By ANDREW McKAYSMITH
SEPULTURA. Anyone with even a passing interest in metal during the past 25 years will know the name if not the sound.
For many bands, enduring the loss of a front man as charismatic as Max Cavalera would spell the end of the road. Not so for the remaining members of Sepultura. Eight albums into a stellar career with Max’s replacement, Derrick Green, the band are about to pitch what HM feels is their strongest album with Derrick out front, the Jens Bogren produced Machine Messiah.
Expectation has risen in recent years for a reunion of the classic lineup of the Cavalera brothers, Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr and the ever affable and resilient Andreas Kisser. So on the eve of the release of the new album, Andreas joins HM to talk about Machine Messiah, his time spent performing in Anthrax for the massive “The Big Four” concert performances, and of course his thoughts on Max Cavalera.
“I don’t miss something that is not a part of anything that I do,” Andreas responds when HM asks if there is anything about being in a band or playing with Max that he misses. He goes further and offers a broadly philosophical comment that presents a man at peace with the past and grateful for the opportunities afforded.
“I respect the past. We did great stuff together, Max and I had a great chemistry together. We kind of created this together. This Sepultura sound and going to the Indian tribes and trying all the impossible things that we thought were possible. Coming out of Brazil and playing with our idols in the biggest festivals. It’s something that I respect so much and I have great respect for everything that we did together. But he chose to leave, that was his choice to go. But it’s something that I have the great memories that we had together.”
Alluding to some of the dysfunction that caused the split with Max in 1996, he explains that things are very different in 2017.
“Our backstage was a mess. Our relationship with the manager and everything with the label was really very difficult and stuff. But not now. Now we have an amazing situation, everything organised and really everybody working towards the same direction”
On the search for Max’s successor, Andreas says that it was entirely intentional to find someone different to Max who could lead the band through a different phase.
“Since Max left we never try to replace him. Derrick is such a different guy, a different musician. He doesn’t have the guitar playing of the thrash school. That’s why he doesn’t play guitar. But we use new elements and we take Sepultura to different ways and different levels and different experiences. So in that sense there is nothing to be missed. It’s something that we are not trying to reproduce something that was done before. But rather we do what we do today.” (continued below)
Diving deep into the reasons for appointing Derrick, Kisser explains that it would have worked against the band finding a successor that was similar to or even emulated Max, going so far as to explain this decision is partly responsible for the bands longevity.
“Just trying to find another Max would be stupid for us to do something like that. I think that’s why we’re here. We take Sepultura to new levels and regardless of the formation. We were a different band because we are growing up and learning and going in to the world and playing everywhere and of course you change. We’re now getting married and having kids. Everybody (has) their families stuff and you change and you have to respect that.”
HM remembers fans and the media accepting Derrick Green as if he had always been in the band during his first Australian shows in 1999 as the band toured on the back of the stellar 1998 release Against. Andreas praises Max’s replacement, who has been in the band for 20 years this year.
“Derricks an amazing guy. I’m so glad he’s with us. We went through a lot of criticism and a lot of fucked up accusations and all that bullshit. Derricks here 20 years on doing an amazing job. I think Machine Messiah is by far his best job ever, in vocals, melodies, screaming aggression, and lyric wise he wrote great stuff. He’s amazing. I’m so glad we have him in the band. It really helped to keep Sepultura alive strong and well.”
Reflecting on the journey the two have shared, Andreas acknowledges the challenges they faced.
“It was not easy to be here, especially for him to be fronting Sepultura after Max and of course Max is very charismatic and very strong on-stage and everything. But Derrick found his way and he found his own way to represent Sepultura and that’s fantastic. He’s a great partner in crime for sure.”
HM asks if Andreas’s performances in Anthrax for the “The Big Four” concerts can be viewed as a compliment to Sepultura and his own contribution to metal over the past 25 odd years.
