mood and sounds of that era in “1755”, what was going on in Lisbon with all the trade and all the religion and what you’d listen to on the street, so I think that kind of connection is something that we are always enchanted to. And of course maintaining out main influences, so we’re still Bathory fans, and Type-O-Negative fans and that’s never gonna end.
Do you prefer to be on the road or in the studio?
M: They’re different experiences, you know in the studio it’s a lot of work, you get really focused on the little details but live you can’t focus on those details because every day is different, the sound is never the same, the venues are never the same, so you really have to have that will of doing your best every night. I try to play with as much emotion as I can because that helps out, instead of worrying if I’m playing everything perfectly especially when we have 50 shows. I think music was meant to be enjoyed and fun, but these days everybody wants everything so perfect – we’re still from the days where we had to record it on tape and didn’t have the opportunity to re-record constantly. And now it’s digital and everything is possible, so we try to keep that tradition at least in our band. And you can feel that live of course, you can really tell that we prefer to play live than always playing in the studio.
How did you come up with the name Moonspell?
M: That was a long time ago. The band was called Morbid God, I think our ex-bass player came up with the name, but we wanted it to be more related to nature, so we came up with Moonspell. Like a way to enchant people through the night (haha)! It’s just what our music tries to do, just put a spell on you and bring you back to yourself. That’s also why we do so well on anything that’s with the gothic movement, when you go to a gothic festival you feel the people are very connected to nature. People that look from the outside may not see it that way but I think we’re a bit like the hippies of this generation, just a lot darker. But I think that the feeling, to see the world change, to have a better future for our children, for us that’s like basic things, everybody should worry about it, unfortunately they don’t. That’s why we like being able to create music and being able to play. It’s hard to explain because we’ve had this life for over 20 years, but if you have a normal job and it comes to Friday and the weekend, you wanna relax. Or if you’re having a bad day, at least for me, I listen to a bit of music. Or sports, I like to run sometimes. But I listen to music a lot while I do this.
Your latest album, “1755”, was entirely in Portuguese. What moved you to do this? Do you believe it is important for bands to stick to their roots and create songs in their mother tongues? Some other bands that do this include Rotting Christ, The Hu, Alien Weaponry, Rammstein, Behemoth and many others.
M: The band from Iceland, Solstafir, is a really good example too. I think if it’s well done and if people like it then there’s nothing wrong with that and I think Rammstein proved that. We met them early on in the 90’s and they were really big in Germany, but I never really thought it would work outside of Germany because of them speaking in German. But no, and we had done the same with our first album “Wolfheart”, we had stuff in Portuguese, choruses in Portuguese, and poems from famous poets from Portugal, and it’s always those little parts that people abroad love, because its so different and it’s exotic. Sometimes we get sick of it, so for years we have avoided that. But finally, we had an opportunity to do an entire album on the historical event that changed the lives of Portuguese in Europe at that time. So, it’s pretty cool to be able to show that, because you have all these other bands like the Vikings and the black metal, they all have these stories, but countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy, I dunno, Greece, we all have like... war (haha). We have a lot, but it has just never been used, I think. Especially when you think of Hollywood, it’s always Italian explorers, the Greeks and stuff. Portugal does have a lot, it has the worriers and the clans, and we go back a long time. We fought against the Romans, we lost of course; it all happened. There was also a point of trade, there was a point in Portugal where all religions would come together to discuss and not fight, and you still can see that today.
Is there anything specific that you could talk about which inspires you to write music and what sparks your creativity?
M: I think for most of the band it’s being Portuguese, so the way of life, the way we’re connected to our family and traditions. As being a little bit out of the box, it’s always been our thing, because we were always like outcast, especially going to Germany in the 90’s, they weren’t even used to seeing bands with dark hair! They got a little freaked out, because everybody was blond for some reason. And I think we helped change that, as have other bands coming from the South, like Lacuna Coil. We toured with them back in the 90’s, we have known them for ages. And it was so cool, that’s what clinged to us, seeing another band coming from the South, no fighting. To get a piece of their influence and inspiration in the world. Sometimes it’s a little narrow-minded with everything coming from the same place. Luckily record companies such as Century Media and Nuclear Blast, they had that vision; it didn’t matter if the band came like from Israel or Brazil, Sepultura showed that, I’m one of their biggest fans. But it’s still difficult for these countries, you see many bands coming from Chile or Mexico, there was one, I think Cemican, but they are like traditional worrier, Mexican outfits. I met them at Hellfest recently; I thought it was really cool finding a new band like that, you should check them out. I think they’re gonna play Wacken next year. We’re really into the Mexican history, like the pyramids.
