Under the Moonspell notebook #5
Portugal was under the rule of Rome for as long as seven centuries. They left us more than roads and baths and still to the day, in between all natural convulsions of that time, one can find some traces of the colonial domain of a civilization which was, by all means, fascinating and pulsing, whose cruelty and vice led to a fall like no other History has seen. The modern Portuguese, in spite of all good influence we had throughout the years, is more often a fool than a noble citizen or gentleman. My strolls to the park with my kid are nothing short of a little adventure: cars not stopping in the pedestrian crossing; people at the post office, looking healthy and summerlike, not respecting the prioritaire line while the employers give me an afflicted look, unable to exercise their own rule; finally, a kind soul rescuing me and the baby from a long line in the supermarket and letting us having her place to the despair of people in a rush to get to the beach or to drink a beer outside. She was Portuguese yeah but she was living in Germany. I almost believed I was wrong about the Portuguese but that fact did not save my countrymates from my negative note for all they care (which is nothing at all). All in just one morning. The morning of yesterday.
Many people will argue that those are exceptions and that the guy next in line, the neighbour, the waiter who serves you at the bar, are actually kind and nice, good people. They will scald me for such an appreciation. Portuguese do not react that well to criticism, I know that by experience. Many times I was one of them but I have always held the door and gave way in the supermarket. Unfortunately, I might belong to the exception and not to the rule down here, in Southernmost Europe (we all think that, by the way). And whom, who have never lived such a history and still believe we are kind, friendly and polite might as well live in a different country than what I do. I do have plenty of stories like this to tell, from the bank clerk that snobs me and my money because of my long hair, thrashy look; or the countless times I had to argue with midlle age women and men to let my very pregnant wife get through the line or have that chair where someone had put just a stupid bag. Or could it be that us, the Portuguese, are forever more sensitive to the bad happening to us than to the drivers who actually stopped to give us way on the road or someone who was happy to wait while I paid the groceries in the supermarket. That is,also, highly plausible.
You can draw already the conclusion: I am back in Portugal, my alma mater, too many times poisoned by this sad attitude of a country that once was but now it’s not. A week ago I woke up in a single bed in Czech Republic. It was 1.50 PM and I just slept for ten solid hours and I am, by all means, dazed and confused and somewhat incredulous. . It’s been the first time since my child was born, four months ago, that I was treated to such a privilege. I have had opportunities before but I was unable to break the pace that he set since he dearly came into our lifes. Many of you, proud parents like me, know what I am talking about. I was touring the metalfests for almost 15 days and only on the last day could I rest knowing I will be home soon to meet him. A hand just shook me awake in time for the airport.
Other times, there was no chance to sleep, early flights and so on. While in others, the body did not respond even after some heavy smoking to smoothen the spirit. I believe our body and our brain undergo a transformation that even if is not as great and deep as those that take place in a mother, are not meaningless and should be considered in the bringing someone to life equation. Sometimes, being a father and a man is overlooked when compared to all the attention, sometimes even unwanted, mothers get. As for me I refuse to believe that we are the ones standing in the shadow and driving them around in the car. Yesterday I gave Fausto the complete treatment. After his food, bath and creams I put him to sleep and he rested like the little lord he is. My wife she got the Summer flu (harder to kick out) and she has shows to make so I am spending hard-working yet always precious hours with him.
One night before this enchanted sleep we wrapped up a great Summer festival season at Brutal Assault. Goes without saying that we are thankful to all who attended and made it happen. It was our first time at this festival and all was quite magic in a day that started wrong with our national flight company (TAP) pulling another delay and yet another “no service” trick, which is probably a scheme to defraud the passengers who pay for full service and that do not get anything but a arrogant crew, entrusted upon an internal regulation (naturally made overlooking basic passengers rights), which does not allow them to serve anyhting if one of the attendants does not show up. So, to accomplish their really hard work of pouring drinks, pushing trolleys, selling perfumes and mimicking security rules and actions, they need their full crew. The three of four that actually went to work just sit down, reading, eating meals themselves and basically just being unfriendly to anyone who says the truth: that this is shameful and a rip-off. No more words about the aviation nightmare, just a wish that teletransportation exits the fiction domain as soon as possible and become a reality so musicians can just materialize in the venues and festivals, happy and ready to devour the world there is in front of a stage.
