MIKE GASPAR OF SEVENTH STORM [EX-MOONSPELL] CHATS ABOUT DEBUT ALBUM MALEDICTUS, THE INFLUENCE OF PORTUGUESE CULTURE, PANTERA & MORE!

MIKE GASPAR OF SEVENTH STORM [EX-MOONSPELL] CHATS ABOUT DEBUT ALBUM MALEDICTUS, THE INFLUENCE OF PORTUGUESE CULTURE, PANTERA & MORE!

Seventh Storm are a band from Portugal who released their debut album titled Maledictus on August 12th of 2022 through Atomic Fire Records. Drummer Mike Gaspar departed from Moonspell in the Summer of 2020 after thirty years and decided to launch Seventh Storm, starting with a blank slate. He announced the formation of the band on April 25th of 2021, the anniversary to the ending of the Portugal dictatorship in 1974.  The rest of the band is made up of lead guitarist Ben Stockwell, rhythm guitarist Josh Riot, bassist Butch Cid, and the vocalist simply known as Rez.

Mike was born in America and moved to Portugal at age twelve, officially becoming Portuguese when he was twenty-eight years old, “It’s such a small country and coming from America, it was like my dreams of Music were going to be gone…It was actually the other way around, it was Portugal that gave me that opportunity…” 

When Mike was brought up in the United States, in a town near Boston, especially in the eighties and nineties, he would watch MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, and listen to all the countdowns, and remembers calling in when he was eight years old to vote for some of the songs, like Over The Wall by Testament. He states that even though there was Hard Rock going on in that era with Motley Crue, Van Halen, there was always space for the Thrash bands like Metallica and Anthrax as well. Now that there isn’t a Headbanger’s Ball anymore, there’s the Internet to rely on, which he said gives another Freedom these days when it comes to fans discovering new Music, especially when it comes to the Heavy Metal side of things, “We don’t have to go through the media, we can go through people who directly believe in the Music, and that’s awesome. We’re still a little bit on the sidelines when it comes to the major news…And that’s sad because we have so much to say and we are really positive. Like, people look at us and are like, ‘you look like the devil!’`, Mike laughed and continued, “No man! This is who I am! I believe in something…And Music brought me to where I am right now in my Life…”

Mike shared he was more into Hard Rock as a kid, when he was only eight or nine, and by the time he was sixteen, he did a complete, “intense workshop” for all genres of Metal, “And that’s when I started playing with older kids, so I had to know all of these bands that went from Bathory to Sacred Reich to Nuclear AssaultMorbid AngelObituaryDeath…All of that…Especially the underground bands like Darkthrone, it was part of that movement. I’ve played with Dimmu Borgir, I’ve played with Cradle of Filth, I’ve met the guys from Emperor with all of those festivals.”

Being in Moonspell for three decades, Mike has been able to meet amazing people everywhere in the world, playing in places like China, The United States, Canada, South America, Siberia, Russia, Beirut, Morrocco, Turkey, where people even travelled from Iran to see them. “It doesn’t matter if we understand each other, we have other ways to communicate. But Metal is a communication, it is a language, and we connect it immediately. There are some countries where people didn’t speak much English, who were really bad with English. I probably have had conversations on the bus, for the whole night and I didn’t speak his language and he didn’t speak mine, but we understood each other in some way!”

Coming from Portugal and speaking Portuguese, he’s used to adapting to different languages with all of the surrounding countries. He can mutually understand Spanish, Italian, and even some Greek where a lot of words are similar to Portuguese. He discovered all of that by touring with bands from other countries, especially when there wasn’t the accessibility of Internet back in the day. He recalled a story about being on tour with Moonspell and Rotting Christ, who are a well-known Greek Black Metal band that formed in the late eighties, “I remember us and Rotting Christ, we’d spend the whole night just trying to find words that were the same. Like a game. And those are the things that I still remember today, and it’s so cool. We would talk about…who had the biggest album collection, and it was also like another competition, but that’s so healthy because we were competing about Music, and how other people from certain countries Love old bands.

It’s the most beautiful thing to see Metal communities grow….I saw that in France, it’s like the concert is like family that goes together, they’re there the whole day, hanging out, cooking for you…It’s like going to a party…The best thing you can deliver to them is a great show, they don’t ask for nothing more than that. They give you everything.”

