Latest release: The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart (Nuclear Blast)

With a new drummer and a recent album that has received the best response to a Sepultura recording since the 1990s, the Brazilian metal pioneers will finally return to Australian shores at the beginning of next month after more than a decade away from Australia. During a hectic week for the man, Loud caught up with vocalist Derrick Green via Skype.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen you down here. You must be looking forward to getting down to Australia once again.
Yeah we’ve always been wanting to come back again. It’s been crazy timing but we’re excited to be able to make it happen. It’s been ten years or maybe more. So much has been going on since we’ve been there so we’ve got so much we need to play there. I can’t wait.

It must be difficult to put together a set for somewhere like Australia that you haven’t played in so long, because there’s always stuff that you have to play, and like you said you’ve done a lot since you were here last. Is it going to be a headache putting a list together?
We have a rough idea. We’ve been playing a setlist that’s great. It has a lot of the elements of classic Sepultura along with a few new songs, so we’ll just add a few new songs to it. We’re already playing 22, 23 songs but it has been a long time since we’ve been there so we can definitely add a few more that setlist to make it something really amazing.

You’ve been a part of Sepultura for a very long time now, but do you still find people out there who see you as the new guy in the band?
Oh definitely! (laughs) There’s always going to be people who say that! Even 16, 17 years later, people love to… they’re still trapped in that – it’s hard for them to change, to see change. It’s difficult for them to see change, especially in a band that already had a formation for a while. It’s something that happens. It’s a life change. But with this change, there’s been a generation of kids, of fans, of people that have gotten into Sepultura in the past 17 years that have developed into a strong fanbase, and plenty of older fans too. But I didn’t go into this to be in a popularity contest. For me it was to have the experience of travelling around the world and rocking and playing and doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

Tell us about the latest album now. I have to say that it seems to be the best received Sepultura album in a very long time. You’ve always been a very angry band, but this one seems to be the most aggressive thing you have done in quite a while.
It has a lot of elements that were happening at the time. A lot of feelings and frustrations that we were feeling within ourselves and with certain topics and certain issues and certain things that were happening in life in general. But I think there was also the combination of a very intense drummer – Eloy Casagrande – it was his first time recording with us. He’s a young guy, 22 years old, and he just weighed in there and it set a lot of things off in the writing process and it just lifted… a new phase in the band that we could go to. I think this intensity rubbed off on us and it moved us into a completely different phase. I think also recording with Ross Robinson and recording at Venice Beach in his studio and working with Ross – the other guys have worked with Ross before – he’s a very passionate person, he’s very passionate about his music and he brought us to an intensity level that the band really needed. He brought us closer together as a band and he was really there when we needed it. It enabled us to bring out the honesty in any note that we were going to bring out on this album. He was just somebody who was really phenomenal to work with.

What’s the story behind the album’s title? It almost doesn’t fit on the cover.
(laughs) We had some pretty crazy ideas when he started thinking of ideas for names and titles and concepts for albums, you’re really not afraid to put anything out there. I think living in Brazil really helps too because I’m so isolated from a lot of the things going on in the US or Europe. We have a different perspective on seeing things. Andreas had seen this movie Metropolis, and the first thing you see in this film in this phrase and it really struck a chord in him, and he told me, and I got it. It was interesting, because I thought that people won’t be happy about how long the title is (laughs), but I don’t really care. I think it’s a good title and I think it really captures the essence of what we’re trying to get across, so we don’t really care.