Playing live is very often a magical moment. With such a responsive crowd in such a great place (flames came out of old fortress walls while we played) that magic sets upon the night and when every of your gesture and every note you play meets genuine applause, it validates you and makes you forget the long road you had to travel, on an empty stomach and a dry throat. In the dressing room next door a band parties. They have already played. I don’t know who they are. Inside our container I warm up my vocals and do my stretchings. I always use Melissa Cross warm-ups and give it a litlle twist. It’s more of a boring process than anyhting else but virtually necessary if you want to go on stage with an affirmative and powerful throating already, instead of using the first songs to make it right. People pay their tickets to see you (and others) from the very Intro note on, they do not care or have to care about your technicalities. You have to be ready. I have a cool story with Ângela (Gossow, Arch Enemy) that last year stormed into our dressing room (at MetalCamp, Slovenia) to let me know I was doing the warm ups all wrong. I felt embarrassed and I still to this day, I do not know if she was angry or trying to be helpful. But the look on Mike’s (Gaspar,our drummer) face, when she left as suddenly as she entered the room, was priceless. You always treat a beautiful lady right. I did the mea culpa and promised her to do it better in the future. In fact Arch Enemy pulled a great gig that night and her vocals were quite impressive live so she must be right on top of things. In my defense I state that I visited, last year, around the same period, one of the best vocal specialist (otorhinolaryngologist, if you prefer) and did an endoscopy to check my vocal chords.
That was a hard process and we had to get through the nose as my throat muscles refused to let in a tube with a camera. That’s how I learnt that this harsh vocals I do, do not necessarily depend on a great technique of diaphragm breeding or that they do not come from anywhere else than a constrictive movement of our throat, just like snakes move, which is kind of cool. The doctor was happy with what he saw, even though I was violently drooling , but I had to come back for the picture on a new appointment. This second time I relaxed more and the doctor, aware of the resistance he would find, was even more prepared and finally we took the needed scan. Vocal chords look weird, like a weird sexual organ close-up and hands down they are ugly enough for something that can create emotions in people. Mine were immaculate white after so many years of use and abuse. I will continue with my warm-up routine, even if I am doing it wrong, it helps me to open the chords and the amount of water I drink before, during and after a show does the rest and I am proud to say that I have never lost my voice or that Moonspell never cancelled any show for that particular reason.
On the dressing room next door everybody is wailing and “singing” opera on a drunken, high-spirited impersonation of what I was doing. I leave the room to peep on what was happening and I look through the open door but they don’t even notice me: they are having fun, one of them just going over the top, hitting the notes so I recoil to my chamber, doing nothing but thinking again. Ten or more years ago, when we first started playing festivals on a more regular basis we were on fire, visiting a lot of backstages, drinking with friends and strangers, talking crap, making fun, like fast red ants carrying food to the throng. Those times are mostly gone, lost in a mist of sleepless nights and early flights. All the passion that is left in our bones is put into the stage, in the show.Which makes me wonder: Is there a direct propotion between partying less and the intensity felt on a gig ? Or are we getting old and does that mean we are too tired to party when we arrive to the site; or that we grew how to appreciate one of the few moments (the live show) where we can be larger than life and everything else seems meaningless?
The first stop on this string of last Summer festivals for us was the almighty Wacken. There was a lot of anticipation and even some anguish inside our minds when we hit the first checkpoint. It has been mounting since Wacken invited us to do something… different. Two years ago we toured sucessfully the theatres in Portugal with a new show named Sombra (which translates as Shadow in English). We put it together so we could play all these great venues in our country that we could not access with our regular show because of the sitting places, stage and venue specs and also because it failed to connect with the regular cultural programming of these theatres. Instead of bitching about it we decide to take what our country had to offer us and pulled a show from our hat that involved 13 people on stage, in between the band, the back up singers, the cello quartet and the percussionist. To add insult to injury we had a vídeo, sound and a stage set production (and respective crew) but all this work was compensated with sold out venues and by the strength our songs showed when worked in a different way. The plan was to recreate some classics like Alma Mater or Fullmoon but also to pick up some songs from the vault like Second skin or Disappear here. Pedro (Paixão, keyboards/guitar) was leading the arrangement part and what could have been a shot in our foot, turned actually to be a great experience, that both us and our fans enjoyed fully, even the ones who were skeptical at first.
To translate this into a Wacken stage was a whole different thing. First: playing abroad and take all this people. I will spare you the details but it took some hellish weeks to get all done, people travelling first because there was no seats in the plane for everyone, coordinate their arrival, their shuttle to the festival. Wacken crew, hands down, is really efficient and that’s why they all look always so relaxed even if all hell is breaking loose. That freaks me out as much as it deserves my admiration. I am by far more restless about things and I am glad there is people around who keep it cool for us. We also had to rehearse specifically for this show and to contact again with the great arrangements Pedro observed, gave us a fortified hope that we could actually pull this one out in style. Everybody changed from disaster mode to the joyful butterflies in the stomach one still has when a big day is approaching. Opus Diabolicum( the 4 cellos +percussionist) that together with Carmen (Simoēs) and Silvia (Guerreiro) which we dubbed as our very own Crystal Mountain Singers are, for me, maybe the main attraction of this different show. They have tangled with the band in a really special way. Their talent and input is decisive in Sombra. They helped Moonspell to reach the level we wanted with this reinterpretation of our songs and we love them for that. Some people always tells us how great it is that an “established” band like ours gives a chance to less known Portuguese musicians and take them to Wacken to play, but everytime I see them sing or play I think that is exactly the opposite and that they are the ones bringing beauty, melody, strength to our songs and make everything more, much more unique. I have always been a sucker for bands such as (collection of) Arnell Andrea, Dead Can Dance, Miranda Sex Garden, and no doubt that this project resembles all of this and much more. To be a part of it, it just feels great and keeps us away from the natural fear of boring or deiceving the fans.