One of the things Mike learned the most from over the years is to respect fellow Musicians, fellow People, and fellow Cultures. “You can’t just go into a country and think you own the place. It’s always nice to adapt and learn a little bit of their language, listen to their stories…So many stories from so many different people.”

Seventh Storm’s debut album Maledictus was recorded in May and October of 2021 at Dynamix Studio in Lisbon, the capitol of Portugal. The album was mixed by Danish producer, Tue Madsen, who produced many Moonspell albums, The Cleansing by Suicide Silence, Where Death Is Most Alive by Dark Tranquillity, and many more! 

Mike felt that thought that the cover of the album had to create some kind of impact, and  had to show something symbolic for the Portuguese that when you look at it, you think of Portugal or at least think of the Mediterranean, South Europe, which was really important to him. He then had to “Metal” it up, “if you look closer to the waters, there’s a lot of pain there, there’s all the suffering in the waters, the masts have rips in them, which is also all our scars throughout all of our Lives, things that we’ve suffered. The direction of the boat is going in a different direction, looking for a new Life, a new path…New opportunities. There’s a lot of little details, not just the cover, but when you see the whole album, and all the designs….I was very obsessed with all of those little details, because as a fan, that’s what I Love, like that Iron Maiden generation where you’d spend hours looking at the covers…”

The album Art was painted over a span of several months, as it was done with oil paints by Artist Victor Costa, who is a great friend of Mike’s. He and Victor would spend time twice a week getting together the sketches for the cover, “It was a therapy for me, I would just talk to him and try to transmit my feelings of what I’d like to see him represent…And also taking it to the next level which is a full painting in oil, like you would do in the old days, like in the eighties…Not many people do that anymore because it’s a lot of work, it was like months…Because he had to paint one brush at once, then do a second, then do a third….And it wasn’t dry…So wait a week, wait another week… There were a lot of hours of sweat into that canvas, that he put into it…And Victor made a dream come true…It represents so much of my history, my band, my Music, our land….I live near the beach, so if you go to the coast, it is one of the most beautiful things we have here that I’ve missed for so long because I was always on the road…I lived in an amazing area, but I never got to appreciate it…I was always in the rehearsal studio.”

Writing Maledictus and working with Victor on the Art was a way for Mike to absorb and appreciate what he has. He sometimes tells his fellow Portuguese neighbors, “sometimes we think everything abroad is better than here, and it’s not so true all the time because we aren’t the richest country.” He chatted about the difficulty of making it in Portugal with a lot of professions, especially as a Metal Musician. Then contrasted with the statement, “if you wanted to live the simple Life and be connected to the more natural things, or have that little break, which is happening… Portugal has never been so popular in these last couple of years, I don’t know what happened, I avoid the city now because there’s a lot of people. But like I said, please enjoy it because I’ve been here for over thirty years.”

One of Mike’s main focal points for this album was that he didn’t want to lose touch with his past or his influences, “I took a huge journey trying to dig deep into certain roots and try to bring that into this album, but in a refreshed way with different influences, of course. But I think that the pain, the agony, the darkness, it’s a little spread out throughout the album, with the lyrics and the cover, certain expressive moments when we use our more traditional Portuguese influences, trying to show that melancholic side of South Europe, and people that deal with that every day… Life has not become easy, it never was, I think that power of us uniting each other, is what will help us all overcome.”

Mike had the opportunity with Maledictus to bring a lot of his past and childhood into the album, especially from when he lived near Boston as a child, “It was the eighties, so much was going on. I saw older kids going to AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne….I was too young to go to the shows, but they’d describe how it was…So, I really lived those moments. Like, stuff you see now in certain moments, or like in Stranger Things, that was kind of like my childhood.” He laughed as he said it was really weird watching that, especially with the clothes. “That’s the thing, we were so connected. Bringing that off of Hard Rock side, that liberty of pure Rock & Roll, that more American side, almost not so restriction, not so conservative…I got a lot of that from Europe, where you go to Classical Music, everything’s a little more touchy, and I just tried to combine those two worlds…”

Maledictus is a combination of those two worlds that Mike lived in so intensely, especially with his childhood, living in Portugal, and also being on the road for nearly thirty years with Moonspell, exploring and going through many different genres from Extreme Metal to Black Metal to Thrash and Death Metal, “I just needed all of those ingredients in this album so I would feel comfortable in my own shoes and that I wouldn’t forget my past also. I couldn’t think of just doing a Hard Rock album, that wouldn’t be much…Of course, it’s my childhood, but it’s like, there’s a lot more to me right now…But definitely bring back that simplicity that I talked about…Like Lemmy used to say this, ‘at the end of the day, it’s all Rock ‘n Roll.

