On June 24 2011 SEPULTURA released their 12th studio album ‘Kairos’, a recording inspired by the mechanics of time and occurances from the band’s 25 years of existence. SEPULTURA guitarist Andreas Kisser discusses the new album and what makes it tick in this exclusive interview with NZRock!
So how has the UK been treating you?
Yeah it’s been great. We just arrived here pretty much. We did a show yesterday in Norwich and it was pretty cool. Today we are in Dorset, tomorrow London which is always great, you know it’s important. And then SEPULTURA has a break and I’ll join ANTHRAX for two weeks and then SEPULTURA meet in July and goes back to tour in August. It’s exciting you know, the new album is out, we’re starting to play new songs and everything is great.
How is the audience receiving the new songs that you’re playing from ‘Kairos’?
It’s great, over all the response has been very positive. The album came out not so long ago although some people have downloaded it already. We’ve been playing new songs since last year pretty much. Before we recorded the album we already played one new song which came out as ‘Defeat’ and is part of the set now. And we are playing ‘Kairos’ and ‘Relentless’ and you know, we just finished practicing the cover song we did from MINISTRY ‘Just One Fix’ and that’s going to be a part of the show tonight. So slowly we are putting the songs on the set and they are fitting well and the crowd already knew some of them so it’s a great feeling.
It seems like some of the die hard SEPULTURA fans can be hard to please but ‘Kairos’ has been getting a lot of positive feedback on the net as well…
It’s good to have such feedback, especially after an album that talks about our long history. You know we are influenced by ourselves and it’s a very intimate album, very personal. We talk about our families and our relationship with our fans and the labels etc. It’s cool to see that everybody somehow feels a part of that history and they are. You know with out all of the people around and the fans it wouldn’t be possible to what we did and what we do all around the world, still playing and touring and being on a new label. So it’s great to see that excitement and people commenting about the songs and comparing them to older stuff. It’s cool, I mean it’s comparable because a little bit of everything that we did is there. Not only the older but up to the point of ‘A-Lex’ you know, all the experience we had with movies, soundtracks and books, everything is there. It’s great to see that the response is going well so far and it’s pretty early in the process as well so it’s very exciting.
The lead guitar work that you’ve done on the album is awesome, you’ve really let loose. Considering the subject material, and the intensity at which you were playing. Was it a cathartic experience for you?
Yeah I mean up to the ‘Arise’ album I have a lot of leads and melodic stuff and octaves and shit like that. And then we started really dealing with precussion and more rhythms and at that point my lead parts to percussive ways like dissonant, tri-chords and stuff like that. Just more noisey stuff instead of scales. And I don’t know, this time, because we are influenced by everything that we ever did, I think the leads are coming back with a revenge haha! For a long time I didn’t really sit down and work on leads and that’s what we wanted to do in these songs. We didn’t want to do like 15, 20 or 30 songs jamming and then choose whatever, 10 or 15 you know. We wanted to limit ourselves to work on 9, 10 or 11 songs at the most going back to the days where vinyl gave us that limitation. The classic albums have like 8 or 9 songs and they are fucking amazing. They are still very powerful today like METALLICA’s ‘Master Of Puppets’, or even ourselves with ‘Arise’ which had 9 songs. So we were more focused on the details on each song so that’s why I think the leads, we really sat down and did more work. And the addition of Roy Z producing, he’s an amazing guitar player, a great producer and a great musician. We built some stuff together too. He came with ideas here and there and it was great. It was something that I didn’t do for a long time, paying attention and giving a little more thought and energy to the lead part. It was really worth it. I think it fits with the concept of the album and I really enjoy it a lot.
So at what point did you come up with the concept for this album, what triggered the whole thing off?
Well I think it started when we started celebrating 25 years of SEPTULTURA. Last year we made special t-shirts with a logo saying 1/4 of a century. We put out our own beer in Brazil and some other elements like that. Just to mark this very important point in our career. There are not many bands that stay active for so long. Regardless of changes inside and outside the band we are still jamming and stuff. So I guess it’s the whole concept of time you know. Why are we still here? haha! You know like playing and having a new album etc. I just went after concepts of time. Nobody can define time, neither religion, philosophy or mathematics. Nobody really knows what time really is. On the other hand this is what drives our life since the day we are born so it’s a very intersting paradox you know. It’s so intense that I was going after different names that could define time and I found Kairos which is a very interesting concept of time which is not chronological. It doesn’t have an end or a beginning or the other way around, it doesn’t matter haha! So it’s just like a special moment of opportunity and change and just the now, the present. I think the whole concept of the album is the present, what SEPULTURA is today. Respecting our past, building a future but not being trapped in our past. Not being slaves of what we used to do or what we were. The important thing is what we are now, what we live today. So I guess this is the concept of Kairos and that’s why it’s so personal, we talk about ourselves and I think it’s great to open that kind of door to our fans and they can express themselves too. And like I said it’s been very positive.
