Interview and pictures by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjala
The legendary German thrash metal patrol Kreator will be releasing the 14th album called GODS OF VIOLENCE at the beginning of January. The album presents the pure Kreator sound and shows no slowing down. The four-piece is in the high-speed energy and offers many memorable songs with catchy hooks and riffs on GODS OF VIOLENCE. Metal-Rules.Com sat down with the band’s frontman Mille Petrozza and long-time guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö to discuss the forthcoming album and a few of the 90’s albums.
GODS OF VIOLENCE
Good day sir and wilkommen zu Finland
Mille and Sami: Danke Schon
When I paid attention to the album’s title, GODS OF VIOLENCE, I started thinking about the song titles. “Gods and Violence,” “Awakening of the Gods,” “Men Without God,” “Enemy of God”….
Sami: Familiar vocabulary.
Mille: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s is a good thing and a bad thing. We also had different titles floating around, like at one point we wanted to call the album…
Sami: Apocalyptical, which is a nice word. Because I think you invented the word.
Mille: Yeah, yeah. But then it’s also not… Yeah. It could have been one title; someone wanted World War Now and so on. But I think GODS OF VIOLENCE is more catchy, even though people are going. Yeah, it sounds like…
Are you somehow obsessed or fascinated by using the word God?
Mille: (laughter) I think it’s graphic; it’s mighty. To me, it doesn’t mean anything. But the word is big. It’s an epic word, and it’s an epic title. If you think about the title and just forget about “Awakening of the Gods” and all this stuff. It’s a huge title. It’s a powerful title. But I don’t know….
Sami: I know why it is because Mille was named at the Metal Hammer Awards party a couple of years ago as the God of riffs. That’s why. (laughter)
Mille: Exactly. (laughter)
Who came up with guitar riffs for this album – I mean, how do you share the writing nowadays?
Sami: Mille is the primary songwriter. He comes up with the entire song. I sometimes come up with parts…
Mille: But he wants to be like intro parts, and then I make them sometimes into… We turn them into middle parts or even choruses on this one song.
Sami, you’re more like a learned musician, but Mille is more like self-taught.
Mille: Yes, you can say so, I guess.
Sami: I used to study in the conservatory in Helsinki. When I was a teenager, but I never graduated.
Mille: Okay. I thought you did ?!?
Sami: I didn’t, because there were too many shows to do “Laughs.”
Mille: I told everyone that you did.
Sami: It’s okay. (laughter)
You have bagpipes and a bit more melodic things on the album, which might not be compared to previous ones like HORDES OF CHAOS, a really straightforward album. Was it more decision that this album has to be more melodic and add more different instruments and elements?
Mille: Bagpipes, he wanted to play the bagpipes. I told him no. (laughter) Seriously, the bagpipes just came about. It was a suggestion from Jens. Suddenly, he was like; I did the new song, the song “Hail to the Hordes “ song with a bit little Scottish vibe. He imagined bagpipes, and I said to him, “If we use bagpipes, it has to be the guys from In Extremo because we like the band a lot, and they’re friends.”
Sami: It’s more, I think, to spice it up, really. In fact, when I heard the mix, I could barely listen to them.
Mille: Barely hear them. I would have liked them to be louder too.
Sami: But it was nice to spice it up towards the end. It’s not that… It could also be without it.
Mille: Also the melodies, it was a conscious decision. We didn’t put a dogma on the songwriting to make the songs more melodic.
Sami: No. Definitely no.
I already mentioned the term symphonic, but in my ear, there’s also much more melodic stuff on this album compared to the last two albums. I can even hear some ENDORAMA style on this album, and it’s not a bad thing at all.
Mille: Absolutely. Songs are just developed in a very natural way, and there was never a moment where we would go, “Are the songs too much like this or too much like that, too much like this band or too much like that band?” We don’t obviously rip off other songs that other bands or we have written. So, whatever happened with ENDORAMA. Even to me, there was even almost some COMA OF SOULS type of stuff in there.
I was surprised to hear Symphonic elements. It was the first time, I think.
Mille: In this? Yeah.
Sami: We had some on ENDORAMA too.
