Interview: Sepultura (Andreas Kisser)

“You cannot change the past you can only learn from the past. And that’s how I do it.”

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What can one humble reviewer like myself say about a band like Sepultura? Legends of extreme thrash metal? Check! Pioneers among others of the groove metal movement of the 90s? Check! Mindblowing live performances? Check!

Metalpaths caught up with Sepultura’s heart and soul Andreas Kisser who was very open to answer our questions about the new album, touring, the band’s legacy and future plans.

- John Savvidis

You can also listen to the audio format of the interview using the player below:

Good afternoon Andreas! Your new album “The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart” comes out in a couple of days! What do you think of the album now that it’s done and ready to go out to the Sepultura fans?

I’m very happy with the album! The sound, the attitude, the songs everything is very positive. We’ve got a new drummer, Eloy Casagrande, working with Ross (Robinson) again and everything sounds really even better than what we expected, to bring the Sepultura sound of a live show to the studio and that’s very difficult. But this time I think we’ve managed, you know Ross likes to use a lot of pedals to create atmospheres and really help when he leaves some kind of mistakes or noises around and stuff. Overall, it’s really satisfying and finally the album’s coming out.

Would you compare it with “Kairos” and “A-Lex”? And what makes it different from them?

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Well I think lot’s of things you know. “A-Lex” was based on the book “Clockwork Orange”, so we were very close to that world, you know. We kinda forgot about the real world and really wrote the music from inside the book. “Kairos” was a little bit more straight cause we were talking about ourselves, like we were making the Sepultura biography, almost like a book you know, talking about ourselves our experiences. But now, although the name came from the movie “Metropolis”, we’re not doing the soundtrack for the movie, we talk about everything we see around us, our point of view and our experiences, we had the privilege to travel the world and see so many different things and strains you know. And the title inspired us to talk about the things connected to the strains that really made the album, but more in a free way, you know we’re not doing a soundtrack for the movie following the characters and the chapters and stuff, we’re much more free to talk about anything.

Which kinda leads me to my next question: Is there a concept behind the album?

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Not really, I think the concept is like, what we see and what we talk about: religion, politics, natural phenomenon, inner feelings, trauma of war, you know dealing with the feeling of a soldier coming back to society after a period of nightmare at war, you know. It happened with so many people, especially in the States we have friends who came back from Iraq or Afghanistan and faced psychological problems and that was very close to us. Grief, the mourning of losing somebody special, something that you can deal around the world, regardless of religion or politics, a kind of very human feeling you know, a kind of attachment and the kind of feeling of losing someone very special. And we have songs about natural phenomenon like tsunami, like “respect our planet” I mean we cannot rechange climate or run away to Mars or stuff like that, be here and make it happen here, that’s where we’re from and respect the forces of nature. I think tsunami is the most powerful force of nature, with the effect and consequences it had in Japan. So anyway, Vatican, religion, manipulation of tragedy, political media control. So the title says, if you lose your heart, if you lose your human ability of questioning, of argumenting, of protesting, you’re nothing more than a robot. Receiving information in your head and acting to your hands without knowing even why, you know. That’s the feeling of a soldier, he goes on a mission and he doesn’t even know why he’s doing that. He’s just gonna realize things when he comes back to society and see what kind of utopia he was living in, or we are living in, who knows? So we talk about everything, but related to that strain, never to lose your human ability, never to lose your ability to have your point of view, to use your brain, to find out concepts and you know possibilities. Nowadays with the internet you have so many options to see alternative press and cospiracy theories and plus the official media and books. It’s just to be aware and not be totally controlled, you know, a robot just doing things without knowing even why.

What do you enjoy the most as a musician: Touring or recording in the studio?

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Definitely the stage. I mean not necessary touring, but being on stage. I think that’s the main reason why we go to the studio to register the songs, why we tour , why we do interviews, everything. It’s to be on stage and to have that moment that’s so special and so powerful, interaction with the crowd and everything. And definitely it’s much more alive really, you know you deal with stuff there. Studio is a whole different process, it takes so much time, you receive stuff here and there, but the live situation is much more exciting, that’s why we do what we do you know.

How does it work when Sepultura records a new album? Is it a result of collective work or some individuals ideas that are taking form as you go along?