A lot of people still have their minds in the past and continue to be fixated on past eras of SEPULTRA. Did that also contribute to you thinking that it was time for an album like this?
Yeah I mean we’ve been receiving a lot of pressure about reunion, and about do this and do that. Or do this and be that. I respect any kind of opinion. Of course I doesn’t agree with all of them but I respect them. If you are alive and you have a mouth and a brain you should speak up. But SEPULTURA is all of that, but none of that haha! It is what is it is and going back in time I think it’s very stupid. It’s so depressing trying to reproduce something that is no there anymore. Why not respect what we are today and take it or leave it. We’re not trapped in our past, we’re not slaves of our past and like I said, we respect that, it’s part of what we are today but we are here today and that’s the most important thing. So the spirit of SEPULTURA is very well alive. We’re still looking for new stuff to do, playing all over the world, going to countries like Cuba and the Philippines and India and South Africa, going everything is great. It’s great you know to be a part of a band like that. We’re always very active and we see the world by ourselves, not only by the media or paper or internet. We feel people, we have fans and friends all over the place and that’s a privilege. That’s what SEPULTURA is and any other concept is just ideas and wishes. I respect them, but we are what we are.
Sticking with this idea of time and kairos, is it hard to believe SEPULTURA has been going for 26 years? Do you ever think back to 1987 or whatever and imagine when you were playing in the band back them?
Yeah I know man, whatever time means haha! It’s funny to talk about an album about time and about history and stuff, it’s all connected somehow. And it’s interesting, it’s very puzzling and that’s what I love about it. You can start discussions and connections and try to find real answers instead of creating storylines for us to believe. And I say from big bang to fucking God creating everything, we’re not sure about anything you know haha! So I guess time is a good starting point really, what is it? We’re born, we die, fossils, the future, whatever. I think that’s the way that the brain can really develop instead of just being born, being baptised and believing in everything that people 500,000 years ago believed. We really have a lot more information now days and a lot more senses to feel things by ourselves and think about stuff by ourselves and try to come up with some answers to at least alleviate the chaos or the suffering that most of the people of this world live in. So I guess it’s a very interesting concept that we did. It was really you know, how can I say… healthy to write lyrics and music, so it’s great.
There are a few tracks on the album that are just 30 seconds of random audio like ‘1433′ and ‘7233′, what do they mean?
Well those are the years of different calendars. The current calendars in different religions and cultures. So 2011 is the Christian one, and the number 1433 is Islamic and the 5000 and something is the Hebrew and the 4000 something is the Chinese so it’s another thing about time. People live in the same moment with a different idea what time it is or what time should be. I think a calendar is a good example of that and the sounds are just like you know, could be anywhere, it could be now, you sitting down in your house listening to radio or watching TV or something. I collect sounds on the road in different situations like a subway station in Madrid, an opera house in Prague or ourselves warming up before going to stage. So you know, just momentos of now, the Kairos moments that we all live every second, whatever that means haha!
What are the stand out tracks for you on the ‘Kairos’ album?
Well I mean it’s hard to say. I really love them all. Like I said because we worked so much on each song instead of just a collection of jammings, I think each one of them is very special. I really like the collaboration we did with the French percussive group Les Tambours du Bronx (”the Drums of the Bronx”) which was something very new for us. We worked before with Brazilian percussion and Japanese percussion and you know orchestral bands but this group is totally new. They have a very unique sound and very unique patterns so it was really cool to do something together with them. And I guess another song that really stands out right now is ‘Dialogue’. It’s a very different song for SEPULTURA, it’s heavy and stuff, but there are some clean parts and some speech kind of voice so its varied. I love the leads too, we worked very hard to get to that point so it was really cool. I think that the whole album in general is pretty awesome.
I really dig ‘Dialogue’ too, and also ‘Mask’. What was the inspiration beind that song? It reminded me of FEAR FACTOR’s ‘Cyberwaste’ just in terms of the theme of people hiding behind the mask of say, a computer screen.
Well for ‘Mask’ its talking about forums on the Internet. Mainly from that because you know, people have nickname and they have like a goofy picture there and they fucking crush your life and your music and everything you… and they don’t show themselves. It’s pretty easy to point fingers when you don’t show your face you know. You put yourself away from the situation acting like God. I’m looking at everything from upstairs here and you’re doing this, and you’re doing that… you know… fuck you man haha! Who are you? Show yourself. So more or less it’s about that. In general there are people all over the Internet like that and not only for music, for anything. You see whenever you post an opinion on the Internet there always comes the righteous owners of the truth saying this and that. So it’s for them, a tribute for those kind of people haha!
so since this album is based on the experience of the band, did you all have a hand in writing the music for this album?
