Although I’ve spoken with Andreas many times over the years, this was our first actual meeting. I’m instantly greeted with a pleasant soft-spoken and passionate individual, who is eager to talk about his band and their obviously different approach to things with new album Machine Messiah.
OD – So here we are with three decades of Sepultura behind you and what an album that you have released to mark the band’s legacy. Machine Messiah touches on a whole new level of integrating crossover elements and is vastly different from anything you have done in the past. Can you tell me what was your catalyst for the overall album, what did you have in mind in terms of a vision?
ANDREAS – It was very early during the writing process that I came up with the concept and the actual title for the album. The whole “robotisation” of our world, for instance, we have now the have the technology to travel the world to anywhere in a short space of time as well as the advancements in communication etc. When I talked to the other guys about this being a possible concept for the album, they all really liked it and once we all agreed on the vision of the album everything really started to happen.
Once we had that goal of what we wanted to express through the music, it all just started to come together very quickly. If you don’t have a direction then everything then things are kind of “loose” and hard to grasp and form a working concept. Also, the cover of the album came about very fast, as I was doing some research on the internet and came across the Camille Della Rosa, an artist from the Philippians whose work is just stunning.
So since we had the cover and the title agreed, we really wanted to explore our capabilities as musicians in the highest order. When Eloy (Casagrande – Drums) joined the band, he brought with him, so many new possibilities because he’s an amazing musician. Another factor was the fact that we approached the album with the vinyl format in mind and it really helped us to create the overall feel and direction of the album. We really spent a lot of time looking at the possibilities of what way the album should unfold with the all important opening track and what track should close off the album.
This was a very important process back in the old days (laughing) and I remember it well from the early Sepultura albums. When approaching the tracklisting with this in mind I feel that we really managed to achieve a mix of emotions, which I feel is the intention of any album regardless of what style of music or who the band is.
OD – The writing process between The Mediator. release date and the formation of ‘Machine Messiah’ must have been an inspiring exercise, to say the least as I feel that you stepped outside the traditional ‘metal’ box that so many bands are scared to do. Was there any fear or last minute hesitation during the process?
ANDREAS – We were just so confident and had spent a lot of time recording and writing which really helped is feel very positive about it all. We prepared ourselves very well for this album, mentally, physically and technically. Sepultura has never been afraid of trying something new and you can see that from every album in the band’s legacy. We like to try and push boundaries with things and incorporate our experiences and different tastes into the music.
The way I look at it is, that if we are afraid to try something different then there’s just no point in continuing! We have to keep pushing things forward and try new things if we don’t then we are just repeating ourselves and that just becomes very boring, very fast. It’s really important for us to have that element of risk because we during the process of change we have learned so much about ourselves and each other making us better musicians. Our fans have also supported us with each album, don’t get me wrong we lose fans here and there, every band does, but we have gained a lot of new fans over the years that have stood by us based on our legacy and also what we are currently doing and plan to do in the future.
OD – You recorded the album in Sweden and brought in Jens who helped with a new and fresh perspective for the direction of the album, was it just an instant click or did it take a while for everybody to be on the same page?
ANDREAS – It was an instant connection. We were touring at the time and had a list of many different possible producers that we could have worked with and it was actually Derek who suggested we go over to Sweden to meet with Jens. We had spoken with some other bands like Kreator, Opeth and Moonspell about working with Jens and all the references were just great and really positive. So, we were touring in Sweden and was near his town and I remember stopping at a kind of truck stop early one morning at about 7 am to have our first meeting with Jens and we instantly clicked.
We were talking the same language and just totally understood where we wanted to take things with the next album. We worked out some dates to which we could all work on thing together and just launched straight into it. Jens is so passionate about what he does but is not a dictator when it comes to working under pressure. He’s very direct and disciplined, with has a great sense of humour which just keeps things nice and relaxed.
The whole experience of working with Jens was just great and is evident when I hear the album back. I’m very happy with it and just look forward to playing the tracks live.
OD – There seems to be a huge amount of interest in bands emerging from Sweden in the last decade or so, was there any one album or release that caught your attention with regards to working with Jens?
ANDREAS – Yeah, there’s a few albums like Kreator’s Phantom Antichrist and absolutely the work he did with Brazilian band Angra. They are good friends of ours and he just did an amazing job with those guys and although the whole melodic metal thing is not really my kind of music, I was so impressed at the job Jens did on ‘Secret Garden‘. I really think that Jens is one of the best – if not the best mixer/engineer in metal today.
