One of the more enigmatic bands that I’ve come across with Resounding Footsteps, Memoirs of a Secret Empire is plays a beautiful blend of instrumental doom, death, and post black metal. When you hear them you won’t hear just metal but real musicianship. I got to talk to João recently to talk about what makes Memoirs of a Secret Empire tick.
Resounding Footsteps: Tell me a bit about yourselves. How did you guys come up with the band? What does Memoirs of a Secret Empire mean and how did you come across it?
Memoirs of a Secret Empire: The band started quite naturally. I (João Amorim – guitarist) was playing with Henrique (the drummer) for a while in other, more juvenile, project. That ended and we wanted to continue playing. At the same time I met Ivo (the bassist) at a concert near our home place Vouzela. We (Ivo and I) talked about music and, one day, I said to him “Let’s try to play something with Henrique”. So we did. We started jamming often, until we decided to start a more serious project. That became MOASE. The name, silly as it could sound, is a title from an old documentary about the Japanese Empire. We didn’t think much about it; we just liked the sound of it. Obviously, also, Japanese culture and history fascinates us!
RF: How did you guys get into music? Are any of you classical training? (by which I mean did you have formal teaching)
MOASE: We always loved music. Me, at least. Since I was a child. And I did learn and played the trumpet for 10 years (from 10 to 20 years age). That was obviously accompanied by some classical training (both theoretical and practical). Also, Henrique had training too. He and I played together in a local “philharmonic” band. He played percussion and I played trumpet.
RF: I knew I heard something different in your music! I could tell that you were more than just familiar with the instruments you played. Are you trying to learn any more instruments or is the guitar, trumpet, and keyboard enough?
MOASE: I have curiosity about all instruments. I am currently not learning anything new but I like to explore all kinds of sound. The only thing I can say I’m trying is to improve my drumming skills. My drummers hate me because I am constantly sneaking to the drum set to play a little bit. I am clumsy and I would like to control myself and drum dynamically. I started to use the drums as a physical escape but now I want more!
RF: What was your recording experience like for your debut album? Did it differ from the recording of your EP?
MOASE: Yes, the experiences were much different. Our EP was recorded live, we all played it together for various times and it was all done in one day. In 3 days it was mixed and mastered. It was fun and quick but very simple and direct. In contrast, “VERTIGO” was recorded track by track in 7 days. Just the recording. The mixing and mastering took some more time and were done separately. But in the latter we took our time, decided what material to use, recorded as we wanted, experimented various instruments and effects and did guitar doublings! It was much more thought and we learned a lot by recording it!
RF: How do you guys rehearse?
MOASE: We rehearse in our local town, Vouzela, on the weekends. As we live in different cities by the week (studying or working) it is difficult for us to get together often but we try to do it every weekend we can.
RF: What was the process you guys took to actually writing and coming up with this material?
MOASE: Sincerely, until now it all came rather naturally. When we were playing the EP, in 2012/2013, we already had drafts of what would become VERTIGO. We spent some time perfecting it and decided to record it in 2015. It was good for our musical growth, I think.
RF:What would you say are some of your biggest influences, musical and otherwise?
MOASE: That’s a really difficult question. We have lots of influences. We all like all kinds of art and all of it can influence us. We were born in Vouzela, by the forest and mountains so we feel a little inspired by nature, too. Personally, I feel influenced from everything from cinema to literature. But of course, there are some bands that we all really love (as ISIS, Cult of Luna, Russian Circles, Year of No Light, SUMAC, Amenra, Neurosis….). Nevertheless, music is always growing and changing and we love to ear lots of different bands. I personally love experimental music, even though I ear a little bit of everything, including some extreme heavy bands. But Ivo and Henrique also love other completely different styles such as hip-hop or black metal.
RF: What was touring like this year?
MOASE: Well, unfortunately, we haven’t played many times this year. We did 2 shows since the album got out. Mostly because our other responsibilities (I am finishing my master’s degree, Ivo is working and Henrique is also doing his masters). Also because there is not too much money or people in Portugal that follows this kind of music. But mostly is it our fault.
RF: Are there any plans for a US tour? (because damn I would love go!)
MOASE: Thank you so much for those words! We have never played outside of Portugal, although we tried sending our music to some festivals and labels all around Europe and the U.S. So we have never done a “real” tour. But we would definitely love to, if the opportunity came.
RF: For those of us who have not had the pleasure of seeing a MOASE show, describe what it’s like.
MOASE: It’s an intense experience, at least for us. It is a tremendous discharge of energy and we feel like it is a shared experience. We truly try to embrace our music as it was done to tell a story or to express some (mostly bad) feelings, even though there are no words.
RF: VERTIGO is a damn good album, what are your opinions on it?
MOASE: We love it, of course. It represents the music we have been composing for some years now and it’s like an image of us throughout the period 2012-2015. We now are a little bit older and maybe would have done some things differently but we are proud of this album! Also, it is kind of a message from us to some special people that are not with us anymore and so all the experience was cathartic.
RF: Who would you guys most like to play with? What venue/festival is on your to do list?
MOASE: We would love to play with an enormous list of bands that we admire. I would be here all day if I enumerated them all (ahah)! We have played with some, tough! We played at the incredible AMPLIFEST festival, held every year at Porto (the city where I live at the moment), in 2015 with great bands like Amenra, Wife, Converge, Altar of Plagues, Syndrome, Stephen O’ Malley and more. We would of course love to play in some of Europe’s greatest festivals like Roadburn, dunk!, Le Guess Who…
RF: Have you given thought to the next album or are you simply basking in the glow of VERTIGO for a while?
MOASE: Well, VERTIGO was a hard album to compose and even harder to play live. With just me doing guitars, vocals and keyboards, it wasn’t easy and there was a higher chance of error! We still want to play VERTIGO and show it around, sell CDs, Cassettes, t-shirts and Totebags (all available in our bandcamp / facebook pages)! But also we already started to think how to compose more music, more directly, without so much to go wrong. Personally, I also have been thinking of introducing more elements of experimentalism in the music, but that’s just the beginning of the process!
RF: What do you want your legacy and the legacy of MOASE to be?
MOASE: I think I can speak for everybody in the band and say that we don’t expect too much. We want to be able to play the music we want and love for as many times and places possible! We would of course love to get to play outside of our country, to reach more people, to know more people and to share new experiences!
RF: If you were going to try and convince someone off the street to listen to MOASE, what would you tell them?
MOASE: I don’t know but maybe that it is good instrumental music to ear in various situations. It can be thought as beautiful and hard at the same time; melancholic, dark but also can represent light. And it combines with elements of other types of music like experimentalism or doom.
VERTIGO is available now!