It’s a little bit of both. I mean it started with individual ideas, especially coming from the guitars and drums. Practically me and Eloy (Casagrante, drums) wrote this album. We challenge each other, you know Eloy is an amazing musician, 22 years old but with endless possibilities on the drums and that’s really important to keep expanding the sound of Sepultura. So it started by me and him exchanging ideas. Then we went into the practice room, Paulo put his bass, Derrick came with his voice. And then Ross came, the producer, at the stage before the recording, to make the changes here and there and make the song complete. It’s a whole process from the riff to the creation of the riff, from the structures to all the final touches for the recording. And that’s the way we always did, jamming and coming with interactions and suggestions and really building from the bottom putting our influences there. And even the most stupid idea could be good, you never know. From a joke or something that might end up being something really cool.

That’s very true. This is the third album without any of the Cavalera brothers performing. Do you feel as a musician and one of the original members of the band since the late 80s that the Sepultura of today have a certain connection musicwise, lyricwise or however you’d like to call it with the band that released “Beneath The Remains”, “Arise” etc?

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I don’t know, man, you know I don’t compare things like that at all I mean, they were just different moments and different situations and here we are almost 30 years (we’re gonna celebrate next year) and we have a really beautiful history, you know a band coming from Brazil conquering different parts of the world, and we’re still here touring the biggest festivals in the world and with a great album, with a great label, enjoying a lot of moments and stuff. There’s no need for this kind of analysis, you know I think we respect very much our past, like I said it’s a very beautiful, strong and unique history and of course we have elements from there, it’s part of ourselves. Me and Paulo are together in Sepultura since 1987 when I joined the band and Paulo is there from the start. So not only musical ideas and more than when Max was in the band. So we create this kind of new chemistry with new elements that we have in the band. Max left in 1996, Igor left in 2006, you know there’s 10 years of difference there. We did something different and took our time to rebuild Sepultura, Jean Dollabela stayed with us, and now we have Eloy Casagrande, we are developing Sepultura I think that’s the spirit of Sepultura. Regardless of the formation, we had very different albums from each other, if you put “Schizophrenia” next to “Roots” with that formation, the Cavaleras, they’re very different from each other, because you know we grew up, we got married, we got kids and stuff, we moved to the States, I mean we grew up as people. And the music really changed during that, it’s natural it’s a very natural process, you know we take advantage of the changes.

So from talks not only within the band, but also with your fans all over the world, you never felt haunted by those classic records you did back in the day? The Sepultura-with-Derrick-Green-era something that’s a continuation of those records. Am I right?

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Definitely, of course, how couldn’t it be? It’s a day by day situation, without those records that wouldn’t be possible, there’s no way to detach that. It’s part of our natural flow and like I said when Max left we stayed as a trio for more than 10 years so the basic sound of Sepultura was there. And we developed from there with the new elements and when Derrick came in with totally different characteristics, a different background, different influences, different attitudes, different looks you know we build a different Sepultura from there. And to this day these albums are a big step forward to the career of Sepultura. Even “Against” which was the hardest album for Sepultura cause when Max left he took the structure from Sepultura took the management, he took the trust from the record label, Sepultura took 10 years to rebuild, he followed his solo career, me, Paulo and Igor were looking for a new singer, to find a producer, to find a new manager. So “Against” was really important to keep the band together, regardless of the music or whatever we stayed together, we toured with Slayer and Metallica on the “Against’ tour when Derrick was growing inside the band, and here we are you know every step is important, we take advantage of the changes, nowadays we play music from every album of Sepultura we don’t have a “political” setlist, I don’t care who wrote the songs, what manager, what record label, we respect our fans and they have nothing to do with this bullshit, they are there to celebrate the music of Sepultura like we are we play stuff from every part of our career, but of course we always play the new stuff, present the newer stuff better and I’m glad we’re talking about the new album here. That’s all that matters. Sepultura are still relevant, we are touring playing the biggest festivals in the world non-stop, you know it feels great to celebrate 30 years in such a great momentum.

Andreas, you’re one of the most famous Brazilian metal bands, that toured all over the world and left a timeless mark on the Thrash metal scene. When you look back at your career, is there something you would have done differently? Is there something that you’d like to achieve and haven’t achieved yet?

