Interview by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjala
Pics by Marko Syrjala
As we all know, Sepultura is the famous Brazilian metal export who gained a loyal fanbase all around, including Finland. The Brazilian metallers recently released their latest album, MACHINE MESSIAH. The album is definitely one of the greatest and strongest releases of the Derrick Green era. Therefore it was a good time to sit down with Andreas Kisser to talk about the new album, the old school Brazilian metal scene, and his old band before Sepultura.
Welcome to Finland once again.
Andreas Kisser: Thank you.
You seem to have a very loyal fan base here. I don’t remember how many times you have been in Finland, but I remembered the first time in 1991.
Andreas Kisser: The festival. Yeah, it was cool. I still have that show on tape because it was broadcast on TV and stuff, and it was so hot. It was summer, of course, like in the festival season. It was U.D.O. and Winger on the bill too. It was an incredible show. “Arise” -tour and stuff. And since then, we’ve been here many times.
Speaking about the current tour, which started two weeks ago, how has everything been going so far?
Andreas Kisser: We’re on the second week of touring, and it’s been amazing because we’re playing a lot of new songs. We have an hour set, and we’re playing five new songs, and the response and the reaction have been fantastic. People actually know the album. They know the songs. They sing along, and the show keeps the momentum and the energy flowing. Of course, playing new songs is always like a taboo on a show. Let’s put one or two and stuff and keep the classics and keep on going. But this time around, I think, because the album had such a strong response, we were very confident on every song. We worked very hard to make every song very different from each other. To build this album, feeling and the artwork helped and everything. So, it’s great that it’s working, and the shows are flowing out great. It’s been awesome.
The new album has received an excellent response, and It’s been doing great on the charts. It seems that everyone is euphoric about how the album sounds, and it has got positive reviews and feedback. I think you’re proud of the record by yourself too?
Andreas Kisser: Now that we work very hard on it, it is the third album that we have released with Nuclear Blast, which makes a huge difference. People who believe in the band and Nuclear Blast are a very metal label that knows the band’s history and the people who worked there for many years. They’re metalheads. It’s great that we have this setup, to put an album like MACHINE MESSIAH with a great label, we have the management flowing and the formation of the band. This is probably one of our history’s best formations, with Eloy, myself, Paulo, and Derrick. Derrick’s already 20 years in the band. So, we feel that the whole process of rebuilding Sepultura and especially after celebrating 30 years of the band. We did the Worldwide tour. We did special shows, played lots of old stuff and everything. It feels that we’re now closing a cycle, 30 years of this history of this band. Now we’re starting something new. I think MACHINE MESSIAH represents those new elements, and people are even using the word “prog” for Sepultura, which is weird. But it’s great because I think it shows a little bit of our musicianship, and we worked hard to make the best that we could. Drum wise, bass wise, guitar leads. We were introducing violins and stuff like that, and we did an instrumental song. Anyway, I think it’s all around. It’s been very positive. So, it keeps us very motivated to do the stuff.
MACHINE MESSIAH is the first album you’ve recorded with the Swedish producer Jens Bogren. How much did he have to do with the album’s sound and overall direction, which is different from any other Sepultura album in the past?
Andreas Kisser: Jens is an amazing guy, an amazing producer. We always challenge ourselves to work with different people, to do something else. Working with Ross Robinson is always amazing. We did ROOTS with him, and then we did THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART. He’s a unique type of producer, very organic. Very spiritual, noisy. He loves to use a lot of effects and stuff. Jens, it’s a very different producer. It’s great because Jens respects every characteristic of every band. If you listen to Moonspell or Opeth or Kreator or Angra or many other bands that he worked on before, you don’t notice that it is the same producer behind those albums. He respects every characteristic part of the group and enhances that. He makes it better, and that’s what we’re looking for to for a more technical approach, and his mixing is amazing. I think he’s the best mixer out there, especially for bands like us. We went to Sweden to do everything and specifically for that. To move to a different environment and to try to work with different situations. To put ourselves in certain situations, we have to think a lot about reality to make things happen. So it was a very enjoyable time. It was not an easy album to record and stuff, but it was very pleasant.
I think that MACHINE MESSIAH is easily one of the best albums you have released in a long time. And it reminds me of your early stuff because of the cover art, which looks like an updated version of ARISE?
