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WinterMoonShade - Interview

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Portuguese melodic black metal trio WinterMoonShade was formed at the beginning of 2020. The initiative of the band's establishment came from vocalist and guitarist called Haze, who, several years after his first band disbanded,  felt a desire to forge a band digging into the landscapes of black and death metal. Soon after, Zefir joined him with his drums and Fenrir on bass, both of them sharing his visions and the love for music. And WinterMoonShade was born. It soon drew the attention of Black Spark Records, and after its same-titled debut album got released in December 2020, it also won the affection of black metal fans. Haze and I discussed many things. If curious, just read the interview.

Interview with: Haze
Conducted and edited by Jerneja

Hello Haze, I appreciate you took the time for this interview, although I  expected you would since we've known each other for some time now. And I'm glad we do.

Jerneja: WinterMoonShade is a brand new band in the black metal waters, established just over a year ago. Would you share with us its story?
Haze: Our origins are rooted in the west coast and countryside of Portugal. We desired to create something of our perspectives and blend it into a musical atmosphere and image to match it. We drifted in some ideas, and the songs started to emerge quickly. Later the conception of the outfits and masks also came along. We wanted to create without labelling and boundaries to the creation. We only wished to be linked with nature, and that is our purpose and inspiration.

Jerneja: What does the name WinterMoonShade mean?
Haze: WinterMoonShade is a kind of a magical feeling and memory of many wonderful experiences we have from time to time when we go camping in a special kind of secret place near our practice spot. The reflection of the moonlight across the branches and the shadows create a hypnotic environment sitting by the fire, and that resemblance leads the imagination to roam freely. The band got its name after this emotional reference.

Jerneja: Your same-titled debut album got released in December 2020. That is somehow quick. Are you hyper-productive, or you've already had some music material prepared in advance?
Haze: The debut self-titled album is a combination of around six months working towards our objective to record some demos to reveal our music to some record companies and finding the reaction on their side. We got invited to release the material by Black Spark Records, and in December 2020, the work took a physical shape alongside the digital edition. It marks our first steps in the development of WinterMoonShade's maturation that is now getting new layers.

Jerneja: All three members of WinterMoonShade have pseudonyms, and you also cover your faces with masks. Is this the band's "generic brand" or a "solution" to retain anonymity? If so, why?
Haze: We were willing to create a concept of our own for our presentation. Drifting in some flashing ideas and always to be linked with nature, the masks with leaves were a suggestive matter that we applied in a raw method by searching for actual leaves in the woods. But since it was hard for us to breathe underneath them, our talented friend made new ones for us. He shaped each mask to fit our faces, and he only used artificial materials.  We also chose black outfits to be more discreet. About our names, we chose them regarding our personalities and following what each one of us feels more connected to. "Haze" is about the magical fields of the imaginary driven when the foggy days cover the landscape. "Fenrir" is related to the giant wolf in mythology as also "Zefir" is connected to the entity of the blasting winds.

Jerneja: Is WinterMoonShade the first band for the three of you, or you have been engaged with some bands or music projects before?
Haze: Through the years, we have been on other projects and also playing different instruments. We gathered for WinterMoonShade with a clear vision to make something different and a focus on music blending with nature and spirituality. These three ingredients are our affirmations to make the band growing with solid roots.

Jerneja: Regarding music, which band/musician influenced you most?
Haze: Although we try to be as original as possible in our compositions, there a long list of bands that made us like music in the first place. Names like Immortal, Dissection, Emperor, Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Darkthrone and of course our countrymen Moonspell are on top of the sound landscaping that made us dig into metal.

Jerneja: You are a Black Spark Records "protégé". How are you satisfied with it so far, and how difficult it was to find a label in the first place?
Haze: Black Spark Records was very receptive and believed our work since the very first demo we sent them. We developed together with a growing relationship across the last year. In the beginning, they listened to the first tape and around two or three days after they invited us to release a full album with their label. We gathered as a band and affirmatively took our first steps toward the adventure of completing our debut record that finally saw daylight in December 2020.

Jerneja: WinterMoonShade's debut album has received a lot of good reviews. The only negative remark they have in common is regarding the production. Are you aware of the core of the problem?
Haze: We are getting many good reviews for our music, and we are deeply grateful for that. The production is very raw as we felt it should be to mark the origin. We wanted to give it a retro soundscape. Some people are taking it as a downside of the album others that get our purpose are digging into it as our unique sound. The most important for us is that we are getting people's attention towards our work. As with everything else, the tastes and flavours change from one listener to the next, so we do our best to, first of all, be in tune with our personal intentions and path.

Jerneja: Is WinterMoonShade already working on new material?
Haze: Yes, we are working on a new album material since we released our debut. The forthcoming will reflect a more mature sound and composition. We are drifting in a whole fresh inspiration, always with nature majesty insight as we are developing our imagery also to be roaming in the same course. We are guessing by the gathering of songs that it will be a tremendous accomplishment for WinterMoonShade's career.

Jerneja: Now, let's talk about the WinterMoonShade composition process. What comes first after the inspiration music or lyrics; who does the music and who lyrics?
Haze: Inspiration comes freely, as we let ourselves floating around the waves of imagination. Sometimes lyrics are the first stage unlocking the paths to the songs, but at most, the riffing arrives with a premonition of the tracks' titles. Sometimes the river string brings us the whole song - as a natural course. Other times it reveals it in fragments which we then apply in the rehearsal room, and fire enlightening us into another direction. The three of us got an active input to each song and what matters is the realization of the music itself above the necessity of individual affirmation.

