Latest release: Dying Alive (Nuclear Blast/Riot!)
Having graced Australian shores twice before, the German thrash metal workhorse that is Kreator will be in Australia again this coming April. Loud recently tracked down Mille Petrozza for a chat about their monstrous live release titled Dying Alive. Thrash metal fans can check it out as a precursor to the double headed thrash beast tour to these parts with Death Angel in tow. Here, Mille divulges the work and dedication that goes into bringing worldwide audiences a walloping, powering metal performance.
Having listened to the CD version of the excellent Dying Alive release, did that project impact on the performances when you’re also thinking about the sonic qualities and live recording process?
Yeah, you do get a little more nervous I think but not to the extent where you fuck up. Every night that we go onstage, we try to give 150 percent but when you know that it is being recorded that night, you are a little more nervous than you are able to. You do the right thing and hope that nothing goes wrong technically. There was a little bit of pressure before we went on but it disappeared after the first couple of songs.
What were the logistics like to organise it given you had twenty four cameras?
The reason that we recorded this in Oberhausen was to be on the safe side. The team that recorded the DVD was from Essen which is our home town. I produced it and we made sure that the people that recorded the DVD traveled with us for two weeks before we got to the final show to make sure that the camera positions were right. Two days before the show, they got to the hall, they went in and inspected the room to check out all the camera spots and to make sure that everything was smooth and nothing would go wrong. It was then an easy project because we had time to prepare for it.
You’ve done live projects before but I’m guessing not of this magnitude. How does it sit with you compared to your other live Kreator projects?
Ah, I think it is a case of us having more control and this is why we are very happy with the way that it came out. For the first time ever, we had complete control over everything that happened and that was very important for us.
How does it compare to Wacken live performances seen on the deluxe edition of Phantom Antichrist?
That Wacken show was not in our hands, you know, the thing with that is you get what they record. They record every band that plays that day. It is all so easy to have a huge audience at Wacken who are there to party but it is a different atmosphere. Of course, Wacken is special, magic and great so that when we did it, w made sure it was a great experience. This latest DVD though is more about Kreator or more about us and our fan base in our home town which in my opinion has a whole different vibe to it. I produced the project and we brought in a director.
Do you tamper with the classic songs at all in the live front given how metal has changed over the last twenty years?
Metal has changed, there are new bands but the classic bands are still there. The new bands coming up means new genres have been popping up over the last few years. I think it is one the healthiest type of music in the world in that there is always something happening. Some things are good, some a little funny or not so good but there is always movement so that the music is always developing.
Is it hard to produce your own live performance objectively?
Not really, that is what we do, we are a live band. It is hard to capture the energy and the magic. It is definitely different to be in the concert hall seeing Kreator playing live than it is to see it in your living room. But, we try to give the DVD audience some kind of impression of what it is like to see Kreator live. For that matter, I’d say that we achieved that, especially with the hectic mosh pit cameras and cameras on our guitar belts that we used. It is full chaos and total energy which comes across when you watch the DVD.
How do you think your classic songs like ‘Betrayer’ and ‘Flag of Hate’ have changed in the live setting over the years? Have you modified them at all?
We’ve played them for so many years now that I’d say we play them more convincingly.
Lyrically, Kreator has a focus on oppression and injustice. Are you influenced at all by other German bands like Accept, Destruction or Sodom?
Ah, I don’t really think about that. They are good at what they do and we do what we do. It is entertaining and we try to be entertaining as they try to do so too. We respect each other a lot.
When Kreator was initially coming up it was probably just before thrash really exploded internationally. Also, you’ve toured with Exodus and Death Angel. Did you find that American thrash and the big four had an impact on yourself?
To me, the big four is a label to justify a tour. Yes, I enjoyed them and I couldn’t get to their recent tour but I think that it is a good thing. To me it is about the music, not about the big four or a marketing strategy for the next hype. I respect those American bands and what they did. If it wasn’t for them Kreator would not exist. I keep that in mind but we all go our own way and follow our own path but they have been a huge influence and I will always be thankful for that. We’re Kreator, that’s it, we’re not a part of the big four or the big hype or whatever, you know.