Although we are in 2019, a large amount of people go back to the bands and records from the 90’s. There is so much new music out there currently, so many new fantastic bands, so many genres, everything exists. Why would you say that most metalheads prefer the “old” music?
M: It was a special time; it’s hard to explain, but one of the main reasons may be because of the digital era. Up until 2000 everything was pretty standard, like the way you’d record albums and rehearse for them, you had to have an actual band, an actual drummer in the studio with you if you wanted to play. Nowadays, you don’t need any of that, you can compose a song with the guitar player by himself, you can have an orchestra, drums, you can have everything. But back in our time that was impossible, you had to produce everything yourself and play it organically. So, if you’re from this generation you have all these tools that make everything so much easier, you can evolve and reach greater things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that its better. You know, sometimes what I would call the soul, or the magic, the chemistry of the people and what you’re playing, that’s what makes the songs different. We had a producer Vince, who was from Sweden, he does Opeth and did Sepultura lately, lots of big bands, he challenges himself when he does the recordings because he tries to keep what’s right but at the same time he wants to make sure there is emotion, if it feels right for a person and not for a machine. Sometimes you forget that. I think people in our generation just want to mass produce everything that they can. Everything is an exaggeration. And even the older writers, some of them work hard but some of them wait for inspiration and you can’t force that sometimes. You can work hard and do your best but sometimes there are special moments. Like our first album was very special, but hopefully we’ll have many more.
What are your thoughts on the digital world, where everything is streamed online rather than bought physically?
M: Well, we’re from a time of tape trading, you know, send off our tapes and wait 2 or 3 weeks for a response, we’d send letters, we were very committed to the underground. So, of course, to have everything in seconds, like you have a new band and you can go on Spotify and listen to them immediately, and it’s cool, but of course you lose the magic. Like going to the actual shop, when you go to the shop you can actually meet someone or you can talk to a person, like so many fans of ours, they were into Paradise Lost for example, and the guy from the store would be like “Oh you like Paradise Lost? Why don’t you check out Moonspell, it’s in the same genre”, so, a lot of people found out about other bands in that way. But now there is just so much information all at the same time, I don’t know how kids deal with it. Your brain has a certain capacity, unless you’re Einstein or something, I don’t know! But also, something that was so important for us back in the days, the quality of an album. You’d listen to an album from the beginning to the end, you’d actually get groups of friends because you’d only get one guy who has the album or it came from abroad, and you’d listen to it together. But now everyone listens to music on their own, and they pick their best songs. They don’t really care if an album has like a certain message from the beginning to the end, that’s how we try to make our albums. We still think that people are gonna listen from the beginning to end and not skip, that’s why we have certain passages and things in a certain way. But if you just pick the songs you like the best you never get that experience. But I see a lot of kids, especially the people my age, they try to pass this on to the younger generations and that’s why metal is still alive, if not you wouldn’t have the force to pass. People continue to buy merch and CDs and even when I was a kid I’d go to the show and get a t-shirt… which I’d steal (haha)!
So would you say metal is still alive and well?
M: Oh yeah! I mean, even for us, through so many years, we come back to London to play venues like this, it’s pretty amazing. We would always play smaller venues unless it was a bigger support slot like for Cradle Of Filth. I think we’ve played London probably more than 20 times, between 20 and 30 times (haha)! A lot of shows. But it’s always cool, like we did a signing session in Camden at the bar part of the Underworld. I’ve spent so much time there, one of our first shows was there in ‘95, we actually slept at the promoters house and we were there for a week and a half. Me and the vocalist, we were sleeping on the floor, on the kitchen floor actually, while the other guys were… in the living room… not sure if they were on at least the sofa. But that was a long time ago!
Is there anything you would like to add before we finish off the interview?
M: I appreciate everyone who comes to the shows and listens to our music and this genre is really something that I have fought for, it’s like a community and a brotherhood. I think we all really relate well, it doesn’t matter if we’ve never met before but if you are into this style of music then I must know a little about you, that’s what’s so cool! Especially with the big music festivals over the years, it’s something that I see happening, Wacken and Hellfest, people come from Japan and Australia, there are all these communities. Like even in South America, the festivals are becoming huge in South America, we played in Mexico last year and they had Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth and Scorpions, whole bunch of bands – over 100,000 people! I never thought that could possibly happen in Mexico because everything there was so difficult, to do shows back in the 90’s and the fans are so loyal and just kept on going.