Interview - Moonspell drummer Miguel ”Mike” Gaspar
By Todd Jolicouer
ToddStar: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for The Rockpit. If it is okay, I would love to jump right into discussing your newest release, Alpha Noir, your first in four years. I find myself keeping it in my normal rotation of albums I am listening to ever since I first heard it. What can you briefly tell us about that disc, that most people may not know on the surface?
Miguel: It’s an album that had one main motive: honesty. We wanted it to feel as honest as possible, transporting our deepest feeling into the song writing. Strong songs with an “in the face” attitude with nothing holding us back. We wanted to recreate the feeling of the 80’s, using solid musical structures with epic moments.
ToddStar: The new disc has several of the same basic components as your earlier releases. In your opinion, in what ways does it vary from previous releases? What elements from other discs did you intentionally carry over to this effort? How do you describe the difference in sound, sonically, in the band between the last couple releases?
Miguel: We have for sure explored many different styles of metal and goth always looking for the balance between the two. As much as I could compare Alpha Noir with other releases it is inedible not to go back to similar ambiences and sounds. But what makes this release stand out the most is the simplicity of solid riffs. Taking the guitars to an other level without competing with keyboards or over the top arrangements. I think this makes the basics of metal sound raw and more exciting when not so polished and fancy. We said to our selves lets make this the heaviest Moonspell album ever! We want people to climb the walls with this one.
ToddStar: What types of writing, production, and studio experiences that you learned while making previous discs did you know you wanted to carry over to this disc? Which did you know to scrap and move on?
Miguel: There have been so many this is our 9th release and 10th at the same time counting on Omega White. But the thing that stands out the most for me is to have the best quality of professionalism in all areas. To get the best out of each one´s talent and finding the comfort zone for everyone. This album we worked on song writing and pre production with Benny Ritcher here in Lisbon at our studio, Inferno. This was a process of three years were we took our time to let the songs grow and fine tune to perfection. This is a good example of how the years have been good to us and taught the band not to rush into things. This gives us way more confidence in the actual recording. This in our opinion does not have to take that long. Tue Madsen our producer is great and so easy going and he also has the same opinion. If you can get the perfect takes in a small amount of time than this brings a lot of life to the songs. The drums took 5 days but most of the time we were checking how the drums sounded and not so much repeating the parts until they become dull. I´ve done albums in a day and a half. Keep it fresh!
ToddStar: Several songs are very strong, and I find myself listening to certain tracks over and over (Alpha Noir, Axis Mundi, Love Is Blasphemy). Are there any favorites of yours that you find yourself going back to? Any you wish came out sounding different?
Miguel: That is always tricky you can think of so many things to change after the have recorded the album. That’s the hard part for me to listen to our music like a fan. We know the songs inside and out and spent four years around them. You have to forget that you had anything to do with it and just rock out like anyone else. So far I am loving the album, the drive it has is phenomenal. You would think I would be sick of it by now. On the contrary the more I listen the more metal I want. So I just let it spin on my cd player non stop there is no particular song I like the most. Maybe "Alpha Noir" because of the sick guitar riff and over all performance of the band. The lyrics are also very inspiring to me and bring me back to a 14-year-old wanting to rebelled against society. “We Want A New World.”
ToddStar: Regarding Alpha Noir, were any of the songs easier to write than others? You often hear about an artist that sat down to write a song and that essentially the song wrote itself. Were any of the songs difficult to get out? If so, which?
Miguel: “Versus” was one of the last songs to be written. We started with a plain riff and in one day just by playing around with it the song came to life. I think it was the mood we were in. I remember wanting this punk feeling kinda like Motorhead! It seemed very strange for us to do something in that direction but the spirit was just to have a song that would grab you from the beginning and never let go. “Alpha Noir” on the other hand gave us a lot of work. There was a section on the song that we were never happy with. Kept trying so many diferent ways of making the song reach it´s full potential. It had to be strong paced with no major stops or mood swings like we would usually do in our work in the past. Some thing our stronger than ourselves. Nothing that we would come up with would sound better than the very first idea. This gothic structure with a dark ambience. We made it work; it actually brought more dynamics and strength to the song.
