INTERVIEW: Andreas Kisser (SEPULTURA)
They're the roaring leviathans of metal, and for over 30 years the truly legendary gents of Sepultura have cleaved their groundbreaking Brazilian-tinged thrash across fourteen studio albums, countless shows and their fair share of change.
Beginning life all the way back in the mid 1980s in an impoverished city in Brazil, Sepultura defied the odds and ricocheted out of niche local obscurity into international infamy, frequently drawing on a wide variety of influences that spanned countless subgenres including thrash, hardcore and heavy metal combined with an undeniable Brazilian undertone. And defying the odds again when founding members Max and Igor Cavalera departed, the group's ongoing success-story has granted them god-like status in the heavy world; a label certainly earned but never demanded by the surprisingly humble quartet who have continued labouring under the Sepultura name for decades.
With 2017 marking the release of one of Sepultura's most critically-acclaimed albums so far ('Machine Messiah'), it's no surprise that they have huge plans for the new year ahead including a trip over to Australia and New Zealand in May next year. But before they embark on their 2018 adventures, stalwart guitarist Andreas Kisser took some time to chat technology, sonic evolution and why Sepultura are getting the "prog" label thrown around after all these years.
TIANA SPETER: Hey Andreas, how's it going? Where am I talking to you today from?
ANDREAS KISSER: Hi Tiana, I'm in São Paulo in Brazil!
TIANA: Ahh home in Brazil. Now there's a huge amount of excitement, for myself included, because next year we get to see Sepultura head back to Australia for the first time in over three years! What are you most looking forward to about heading out this way?
ANDREAS: We're very happy to have this opportunity to come back to Australia, especially with the new album 'Machine Messiah', it came out in January and we did the Kreator tour in Europe at the beginning of the year and then the Testament tour in the States...we did many festivals around the world including 'Rock in Rio' in Brazil, which was fantastic. And we're very, very excited for the New Zealand and Australia tour because last time we went to Australia was I think 2014 or 2015, something like that...we didn't play that many shows, you know? We did I think two or three cities at the most and that was it. But now we're going to Perth and Adelaide, cities we haven't played for so long. And actually New Zealand as well, so two or three cities that we've never been before. We're really, really excited, we're gonna have our friends from Death Angel together with us which makes a fantastic strong package, and we're really happy with these interviews we're doing now! The shows are in May but it's great to feel the excitement already, we've been receiving many messages on social media and stuff and me and Derrick are talking to so many of the press people in Australia and New Zealand so it's great! It's really cool.
TIANA: Well we know it's not a short trip to come out and see us, so it's always extremely fun for us when we hear you're coming back.
ANDREAS: Awesome, beautiful!
TIANA: You personally have obviously been in the band for 30 years which is incredible, how have you found the Sepultura fanbase as the band's evolved, are you noticing some younger fans now coming along for the ride too?
ANDREAS: Yeah, it's a 33-year career for the band, so we have at least two generations there that have followed Sepultura from the start and we've had many changes in the line-up which also changed the fanbase as well, you know? Bringing new elements and new instruments to our music, like percussion and violins now with 'Machine Messiah'...and it's great, we have a lot of youngsters coming to the shows, definitely! I think heavy metal is something very family oriented, because you usually listen to the vinyl collection of your father or your uncle or an older neighbour or something (laughs)...my son now is 20 years old and he's taking care of my vinyl collection and improving that vinyl collection with his own vinyl and records. And it's great to see bands like Maiden and Sabbath, Motorhead, you know, bands that are three or even four generations, metal from the 60s and stuff. Now you see a lot of grandpas and fathers with their grandsons and sons at the show, it's fantastic! Here in Brazil we have a circuit that we do, especially in the state of São Paulo...it's a place that has sports and theatre and movie theatres and stuff like that and they have shows - and these shows are very cheap and they start very early as well, they're very organised. And in this type of show you see a lot of families, lots of kids and they're very excited to see a show like Sepultura because they are safe there, it's not the usual place we'd play like some of the big festivals that the families may be afraid to bring their kids and stuff like that. But this circuit we do and then we see lots of families, and it's a great feeling, it's a great atmosphere and it's awesome!
TIANA: That is amazing, and you're so right, I remember trying to raid my parent's record collection back in the day and it's funny how you latch on to some of those bands they were listening to way back when...
ANDREAS: (laughs) Great, yeah!
TIANA: And I know you mentioned already that 'Machine Messiah' came out this year, it has quite frequently been described as the best Sepultura album ever by a lot of people. And there was obviously quite a nice bit of development in the sound there, you've got a lot more styles coming through. There's still plenty of thrash kicking around but also some bigger hints of world music too, was it a deliberate shift in mentality and creative direction, or just a natural evolution for the band?