Mille: Yeah, absolutely. But only on the last couple of albums, we only have used just bits and pieces.
Those elements helped the album to sound much broader and more extensive.
Sami: That’s what it should do.
Mille: That was the whole idea of it. We wanted the album to have more variety and whatever it takes. We didn’t want to limit ourselves by saying we’re a thrash metal band; we can’t do this. This was not the case because we didn’t limit anything. There were no boundaries, and when we had an idea for something. We just did it, and we just went for it.
Sami: We had some help from an Italian band called Fleshgod Apocalypse.
Mille: Great band. We got into them when we were doing the album, and Jens suggested them. I heard the name before, but I wasn’t aware of what they were doing—a good band.
Does it mean that you’re going to use backing tracks in the future?
Mille: No, no. All these minor parts can be played without it. The compromise would be playing to a clique and have like a tape. But that’s not an awesome thing to do.
Sami: Playing 95% to a clique, where nothing is coming out.
THE RECORDING SESSION
I’m asking this because you recorded this album at the Fascination Street studio in Sweden again like the previous album. What made you record the album there once again?
Mille: You can look at the previous history of the band, just recently with the band. There have been some producers that we worked with twice—especially Andy Sneap and now Jens. There is no reason for us not to work with Jens because he’s great.
Sami: No. In fact, there was a new studio in Stockholm…
Mille: Yeah, yeah. It’s called Fascination. It’s still called Fascination Street, but it’s a different location. So there wasn’t any reason for us not to work with Jens again because we worked great the last time and we kind of got something more out of this time, I would say.
Sami: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. He’s a creative guy, and he puts a lot of input in the songs, and he’s very, very… He feels very strongly about his responsibility also. So do we, but if we have one more person who feels that. It helps.
Mille: It helps a lot; it helps a lot. A producer is significant, but if you listen to the demo tapes. They are almost there. But the last 10% or 15% or whatever. The difference is essential. It makes the song a lot stronger. So it is definitely to me, I would not want to work without a producer. A lot of bands think they can do it, and some even can, I guess. But for us, maybe it’s not… I never saw it as a good idea, because when you get somebody there like Jens. Who is very strict and sometimes has an opinion. It might not reflect or be the same opinion as… He makes us think, makes us overthink. Not overthink, but revisit the idea again and maybe question it in a good way.
So, he kind of kicked you in the ass to work harder?
Mille: I guess so. Right?
Sami: For sure, for sure.
Mille: Actually, performance-wise, yes. Songwriting, he would never come in and write a part or write a song or write whatever.
Sami: But he would edit some parts.
How is he different to work with compared to Andy Sneap?
Mille: I don’t know. They are both great; they are both fantastic producers. But I think Andy was more focused on different things, or maybe… He has a hand in all.
Sami: Andy is more a guitarist, and so is Jens?
Mille: Yeah, yeah. Just different personalities. I think that’s…
Sami: A little bit different ways of working also, and Jens wants to achieve the performance of the… Live performance feeling much better, and Jens doesn’t copy-paste “Laughs.”
Mille: No, no. I don’t think he does it either. No. It’s just two different personalities, but both like equally good producers.
Who was the guy who produced the HORDES OF CHAOS album because it sounds very brutal?
Sami: He definitely doesn’t copy-paste “Laughs.”
Mille: Yeah, we had to work more. It was Moses Schneider, the guy that did HORDES OF CHAOS. To me, it was a good production; it was a great production. But there were some things that because of the way we produced HORDES OF CHAOS, they got lost along the way. For example, guitar tone. Because when you have a guitar tone recorded simultaneously as drums, you would never get the same style. You get a good guitar tone, maybe, but you don’t get the exact precise…
Sami: Crashing, demon (laughter)
Mille: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. So it was different. It was more like a recording in the old, almost like Beatles record. Do you know what I mean? It’s like the old school.
Sami: Yeah, yeah. We had to rewind. It took a long time. “Wait for a second. We got to rewind”.
NEW VIDEO AND SATAN TALK
Speaking about brutality. I just checked out the latest video, “Gods of Violence,” and that’s brutal stuff.
Mille: It is brutal, isn’t it?
