This is not a new chapter, but a new volume for Sepultura, and it gave us that kind of feeling that we have achieved so much, and now we need to set out on a different path.
On the back on great reviews of their latest album Machine Messiah, Brazilian metal legends Sepultura recently visited the UK as part of a European tour that also featured Kreator, Soilwork and Aborted. Before their Manchester show, Steve Fallows managed to chat to guitarist Andreas Kisser about how the band have survived through difficult times, how they rebuilt and the future as they look towards a new chapter in the bands life.
(((o))): First of all, thanks for joining us. How is the tour going?
Andreas: No worries, thanks man. It’s amazing so far man, it really is. First of all we are really happy with the album. We are playing a lot of new songs and people are really relating to it, and really listening to the album.
(((o))): The album Machine Messiah has been widely lauded, with many fans and critics claiming it’s your best album for 10-15 years. Can you tell me a bit more about the album; it must be great to see it appreciated so much.
Andreas: Absolutely. We are so happy with the response, all very positive. We worked a lot to the best ability that we could. Every album we have that aim, but I think we were in a really special place when we started working on it. We’d finished the 30th anniversary of Sepultura. We did 3 years of touring for …Mediator… and then the celebration. We did the ‘Under My Skin’ single and it felt we were closing this huge 30-year cycle. We play a lot of the old stuff; we have a great setup with the label, fantastic people at Nuclear Blast, and a great setup of management. We took a long time to rebuild everything. We also have a great line up; Eloy (Casagrande) is an amazing drummer, probably the best around right now. He brought a lot of new possibilities to our music, so I felt like we were starting something fresh, you know. This is not a new chapter, but a new volume for Sepultura, and it gave us that kind of feeling that we have achieved so much, and now we need to set out on a different path. Of course, every album we bring something new, and work with new producers specifically to help with that, a new perspective on our music. We were very motivated. We worked a lot on demos in Brazil and really explored our musicianship at the highest level we could using acoustic and classical guitars and incorporating violins, keyboards , horns and stuff. Of course we had used them before, but this time it was more present and more in your face. Derrick is using more clean and melodic vocals, finding everything that suited the mood of the music. It was a very demanding album to make, but we prepared well technically, physically and mentally to go and work with Jens and Sweden and we are really happy and proud of the result. The fact that the fans love it too makes all of that work worthwhile.
(((o))): With the release of Machine Messiah, you have now done a few albums that follow a specific concept. Is that a path you have wanted to follow or has that just been happening as you’ve written?
Andreas: For me, nothing can be done without a concept. I use this analogy for The Beatles. Take out the word ‘love’ out of the Beatles songs and they’re done. Even the white album is a conceptual album, but because there is no cover, everything is possible, and you can put your own version of he album on there. A concept is always there, whether obvious or not. With any piece of art, whether music, painting or even packaging on a chocolate bar, there is always something that that artist is trying to get across with a particular piece of work. Of course, we have used Dante as inspiration before and A-Lex where we were completely locked inside a book and the book was our reality, more of a bigger concept like The Wall or something like that. Once you have that idea, that concept or goal, anything can make sense in relation to that goal. That’s why violins can work with guitars; Tunisians can work with Brazilians musically because we have a common aim, an objective.
(((o))): You mentioned The Beatles. You play with a Beatles cover band back in Brazil, and managed to play at The Cavern. How did that come about?
Andreas: These are people I met back home, they live in a different city called Vitoria and every month they invite different musicians to go and play Beatles songs. Could be a metal guy like me or someone that plays samba, it’s different all the time. They just look for different musicians to work with and play Beatles songs, because it doesn’t matter what you do, you have to love that band. I even have a little brick on the wall outside (alongside other musicians that have played that venue). That was a fantastic honour. While I was there I went to John Lennon’s school, I went to where Ringo Starr performed with the band for the first time. I played both of the stages, and hopefully there will be a chance to go back.
(((o))): You have played a lot of iconic venues during your career. My first live Sepultura show was at Donington ’96 where you played as a three piece with yourself on vocals. What are your memories of that set?
Andreas: There were such mixed emotions, you know. We were really growing, playing at Donington with KISS and Ozzy. Max chose to go back to the States with his wife and we knew that we could do it as a trio because we had done it before. The first time we came to Europe in 1989, Max always was very fragile, he had a lot of problems with his voice and his stomach and he didn’t care too much about himself and he was always sick and stuff. We tried it in Belgium on that tour and it worked. It happened again in the US on the Ozzy tour in 1992, so we knew we could do it. We had done I before, so lets get out there and do it.
We had help from the crew, Evan from Biohazard sang with us, all the people from Fear Factory and Ozzy were so helpful to us. Ozzy and Sharon gave Max and Gloria their plane so they could go home. It’s difficult to judge about the show because we were all shocked and upset by Dana (Low, Gloria’s son and Max’s stepson, who died in a car crash that day)’s death. He was a good friend of all of us, but I’m really glad we had the balls to go ahead with the show because of the venue and its history. I have the bootleg CD somewhere.
