Latest release: Machine Messiah (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.sepultura.com
Over thirty years since they began making noisy metal in the heart of Brazil and twenty since the towering Derrick Green took over the vocalist position, Sepultura has changed in exponential directions musically and thematically. What never seems to change is the barrage of criticism from certain sectors of the metal community at the band’s every turn, from constant disparaging comparisons to the music of their seminal days to the downright disrespectful calls for Green to step aside from the band he’s fronted since 1998 to allow founder Max Cavalera to come back. Despite it all, the band have continued to follow their own path, leading most recently to Machine Messiah, one of their best-ever received releases. On the eve of their Australian tour with Death Angel, Derrick spoke with Brian over Skype about fan expectations, artistic evolution and THAT point of conjecture.
It’s great to see that Sepultura are returning to Australia again.
That’s a goal of ours. It’s a place that’s always so special for us to play so we like to visit as often as possible.
What are your thoughts on the last album?
We’re really happy with the way everything turned out. It was a joy to make this album and we’re really happy that so many things turned out so smoothly. Being able to work with Jens Bogren was something that was so crucial to us making this album. We’ve been touring on it now and it been getting great reactions. We’re doing six of those songs and it’s been a joy and I definitely think that this one of the best periods of me being in the band and what I’ve experienced
The whole thing about the split of the band continues even now. Are you just sick of that now? I know I am, and I’m not even in the band!
Right (ha!) Yeah, it’s boring. But it’s something that’s always been there since I’ve joined the band, so I’ve gotten used to hearing all the nonsense. It’s definitely ridiculous. It’s been over 20 years I’ve been in the band and we’ve been doing a lot of different things. Certainly there’s been a lot of people who have changed their mind and come along and checked out a live show and have not just been going on hearsay, and then there’s people who’ve never changed. And that’s ok! I’m not trying to win a popularity contest or anything. I got into music because I love what I do and being in an underground scene and a scene where it’s not about being as popular as possible. What’s really important to me is being able to play and to play well and to create and to grow as an artist, and I believe we’ve been able to do that as a band.
I remember seeing you on your first visit to Australia with Sepultura in 1999. Can you tell us what it was like to go out with Sepultura for the first time?
It was pretty mindblowing. At one point, I was doing something that I’d always wanted to do, which was tour the mworld and play music. It was a big thing. It was something that I’d been working for since I was 14, 15 years old, so I very excited about that. But at the same time it was terrifying. Going to so many different places and not knowing anyone and gettin readjusted to a totally different culture, a different country and surroundings and no family. It was intense. But like I said, the idea and the passion I had, knowing what I wanted to do took over that fear and pushed me to do my best.
Sepultura’s been through a few musical phases over that last twenty years. You seem to have been changed it up a little on every album. People have reacted a bit differently each time – some haven’t been taken too well and others have. That’s really very much part of the creative process – has it been fulfilling for you?
It’s something that’s been very natural for us. I think it’s something that was very natural to Sepultura before I was even in the band. Not everybody’s going to like what you do. As an artist you have to realise that. There’s certain things that I don’t like as a fan. You can’t be afraid to put out there what you’re feeling, what you want to communicate. I think that’s what kept us going, our ability to change in a natural way without really forcing anything. Individuals are changing everyday with what we are encountering in our lives. Travelling the world, meeting different people, different cultures, hearing different music, talking to different people. Things that are happening politically around us in different countries. These things have an impact on us. So we change after two years, every year. I think it’s something that’s always been happening, but not everyone’s gonna like waht you do. You have to take risks, you have to make changes. I don’t want to die doing the same thing over and over again. As an artist that would be grim and very depressing. I love the aspect of opening people’s minds. Not everybody’s going to get everything right away. I’m sure it might take people a few listens or a few years. They might come around. There might be something that gets them excited right away or something they didn’t really understand at first. At first you have to give them their space and time and you have to go in with the idea that you’re not going to please everybody and that’s not the point. As an artist, the point is to show what you do. Either people get it or they don’t get it.
People are always saying that Sepultura isn’t the same band that they grew up with, and that’s kind of true because it isn’t! It isn’t even the same band it was when you first joined, because that was twenty years ago!
Yes, and I don’t think it’s even the same band is was when Andreas joined it either. Even before he joined, back to Bestial Devastation. After he joined it definitely moved on to something else and it’s the same with everyone else leaving and changing the formation. It’s interesting being in the band and hearing people’s opinions. Like, “I didn’t like Roots. That killed the band and I only like the old, old stuff”. There’s always somebody that doesn’t like something! I’m used to that. That’s ok. I respect people’s opinions and everything and really without those changes we wouldn’t be here today so we’re still very strong. I think were stronger than ever in so many aspects. Musically we’re playing very very well, we’re very confident and we’re very happy. The ultimate is being happy with each other and I think you see that on stage.
It’s interesting that you mention that people don’t like Roots because I know people hated that when it came out but Max and Iggor toured that album last year and it sold out everywhere they played. People love it now. Do you think you would find the same thing if you decided to do one of the albums you sang on?
We play some songs from Against, the first album that I did, and people are really loving that in the set and the reaction is completely different from the first time playing it and touring it and everything. It’s incredible to see people freak out and know the material from when I started twenty years ago, able to get it now, and seeing those changes… playing new material, and then having the feedback immediately and then seeing the reaction 20 years later. It’s incredible. It take times for things to sink in sometimes. But it’s great that it does sink in.
Is there an album or a particular phase that really stands out as being a real favourite for you?
I love everything that we’ve done. I don’t know if there’s a partcular phase that really stand out because if you take away any of those lements everything is kind of connected. I’m really proud of the fact that we were able to do Against. It was a very important album, just from the aspect of keeping the band going on. It was such a hectic time and there was so much going on but we were able to complete it. There was something many different things that were changing and moving but we were able to get through those challenges. Without that album, it would be hard to be really talking right now!
It’s important not to take something out of context too really isn’t it, because a band is their entire body of work. Obviously you’ve never felt like you’ve been forced to be stuck in that old school thrash direction.
I think that something that really drives us together is the fact that we really love to experiment and to evolve and move forward with ideas and challenge ourselves in the writing aspect and try to do interesting things that we’re feeling. I think there’s something that’s been able to keep the band alive and to not just recreate ourselves and do what we’ve done before. I think would just be the death of the band.