Interview by Robert Cavuoto
Brazilian Thrash Metal icons, Sepultura, will be releasing their 15 CD, Quadra, on February 7th, via Nuclear Blast. For 35 years, the band has been on the forefront of Thrash Metal scene, trailblazing ever since they released their debut album Morbid Visions in 1986.
Their new CD, Quadra, is proof of a will unbroken, a thirst unquenched, and a quality so staggeringly high it’s a wonder this band doesn’t implode. Three albums deep into what may very well be their strongest incarnation yet, Andreas Kisser [guitars, vocals] and Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. [bass], Derrick Leon Green [vocals], and Eloy Casagrande [drums] unleashed a power not to be reckoned with, uniting experience, and youthful vigor in a revived way.
I had the opportunity to speak with guitarist Andreas Kisser to discuss the making of Quadra, the concept behind it, and the concert that changed his life forever.
Robert Cavuoto: I think Quadra is one of Sepultura’s best CDs and on equal par to one of my favorites, Arise. It captures the band’s classic sound and offers the musical diversity that Sepultura always delivers to fans.
Andreas Kisser: The concept helps to define the album’s song sections, like a double vinyl release with Sides A, B, C, and D. By doing this, we can pay close attention to the different characteristics or influences of each side of the album. Side A is old school Thrash, like Arise, as well as all the other bands of that era. Side B is more percussion and groove-oriented like Roots with its unique musical elements. Side C is connected to the instrumental part of Sepultura like Iceberg Dances and using the acoustic guitar. It explores our instruments and musicianship. Side D is connected to Machine Messiah, which is slower paced with melodic vocals. On the last song, “Fear; Pain; Chaos; Suffering,” we have a Brazilian female singer, Emmily Barreto, from the band Far From Alaska singing on it. They are not metal, but she is an amazing singer. It is the first time we have ever done anything like that. Quadra is a little bit of what Sepultura ever did plus the attitude of today.
Robert Cavuoto: What came first; the concept of Quadra or after recording the 12 songs, did you realize they all fit nicely into a concept?
Andreas Kisser: The concept came first as that’s usually how it works with us. Once you have a direction or goal, the riffs and music all starts to make sense. Some stuff we threw away because it had nothing to do with the concept while other ideas fit nicely, so we develop it from there. The concept helped us divide the album into the four sections. For the first time, we didn’t have working titles for the songs; we had codes that represented them. The running order was done early on. We knew what songs we wanted on Side A 1-3 or Side B 4-6 to have flow or a journey.
Robert Cavuoto: What were some key elements from your past that help you channel Sepultura’s classic sound? Did you use vintage gear?
Andreas Kisser: It’s our overall attitude and remembering all the bands and songs that we listened to back then. All the bands that were on the Thrash scene who were so new and powerful like Kreator, Destruction, Sacrifice, and Violence. It was fun to have that in the back of our minds while working on what we feel today. We are not looking to copy anything but create new sensations. It would be impossible to get those amps as I don’t have them anymore. They were early Mesa Boogie amps, and I don’t even think they fabricate them. I know we used the same cabinet on Roots as on The Mediator Between Head and Hands…. because Ross Robinson produced both albums. He still uses that cabinet. It looks fucked-up, but it’s great! I don’t look for that stuff; it was only because Ross still kept the cabinet in his studio. When we went to Sweden to work with producer Jens Bogren, it was the second time I worked with him after Machine Messiah; he said, “Let’s forget everything we did on Machine Messiah and start from scratch, I want to do something totally new.” We used every type of amp like Diesel, EVH, Marshall, and even an Orange. Of course, we have a characteristic way of working together; we work more freely and willing to try new things. We were experimenting in the studio.
Robert Cavuoto: Is there a certain expectation or pressure that this CD that had to be equally as good as what you did previously, or does Sepultura have the freedom to experiment?
Andreas Kisser: It’s a little of both. The pressure is there, but it’s positive in order to move you and help make decisions. At the same time, we have that free spirit of trying everything. We are not afraid to go after things. The amazing thing with Jens was 100% of the ideas and suggestions we tried worked out. That is why the album is so rich in sound with the orchestra and choir. The choir was recorded in a church in Sweden in Jens hometown by the studio. It was exciting to be part of an album like this.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you think your fans will be pleased with Sepultura’s return to form?
