Sepultura interview (10/2003)
|With:||Derrick Green [vocals]|
When it comes to metal bands from Brazil, there's no bigger name than the mighty Sepultura. After some twenty years, news of new music conjures up the kind of excitement and fanaticism within their widespread and hardcore to rival acts that considered the so-called metal elite.
After vocalist and guitarist Max Cavalera split from the band in 1997 [Due to disputes regarding the bands management], many feared that the demise of one of metals truly underground acts was assured. However, the remaining members [Drummer Igor Cavalera, bassist Paulo Pinto Jr. and guitarist Andreas Kisser] retreated back to Brazil and started recording as a three piece.
Although the band was uncertain whether they would carry on as Sepultura, they soon found the music still retained a certain familiarity. The decision to search for a new vocalist was soon announced, with tapes soon flooding in.
One tape in particular that stood out was from the vocalist Derrick Green. After accepting an invitation to meet the band in February 1998, and soon after was offered an official place within the Sepultura tribe.
'Against' was released the same year [As all the music was already recorded previous to Green's arrival], with a successful tour with Slayer reinforcing the fans welcome return to the metal realm. Work on the follow up progressed quickly, and in 2001, 'Nation' was released. Again, a world tour followed with great reaction from fans and press alike. Since then, Sepultura has returned to Brazil, and have just unleashed 'Roorback' [Their third and best might I add] release with Green on vocals. Musically, the band are in top form, with Green effortlessly give his best vocal performance to day.
While on a promotional jaunt in Europe, I managed to catch up with Derrick Green [While in Germany] to talk about 'Roorback', changing record labels, filming and a joke song at expense of a certain Sepultura member!
Right now we're on tour in Europe. It's a two-week trip, and so far it's been going pretty well. The shows have been fantastic, and we're still pushing it. It's still early here. We're still thinking of ideas to kick it in and let people know what's going on with us. The reaction to 'Roorback' so far has been really positive. Of the three albums I've been on with Sepultura, this has been getting the best reactions so far. I think it really helps with the fact that we're on a different label and that we are able to put Sepultura in the media the way we wanted it to be portrayed, instead of being a betrayal of old Sepultura. Working with a different label like S.P.V. allows us to really move forward, because they've never had a past with us. The only thing that they want to do is promote what's going on now. That's the most important thing for us. For me personally, I think this album is the best that we've done together, and I think it can only get better from here. All three albums have so far have been just going up and up. I knew from the very beginning when I started with this band that it would take time. Sepultura have such a long history together, and I was very realistic about it. Things don't happen overnight, and if they do, they're gone the next day. I wanted this to be something to grow into. There's still time to do more, it's just the process of growing together with each other.
- After a lengthy association with Roadrunner Records [R.R.], Sepultura decided to move to S.P.V. and forge a new partnership.
The contract with R.R. was pretty much up. We had an option to do one more album, and we decided that we didn't want to stay there any longer. They were going through some transformations and changes. It was a relationship that was way too long, and it was time for us to really move on. I think it was better for both of us. When Max split from Sepultura and R.R. signed his new band Soulfly, we found it was not only hard working with R.R., but we also saw it as conflict of interest. We really didn't have as good a relationship with the record label as much as Max has now. There was a lot of tension, and we weren't really happy with the way 'Nation' was promoted. It stopped a couple of months after it came out. We just wanted to move on, and we left on good terms. It's for the best I'm sure, for both them and us.
- So with the many major labels out there that approached Sepultura, it would seem that S.P.V. had the best offer.
When Sepultura started, R.R. was not a major label. R.R. is a big label now, and I think that worked against us on the last couple of albums. The thing with major labels is this control issue. They really want to own pretty much everything, and forever! [Laughs] A lot of people don't know that. The majority of bands out there don't even own their music. So because we're an older band, it's really important for us to own our music and really have control of that. We're not a young band that will sign anything away. We did a lot of research, and it was definitely the best deal for us. We have a lot of freedom with this label, and they really work hard. That was something that doesn't happen too often with big labels. Most bands on labels this big get lost, and most of the people working there don't care, or even like you. So it was the best move for us.
- Prior to the release of 'Roorback', Sepultura released the seven track E.P. 'Revolusongs'. The Brazilian and Japan only release features cover songs from acts as diverse as U2, Devo, Public Enemy, Jane's Addiction, Hellhammer, Exodus and Massive Attack.
