‘If you don’t know the rules, you have no way to break them’ – interview with Andreas Kisser

Before releasing Quadra, we had an outstanding opportunity to ask Andreas Kisser, engine behind Sepultura.

You last album, Quadra, was officially released on the 7th of February, but the material is sill available in different other formats. What about the feedbacks, are you happy with them?

It’s really fantastic, man. It’s been a long time we don’t have such a great reaction. You know, for the singles we putted out, for the cover, everything related to album, to the concert, and all the interviews we are talking about… it’s really, really insane, it’s fantastic. We’ve been really happy with the results with the album. And very excited to put the album out, so everybody can have the chance to listen to the whole thing.

Now the new material is out, a US tour has been scheduled and you’ll be doing summer festivals in 2020. What about the second half of the year, are you planning to have some rest?

We are working on some dates on September, maybe in Asia, nothing’s confirmed yet, but we’re working on it. And the idea is to go back to Europe during October or November or something like that, to do a headline tour, so hopefully we’ll have Hungary on the tour. But if we don’t have time to go this year, we’ll definitely go back to Europe in 2021, and our plan is to go everywhere. With this album, I hope we will have a long cycle and then we can go everywhere. But this is just the beginning, United States and then the festivals in Europe, and hopefully the headline tour at the end of the year.

Probably it is a little bit too early to ask, but are you working now on any kind of new material?

I have some. I write all music all the time. So I have material, you know, on my phone or on my portable studio or as some notations I do. You know, music is something that I do naturally all the time. But of course, now we’re focus on Quadra, there was a lot of work we took. I don’t know, it took more than a year, we had to find the concept and organize all the music, do the demos record and everything. So we put all the effort and energy to that. And of course, when we’re gonna start thinking about a new Sepultura album, we go we’re gonna put our new album Sepultura face. But right now, we use basically all the best that we could, for the Quadra album.

Where your inspiration is coming from?

From everything! From the music itself, of course, listening to other bands. But in fact, I don’t listen that much music, I spend my time more playing and studying music with my acoustic guitar… I like to play classical guitar a lot, and of course, rehearsing and travelling and touring with the electric guitar. I play with a lot of different people besides Sepultura, but I also take musical influence from books and from travelling. I’ve seen movies or documentaries or talking to people, having a conversation. I think when you have musical ideas outside the music, it’s much more exciting because you kind of creating something new instead of just trying to emulate Metallica or AC/DC. But it’s great, I keep my ears open all the time, because anything can be an influence.

My favourite from Quadra is the Guardians of Earth, of which the style is not a typical Sepultura style, often I had the impression I’m listening to an atmospheric Black Metal band.

Yes… that song, I have to just say that is a classical guitar, acoustic guitar. The song we did on Machine Messiah called Iceberg Dances, which is an instrumental song that we performed so much on the tour. It was a lot of fun, really, bringing the acoustic guitar on stage and perform the song live. And Guardians of Earth started from that wish, to bring more acoustic guitar to the band, to the composition, as a real part of it, not only using as intros, but being more a part of the song, really. The Guardians of Earth started with the acoustic intro, with that riff, and we started building from there… and then it came out to be such an epic song, because slowly, when the light came in, we built the structure of the song. Then Paolo and Derrick came in to putting vocals and bass, and then obviously, Jens came in and really made the song even more epic with the sounds and choirs and orchestras. The solo guitar, the lead guitar is very melodic… so it is a song that was very interesting. And it was one of the first songs that I started working on for Quadra, and it was one of the last songs that we finished because of so many things were involved. It was a song that we really took our time… we had to make sure we put the best parts and we build the best song that we possibly could.

What’s your way creating songs? Are you doing everything together, or you are the main engine behind? Songs are appearing as ready ones in your mind, or you are creating everything slowly and step-by-step?

Yeah, I write a lot. Like I said, when I start working on Sepultura, I first find a concept. I like first to find a direction, an idea, what we’re gonna talk about, what we have, what we have to say, instead of just putting some riffs together or doing music for no reason. The concept is really important to drive everything and to have a goal, a direction. So I found a concept like a year… or more than a year back when we started to work on it… like August or July last year… not last year, sorry, that was 2018, the year before we start recording. It was quite a while ago… because I want to have time really to explore and to experiment. And then I started putting some riffs together with the drum machine at home, writing songs, and a lot of stuff came from that like Isolation and Agony of Defeat, and then many other songs I started putting together. And then Eloy was working on some drum loops at his house. So he sent some drum loops and I sent some ideas to him, and we started working like that: guitars and drums. And then me and Eloy, we went to the studio really to build the basic structure of every songs, what the songs should be: this song is fast, this song is groovy, this song is slow with melody or whatever. So we made those, then Paolo and Derrick comes to complete the team and complete the arrangements… that’s how we work in phases. At the last phase, of course, everybody are in the studio playing together to go to the studio ready to record. Then Jens comes and gives all the suggestions, and we change things here and there, and then we decide the song is done, then we record drums and then all the rest follows.

Are you an educated guitarist with many guitar lessons behind you, or you are a talented self-made man?

