Interview with RICARDO DIAS

Original Portuguese version here: 

HEAVENWOOD has been conquering the Portuguese metal public since the times they were still called DISGORGED. Today, almost 20 years later and the 4th album just released, it seems they start to conquer the world. BACKSTAGE couldn’t let this pass unnoticed and it’s with great pleasure that brings to you this interview with guitarist Ricardo Dias.

Backstage Music Forum: Hello, Ricardo! First of all, I would like to thank you for talking to us, and congratulate you for your latest work. Let’s start then with the praise of “Abyss Masterpiece”. Almost every day there’s news on Facebook about a review, interview or simply an announcement on the media, both national and international, and all of them pretty positive. Did you expect this album to be really a “masterpiece” of  such dimension?

Ricardo Dias: I can say we worked hard in order to make a special album. The ground idea in matters of longevity, maturity and even consumption of “Abyss Masterpiece” was thought and built since the conception of the album. Considering such “junk music” out in the market, we decided to focus on an album which would swim against the tide. It gave us great pleasure to work the themes, the lyrics, the production or even the artwork in such a “fastidious” way, but there’s no other way when we want an album with these characteristics. The orchestrations weren’t put there to “fill spaces” in the songs as there are “musical duels”, there are musical images, there’s sense and a musical logic in instrumental matters. We left the metaphorical part for the lyrics and artwork.

About the reviews and the news, yes, that’s the result of the contract with HEAVENWOOD’s new motherhouse, French LISTENABLE RECORDS, and hours and hours of our daily work, obviously. 

BMF: And given this international approval, is it possible that it might open doors for, let’s say, an European tour, like that one with ATROCITY and IN FLAMES back in ’96?

Ricardo: We’ve received invitations to support EPICA on their recent tour, but we thought we should wait for the end of this intense phase of promotion. On May 3rd the album will be released and distributed in the American market by E1 ENTERTAINMENT, which means more interviews and promotional activities. We are perfectly aware that, despite HEAVENWOOD have 4 albums, we’re still a “new band” to many people around the world, not to mention the new generations as well. In due time we will make special things!

BMF: Both Daniel Cardoso (drums) and Pedro Mendes (bass) were just session musicians but they’d been with you for quite a while, having even recorded “Abyss Masterpiece”. Why the change now, and how did you choose Marcelo Aires and Paulo Chanoca?

Ricardo: Things change when they have to and usually the motives are consistent and justified. I have nothing more to say about that subject, it’s not relevant for the band in the present or future. What matters now is that Marcelo Aires and Paulo Chanoca have until now what is called combine business with pleasure. I appreciate above all the human side, the modesty, good will and respect towards us both as people and band.

BMF: Another change was the label. When you switched from MASSACRE RECORDS to RECITAL, I remember reading that it had been because your sound didn’t meet the label’s goals. And now from RECITAL to LISTENABLE RECORDS?

Ricardo: The MASSACRE RECORDS “soap opera” is like the session musicians one: buried. The reason that lead us to move to LISTENABLE RECORDS is natural, a result of our work and achievements through the years. Our goal was to make HEAVENWOOD international once again and we made it. It’s incomparable with RECITAL which, from my point of view, did a good job – limited, true, but it would have been impossible to achieve more with “Redemption”, as the financial factor also takes part in these issues and without any doubt “Redemption” was the most ambitious project, the most expensive and with the best national sales results as well as exportation of a national band and label. In fact, it was the first time that a national product and label was exported at a much higher scale. We really felt the limit of the machine and frankly we had no interest in release another album under the same conditions. If you ask me if I consider RECITAL a vital label for the national market? Yes, absolutely, but bands shouldn’t nor can’t forget that the positive outcome and the so-called “success of things” also depends on the bands’ work and the people involved in promoting the band, and that’s what the Portuguese bands still lack nowadays, they have trouble in managing their career inside these lines.

BMF: I already know that you were 100% satisfied with the partnership with Kristian “Kohle” Kohlmannslehner, but who chose him in the first place and why?