They were released there first because they were the first territories we secured deals for. In Europe [As well as here in Australia], it's been packaged together with 'Roorback'. It may be the same in U.S., but we're not sure yet. For us, it was a loosening up thing prior to recording 'Roorback'. It was something we did for the fun, while covering bands that were a big influence on us growing up. It was kind of hard to finalize the seven tracks that made up the E.P., but it didn't last too long. We just threw a million different ideas and songs of bands that we all like, and we just went through it and decided on the songs that captured the energy and attitude of Sepultura. 'Revolusongs' didn't take long at all. It was like really opening our eyes and to challenge our selves. We chose songs that weren't that easy to cover. It would easy to cover Black Sabbath and Mötorhead, but we chose Massive Attack and U2 instead. It was to really get a shock out of our selves and other people who wouldn't be expecting it. That was exactly what happened with the U2 song. That song is going over very well live. I never would have imagined that if somebody had told me that before. We really transformed these songs into our own, and just do it in a way where we don't really care! [Laughs] That's the best way to do it. We really didn't think about it so much, and tried not over analyse it and just to play them.
- The highly acclaimed E.P. also brought around a different kind of focus on Sepultura when the promotional video clip accompanying their version of U2's 'Bullet The Blue Sky' won the award for best direction of photography for director Ricardo DellaRosa during this year's edition of the Brazilian Cinematography Association Awards.
Yeah, that was very cool. The idea of the video originated from me. I'm a big movie fanatic. I just had the image of the video in my head, and I was able to convey that to some people who work in a very talented production company in Brazil. It really turned out better than we could have ever imagined. It was great working with the Ricardo DellaRosa because he had never done music videos before! [Laughs] He'd done big commercials for companies. He saw this as a gamble a real opportunity to try something different. I had always like this guy because of his work, and I thought that we could do something very interesting. I knew that he would have a lot of really good ideas, and it also happened that his sister is in the Sepultura fan club! So it was like an extra push. So many people mention the moment at the end when I jump off the building. I'm here to tell you that I'm still alive! [Laughs] They did that with a little blue screen, and a little mat. I'm walking O.K. now. I'm a little better! [Laughs]
- No sooner had Sepultura finished 'Revolusongs', and work had started on the interestingly titled 'Roorback' [Meaning 'A false or slanderous story used for political advantage'].
There isn't really a theme on 'Roorback'. I think we were just writing on the events that were happening around us and personally. At the time we started to write everything, it was right after 9/11 and the elections that were going on in Brazil. The lyrics also relate to a lot of personal things like leaving the label, and leaving management. There was a lot of uncertainty in the air being felt by everyone within the band, and worldwide too. I think that contributed a lot to the writing process for the new album. Another thing we wanted to change with this album, along with the music, was the artwork. We worked with underground artists on 'Nation', and what caught our eye was the fact that we'd see these giant stickers everywhere, like 'Obey'. We thought it was very cool, and we wanted to incorporate that with the last album, propaganda like nation sort of thing. With 'Roorback', I was thinking back to a person that I know from Cleveland. He would work the door at this club that I used to go to, and he would also do the flyers for the shows. He would also promote shows. I knew he was a great artist, and he had a really rough style about his work. We all felt that the album had that kind of quality about it. It's basic, very raw and straight to the point.
- That raw energy that emanated from the sessions during 'Revolusongs' certainly carried through to 'Roorback'.
The songs really didn't change once we got into the studio from the rehearsal space. It sounds pretty much the same to what's on the album. When it comes to going into the studio, a lot of bands tend to change things around, and we pretty much knew what we wanted to do when we went in. The idea was to keep them raw and interesting. It's a challenge to do that, and to have a basic song have an interesting element about it. What's really helped with the writing process and helped things to flow for us has been from constant touring to me moving to São Paulo, where I've been for the last couple of years now. It's also helped us communicate a lot more with each other too. It didn't take long to record the album! [Laughs] 'Nation' took about two months in the studio, and this album took a month, possibly even a little less. We wanted to do something very aggressive and malice like in the way that we felt at the time of writing. I don't think it was planned out to be that way, but we started out that way with the first song, and then it was the same with the second song, and that's the way things came together! [Laughs] It just seemed to follow that order. I think the first song we wrote was 'Corrupted', and then it just followed that line with 'Come Back Alive' and 'More Of The Same'.
