WORDS: Perran Helyes
Brazilian metal legends SEPULTURA have come a long way since their humble origins in the South American suburbs, scaling undeniable peaks and undergoing changes that some people may question along the ride. Currently touring a setlist celebrating their 30th anniversary, we sat down with long-time guitarist Andreas Kisser and vocalist Derrick Green to chat both past and present.
This is your 30th anniversary tour as a band, what led to the decision that this was a particular landmark you wanted to celebrate?
Andreas: 30 years is a very unique mark for anything, for any profession I guess but especially in music. Even though we had so many changes SEPULTURA kept going on with the help of our fans playing all over the world. We have so much motivation to keep going in spite of the problems we had and it’s great to celebrate 30 years at a moment like this. We’re having a lot of fun on stage, playing all the big festivals with a great label behind us. Our bureaucratic part, management and stuff, it’s really organised. You see so many movies and books in a trilogy y’know, I think three parts is an important thing in human cultural history for some reason. I think it sums up really different periods, ten years with Max, Derrick’s had almost twenty years with us and Eloy’s almost five years. It’s just a stamp that’s very important in our career. It’s helped a lot to do interesting setlists that we can play.
Has it been a positive experience so far?
Andreas: Definitely. We are almost at the end of this two year cycle but we’re very happy to come here, to London as well, and we did Scandinavia and some countries which we didn’t do last year so it feels good to cover as much as we could.
How does being in the band now compare to 30 years ago?
Andreas: Well of course we were all younger and y’know, no wives and no kids. We were learning new things every day, going to different places. We were just a little more irresponsible I guess! It was a great time though. We still tour a lot, SEPULTURA was always a band to be on the road. Nowadays especially, everybody is on the road because nobody is selling albums. Record labels are asking for a share of touring or merchandise. It’s a different day but we’re still here doing what we love.
Do you feel as such a legendary band that you are still able to attract young newer fans?
Andreas: I think so.
Derrick: Consistently so, it’s great to see the evolution of the fans growing with SEPULTURA from different time periods and the different albums that they relate to. There’s certain people who because I’ve been in the band for eighteen or nineteen years have only seen the band with me in it as the singer so for those fans it may be easier to relate to because it’s something that they are a part of, something they were able to see and to grow with and really enjoy so there is a big boost of young people which is exciting to see. And also having Eloy, younger people looking up and thinking “Wow, they had him come into the band when he was like nineteen or twenty”, so anything can happen when you put your mind to it and there is no limit to what can be done so I think that’s a really positive thing for kids to see. I definitely think that’s part of why the band has been able to keep going, those new fans along with the old fans merging and helping the growth of the band.
Are there any younger bands who inspire you in any way or you feel are really helping to continue what you’ve contributed so heavily to?
Andreas: A lot of bands that came out after like HATEBREED, SLIPKNOT or TRIVIUM, especially after Roots, even DEFTONES and people like that who mention SEPULTURA a lot. There was the small thrash metal revival with bands like EVILE who are supporting us, GAMA BOMB, LOST SOCIETY, that I thought was really cool. I do still listen to the old stuff though. I like the old stuff!
Coming from Brazil, a lot of people might say that SEPULTURA are the band that kicked down the door for metal bands to achieve success from outside of Europe or America. Is that something you’re proud of or something that you feel is part of your legacy?
Andreas: Well we were influenced by bands like SCORPIONS, ACCEPT and VOIVOD, bands who were outside of the English and American circuit from different countries but singing in English. We didn’t sing in our own language because we were almost forbidden to do it, it was taboo. Nowadays we have so many bands singing in Portuguese and I mean heavy bands, hardcore and every type of metal band, which is great. I think SEPULTURA was especially for Latin America because even though we are from Brazil, fans from Argentina, Chile or Colombia sensed SEPULTURA was their own band which was really intense, even in Mexico, Spain and Portugal which we have that cultural connection with. It was something that happened once, with us. It’s hard to explain why, we were just at the right time doing the right things, making the right choices that put SEPULTURA in a very special place in the metal world.