Andreas Kisser: Yeah, a lot of people say that. I don’t know. We have to ask Camille. Camille Dela Rosa, who did the stuff. I’m not sure if she has a Michael Whelan influence because Michael Whelan did all the covers for Sepultura during those days. Yeah, even better if it has. It’s our album, and you have the claws there and stuff. But it’s like updated. From the organic material from ARISE, from this kind of mechanic turning to which is cool. I think even if it wasn’t done on purpose. I think it’s cool that it happened that way and that painting was done like in 2010. So, it’s also cool that she waited to use that for us. It’s awesome.
As for Jens, what kind of feeling did you have that you have to go in the middle of nowhere in Sweden to record a new album? Did the Swedish environment bring some elements to your recording process that you had to focus on it entirely?
Andreas Kisser: Yeah, exactly. We did many albums in Brazil, in Sao Paulo. We would work there in the studio, then go back home and stuff like that. There you’re close to your home, but you don’t see anything. I don’t see my family because I get late and I leave early. It’s like you’re home and you have your daily stuff, and then, you have… whatever football. All the stuff that’s going on daily, together with working on the album. It’s a good thing that you can stay close to your family, but at the same time, you lose a lot of focus because of the daily routine stuff of your life in Sao Paulo. So, it was vital to leave out to another place this time. We did the previous album with Ross in Venice Beach, which was great. Now we were with Jens in Orebro; it was around May. It was beautiful weather; we could enjoy and bicycle. We focused on the album 100% because we were living together there. Jens has his house and the studio here, with some guest rooms. Me, Paulo and Derrick, we stayed together there. Eloy did his part, the drums, in Stockholm, and then he left back home. But we three continued to work together in Orebro. So, we talked about lyrics. We watched documentaries together. Paulo was working on some arrangements. I was working on some leads. So, everyone was connected. It was cool. I think it was fundamental that we had this time to record an album like that. It was great to focus on it and try different things. Sweden is a fantastic place. It was a relaxed atmosphere that we could focus 100% on the album.
One cool thing on the new album are the symphonic elements which sound fantastic. How did you come up with an idea of using those on this album?
Andreas Kisser: True, true. Yeah, Jens brought that thing. Of course, we’ve used symphonic elements before. We even did a show with the Orchestra in Brazil. On DANTE XXI, we have a lot of violins and cellos and stuff. We worked on demos in Brazil as much as we could. The songs were very well written, and we had a clear direction of what we wanted from this album. MACHINE MESSIAH was that direction, “I am the Enemy” and “Phantom Self.” Before we start recording, we went the songs through, together with Jens. We could then cut this or repeat that and stuff. We were arranging the details before we went and recorded the drums. During that process, Jens was throwing ideas. “Like maybe I use these violins from Tunisia and stuff like that. I think we could work here and there”. Said, “Dude, let’s try. We’re here for that.” If it doesn’t work, we just throw it away. It’s no big deal. So yeah, Jens brought all these symphonic elements on the instrumental song. He thought, maybe we could put a Hammond here and stuff like that. It was incredible because we were speaking the same language. Since the beginning, the connection that we had with Jens was fantastic. He was very excited to work with us. He was always around with his notepad, he was like making notations all the time, and he’s very organized, very disciplined, very professional. He has a great sense of humor which is very important in our recording session. So, a producer, he’s the fifth member of the band in the studio. He has really to have total freedom, but we do everything as a group in the end. It’s not like it’s a dictatorship. We have to use this or that. No, we really have to embrace the ideas and use them in our way. Then that happens correctly.
So far, you have released two singles from the album, and you also released videos for both. Would you say something about those videos?
Andreas Kisser: The video for “I Am the Enemy” is only like a lyric video. It was like the first single, but we call it the second single that came before the first one—the most important single, which was “Phantom Self,” the video and everything. “I am the Enemy” came only as a lyric video. It was very simple, using some elements from the cover and stuff like that. We were not that concerned about the lyric video. But the “Phantom Self” video was a lot of work involved. “Phantom Self,” we did that in Brazil with a Brazilian director. I sat down with Derrick, and we wrote some possibilities and some ideas and directions to show the album’s concept, more or less. The robotization of the society people is connected. They are now more connected with smartphones, with life itself. People are having the limbs, the prototypes, legs and arms, and stuff. Some of the stuff is really good, and some things are just bad. That’s what we’re trying to tell you, to try to find that balance. You don’t need virtual reality glasses to go to a beach. Go to a beach while there is time. I know that in Finland it’s hard, but you should go to Brazil.