- Unlike Sepultura's previous effort 'Nation', 'Roorback' is perhaps more of a band effort due to the distinct lack of guest artists.
That was another thing, we wanted to do this a little differently. We just wanted to keep it very simple without as many songs, and not as long. We only had one guest, and that was all we really needed, and felt was necessary for this album. We had Joro Barone [The drummer of Brazilian band Paralamas] play percussion on 'Urge'. He's a drummer friend of everyone in the band.
- Along with the aggressive feel of the album, there's also a slight hardcore feel to 'Leech' and 'The Rift'.
Yeah, definitely. I think that comes from me. I came from a hardcore scene, and I like that style. I'm really used to that style. I think it's great to pound out songs in that way, especially those songs and the lyrics they have. 'Leech', like the old days of hardcore, always has that message of backstabbing, somebody wronging you, or sucking the life out of you. That's how that song came about. I like that hardcore feeling of reality, and that personal aspect of things that are really happening.
- Another little known highlight at the tail end of 'Roorback' that most have yet to mention is the joke track 'Paulo's Microphone' hidden after 'Outro'.
Well the hidden track is definitely something that a lot of people wouldn't expect. It's was recorded in a rehearsal space, and is basically a song making fun of Paulo and his microphone which was used for recording at each practice. One day it wasn't working, and Andreas and I just started writing, through jamming, me singing making fun of Paulo. Igor then came in and started playing drums, and it became this song called 'Paulo's Microphone'. It's sort of like a lounge song! [Laughs] We actually had it on Andreas' mini-disc player, and we couldn't believe that we managed to capture it. It was pretty funny.
- After the success of 'Bullet The Blue Sky', you can be assured that Sepultura plan to filmed a couple more promotional videos for some potential single.
We have been talking about recording another video, but we're not sure which song we'll do. We'll probably start recording that in August. I would like to do two videos back to back. It's better that way. They will probably be two very different songs from the album, and move with a completely different vibe with different production companies. We really want to do some different. I really want to work with animation actually, but we'll see what happens. I've been watching a lot of videos here, and they're really bad and use the same formula. I really want to step away from that. The directors and production companies in Brazil have different visions, and they don't see all those videos that come out here from the U.S. That's good in a way, because they tend to come out with something very fresh and different. The whole concept of a bunch of people, and us playing is kind of boring for me. I think visually, people would like to see something different. We're not into the performance thing. We'll steer towards something else. Maybe we might go for someone else performing, with a little bit of us! [Laughs] That's another thing, the cost of making a video in Brazil is three times cheaper than the U.S. or anywhere else in the world. You would be surprised how much it costs to make a video in Brazil! [Laughs]
- Obviously costs mount out when recording an album, but recording in Brazil does allow the band to be close to home as well as keep recording costs to a minimum.
It's definitely more cost effective! [Laughs] The quality of the equipment in Brazil is exactly the same. It really depends on the engineer and the producer also. They play a big part in what's going on there. It makes a big difference when you cut your costs, and you're not blowing money out the window on some studio that's got this reputation, or paying some guy that has this huge reputation. It's all a ridiculous amount of money.
- Regardless of costs, Sepultura were more than happy to fly over producer Steve Evetts [Who also worked on 'Nation'] to work on 'Roorback'.
We work very well together, and he didn't have a problem coming down to Brazil. He really just fits in, and he's also becomes another member of the band. The best thing with Steve is that he brings out great performances out of all of us in the studio. He's able to give us ideas without kissing our ass. If we're doing something bad, he'll say that's bad and have us do it again. He really does give good ideas when it comes to the music, and with the vibe that we're trying to capture. I wouldn't say he's a hard taskmaster, but he does make you work in a way that doesn't appear like he's cracking the whip! [Laughs]
- Details of Sepultura recording shows on the road have been filtering through all the forums dedicated to the band for some time, but when pressed for details, Derrick actually reveals that it's not the sort of recordings that most would assume they are.
