DATE OF INTERVIEW:
20th May 2011
A dominant thrash/death force in the late-eighties/early-nineties metal scene, Sepultura's twenty six year career has seen them progress their core sound into heterogeneous, experimental territories that was perhaps first glimpsed on fourth album, 1991's 'Arise', a timeless classic which many still consider to be amongst their finest work. Its successor, 'Chaos A.D.' continued their progression into disparate styles and marked the band's shift towards a mid-paced heavy groove which was further cemented on 1996's 'Roots'. These two releases, and most notably 'Roots', would see Sepultura reach a more mainstream audience but only in terms of phenomenal record sales for the Brazilian musicians never succumbed to mainstream metal idioms in their compositions, rather they were true innovators within the genre and influenced the style and sound of many a band. Some critics have even gone as far as to credit them (or blame depending on your own proclivities) as forerunners to the nu-metal movement. While riding high on the global success of 'Roots' the shock departure of original frontman and founding member Max Cavalera was hard to swallow for many a metal fan the world over although they swiftly returned in 1998 with a new album, 'Against', and new frontman in American vocalist Derrick Green, a more than worthy replacement. And Sepultura have continued their varied musical journey over the past thirteen years with renewed vigor, introducing their music to a new generation of metal fans. With the imminent release of brand new studio album 'Kairos', which is set to prove to the world that Sepultura are stronger than ever, their journey is far from over. Ahead of its release, and mid-tour in the States, legendary guitarist Andreas Kisser spent half an hour chatting to Metal Discovery over the phone about the music and concept of 'Kairos' as well as a brief discussion about masturbation of all things. Read on...
METAL DISCOVERY: How you doing?
ANDREAS KISSER: Good. How are you, man?
(Andreas Kisser on latest album 'Kairos')
"I think every time Sepultura goes into the studio we try to replicate that live feel...we reached the closest we could get on this album."
Sepultura - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2011 Alex Solca
Interview by Mark Holmes
MD: Fine. You’re in the middle of a North American and Canadian tour right now I gather – how have the shows been going so far?
AK: Great, man. We’ve been on the road for more than a month and everything’s fine. Really good; a really good start.
MD: Have you been playing much of the new material?
AK: We’re playing two new songs so far and it’s working great. The response has been very positive and, slowly, we are putting more of the new material so we can prepare the new tour while we’re touring here.
MD: How have the two new songs been received by fans?
AK: Very good, very positive. It’s very exciting because they’re working really well on stage. But the whole album, I think it’s more like we wanted to explore the feeling and the sound that Sepultura has on stage, you know, live. I guess we achieved that working with Roy Z in the studio. He’s a producer who’s also a musician, a very active musician, so I think it’s very cool. I’m very happy with the result.
MD: Cool. I can hear some parts reminiscent of material from ‘Arise’ and ‘Chaos A.D.’ era Sepultura, like the early to mid-nineties Sepultura sound. Did you deliberately set out with that kind of vibe in mind?
AK: Well, we are inspired by ourselves, by our own history and Sepultura’s twenty six year career. We did many different things like many different guests, and many different musicians, and influences from many different types of music and I guess, with Sepultura, we are celebrating the moment of Sepultura. You know, the moment now, today, 2011. We respect our past but we don’t live there and we’re not there anymore; we are here. I guess celebrating twenty five years of Sepultura last year, doing stuff like that, you balance your whole career. You know, you remember where you come from, and how you move up, and how things happen, all the changes that have happened inside and outside the band. A lot of really great experiences that have kept us here so I guess the album represents what we are today and, of course, the reference we have from our career we’re gonna have some elements that remind of some stuff from the past. But the intention was not really to copy or to reproduce anything from the past.
MD: Yeah, it’s not too obvious, but certain parts do remind me of that kind of earlier style. As you said, Roy Z produced and mixed the album and obviously he’s a man famous for working with the likes of Bruce Dickinson and Judas Priest amongst other stuff… how was the experience of working with him?
AK: It was great and the perfect choice for us right now. He’s worked with these great names in metal and he’s got such a knowledge and know-how inside the studio. Like I said, he’s not only a producer who’s buried in the studio the whole time, he’s a very active musician, an amazing guitar player, a very talented musician. It was great and a great choice for us to try to represent that idea to bring the Sepultura on stage into the studio. He had input on vocals, leads, drums and everything. It was really crucial for us to achieve what we did on this album and we’re very, very happy.
MD: Cool. And you mentioned the live thing… I mean, the production’s great but it also has a very kind of raw, live sound to it as well. Did you tell Roy from the beginning that’s the kind of sound you wanted?