Jerneja: You have already mentioned the lyrics got nature-inspired, but what exactly are they communicating?
Haze: The atmosphere our music is trying to translate into people's imagination is, to us, the most important. The lyrics are only a complement to the songs, as we may have instrumental tracks that can lead us to that very same atmospheric fields created by WinterMoonShade. Our main point is to wrap the listener into a magical state. Sometimes words can be an indicator of the way, but the receiver's individual inspiration is the leading determination of the experience to each person. Principally, the lyrical content is regarding the majestic forms of nature, human interaction and behaviour towards the natural forces. Reflections driven from scary tales, twisted thoughts and nightmares are also present in WinterMoonShade's lyrics.

Jerneja: Do you have a favourite WinterMoonShade's song, and why?
Haze: About preferences. Some of the songs are more or less interesting to play than the others. The same happens when we listen to any song, regardless of being composed by us or other musicians. Also, it depends on the days and mood that we are in at the particular moment. When a new song arrives, it can become a favourite one to play, as we have the desire to nail it well. All these variations can turn any song into a favourite for a while.  

Jerneja: Was there any song - before you started to compose your own - which was special to you (again, why)?
Haze: Long before we even thought about forming bands, and until the present day, we have always been surrounded with music that inspires us. The list of special ones is like a vast ocean as we listen to different genres and bands from folk to fado besides the metal projects. But we guess it is better to name some albums where some of that special songs are. Wolfheart by Moonspell, At The Heart Of Winter by Immortal, Dusk And Her Embrace and Cruelty And The Beast by Cradle Of Filth, Far Beyond Driven by Pantera, Panzer Division by Marduk,... Only to say a little tail of it. 

Jerneja: WinterMoonShade has so far released two official videos and some lyrics videos.  Have you made them all by yourself? How was the shooting? Some interesting story, perhaps? And, are you planning to shoot some more videos for the songs from your debut album?
Haze: Yes, the videos and the surrounding work was all made by the band. We are willing to colour the debut album with clips as an alternative way to let people know our music these days without live concerts and full of restrictions. We can remember the cold wind blasting as we were shooting "Legends & Mist", and we were freezing with hurting fingers to play along the track. It was a great mood that morning for making the video, and apart from the low temperature, we had a great time.

Jerneja: How do the band's rehearsals look?  I suppose you don't wear the costumes or do you?
Haze: In the rehearsal room, we are constantly making jokes about something. It is important to us to have a light atmosphere surrounding the compositions and practising. The three of us are growing up with the characters, and sometimes we rehearse with costumes on to prepare ourselves for the live gigs when they finally arrive. But mostly we don't wear masks during the meetings.

Jerneja: WinterMoonShade got formed at the beginning of pandemics, and therefore it hasn't yet had a chance to perform live. Are you at least engaged with some tour plans, hoping to be realized? But at least a live stream awaits you on 2 May. The first one, I believe. So, are you feeling excited about it?
Haze: We are waiting to find out about the worldwide situation development as everyone else. The uncertainty of these days to end with the restrictions and to life get back into "normal" standards in one hand all of this are giving us plenty of time to get in shape, so when the gigs finally start, we will be better prepared to perform a good show. For now, we have only done a couple of live tapes from the rehearsal room for online festivals' purposes, and we are planning to realize more videos to aid the debut album release.

Jerneja: What about the artworks? Did you also create them all by yourself? The album cover looks like it was a demanding job (especially if drawn by hands), and WinterMoonShade's logo is very sophisticated.
Haze: Everything regarding the album is the band's work. The cover is a picture of trees with added mirror effect and some other effect's layers, which give a sensation to be hand-drawn. The logo is a combination of images. We had an old symbol made in actual metal material, and we used that figure, including the triple Moon and later on adding an extra symbol for magic and manifestation. As we are three people in the band, the idea of the same number in the symbol parts made sense. If you notice, WinterMoonShade is also a combination of three, as all of our music titles have three words each.

Jerneja: How do you manage all these obligations like a regular job, the band, family/social life?  Is there any time left just for you to relax, and how do you prefer to spend it?
Haze: Everything is in the right place when we have passion for it. Since we first started in 2020, a lot of work has been done because the will to make things happen is strong. Social life is a subject hard to explain during 2020 and 2021 due to the worldwide situation we are all crossing. Everything during this period was strange, so the best choice was to roll the sleeves and get to work. The best relaxation is spending time in nature and enjoy the silence far away from the social kind of living. Cleaning the mind from distractions helps new ideas arriving. Also home is a good place to enjoy, by listening to music and watching movies.

Jerneja: You live in a small town, where people usually know each other. Do they know about WinterMoonShade, and who are the people behind the masks? If so, how do you deal will all the attention?
Haze: Only a few people know about WinterMoonShade back in our hometown. We like to make things quiet and have an ordinary life alongside the band. When we gather to play, it is almost like we are some secret society cult, which is very nice.

Jerneja: Thank you for doing this interview with me. We had a pleasant talk, I think. So being at the end of it, is there any message you would like to send to Terra Relicta web magazine readers?
Haze: We are so very grateful to Terra Relicta for the interview, friendship and support to WinterMoonShade. And we are deeply grateful to all of you for your interest in WinterMoonShade. Stay all safe and tuned into metal. Cheers!

WinterMoonShade links: Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp.