PiercingMetal Talks To Moonspell’s Michael Gaspar (10/22/2006)

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Darkness would hit New York City hard and swift this evening as Moonspell performed a show with both Katatonia and Daylight Dies as their support but before this would happen I would secure a few moments of time with their drummer Michael Gaspar. Moonspell are truly the reigning Kings in the realm of Gothic Metal nowadays and have booked some shows in the States to support their latest album “Memorial”. The album, released on SPV Records, is a powerfully brooding and dark piece of Metal, which shows elements of drama and mood on every track. The tour would be labeled “The Nocturnal Mourning” tour and feature special guest openers Daylight Dies and Katatonia. My original plan was to speak to lead singer Fernando Ribeiro but when I arrived, he was busy with his sound check and planning out the performance for the night. A quick search of the halls of the venue had me find drummer Mike Gaspar who was more than happy to talk for a few minutes about the band, the album and their future plans for Metal heads everywhere.

PiercingMetal: Well here we are with Mike Gaspar, drummer from Moonspell – the Portuguese Masters Of Gothic Metal. Let us start off with this new tour, “The Nocturnal Mourning” as it is labeled. It just started the other night and you mentioned that this was your first time in this particular venue (B.B. King Blues Club) and you liked it. What about it led you to this impression when you walked in the place I am just curious.

Mike Gaspar: Overall, it had a lot to do with the attitude, for instance if you are receiving a band with a package tour that is working really hard to make sure everything goes smoothly. They want to give the audience the best performance and obviously the best stage show possible in terms of lights and sound. The first two shows were at these rock clubs more than venues and they had like four or five local bands before us you wondered if they were fighting more for the local bands than the main package. It struck me as wondering why some clubs or some promoters would want to do that.

PiercingMetal: And this is the third show on “The Nocturnal Mourning” Tour and that is a great title for the event by the way, so it would sound like this did not start off as best as you thought it would.

Mike Gaspar: Well first of all our bus didn’t arrive and then when we got to the airport we had to rent vans and U-Hauls just so we could make the first show. We finally got there about six or seven in the afternoon and the club was a shit hole that seemed almost impossible to do a show there. So of course you still want it to happen because so many people are coming to see you from the area.

PiercingMetal: So was the crowd good despite the initial reservations on the club.

Mike Gaspar: Yeah the people were very excited to see us but we went on the stage at about 1:30 in the morning and we are a band who are doing their sixth or seventh tour and that never happens at that stage. It’s more common in Portugal or the Latin American countries where everything starts late but here it is not as common we are finding.

PiercingMetal: So how does it feel to be headlining once again?

Mike Gaspar: I always find that we are a bit curious because it has been awhile since we last headlined and the last time around we had Lacuna Coil supporting us and this was a good tour. Then very soon after we started to support bigger bands.

PiercingMetal: I thought Moonspell had headlined the tour with Opeth a couple of years ago.

Mike Gaspar: No that was Opeth headlining and we would change spots with Devildriver.

PiercingMetal: I was very sad to have missed that show and think it was based on us having about a foot of snow on the ground on the day you played. Couldn’t get anywhere. Now let’s talk about “Memorial”, how do you find it being received as an album?

Mike Gaspar: We have been really surprised at some of the reviews because we were not expecting them to be so good or so overwhelming from everywhere. From Europe to South America and everyplace else. It’s been awhile since we had such a good reaction to any album that we have done. Also, when we did it, we just wanted to do the very best we could. The important thing I think that we did that made a difference in the sound was having Waldemar once again, and he did our first three albums and he has always been involved with the band. We are in love with what he can do for the music, and he has had such great work with Samael and Tiamat, Sentenced. Literally the whole generation of the nineties as far as Atmospheric Metal with more keyboards and space for everything. He has a different sort of mentality towards the music that you are not so used to in Metal. He is very, very talented and very open minded so having him work with us is kind of like having a fifth member in the band. He went to Portugal many times to do the pre-production work for this album. We had three different pre-productions; we had one in our studio in Portugal. We had been trying over the years to have the best possible conditions for us so we can rehearse and always be prepared for an album or a tour or for anything that we have to do. It’s always a pleasure to not only be with someone who is there for the music to get the best out of you but it’s also nice to show him a bit of our culture and our land to enjoy every little thing with us. We would go out to eat, or out at night and we would show him the area and things that are not so common against where he comes from. He actually does the same with us, for when we did the album he was taking us to Christmas fairs in Germany and explaining the traditions and the drinking of Gluehwein, which is a hot wine that you have when it’s really cold out. You get really wasted from it, I only had one cup, and I was like “whoa”.