ToddStar: Are any of the songs being better received than others? I know the critics and reviewers speak of their favorites, but what are the fans and live crowds reacting positively to?
Miguel: So far we have only played "Lickanthrope" and "Alpha Noir" live. The reaction of "Lickanthrope" live for the first time we had ever played it and also keep in mind that none of the audience had ever herd it before since the album had not been released yet. It felt like one of our classics already! Everyone started jumping like if they were in a festival. It blew us away. Usually there is always an odd feeling when you throw in new songs. We did work a lot on making sure things weren’t too difficult in the song writing so that they could ripp live. A surprise on reactions from the reviewers is the admiration for “ Love Is Blasphemy." For me it is one of my favorites to play. There is never a dull moment like a race to the finish line. Kinda like the same reaction I got from Metallica´s "Kill Em All." We had a lot of fun making it and feels nice that many got the point better than we anticipated. We never thought this would be one the most talked about song. This tells us and confirms there is still a lot of desire out there of good pure metal!
ToddStar: After going back and checking out your back catalog after falling into this one, I find that your music is sonically consistant, but there are still sublte changes that show growth as a band. Having been at this for about twenty years, do you still feel and hear the growth in this band?
Miguel: Each time more to tell you the truth. I even dare to say this is like a new beginning, but with 20 years of commitment and experience. We learn and treasure from every album, tours, events, videos you name it. Anything that feeds our artistic soul and appetite for music always pays off in the end. We have the best job in the world and to take that for granted is not fair to the fans, our to us. We work as a team and include everyone to get the best results. One big family working for metal it´s beautiful!!
ToddStar: If you had to describe the sound of Moonspell to someone who had never heard of you, how would you do that?
Miguel: I have heard a bit of everything from Black metal, folk metal. Goth metal, goth /death metal , Doomy , Goth Rock, Dark metal etc. etc. It´s funny how we are always around the labels and what categories you put bands in. This is for sure needed for so many reasons and many also doing with the music industry. We started out really just by wanting to have such an original and unique sound. Just really wanted people to know it was Moonspell on it´s own. What does it sound like? Like Moonspell. That is the ultimate realization as an artist for me. Recently though I saw a review by a young kid in the states and the way he described us and labeled was very interesting and made sense to the time we live in! Extreme Gothic metal!!! I like it
ToddStar: You have toured extensively - when will the United States get a taste of what Moonspell can do live? Are there any other countries you would like to tour and make aware of your band?
Miguel: We have been fortunate and travelled way to much! The shows and the people make the difference. No place is to far for us. We’ll get there just book us the show. Thats our philosophy. Unfortunately never been in the Orient or Australia. I know we have fans there but never got the proper deal to do a tour. Hope this new album takes us there once and for all. For the states nothing yet but we are working on it. So far we will be on the Barge to Hell cruise that leaves Miami on the 3rd of December. It´s a great way to enjoy music and a holiday at the same time it´s awesome!!!
ToddStar: When performing live, do you find that you mix the material evenly from your earlier albums, or do you tend to play more of the newer material? Are there any songs from your earlier releases that you feel will always be a part of your live show?
Miguel: This is what makes a great band I think. I hate to see a classic band that does not want to play the fans favorite songs. We felt this once years ago and avoided old material. We learned the hard way! So this days it´s so important to deliver the great songs that people grew up listening to. We feed off that energy, it makes the shows so cool. We recently did all Wolfheart and Irreligeous shows and the nostalgia and pure happiness in the faces of our fans and our selves was overwhelming. With new releases we try to blend in the new material with slowly. "Alma Mater" and "Fullmoon Madness" are songs that I think if we didn´t play there would be riots!!!
ToddStar: If you had to pick possible pairings for an ideal tour, what other bands would you like to see Moonspell out on the road with?
Miguel: We toured with the best bands over the years like Type O Negative. That was for sure a dream tour, pity that it will never happen again. For a future tours bands like Amorphis, ParadiseLost, Arch Enemy, Rotting Christ, Septic Flesh, Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, and a coulpe more. We have cool friends and have already toured with most of them. It´s always nice to tour with people from the same generation and that you know and feel comfortable with. The package is so much better and the fans have a better time at the shows. I hate when there is a certain negative vibe towards bands on the bill. When the bands go well together so does the audience!
