Sepultura – Surviving the Lockdown

It is important that Sepultura live in the moment, so that’s what they did on SepulQuarta, and are continuing to do on tour right now.

It was early Spring 2020 and Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser was understandably excited. His band had just released their best album in decades, Quadra, and they were about to embark on a world tour. During his conversation with The Aquarian, Kisser spoke about the album’s concept, its diverse musical styles, and the guest appearances. He also spoke about what had kept the band going for more than 35 years.

Within a few weeks of his chat, however, COVID-19 crippled the planet. The world crashing to a halt, the tour was canceled and the venues were shuttered. People retreated to the confines of their homes and waited. Now, more than two years later and with the pandemic finally waning, the members of Sepultura are bursting through their skin with anticipation. They are about to head back on the road in support of Quadra. Along with Sacred Reich, Crowbar and Aftershock, Sepultura will be playing two area shows: Tuesday, March 15th at New York City’s famed Irving Plaza and on Saturday, March 19th at Philadelphia’s Theatre of Living Arts. For tickets, click here!

Kisser recently spoke with The Aquarian once again about how the band survived during lockdown.

When the pandemic struck, tours were immediately cancelled and many albums were either scrapped, put on hold or left to simply fade away without much notice. Artists struggled. Some worked on new music, some streamed performances and others used the Internet in creative ways to stay relevant.

We were ready to go. We did all of the promotion and Quadra [was released]. We performed at Rock ‘N’ Rio and then three days before we were [scheduled to go to the US] everything stopped – but it happened to everyone. It happened to all of the booking agencies, all of the venues and all of the artists. It do not only happen to Sepultura. So we looked into ways of using social media. We’d used it before, but not to the extent we did during the pandemic.

The band created a weekly show.

We created a weekly event based on Quadra’s concept and numerology. We chose to do it at 4:00 p.m. each Wednesday, which in Brazil is “Quarta” or the fourth day of the week. We called it “SepulQuarta” [Sepult-Wednesday]. We created four events inside each episode: the introduction, the live Q&A with the fans, and then we started bringing in guests: musicians performing a song from their [respective] homes. At the end there was a storyteller portion where we recalled a tour or the recording of an album.

These events were amazing. They kept the band alive. At first, it was just members of the band performing songs from the new album. Then we started bringing other musicians in to jam with us. During the Q&A portion, we spoke about a lot more than just Sepultura music. We also discussed the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest, depression and anxiety, and food. During one episode, we spoke about the biggest skateboard heroes in the world.

It must have been difficult for Sepultura to be off the road for so long.

It was a difficult concept to handle. We are not The Beatles who had chosen to no longer tour.

The lack of touring was a huge factor in The Beatles demise.

A musician has to be on stage. That is where everything happens… but we knew the pandemic [marked] a transition. We knew that someday, somehow, we would be back on stage, but it took two years. We found a way to interact with each other. We couldn’t see each other in meetings, in the practice room, backstage, or on a tour bus where we would discuss ideas for future [endeavors]. “SepulQuarta” became our everything.

And it produced an album also titled SepulQuarta.

We didn’t plan on recording a new album, but in the end we saw everything that had come out of it. We saw the list of guests that were a part of it. We were amazed. We chose 15 songs and released an album. We properly mixed the performances, otherwise, they are exactly as they were heard during the shows: people performing in their home studios, in their living rooms, or in their backyards. It felt very free because no one – not even the band’s members – thought they were recording an album.

It is a very unique album. It did not happen before and it will not happening again. We recorded an album without knowing we were doing an album. It’s not a studio album and it is not a live album. It is a pandemic album.

It sounds spontaneous.

It was free of the pressure of being in a studio. We were not looking to be perfect. When we’re in the studio, we try to find the right vibe with the producer; we look to create the same feeling we have as when we are on stage. That is always difficult, because you tend to focus on the details too much.

During the lockdown, I enjoyed watching musicians from different bands performing together over Zoom. Although COVID imprisoned us, these jam sessions gave us hope.

They were uplifting. It was cool to see the bands finding a way to keep moving. Somehow, we all survived.

Brazil is such a beautiful, modern place. It doesn’t feel like a third world country. Yet it seem like epidemics, including the various COVID strands, have had a devastating effect on the country. COVID-19 obviously ravaged Brazil, but so did SARs. Videos of Brazilian children born with undersized heads were heartbreaking.

Historically, Brazilian politics is a mess. We’ve been through two Presidential impeachments during the last few decades, which is crazy. It doesn’t matter if the politician is right, left, or dead in the center, it is chaotic. We have the worst President ever. I dare say our President was worse than Trump was. The politicians have no respect for anyone other than their small group.