Mike then reminisced about meeting the legendary Mötörhead frontman and bassist, “I got to play with him a couple times, met him backstage in Mexico once. And he was such a gentleman. He was super kind to everyone…He stayed humble until the day he left us. And he’s a bit of an icon these last couple of years for me because I really respect his history, his past, his fight…It wasn’t easy for him to become who he became, to live for Music, devote his whole Life to it…That’s so inspiring. And I listen to a lot of Mötörhead actually in the process of this album, and also other classic bands from those times.”

Toward the end of our interview, we moved on the subject of being a fan in the crowds of shows and in moshpits, where he told the funny story of how he stage dove once into the audience after a show, “once I stage dived in the audience, went to the audience, went to the side and hit my back on the floor…And this was right after playing…There was a time at the end of the show, there was a lot of audience we had to ourselves, so that time it didn’t work too well,” he said while laughing.

“So I have a really good notion of the fun it can be, especially when you’re young, because you have a lot of frustrations, you have to get them out somewhere. What I like about the Metal community, is that we try to keep it safe…Don’t ever leave anybody on the ground. That’s the most important you can do, in terms of security, especially for somebody smaller or more delicate. But you always see that…You see somebody small; you see the big guy trying to cover them and protect them a little bit…So, it’s really sweet, it’s not what people think at all. There’s a lot of worse things happening in the world, that’s definitely not one of them.”

Mike also shared one of the best moshpit experiences he had was at a Pantera show while they were on tour promoting the Cowboys From Hell album opening for Judas Priest who were promoting Painkiller at the time, “I was in the front row, and everyone in those times in Portugal would wear these Military boots. So, I always remember getting kicked by all of these Military boots in the face…And by the time Judas Priest had gotten on stage, I had to go to the bleachers because I was done!” He laughed, “I was only 14. But it was one of the best experiences to see Vinnie Paul, Dimebag, Phil Anselmo, and Rex at that age…They must’ve been in their late 20’s, you can’t imagine the energy at that show…And nobody knew them in Portugal at the time, they were starting out…And then to see what they became…What they left behind…That’s definitely a huge influence on me…It marked me for Life…More than just the mosh, like everything….That’s probably why I still want to make Music and because I want to play live.”

Mike then shared how he got to meet Vinnie and Dimebag later on when Moonspell toured the United States with Type O Negative, “Vinnie and Dimebag came to the show in Texas. So as a fan, of course, I asked if it was cool if they introduced me to them. They were super kind. I gave them a CD of mine, he said he’d pop it in the car and listen to it immediately. They were always like that though; they were super humble. They’re a huge, huge, not just inspiration Musically, creatively, but as human beings…They were always there for the people and the fans. I think they would never say no for an autograph, for a photo, for a drink…They were there. And they were true fans of Metal. That’s the best part.”

And finally, our last question ended with one of the tracks that means the most to Mike from Maledictus, “For some reason I Love Pirate’s Curse because it’s kind of like a story of not only the Life I led, but in this case, with this new band, the Life that can be…It was kind of like saying goodbye to the normality for the lives that my band are living right now, because I’m the only one who’s done Music my whole Life, they’re still int he transition of having normal jobs, which is important right now…With the pandemic and everything that happened, you couldn’t really survive any other way…But I just think it’s….Waiting for that adventure…Having that curiosity…That innocence again, discovering something new, especially at my age, at 46, and thinking there’s still a whole ocean out there to travel…And there is…Sometimes we get so close minded in our own little world, we forget there’s a whole out there waiting for us and it can be really scary. And that song kind of gives that extra kick in the ass to get out there and do it!”

Photography by: Diogo Branco
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