There are certain lyrical themes that seem to weave their way through the album.
Lyrically we were really concentrating on certain things that were happening around us at the time. There was a new Pope that was being, I don’t know… inducted? And that was really huge here in Brazil. And for the Church that was really great, but we wanted to show a different side. The Church is all about honesty, and they always preach this. We just felt that they can be really hypocritical and we wanted to show the other side that the Church doesn’t like to show but exists within. So the song ‘The Vatican’ was about the different Popes who were horrible, that were really, really, really cruel, who just sort of fade into past and they don’t like to bring it up. But I think it’s important to show that humanity, that realness, that people can be really shitty despite who they are in the Church. So we went there, and then there was these natural disasters that were happening that were really, really powerful and watching video footage of these tsunamis and things like that… it just makes you feel so small, and just the fact that you can’t do anything about it a lot of times – it’s just nature wiping out whatever’s in its way. It’s powerful and resetting the planet in a crazy way. It was just have having respect for nature, wanting to write a song about how intense and powerful it can be. It’s immense and it’s scary. And then there was this traumatic event here that was tragic – there was a fire in a club and a lot of kids died. Just viewing the coffins in the school was an unreal sight… parents having to deal with the grief of losing a child was pretty heavy. The song is called ‘Grief’ and we have never done a song like that. Going deep into our feelings and that weight that each person has where you don’t even feel like you want to live anymore, that sort of tragedy was scary to write about. That’s very human, a very different side of humanity that people don’t like to think about that make us. It was a lot of intense stuff we were writing about that brought out a lot. It was about our fears and confronting them.

Sepultura has always been a band that hasn’t been afraid to tackle topics like that in the past.
I think it’s important to really push ourselves to do something we’ve never done before. I think as an artist you should never be afraid to express yourself, to communicate and to evolve and to learn from that evolution.

Speaking of evolution, it must be very frustrating for you to be in a band that people often have a very rigid idea of how you should sound.
(laughs) When I got into music, I didn’t realise how people outside – fans – try to shape a musician or move a musician or a band in a certain way. At times I’m like, why am I fighting you? This is something that I’m expressing. I think it’s a disaster when an artist tries to do something that they think the public would like. They’re going to lose! Because everyone has their own opinion! There’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t like this or wants more of this. It’s hard in the world of metal because a lot of dudes want a band to sound exactly the same way that they do on their favourite album. That’s unfortunate, because a lot of bands adapt to that. They have this winning formula and they stick to it. Let’s stay safe, not change it too much… That’s boring! That’s not why we get into music. To stay safe, to stay the same. That’s something really conservative, and I got into music for the complete opposite reason! To be not safe, to be completely wild and to go to places that I never imagined I could go, and that’s how I want to keep it. When I joined the band I wanted to be in a band like that. I admired the stuff they had done before I was in Sepultura and I thought it was amazing that each album sounded different and that they were evolving and it’s great that we’re keeping with the tradition and we’re not afraid to challenge ourselves.

I talk to a lot of bands who say that often the fans feel like they own the band. It must be a very strange position to be in.
Absolutely! There’s bands that I am fanatical about, but I’m under no delusions that it’s anything to do with me! The band can do whatever they want to do. I think it’s important to have this level of respect too. Respect the artist and let them do what they want. I’m a fan of Metallica. I may not like everything they’ve done, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna hate them now that they’ve changed! Let them do whatever they want. That’s why I liked them from the very beginning. That’s what drew me to them in the first place.

Describe what the last twelve months has been like for Sepultura.
We’ve just been touring all over, playing some crazy shows and interesting places. We just came back from China, our first time there, and that was wonderful. It’s so incredible to experience somewhere so magical and just having fans see us for the first time is just an overwhelming feeling. We’ve been touring Europe a lot, doing a lot of the festivals there and we also did a club tour in Spring there which was one of the best tours we’ve done. We also did a lot of shows in the interior of Brazil. We also did Rock in Rio and we recorded a DVD with Les Tambours du Bronx. That’s a French percussion group that plays twenty oil drums on stage with us and we combine the show doing Sepultura songs and some of their songs together.

Having just been to China for the first time in your career, there must still be plenty of places left to go and things to do for Sepultura.
Oh yeah, there’s a lot! I mean, there’s a list! (laughs) It’s never-ending you know. Because it’s really like a growing process for us. We’re changing as individuals and as a group and things around us are changing so we’re influenced by these changes. So we’re always searching and finding new things that we want to do, which is wonderful. It’s a great position to be in.

Sepultura plays three shows in Australia next month:
3/10: 170 Russell St, Melbourne VIC
4/10: HiFi Bar, Brisbane QLD
5/10: Manning Bar, Sydney NSW