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Gaby Koss & Carlos Mosquera Interview

Gaby Koss & Carlos Mosquera Interview
by Robin Stryker July 11, 2013 (via Skype)


The idea for this interview began taking shape late last year, during a moonlit stroll with Gaby Koss in Belgium’s chocolate capital of Bruges. While ambling around the city, Gaby shared some of her many collaborations and projects that were due for release in 2013. Voilà, an interview is born! And talk about a study in contrasts? The two most recent releases (Cantus Lunaris and Nota Profana) featuring this German soprano could not be more different.

Gaby Koss



We were doubly blessed that Carlos Mosquera, leader and guitarist of Nota Profana and percussionist for Cantus Lunaris, was visiting Gaby and could join in. Dive in for a two-person/two-band extravaganza of musical styles, pageantry, castles, and more!

Sonic Cathedral:  Gaby, It’s so nice to talk with you again. And Carlos, welcome to Sonic Cathedral! The two of you are in Nota Profana and Cantus Lunaris, which are bands with two very different styles. Would you start off by introducing us to your bands?

Carlos:  Well, Nota Profana is a symphonic metal band from Venezuela that has an orchestra built in. They are part of the band. Sometimes we are 12 members, sometimes we are … I don’t know … 25? The members are 12 official members, so we have a lot of variety of musicians on the instruments, and we can make a different style of music with a lot of instruments and stuff.

Gaby:  Cantus Lunaris was actually born because I was always wanting to have a band with more singers. I am a fan of voices, and I’m doing a lot of different stuff with different singers. There was one singer, whom I did a lot of things with, named Samuel Jaime Santana from Spain. Actually we started with Christmas concerts, and invited a lot of people. Yeah, one-and-a-half years ago at Christmas, I started thinking that maybe we could make a fixed ensemble with members, and there it started! And now, we are trying musicians. I have had to learn that guitar players are more divas than singers are. <laughs> Not Carlos, though. He is just a percussionist, so he’s not a diva in the band.

Carlos:  Diva is not my role! <laughs>

Gaby:  Yes, so we are now into folk and Celtic, but we are also on stage performing Renaissance, early Baroque, Sephardic (which are a little bit old Spanish-Jewish). We want to do a metal CD at the end of the year, and we also started actually recording some pieces.

Sonic Cathedral:  Carlos, you mentioned having a symphony built into Nota Profana. I have some familiarity with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, but would love to hear more.

Carlos:  I am part of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra; I’m a percussionist. Well, I’m now living in England (in Liverpool) as I took a permission from them. But most of the members of Nota Profana are from the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. So we have a string ensemble, and we have horns, an oboe and flutes. It it gives a really good color to the metal band. The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra is very famous around the world, I think, and now they are touring. Unfortunately, I’m not with them now because I can’t. But yeah, it’s very famous, and I think that’s a plus in the band.


Nota Profana


Sonic Cathedral:  From doing some background research on Nota Profana, it seems as though the band started under another name that translates to the “Haggard Project.” Back in 2005 or 2006, did you ever think that you would have former Haggard member, Gaby Koss, as your soprano vocalist?

Carlos:  No, I didn’t think about that. It was weird!

Sonic Cathedral:  Gaby, how did you become involved with Nota Profana?

Gaby:  I think it was connecting through MySpace. We were talking, and I really loved what they do. I was looking at the Simon Bolivar YouTube videos, so I knew how very good those musicians were.

Carlos:  The thing is, we never played or made a gig with that name, the Haggard Project. Our first gig was with Nota Profana, but we played some covers. By that time we had our original songs, but we were also playing some covers.

Sonic Cathedral:  People may think that Nota Profana’s music is light and airy because the band has an embedded orchestra. But The Devil’s Playground has harsh vocals (as well as Gaby’s soprano vocals) and a rather dark theme. Would you give us an overview of the story?

Carlos:  The story of The Devil’s Playground is a person who is living afraid, as memories are constantly annoying him. A man, who grew up without apparent fears, is being haunted by a strange nightmare involving dead trees, heavy mist, terrifying silence and running wildly as if escaping death. Every time he wakes up he remembers his father’s warning words during one cold night: “Don’t walk the devil’s path, he laugh while children cry…”

His mind is puzzled, but he wants to find out the meaning of his bad dreams. When he was a child, while playing near the dark pathway, he heard the screams of someone dear to him. He walked the hall of dead trees and saw a man, his father, sinking a knife into his brother’s chest. Basically, they are memories that are making his life a “nightmare”.

Sonic Cathedral:  In the lyrics, the phrase “the gray eye” is repeated in a few songs. What is that?

Carlos:  It is memory. It is the devil, and it shows in the lake. Every time he goes to the lake, he sees the gray eye. It’s just a symbol -- a symbol of the devil.

Sonic Cathedral:  With Nota Profana being rather huge, how do you avoid bumping into each other on the stage?