Opus, the five young wolves, were the first ones to arrive to Wacken one day earlier. They did all the socialize for us, watched all the shows they could, drank all the Wacken beer and Hard Rock shots they wanted and posed to a family photo under the sign of Wacken.The ladies travelled with us, like the sweet maidens they are. Upon arrival we had to meet with several checkpoints.The yellow (argh!) backstage bracelets are placed in wrist by an assistant and everytging is very controlled. It reminds me of the time we play, to the best of my memory, Orlando’s House of Blues, inside Disneyworld where we had to show our passports and get a Mickey Mouse stamp/sticker on its back, like if we were visiting a foreign country. They checked for bombs, for drugs, for everything and I couldn’t help to feel amused by it. I tried to convince Carmen that we would get a Wacken stamp in our passport and I guess she believed it for a while, after I told her the Disneyland story. But the passing of a bodybag just as we arrived painted our funny moment with darker colours as we eventually found out that smeone died the other day in Wacken, always a sad note on a otherwise great festival. RIP: After the meet and greets and what musicians do before a show we finally went on stage and progressively were welcomed by a warm, genuine, good response after people got used to this approach. We were more than glad that it went down like this and I want to tell you about, with simple words, have more to do with gratification than to boast about some great musical achievement. Let’s say we were relieved
and people embraced it, one can not ask for more.
Honestly, I think there was a little bit too much of “bread and circus” in Wacken. Even tough some of it was enjoyable, I was feeling afraid of putting a darkened acoustic version of Moonspell live after the wrestling showdown next stage. Don’t get me wrong. 70.000 people have to be entretained and we all have done so. The wrestlers, the jugglers, the strippers, the musicians. With Moonspell many times, especially in Portugal, we have promoted events where our show is just another part of it. It was the case with the Metal Day in Lisbon in 2010. People were really into it and bought 3.800 tickets and we had major press and TV coverage because it was an event. Curiously, it was on that day that we first presented Opus Diabolicum to the Moonspell pack. Well,every year we try to throw a Halloween party, following or copying what Type O Negative did for years. The venues always pack thanks also to all the entertnaiment provided. One side of me really understands that but there is still a stubborn side to my personality which asks the painful question: if so much is really needed and why are bands not enough anymore as they used to be in the past? There are still festivals like Roadburn or smaller alternative shows where a certain niche is pleased but, without a doubt, a new paradigma is born and bands and fans must certainly make the best out of it. In this aspect Wacken is much more Rome than the Mecca of Heavy Metal, a concept which I always find, at least, awkward . Nobody seemed to be unhappy about it so maybe some kind of balance between seeing bands and riding mechanical bulls have been achieved and I still have not found it properly.
It was hard, though, to socialize in Wacken as the weather was rotten. There was a sea of mud between us and anyhting else. To go to the VIP tent for an interview was like crossing one of Dante’s seven circles. Was there such a muddy one? Me and Mike went back and forth, visited our friends at Hard Rock corner and we were quite brave to say the least. What really killed our enthusiasm was the heavy rain that poured when we were on our way the Artist shutlle. We end up this great festival under a tree, soaked to the bones, finally making our way, running and screaming to the catering tent where everybody from our travelling party eventually met with a sense of fulfilment about the show, some stories to tell back home and in a serious need of a dry change of clothes. Shit, I still have to wash that snickers…
That was Wacken for us. We flew really early (4AM lobby call) back home and I rested as much as my domestic duties allowed me. Love under will? Maybe, if your kid decides so.
We had a rough week ahead and in a flash we were back on a delayed, no service TAP plane and landed in Budapest one night earlier to play the Metal stage at Sziget. It was our return to this one, eleven years after we played it with Anathema and The Gathering and I am happy to say this festival remains a great experience. After the show, we had a chance to go around on foot (no mud, fortunately) and the atmosphere was just great and very different from Wacken, much more laid back, something else, as Sziget only has a Metal stage and people crowd to see other artists, do other activities (lots of bread and circus here as well, even a huge Hungarian Depeche Mode tribute thousand are watching in awe) and all we see are happy faces with either dreadlocks, long hair and black metal shirts, or just the trendy short denim shorts and tank top which is the Summer trend everywhere for pretty girls all around, much to the joy and despair of old wolves with tired eyes like us. The show was great and so was the night before and after it. We dined well, drank some and slept tight and the next day we had cool friends to meet and an eager crowd to please. We spent most of the afternoon with Pizza, Lacuna Coil’s guitar player, talking crap as only Italians and Portuguese can. We met the other guys and Cristina a bit later and they are all doing well, which is great. We know them for ages and it’s always good to catch up with Lacuna Coil and their incredible story since we first toured together in 1997.