We only have two months of the summer is here, “Laughs.”
Andreas Kisser: Okay. So yeah. You have to make the best of it. I was very pleased with the result because Mauricio, the director, did a great job. It was a tough video to make because we have specific day times and record labels. -# It was going to be late and stuff”, but we are pleased about it. When the reactions being amazing, there are almost 700,000 views in two weeks which is fantastic.
THE WORLD IS CHANGING
You mentioned social media and tech and stuff like devices and all these things. But are you worried about the social media thing and stuff because you have spoken in several interviews – Are you kind of worried that the whole thing will get out of hand, that somehow we’re coming to a new generation of robots?
Andreas Kisser: Yeah.
You have a couple of kids, and I can guess that they’re using devices and messaging with their friends all the time?
Andreas Kisser: Yeah, the younger. The kids know more than the old guys because their head is so quick and they absorb new ideas so quickly. But yeah, it’s a little weird. Because you see in restaurants, you have friends or even families. Each one of them with their phone. Even to get a woman today, you need an app. It’s like a dude; we’re in a bar. You look up to a woman; you have eye contact. You have that human interaction, which is so important. You learn about yourself. You hear about somebody else and also… What other examples? Like in the shows and stuff. Not too much in a metal crowd. The metal audience likes to interact. But most of the shows like people there, like watching the show through the screen. Then they’re not going even to watch that later. Most of them won’t do that. They just like to put like the little piece on Instagram or Twitter. I was here and stuff, whatever. But yeah. I think it seems that robots are not helping us to develop our intellect and our brain. We have so many different frequencies and energy and stuff going throughout the universe that we cannot explain. Somehow if we develop our brains and intellect, we could collect the world in a much more natural way. We wouldn’t need satellites and stuff with more robots. In the end, technology is trash. How many different smartphones or iPhones we have in 10 years? Like seven, we are on seven. It changes so quickly. Ten years, seven different phones. For what? To create more batteries, to create more trash. To attack more the environment than it’s helping. So that’s a point that is really important to try to find this balance. It seems that we’re getting dumber and lazier. The robots are doing everything for us.
And people are getting lazier and lazier all the time.
Andreas Kisser: Yeah. So, it’s great that we at least address the subject. So, people can at least talk about and see because everything is discipline. You cannot stay the whole day, during a week watching Netflix movies. You have to have a particular subject. You have to do sports. You have to interact with people. You have to do your work. Then in the leisure time, watch a movie or two. You have to put that balance, and computers and smartphones are there all the time. Don’t get me wrong; I have mine too. But we need to find that balance. I’m not against robots, and I don’t want to destroy robots and stuff. But really to try to use them for the best of our human condition. But not to lose that human being.
It wasn’t that long ago when some wise professor said that actually, people’s brains are getting smaller and smaller because we don’t have to use them anymore as we did in the past?
Andreas Kisser: Exactly, exactly. That’s scary. That’s very scary. So, it’s like we have to read. We have to talk to people. We need to spend time with friends and stuff like that. I don’t know; a question rises like, “What is the biggest football stadium in the world?” They go straight to Google. It’s not important to have the answer. Because if you try to talk to people, they say, I know there is a stadium here. You’re going to start talking about different subjects and stuff. In the end, the answer is not relevant.
Isn’t the largest football stadium is in Brazil?
Andreas Kisser: It used to be Maracana stadium, but I don’t know today, let me Google. I have to Google “Laughs.”
THE BREAKTHROUGH AND MUSICAL INFLUENCES
When Sepultura received international attention with SCHIZOPHRENIA, at that time, people in the underground were interested more and more in the Brazilian metal scene. At that point, I used to do the tape trading. I got a lot of very obscure Brazilian bands. I think Brazilian bands have this different kind of vibe in their sound. They were just completely different than European bands or American bands at the time.
Andreas Kisser: That’s cool. Yeah.
All the Finnish punk and metal bands.
Andreas Kisser: Which was very influential in Brazil.
At that time, before you joined Sepultura, you used to play in Pestilence.
Andreas Kisser: Yeah.
What kind of stuff was it? I have never managed to get tapes or find YouTube or anything.