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No, not at all, that’s a kind of ridiculous thought. When people look back “I wish this I wish that” a wish is just a wish. There’s nothing real about a wish, the only thing real is now. It’s the present, you cannot change the past you can only learn from the past. And that’s how I do it. All the fuck ups all the mistakes, the door that closes here will open ten other doors, and you have to see something positive and something fertile in everything, to move your life on and keep going. That’s something very unhealthy to think. You only learn from your mistakes and do better and that’s what experience is all about, that’s how you grow, when you fuck up when you fall you have to get up, there’s no regrets. I just have to thank everything that happened in my life, even the worst things for building the person I am today. As for the second question hmmm the same with the past, the future. We live the present very strongly, we build everything now. Of course we have a type of plan you wanna follow and everything but not too far ahead. To keep Sepultura alive, I think is a big responsibility, it’s a lot of work, a lot of energy. You know I have a family with three kids, but one made the other possible. I work a lot for it, it’s my goal to keep Sepultura really growing, make them known to more people and go to different places and stuff and enjoying it. The rest is just a consequence of that feeling and that attitude. It’s just to keep going and enjoying what we do, and the next will come and we’ll look at it when it’s done.

Also as a member of the old breed of thrash metal, which bands of today set themselves apart from the rest in your opinion? 

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I don’t know man. I have a radio show here in Brazil, Sao Paolo actually, in which I gave the space to many Brazilian bands and I’m very surprised in a positive way to see so many stuff from the underground scene like Heavy metal and Punk/Hardcore, Metalcore. You know there’s so many different styles within metal and so many great bands especially singing in Portuguese. I mean I wouldn’t remember all the things, but the scene here is really strong, albums and bands doing their stuff themselves, setting European tours and American tours without even a record label and really doing their stuff. That’s really inspiring to see new bands doing their stuff like that, not only playing great music but also with the whole structure, that maintained them on the road and all that stuff that’s really hard to organize, especially for a new band. But I’m not a music hunter, I really let music come more in a natural way, when I listen to the radio, I like a lot of blues, a lot of reggae, I like classical music, classical guitars, you know I keep my mind open and listen to everything. But of course the old metal like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, you know I love that stuff I still listen to that a lot.

What are your memories from last years’ visit to Greece in 2012? Are you willing to come back to Greece?

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Yes definitely it was a great tour. I love the country beautiful place, first time we had the chance to go to new places, on the islands and stuff, places that we’ve never been before. And its so beautiful beaches and ruins and stuff like that so it was amazing, the food as well, great stuff. And the crowd is very intense, always, every time we went to Greece it’s very crazy and very energetic. For sure man, for the new album we have to be back. I know we’re gonna be in Europe in February and March but you know the first leg we won’t be able to come. Yet, Greece will definitely be a part of the world tour for sure.

Which are your favorite bands to tour with?

We’ve had great tours with great bands during these years. Pantera was one of the best tours in 1994, we did the Ramones tour in Brazil in 1994, 5 shows in South America it was amazing. I mean there’s so many things that we did, the Motorhead tour in 2006 was amazing. We have so many friends around, we did a tour with Slayer, Anthrax, we did with Metallica, the great bands and the idols that really inspired Sepultura. Also many new bands, you know we play so many different countries with local bands a lot. You know it’s great to be on the road and especially when you have friends around, that’s even better.

So it’s only about just playing with the rest of the bands, not selecting the bands that you play with.

Of course but it has to make sense you know. We are not the only ones to have a say on what bands we want, we have our choices you know we have our booking agency. There are so many interests to make a tour successful, if you tour with bansd you don’t know you’re gonna meet somebody different and you never know it might be great for next future projects and stuff like that. We like to meet new people and let things happen for themselves really, not to have this wish to control everything. But that’s good that’s free will, it’s great, we’re gonna tour Europe with Legion Of The Damned and Flotsam And Jetsam, two bands we might have played together in one or two shows but the first time we’re gonna tour together. I think it’s great to have new experiences with new bands on the road.

Definitely it will be a great experience. So that was about it Andreas. You may end this interview however you feel like. Maybe a message to the fans.

It’s a pleasure to talk to you and everybody in Greece. Like I said we love the country, can’t wait to go back very excited about the new album gonna play lots of new stuff from there and of course celebrate the 30 years of Sepultura. And we hope to see you soon thanks for the support through all those years and thank you very much for everything.

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