It was basically me and Derek. We do all of the lyrics since he joined the band. It was the same with Max when we used to work together. You know I wrote some lyrics and we did stuff too. Basically with Derek we talk a lot between the concept, I brought this concept and the name. And he went after documentaries and books you know, then we just talk about different stuff and create around the ideas and then we write. He writes his stuff, I write mine then when we go into the studio to work we put it together and do the song. So it’s pretty positive you know, we just pick up a lot about things, he likes to read a lot and we try to bring different concepts and names and directions. Of course you know we talk about that with John and Paolo. When we do the music I think everybody has to be on the same page trying to create the same kind of sounds to reproduce what we want to say. But basically me and Derek were the people who put the words on paper.
On the Internet you’ve been doing a track-by-track breakdown of the album and the only ones you’ve still got to cover ‘Embrace The Storm’, ‘No One Will Stand’ and ‘Structure Violence’. Can you talk about what those songs are about just briefly?
Well ‘No One Will Stand’ talks about our experience on stage pretty much. We’re making an analogy about a war. We take no prisoners you know, we give 100%, it’s like our last show or our last battle and we are there 100% so it’s another concept of a Kairos moment, we are 100% there and not anywhere else. Our mind and our focus are all there. It doesn’t matter where we are in the world and what time we’re on stage, it’s almost like a sacred place for any musician. That’s where you feel the best you know. So it’s trying to reproduce that feeling with lyrics making us soldiers somehow. ‘Structure Violence’ is the song that we did with Les Tambours du Bronx from France. The lyrics talk about freedom pretty much. It was much inspired by the Egyptian riots that started a whole kind of a revolution in the Arab world. It talks about that, there are just a lot of people still looking for air to breathe, if it’s a good air or not they’re going to find out later haha! But they want that and there’s nobody who can stop the wish of a population so it just talks about that. That kind of feeling. I think it was in the same week of the revolution, we were working in the studio and we wrote a song there together trying to mix French, English and Portugese. Derek and I put down some phrases together there so it was very intense at the time that we were making it as well.
You did a solo album in 2009, have you thought about doing another one?
Yes man, it was a great experience to do something like that. You know it’s a double album, very different from the stuff that I do with SEPULTURA with a lot of acoustic and songs in Portugese. So I enjoyed it a lot. Too bad I didn’t have too much time to develop some shows, a tour and really promote it a little more. But I’m very proud of the work and it’s been received very positively all around. And I have material for a next one, but you know, I don’t have a plan right now. I’m just very focused on SEPULTURA, doing this tour, the new album etc. So maybe in the near future there I’ll think about something else. But I have something going on, I always have demos and ideas recording stuff here and there so I have pretty much a good direction on what to do on the next one.
Like you said you’ve got some tour dates filling for Scott Ian from ANTHRAX which is very cool, how’d that opportunity come up?
Well it’s an amazing thing man, I’ve very honoured to be a part of ANTHRAX for two weeks you know and especially in a very positive condition because you know, Scott Ian is at home with his new kid, his first baby who was born on June 19, not so long ago. So he’s going to be home for a very important part of anybody’s life. You know especially a mum and dad have to be all together there and stuff. I’m very honoured and happy that he called me to do this. They didn’t want to lose the shows and I’m so proud, it’s great, I’m ready and the first gig is on Saturday. It’s a Big Four show, the first one, so it’s amazing. I’m very happy. Scott Ian, ANTHRAX and all the Big Four bands are part of my DNA as a musician as a guitar player. To be there is a big honour for me and I’m sure it’s going to be one of the best experiences in my life, it’s going to be great.
Did you have to do a lot of rehearsing by yourself in your spare time?
Yeah definitely. I’ve known most of the songs since I started playing guitar but now of course I’m going through all the details and Scott does a lot of backing vocals so I’m preparing for that too. And they’re going to play two new songs from the upcoming album, so I’m ready, lets go!
It’s been a while since SEPULTURA played in New Zealand, any chance’s of a visit from you guys sometime soon?
I guess it’s been a long time, maybe too long haha! Hopefully with this ‘Kairos’ album we’ll be able to come back because we miss the place. We’ve been there 3 times, and it was always great. We love that part of the world and hopefully we’ll see you all soon! I think 1999 was the last time, too long!
Just before I let you go, in your opinion, what are the top 5 most important SEPULTURA songs for you?
Wow, that’s a tough one haha! I guess ‘Roots Bloody Roots’, ‘Territory’ ah man… I don’t know. I think one of the new ones, ‘Kairos’ I think is a very special song that you need time again to think. I think ‘Troops Of Doom’ as well is one of the most important songs as well from SEPULTURA. And I think ‘Against’, there’s a very special meaning and it was the first song we did with Derek, it was the week he came down to Brazil and I think it was a very important chapter of the SEPULTURA career. It was the beginning of a new phase and that song has a lot of meaning for us. So I guess that’s 5 there right!