Sepultura are stayers. They’ve weathered all sorts of line-up changes and shifts in musical style – not to mention shifts in overriding heavy music trends occurring around them – and yet they’ve never given up and never made the same album twice. Their latest, The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, finds the band (guitarist Andreas Kisser, vocalist Derrick Green, bassist Paulo Jr. and drummer Eloy Casagrande) working with producer Ross Robinson for the first time since 1996’s Roots with incredible results. Inspired by the 1927 film Metropolis, the album is dark, foreboding, mysterious, aggressive and energetic, bursting with intense guitar work and Green’s trademark guttural vocals. It’s been far too long since Sepultura visited Australia, but they’ll be back in October with dates in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. I caught up with guitarist Andreas Kisser.
The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart is another theme-based album, after Dante XXI (based on Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy) and A-Lex (based on A Clockwork Orange). It’s great that you do this because it really shows you can never run out of things to write about.
Yeah, definitely, man. The most important thing for us is that we’re enjoying it a lot, ourselves. Our drummer Eloy Casagrande has been with us for two years now and we’ve done lots of great concerts, lots of old stuff as well. I think you can see a little bit of everything we ever did on this album. And working with Ross Robinson again brings a nice flavour. It worked out great, and the response has been very positive. I mean it.
So you recorded this album in the States, which you haven’t done for a long time.
Yeah, because of Ross Robinson. His studio is there, that’s where he lives and it’s a beautiful place to stay and live and work there, it’s his own equipment, his own environment. And Los Angeles is a place where you can find everything there – even your own sound, you know? Amps, cabinets, pedals… so it was great to be back there, especially with a friend. Ross knows Sepultura so well and the chemistry is still there. It’s been great.
The solo in the song “The Vatican” is classic Andreas – two tracks of craziness at once! Tell me about your approach to soloing, because it’s so unique!
[Laughs] Yeah, y’know, I’m always trying to do something else, something different. And I play with so many different people, y’know? Especially in Brazil, I play with musicians from different styles of music, from blues to Brazilian music to pop. I love classical guitar. I love to play fun music regardless of the sound and style. Of course I come from a heavy metal cradle, and metal is what I love and that’s how I express myself best. And every time you play with somebody else you have a different way of playing, you learn something different and you hear something different, and it keeps the flow going, and you also enjoy it, y’know? And that filters through into the performance of a solo like “The Vatican.”
“Grief” is an amazing song.
Grief is a song that is based on a tragic accident that happened here in Brazil. Lots of lives were lost, more than 300, in a fire that happened in a nightclub. It was horrible. Many families were hurting so much, a really deep sense of loss. Originally we tried to do something cleaner, almost like a ballad but Sepultura style. But the song’s so heavy. It’s very heavy. There’s lots of atmosphere, just creating momentum. That song is really special and very different to anything we ever did. It’s going to be a challenge to bring the song on stage. We can present the song a little differently on stage, y’know? There’s so much going on.
What guitars are you using?
Well lots of things. I don’t like to stay with one guitar. I’m using a Fender Stratocaster and some Jacksons, mostly the Randy Rhoads model with EMGs and a Floyd Rose. I’m also using a Brazillian guitar that I’m developing, a signature model which is called Seizi. And it’s from a luthier here in Sao Paulo, an amazing guy who is doing a beautiful job. It’s good to have my own instrument. I’ve used ESP, Fernandes, all the other brands, y’know? And I’m using the Orange amplification for the last year or so, and I’m in love with it, man. It’s fucking great. I use it on the album and I’m using it live as well. I’m using the Rockerverb 100. And it’s working great.
Your tone always has that midrange punch, which isn’t so common in metal, and it’s very direct.
Yeah, I like a tone that’s real, y’know? I love the Mesa Boogie sound and we used that for the last, whatever, 20 years, the TriAxe and the Strategy 500… it’s great and stuff, but it’s dead, y’know? That sound is very… well, I guess I feel I explored all the possibilities of that sound over 20 years, so it was really good to have the option of Orange and a whole different range. It’s great.
Tell me more about the signature guitar. What do you need in a guitar at this point?
Of course I need a guitar that can handle the sound of Sepultura. I’ve been using the EMG 81 and 85 for years, and it’s working great. It has to stay in tune, of course. I’ve played so many different instruments. It’s more about the attitude. If you have that attitude, that attack on the instrument, it’s gonna responds. You can use so many different pieces of equipment in so many different situations but I learned to play with a certain tradition and to make it happen. So I guess with so many different guitars, I respect them so much but this is the perfect guitar for me.
I have some friends in Brazil who have told me how hard it is to get instruments. What was it like for you starting out? Did you have access to good instruments or did you have to learn on junk?
It’s true, I had to learn on junk. In the 80s I started on an acoustic guitar and later I got more interested in the electric guitar. In the 80s an Italian company came to Brazil and started making copies of the Fender Stratocaster and they were great. They tuned very well and you could do something on the instrument. Good pickups, good wood. So to start a new career as a musician it was perfect. But strings, the right picks and especially amps was very hard. And the big change was when I got my first distortion pedal, a Boss DS-1, the orange one. That was a whole new revolution!
I know what you mean! I didn’t get my first distortion pedal until eight months after I got my electric guitar, and I remember my mum screaming “What the hell is that!”
Yeah! It’s just power, y’know!
Sepultura Australian tour dates:
Melbourne: 170 Russell St, Friday 3rd October
Brisbane: The Hi-Fi, Saturday 4th October
Sydney: Manning Bar, Sunday 5th October