Carlos:  It’s MAGIC. <all laugh> We try to play in normal concert venues … I mean orchestra venues … because, most of the time, we need a lot space. Last time we played in Barquisimeto (my hometown), we played with an orchestra. Even though it was a huge stage, we were really tight and not comfortable. But in that case, we tried to play on a big stage, although sometimes it’s not possible. That’s why sometimes we play with more people or less people, depending on the size of the stage.

Sonic Cathedral:  From chatting with you briefly beforehand, it seems that Nota Profana has some exciting show dates in Venezuela.

Carlos:  Yeah, we’re planning a really huge concert, like Dimmu Borgir did, with an orchestra. We’re planning to have the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra play with us. It’s gonna be like a two hour concert, where we are going to play even covers of classical music and original songs as well from the first album and the second album.

Sonic Cathedral:  When you play covers of classical music, do you “metal” them up, or play them as straight classical pieces?

Carlos:  No, we metal them up! We metal them up all the time.

Gaby:  Even with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra?

Carlos:  Yeah, it’ll be metal.

Gaby:  Oh, okay.

Sonic Cathedral:  See, you learned something, Gaby. <laughs>

Gaby:  Yes, I actually expected (like the last concert in Barquisimeto) that we have some pieces that are not metal.

Carlos:  Well, yeah. That’s true.


Nota Profana


Sonic Cathedral:  When you have the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra behind you, how many people will that be?

Carlos:  We are planning on having about 100. The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra is larger than that.

Sonic Cathedral:  Carlos, how did you go from being the lead guitarist for Nota Profana to being the percussionist for Cantus Lunaris?

Carlos:  <laughs> Well, I met Gaby of course from Nota Profana, and I’m a percussionist as well in Venezuela. She offered me the possibility of playing percussion with her, and I’m living in England … like it’s not far away from Germany. She liked playing with me, and how I’m handling percussion. We have had a lot of nice gigs -- sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t. But now I am more free, so I can join.

Sonic Cathedral:  Gaby, for you, is there any style of music that you don’t like singing? I see that you perform jazz, Celtic, opera, rock and metal. Is there any style that you personally don’t wish to perform?

Gaby:  Hmmm, if it’s a good rap song with a classical voice, I don’t have any problems with it. It depends, you know. I like a lot of styles of music, actually … when they’re good songs. I like good songs, so it’s a matter of taste. But when they are nicely done, I like all the styles. What can I say? There is nothing I really don’t like. Maybe too much electronic or something because I really like the real instruments.

Sonic Cathedral:  Now, on Cantus Lunaris, who chose the songs on Fabula Antiqua? There are quite a few -- like “Greensleeves”, “Bonny Portmore” and “Scarborough Fair” -- that I recognize.

Gaby:  Actually, it was me. We have already recorded a second CD with Renaissance stuff. <laughs> I actually wanted to do a double CD with Celtic and Renaissance pieces. Then we thought it might be more wise to split it -- to do a Celtic one, and just release the one with the Renaissance pieces. Right now, we are having around nine Renaissance pieces that are done. I want to do two or three more (or maybe four) Renaissance pieces, so I will have 12 or 13 songs again on the next CD.

As we do Sephardic as well on stage, we decided to do an extra EP. We already recorded two Sephardic pieces with just Sephardic songs. It could be maybe an EP with five or six or seven songs. <laughs> And THEN we have a metal CD that we also started, and we did two pieces until now. So, it’s a real mixture right now in the studio with all those songs.

Sonic Cathedral:  For the metal Cantus Lunaris album, are you taking classical-type songs, and making metal versions? Or are you writing original songs?

Gaby:  It depends. We are having totally new songs that have new melodies, but in the mixed style. But also we have the … how can I say this? … pieces with old, Medieval melodies that are turning into the metal. We are taking the Medieval or Celtic melodies, and combining it with metal.

Sonic Cathedral:  Sounds wonderful! With Cantus Lunaris, you have had live shows in fabulous castles. Tell us about your live shows, please.

Gaby:  We are playing very often in castles because this music fits really good to castles. There is no metal in it. I mean, we play Renaissance (and Baroque as well), so it really fits to the style. The owners of the castles, who are doing the concerts in this direction, they offered us some places to play.

I also like to do church concerts. We had one in Waidhaus, in a very big nice church. We didn’t have time to make any pictures or recordings, but the concert was very nice! More than 200 people were enjoying it -- not only youngsters, but also older people. So, music is reaching a lot of different kinds of people who are listening to different styles of music. It’s a good concert to reach a lot of people.

Sonic Cathedral:  The members of Cantus Lunaris wear period costumes for live shows. Who is responsible for the band’s look?

Carlos:  Gaby.

Gaby:  Yeah. Sometimes, it’s really hard because I feel like the mother, kind of. <laughs> “Could you PLEASE put that on?” or “Can you please look at it” because the costumes are a little bit expensive, so I have to bring all the time to the concerts two big bags with all the costumers that are actually what I bought for stage. There are different styles, like a little bit Renaissance or early Baroque or Medieval dresses or a little bit more gothic style. These are styles I do have. I give them to the people so that we look about the same. And it’s worn today! When we play gigs, we come in a costume.

