Sepultura: Andreas Kisser respects the past, lives in the present and turns towards the future

If there’s something worth remembering in the following interview, it’s that Andreas Kisser, Sepultura’s leader and guitar player, is firmly anchored in the present, while being resolutely turned towards the future. He underlines that philosophy several times: “The most important thing is the present”, and “We’re working on Sepultura’s future, not on the past”, even if “we respect our past”. There are many people who would like to impose his past and that of his band on his shoulders: fans, journalists, and of course, Max Cavalera, his former bandmate, who made a myriad statements last year regarding a more that hypothetical reformation of the band in its original line-up.

As a result, Sepultura assert their position, not only with press statements and a video, but also with an album, Kairos. As Kisser confirms himself, the concept – a concept revolving around time, which is relative and littered with events that build the future, ours as well as the band’s – is directly influenced by the 25 years he spent in the Brazilian band. The music itself is efficient and full of good riffs. It’s no surprise the coach refuses to modify the team. He has every reason to be proud of said team, which has decided to remain in the field and go always forward.

True, Sepultura did reach a remarkable artistic summit once. But this is no reason to be blinded by the past and to refuse to see what good things the band can still offer nowadays.

But Andres Kisser will explain that better.

« I’m not a puppet nor a slave of what I used to be. Our past deserves respect, it’s a beautiful story, but we’re alive right now. »

Radio Metal: A-lex was quite a special album in the sense that it followed Dante XXI which was regarded by medias as the best Sepultura album since Roots, and it was the first album without Igor Cavalera. So retrospectively, what are your thoughts about it? Was it well received?

Andreas Kisser (guitar): Our previous album A-lex was the first one we did with Jean [Dolabella]. Its concept was inspired by the Clockwork Orange book and stuff… Yeah, it was a very important album for us and our last album with SPV, we did a two-years tour in the whole world. Now this is the second album we’re working with Jean at the drums and since we’ve been touring everywhere like I said, he’s more integrated to the group and the chemistry between us is better. It’s fantastic. We feel great on stage and we’re very excited by the new album. We can’t wait for it to come out. Everything is good: amazing drums, amazing musicians that fits perfectly with what Sepultura needs…

Now about the new album Kairos… Stop me if I’m wrong but from what I understood, it exposes a concept about time and those crucial moments that changes the course of things. In that regard, it must have been inspired a lot by your own career in Sepultura, right?

Yes. Last year we celebrated Sepultura’s 25 years of career, and of course when you do that, naturally you do a balance of your own career, you remember where you came from, how you grew up, what happened, the changes inside and outside the band, the bands we were listening to those days etc. It’s just a natural research on your own career, and the most important thing is the present. We’re living today, we don’t live on our past, you know? We respect our past but we are here today. So I think the concept of the album comes from this. I was looking for a concept of time, and I found this concept of kairos which is amazing; it’s not a concept of chronological time, like from 1 to 2 to 3. It’s just a moment of opportunity, of change. We live in the present as much as we can, so I think that’s our main influence, and that’s why we are still here, playing, having a new deal, a new album, touring the world, jamming and enjoying what we do. It’s the main influence of all. We talk about ourselves: we have lyrics about our families, about our friends, about our fans, about experiences we have on stage and touring, with press and record labels and managers… It’s also a very intimate album, we talk about our own experiences, and we are very very happy with the result.

In the album, there are several interludes named after numbers: there’s 2011, 1433, 5772 etc. What are they supposed to represent?

These numbers represent the different calendars that are active today. 2011 is the Christian one, 5772 is the Hebrew one and we also have the Islamic one and the Chinese one. Although we are living the same moment, we all have a different time, a different concept of time, a different idea of where we are. Also, it fits the concept of what time it is, you know; nobody can actually define what time it is. Everyone has a different time in their head. I think it fits the concept of the album. It represents the different ideas, the different ways people see the moment.

As you said, Kairos is the second Sepultura album with Jean Dolabella on drums, so after a two-year long tour, can we say that he was more comfortable with the band? What was his level of input this time?

