Latest release: Machine Messiah (Nuclear Blast)
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Seemingly impervious to heavy music trends of the past two decades, Sepultura’s dogged determination and conviction keeps propelling them forward. After more than 30 years in the game, the Brazilian veterans release new LP Machine Messiah, a solid exercise in visceral heavy metal. Loud conversed with guitarist Andreas Kisser just prior to Christmas about the record, former band-mates celebrating the anniversary of the tribal-metal landmark Roots and nostalgia.

Q: Sepultura’s most recent tour of Australia followed a ten-year gap between visits. Can we expect a return sooner than that this time around?
A: I hope so, yeah. The plan (for this album cycle) is to really go everywhere. We have the label which is doing an amazing job, we have a strong album, a line-up and all the structure from Sepultura. Of course we had already planned the tour with Kreator in Europe in February, then we go to the States with Testament, the summer festivals in Europe. Hopefully in the second half of the year next year, or early 2018 we will have the chance to be back in Australia with the new album. I hope that soon we can announce dates.

Q: You mentioned touring with Kreator and Testament. It seems like in some respects that nostalgia in heavy metal is more prevalent than ever, at least regarding the touring circuit. Do you sense that after being in Sepultura for three decades?
A: It is a great moment for metal, no doubt about it. But I don’t think it’s a nostalgia. It’s great to see bands, the dinosaurs of metal releasing great new albums. It is great to listen to Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, Death Angel, Suicidal Tendencies. All great bands that really put out something really interesting and very special. The year 2016 was a really exciting year for metal because of that. A lot of bands are on the road and putting out some really interesting new material. It is great to be a part of this as well, with the new album and the possibilities of touring with so many different bands and stuff. I think the fans are the ones who are going to win, because there are so many different options nowadays. Like I said, it’s great to see those great bands with new stuff, not only relating to the past.

Q: I’d agree that many of those bands are releasing some of their strongest music now. But from a nostalgia point of view I’m more referring to being on the road, and package tours of the veteran thrash bands – for instance Slayer, Anthrax and Death Angel on the same bill. That potentially draws hibernating long-time fans out again for that nostalgia fix.
A: I see, yeah. That’s true, but at the same time it is also true with those packages to open room for local bands and new bands to be a part of this as well. Of course it’s not easy to go on the road, especially in metal, and if we join forces it’s better for everyone. With Kreator as well we are sharing many things here and there to make it happen. So both bands can have a great time on-stage, and it’s better for the fans as well. I think it’s something that is really healthy for the whole scene.

Q: Indeed. On the new album, it strikes me that the band has continued to push themselves, even this far into the career. Derrick Green is broadening his vocal approach, and your solo on ‘Cyber God’ is some of your best work in eons. There’s even a brass section incorporated. Sepultura is in a position whereby you could have rested on your laurels, but opted not to.
A: Yes, perfect, that’s what we are, it is our motive (laughs). A challenge, something that feeds us, something that motivates us to go different places. And we have the privilege to travel the world and see so many different countries, different music and different ideas and everything that it keeps our minds fresh. This urge to put out some new elements and new experiences. Regardless of the formation of the band, you see our history. Every album has a new, different thing going on, and that kept us alive and interesting. For us it’s not boring to go and play the same style of music all the time. So it’s great. It’s great to work with the violins from Tunisia, it was great to put a classical guitar and an instrumental song together with the band, and the brass section as you mentioned. The Hammond that’s on the instrumental song as well.
It’s great that we have that possibility, and we are never afraid to try out new stuff. I think that’s where you learn. If you don’t risk in art in general, it’s not art at all. Because you’re either going to copy yourself or somebody else, and you’re not going to new ground or a different opinion or a different anything. I think the risk is a part of what art’s supposed to be, and we respect that a lot. And that’s why we are not afraid. That’s why we changed producers, to have a different perspective. Changed studios to go to a different country, and to have a different atmosphere and everything. Everything’s an influence, and in the end everything’s very positive. It takes us some different places, and we know each other better, and ourselves better, because we break our limits. We go to new places, and that’s where we grow as musicians and as people.

Q: Recent Sepultura releases have often been densely constructed concept albums, or at least featured an over-arching lyrical theme. Can you tell us about the message being conveyed by Machine Messiah?
A: The main subject that we talk throughout the whole album, although it’s not a real conceptual album, is the robotisation of society. It’s not like a sci-fi, futuristic idea, it’s what we see today. Computers, smart phones, Google glasses, chips under the skin. We see families in the restaurant with their smart phones, they’re not talking to each other. People at concerts filming the show instead of really being there at the show, and enjoying themselves like the good old days (laughs). It’s footage that they’re not even going to watch later, you know? It is weird. And even to get a girl today you need a fucking Tinder (laughs). It’s like, go to a bar, go talk to people, have the eye contact. Hunt, be a man (laughs). Nowadays you just push a button and you have sex, it’s like very robotic. So in that sense we touched the subject of, where is this balance? And if this balance is possible. At least I see the robotisation and robots really doing stuff for us, and not helping us develop our human abilities and brain capability. We’re getting lazier and dumber, not better. So it is that type of balance that we’re discussing on Machine Messiah.