I've been wanting to work on a D.V.D. for the band for some time now, so yes, I've been doing a lot of recording. It will almost be like a movie, so people can really see what goes on with this band that's from Brazil. It also shows what Brazil is like. For the Brazilians, they'll be able to see what this American guy is like. It's just a story that I want to reveal. It's not necessarily the live shows, but mostly what goes on behind the shows, or what goes on in family life and things like that. It's completely different from the standard approach, and it's exactly where I want to take it. I want to get other people involved into what Sepultura is, and not just metal heads or the people who are primarily into heavy music. It's really interesting to pull other people as well, those people that may never have heard of Sepultura, or heard metal music at all. I would love them to check it out and say, 'Wow, this is really interesting!' and find something they had never imagined before. For me, that's a challenge, and I think it will be really cool. I think it's an interesting story, and we have a unique situation. The other aspect about this project that's very different is that I'm doing all the filming myself. Not a lot of people have done that. Most bands will have a film crew with them, and they act a little different in front of the cameras. With this, I primarily wanted to do it myself because it's looking through my eyes, and what's happening with all the changes and everything. I think it will add some believability to it all.
- One question does seem obvious though. Who's filming you?
No-one really. I shoot myself, but I'll rarely be in it. I'm just commentating really. I wanted it to be through my eyes. It will be a Sepultura release. It's still in the works, and is in a very rough stage at the moment. Hopefully we'll have a bit of everything. I'm filming as much as possible, and as many crazy places that I can. We hope to put this out next year. I have the entire making of 'Nation' documented, and a lot of the making of 'Roorback'. I want to use some of that footage, and that tour as well and sort of mix it together. There's a D.V.D. that R.R. put out of old stuff, but that's all it is, previously released old stuff.
- Touring is an essential part of Sepultura's life, and recently playing close to thirty shows with the likes of Voivod was a treat for fans of both bands.
It was interesting to tell you the truth. I'm a big fan of Voivod, and they hadn't played with that line up in such a long time. I think a lot of people that we're really into Voivod a long time ago didn't go to the shows. For me though, it was a pleasure playing with Jason Newsted and Voivod. Doing that tour was great. I think it would have done a lot better in Europe, but it was great. It was something that I'll never forget. As for future touring plans, right now we're going to finish out Europe, and play a lot of the festivals here after that. We'll then take a little break in August, and hopefully do a festival and some shows in Japan. If we were to do that in August/September, then we hope to come to Australia as well. Then I would hope we could play in New Zealand, and swing around through Hawaii and the U.S. South America is also on the list of places we have to do. Hopefully though, I would like us to possibly do The Big Day out down there. That's something that Sepultura has never done. I know they're cutting out a lot of heavy bands, but I think people really want to see good heavy bands. I think a lot of it has to do with politics, and unfortunately it has a lot to do with a lot of labels and how much money and influence they have to put their bands up there. That kind of takes away from the music, which is what it's all about really. It would be great for us to do the Big Day Out festival. We just put our heads down, and try as hard as possible. We really want to push this album, and we really enjoy playing. We're so much better than before, and have improved so much and still have a lot to prove. The fact that we're able to play everywhere in the world really adds to it. A lot of bands are starting to realize that they don't have that advantage or opportunity to play a lot of places that we get to play, like Istanbul, Columbia, all over South America, or Mexico. For us, it's great to be able to do that, and have the support in those countries.
- That sense of an ever-improving Sepultura as time goes on is something that Derrick holds true to his heart.
I'm pretty happy in what I do, but I'm always up for improvement. I always want to get better at what I do. There are people out there that have accepted me in Sepultura, and there are those that haven't. That's doesn't really affect me that much. The attitude I had getting into music was the same as when I was first got into heavy music, and nobody liked me then! [Laughs] It was sort of like an outcast scene. It wasn't as popular then, not like it is now. For me, it wasn't about being liked. It was about being able to do and what I wanted to do. Sepultura is about doing what we want to do. We'll always write music that we want to write, and not what everybody wants to hear. If people like it, that's a complete plus and a joy. That's the amazement of being able to communicate, and have people understand what you're talking about. It's unbelievable to have that connection. For me, I just have a total punk attitude. I don't care if you like it or not. I'm still going to do what I do. If you don't like it, that's fine with me.
I would like to personally thank Derrick Green for his generous time. I would also like to thank John Howarth at Riot! Distributors for making the interview possible.
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