Yeah, and there is a very cool-looking Kreator demon appearing on the video “Laughs.”
Sami: There are also Satan sex slaves.
Mille: Oh yeah. I think that the video for the first time, I mean I like the “Phantom Antichrist” video. I like the “Civilization Collapse,” but this one I really, really like. I think this is finally something that I would go, “Yeah, this is for my taste.” I’m a big fan of horror movies “Laughs.”
Sami: It’s important to know that the story continues in two other videos that are going to be.
Have you filmed the other videos already?
Mille: Yeah, yeah.
Is it the same kind of thing as what Slayer recently did?
Mille: No, better. It is better. (laughter). I think Slayer was good, but the story was… Yeah, it was good. It was there, untouchable. But I think ours is more…We will see, maybe it’s not better. (laughter)
I remember from the old day that when you did a video for “Terror Zone,” you had a horror movie producer who worked for that video.
Mille: Yeah. It was supposed to be done by Jörg Buttgereit. Who’s the “Nekromantik” movie. I’ve wanted to do these things forever. I think back in the day when there was still MTV. We had to make a lot of compromises. Because the first original idea for the “Terror Zone” and the “People of Lie” was supposed to be done by Jörg Buttgereit. Who did the “Nekromantik” and it was like a very bizarre movie? But then we heard already that MTV would not play it, and then Jörg said, “I won’t do it if I can’t do it my way.” Nowadays, these things are not relevant anymore. Because if you look at it, you can go on… You put the stuff on Vimeo, and it’s on a censor. YouTube still sensors, but they censor nudity. Which I think haven’t changed. If you look at our new video clip on YouTube. You can see the killing of the girl, but you cannot see the breast.
What actually was the main inspiration for the “Gods of Violence” video?
Mille: It was more inspired by… I think what it is; the song is “Gods of Violence.” So, to me, it’s like a kick-off. It’s the first impression of what the album is all about. We wanted to really keep people in the face with this video and the music. Just to give you an impression of what to come. Because I don’t think that there was a big discussion, which should have been the first song that we put out and there could have been like many songs. Like on the record, there were many songs that we could have put out as the first single. But we decided on this song because it kind of like. It gets you in the mood for the record, but it doesn’t really give you the complete treatment. It’s mostly one of the songs on the record, and it’s a title track. But there are also songs that have a different dimension, just brutal. Or some said I have a different vibe. So there is a lot more on the records. But I think to kick off the album’s campaign and give our fans an impression of what’s to come. Let the fans hear the first song.
This is not a deadly serious question but is Satan real? “Laughs”
Mille: He’s real.
Sami: Well, I have to say. Last week when I woke up, I had to wake up to be somewhere at 7:00 a.m. I had to wake up at 6:00, and it was minus 10. It was really windy. I live next to the ocean, and when I opened the door, yeah. I had to start walking. I felt that Satan is real. (laughter)
Mille: He’s real. The thing is, we had a lot of discussions about this title, especially like… Sami liked this title right away. But Jens, for example, ‘s like, “You have to overthink the title.” I’m like, no. Because we think that the song doesn’t talk about Satan being real, it talks about religion’s relevance in 2016, where it shouldn’t be so relevant nowadays. There are still so many people obeying and following icons that should have been obsolete by now. But the title is not to be taken too seriously. I take just…
Sami: I think the title reflects exactly that what you just said. So that’s why I think it’s a good title.
Mille: Yeah, of course.
Sami: When you just see the words, it might sound naive. But when you think about what it’s about, it’s…
Mille: Yeah, yeah. And also, I think this is like naivety that we’ve never tried to lose. I would put a song called “Satan is Real” on the first record on ENDLESS PAIN. Of course, when you grow up and get into your like the 30s and later on, 40s even. You start questioning like. Can I still say that? And you’re like. On the other ha, you are like, you shouldn’t say anything stupid, and you shouldn’t just write okay lyrics or childish lyrics. But I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t use those. We could also have written titles like “My Inner,” something, intellectual journey, or something. Then people would have been maybe, and now they’re matured. Wow! But it would have been boring because Satan is Real would have never existed.
