We are living our best moment of our career

Sepultura

Hey.

Hello there, how are you doing?

Good man, how are you?

Good, good. A bit of a busy day here, but we’re ready for you.

Alright.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, man. How are things in your world?

I appreciate the opportunity to talk. Especially with the new album and everything. I’m here in Sao Paulo preparing, actually, the first rehearsals, you know, for the next tour in February with Kreator. Everything’s fine. Working.

Kreator tour! That sounds exciting!

Yeah, it’s great man. The first time we’ll have the opportunity to tour together like that. Of course, we did summer festivals together this year, but we’ve never really toured like that. So you know, it’ll be great.

I have the opportunity to talk to them about their new album in the beginning of the new year. Exciting.

Perfect.

You are about to release your fourteenth studio album, “Machine Messiah.” There’s a lot of new sounds on this album, man.

Yeah, definitely. It is a Sepultura album – well, every time we put out a new album, it is something new. I think that’s why we call it a new album. But, you know, regardless of the formation and whatever label we were, we always had this characteristic to bring something new. This lineup with Eloy Casagrande on drums, it is the second album we worked on together after extensive worldwide tour and stuff. We felt more prepared and more connected as people and a band and friends, as well. So it helps a lot, you know, to go further and try to reach new levels. Try to break our own limits and that’s what we tried to do on “Machine.” Changing producers, bringing new ideas and a new point of view towards music and stuff and in the end we were very happy with the result.

Yeah, that is a really surprising album for me. What surprised me most were the front and center keyboard melodies in the music.

Yeah, actually, most of the stuff was done by violins from Tunisia. This is something that Jens Bogren suggested to use in some songs and it was great because it opened so many new possibilities, you know, especially for guitar leads. There are some keyboards here and there, as well as some horn quintet in some parts. You know, we worked with orchestration before, but these Tunisian violins were really interesting because they have totally different ways of playing music. The unique melodies, techniques, and other things fit in pretty well. Sounds awesome.

I think so too. I think it’s the first time I heard a keyboard melody take front and center in a Sepultura song.

Yeah, especially on Sworn Oath. Then again, they are more violins, not really keyboards. Especially on Phantom Self as well. That’s a big part of it. Of course we have keyboards on the instrumental song. The Hammond sounds and some noise effects, different things blended. But, yeah, you’re right, especially on Sworn Oath, it is a song that bears that quality to have that kind of epic type of sound. It fit in pretty well. It doesn’t matter if it’s something we never used before. That’s even better. To bring something different and open our possibilities of doing music.

Exactly. Always forward. (Laughs.)

Yes, perfect.

I enjoyed the Hammond sound by the way. It’s a really nice touch.

Oh, great man. (Laughs.)

There’s also a lot of clean vocals on it. That was also a nice touch.

Yeah, that’s a characteristic we’ve been using since Derrick joined the band. If you listen on Against, we have songs like “Common Bonds” or “Old Earth.” On “Nation,” we have songs like “One Man Army” or “Ways of Fate.” Derrick uses his clean, great voice. Derrick is a real singer. He not only has that quality and capability of having the guttural voice, and very aggressive and stuff, but he can sing great. You know, he can sing reggae and blues fucking beautifully. But I think a lot of people realize now because that’s the first song on the album. This is something very different for Sepultura to open an album with a song like that, like “Machine Messiah.” Very slow, but at the same time heavy and intense and very melodic. It takes a while for Derrick to start screaming, actually. I think that’s why people in general are paying more attention. It’s something we’ve been using for a while, but, I think because of the first song it creates a stronger impact.

Yeah, I bet. I heard one of my colleagues say that the opening track sounded a bit like Alice in Chains.

Oh, that’s good.

Yeah, I thought so!

We love it.

It’s a surprising link to make, but, yeah.

Yeah, we love Alice in Chains. You know, since a long time. We had the opportunity to tour with them and Ozzy back in 1992. In the Arise tour and we ended up being good friends. It is a band that has influenced so many different people. Of course it was not intentionally. It was something that was in our subconscious somehow and we have so many different influences because we listen to different styles of music all the time. So, you know, somehow you listen to those kinds of influences here and there.

What kind of music do you listen to at the moment yourself? What influenced you when creating this album?

Actually, most of the influences and new ideas came from sources that are not musical. Not music itself, but books and travelling. Me and Derrick, we talk a lot about books and documentaries. We travel so much. We meet so many different people. Anything can be a musical influence. Any type of experience. Especially books, because you create your own world. Even if we read the same book, we’re gonna come up with different perspectives and interpretations of things. And that creates a very much great possibilities for music. It’s like when writing a soundtrack for a movie. You have the book or you have the script in your hand and you have to create sensations according to a scene or what the director wants and everything. So I think it’s more exciting to try to create music out of non-music influences. Instead of listening to a band, you try to create something else.

