SEPULTURA Guitarist Talks About New Album, Possibility Of Reunion With MAX CAVALERA

Brazilian/American thrashers SEPULTURA have set "Kairos" (an ancient Greek word signifying a time in between, a moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens) as the title of their new album, tentatively due late spring/early summer via Nuclear Blast Records. In the following question-and-answer session with BLABBERMOUTH.NET, SEPULTURA guitarist and main songwriter Andreas Kisser talks about the making of the new CD and addresses some of the rumors and criticisms that have been leveled at the band, including the persistent calls for a reunion of SEPULTURA's classic lineup by the group's former guitarist/vocalist Max Cavalera.

Q: How did you come up with the new album title?

Andreas: "We've been working on this new album since last year. We actually toured a lot , we played a lot many places for the time — like Reunion Island and Cuba — and we wrote [some of the material during this time]. The first ideas we talked about on the road and some of the first riffs and direction and stuff. When we stopped touring last August, we started [really focusing on] writing; we went into the studio in São Paulo. The whole theme of the album is the concept of the time, and the title reflects that — it's like one concept of time which is not chronological, from one to two; it's like a an instant in time, it's a special time of change... Everyone's life is written by [their] choices — you have many 'kairos' moments, like if you go [from] point A [to point] B [to point] C, you are driven by your choices or your guidance; you have to go either one way or the other. And that's the kind of time we talked about — not about aging or getting old or going back [in time]; it's just [about those important] moments that can change everything. Like Martin Luther King's speech in Washington D.C. that day, it was a 'kairos' moment that changed the world, pretty much, the direction that we talked about certain things and the way we lived our lives, etc. And in that respect that's what we thought about [in regards to] SEPULTURA itself — 26 years of history and the moment where we are now; why we're here; why we're doing this album and why we have what we have; the changes we have inside and outside the band. It's a collection of 'kairos' [moments] that [got us] here. It's being inspired by our own biography, but mostly [focusing] on what SEPULTURA is today. Since the moment we started writing [the new album], we had this concept in mind. And we had the opportunity to play old stuff [during our last tour] like we didn't do for a long time. In the beginning of the tour for [2009's] 'A-Lex', we put on our web site options for [fans to choose songs from] different SEPULTURA eras — they [were able to] choose from 'Beneath The Remains', 'Arise', 'Bestial Devastation', 'Schizophrenia' — and we [rehearsed] an extra 18 songs [in addition to the main] set so that we could be prepared to play old stuff. And then last year we played the 'Arise' album [in its entirety] at the birthday party for Manifesto, which is a rock club here in São Paulo; we had the opportunity to do this special show. Stuff like that... And we remembered the bands that we listened [in the early days of] our career, like SACRIFICE and KREATOR. So we had that kind of stuff in our heads and we talked about our experiences with labels, with the press and with our friends, and our families..."

Q: Like a feeling of nostalgia, almost?

Andreas: "No, no, not at all. It's the opposite of that — it's living the moment. Nostalgia is being in the past, trying to relive stuff, and we're not doing that; we're doing something new today. I'm just saying that we [drew on] influences that we had from ourselves and our own experiences. Like I said, we talked about our families and record labels and managers and press... It's a very [lyrically] intimate album, and at the same time it's very [sonically] raw. I think the music is, again, something new from SEPULTURA. We're just very happy with the result we have so far."

Q: What made you decide to use a Greek word as the new album title? Were you at any point contemplating using an English word instead to describe the feeling that you were referring to earlier?

Andreas: "I couldn't find any other word that could define or describe what 'kairos' means — the concept of time. Time is a very weird concept that nobody can really define. We have our own idea of what time should and we live through that, we age and we do everything [based on calendars] and we are born and we die. I refer to a lot on this subject through philosophy and what time is in even in mathematics and physics. Of course I'm not a mathematician, but the concept of ideas that can challenge what we feel and what we live, it's very interesting, especially the concept of what religion for creation and stuff like that. 'Kairos' is something very deep and very old in respect of communication in humanity, especially in Greece which created a lot of the basis of what we are today. I couldn't find any word that really... First, it's cool — it sounds cool, it's weird and different, and [it has] a heavyweight meaning [behind it]. It's kind of exciting and it fits the concept of SEPULTURA and the purpose of the project and the album."

Q: Are you going to be using any of the old paintings from the 16th century that represent the concept of "kairos" as the album cover or will you be creating something from scratch?

Andreas: "The artwork is done already. We had this young guy [Los Angeles-based freelance digital artist and photographer Erich Sayers] that we met backstage at our show in Hollywood, at the House of Blues, in January. This guy was a fan and he gave us his card and he sent us some artwork and it was fucking amazing; the guy is an awesome artist. And we decided to work with him on this album. We explained to him the concept and, of course, we sent him lyrics and some pictures and some sculptures, [visual] representations of 'kairos,' and he came up with a really cool design. It's woman's body figure with a skull with a type of skin that is like a gel melting with big wings and stuff. And she's holding an [hourglass] with [the SEPULTURA] tribal 'S' [logo]. it's really nice. He really worked fast and he was very creative with a lot of ideas. We were very fortunate to find a guy like this under those circumstances — at a show — and it was great to work with [someone who] was so excited to be working with us."