PiercingMetal: It reminds me of when friends came back from Puerto Rico and had brought home some real Sangria. When I mentioned that I had sampled this in the past and it was ok, I was informed about how different the real deal stuff was. They gave me a small glass and I was almost insulted since it was so small and after only a few sips I was also pretty much “wheeee”. Now where were we, ok, so the album has been toured in Europe and Portugal before its come here.

Mike Gaspar: Mainly in festivals for the most part.

PiercingMetal: Ok, so how have you been finding the album going over in these scenarios?

Mike Gaspar: It was great because we haven’t done this sort of thing since about the “Sin” album where we would hit every major country in Europe and also on the East. I remember because we had gone to Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and we started to do all the main festivals in Germany, Holland, France, Italy and Greece, Spain and even a show in Morocco. That was interesting for us since there were over ten thousand people there. It’s always amazing to see and it’s always a joy to see people that are so far away from this culture and where you could get banned or arrested or even killed by some fanatic purely because you listen to heavy music. They think you are Satanist or that you are crazy people. I’ve had conversations with people that were like forty, fifty years old who said that if they wore a leather jacket that they could be arrested back in the eighties so to see all that energy finally get a chance to be open was great. The culture is now overlapping the religious influences and I think the music is above all that.

PiercingMetal: It is definitely stuff that we take for granted over here, and of course having never been to Portugal, I don’t know how it is for the citizens over there who are interested in the Metal scene but I wondered if you would consider Moonspell to be one of the biggest bands to come out of the Country.

Mike Gaspar: Oh yes for sure.

PiercingMetal: Of course, I don’t mean this in a conceited way.

Mike Gaspar: Yes, I know, and I actually always feel embarrassed and a little sad also because I have so many friends who started out at the same time that I started and they would also love to be part of this business and be able to do what they love in life. What’s even more unfortunate is that you might not get the right band, or get that break and opportunity to connect with bands or tour with bands or record companies and what have you. You see in Portugal it is so small that it is very limited in terms of information, or places to play and opportunities for bands to get out of there. The aren’t many conditions for rehearsal space or musical instruments is very expensive as we pay about 21% sales tax on it, and the same for music that you would buy. That’s something that we are not so accustomed to in a cultural sense and it took a long time for the Metal bands to start going there. I mean the eighties were big since we had Iron Maiden going over and Motorhead and there is a big generation gap as well, because it didn’t continue to grow because there wasn’t the same sort of outlet for them to maintain a Metal community. There wasn’t that much to do in terms of Metal shops or whatever. However, when you come to America you start to see that happen too as well as some of the other countries. Yet this is really apparent in Portugal.

PiercingMetal: Would you say that Moonspell has opened the door for other Portuguese bands?

Mike Gaspar: Well at least in the aspect of having the opportunity to be recognized and to have some access to the Foreign media and record companies. We are always trying to talk about some bands that we like or bands that have influenced us when we started off. There are a lot of the underground Portuguese bands that like it but again it is very limited.

PiercingMetal: So let’s talk about some special recollections that you might have about the recording of “Memorial”. When you first heard the music that they were laying down, and I admit that I don’t know the writing process that they have in the band but for instance maybe Fernando came up with a line of lyric and from this Pedro and Ricardo came up with a riff that made you say “oh yeah I see this whole song right here”. Tell me some of that stuff.

Mike Gaspar: Well I remember in the rehearsal place doing “Once It Was Ours”, and even though this might not be the best song on the album the whole concept behind that song gave us a lot of energy and a lot of power to make an album like this. It was something that was very powerful to us and to what we believe in and not neglecting all of the influence that you get since we have been around for a long time now. There are always reviews and comments from managers and record labels and their always giving you information on which direction you should go or what you should try and this and that. So for this album we pretty much closed into ourselves and made sure that everything came from the heart and everything represented on it had to be something to do with us. So I think that gave a lot of power for everything but other than that when we came to record, the album is very, very tight so we really worried about getting the best performance in the studio. There weren’t many things that we experimented with because we didn’t have any time for that. We recorded the album in three weeks with me doing the drums in about two days and a half. Fernando had maybe like two or three hours in the afternoon like around 4 to 5 days maximum. He was in and out of there so quickly the poor guy. Everything else was really concentrated on in the essence of the guitar leads and of course the overall sounding of the album. Waldemar spent a lot of time on that and the best conclusion of that whole experience is that we stayed in an apartment together for the whole month and spent time together cooking and talking and having almost a normal domestic life.