It’s your interpretation of life.

Yeah, yeah. Exactly. And that creates new elements and sensations that can be translated to music.

Yeah, I bet. On this album it’s really clear how creative the vocalist Derrick is, really. And it opens up many possibilities for you as a songwriter.

Definitely.

So I was wondering, how big is his creative input in the band?

It was amazing. You know, I think it’s his best work all-around. Not only in performance, but especially in writing the lyrics. We talked a lot about… you know, like, I gave him whatever links to documentaries and vice-versa. We thought about song titles and we read a lot and discussed a lot about the concept and everything. And he came up with the best words for him to sing and to perform and he did an amazing job. Great lyrics. The concept is very strong. It creates lots of ideas and influences and ways to follow. He did an amazing job. We start basically with the guitars and drums. I have so many different riffs written on the road and at home. I have many demos with drum machines and stuff. Eloy has many drum loops and ideas that he does by himself at his house. And we started from there, you know. And then comes Derrick and Paulo to put their own ideas and Derrick starts without lyrics or nothing just drawing some vocals here and there, which helps for us to build the song further and develop the song further. It is a process that we’ve been going through for every album basically, you know. At the end, I think Derrick really stepped up his game and his lyrics are amazing and his performance is fantastic. I think we all did as a band. We wanted to break our limits, to really explore the unknown and try to do something new.

And you can hear it as well. It turned out to be a great album, absolutely.

Thank you.

If you look at the way you write songs these days and you compare it to the older days of Sepultura before Derrick, what’s changed in your creative process?

Well, just the partners. Just different people that we deal with coming up with ideas. Me and Max before… we were the driving force of Sepultura for many years. Everything came from the guitars and like I do with Derrick, we always talked about different topics and ideas for lyrics and et cetera. And then when Max left, it was more me and Iggor basically, you know, doing more of the composing of songs and ideas. Of course then Derrick came and started to bring his own input and his background and stuff and… but in end, we start with riffs and demos and then we go to the practice room and we develop together. I think it has to be a band effort. It doesn’t matter where the idea comes from, you know, we all have to agree with it and defend it. So, when we are recording, we are all together defending the song as a unit. So, the process is very enjoyable. I love to come up with new stuff. I love to write for different projects, as well. Not only for Sepultura. And that keeps me very much with fresh ideas. Working with different people, different musicians and producers. You know, when I’m ready to write with Sepultura, it helps, all the experience I have.

I bet. When it comes to your new producer, Jens Bogren, what new elements did he bring to the table?

Just himself, you know, and he gave everything. Jens was a perfect choice, an amazing producer. Really focused, organized, disciplined. A great sense of humor as well, which is really important in a process of recording an album like this which was very demanding. We had to prepare ourselves very much, you know, like physically and especially mentally to record an album like this. Jens helped us to the best that we could. He’s a musician with lots of knowledge besides being of young age. He’s worked with many different bands. He knows every shortcut in the studio and is very keen to details. His mixing is one of the best I’ve heard. I’m very happy with the mixing and mastering. Everything was done in Sweden. And he brought this beautiful sound that we were looking for like a characteristic album like it is. Because it’s very different from Ross Robinson, of course. You listen to the Mediator, it’s a very different album. Of course we were in a different set of time and energy and everything. But that’s the beauty of it. We work with an amazing producer with Ross Robinson and then we have the opportunity to work with Jens. It brings Sepultura to different and new places, especially in a career of 32 years on the road recording so many albums and stuff. You need some type of excitement and a challenge, to not really do the same all the time. It’s boring.

It’s important to keep challenging yourself, absolutely.

Yeah, especially in art in general.

I also loved the sizzling solos you laid down on this record. So, how does your creative process work when you’re writing guitar parts?

It was great, man. I was really focused. I really wanted to work on every little detail on the guitar parts this time. Because usually, most of the time, I just leave it for improvisation type of leads and work with pedals at the time and don’t think too much about structures, whatever. But this time I really spent my time and energy to do the best that I could and work every little part and be ready to record. While Jens was recording vocals or bass, I was there in a separate room working on my guitar parts. Really thinking about and structuring my leads and everything. And then when Jens came, we tried to find the right sound and the right pedals for it and stuff. It was fun, you know. It was the best part of all, of course, for me to record guitar and leads having a great time with the producer who is also a guitar player. So it was very enjoyable, man. The way it’s supposed to be. It isn’t supposed to be hell. You know, of course it’s difficult. It’s a hard job and stuff but we were prepared for it. So we could enjoy it, as well.

You can tell, at the end result, that there was fun in the studio.

Awesome. Perfect.

In what ways would you say this album is a typical Sepultura album?