ANDREAS: Yes, I think a little of both! It's the second album we've done with Eloy Casagrande on drums, he's a monster drummer, you know? He's something else, I've never seen something like that before. He's bringing so many new possibilities for my guitar playing, to write more difficult stuff and more technical stuff...there's some people putting the tag "prog" on our music now which is something that I never really thought about. But it is, you know? I love Yes and Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, that kind of stuff...and somehow this stuff is coming out as well! We went to Sweden to work with Jens Bogren, which was a perfect choice for us. He's the same age as us and he knows the history of Sepultura. And we did research on all the bands that he's worked with, from Opeth to Kreator and Moonspell, all very different bands from each other. Of course they're all inside the metal world, but very different bands from each other. And it seems that he respected very much the characteristic sound of every band but at the same time bringing something new and I think that's exactly what he did for us. We had a, let's say, very rich demo with a lot of stuff and songs, and we wanted to make every song kind of different from each other, each one of the songs had a very strong characteristic to itself. And our concern was that we needed to build an album which the fans can put there and listen to the complete album, not just singles. Many artists these days release just singles sporadically, they don't have that album concept anymore. But in the metal world it's still very important, and I think it's great that the metal fans like to buy the official stuff, they don't buy the bootleg shirt, they like it official, the official t-shirt and the vinyl and the poster with the lyrics on it. We like to collect that stuff too, we are metal fans as well! So it's great that the Sepultura fans are really enjoying and listening to the album the way we intended, it's fantastic. And we are playing a lot of new songs in our concerts, I think since 'Chaos A.D' in '94 or '95 we didn't play many new songs. And it's great now, it shows that people are really listening to the album and really understanding what we wanted to do, it's great!
TIANA: It really does draw you in, I listened to it from start to finish and couldn't force myself to stop, I just wanted to hear what would happen next!
ANDREAS: It's so good to hear that (laughs).
TIANA: You guys have spoken in the past about the concepts behind 'Machine Messiah', and the name obviously does give a fair bit away before you even listen to it, and the whole technology addiction plays into it. But what's your own personal take on album and the shifts in technology in general? Do you see it as a necessary evil?
ANDREAS: Yes, I think technology is here and there's no denying it, it's a fact. I think what 'Machine Messiah' is trying to say is to find a balance! We don't need to be so much dependent on robots like we are today. People don't talk to each other anymore, you know, they have applications to do everything, for food, to find where you're going, to find women and everything! It's kind of crazy that people are really losing that ability to actually be human, to go out and talk to people and meet new people. And people have so many friends of Facebook and Instagram, but they're not friends, you don't have a real conversation.. (ironically, at this point the call cuts out and I dial back through)
TIANA: And I lost you! Technology at its best! Please continue...
ANDREAS: (laughs) Internet rules! (laughs). So with 'Machine Messiah' we talk about that, trying to find a balance between the technology and our own human abilities to develop our intellect and to have a stronger connection with nature and lots of frequencies and energies around that, people give it so many names but we don't actually know exactly what it is. And it seems that robots are not really helping us to develop our own possibilities and power. I think we just need to find a balance - to use technology, but to not be a slave, you know?
TIANA: It's that irony that we are all more connected than ever but we have less face-to-face contact than ever, it's quite a strange phenomenon.
ANDREAS: Yeah! You go and see your friends and family in, say, a restaurant and everyone's got their own phone...
TIANA: And you're all just sitting there staring at your phone at what other people are doing...
ANDREAS: It's so sad (laughs).
TIANA: Aside from heading out to Australia and New Zealand next year, do you guys have much else on the cards for 2018? Any grand plans for taking over the world?
ANDREAS: Oh yeah, 2017 was a great year for us in so many ways, ending with us heading to Thailand and Dubai and Indonesia. And then we'll head back to Brazil and play a show in the south of Brazil, and then 2018...it's already pretty busy for us! At the end of February and March we have our first headline tour in Europe for 'Machine Messiah' and then we go to New Zealand, Australia and possibly Japan. And then the festivals in the European summer, we're already confirmed for Wacken and Brutal Assault and a few others. And a lot of shows in Brazil, I think in our home country we have so many places to go and we do that between international tours, but there's still a lot of places to cover in Brazil. Of course, we also have our movie! 'Sepultura Endurance', our documentary, the plan is for the second semester of 2018 to release as a DVD with lots of extras as well as a complete show we did in São Paulo...CD, DVD, blu-ray, all that stuff! So yeah, it's looking good, we're very excited for 2018 and for the momentum of Sepultura and we're so happy to be coming back to Australia and New Zealand. It's gonna be fantastic.
TIANA: Well it all sounds incredible, and we all can't wait to have you back. Wishing you all the best for the tours in between, and will see you when you head out to Australia and New Zealand next May!
ANDREAS: Awesome, thank you very much, see you then!
Sepultura will be trekking to Australia and New Zealand in May 2018.
For Sepultura + Death Angel tickets head to: metropolistouring.com/sepultura-death-angel
BY TIANA SPETER