PiercingMetal: Kind of a Metal reality show.

Mike Gaspar: Sort of, because I would go and buy the food at the supermarket and someone else would buy bread and we would all take turns cooking and it was fun because we are a kind of family on the road. I think you can tell that when you listen to the music because it’s not something like I write something when I am home and then Pedro or Ricardo adds to it and we email each other. We just get together and we do it because the other way I don’t think would work very well for us. With Waldemar, that last day he wanted to go to our apartment where we stayed the whole month and we just listened to the album for the first time on a little stereo drinking some beer and making Portuguese food. It was great to have everyone together and I think that was a very special moment. When we heard it, we were all looking at each other and saying wow this is really good. We couldn’t believe how it sounded and we were so happy. So just to feel that was more important than anything else.

PiercingMetal: So now my question is since the album is out and selling really well, would you be able to say at the end of the day that this is the best Moonspell release ever?

Mike Gaspar: Well I think for the times definitely and that we believe that because we forced so much energy into the making of this album. We have never prepared ourselves for an album like this. We made sure to know about stage props, rehearsals and the whole design around the merchandise and make sure that everything is connecting and everything that seems to be is. We discuss every little detail and all the emails that go around, it ends up that all decisions are approved by the whole band so that we all know what is going on. Sometimes that is very complicated and sometimes you get very lost. With the band sometimes you don’t know the reasons why something went wrong or why something else didn’t happen. We were very concerned and very careful about it but as far as the Moonspell history, the main album that I think made us who we are is for sure “Wolfheart”. I think that every time I look back on it, since it was very experimental and I think it was an album that I think also brought a lot of good out of many other bands. You only start to notice that after a couple of years when people start saying, “oh that got me into Metal”, or “I saw the cover and then saw the wolves and felt that this must be great”. That kind of feel and reaction is so lost these days and its all about who said what or I’m on MTV with this whole mainstream thing.

PiercingMetal: what do you find yourself thinking about being labeled as Gothic Metal.? I ask this because there are so many bands that get put into a particular genre of style and when you say to them how you feel about being one of the better “Power Metal” groups they get a little annoyed and line out that they are no such thing despite it being painfully obvious that they are. “Oh please don’t call us Power Metal, we are not Power Metal”, yet when you define the genre against what they do its like “guys, you are Power Metal”

Mike Gaspar: It doesn’t bother me at all since from the beginning we were accustomed to being labeled as such and then when we released “Wolfheart”, I don’t know what they called us, perhaps it was Folk Metal mixed in with some Black Metal.

PiercingMetal: No, Moonspell is not Folk.

Mike Gaspar: We had two songs back then that could have been thought of as such and I remember the people at the label found them a little amusing. Making jokes and laughing. Around that time there were not many people who believed in it, except the band that is and perhaps one of the main A&R’s from Century Media. Our start was very difficult but in the end we have been called a few things, Dark Metal, Atmospheric Metal and none of this is bad since its people’s perception. Of course we are a lot more than simply Gothic Metal as we have so many influences and we are always striving for something new and better or something that gives us more energy to continue to release better albums. Also the chance to continue to tour many different countries and meet all sorts of different people and get the reaction from the fans and our loved ones. We always like to hear what the Wife says or what the girlfriend thinks, this is stuff that we take into mind and this is more important than a simple label.

PiercingMetal: – Do you think we shall see a live DVD or CD from this?

Mike Gaspar: We have had many problems with Century Media releasing our DVD that we recorded in 2004 in Metal Mania in Poland. It didn’t come because of legal reasons and ex-members and such and we were very disappointed about that because we had done a lot of work on it. Especially Fernando, who was very picky about the songs and had picked a lot of old stuff and we had done interviews with each member and we all talked about the band, a little about our lives and what we see for ourselves in the band. It would have been something interesting for the people who had been following us for the past twelve years to look at.

PiercingMetal: Well, it might still come out right?

Mike Gaspar: Well, we could hope, and it’s a pity if it doesn’t come out but since we are on SPV Records now with our new album, for sure we are going to try to do something newer.