Q: You mentioned earlier that you seriously began working on music for this album in August of last year. Was there any material left over from before that was reworked during the sessions and used on the new CD or is it all brand new ideas?

Andreas: "We had one song left over from the 'A-Lex' sessions that we re-recorded. Because when we recorded 'A-Lex', we only recorded the instrumental parts for the song, we didn't actually [finish it with] vocals, [we didn't have] lyrics for it. It's more or less the same [as it was before] but with an extra part and lyrics. That song we had for a long time — for two or three years, at least. But all the rest of the stuff [was] really [written] from August on — when we really started working seriously [on the new CD]. And [we] really [wanted to] keep [the album] short. One of the characteristics of the old albums [was that they didn't have a lot of songs on them] — like 'Arise' had nine songs, and 'Master Of Puppets' had nine or eight — so our idea was to have ten songs, and really [make them as good as possible], maybe add parts and think a little bit more about the riffs instead of just throwing songs out there one after the other. 'Cause with [2006's] 'Dante XXI' and 'A-Lex', it was kind of that way... especially with 'A-Lex', since it was our first album with Jean Dolabella on drums, just working with him, writing with him for the first time, it was more like a big jam. But this one, we stopped and thought more about the whole concept and we focused on being more creative in the end. After using books [as the basis of the lyrical concepts on] our past albums, and the experience of doing that, we limited ourselves [this time around] to be more creative. I think it really helps when you have a goal and focus, and it worked great on this album."

Q: Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this the first time you guys have worked with a metal musician as a producer? The guy you worked with on the past couple of albums, Stanley Soares, is also a musician, I believe, but he doesn't play heavy metal.

Andreas: "Stanley is a great technician, he knows a lot about music and he's a guitar player, but he's not really a performing musician. He works a lot in the studio, but he's not part of a band and he never was really part of a band. In that respect, Roy Z [guitarist for HALFORD and BRUCE DICKINSON and producer for HELLOWEEN, JUDAS PRIEST and SEBASTIAN BACH, among others] is the first guy [we have ever worked with] that is not only a producer, but also a performing musician."

Q: And also a pretty experienced songwriter, since I believe has written much of the last couple of BRUCE DICKINSON albums and he has contributed to HALFORD as well.

Andreas: "Yeah, he's performing with HALFORD now, and he just played in Brazil November. That was great, because the idea was really to put SEPULTURA on stage in the studio and having a producer that is on stage now, it helps a lot [in capturing that live energy] in the [recording studio]. The album was practically recorded live; that was the idea initially — to try to be as live as possible — and more than 50 percent of first takes [is what we kept on the record]. It sounds really live and we're very happy with the chemistry we had with Roy in the studio. He really liked the idea of trying this raw approach. He didn't know the studio very well in São Paulo, but he learned [as we went along]. We didn't have too much time for pre-production [either], but everything worked out really perfectly. We were ready to record and he was very quick and smart in finding ways to [capture] the sound [we were looking for]. It was fun to record guitars with him, using different pedals and amps and stuff, and [he had] nice ideas to build really cool solos. So it was great; he was really the perfect guy for us [to work with] at this moment."

Q: Since you didn't have much time to spend on pre-production, does that mean that Roy wasn't very involved in fine-tuning the songs and he mostly contributed to the overall sound of the album once you actually got down to recording everything?

Andreas: "He did [help with the songwriting]. We had songs that were really divided in two [parts] and we threw one song away and we kind of worked the first half of the song and we finished the song in a totally different way. [He was also involved in coming up with] parts for vocals and choruses and stuff that we didn't use... I mean, he was very active, but we worked in the studio at the same time that we were recording. That was kind of a pressure that was kind of good in the end for what we wanted to do — not overthinking [everything]. Of course we did something [that was] very [well thought out] and very professionally played, but at the same time we tried to keep the stage vibe — the kind of live performance [feel] that is so challenging for any musician to [capture] in the studio. But in the end, the result is amazing; we're very happy. I think it's one of the best SEPULTURA albums that we ever did — the whole vibe and the sound and the lyrics and the songs and the style. I'm very confident that we created something really special with this one."

Q: Do you think there is anything musically on this record that will really surprise SEPULTURA fans or is it more or less what people would expect to hear from the band except, presumably, with a fresh twist to it?