We had time enough to watch Dimmu Borgir’s set and it was really good. When we toured in the States together, the band was, for sure, going through some issues (it was Vortex’s and Mustis’ last tour with the band) and sometimes on stage one could notice them. Tonight, headlining the Metal stage at Sziget, Dimmu played it big and heartfelt with Shaggrath being the master of ceremonies he is, with the return of Galder to the guitars which make the band definetily stronger and more poisonous, and also a crazy keyboard player that seemed to come back from a futuristic frozen hell, really fuckin talented and on top of the soundtrack vibe Dimmu’s songs carry within. After the show, Attila (Mayhem/Tormentor) came to visit and say hi and we all went back to the hotel. Me and Mike were just hanging out in Pedro’s room, watching the olympics and smoking when we heard a knock on the door. It was Galder and Daray who came for a drink and a smoke but litlle did we know that after just a few moments everybody from the band was flooding into our little room, which unfortunately had no conditions to lodge such excellent company. On top of everything I was wearing my grey pajama trousers and my monkey sleeping shirt and I was quite embarassed to be in the presence of such illustrious ones (Shag, Silenoz, Attila) in such an attire. Before I had time to reach for my leather jacket and put up a cool shirt at least, the entire pack was gone as there was really no space for everyone and they started feeling bad and awkward . Aires, our bass player, has on his pants so you get the picture. I felt tempted in suggesting a pajama party but I guess that after a heavy string of festivals we all had our share of circus already. Daray stayed for a while and told us about the experience with the orchestra at Wacken, breeding with relief that now was done with sucessfully. Before I left to check out how were things in Portugal, I couldn’t help a sympathetic thought, as if this great, long Metal day in Sziget, Hungary was also the decompression chamber we all needed after facing the beast, just a few days ago.
We had a short time back in Portugal to play a rock fest in the North, by the sea, on a football stadium. It was vacination day for Fausto, his mom was out playing Spain herself, so there was a lot of logistics to attend to. I won’t bother you with details. Let us just say that after an early wake up, we drove straight to the clinic and he took the shots bravely as he always does. Then I travelled to Alcobaça (center region of Portugal/West) and then to the show (350 km in total). We played the show (he stayed with one of his nannies) and then I drove back 200 kms to sleep at home with him because the night after vacination day can be complicated. I arrived late but in time to feed him and hold his hand until he slept again. Three hours after he woke up early, really early so we did what we had to do together and daddy cool went again straight to the airport to fly to Brutal to complete the circle.
Playing Portugal is always gratifying for us even in the strangest situations-like this festival which had everything to be great: the place, the bands, well at least us and Xutos and Pontapés (which are the leading Rock band in Portugal), the stage setup. The attendance, though, was weak even if (always) valuable. Playing a football stadium it’s always great to tell to a friend abroad or to show off in America, “you guys play football stadiums in Europe”. We do. Does not mean they are full. Far from that on this case. Where does the gratification comes then? From knowing that our fans are immense even when only the core of them made the travel to let us know they are there, in a dodgy club or in the empty green. One must never forget the quality of a fan outside the numbers they amount to. And with this thought I retreat myself into a new day. Knowing that the tardiness of this post will be forgiven as my son set most of the rules now, the way it should be. I wish you all a great week and keep on reading, resting sure that I will keep on writing.
Note: A heartfelt thanks to all who signal their presence here. As most of you know, I had a hard time here on Facebook when the hate pages regarding me,my wife and son showed up. It broke our heart and our spirit for a while but you all made me believe that one can turn it around positively while still believing that communication is what separates us from the unworthy beasts that anonymously roam this world.
Also : A word of courage and the possible support to all our fans in Syria that are going through a true tragedy, worst than everything most of us experienced in our lifes. I have met many of you in Europe, in the festivals, or in Lebanon when we had the golden chance to play the beautiful Beirut. We will make that vídeo you asked. Our pleasure if it eases the pain. You are not alone.
In all justice do check our brothers and sisters in arms bands.
(We all know they have not invented this and we all know we’ll always have to look up to Apocalyptica for breaking this ground. But there is something about our songs that, in all modesty, fits really well into this noble cello perspective. Check out their Vampiria version, for example. Feels like you are in a cloudy afternoon drinking bloody tea with Vampiria herself.)
Reads (poetry today):
Source: Moonspell official Facebook