PiercingMetal: How is the relationship with the new label going.

Mike Gaspar: Its going great and I think we have a great understanding with them. They have so many great bands and they are used to having a little bit of everything and they seem to do the best that they can with each band. It doesn’t bother then to have a lot of different things, and most of the decisions come from us we don’t end up waiting for the label on every little thing. You find that to be the case in today’s scene, you need to be a little more connected to what is happening rather than waiting on the label for it. Our finger is on the pulse of it all, and I think that you can tell when you listen to it. This is one of the best parts of the relationship with SPV. It’s a good label to be one.

PiercingMetal: What would you say some of your favorite songs on the album, and will we hear most of the release tonight during the performance.

Mike Gaspar: We are playing most of “Memorial” since we are trying to get that out there as much as possible and I think it sounds great live and it’s very powerful. We tried to mix it up a little bit with regards to the old albums. So you will hear some “Wolfheart”, some “Religious” and mainly because those two albums go so good with what we have done on “Memorial” and it was also something that we were looking for because we are very concerned about our live performances. I think that is what it is really all about, for instance when you listen to the albums at home the show allows you the chance to see how it is all connected. Its like a ritual when we play it live and I think “Wolfheart” mixes very well with the atmosphere of “Memorial” and it was also a very big influence on the album. It just might be a little harder and the sound a lot more modern to the times. So that is what is important to us because there are always new generations coming around. Sometimes it might be good music but if the sound isn’t what they think they are going to listen to then you find that they put it away immediately. We worry about that and if it will be a good mix and not have anyone get lost. We don’t want to do a Nu-Metal album.

PiercingMetal: What no rapping or DJ mixes in Moonspell stuff in the future?

Mike Gaspar: No, there will not be any Rap or Hip-Hop in the music and it is everywhere you go now. Even in Portugal it’s gotten so big that you see Portuguese Hip-Hop artists finding success. Its finding more of a chance at that than the Rock and Metal we loved. Yet don’t worry we are not going to sell ourselves out and we will continue to do what we have always done.

PiercingMetal: Care to shed some light on some of your future plans now that this album is riding so high.

Mike Gaspar: Well from here we have a tour that is starting in like February or March in Europe and then we are doing some Festival shows over there which is something common for us to do. It’s a nice mix for us to be involved with a bunch of the Extreme bands since there is such a wide mix of stuff on this album, from Gothic, to Black to Atmospheric. Some of the bands on that which I know of are Suffocation and Napalm Death so that is going to be a lot of fun for us. Its music that we always loved since we were always the biggest Black and Death Metal fans growing up.

PiercingMetal: I notice a trend at time, because especially with my coming here for a show. I tend to see a lot of the same faces in the audience. You might come to Emperor one night and then see the same group at Loudness the next time. They really seem to be absorbing as much Metal as possible.

Mike Gaspar: It’s easy for us because we were brought up and defined on every section of Metal and now you see the kids just being open to a little bit of everything. For instance if you like Opeth who mix in all this great 70’s style music but also have many touches of the Death Metal of like Morbid Angel and things like that.

PiercingMetal: I guess we can move along to what you find are your inspirations and what you tend to listen to when you have time to do it.

Mike Gaspar: The main bands that I like a lot are Carcass and Obituary, Samael and I am a big fan of Tiamat and I like Tool. I am always pretty open to stuff, and if it doesn’t have just a solid beat and is something that seems natural I tend to like it more.

PiercingMetal: Who is your favorite drummer?

Mike Gaspar: Hmm, that’s a tough question but I will go for Terry Bozzio because he is like his own thing. He is my pick just as a drummer, but if you mean as far as a drummer in a band then that is different. In that case I like Vinny Paul from Pantera and the drummers from Tool and Morbid Angel and I was even watching earlier today a Death concert and I was blown away by the sound of the drummer there. It’s all influential and fun for me and we as a band adapt from all of this.

PiercingMetal: Thanks very much for your time Michael, have a great show. I hope we did not talk too long.

Mike Gaspar: Not at all, thanks to you as well.

So from there it was back to the business of Metal for Mike and the guys as they delivered a dramatic set of music. All three bands were in peak form and you can see for yourself with our photos and review elsewhere on the site. “Memorial” is a must have for any fans of pounding Gothic Metal and is sure to become one of your favorites CD’s for this genre.

Official Web site: www.moonspell.com

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