Just the way that we portrayed our music, you know. We’re very honest with ourselves. We don’t try to fool no one. Especially ourselves. We’re very respectful to the present. You know, what we’re doing today. We respect our past and stuff, but just for the fact that it is a new Sepultura album with new elements and stuff, this is very Sepultura. That’s the spirit that’s kept us alive for 32 years and counting. And I think we are living our best moment of our career. We have a very amazing new album, a fantastic record label who’s doing an amazing job, you know. A label who understands metal, who understands the Sepultura history, where we came from, and where we should go and could go. You know, an amazing line-up. We are at the best moment musically with all the experience. It’s great. I think it’s just a very special moment in our career. Recently we just celebrated 30 years of history, which is an amazing mark to achieve. Especially in a band who had so many different changes inside and outside of the band, you know, with technology and everything. So it feels good to be here in this moment with an album like this. I’m very excited and anxious for the album to come out.

Yeah, I can understand that. Thirty years… that’s a long time, yeah?

Yeah.

Your most commercially successful album, Roots, is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary right now.

Yes.

It was created during a really turbulent time in Sepultura history. How do you look back at that first period of the band’s existence from the place you are now?

It’s great. Mixed feelings, course. Because in one hand, we were working as a band as musicians in the studio. No outside influence for no managers or no label, you know. We always fought for that freedom to work as a band inside the studio. We were doing an amazing job. Very excited to work with Carlinhos Brown the percussionist and then we went to the Indian tribe. Working with Ross Robinson in Malibu, you know. We were doing something very special and we knew that. We felt that we were doing something really important and really cool, you know. But on the other hand, we were a mess. Like organized-wise. Our management was really confusing, really not organized at all. It was really hell to try and put our heads away from the bullshit that was going on and then focus totally on the album. We really had to be really mentally strong, you know, to do that kind of stuff. And the album came out, 20 years ago, and it’s still a very strong album that influences so many different people. We did only one year of touring. It was broke down because Max left the band after we fired our manager because of her very clumsy organization of the whole structure of the Sepultura career and everything, you know. But in the end, I think it’s a winner. Because we managed to record the album besides all the problems to enjoy ourselves doing the album. And you know, I’m very proud to be a part of a project like that. It is a very important mark in our career. We still play songs from “Roots” on our shows, of course. And it’s great that new generations are having a chance to listen to this album and you know, it seems like we recorded that yesterday. The sound is amazing. Ross and Andy Wallace were a great combo to produce and mix the album. So yeah, it’s great. It’s a good memory.

I had the pleasure to interview the Cavalera brothers out on their tour celebrating “Roots” and I asked them about the album as well. And it has special significance for them as well. And what I asked them is what I’ll also ask you: why do you think this album is so current and vibrant in this age?

Because it was as true album. I think we put all the frustrations and all the stuff we were going through in our life… you know, “Roots” is the consequence of our first show outside Brazil in Beneath the Remains. It seemed that it never stopped. It was like a growing process that Sepultura was starting to conquer from Beneath the Remains to Arise, you know, from 1989 to 1996 that culminated with “Roots,” you know. Our own research of our own roots with the Indian tribe music, you know, the influences with the percussion and the Berimbau and you know, it was a very important album for ourselves to know ourselves better and it’s a very unique album. I think only a Brazilian band could do an album like that. You know, being Brazilian and mixing that kind of cultural influence with heavy music. I think we showed a different path, a new possibility for heavy music that a lot of people followed. Which is great.

Yeah, absolutely. It was a very important step in your journey, I think>.

Definitely, yeah.

When it comes to the new stuff, I really loved the song “I Am the Enemy.” I think that will do great live.

Yeah, definitely.

What songs do you feel will do best live and which are looking forward most to performing live?

Yeah, we are really practicing the new show and stuff and it’s amazing to play the new songs, man. Of course, “I Am the Enemy” we are playing already in some shows, you know. It’s the first song we presented live and it’s working out amazing. But, you know, songs like “Phantom Self,” and “Resistant Parasite,” and “Vandal’s Nest,” “Alethea” you know they are great songs to play live and we are having a blast already in practice, so it’s gonna be great.

How are the first responses from the audience to the new material?

Amazing, very positive, you know. It’s a very simple, straightforward song, you know. But I think people will be more surprised when they listen to everything and hopefully in a good way.

Yeah, I think so. They will be. Where will we be able to see you live in the next few months?

In February, yes. In February we’re going to be touring with Kreator. February up to the first week of March. Kreator, Soilwork, Sepultura, and Aborted. That will be our first tour for the new album. So we’ll be around.

Excellent. One last question left, and that’s do you have any last words for our readers?

No, just thanks for the support. Thirty-two years into a career, without the fans, it wouldn’t be possible to be here. Especially after a career like Sepultura. But we’re glad we’re here, we’re glad you’re here with us, and see you soon all the road. Thank you very much.

Thank you for your time, man.

Thank you.

Randy Gerritse