The song “World War Now” – Does it refer to the current state of the world?
Mille: Yeah. It was about… Bataclanthat inspired it. It was tied to the lyrics. I think musically, this was a good song; it’s a very brutal song. It has a lot of nice ups and downs.
Sami: In February we’re going to play it Bataclan. It must be the safest club in the world right now.
SOME OLD STUFF
If you don’t mind, we would like to ask something about the ’90s and early 2000 period of Kreator?
Mille: Of course.!
Let’s start with a rude but straight question, what went wrong with the OUTCAST album?
Sami: Nothing. That’s one of the best songs that we still play live on every set, “Phobia.” So, there is nothing wrong with that.
I like “Leave This World Behind,” it’s a really good song.
Sami: We play that live too. It’s even on the live CD. LIVE KREATION.
Mille: Yeah. I think that what went wrong with OUTCAST was that we were not like, there was nothing wrong with the album, but at the time, Tommy Vetterli just got into the band and didn’t find his place.
Sami: I was always surprised, now what I think of that. One thing pops into mind. I was also wondering why there are so few solos with such a guitarist.
Mille: I told him not to play solos because I had this vision of an album. That’s more basic without solos. That’s why nowadays I would never write like this. But at the time, I thought, let’s put a dogma on everything. In this album, there will be no solos; ENDORAMA will be the most melodic ever. But not fast. So this is like, I guess it was a learning process. I was exploring new styles and new ways of expressing myself instead of making a part of what’s already there, like just going all the way.
How about A CAUSE FOR CONFLICT, then? That was a great album. I don’t remember having heard any songs played live, at least here in Finland?
Mille: We have played “Lost.” I have bad memories from that recording session and that era; it wasn’t the best for me. I think it was a wrong album, but there are many things that when I listen to this album nowadays. It’s like a couple of things that I know. You don’t, but when I heard it. It was like, and this could have been better. This could have been done differently. There are many things that I would have done differently if I could have. If I would have known what I know now. But you can’t change the past.
RENEWAL album was completely different after COMA OF SOULS. I remember that the album dropped the jaws of several fans when you had changed your vocal style that radically back then!
Mille: Yeah, yeah. That was due to many, many things. I didn’t want to please anyone’s expectation, and my voice was fucked from smoking too much weed, to be honest. Seriously. This time was very dark. Not whether we had like, it was not impressing dark or anything. It was almost like an early mid-life crisis or sort of thing. Yeah. But I still like the album. I think the idea was good. Like it was supposed to be our… Not that I want to compare the band to Pink Floyd. But I had like a vision of writing a thrash metal album, almost like Pink Floyd’s THE WALL.
On RENEWAL, there is a song called “Europe After the Rain.” And you have played that song several times on shows. You always said that it is against the right-wing people. It’s basically the same thing that happens nowadays. But I guess we have asked this before. But do you feel that you are some kind of Nostradamus, you can predict what happens to years ahead?
Mille: I wish I were, man. But no one is, but sometimes art or music has maybe not a prophetic power. But it’s just quite obvious if you think about things and you reflect on things. Things sometimes by accident, something that might seem in retrospect almost like a prophecy. But it wasn’t. I wish I could predict the future.
Sami, the ENDORAMA album is popping up all the time. You weren’t in the band when the album came out or when OUTCAST came out. What do you think about those albums?
Sami: To be completely honest with you, I haven’t listened to them that much that I should tell you. But I mean, if you can get ENDORAMA, it brings me too much into kind of Gothic. I think it’s better than 69 Eyes.
Mille: Thank you “Laughs.”
Sami: But the Mission came to my mind
Mille: The mission, right. Yeah. But there was a couple of songs that The Mission significantly influences.
Sami: Yeah, that’s true. Of course, I know ENDORAMA actually better than I just told you, because we have played some songs quite also. We have played the “Golden Age” on tours.
Sami, how do you feel when you’re reading the old lyrics written by Mille that you’re praying that fits the present day?
Sami: It gets too sour, over the wall, I mean.
Mille: That was also obvious, and I took that from a book. So it wasn’t really my idea. Of course, it’s easy to say that it was prophetic. But no, it’s too big of a word anyway. I think yeah, but thanks anyway.