Of course he’s more comfortable; he’s been with us for a while now. His inputs and his ideas are welcome. It’s facilitated in everything that we do. He’s a very active part of the band, not only musically but in every aspect. Currently it’s great, we can play any song of any album of Sepultura plus the new stuff… We are in a very special moment, especially on stage where we can play anything. It’s great.

Last year, you played the Arise album in its entirety at the birthday party for Manifesto Bar in San Paulo, plus you had to play many old school songs that the fans had to choose for the beginning of the tour’s setlist… How much of an impact these old songs had on the musical direction of the new album? It would explain why the riffs and solos tend to sound, to some extend, a little bit more old school this time.

Everything helps, you know. The celebration of 25 years of Sepultura… Remembering all these things and the band that we miss and playing the whole Arise at the Manifesto party… Of course it helps to have this kind of feeling back. But we’re not feeling any nostalgia. Nostalgia is kind of a sad feeling. We don’t try to revive what we were in the past, but we try to respect that and do something new today. That’s what Kairos is all about. It’s true that there are some characteristics of thrash: the album is raw, it’s recorded almost like it was live. Only drums, vocals, bass and guitars, very straight forward. Of course there’s some influence of everything about that. The main thing is what we’re doing today. It can sound a little bit old school, but it’s also modern because there’s a lot of elements of what we’re living today. I think we could find a very cool balance between these two characteristics.

(In order to answer to Kerry King who thinks playling with orchestra is a kind of masturbation) « Well, masturbation is not bad! When you don’t have sex, masturbation is great, you know? [he laughs] It saves all, especially when you’re married: you can’t fuck around, so masturbation is crucial for your sanity. »

The song “Structure Violence” features the Tambours Du Bronx. How did that collaboration come to life?

The Tambour Du Bronx are an amazing group from France. We had the chance to play together in a festival in France two or three years ago and I was really impressed by their music and by their performance on stage. We exchanged numbers and emails and then started talking to each other, and came this idea of doing something together. We did the song together. They worked in France and we were in Brazil so we exchanged files and stuff so we could do this without problem. This September at Rock In Rio festival (September 25th) we’re doing a show together. We’re going to perform our songs and the new stuff we’re gonna do together. It’s something very new for Sepultura. We did music with some other groups before but more in Brazilian and Japanese style. This time it’s a different approach, a different sound… It fits very well with what we do now. We’re very happy with the result.

Is it important for you to have these more experimental moments on a Sepultura album?

Yeah, we’re musicians and musicians don’t have any limits. We have the privilege to travel the world and meet new bands and new people all the time. Since Roots, we always had somebody collaborating with us on the albums. On Roots we had Mike Patton and percussionists from Brazil, on Against we had Kodo, on Nation we had Apocalyptica… You always learn something new. When you work with different musicians, you learn how to do things differently. It gives a different taste, a different spice to the music. I think it’s important to first have the opportunity to do something like that, and then to make the best of this opportunity and create something new. It’s great. It’s always something very interesting and it’s a very rich experience live, not only music wise but on a personal level: you learn about new people, new cultures, new ways of seeing music itself.

On the album there are two covers, one from Ministry and one from Prodigy. Those two are industrial bands, plus the song “Structure Violence” has an industrial feel itself: what’s your relationship with industrial music?

You know, Ministry has something to do with Sepultura’s music since the beginning. We toured with them in 1992 in the States: Ministry, Helmet and Sepultura. I think you can hear that, some of their influence, on Chaos AD. It’s one of the bands we like the most and now we have the chance to play one of their songs. And because Sepultura covered so many bands, we really have to sit down and try to find stuff that we hadn’t done before. Prodigy was one of them. It’s a newer influence on Sepultura’s music. It’s heavy too and has a lot of a punk, hardcore feeling, but it’s a different world, it’s more like dance in a technical sense, with techno vibes and stuff. It’s still very heavy though, which is what we’re doing here. So yeah, the industrial stuff has always been an influence on our music and, you know, without Ministry, Rammstein wouldn’t exist. A lot of people think that Rammstein has invented that kind of sound, but it isn’t true. Not taking the merit away from Rammstein, they’re great in what they do, but you can feel Ministry’s influence very strongly. In our music, it’s not as strong as in Rammstein, but Ministry was always there.