Sonic Cathedral:  Gaby, when we had our little slumber party in Belgium, I was veeery impressed that you came off the plane with only carry-on luggage, and still looked stylish all weekend long. What is your packing secret? I can bring a huge bag, and will still look like some drunken hobo.

Gaby:  I don’t know if everybody likes my style. I’ve heard a lot of things: “Oh, it looks ridiculous!” So I’m not really aware of that. I just pick what I like. My husband is actually sometimes: “Oh, you are too black all the time! Can you wear some more colorful and nice things?” I don’t know … I LIKE it when somebody’s wearing casual stuff. But sometimes I feel not very comfortable. That is why maybe I choose clothes that are not absolutely narrow sitting on my body, but when I see something I just buy it.


Gaby Koss


Sonic Cathedral:  Okay, so where does one go to find period costumes, both for yourself and to dress your Cantus Lunaris bandmates for shows? I suppose you can’t just pick up such things at the local mall.

Gaby:  A friend of mine, she is actually doing costumes, and sells them. I started looking at them and wearing them, and she is making them for me actually.

Sonic Cathedral:  So that’s the secret! Carlos, I imagine moving to England from Venezuela was quite a change. What have been some of the biggest surprises, whether happy surprises or not-so-happy ones?

Carlos:  The not-happy surprise is the weather. Well, it’s not such a surprise, but raining all the time is not very metal. <all laugh> So, that’s one thing. But I was studying what I wanted to do, so I was happy with that. I live in Liverpool, and I think that the metal scene is poorer than in Caracas. So even metal bands, they don’t go there too often like they do in Manchester or Leeds or (of course) London. So that was a really, really bad thing because I thought the scene was going to be bigger.

A good surprise is that I am near Gaby, and closer to Germany. So, I could join Cantus Lunaris, and that wasn’t in the plan when I came to England. That was a good surprise!

Sonic Cathedral:  How’s the food in England?

Carlos:  Oh, really BAD … really, really bad. We were discussing here about that, because in Germany it’s way better. But English food is insane -- just really, really bad, and there’s no taste. Sorry for my British friends, but that’s true.

Sonic Cathedral:  <laughs> My theory is that Britain only colonized other countries to get better-tasting food.

Carlos:  Yeah, that’s probably true.

Sonic Cathedral:  You had talked about Cantus Lunaris’s upcoming albums, as well as new shows for Nota Profana. Are either of you working on any other projects?

Carlos:  Well, I have a project called Alas in England, which is more kind of experimental. I play percussion, and am a programmer there. It is more experimental stuff. That is not yet very huge because we are just starting out. (Alas are two Norwegians and myself.) To be honest, I don’t have too much time, so I think that is basically it.

Sonic Cathedral:  How about you, Gaby? You always seem to have a half-dozen projects going at the same time.

Gaby:  This year is really crazy! A band from Russia asked me already to be on their CD, but it seems this year that they are done. Theatre of Night (from the US) asked me to do a Christmas album for this year and a classic metal album for next year. Also Tom Harris from England, who’s a composer and guitar player, and Maika Ceres, who’s a soprano from Uruguay, asked me to do projects. So, it all came together. Actually, they are developing. They are almost done, but there are one or two instruments that are missing. Like on the melodic metal project Diskelion from Tom there is missing my voice and violins, and then it’s done for mix and master. For Maika’s project (Triskolian), there is missing violins, my voice on it, and bass lines.

It is not a lot but, as very often things come in between, like I’m sick and then I cannot record for a long time because I want to have my full and nice voice to record and make the best sound. I have recorded very often when I didn’t have that voice that I like, and I was always angry about it afterwards. So, I try to be not sick and to be in a good state to record which sometimes needs time. Also, the other instruments have other things to do, and they’re doing a favor mostly. So I wait until they are finished with recordings. This is why actually it lasts longer than it needs to.


Nota Profana


Sonic Cathedral:  Gaby and Carlos, what would you like to tell your fans before we wrap up our chat?

Carlos:  Well, I think for us, it is: “Be patient.” We are a band that is very international -- our violinist is in Germany. Now our pianist is going to be in England, and I’m in England, and the rest of the band is in Venezuela …

Gaby:  The drummer is at Berklee in Boston.

Carlos:  Right, the drummer is in Boston. We are very not together much, so it’s hard for us to keep up-to-date because we are very distant. So I think patience will be my suggestion to our fans.

Gaby:  Yes, I hope that also metal fans will like our Celtic and Renaissance stuff for Cantus Lunaris. If they are not satisfied with that, maybe they hopefully will like one of the other projects like Nota Profana (because it’s symphonic metal) or Triskolian (because it is a double female-fronted metal folk band). So I hope we have something for every taste!

Sonic Cathedral:  That is certainly A LOT to look forward to. Thank you so much for talking with Sonic Cathedral tonight!

Cantus Lunaris photos: Christina Bulka & Fotografie Mit Seele
Nota Profana photos:

Gaby Koss official Facebook
Cantus Lunaris on Facebook 
Nota Profana official site 
Nota Profana on Facebook