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Moonspell Drummer Miguel Gaspar Discusses "1755," New Music And More

Four hundred and sixty four years ago today, a series of disasters hit the Portuguese city of Lisbon, causing massive destruction and making such a cultural impact that many philosophers rethought their stance on God. Of course, if any band was going to write an album all about this event, it would have to the country's biggest metal exports, Moonspell.

Currently on an extensive tour of Europe with Greek metal legends Rotting Christ, Moonspell are still as strong as ever. Their brand of Gothic and atmospheric extreme metal still resonates with listeners across the globe and in the live setting, they can set scenes like the best theatre directors. I caught up drummer Miguel "Mike" Gaspar at the band's recent show in London to talk all about the album, their biography, "Wolves Who Were Men," work on new music and much more. You can watch the interview in full below, while an excerpt reads as follows:

Diamond Oz: How's it going Mike?

Miguel "Mike" Gaspar: Really good, we just came from the signing session. We have our book, "Wolves Who Were Men," which was written by Ricardo S. Amorim, which is the same name as our guitar player so people are getting confused, but it wasn't our guitar player that wrote the book.

Oz: It's a really comprehensive book...

Mike: Yeah it's the first time we've seen the English version, which has some extras inside. It has some colour photos so it's kind of like a picture book too.

Oz: When was the decision made to make a book about Moonspell?

Mike: Maybe two or three years ago. I think it was a coincidence because we were doing this TV programme in the north of the country in Porto and at the same time, there was one of the journalists from Loud magazine, who had written a book about the Portuguese metal scene, which included us. We really appreciated the work he did on that and he asked us for a ride back home to Lisbon, which is like a three hour drive and while we were in the van, we were talking among ourselves and Fernando asked him if he'd want to do a Moonspell biography. The next day, he called him back asking if he was serious and he said, "We're serious. We really want you to do this because I think you're the perfect person for it" and he did an amazing job, taking the time to speak to each one of us.

At the time my daughter had just been born, so she was six months old and I asked him to come and meet me at my house to talk about the band. Of course I was in a different state of mind. He did the same with all the other members throughout the months, this was in the process of nearly a year. He also traveled with us to some shows abroad, like to Belgium for a big festival, so he could see what it's like outside of the country, because it's very difficult to explain to the Portuguese what it's like outside of your own country, you really have to experience it for yourself.

Oz: I think Moonspell are the best known Portuguese heavy metal band, at least outside of Portugal. Do you feel any pressure at being seen as the flag bearers for Portugal?

Mike: I try to ignore it to tell you the truth, because it's been so long and nothing really came. Everything we did back in the nineties, we were expecting more bands to come and follow our path like you see in Finland, Sweden even Greece and Italy. So many bands have come from these scenes and we wanted the same for the Portuguese scene and we would help out and still do. But there's something about the Portuguese that they just don't want to leave their country. The food's too good, the beaches are too good and to have that drive like we did because we had to put everything behind us; Girlfriends, work, family meetings, whatever.

We've missed almost everything in over twenty years of touring. We always invested in it and we learned from the best. We toured with Type O Negative in 1996. We toured with Morbid Angel, Immortal, you name it, we've probably toured with them. Coming from Portugal it's difficult too. Most bands from Europe can usually get a bus or van to shows, we always have to catch a plane, so everything's more expensive. It was always like that for us, but there are other bands that keep on trying. So I just wish the Portuguese scene would grow up a little bit more because it's not our fault. Sometimes bands say that it's our fault there's not really any other known Portuguese bands because we take all of the spotlight but that makes no sense.

Oz: Yeah, I've heard a few Brazilian bands say that about Sepultura, but normally the ones who say that aren't any good anyway.

Mike: Yeah but you've got Krisiun and that. Nervosa are doing amazing, bringing back thrash.

Oz: But like you say, you've always given everything. Moonspell is a band that's always put so much effort into everything they do, which you can see with the DVD here, "Lisboa Under The Spell."

Mike: Yeah, that was almost like doing another album or something. It's a three hour show of "Wolfheart," "Irreligious" and "Extinct."

Oz: Not to mention all the behind the scenes stuff. You must have been so pissed off having all the cameras attached to you.

Mike: Yeah, sometimes, even in like the main show, they wanted me to wear a Go Pro in the middle of my body and I'm like, "Well I don't see myself play unless I'm a Transformer," but I suppose it's good for the images. For the main show, we had Go Pros all over the kit and everywhere, but we've always been like a mystical band, let's say. We always liked the details and the theatrics and making everything look nice.

Oz: Well like you say Moonspell has always had that atmosphere and that's been put fully into the latest album, "1755." For one I really like that the whole album is in Portuguese.