Obviously a fair number of fans and people online constantly seem to be clammering for a reunion with the Cavaleras, and I’m not gonna ask that question because it’s predictable and boring, but do you ever feel that the material that you’ve released with Derrick has been overlooked and underappreciated by a lot of people who might not give it a proper chance because Max isn’t on it?
Andreas: Oh yeah most definitely, especially because of the campaign that seemed to happen after he left. We were the bad guys and he was the victim who was stabbed in the back. That’s how the media portrayed it and he always in the press telling different stories, even completely contradictory points. Many fans seemed to buy that stupid idea that “You’re either with me or with them”, that kind of Axis of Evil type of situation, “if you listen to SEPULTURA don’t come to a SOULFLY show” which is ridiculous. We never really went through that kind of idiotic fight in the press. We gave our version, we fired our manager and Max chose to go with her, and that was it pretty much. We stayed together, me, Igor and Paulo, with the name which Max didn’t care about and we kept going. We had all the good stuff of being SEPULTURA, the name, we were on the Roots tour so we were exploding around the world, but at the same time we had all the bad stuff they left, the disorganised backstage vibe, the bureaucracy, management, the financial situation and all that crap which was a mess, it was horrible. We had to deal with that after they left so we had to rebuild. Of course it took a long time to fix the managers and stuff but we’re here. We’re in great spirits and very appreciative and thankful of everything that’s happened good and bad because we are the way we are today because of both.
Derrick, as the person who would essentially be pushed aside if these people got their way, does that make you feel like you constantly have to prove yourself to naysayers even now nearly twenty years on?
Derrick: I don’t think so. I guess if you’re looking at it from the outside. My whole life I’ve done music and I had the opportunity to join a band from South America and that was something special, doing an audition and moving to Brazil, changing my whole life around. The last thing I’m thinking about is a stranger in another place I don’t know writing online about how they don’t like me. It doesn’t really matter at that point. Honestly being able to be on stage and prove myself there and record is enough for me as a musician, to really get to know the guys and grow with them, because bands I’ve been with the better you get to know each other the better the music becomes. I felt this was something that was going to happen eventually with SEPULTURA, I didn’t think I’d come in and we’d immediately have the hit album that’d take off and be amazing. I knew it was gonna be amazing but it’d have to be worked for. I wanted to able to look back and say yes, there has been an evolution and we have been flowing in an upward direction and getting better and better and better, and I’ve heard this more than the negative. More “Wow, you guys are better every time I see you”. For me this is what I listen to more because it’s more realistic, these people are paying more attention and have been there right from when I joined and are very open-minded and very fair with their criticism. There’s other people that just never listen and I can tell from that comment that they’ve never been to a show or heard any of the songs or maybe just the one song, never really followed the direction of where the band has been going or where we’ve been. It doesn’t bother me as much now, maybe at the very beginning just a little bit but I was so concentrated on playing music and having fun with it.
Moving to something more current, how far off is the next SEPULTURA record?
Derrick: Very soon.
Andreas: We’re working on a few ideas now but they’re very early in the process. If everything goes right I think at the end of next year we’re gonna have something new.
A particular song on the last record that went under the radar of quite a few people is Grief which is a really interesting song in the way it shows a side to SEPULTURA you might not initially expect exploring some different emotions. Is that a side that you think you may expand on at any point in future?
Derrick: It’s a good question. Absolutely, I think something that’s great for us is to be able to have that diversity and to be able to show that in a very natural way. It was definitely one of the hardest songs to do, but I don’t see why not. I think we have the ability to expand and experiment with so many different emotions, not necessarily just hardcore anger and aggression but to go in different directions. We’ll have to see, we’ll see what topics we are writing about and what happens on the next album but there’s always a possibility to explore.
Well, lovely talking to you guys, and thank you for your time!