Soundcheck done ahead of their gig at Tower Ballroom, Hull, UK, all four members of Brazilian thrash metal legends Sepultura are chilling at the venue. Theirs is the biggest kit load-in this 800-capacity venue has seen since it reopened as a live venue earlier this year; Sepultura the biggest band to date to have played here.
They’ve released 17 albums over almost four decades and visited 80 countries… They’ve influenced countless bands with their genre-defying sounds, shaking up thrash and death metal over the years with groove metal, Brazilian tribal rhythms and orchestral melodies.
For Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jnr, Derrick Green and Eloy Casagrande, the Hull date is one of a handful of smaller-venue gigs to get them back into the rhythm of touring after the release of 2020’s album, Quadra. Not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic and drummer Eloy’s recovery from a broken leg on the US stint of their 2022 world tour.
Guitarist Andreas Kisser sits down to have a chat.
Hull to Hellfest
“It feels good to be back on the road, for sure,” says Andreas, who has been Sepultura’s lead guitarist since 1987. “Europe is our favourite place – at least my favourite place – to tour. We play here even more than we play South America, or Brazil. It’s such an important run in Europe, you know, especially after being away from touring for so long because of the pandemic. We’re here for the summer festivals basically, and we try to fill in the space with concerts like this, working with Eloy’s recovery and with all of us – on really getting that rhythm back.”
From Hull to Hellfest, the band have a full summer of European festivals and other dates lined up. It doesn’t seem it will take them long to get their groove back, adapting setlists and songs as Eloy recovers.
“We’ll be back in Europe again in November 2022, touring with Sacred Reich and Crowbar,” Andreas says when discussing the band’s next moves. “In this set, we jam the whole history of Sepultura,” he says. “Of course, we don’t have time to play it all, from every album, but we’ll be okay, step by step. We’ve been doing this a while… Even Eloy with the recovering broken leg is destroying! It’s crazy, amazing, how he is recovering. It shows how the human being can be. It’s inspirational.”
Good chemistry and energy in the band are an important part of the process, he adds, on stage and off.
“Of course, we all have our arguments about setlist or whatever, but we get along great, we work for the same objective. We enjoy what we do, which is the most important thing. We’re not here forcing a situation, having a miserable life on the road.
“I guess a lot of musicians don’t have a choice, you know, and I understand that. I mean, it’s not an easy life, even if you like it like we do. It’s a hard life on the road, but it’s amazing, that’s what we ask for.”
Quadra, Sepultura’s 17th studio album, was released just before COVID-19 put the world into lockdown. It’s considered by many critics and fans to be Sepultura’s most accomplished, and most experimental, sound in recent years, with a sense that each previous album has been building up to Quadra – is that fair?
“That’s definitely where Quadra came from,” says Andreas. “It came from ourselves, our history, every element musically that we use – percussion, the hardcore influence, death metal, thrash and all the melodic stuff that we like to use as well – the orchestra.
“We kind of use all those elements, but with the vibes of today – using the present as the main thing that pulls our own influences together.
“The number four, the quadrivium, the geometry, the numbers really helped us to build that, because we divided the album into four.
“Even in the beginning, before we even wrote anything [on Quadra] we already knew that the first part would be more thrashy, more old school; the second part more groovy with percussion… so that helped a lot to build the album. We knew the first song of the album, how we wanted to portray it.
“Then we’d experiment on side three with the more instrumental stuff; and at the end more melodic, slower-paced songs. It was a great experience.”
Swedish producer Jens Bogren first worked with Sepultura on their 2017 album, Machine Messiah, and was the obvious choice when it came to the production of Quadra.
Andreas explains: “Machine Messiah was great, but still we were new and getting to know each other a little better, you know? [With Quadra] we repeated it, the same studio, the same producer, the same scenery in Sweden and stuff, so I think we were more comfortable and we knew a little bit better what to expect on a daily basis. It was a much more relaxed atmosphere.
“Jens was much more Brazilian, I guess,” he says, laughing. “Less Swedish, you know? Really getting more into the groove and letting things flow a little more.”
Sepultura’s doors are always open to Jens, says Andreas. So would he, Paulo, Derrick and Eloy work with Jens again on the next album?
“Oh yeah, our doors are always open. We have a great relationship with him and we see he’s a guy who’s always improving and getting better. He’s building a better studio now and he’s working. He never stops learning – he’s a seeker of information and with technology, there’s always something new every day, especially in the sound and music world. So yeah, definitely it’s a possibility. But this is something we’re not even thinking about, we are too much focused on Quadra.
“For us, Quadra is the new album. And for the fans as well, the people really want to see us jamming these new songs. They’re really cool to play live too – a lot of fun. Agony of Defeat is really cool, it’s like a mantra,” he says, laughing. “It has a rhythm that’s really nice live. Guardians Of Earth is a challenge, but I get to bring an acoustic guitar on stage.”
Art and minds
Not only are they cool to play live, back when the pandemic first hit, Quadra tracks including the likes of Isolation and Means To An End were taking on unexpected meaning for fans in a world thrown into lockdowns, loneliness and physical and mental health crises.
“This is true, not only for Sepultura but for art in general,” says Andreas. “It’s because artists read life in a different way. There are a lot of signs throughout society, books, movies… We travel the world a lot, we talk to a lot of people and it brings new ideas and influences. You have to try to see different points of view and listen to different perspectives, you know, because otherwise you’re just going to have only one point of view.”
Mental health crisis
Andreas says: “The main issues are depression, anxiety and suicide among young people.
This was all happening before the pandemic but it was made even worse in the situation for a lot of people. We talk about that a lot in our lyrics as well because, as human beings, we deal with that. Each one of us deals with things in a different way.
“I have my kids, I see how young people suffer so much pressure to give answers they don’t know about.
“We were young as well, teenagers, we know how it is, how family and society put pressure on young people. But today, because everything’s so quick – with the internet – it’s more difficult for young people now. And this is something that we bring to our lyrics because it concerns us.”
Throughout the lockdowns, Sepultura also started doing weekly video podcasts, SepulQuarta. They invited famous musicians to a video chat, and to perform a song from Sepultura’s massive back catalogue. Everyone said yes when they were asked and everything was recorded in musicians’ homes.
Guests included Anthrax’s Scott Ian, Devin Townsend, Motorhead’s Phil Campbell for a guest slot on his own band’s track – Orgasmatron – and Brazilian drummers Joao Barone and Charles Gavin. A SepulQuarta album of the collaborations was released in 2021.
“It’s honest,” says Andrea. “Everything is recorded in people’s homes. When we recorded these songs, we didn’t know we were recording an album!
“Art is an amazing way you can connect to yourself,” he continues. “You can know yourself better if you read, or go to a theatre play, or if you play an instrument – anything artistic helps us deal with ourselves and try to keep healthy minds.”
Sepultura’s Quadra tour continues in Europe this summer and returns to the UK in November 2022 for the second leg, with dates in Glasgow, Manchester, Wolverhampton and London, this time supported by Sacred Reich and Crowbar. Tickets here.
Words: Jo Charlton
We would like to wish all the very best to Andreas’ family at this time.