Last April, you played with the Orquestra Experimental de Repertório in São Paulo. One month earlier, Kerry King from Slayer was quoted saying that “playing with an orchestra for a metal band was nothing but masturbation, like saying ‘we’re the king of the world, let’s play with an orchestra!’” What are your thoughts about this?

Well, masturbation is not bad! When you don’t have sex, masturbation is great, you know? [he laughs] It saves all, especially when you’re married: you can’t fuck around, so masturbation is crucial for your sanity. So I don’t think it’s any bad. If they don’t wanna do anything with an orchestra, it’s their problem. Heavy metal and rock’n’roll have everything to do with classical music. Deep Purple, Scorpion, Kiss, the Who, Metallica, many bands played with orchestras, and that’s something I always wanted to do. Now we finally got the chance to do it and it was an amazing experience, something very powerful, very special, that we want to do again. We filmed the show in São Paulo but the sound wasn’t good. We really plan to do another show in a closed environment, maybe in studio, and try to have a better sound. It was a very good experience, something that I enjoyed a lot and that the crowd enjoyed a lot too. It was something that worked out really good. I think you can explore different sonorities, different sounds, very heavy ones in an orchestra. Beethoven, Bach, Wagner are very heavy. With cellos and violins, the metal section of the orchestra, it’s very powerful! You see, Celtic Frost also use some orchestra’s elements on their music and it’s very heavy. It’s something that works great. Historically speaking, there’s a lot of examples that shows that it’s possible and great. So I’m very happy that we had this opportunity and hopefully very soon we’ll have something powerful enough to pull it out. That’s something for next year maybe.

In 2009, you toured with the band Angra. Although they do a different kind of metal, do you feel close to that band? Not only because they’re also Brazilian but because of their history: having some key members leaving the band at some point…

They’re very good friends of ours. We are from the same city and, although we do different kinds of metal, it’s still metal, still the same planet. We did a Brazilian tour together and it was great! It was really good to meet that kind of crowd and that kind of music. In every show we did a jam together and played Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath, it was very cool. You know, there’s room for mixture in any kind of music. In music there’s no boundaries, no limits. All these names, thrash, speed, melodic, white, black metal, are inventions made not by musicians but by Djs, radio people and magazines. In music itself, there are no separations. Of course there are different ways of expression but it’s still possible to do anything, so touring with them was a great experience. We did shows outside this year like festivals in Spain, Portugal, Argentina… It’s great. It works pretty well. I remember Metallica playing with Queen live a long time ago during And Justice For All and there are many other examples that shows that mixing different kind of stuff is very positive. It brings different people together, people who couldn’t have a chance to listen to Sepultura whatsoever. So I think it’s great. It worked out great and was very positive for both sides.

« We had a tour going on and people were saying “what tour are you doing? Yours or the reunion one?” There’s no reunion at all! We’re working on the future of Sepultura, not on its past. It was very annoying and getting in the way of our business. »

Actually, Kiko Loureiro, the guitar player from Angra, told me that you guys shared a lot of ideas during the tour and that he would be open to do a studio collaboration between the two bands. He also mentioned that you were very open. That would be very interesting. Do you think it could happen?

Well, why not? I mean, there’s nothing going on right now, but like I said, when you do that kind of meetings and arrangements, there’s always ideas that pop up from that, so why not? It depends on time and on the project that we’ll have with them… We might do something together. It would be great.

On another subject, last year was filled with statements reportedly from Max Cavalera about the reformation of Sepultura’s original line-up. He mentioned that he had approached you about it, but he said that in the end, you complicated things, had crazy demands, took it the wrong way… What was all that about?

