Nelson Moreira: A Young Musician Writes His Metal Manifesto

Header image courtesy of Nelson Moreira

By Fábio Moniz

One has its own definition of time, and for Nelson Moreira, making his way in music at the age of nineteen is rather late to start.

From that age, he had told himself he would not live a normal life, spending his days in front of a computer screen, which Moreira confesses, “Is a bit ironic, since it’s what I do most of the time.” No, instead, Moreira has decided to dedicate his time to learning to play an instrument.

At a young age, Moreira’s dream was that of playing the piano, but his family could not afford such an instrument. At the age of fifteen, he had entered the world of heavy metal, leading him to later play the guitar.

Moreira’s failed attempt to enroll in Lisbon’s School of Music had only been the little spark for a new adventure. It was at this point that he had started as a guitar student at Hot Club Portugal. But he felt incapable of learning jazz guitar, and he then turned to the bass guitar. Almost automatically, the aspiring artist was able to “jazz better” through the bass guitar.

Having had classes in composition, Moreira had been pouring himself into his own work. Following a friend’s advice, Moreira went to study music in the U.K., where he played in several projects, and subsequently recorded a number of albums.

His newfound passion for bass begs the question though – Did Nelson Moreira leave the guitar forever?

Although Moreira has had such a course, a problem in his personal life led him to stop playing music at all. A month passed and the bassist soon regained the courage to chart his musical course.

Even though Moreira had offered the chance to many guitarists to join him, ultimately, none would feel comfortable playing his creations. It was this very conundrum that made Moreira pivot back to the guitar. In theory, all that was left to do was regain lost technique, and he’d be good to go, or so he thought.

Image courtesy of Nelson Moreira

Life is a bumpy road.

Moreira’s first solo album, Songs For The Future, is about to be released, although not everything went as smoothly as he might have hoped. You see, it took Moreira six months time to work on his album, and, at the end of things, he had lost access to his HDD. Of course, defeat is not in the multi-instrumentalist’s vocabulary. Instead, the adversity simply gave him the fire to succeed. The six-month trial by fire had only made him a better musician, his skill improved, and as such, he was able to shorten the second recording process to two months, and to Moreira’s ears, “It sounds better.”

When it came to recording his album, Moreira handled all the guitar and bass tracks at home by himself; as Moreira says, “Nowadays, it is the regular way of doing things.” Moreira did need to hire a drummer, Grimgotts’ pianist, an orchestra composer – who had taken Moreira’s orchestral work and improved it -and a violinist. The violinist’s role is very important in Moreira’s project, for “The premise of my project is that of the work of a heavy metal singer is substituted by the voice of either a violin or various violins.”

In his album, Moreira looks for something out of the traditional, something, “More like world music with heavy metal,” Nelson says, adding, “It has elements of traditional heavy metal and symphonic heavy metal,” but it has, at the same time, “Indian music, Japanese music, always mixed with heavy metal.” One could say that, “It’s more or less like the soundtrack for an anime series, or a Final Fantasy, or some sort.”

Alongside his friends, Moreira has already recorded two albums for the power metal band Grimgotts, presently recording the third – ain’t that exciting?

It goes around video games and anime.

Most of Moreira’s inspirations arise from Japanese music, music written by Japanese musicians and music made in Japan, though, “Not traditional music, although I have some of that, too.” Moreira tells us, “That’s why the heavy metal I play does not sound so violent as sounds, for instance, the heavy metal played in the USA; or harmonically simple as European heavy metal, but more of a mix of both, the way that music in Japan is made.”

And as for anime and video games, they convey a message of some sort, but Moreira enlightens us as to that, speaking as follows, “There’s a difference between absolute music and concrete music. Absolute music is that pure, instrumental music; and concrete music, the one that has lyrics. When Mozart has written Sonata in C sharp minor #14” – known as Moonlight Sonata— “At that time, it was only C sharp minor and that’s it. But later, someone might have said, ‘This song makes me picture the moonlight,’ and that was the title for which the song has gotten to be known for. People do not call it Sonata #14 in C sharp minor.”

In Moreira’s words, his music is the same. He says that he would like to have the privilege to call his songs #1, #2, etc., but he has to name them, somehow, and the title of a song is given according to what Moreira’s feeling at the time of the composition, not with what the song means; “For instance, “Pain of My Passion,” which was the last song I have written in Portugal – I could not get on with writing the song.” Moreira had been haunted by writer’s block.

To the sound of Dream Theater’s “Space-Dye Vest,” “One of my favorites, by Dream Theater,” and by listening, after some time, to a Japanese band, Afterimage – a not well known symphonic heavy metal band – inspired him and made him get the strength to make things again, “The fact of Afterimage being underground, gave me strength not to give up,” Moreira confesses. What Moreira wanted to express with the title of the song was that, “It does not matter if I am successful or not, or if people like it or not, what I really want is that the song exists, that people have access to it, and that someday, ten, fifteen, thirty years past, someone listens to it and feels inspired the same way I felt inspired when I listened again to Afterimage.”