“It was one of the best moments in my career. I was so happy when Scott Ian called me. He called me early in 2011 because they were supposed to do the big four in the European summer in 2011. But he already knew, of course, his wife was pregnant and everything. I couldn’t believe that he called this guitar player from Brazil. [laughs] I mean he knows so many different people and so many different great guitar players around the world and I was so honoured. Such a privilege to play with my idols. The guys who changed the face of music and gave us this. Without them we wouldn’t be here. I had the best time of my life. I felt home. They were so great. Of course I knew Anthrax many years, we met in many different situations.”
Looking at You Tube clips of the performance at Ullevi stadium, Gothenburg, Sweden, he looks comfortable and more than competent laying down Scott Ian’s signature stomp.
“They made me feel home and also the jam at the end with Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, everybody at the same time on the stage and I was there with them. They received me so well. It was fantastic, it was two weeks that was like a dream. Better than a dream because it was real. It was great.”
HM feels that while the new album is unmistakably all Sepultura, there is a new dynamic wit band embracing some new sounds. The title track has an Iron Maiden vibe and on “Iceberg Dances”, it’s almost like Jon Lord from Deep Purple contributed.
“[Laughs] I Wish Jon Lord would be there with us! It’s an album that we want to do that, to explore our musicianship at the highest level, really prepare ourselves and play our instruments the best that we could and really try to explore this new breaking limits that we were trying to break. And Jens Bogren producing the album. We went to Sweden to work at his studio. It was a perfect choice really for him to help us to take the band to the next level. We ourselves as well we stepped up, especially Paulo and Derrick working on lyrics. And Paulo working on bass arrangements like never before. We really wanted to do like a song with their own characteristic. You see “Machine Messiah” (the song) is very different from “I Am the Enemy” and very different from “Phantom Self” and so on. That creates the album. We really work the album idea. The first song of the side A and which song should open side B. Thinking about the final format which came back with a lot strength. It’s great tosee vinyl back and you really helped us to build this album atmosphere and to tell a story.
“Even though it’s not like a conceptual album per se but Machine Messiah and what we see today, the robotisation of society and all the influence that the robots have in our lives today. These topics were the main influence to write everything. So it’s not like a sci-fi futuristic idea but rather what we see today.”(continued below)
When discussing the amazing cover art for Machine Messiah, Andreas is enthused to share the artworks journey which started in 2010, from a relatively unknown artist from the Philippines.
“Its amazing work. The artist is from the Philippines. Her name is Camille De la Rosa and I found her work on the internet. I had the name of the album and the overall concept what direction we want to follow. Very early when we start writing the first demo and the first ideas. And during those days I went to the internet to try to find a new artist and I found this painting Deus Ex Machina which it fitted very perfectly all the concept that we wanted to explore and to talk about. It was done in 2010, so long ago. It’s almost as if it was done for us. I talked to her (Camille) and she was so humble and so happy to be a part of this project and it is a new artist from a different country from the European/ American connection. A different style and a different energy and I was so happy to find that and it fitted perfectly. It is great.”
So how does Andreas think that fans will respond to Machine Messiah?
“I don’t know and with all due respect we cannot really care too much about that because we always expect for the best of course. We do the best that we can and we put all the effort and energy and dedication to do an album and we try to talk about things that really matters in our life and try to express our point of view about different topics and everything. And doing so we relate
with people everywhere. We were not afraid of trying anything new if that’s the question. We’re not afraid because if we try to please everyone we’re not going to move. We are going to be at the same place and doing nothing. Because we have to break the rules. I always give the example of Pablo Picasso. Imaging Picasso following all the rules and everything, he wouldn’t be Picasso. He was only Picasso because he broke the rules and he showed a new possibility and that’s freedom. “
Australian fans won’t have to wait to long for a tour, Andreas is especially fond of our wide brown land.
“I love everything about Australia. I love the place the people I love the beaches I love the food. Everything. The crowd, the people really love metal and always a great concert, a great experience. So we’re very looking forward to going to back to Australia with the new album and hopefully by the second half of the year we’ll be able to announce some dates. We have the Kreator Tour now and then Testament in North America. Then the festivals in Europe and everything. So hopefully after August September we’ll be able to go down under”.
Machine Messiah is out now via Nuclear Blast