I think it is a mixture of a both because I never had an electric guitar lesson, but I had many acoustic classical guitar lessons what I still study. But I learn rock and roll and heavy metal, listening to albums and trying to play together, listening to tapes and albums and learning the riffs, study classical music and learning notes, how to read the music and all that stuff… so it’s a little bit of both. I think you’ll have to use a talent, of course, but you have to prepare yourself to learn what’s there. If you don’t know the rules, you have no way to break them! So it’s really interesting, it’s great to understand what’s going on. And then you have ways to go around and create something new around what’s there and take it to a different level and create different atmospheres and sensations. It’s great that you learn the theory of music, to learn why certain scales and denominations are important for you, to prepare yourself… not only to play with your band Sepultura or whatever, but to play with other musicians. I play with orchestras, I play blues with many people, and I also play Brazilian popular music here with a lot of different musicians and then you’re always learning something. So when it’s time to write for Sepultura, all that helps, because you have a technical ability that other styles of musics gave to you, the possibility to play better, to understand music better. And then you break the rules, and then you do something else.

You joined Sepultura before Schizophrenia, which happened quite a long time ago. What do you think, how your style of soloing has changed since that?

Yeah, it has changed a lot… I mean, I started more as a traditional thrash metal guitar solo style you can hear on Beneath the Remains and Arise. But I also love melody, I always love Ozzy Osborne, Ronnie James Dio or Def Leppard, the great guitar players… Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, with a lot of melody, a lot of beautiful arrangements. So I always like to try… like Desperate Cry or Mass Hypnosis, I try to put more melody in, a little more intention on that direction among all the craziness of thrash metal. But doing Chaos A.D. and Roots, I went into a different direction, I kind of went the away of the traditional solos and all the stuff that was going on at the time, so I just went into a much more progressive way of playing guitar. That’s why my guitar playing went more dissonant, like solos of Propaganda, and then Roots, of course… that’s when I went more to do the percussive side of lead guitars. And now… not now, but later, like in the last 10 years, I started to be more aware and more concerned or putting more energy on my guitar playing, studying more, play more scales, and then tried to make better leads. And I think on Quadra, I achieved something really special. I’m really happy with my guitar playing and how the leads come into the songs and stuff, how it relates to the vocals and the harmony and everything and some techniques that I use. It’s just great, it’s really exciting, to have such a great possibility, especially for a musician that is 35 years on the road. We did so many things in the past and we still looking for doing new things, which is very exciting, and I feel that I’m playing better than ever. I think I’m really prepared, not only technically but mentally ready to perform Quadra and of course, to write and to record, but now to perform.

I had the feeling that Quadra is more intensive, more alive than I think anything from Sepultura in the last one or two decades.

Yeah, definitely, you’re right, man. I mean, the album Quadra is really much more alive than Machine Messiah especially, and we did it with the same producer! And that’s why I think we kind of did this evolution together to do a more organic, more realistic, more real album… that’s definitely, definitely more alive!

You are known to be a great fan of flying Jackson guitars, and as far as I know you are using them since you joined Sepultura. Why do you prefer them?

Why? Because they’re great. I don’t know. Of course, you know, Randy Rhoads was one of my biggest influences and stuff, and many great guitar players used that guitar like Kirk Hammett, Dave Mustaine as well among other great guitar players. Randy Rhoads was the main guy because he designed that guitar, that’s what he designed together with Grover Jackson. It’s still a very popular, a beautiful guitar, and I feel very comfortable with the guitar as well. I love to play the Jacksons, the Randy Rhoads. And I love guitars in general, but especially the Jackson Randy Rhoads for sure, and it’s one of my favourite guitars.

In 2021, we’ll be celebrating the 30st anniversary of Arise, which was a milestone in the metal music. Are you planning the make any special events?
No, not really. We are celebrating the present, it is much more to celebrate here [laughing]. I mean, we could do something special on the set and stuff, but I don’t see ourselves playing the whole album and doing that kind of stuff… I think this for me is a waste of time, we have such a great music today. We respect so much our past, but we here today. We always play music from Arise on every tour we do, you know, so we are always celebrating Arise, every show, every moment. It’s a great mark, of course, it’s a great album. They still celebrate it today and influence a lot of people which is great, it is fantastic. But like I said, we are in middle of the Quadra tour… and who knows, we might invent something. But the focus is here now.

There is one question what I always ask from everyone: what the music, and especially what metal music means to you?

I think metal is the most popular style of music in the world. Sepultura went to 80 countries in 35 years, regardless of the politics of religion. Heavy metal opens the doors to a different culture. You always see the black shirt, the kids there, they are screaming 666, The number of the beast or whatever… it is something very powerful. And metal survives because it welcomes different styles of music to recreate metal. Sepultura uses the Brazilian music and percussion, Metallica used American country music… and all the bands, they use rap and blues and then classical music, whatever. So metal is really open and it’s very free. I think that’s about freedom, you can do anything in metal, it still sounds metal, which is amazing.

There is a last and final question in my pocket what I was hesitating to ask because you may not really like it. I read many answers, ideas and speculation, and later on I understood I cannot avoid to ask. So, there was a former guitarist of Sepultura named Max Cavalera who left the band in 1996, and in his autobiography, he says to be open for any kind of cooperation with Sepultura. What is your opinion about that?

I don’t have opinion about that. I like to talk about Quadra, this is my energy, this is in my focus.

Leoni Dowidat and Nuclear Blast are highly acknowledged for this outstanding opportunity.

Written by Á