Ricardo: We did. In fact, it was a key factor for us to sign with the new label, since we had another proposal from an European label with more “status” but who didn’t offer the demanded conditions. Anyway, and as status don’t pay bills, we decided and stuck to our demands until the end. Kristian Kohle did an impressive job with “Abyss Masterpiece” since he mixed perfectly the strength and melody of HEAVENWOOD (without losing our identity) with the orchestral work of Russian Dominic Joutsen and that’s not an easy task. There are few recognised metal producers capable of doing so, it was a challenge for him and definitely recommend Kohle to whoever wishes all the spices in an organic form, real and non plastic, without losing their soul! I don’t mean by this that we weren’t satisfied with Jens Bogren on “Redemption”, by the contrary. That was an album with a different identity.

BMF: HEAVENWOOD always had famous guests on their albums, such as Kai Hansen, Liv Kristine, Jeff Waters… “Abyss Masterpiece” has the participation of Miriam Renvag and composer Dominic Joutsen. How do these invitations come up?

Ricardo: Dominic Joutsen came through a search for composers who would share the same musical taste for DEAD CAN DANCE, DANNY ELFMAN and movie soundtracks, someone pursuing experiences and challenges like us. Curious enough, Dominic Joutsen isn’t a heavy metal fan but he loved working with us. It was quite an experience to exchange countless files, ideas, mistakes, strictures between Porto and Moscow through e-mail and feel, little by little, that “Abyss Masterpiece” was growing in dimension at every track composed and orchestrated. And Norwegian Miriam is a singer we’ve been following for some time. Although unknown to some, that woman has extraordinary talent, strength and vocal character at the same level of the most famous. She achieved, and how, what had been asked of her in writing, and that alone shows her dedication and vocal expression. I suggest you to check out her band RAM-ZET!

BMF: Speaking of Joutsen, the epic atmosphere this work brings us, was it something you had previously decided to try? Was it a “musical arrangement” that adapted itself to the new songs or these were already written to fit that sound?

Ricardo: The arrangements adapted themselves to the songs. The only track which fit to Dominic was “The Arcadia Order”.

BMF: Let’s talk a bit about videos. I confess I love that kind of video which is a mini-movie in which the script is based on the lyrics of the song, but I also understand that this kind of production is more arduous and expensive. So I have two questions regarding this subject: first, is there any song, new or old, to which you would like to make this kind of video? Second, will any video be filmed to promote “Abyss Masterpiece”, like “Redemption” had “13th Moon”?

Ricardo: Yes, we have plans for an official video to one of the songs from “Abyss Masterpiece”. Right now the priority is to respond to the strong promotion and interviews which we’ve been struggling with a little bit all over the world. That video should be something special, we don’t want a cliché with the band playing in some gloomy environment with a couple of spotlights. “13th Moon” was a pleasant experience, with no budget, and we will be forever thankful to the twenty-something people involved in an amateur video.

BMF: In the last few years, band developed a certain trend of re-releasing old albums and/or playing them in full live, by its release anniversary. Have you ever thought doing that with “Diva”, as it turns 15 now in 2011?

Ricardo: Yes, we have, but for now our focus is on “Abyss Masterpiece”.

BMF: On April 1st it was announced that Ernesto (Guerra, vocals) would leave HEAVENWOOD. What impact did these news have on the fans who didn’t realise it was your April’s Fool prank?

Ricardo: To the most aware, a laughter. To the most distracted it must have been some “hum?!?”

BMF: 10 years have gone between “Swallow” and “Redemption”, and only 3 between the latter to “Abyss Masterpiece”. Does this mean that HEAVENWOOD are stronger and “here to stay”? 🙂

Ricardo: If there’s no incident on the way, yes, everything leads us to believe so! We rather not think about dramas in this stage, the ride has just begun! 🙂

BMF: Once again thank you, and keep up the good work!

Ricardo: Thank you, Renata, for the excellent interview and the opportunity given by BACKSTAGE. I invite everybody to buy the original “Abyss Masterpiece”, see HEAVENWOOD in concert, visit our official sites on or and maybe join our HEAVENWOOD FANS on Facebook: Musical cheers!

About Pieni

A metalhead who loves photography and her friends.
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