OD – I have to ask about the inclusion of the orchestra on tracks such as ‘Phantom Self’, how was that experience with reference to mapping out the direction of the arrangement and did you have any experience with something like this before?
ANDREAS – Well, that was Jens again (laughing). We had all of the demos already laid out from our sessions in Brazil and we then headed off to Stockholm to record the drums. We were going through the demos and making some adjustments here and there when Jens first started talking about some work he had done with a violinist from Tunisia back on Moonspell’s ‘Extinct‘ album. He suggested some arrangements for a few tracks here and there and it just took the direction of the music to such a different place, which we all collectively thought sounded just incredible and very different to anything we had previously done in the past.
It was really the first time that I had taken on the role of writing an orchestral arrangement and it wasn’t as difficult as I had originally thought it would be. Everything was laid out really clearly via a keyboard and then I did my guitars over it. He incorporated some of the melodies from stuff I had written back on the demos, which was just amazing as it really opened up the possibilities for the guitar work and the overall direction of the track.
OD – The last time I had spoken to you were talking about recording “Grief’ with Juliana D’Agostini, do you see yourself doing anything like that again in the future?
ANDREAS – Definitely! I would love to get the opportunity to work with Juliana again. She is a remarkable musician and is also really into metal music. She was actually Paulo Jr.’s girlfriend for a while, so that connection helped (laughing). Juliana wrote everything and got in touch with us and we were delighted to work with her on this. I feel that of all the different things that we take on, we never lose the integrity of the music and am just very happy to be in a situation where we are pushing ourselves and trying new things.
OD – I have to comment on Derek’s vocals as I’ve noticed a definite difference in his range as well as the overall production. Was there a great deal of time spent in trying to achieve the desired end result?
ANDREAS – It all started with the pre-production in Brazil, where we had laid down all of the guitar parts and vocal parts in place. He approaches this process by not really using lyrics but more of an improvised approach of where the lyrics should be. We were actually listening back to the early demos on the bus this week and nearly everything that made the album is right there on the demos we did way back in Brazil. Derek put down his vocal ideas in just a few hours for the demo,s in a totally organic manner and it just came to be that that was the model used for the album.
When we were in Sweden, recording guitars and drums, Derek was writing the lyrics, with some councilling from Jens who was suggesting using different words that sounded different rather than just screaming or growling. About 90% of the vocals on the demos was there from the beginning before the lyrics, which is just amazing.
OD – When you look back on the bands legacy and where you started out 32 years old, do you feel like you have shed the previous skin of the 90’s and are now a transformed band that are ready to embrace the new future of the bands sound?
ANDREAS – We did the celebration for the 30 years it feels like we have closed a particular volume of the band and are opening a new one. If we just played the same thing over and over again, then we would be just bored to death! Everything now just sounds so fresh and vibrant. We have been playing five new tracks from Machine Messiah and the last time we played so much from a new album was when Chaos A.D came out! It feels great to be here now and with this new album and a legacy of albums that I’m very proud of.
OD – With bands like Nervosa breaking into the international touring scene, it would seem like Brazil still has the ability to produce top quality metal. Do you have to keep an eye on the up and coming bands from the very scene that you broke through yourself?
ANDREAS – Yes absolutely! I actually do a radio show in San Paulo with my son, who is nineteen years old and we play so much new music. The show is called “Pegadas de Andreas Kisser” (The Footsteps of Andreas Kisser) and we give a lot of new Brazilian bands as much exposure as we can. It’s great to see bands like Nervosa coming to Europe and getting the attention of the press and media. There’s a whole scene over there that is alive with stunning bands from all metal genres. It’s a very exciting time for metal in Brazil and as each year goes by, it’s just getting better and better.
OD – When you look back on your career what would say are the biggest highlights be for you personally that make you think this is why I do this?
ANDREAS – I think just being able to get up on stage and do it for that moment together with the fans and I’m so privileged to be able to do this all over the world. It’s great to look back and have so many memories that it’s hard to choose from. But honestly, the entire reason that I do this and have done this for most of my life, is to be on the stage and be part of that energy. There’s nothing like it in the world and I hope that I can just keep doing it for as long as I can.
Machine Messiah is out now via Nuclear Blast. You can order your copy here.
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