Andreas Kisser: Yeah. I have like only practice tapes. No, we never had a real demo. We had a rehearsal room where we recorded very poorly. But I still have some of the cassette tapes at home from those demos and stuff. The song from “Escape To The Void” was one of the songs that came from my band Pestilence. I was just starting to write some original stuff because I was only playing covers up to that point. The name was Esfinge, Sphinx. Then I changed to Pestilence, basically because of Kreator. The song “Pestilence” from PLEASURE TO KILL. Kreator was influential for us during those days. We wanted to be like Kreator because they have such a unique way of doing thrash. Ventor was singing some songs, and Mille doing cool stuff on the guitar, not only riffing. But like little teams and solos and stuff. I don’t know, and it was just like a very influential band. So Pestilence was very short-lived. Because as soon as I started Pestilence, but a few months later, I joined Sepultura. It was just like that wish to do something in English because I was singing some parts and stuff in Portuguese.
Most of the Brazilian bands used to singing Portuguese at that time, like Dorsal Atlantica.
Andreas Kisser: Dorsal Atlantica. Exactly, yeah. Vulcano maybe. No, Vulcano was English, I think? But we started to do everything in English, like Sepultura, Mutilator, or Sarcofago and all that stuff. Pestilence was very, very much influenced by PLEASURE TO KILL mainly. That era of Kreator stuff and I brought a little bit. “Slaves of Pain,” for instance, is a song from my old band that we developed together later.
Were you aware of Pestilence from Holland then?
Andreas Kisser: Yeah, yeah. I was. I thought it was cool because I got the vinyl from Pestilence, and we met on the road, on the “Beneath the Remains” tour in Holland, and I told them that my Pestilence was better. “Laughs.”
MORE ABOUT THE INFLUENCES
Did you listen to many death/ thrash metal stuff at that time, or did you listen to a different kind of metal? Or was it completely Slayer and death metal in general?
Andreas Kisser Yeah. Slayer, Kreator, Destruction.
The Finnish hardcore bands?
Andreas Kisser: Yeah. The Finnish bands, I think that Max and Igor liked more of that hardcore type of stuff. Rattus, Terveet Kädet, and all that stuff that I started to learn with them. I was always more into traditional heavy metal. Besides all those bands that I mentioned, I love Ozzy, Dio, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden. And I like the guitar heroes: Blackmore and Randy Rhoads. All that stuff that was important. Steve Vai, Whitesnake. I love all that stuff. So, I think SCHIZOPHRENIA is a mixture of those two worlds. Max and Igor were more into hardcore and more death metal, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, which I liked as well. But I came more with that traditional heavy metal, and we started doing something new on SCHIZOPHRENIA. Eventually, on CHAOS A.D., I think we found the Sepultura sound. With the Brazilian stuff, groovier. Up to ARISE, we were a lot compared with Slayer and stuff, which was great. Slayer was one of the primary influences, our idols, and stuff. But we wanted to get our sound. But yeah, SCHIZOPHRENIA was the beginning of that process.
When you started listening to those bands, I guess you started changing your style, adopting influences from different music genres like reggae. How did that happen?
Andreas Kisser: Yeah, exactly. In my home, I always had every type of music. My father always had classical music and country music from Brazil, and my mom had something like Bee Gees and Beatles. All the stuff like that. So, I listened to music all the time. My grandma also plays a little acoustic guitar, like folk songs from Slovenia, from Austria. So, music was very common in Brazil in my house. Although no one was professional on it, it was already like a hobby. So, that kind of stuff was normal for me to listen to all kinds of music. Of course, when I started listening to metal, and when I started playing metal, I became a little more radical. For the period where I just listened to that kind of stuff, and all the rest was crap. But little by little, we started to add those other influences, being a part of Sepultura music.
When you were in a certain age, you believe in something, and everything else is crap. Sounds familiar to me “Laughs.”
Andreas Kisser: Yeah. It’s cool when you have this radical time for a period. Because of your kind of re-group, you’re connected. You have a particular type of position and aim. But from that, it’s easier to grow and embrace other styles. I studied classical guitar for many years. I love reggae, blues. I played blues a lot in Brazil with some friends and the Brazilian traditional music and everything. So, it’s great, and also we have the privilege to travel. So, we see so many different things we play with different bands, and it keeps our minds always fresh.
Which of the Brazilian bands made an influence on you besides Dorsal Atlantica?