Q: I’ve heard a few musicians suggest that the next four years could be a great time for music like punk rock and heavy metal, with incensed young people starting bands and railing against the likes of the Trump administration. There would be no shortage of fodder to inspire the next crop of young musicians.
A: (Laughs) That’s very true, man. It’s going to be another Ronald Reagan era (laughs) that’s really going to inspire Jello Biafras around the world. We have to see the positive side of everything I guess, so because that’s where you learn to deal with certain things, instead of being swallowed by those things. And music of course is a great valve of escape and a great tool to express what you think with music and lyrics. I guess it could be like a new wave of great hardcore/punk attitude bands.

Q: Moving away from the new record, Max and Iggor (Cavalera) have been undertaking touring in support of the 20th anniversary of Sepultura’s Roots album. Did you have any inclination to commemorate it, or the 25th anniversary of Arise perhaps? Or are you not much of a fan of milestone tours overall?
A: Not really, man, it seems like a waste of time actually. It doesn’t bring anything new to your career. Of course we did like special occasions, like we played the whole Arise here in São Paulo (for) the anniversary of this metal club here in São Paulo, very traditional. So we did like a special show for them. We did another special show with (1993’s) Chaos A.D in its entirety in another special project in a different place. But it is a show or two, it’s not like a tour. It seems to me that it is like something that’s not going to bring anything new. We never had that kind of intention to do something like that.
Of course, Roots is an amazing album, 20 years, we’re so proud to be a part of such an amazing project. People talk about Roots still today, it influenced so many different people, it sounds fucking amazing, it sounds like we did (it) yesterday. And we play songs from the Roots album all the time. Of course, in this past year we brought songs like ‘Endangered Species’, ‘Dictatorshit’, ‘Spit’, ‘Ambush’; songs that we didn’t play for many years, because of that type of celebration. But to put everything on the side and only do Roots, for us would be something very weak. And we are so much focused on what we’re doing now, having a new album with a label and everything. Respecting our past but live in the present. We are here now, and that’s what matters the most. I think we have to really live today and not really be locked in our past.

Q: Are you fine with someone else being out there playing that whole album though? If the current line-up of Sepultura doesn’t want to do it that’s their prerogative, but are you content for them to take those songs to the people?
A: I don’t care, everyone does whatever they want. If they feel that’s good for their career, whatever, man. It doesn’t change anything that I do. It’s like a… It’s weird to comment on something like that because for me, it’s weird (laughs). I don’t see the point. They have so many different projects. Actually they left Sepultura for those projects, and now they’re playing Sepultura. I don’t understand that kind of attitude. But whatever, man, I respect any type of opinion and of course I don’t agree with them all but people are free to do whatever they want. You just have to live with the consequences, that’s all.

Q: Does it frustrate you though when you discover that many of the band’s Roadrunner albums are being reissued in a special collection, just weeks after the new Sepultura album is released? Or do you choose not to focus on it?
A: I just don’t focus on that. It’s something that we have no part on it. I think every time we have something new this kind of… Situation that people make their business decisions based on our decisions. Which is kind of weak for us. We’re not a part of it, it’s something that’s so… There’s no soul, there’s no heart, there’s no art. It’s basically a product with no art, no artistic value, let’s say. But whatever, contracts are there; they have the right to do whatever they want. Which is bullshit, but whatever.
It’s just the bad timing, I mean, for us. For them it could be good, but it’s something that we have no part on it and like I said, we’d rather focus on something that we’re doing now. We just celebrated 30 years – they missed the train (laughs). They’re supposed to release that on the 30-year celebration, not now. Especially something that doesn’t include the whole career of Sepultura, which is bullshit. But anyway, it is what it is and it’s going to be out. I guess for the fans it’s something really cool, but I wish Sepultura could be involved in that Sepultura release, if you know what I mean?

Q: Certainly. Has it been a while since you’ve sat down and listened to one of your very early recordings from start to finish?
A: Like I said, we celebrated the 30-year anniversary and in doing so we played songs that we didn’t play before. You remember your history, you remember the old days and you have memories from the rehearsals. How we wrote this, how we wrote that. It was really cool to see that Sepultura’s history is so rich, unique and beautiful. Yeah, during that process I listened to all the albums and tried to compose a real special set-list that represented the whole history of the band. We recorded a DVD of that show in São Paulo two years ago, celebrating 30 years of Sepultura. One of the most complete shows we ever did and it’s on record, on register and it’s going to come out as part of our documentary movie that’s coming out next year.
So it’s great to have that feeling again. Remembering stuff, especially me and Paulo (Jr, bass) and Derrick. Derrick’s 20 years in Sepultura next year, so we have a few memories to share, and it only made us stronger, brought us together even stronger. It was an amazing experience to have such a mark and the way we celebrated was beautiful.

Q: Any famous last words?
A: Just thank you for the opportunity to talk to you guys, hopefully we’re going to announce Australian dates very soon. Thank you for the support during these 32 years and hopefully see you all soon.