ToddStar: What is next for Moonspell? Any plans to record anything else anytime soon or is there going to be a big tour cycle surrounding Alpha Noir?
Miguel: We are going to tour a lot for this new one. It´s also a double album so there is much to be played. So far we have 50 shows booked until the end of the year mostly Europe so far. If we tour anything like we did with Night Eternal than we got a long road a head of us. Hope to do an album in the next 2 to 3 years I would say.
ToddStar: Do you find any of the other arts affect your music or the way you approach writing, recording, or playing live with Moonspell?
Miguel: So much so. To start Fernando is an amazing song writer and poet. In every album he amazes us with his imagination. No one else to put words to our feeling like he does. The combination of thoughts and music is were we meet and find each others souls. It´s like magic to me. Things just fall in there proper space. The extension of the art work , images, icons, videos, photography, live scenery , light shows, props, anything that will make the experience that much more is what we are about. I see it like a movie sometimes and we are the main characters. Music can take you to many places in your mind it´s so powerful hope it never ends. I also do Martial Arts and this has complemented a lot of my playing and patience to achieve grander things. The control in the playing just like in life must have harmony.
ToddStar: Are there any bands that are currently releasing music or touring that influence you personally or professionally? What is the last CD/mp3 album you listened to, other than yours?
Miguel: Oh I love music and couldn´t live without it. I listen to a lot of older stuff of course, but I am crazy about Motley Crue and even though they have been around for more than 30 years there last album was one of the best i´ve heard in years. It seams like the older bands that are still together are making the best music and best shows. I saw Heaven and Hell before Dio left us “R.I.P” at the Hellfest and they were incredible made me feel like an infant. What a sound! Tommy Iommi yes brother you are the riff master!! It´s become hard to listen to younger bands things have just got a bit silly. I will always keep an eye out though for the true ones. We toured with Skeleton Witch and I thought they had a good spirit !
ToddStar: If there were one piece of music in the history of time that you wish you had written, what would it be and why?
Miguel: So many but let´s go with Judas Priests “ Pain Killer.” That album just blows me away. When you think of metal in the early 90´s that album should be the one. They combined years of classic rock in to a more aggressive form of metal with twin guitars and solos that were not so common in the day. They revolutionized the term Heavy metal with a renewed sound. Heavier riffs, muscled drums, vocals with much character and balls, deep round bass just the perfect cocktail. It feels like they cut your throat with a razor blade. I saw that tour as a kid and when Rob Halford comes in on his Harley on stage and the music kicks in all hell broke loose. Pure leather man!! he he
ToddStar: Do you have any resolutions or goals for 2012 professionally or personally?
Miguel: Just to get to all the places we can with this album reach old and new fans. Have a great time doing so and wishing to look back in a few years and just say those were the best times of my life. Harmony to the band and family. It´s not easy to juggle both. So many lost days on the road missing the one´s closer to our hearts. This year I have to find time and balance for all.
ToddStar: What is the meaning of life?
Miguel: For me it´s accepting who you are and making the best of it. Taking a deep breath and noticing the simple thing in life. Treasure those moments and be appreciative for having them. Make your passion your job. Fulfill your dreams. Make your own destiny. Never give up. Metal rules and if you don´t like it fuck off!!!!!
ToddStar: Other than making sure everyone checks out your website (http://moonspell.com/), are there any other current projects or sites you would like to promote?
Miguel: Not at the moment just keeping up with all the different methods of promotion and information to get the bands name out there and make sure you can find everything you need. Tour dates, new videos, blogs,meet and greets with fans you name it. Napalm did do a cool app for iphone´s and you can see our videos order our albums and more. I dig it my self really cool to check out.
ToddStar: Thanks again for taking the time and we look forward to 2012 and more Moonspell.
Miguel: No problem many thanks for the interview and hope to get to the states as soon as possible. This album will for sure do some damage!!! Hail to all that have supported us all these years. This album would never be possible with out you. Take care metal brothers and sisters.
Interview posted l3 May 2012