At the end of the story, Moreira had his recipe for victory and could finish the song. Another example is that of FTB, Freddie the Bassist, one of his educators in the U.K. Heavenly, because of the choir and vocals, “It’s not reflected in the song in itself, but reflects on the way I was feeling back then.” Moreira concludes with, “I could change the song’s title to something else and the song would stay just the same.” The title, then, worked as a memento, for Nelson to remember how he had felt at the time he wrote the song, and not what the listener is going to feel when listening to it.

Indeed, the song’s title, in the genres of instrumental music, does not mean that much. As Moreira says, he wouldn’t go listening to Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Far Beyond the Sun” and think, “Indeed, it makes me think far beyond the sun.” For him, maybe it made sense, but to me, it makes no sense, “When someone listens to my music, the title of a song may not make any sense to them, but we’re cool,” Moreira says, “I can live with it.”

Image courtesy of Nelson Moreira

Guitars and solo projects. What’s the image of the artist? What are the priorities?

“My dream has always been that of having a band, for this music I make,” Moreira shares with us. “But it is almost impossible, for there are so many people involved in its creation, and to play live would take, at least, two violins, two guitars, a bassist, a drummer, someone playing the keyboard, and, maybe, backing track. On stage would be seven people, more or less, and the economic incentive does not exist behind this kind of music, unfortunately.” Furthermore, Moreira believes that there might not be that many people who would want to learn to play this type of music with, “Almost no economic incentive.” This is the music he had within, and he wanted it to come out. The only two instruments Moreira is able to play at the required level yet, are the bass and the guitar.

This said, Moreira is not sure yet, how will he take the project, if as a guitar player, a bass player, or as, “The guy who wrote it.” One thing is certain, “The way I am to advertise my project if as a guitar player or as a bass player, depends on my ability to play it live,” he shares with us. If Moreira has the chance to play his music live, it’ll depend on the musicians he’ll get, and, from there, it’ll be, “Like Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, in which I am the person who has written and if everybody feels happy with playing my music, everything’s ok,” he says.

Has Moreira ever felt he had been saved by music?

A very hard question for him to answer. Here’s what he had to tell us about it.

When he started to play an instrument, he felt that, “The only reason I am playing an instrument is because I feel I owe something to the universe.” Moreira cannot afford not to play and practice his music every day, because he feels he owes something to the universe, not because it gives him the utmost pleasure in playing faster, better, or at writing better music, or for the fact that writing and playing music may be therapeutic, “It seems to me that the only reason why I keep on doing music is because I owe something to someone, and the only way I have to pay that debt to that someone is by making music.”

When Moreira thinks about the things that give him pleasure in life, he automatically thinks about playing video games – but that will not pay his bills, for sure. “It’s weird, because, even though I get more pleasure in playing video games, rather than in making music, I cannot stop making music,” Moreira tells us, “I don’t know why.” He even shares his thoughts on himself: “I’m aware that I’m not that good a musician, and to compensate for the fact that I’m not very good, I have to study every day, to stay at the same level as the others.” Moreira concludes, “These are, then, the two reasons I keep on doing music: one is I don’t know why; the other because I have to play every day since I’m not that good.” Wouldn’t it be better to let the listener be the judge of that?

Would Moreira want his music to save anyone?

“I would,” he says. Moreira says that, in the same way, he feels happy with listening to the bands he listens to, he would like others to listen to his music the same way he had listened to Afterimage, “And to feel the same I felt when their music inspired me to make the music I really want to do myself. That’s my main goal, to inspire someone as much as I have been inspired with listening to music in a 90s cassette.” Moreira would like to leave something behind and for people to say, “‘This guy, when he was alive, has done a cool thing or two, and it makes me feel good,’ and that’s good enough for me.”

What about influences and language?

To our question if Moreira would like to imitate his influences’ language or if he would like to create a sound of his own, he told us, “I think it’s a bit of both.” If he would listen to something in one of his favorite bands’ he finds interesting, that something will come back, as Nelson tells us, as a way of example, “Let me make an intro like Galneryus” – Moreira’s favorite band. He adds, “And I’ll add it, with no further thinking.”

Moreira is not stuck in only one genre, but varies between several a genre, such as other kinds of jazz, and, “Those ideas always come back.” He concludes then, telling us, “Other artists’ influences always pop up, but not always in a very obvious way.”

Has Moreira’s music been received in a good way?

Moreira thinks very few people have listened to his music, and even fewer were those who aren’t musicians, “Being a bassist for a niche heavy metal band, if anyone who had listened to Grimgotts’ music later listens to mine, that person is likely to be shocked, because my music has no defined direction, no specific objective,” Moreira shares with us.

For that and other reasons, he’s aware that maybe it won’t be that well received by the general public, and that there are people who may not like it, who’ll find Nelson a show-off, or pretentious, “And that’s ok. When I do music, I don’t busy myself with others’ opinions, and I don’t mind much if the song sounds good or not – as stupid as this assertion may sound – because the music I make it’s the exploration of an idea I had at a certain moment in my life,” he tells us.

Moreira thinks only that, “It is literally what I want, what’s in the music.”

Image courtesy of Nelson Moreira

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