[Admittedly,] Brazil is a difficult place. It’s a big country. Geographically from north to south, there are so many different cultures. We also have a large immigrant population, which introduced Asian and European cultures. But our current President, Jair Bolsonaro, talks with stupidity about things from the past we thought we were finished with. There is no respect for the different races, the homosexuals, and the environment. Agriculture is one of the most important [parts] of our economy and the [variety] of toxic chemicals used is insane. Many of these chemicals have been banned in other countries, but not here. It’s sad that we continue to step backward because of the political climate.

Art still has an influence.

With heavy metal and other forms of art, we’ve [undertaken] this mission to express ourselves, our feelings and our points of view. We are trying to evoke change. Sepultura has been doing this since [1996’s] Roots, when we met with [Brazilian] Indians [The Xavante] in the middle of the jungle. We were using our music in an attempt to protect the tribes and nature.

Can music still change the world? 

We should use music to talk about issues. It’s not boring and music doesn’t just have to be about partying and having a good time – especially with our punk influences. We need to talk about the streets, politics, and the systems.

Unlike some former members who have left Brazil, you’ve chosen to stay. Is it because you still have hope for your homeland?

There are many reasons why. When [frontman] Max [Cavalera] left [in 1997], we lost our whole structure. We lost our manager. Our record label no longer gave a shit about us. I guess our feeling at the time was to go home, regroup, and rethink our strategies. We took nine or 10 months to find a new manager and a new singer.

Who you found in New York City.

Yes, Mr. Green. Open minded and quite smart, Derrick has really grown with us. Thanks to him, we continue to live in the present. We are not crying that “this should be this” and “this should be that.” The new members, the manager, the producers, the new crew are all a part of the new Sepultura family.

When Max Cavalera left, a number of people approached Derek and told him to try out. Yes, he had the voice, but he also had the strength to step into some lofty shoes. Most people would not have survived.

Derrick was fearless. He didn’t care what people thought of the past. He hadn’t met Max, so he didn’t have any connection to the band technically or historically. Derrick just clicked with us. The chemistry was immediate. Putting aside all of the gossip and all of the pressure put on him, he was great on our first album together [1998’s Against]. And our first tour with Derrick was opening for Slayer throughout Europe. What better schooling could there be for a new singer?

I first witnessed Derrick perform with Sepultura at Roseland Ballroom in New York. It was right after the release of Against. Backstage before the show he was relaxed. On stage he killed it, performing both new and old material. He had, and has, such a strong stage presence.

He is a great guy. He faced all of the criticism with an amazing attitude… and that has always been Sepultura’s attitude. All of the gossip and the Cavalera bullshit still happens today, but it’s part of the band’s folklore.

Derrick has been in Sepultura longer than Max Cavalera was in the band. Derrick has recorded classic albums with the band, including Quadra. Why can’t people let go of the past and appreciate what Sepultura has accomplished during the last 25 years?

It is something that occurs in rock and roll. While growing up, my friends and I always argued who was better: Ozzy or Dio, Bon Scott or Brian Johnson, David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar, and Ian Gillian or David Coverdale. So many legendary bands changed singers and we got used to it. Without those changes, however, we wouldn’t have had Rainbow or Whitesnake and the many great musicians they introduced. Ritchie Blackmore discovered Ronnie James Dio and Elf and, because of that, we had the greatest metal singer of all time.

“The original is the best.” That is the way I felt when I was young. I remember hearing Metallica for the first time and that is something I am never going to forget. But I also love the latest Metallica album and I love seeing them live. They are better today than they have ever been.

That is exactly my point: why not appreciate the band as much today as we did during the eighties and the nineties? We have Metallica and Sepultura today. It’s 2022 and it will never be 1989 again.

It is a good subject to have a beer with a friend and argue about [Laughs].

If The Beatles’ classic lineup had reunited during the mid-seventies, there would have been those who were disappointed. These armchair critics should appreciate the Sepultura they have now and the amazing music the band creates.

Sadly, it is their problem, because they’re missing out on the present. Especially after the pandemic, after a period of time when we couldn’t leave our houses and go to concerts, people should put all of this idiotic stuff aside and go and enjoy life.

We just played three shows in Brazil and it was magical. Yesterday, we played in Sao Paulo and I still feel the energy of the crowd. It was sold out and there were a lot of young people there who weren’t born when all of the gossip and bullshit started. They don’t live in the past.

Sepultura have always been an amazing live band.

We have always played Sepultura music from our debut through Quadra. We respect our fans. They don’t deserve to be in the middle of any controversy.

And you will soon be back in the states.

We look forward to touring with our friends in Sacred Reich, Crowbar, and Aftershock. It’s a great package. We’re playing a lot of songs from Quadra. Yesterday, we did seven songs and the crowd was amazing. Since it has been two years since the album came out, they knew all of the lyrics to the songs. You don’t receive that reaction when you tour right after releasing a new album. It feels like waiting to tour was the right thing to do [Laughs].