Andreas Kisser: Ratos de Porao, for sure. The band is still around. They’re one of the greatest bands from the Brazilian scene. And of course bands like Korzus from Sao Paulo.
By the way, Is Dick Siebert still in the band?
Andreas Kisser: The bass player, yeah. He is still there. The old Dick. With all respect, “Laughs” but those bands were real, of course, as you mentioned Dorsal Atlantica. They were one of the primary influences on Max and Igor in the beginning. But yeah. It was smaller bands that they didn’t even have the chance to record like the cover for Blasphemer. Other groups were part of the scene, but they didn’t go to the next step or next level.
Before I left home, I went through some of my old trade tapes; I got some tapes from Agressor and Tormenta.
Andreas Kisser: Aggressor and Tormenta, yeah.
Andreas Kisser: Necrofago.
Andreas Kisser: Witchhammer. Yeah. They’re all true. They existed sometime in time.
Nowadays, Brazilian bands and musicians are well known everywhere, like Krisiun, Angra, Rebellion. Do you feel that Brazilian metal has got more attention and even developing?
Andreas Kisser: Yeah. Of course, Sepultura started all this. Like the early ’90s and late ’80s, actually. ’89 was the first time we went on tour with Sodom. But it’s great to see so many new bands, and therefore NervoChaos is one of the band, and they tour a lot here. There is one great new band called Claustrophobia, and hopefully, they’ll have the chance to come here. I think they came a few times, but they have a new album which is fantastic and fresh. Kiko is now in Megadeth and Aquilas Priester, the drummer that plays with so many different bands outside Brazil. So it’s awesome. It’s great to see the music of Brazil in metal like that, be more represented. Stronger than ever.
ONE LAST QUESTION
I have one question about the time when the band split with Max in 1996. Sharon Osbourne wrote in her book that if the band had stayed together, Sepultura had every opportunity to become the next Metallica. What do you think of that statement, and you agree with her?
Andreas Kisser: I agree with her. Because during the ROOTS time, 1996, unfortunately, Max left the band at the end of ’96, we only toured for one year for ROOTS. We had so many different places to go, including Japan and Australia, in the early ’97. So ’97 really was the year that really we established Sepultura as one of the world’s biggest acts because we were playing arenas here in Europe. We played in Ahoy Rotterdam and other prominent places, and ROOTS was really working much better than we all expected. It was really a great surprise because the metal always had like a kind of radical and stuff. We brought percussion and lots of people; the first hearing was just like, “What the fuck is this? What are you doing?” Even the label. The label was not sure about the album after CHAOS A.D, which is very traditional in many ways. We came out with ROOTS, and they were kind of concerned. But slowly, in the year ’96, the album really grew on everybody. Max then left during the most crucial time of our career. We fired our manager. We didn’t fire Max. But as a consequence, of course, he left and started Soulfly and everything. But yeah. I believe so, and we were at the position that we could get to that level. But as it shows, we weren’t prepared for that. We were not prepared for that condition that way. Gloria was not really representing the whole band. She was always like supporting only Max and trying to show him as the leader and as a guy who did everything by himself and everything, which was not really true. So, as you can see, we’re still here working as a group, as a band. But yeah, it is what it is. I think we had a really good opportunity. But thinking about it, I believe it was better it happened that way because it could have been much worse. If we could have got to the level and we were not prepared for that. It could not be very good. But I embrace and respect everything that happened to my life or our life. If something like that didn’t happen, we wouldn’t really grow as we grew today. We’re a better band today. We’re a better business group today. We’re better people. We have families and stuff, and we feel much better today because of ROOTS, the album. The music was brilliant, but we were a mess. We were not talking to each other and all that kind of crap; that is horrible when you’re on the road, away from the family and stuff. But now we enjoy each other, and we talk to each other. We’re friends. Which I think it’s very important.
Right, and that thing will always be something that you can speculate about forever. It’s time to sum this thing up. Let’s finish this very traditional way. Could you name five essential metal albums that you still worship?
Andreas Kisser: MASTER OF PUPPETS. Of course, DIARY OF A MADMAN from Ozzy, it’s important. Black Sabbath’s first album. What else? PLEASURE TO KILL. Kreator was always a big influence in my life. THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST is a great album. There are so many great albums, but these five, I think they represent my musical taste the best way.