UPCOMING TOUR AND SETLIST TALK
You have a tour starting soon together with Sepultura and Soilwork. It sounds like an exciting package.
Mille: Yeah, I will see. This is like a great combination of bands because Sepultura plays a similar style, but totally different now. Their own unique version of thrash metal. Sepultura and Kreator have the same roots, but both bands we’re going in completely different directions over the years. So it’s nice. It would be a good kind of metal, I guess, and also, Soilwork is a good band too. They even have a song called “Helsinki,” Soilwork.
What would be the idealistic touring package for you?
Mille: This one “Laughs.”
Sami: Yeah, of course. It feels great.
Mille: I know what you’re trying to go with the question. “Would it be like the big three? Why can’t you go on tour with Metallica or whatever?” Yeah. But we think like headlining, and this is a good package. Yeah, ideal package. Whatever comes up, we’ll see.
I remember that ten years ago, you toured together with Celtic Frost and Watain. That was a great package; I have to say.
Mille: That was good, that was good also.
A new tour means that there’s also going to be a new setlist. It’s must be a challenging and complex process to pick up a setlist for a new tour. So how are you going to have a balance with more recent stuff and older material?
Mille: It will be fun. We will find a way. Let’s see. I haven’t even thought about that yet. But there will be a good setlist.
How about doing some really radical changes and drop songs like “Pleasure to Kill” and replace those with something more exciting, like with “Ripping Corpse,” for instance?
Mille: Why not? Maybe you are right. You’re probably right.
We have seen Kreator so many times, and you always…
Mille: And always we have played “Pleasure to Kill.”
When Kreator fans come to see Kreator, they want to hear something different instead of the same old ones, you know? Maybe you should be braver when creating new lists and “shake a tree” more than you usually do?
Mille: Yeah. Maybe we will think about it. But actually, I think we did play “Ripping Corpse” a couple of times.
Sami: We did, yeah.
Mille: And it’s also a song of that PLEASURE TO KILL record. So why not?
It could be interesting to see the reaction of the fans if you drop some regular songs. But anyway, you will always hear the same old comments, “Why don’t you play this and that song?” BUT for example, when KISS does their KISS Kruise thing, they play lots of obscure songs that they don’t usually play, and the fans are more than excited about it!
Mille: Actually, we haven’t talked to Sami about this before, but this company in Germany wants to make a Kreator Kruise. Not a huge cruise, but it’s going to be like a sweet water Cruise. So to speak. But anyway, three days of… But then again… We have to do summer fests first. It’s going to be complicated.
Sami: We would need to play several different sets; we should be okay. To think about it, we’ve been playing live with Mille for over 17 years now. We have quite a few songs. To choose from.
Mille: But there are a couple of songs that we can’t do acoustically. But there would be a couple of songs that we could acoustically that we’ve never played. But the whole thing is just in the talks. But yeah. It’s hard, and these things are hard to set up. But there was some interest by one company to do it with us. It’s not like we have to do it… No, no. Because there was so much going on, man, we have so many shows coming up, but we’ll see if that’s going to happen.
OPINION ABOUT NEW METALLICA ALBUM AND MORE
Our time is up soon, but there’s one mandatory question that we need to ask from you before we are done. What do you think of the new Metallica album?
Mille: What do you think, Sami?
Sami: I listened n to a few songs. It’s probably blues; it’s sometimes.
Mille: I haven’t heard the whole album. I heard only the singles, and I like them.
The classic last question. Tell me your all-time favorite metal albums?
Mille: That’s a hard one. Probably BLACK METAL, probably Iron Maiden’s first one. BRITISH STEEL, MELISSA by Mercyful Fate. I don’t know. What else was there?
Sami: Deep Purple’s IN ROCK?
Mille: Deep Purple’s IN ROCK. Yeah.
Mille: Yeah. There are so many great albums, you know?
Sami: REIGN IN BLOOD
Mille: They are so many. Yeah, REIGN IN BLOOD and maybe HELL AWAITS?
All right, thank you, guys.
Sami and Mille: Thank you.