Andreas Kisser: I hope so and in the end, not to be disrespectful, I don’t care! We have been here so long. In the states, a lot of people turned their backs on us for whatever fucked-up reason they have in their mind of what Sepultura should be or is. All the controversy and bullshit in the press with the two sides has nothing to do with music. If you hear our albums, we have been active all the time; all over the world as we are not just performing the states. The states are important, but we are everywhere. Quadra is a consequence of that, it’s great when fans like and follow us, but if they don’t, it is fine as well. We are not here to please everyone. I have to admit; the feedback has been great with the singles we put out like “Isolation” and “Last Time.” It’s overwhelming and exciting; we are so thankful! I’m very anxious to put the complete album out, so people have the full experience of it.
Robert Cavuoto: You’re not only a fantastic lead guitarist but have amazing strength of your right hand. Tell me how you developed that precise attack in your rhythm playing?
Andreas Kisser: I always saw the guitar as a whole. I never divided it between rhythm and lead. I look at it as either high or low. It’s the same neck and harmonic world. Rhythm is the basis of everything. I studied heavy rhythm players like James Hetfield and Gary Holt as they inspired me. They are so precise and beautiful in their playing. That is what I put all my energy into. Rhythm is a very steady beast, which allows me to explore leads and improvise. I’ve had great drummers too, like Igor Cavalera and Eloy Casagrande, who are precise references and help the stability of the rhythm section. They are holding everything together, and I have to thank the drummers for that.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you feel you write better when you are at home or working with a drummer in a practice room?
Andreas Kisser: I think I’m better at home writing and creating. When you are in a practice room, you are a little more rigid. I remember when we only wrote in the practice room. Max, Igor, and I would spend hours in the room and sometimes come up nothing because we got distracted and ended up talked about football. [Laughing] Those were different days and times. I like being by myself and trying out different things with ProTool, making edits, and using multiple guitars. A lot of people in the practice room wouldn’t have that type of patience. [Laughing] Once I create, I’ll go to the practice room with the band and redevelop what I created.
Robert Cavuoto: You have such great guitar phrasing on your songs that allows the melody of the lyrics to breathe and flow. How important is that phrasing to Sepultura’s sound?
Andreas Kisser: That is everything, as well as the dynamics of where to present the riff, where the vocals come in, and sketching out the pace of the song. It’s great when you have an amazing producer on your side as well. It helps you to pay attention to details. Jens and the band have great chemistry. We both are going in the same direction and share the same perspective on the songs. It’s also important to listen to people’s input and explore the possibilities of the riff. With Quadra we started the process earlier than we typically do because on Machine Messiah we did everything quickly, we wrote, recorded, and produced the album in five months. With Quadra, I wanted to give it more time to come up with ideas and song compositions. It gave us the time to go back and forth to do different edits and try or different guitar parts here and there.
Robert Cavuoto: What would be an example of where you outdid yourself on this CD?
Andreas Kisser: On Quadra, I felt the lead for “Agony of Defeat” was something I outdid myself on. There were some Randy Rhoads’ influences going on and some traditional heavy metal guitar playing that was part of my early schooling. I also like the lead on “Guardians of Earth.” It’s my humble tribute to one of my idols, Ritchie Blackmore. It has a Purple rhythm to it that he and Jon Lord did so well and I love. It was an opportunity to go there in a Sepultura song and I’m proud of it.
Robert Cavuoto: The video for “Isolation” was filmed in Rock in Rio. Growing up in Brazil, what was that like being in that massive crowd watching bands then performing on the same stage years later?
Andreas Kisser: In Brazil, we only started having big shows like that in the 80s. In 1981 Queen came to Brazil to play two shows in a big football stadium. My mother wouldn’t let me go because I was too young, which was frustrating [laughing]. KISS was the first concert in Brazil that I ever went to and it was amazing. It was the Creature of the Night Tour in 1983 with Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent. That show changed my life as it was such an experience to see it up close. It was rare to see bands down there at the time. In 1985 I was at Rock in Rio to see Ozzy, AC/DC, Whitesnake, and the Scorpions. More bands were starting to come to Brazil at that point. Then in 1991, Sepultura opened the heavy metal date. In 1985 I was screaming in the crowd during “Bark at the Moon,” and then six years later, I was playing on stage with Sepultura opening for bands like Guns N Roses. It was mind-blowing. It was an important show because it was right before we released Arise and played “Orgasmatron” for the first time. That show not only opened the door for Sepultura in Brazil but globally. We were one of the first Brazilian bands to tour outside of Brazil. After Rock in Rio, fans started to take notice of the band universally.