Well… There’s nothing really working towards that direction… We don’t talk about, or think about any reunion. It’s the kind of things Max talked about since he left the band and it’s kind of annoying because there’s nothing going on, although we talked to each other last year, when we played together in a festival in Germany. We finally communicated with each other after so long, it was very positive you know. But there was nothing dealing with any type of reunion or anything. We’re just talking to each other as friends, which I think is something very positive: he’s talking to his brother again after a while, they’re playing together, he has Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy… It’s very cool, whatever, but there’s nothing going on. We are very focused on what we’re doing right now and have no intention to revive a past that’s not there anymore. If we should play together again we’d have to respect what we are and do something really decent, not trying to fool our fans and everybody just to put musicians on stage and play Roots. That would be something stupid and weak. But there’s nothing going on, like I said we’re very focused on what we’re doing, we have a plan for the next two years with Kairos, touring, orchestras, Tambours Du Bronx and many other things we have ahead of us. I respect everything Max said or didn’t say, but I don’t agree with what they said. You can say whatever you want, but we’re focused on what we do and it is what it is, you know?

(About his replacement of Scott Ian in Anthrax) « I’m very happy and honored about that. It’s gonna be a great experience for everybody: for me, for Anthrax, for everybody watching the show. »

Actually you’ve released last year a video to clarify the situation. Was it because the rumors circulating were becoming prejudicial for you that you had to clean things up in such a straightforward manner?

Yeah of course, because people were starting to believe that kind of rumors. When for months people dealing with Sepultura’s shows started to call because they were doubting our commitment, that’s very serious. I mean, we had a tour going on and people were saying “what tour are you doing? Yours or the reunion one?” There’s no reunion at all! We’re working on the future of Sepultura, not on its past. It was very annoying and getting in the way of our business, so we felt that we had to do that, to make clear that we were working toward the future, and that nothing regarding reunion was going on, so we can go ahead. It helped a lot, people stopped talking about it, and everybody went ahead, doing their own job, their own career. That’s it.

And wouldn’t a reunion be contradictory with the whole philosophy exposed on Kairos, actually? Was there a kind of an hidden statement behind this concept that says that you want to move forward?

Yeah, the concept is really the moment, the present. That’s what the kairos is about, it’s not a chronological concept of time. It’s the special moment of opportunity and change. It’s about not being slaves of our past. It’s about the reason we are here, alive today, not about reproducing what we were or what we think we were. I’m not a puppet nor a slave of what I used to be. Our past deserves respect, it’s a beautiful story, but we’re alive right now… That’s the point of this whole concept, you know? What we are today is what we are today. The future will be the consequence of what we do today.

You’ll be replacing Scott Ian in Anthrax for several dates in July… How did that happen?

Scott Ian called me and explained the situation to me: his wife is excepting a baby for July, but they didn’t want to cancel the dates that were scheduled, including the Big Four shows. I was very honored and happy they called me. It’s a big honor. I’m a big fan, Anthrax are a part of my heritage and part of the way I play guitar, along with Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus and many other bands. I’m very happy, and in July I’m gonna be part of Anthrax for two weeks… It’s gonna be great!

What is your state of mind about that experience? I mean Scott is the leader of the band, plus you’re going to play as part of the Big Four shows… It must be very intimidating!

Well he called me and he’s the leader, so I guess that was his idea to avoid canceling the show… They had to put somebody there and it’s for a very beautiful reason: he’s gonna be a dad for the first time, I’m very happy for him. It’s gonna be something different. Why not? Slayer will be there with Gary Holt and it’s a different guitarist… It happened so many times in the past. I’m very honored I’ve been called for this… There’s so many guitarist in the world that could do the job and they thought I’d be the best one to do this now. I’m very happy and honored about that. It’s gonna be a great experience for everybody: for me, for Anthrax, for everybody watching the show. It’s gonna be something very unique that may not happen again, so it’s amazing.

So you’re pretty confident about yourself.

Yeah I guess so… I mean, they know the way I play and everything, so it’s good.

Interview conducted the 19th of may 2011
Transcription: Chloé
Sepultura website: www.sepultura.com/

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