AK: Yeah, pretty much. I think every time Sepultura goes into the studio we try to replicate that live feel. We really feel great on stage and that’s the best way a musician can be. That’s why we express the most… you don’t have the tricks the studio has; you really have to perform and do the stuff. So, I guess, we reached the closest we could get on this album. We kept a lot of noises and just the equipment that we use on stage without trying to invent too much in the studio. So trying to keep it as simple as possible and really focus on the performance, and really try to bring that whole live situation with the crowd and everything… even though we don’t have the crowd in the studio!
MD: Of course!
AK: We even thought about trying to bring people in the studio to try to have that kind of feeling but it’s a little too much, you know, it’s gonna be a crush! [laughs] But we’re very happy and we achieved what we wanted to have there and it was really cool.
MD: It’s good to hear a really organic sounding album in this day and age where so much metal, now, seems to be over-produced and overly sterilised, but this new album sounds very organic if you know what I mean.
AK: Yeah, that’s our main concern really because, when we’re in the studio, we had the chance to use many tricks and different equipment… especially with Pro Tools and stuff, we really tried to balance as much as we could… just to be freer, and just to be ourselves, and just to play our instruments the way we know.
MD: I gather the title, ‘Kairos’, is an ancient Greek word meaning a moment of time when something special happens. Does that word hold any special significance for Sepultura at all?
AK: Yeah, it represents the moment of today and what Sepultura is today. We’re still here in 2011… a new label, a new album. You know, after twenty six years with all the changes inside the band and outside from vinyl to CD to downloads, computers, mobile phones… we’re still here! I guess that ‘Kairos’ is a very special concept of time; it’s not a time which is chronological. Normally, we see time like that and accept time like that. ‘Kairos’ is just a moment of opportunity and change, and I thought the concept was amazing and really represents what we are today. Live in the present, live in the now… just really respect what we are today and that’s it. That’s why we’ve kind of been influenced by ourselves and have a new chapter of our career to balance everything we ever did so far. It’s great to be part of a band like that, always travelling the world, going everywhere and meeting new people… so it’s great, it’s really cool, it’s really exciting just to enjoy and love playing music and travelling and everything. So the momentum is very special and very rich, and the present is all it is. Your future is a consequence of what you live today so we live as much as we can in the now.
MD: Of course. So ‘Kairos’ is a very cool concept when you put it like that!
AK: Oh yeah, definitely!
MD: And I also read the word means “the weather” too.
AK: Yeah, yeah, it’s related to that too. It’s a word also used a lot in the Bible and has religious meaning for different religions. It’s a very powerful concept and really interesting.
MD: Definitely. The main songs on the album are interspersed with short interludes with numbers for titles. What is the significance of those? Are they supposed to be the short periods of time where something special happens, maybe?
AK: Yeah, we all live in the same moment and different religions have different ideas what time is. Those numbers represent the different years in different calendars that we are currently living. So 2011 is the Christians and Catholics, 5772 is Hebrew, and then the Chinese and Islamic calendars. They have all different weird concepts of time and we’re all here in the same “now”! [laughs] Just to show how interesting this concept of time is, nobody can really define it. Not even physics can say “oh, time is this”. So it’s really cool to see how many different cultures approach that and how they’re moving towards history, and I think it fits with the concept of the album. We’re not the only ones who see certain things; there are a lot of different views about the same topics and it’s important to respect all of those.
MD: Well, that explains those numbers then, that’s cool!
MD: Sepultura, of course, have been known for their inventive covers, like you’ve done some very unusual cover versions like the U2 song you did a few years ago etc… but I think ‘Firestarter’ has to be one of the best I’ve heard. An awesome, awesome version you’ve done. How did that song choice come about?
AK: Yeah, specifically because of that we sat down to think about some extra stuff for the special editions and because we’ve done so many different covers like U2, New Model Army, and Bob Marley, it was difficult to find something new for us. We sat down and were talking about it and Ministry came up and we thought that would be cool as we toured with them in the States in 1992. I think Ministry really invented a new style of aggressive music. Without Ministry, for instance, Rammstein would never be possible… the formula they had was very industrial with loops and heavy riffing. We’re very happy that we’ve now had the chance to pay tribute to one of bands that was really influential in our career. And, of course, Prodigy’s a little different… but they are heavy as well. You know, they have the very aggressive approach, especially live. The live version of ‘Firestarter’ has a lot of guitars, a lot of distortion with chaotic noises and sounds. It’s really fantastic. It was a challenge for us to do something like that but it was cool. We’re very happy with the result and because they came out so great we wanted to put one on the album and Ministry really fits better with all the songs we wrote, and Prodigy will be saved for a bonus track. But we’re very happy with both.
MD: It’s a very faithful version of the Ministry track, ‘Just One Fix’, but was it down-tuned slightly, the key?
AK: Yeah, yeah, we played it one step down because that’s the tuning we use normally for everything pretty much.