(((o))): So do I. I had to have it after seeing such an intense show.
Andreas: We are glad we did it, and glad of the help and the fact the fans stuck by us through a difficult time.
(((o))): After everything that followed with Max’s departure, it seemed to take a while for everyone to get board with the idea of a new line up. You seemed to have to start again after getting to a point where you were a very big band. How was that to deal with?
Andreas: Yeah, It was inevitable for that stuff to happen, because at the same time that Roots was exploding, we were playing huge venues and really being successful, backstage and in management it was a mess. We didn’t talk to each other at all; Max was travelling separately from the rest of the band. All that was bullshit, you know. It was always very important that when we walked offstage, we talk for a few minutes about the show, and that wasn’t happening. Even if Max hadn’t have left at the end of 1996, we couldn’t have carried on for much longer. Igor wanted to stay at home in Brazil because his daughter was born prematurely and there were a lot of different problems there, everything was chaotic. I think that when we broke it big, maybe we weren’t ready to be Sepultura at that level and Max didn’t seem to care about the band or the name like he used to, it was like “fuck you guys, I want to do my own thing”, but now he goes out playing Roots so I don’t know.
(((o))): So that period of change, though difficult, was refreshing in some ways?
Andreas: Yeah, we did think about stopping, maybe changing the name or just quitting music altogether. Everything went through our heads, but we took our time. After everything happening at the end of 1996, it wasn’t until September or October 1997 that we stared looking for a new singer. We spent all of that time rebuilding everything because we lost Max, we lost our management, we lost trust from the label, we lost everything basically so we really needed time to find a new manager, new singer, new producer. Once we did all that and the rebuilding process was under way we had to record Against, which was the most difficult album I have ever had to make. But I think it’s also the most important Sepultura album for us because we got through it. Without that album, we would not be alive.
(((o))): I was at the signing you did in London for the Against album and as they played it on rotation, you could feel the relief in the room that the band had survived and recorded a decent album
Andreas: Yeah, there was such propaganda around that album (Against), you know, about Max leaving and him being the victim and us being the bad guys trying to steal his band and it was portrayed that way in the media because Max was the voice of Sepultura and obviously the main focus for interviews with the band. People wanted to listen to him and he portrayed it very unfairly, but it is what it is and I’m really thankful for everything that happened in our career. Without that moment, we wouldn’t be here today a very much more organised, more motivated band. We have everything in place, a great album, a great following. It all adds to our 33 years of history.
(((o))): You have been very prolific, even with everything that has happened. There has never been a big gap between albums. With you touring heavily as well, when does the process begun for the next album?
Andreas: A very difficult question. We toured 3 years for …Mediator… then the anniversary tour and ideas are always flowing. When you get towards the end of the cycle, you are already thinking about what’s coming next, because the label is always there and that kind of pressure is always good, it’s very positive. It feels that we are part of something and I write music all the time thanks to having robots like this (holds up phone). You can think of any type of melody or lyrical idea and record it quickly and save it for developing later when you have time. We really started thinking about this one at the end of 2015 when we were playing the last of the anniversary shows. We then got together in February 2016 in São Paolo and started going through all of these ideas and rough demos. Eloy had some drum loops. I presented the idea I had about Machine Messiah and everybody embraced the idea. Then it really started flowing and very quickly. Derrick came some ideas he had got from a documentary he had seen and it all started coming together really quickly. It’s like when your wife is pregnant and all of a sudden you see pregnant people everywhere, because you staring noticing everything and paying attention to details.
(((o))): With such a big catalogue of material to choose from, do you have any particular favourites to play live?
Andreas: That’s hard, man. I really enjoy playing new material live, every time we have a new album it’s always challenging to put the new material in the set, especially this one where we have samples of violins and all of the extra stuff. It’s enjoyable to play it because the fans have heard it liked and want to hear it live and so far they have loved them live. The intention we had was to tell a story with a very dramatic intro like an opera or something and have different mood with different songs, which all add different characteristics to the whole thing. It’s great to see that the fans really like it. We are playing five new songs in a one-hour set, which is amazing. We haven’t done that since Chaos AD.
(((o))): You go back to the States to play with Prong and Testament after finishing in Europe. What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
Andreas: We finish in Moscow, and then have a few shows in Brazil, and then in April we do six weeks in North America. We do the first big Machine Messiah show in Brazil at the Rock In Rio festival in September, where we will play most of the new album and then aim to come back to Europe again before the end of the year. We are hoping to bring a headline show over featuring a whole South American package, kind of like a Sepulfest kind of vibe. Hopefully we can make it happen, but we will be back in the UK sooner rather than later.