Mike: Yeah it makes sense for our background and the type of music that we used to put out in the early days and getting back to our roots. So this was something that was really nice, especially for the Portuguese metal fans. Because, there's a lot of Portuguese that live here in London and for them to listen to something Portuguese it's an amazing feeling to have something that reminds you of home. We always feel connected to the immigrants because the Portuguese have always moved a lot over the years because Portugal is a very poor country, so you'll find Portuguese people everywhere. So there aren't many bands that I think could do this and not just for the Portuguese but you also have Brazil, who will always be connected to Portugal because of history, the same with the Americans and England. Brazilians are always curious about Portugal and want to know what it's like, where these roots came from, where all these bad manners came from. (laughs)

Oz: Obviously it's a full on concept album. Did the music or the idea come first?

Mike: Well Fernando came up with the idea from a modern day expedition. A lot of people, from professors to scientists, so we knew the closest thing to the truth of what happened. So at the album release party, we invited some of these people so fans could have an explanation on what happened that day. There was a tsunami, but being a Catholic day, the churches were full of candles, so not only did the tsunami happen but then an earthquake and then the candles burned whatever was left, so it's been compared to like a 9/11 for the time.

People were covered in dust from all the stones and all the buildings that came down to Earth but it was a pretty impressive event because it changed the way people started to think. It was still very religious, us and Spain were still very closed minded and we assumed everything was because of God. Then on that day they finally opened their eyes to science and why this happened. So that's why we have the science of earthquakes, because of that day. Back then everyone just thought an earthquake was the will of God, but then they thought, "If we're so religious, why would God do this to us?" So they took the stones from the fallen churches and rather than rebuild the churches, they used them to rebuild their houses.

Some good things came of it, though of course there were a lot of deaths and it took like a year to rearrange but the incredible thing that I didn't know, was that we had help from all over Europe, because they felt it too. It was said that the earthquake was felt as far as Tampere in the north of Finland. Europe had never had such an earthquake, it was like 8.9 I think. It can still happen of course because we're kind of like San Francisco, the scientists and professors have shown us the maps of the ocean floor and we can see precisely all the cracks. They showed us the censors that they put on the ocean floor too, because there's always little earthquakes.

Oz: I never knew all that!

Mike: Yeah normally they don't tell tourists because otherwise people won't go there. (laughs) But now they're getting better. They're starting to label stuff in case something happens like they do in Chile or Mexico. There'll be signs in the airports letting you know what to do in case of an earthquake.

Oz: Well moving on to tonight. This is the sixth show out of fifty, I think in fifty one days...

Mike: Something like that. I think we only have two days off. I try not to look at the schedule. I go day by day.

Oz: It's a great pairing: Moonspell and Rotting Christ, because you both have those roots in black metal, then over time, both bands have become their own, unique bands. I noticed you contributed to each other's books. Has there always been that camaraderie between you and Rotting Christ?

Mike: Ever since '96. One of our first big tours was with Rotting Christ and Samael. We were huge fans of Samael and we knew Rotting Christ from the underground, they showed up a few years before us and of course they came from the Greek scene which inspired us. Then we toured and had some of the best times of our lives. Even today, we have so many jokes and memories that crack us up just from that tour. Mainly with Sakis, because he was the only one that was on that tour. It was a time when they were with Century Media and they had some other members, some Germans members, so not the true Rotting Christ. We've stayed in touch all these years, if we come to Greece or if they come to Portugal, you always help each other out and now we know each other's families, it's more than just the music it's like a brotherhood.

Oz: It's not been two years since "1755," which was released two years on from "Extinct," so the obvious question is; Is there any work being done on new music?

Mike: Well the next album is one that we don't want to stress too much about, in terms of making it happen before a certain deadline. We took most of this year to work on a new album, which is why we didn't tour much. So hopefully, if everything goes right, in 2020 there should be a surprise but we don't want to get too much into that, we still have a huge tour ahead of us. It's a celebration to see the new fans and the old fans and it's also an inspiration for what we're going to end up doing. So even though we've worked on stuff, for sure when we get to the material, some things might change. Some songs only make sense to us if they work well live. Sometimes if you've been cooped up in the studio too long, you forget what's important, which is the audience.

Oz: Just finally to end on something lighter, next year is the Euros. Can Portugal win?

Mike: I don't think so. (Laughs) I'm not the biggest football fan because I was brought up in the States so my favourite sports are baseball, American football, hockey and stuff like that. Of course, living in Portugal since I was twelve, I got to get into it. So at least with the national team, I turn full Portuguese. I turn on the TV, my heart gets excited and I'm like, "Why am I doing this?" But it's so nice to see everyone come together and support the team. I think some people rely on Ronaldo too much because he's the best player in the world, or was, but it's about the whole team. We always start slow in tournaments then build up, sometimes we get to the semi finals, then of course in 2016 we won. I've never seen Portugal so happy in my life.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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