Moonspell recently released the concept album 1755 about a major earthquake in their native country of Portugal. Drummer Mike Gaspar fills us in on the new record and other topics.
What inspired you to make this a concept album about the 1755 earthquake?
Mike Gaspar: Initially the idea was to release a DVD this year and have an EP. The material came out so well and the subject was so rich that we couldn’t have it as merely a bonus to come with the live performance. It had to be an album! There was too much to explore. It’s a pity we haven’t done more in our past. This was a great opportunity to get it right.
The idea came from Fernando and his memories from school when he studied this event in history classes and also the drill exercises they used to perform in case of an earthquake. I think this stuck with him until today. With Napalm Records behind us and fully supporting the idea, Fernando immediately wrote new lyrics for the rest of the album. Portugal was simply the inspiration on this one.
Does a concept album change your songwriting approach, or just the lyrical approach?
With Moonspell it always starts with the lyrics and what the story is telling. On this album the story really happened and it is not fiction. So the key elements of the times played a major role in the songwriting. The lyrics and singing are constantly pushing the songs and preaching the facts of this disaster with all its consequences.
How come you decided to sing it entirely in Portuguese?
The lyrics are specific and if sung in English I don’t think you would get the right feeling and emotion we wanted listeners to experience. During those times English was not common among the streets. To document it with integrity in our native language was definitely important.
Do you have any concerns that will affect its appeal worldwide?
When Fernando approached us with the idea our concern was more if it would work rather then if the worldwide scene would accept it. We were surprised at how much power and aggression Fernando was able to accomplish with Portuguese words. Its just a beautiful language that due to some mentalities and even our own at times, has not been explored properly until now. But looking in our past we have always used some Portuguese lyrics, history, culture and folk roots. Its who we are and I think the world is more attuned to difference nowadays then in the past .
How did Paulo Braganca’s guest appearance come about?
We met him back in 1998 at a Portuguese music award show. He was the few musicians we talked to. I remember him being very cordial and not giving us a hard time because we were metal. During the songwriting process there was a need for a higher pitched voice for the choruses on “In Tremor Dei.” Fernando thought of Paulo instantly. There was no option whatsoever, only he could make this part work. He is our fallen angel from the Fado scene. After doing some shows with him and spending time on the road I know this was a match made in heaven, or in hell in our case!
What led you to work with producer Tue Madsen again for this album?
Like I said we started off with the idea of an EP. The time we had was also short so we needed somebody that could work with us that knew our chemistry. Tue is great and easy going. We did drums in Denmark and he flew to Portugal to record the rest of the album. Also the sound that we needed in terms of aggression combined with all the orchestras and choirs is Tue´s playground. To me he is like a big brother and it couldn’t have been a better experience.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of 1755?
I recorded drums in 2016 and then 2017. Both times after festivals and in between pre-production and rehearsals. So it was all very intense. The last session I remember arriving at Tue’s house late at night to set up the drums and test the sound. The next morning I recorded a song or two like I had never left the studio. I was so comfortable and at ease, even though with all the traveling you get super tired. The music brings the best out of you when you least expect it.
Did the concept allow you to explore musical areas that you might not usually hear on a Moonspell album?
I think with this album we were able to explore elements from our past, like Under The Moonspell with the Arabic influences, but also a combination of sacred music heard in churches. African and other cultures were also heard on the streets of Lisbon. I think we never had such details in the orchestration and female singers. It brings so much power and enlightens the songs.
You have some European tours lined up for next year. Any plans for a North American run?
We are planning many tours for 2018 and for sure North America will not be missed. We will soon announce the lineup for an extensive tour with many familiar bands and friends of ours. Its still being planned so can’t reveal the bands yet. It’s gonna be killer!
Do you have any plans to play 1755 in its entirety live?
Yes and no. As a support band with a shorter set it might make sense to play a balanced set list with a lot of focus on 1755. As headliners we have been playing the whole album and as a second part of the show we do a best of from our classic albums. Let’s see how the audience reacts and day by day we can change it if we like.
You said 1755 started as a companion piece to a DVD. When will that DVD be released?
We recorded a DVD that will come out next year. It was filmed in Lisbon in the beginning of 2017. We celebrated the 20 year anniversary of Irreligious. Wolfheart and Extinct were also part of the show. We played all those albums from start to finish. There’s about three hours live plus footage of us preparing the shows, studio life and personal moments with our families. I hope everyone enjoys it. It’s a lot of our history and who we really are.
What was your reaction to the recent death of Celtic Frost’s Martin Eric Ain?
I was lucky enough to meet him and play with Celtic Frost when the came out with Monotheist. An amazing album and one of the best comebacks ever! I remember being behind the stage after their show at a festival in Greece. He approached us and blessed me and our bass player. It was very dark and spiritual at the same time. I will never forgot that moment. Its always very hard to lose someone that you admire but also share similar lives. Freaks me out sometimes. But we are here to keep the torch alive and honor his contribution to metal.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Hope to catch you on the road and bring this album to life. Let’s celebrate music together! Thanks again for the interview, it’s always a pleasure!
(interview published December 5, 2017)