Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser is bursting with excitement. Calling from Los Angeles, the biggest reason for the guitar hero’s mood is the release of Quadra, easily the band’s best album in more than two decades.
Working once again with producer Jens Bogren at Fascination Street studios in Orebro, Sweden, the new album not only revisits the thrash and roots metal sound of the ‘80s and ’90 but also the extreme metal and more progressive sounds of more recent releases such as Machine Messiah [Nuclear Blast, 2017]. Arguably a masterpiece, Quadra is a concept album about the quadrants or zones that constrain or, worse, characterize us: including politics, religion and money.
I felt the Machine Messiah process
was rushed. In just five months, we wrote, produced and recorded everything. With the new album, I wanted more time to
explore and experiment; to listen back [to what we were creating]; and to change
things. I wanted to make sure we had the absolute best [songs] to put on the
album. We spent more than a year going in a specific direction; developing a
concept; deciding what we should talk about [lyrically].
is the album’s concept?
I had gotten into numerology. I was
especially interested in the algorithms that are so popular in today’s social
media. Then, I came acrossQuadrivium, this book by Miranda Lundy [Wooden Books, 2010] that spoke about
the four classical liberal arts: numbers, geometry, music and cosmology. The
book detailed numbers and combinations of numbers. That’s where [the title] Quadra
comes from. I thought Quadra was a topic we could talk about. The word is
Portuguese for “sports court.” It is about a limited area with a set of rules
where games take place.
Quadra can be a football field, baseball diamond or a basketball court?
Yes. [But if you look at it on a
larger spectrum,] both Brazil and the United States are Quadras. Each country has
separate cultures, religions, family values, etc. This brings about one big
question: “Why do we believe in what we believe?” Where did these beliefs come
from? Where did the information that led to these beliefs come from? Why do we
trust what we learn in school? See on our television?
The majority of information in our
heads was implanted during our education. Very little of what we know comes from personal experiences.
People tend to believe things without asking why? Why do we attack people who
believe differently [from us]? Why do we refuse to accept and respect other
into] that subject.
to Quadra’s lyrics, I interpreted the concept as “breaking the invisible
chains that bind us.”
You have to acknowledge those chains
before you can break them. You have to acknowledge that you are bound by
something. A lot of people are unaware that they are chained. Money, for
instance, is something a lot of people are chained to.
is why a painting of a damaged coin graces the album’s cover?
Exactly. Money is the first rule of
many quadras. Without money you cannot survive. You cannot even die [without
enough money for a proper burial]. It is the first rule of enslavement. I was
born in Brazil, I attended certain schools; my family had certain beliefs; and
I watched these movies and read these books. That is the reason why I see the
world the way I do. I am nothing more than a victim of my cultural baggage. We
all are. We look at a country like Saudi Arabia, for instance, and believe the
way they treat women is wrong, but they don’t see it that way.
the world must have given you a unique perspective.
During the last 35 years, Sepultura have
visited 80 different countries. We see that people are generally the same. They
love metal, they love food and they love to talk with each other. They want to
live in peace. [On Quadra,] we want people to ask themselves why they
believe what they believe. Are you so full of yourself because you have
concepts in your mind, most of which you have no idea where they came from?
propaganda, which was the concept of Sepultura’s Nation album [Roadrunner, 2001]. It is also the result of enculturation.
You start out as a blank slate before becoming a product of your environment.
It breeds stereotypes. It creates
borders. It creates people arguing that their God is better than your God. But
all concepts are illusions. Nothing is real. Even money is an illusion. It
takes two people involved in a transaction to agree that a certain piece of
paper or a piece of metal has a certain value. We create these concepts and
beliefs and then we kill and die for them.
was Quadra so difficult to record?
The songs are very demanding. During
the creation of the album [Drummer] Eloy [Casagrande] and I pushed each other
to play better…. [I don’t] mean that Quadra was a painful or miserable
process [to create]. We had an amazing time doing it. We had a great time
working with [producer] Jens [Bogren] again. The results sound great because we
went through all of the difficult processes. In the end we felt like we had
won. We achieved everything we wanted to achieve.
addition to the choirs sprinkled throughout the new record, there is a guest
vocalist on the closing track, “Fear; Fear; Chaos; Suffering.”
Singer Emmily Barreto is a Brazilian
singer from the band Far From Alaska. They’re not metal, but they are very interesting
and they have an international following. I met Emmily during pre-production
for Quadra. We were working on a couple of songs that were lost. We didn’t have any ideas for
vocals, so I called her. Sepultura long dreamed of working with a female singer
and, finally, the opportunity [presented itself]. Once she put her voice to the
music, we “found” the direction for song and we re-arranged everything. I love Emmily’s
voice. It’s powerful, majestic and her performance is amazing.
did the band choose to make it the album’s closing track?
The song is a weird, kind of
“out-of-left-field” thing. We looked at the album as having four sides: A, B, C
and D. Side A has the old school thrash feel. Side B contains the percussive-heavy,
groove side of Sepultura. Side C features our instrumental side. Side D is
slower paced in the same vein as the song “Machine Messiah” or our Massive
Attack cover “Angel.” We enjoy the melodic, moodier vibe. It leaves
possibilities open for Sepultura in the future.
the latter part of Sepultura’s career, the band have moved away from obvious
covers such as Motorhead’s “Orgasmatron” and Black Sabbath’s “Symptom of the
Universe” to surprising covers such as Massive Attack’s “Angel” and U2’s
“Bullet the Blue Sky.”
I don’t look at it that way. We
recorded New Model Army’s “The Hunt” for our Chaos A.D. album [Epic/Roadrunner, 1993]. We also covered Bob
Marley and The Wailer’s “War” during the Rootssessions [It
appears on the 1997 Blood Rooted
compilation (Roadrunner)]. In the past, we did Motorhead, Black Sabbath, and
hardcore punk songs, which were obvious for a metal band like Sepultura. In
recent years, we challenged ourselves by covering songs that were far outside
of the metal world. We “Sepulturized” them [laughs]. Massive Attack, Devo, and
Jane’s Addiction were the bands we chose. U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” was a huge
success for us. We performed the song [often] on tour and the video for our
version won some prizes.
video for Sepultura’s “Orgasmatron” cover won The 1991 MTV International Viewer’s Choice Award. Time flies. It
has also been nearly 25 years since vocalist Derrick Green joined the band.
Does it frustrate you that some people still can’t let go of the past?
I don’t care. It is those people’s
problem. The only thing that bothers me is that some people are still angry
over [the band’s mid-‘90s split with original frontman Max Cavalera]. Some
people refuse to accept changes in the band.
the first few years with Derrick Green, Sepultura seemed like it was starting
over. Does the imminent success of Quadra
seem like a vindication? That the band have reached the pinnacle once more?
It feels like we’ve been on the right
track since Derrick joined. Instead of trying to please a, b, c and z, we’ve
always done things our way. We are so privileged to have such a great
following. It has kept this band motivated and alive. We are also blessed that
we are so well organized. We have great management and a great record label
[Nuclear Blast], whom we have been with for nearly 10 years now. We are
experiencing the best momentum of our career. There is no doubt about it.