Is there any irony that Hordes of Chaos made Kreator bigger in the States and you were there recently with Accept yet you’re not a new band?
Not really because metal is something that cannot be ignored. The mass media and MTV tried in the nineties to make people think that metal was dead. Once the Internet came up, all of a sudden metal could not be ignored anymore. As much as people are now complaining about illegal downloads or whatever, the Internet is something where there is total anarchy. People pick whatever they want to hear. To me it shows that metal cannot be ignored and is stronger than ever. It took a while and there have been ups and downs but now it is one of the strongest genres in the world. A lot of the pop acts and mainstream acts would dream of the record sales that some metal bands have so we’re really happy to be a part of it.
When you did the video for ‘Betrayer’ that was a different age in the music industry. Now video has a totally different means of reaching audiences. Has doing video clips been of use to Kreator?
It is a gimmick to be honest but is definitely useful. For YouTube we have so many clips up and it is a creative expression. I don’t want to dismiss it and of course in the 80’s or 90’s there were rock programmes that played those clips. Now, the musical television format has completely disappeared off the face of the Earth. But even then, metal is stronger than ever so it makes total sense. Nowadays, in an experimental way it is interesting to see what a director does with my song. It is an exciting process and an exciting thing to experience – that there is some song lyrics and then somebody comes up with an idea for a visual concept. That is something that on a creative level, I always want to do.
You’ve recently acquired a signature guitar with Jackson guitars.
Yes and not only that but I’ve also got a signature amp as well. Jackson guitars have always been great guitars and they have always been my instrument of choice. I have always played them. I used to buy those guitars so I feel very honoured to be a part of the family now. They treat me well and fight with me on my side and they always had so now it is a great feeling to have such huge support from Jackson. They are not only one of the best but are the best guitar brand for metal, in my opinion.
Did the signature instrument evolve over the years?
It is basically what I play live with a little modification for my usage. I came up with the concept of creating a guitar that is affordable that people with not so much money can buy. I know how that feels because when the band was starting I was happy that there was equipment out there that was not so expensive but had great sound. I want to give that to the next generation, I want to create a guitar that is affordable and playable in a live situation. I play the exact same model of guitar that is in the shop, it is not as though I get some custom model of it.
The solos on Dying Alive have more guitar solo trade offs happening. That wasn’t quite as much the case with Kreator years ago. Would you agree there are more trade off guitar solos live between yourself and Sami [Yli-Sirniö – guitar]?
Yeah, yeah, that is one of the things that we came up with on Phantom Antichrist as we like that kind of stuff. We grew up on bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and listened to those bands all the time so I am really happy with doing that. We’ve done it before on Coma of Souls but on the recent album there is a lot more it, yes.
Do you pre-meditate these solos or improvise it?
I improvise but Sami writes solos. I kind of write the beginning and the end of solos but leave the middle open for my mood on the day that I play and record. I depend on having some of the solos to be the same every night for example the one in ‘Extreme Agression’. I play that solo the same every night but there are other solos played a little differently.
I believe you covered Iron Maiden’s ‘Number of the Beast’.
Yes, that was just for fun, there was no deeper meaning to it. That was just for the magazine Metal Hammer who wanted to come up with a tribute CD and asked us if we would like to record that song. So we did it but then the tribute CD never happened so then we still had the song. We like it, it is okay and sounds like Kreator trying to sound like Iron Maiden. I didn’t try to sound like Bruce [Dickinson], I just sang as myself and I think that makes it more of a special thing. The trademark is you can tell that it is Kreator because it doesn’t sound like Iron Maiden (laughs).
Kreator is touring with Death Angel in April:
16/4: Billboard, Melbourne VIC
17/4: HQ, Adelaide SA
18/4: Manning Bar, Sydney NSW
19/4: HiFi Bar, Brisbane QLD
20/4: Amplifier Bar, Perth WA