Andreas: "I think it will surprise a lot of people in a very good way... I hope. [Laughs] I think every SEPULTURA album is something that people [never] know what to expect [from], and that's great for a band. It's cool to have that kind of excitement or feeling about waiting for something. it's very hard to explain. Once people hear [the new album], my words will make a lot more sense, because we wanna have the musical reference there to see what I am talking about — about this concept of time and our history and the approach of the music and everything. I think you just have to listen for yourself and enjoy and explore that. But I think that's what music is for — to travel somewhere and have a 'kairos' moment. I hope. [Laughs]"

Q: Ever since Max Cavalera left SEPULTURA in December 1996, you've assumed the bulk of the songwriting duties and you haven't had nearly as much input from the other guys as once did working with Max. Was that difficult for you to adjust to at first and how comfortable are you in that role now?

Andreas: "Of course, it's different, and it should be. The thing is that I don't suffer because I'm not looking for another Max. It would be foolish for me to try and think that [I can recreate] the kind of chemistry that me and him had in SEPULTURA, which was basically what created the SEPULTURA sound — of course, with Igor's way of playing drums, etc. But everything came from that chemistry from the guitars and the crazy ideas [we came up with as a team]. Max is always very creative and very charismatic and excited to do stuff — at least he was during the time that we worked together. And that's something that can't really be done again. Even if we work together again, we are different people and we did different things [during our years apart]. That's something that happens... It happens to everybody, I guess — in friendship and family or whatever. But I feel very happy that it happened the way that it happened and the stuff that we achieved together. But, like I said, I'm not looking [to recreate] that — I'm looking for new things every day. That's the SEPULTURA spirit and that's the only thing that kept us alive. . . And in regards to all the comparisons [to the Max-era SEPULTURA] and the pointed fingers and concepts here and there on what SEPULTURA should be and what SEPULTURA is, we are what we are and we do what we do, and that's it. We will present [ourselves] the way we will present [ourselves]. With Derrick [Green, vocals], also, we have a different chemistry which works great to a certain limit. I cannot compare it to what I had with Max, the way we [came] up things and etc. But me and Derrick, we work great, especially on lyrics and discussing concepts; he's a guy who reads a lot, he loves books. We talked about what books we should use [for lyrical concepts] and documentaries... we bring those things together. And now with Jean in the group, I think, musically, the chemistry is very strong. [Jean] is an amazing musician that can do anything, pretty much. He's been working with orchestras and doing stuff with percussive grooves that are very mechanical with very specific [tempos] and musical changes and stuff, and we feel like we can do anything."

Q: You recorded cover versions of MINISTRY's "Just One Fix" and THE PRODIGY's "Firestarter" during the "Kairos" sessions. Was that kind of an afterthought — something you decided to do at the last minute — or did you plan it that way all along?

Andreas: "Not really. That came up later. When we played the two shows in California during NAMM in January, we met the guy from Nuclear Blast [Records], which is gonna put the album out in the States, and we talked about different packages and different ideas. And the conversation started there — to find cool stuff that SEPULTURA hadn't done before. Because, really, we've recorded [cover versions of] so many different bands — from the hardcore and heavy stuff to BOB MARLEY and MASSIVE ATTACK. So we talked about different stuff and we came up with MINISTRY and THE PRODIGY, which was great — we love those bands, and we never really had a chance to do something with their music. Especially THE PRODIGY, it was kind of a challenge to try to find a balance between the heavy guitars and the way they have the dance kind of vibe also. But it came out great; it was really cool. MINISTRY's 'Just One Fix', which is a song that we've known for ages, and we've toured with MINISTRY in 1992, it was great to [have a chance to record our version of the track]. And THE PRODIGY, they're an awesome band live — very energetic — and I think [our version of 'Firestarter'] came out great. Actually, they came out so good that they might be on the album; the pressure is to try to put them on the album. So let's see what's gonna happen — if they're gonna [be set aside] for later [use] or if they're gonna be on the album."

Q: Was it easier working with drummer Jean Dolabella in the studio the second time around? There was presumably more pressure on him during the "A-Lex" recording sessions because he was replacing someone (Igor Cavalera) who was such an important part of the band's sound, but I imagine that by now he must feel pretty comfortable in the role.

Andreas: "Yeah, definitely. We played so much. The 'A-Lex' tour, it [lasted] two years, going everywhere, and we played [a lot of] the old stuff [live]. He [reproduced] what Igor did very well, and it was great to see him playing the old stuff with his signature, but without losing the characteristic sound that SEPULTURA has. And, of course, the second time around, he played his own stuff from 'A-Lex' on stage and [was] received [very] well by the fans and he showed live that there was [shouldn't be any] concern about [his ability to play] anything [from] the SEPULTURA [catalog] . . . He brought great ideas during the songwriting process for the new album and an amazing way of playing. I mean, live we can play anything — from the [early] SEPULTURA [releases] we can play songs like 'Murder' and 'Meaningless Movements' and 'Septic Schizo' and 'Escape To The Void'. It's great to play that stuff again after so long."

Q: In a number of recent interviews, whenever Max Cavalera was asked about the possibility of a reunion of the classic SEPULTURA lineup, he mentioned the fact that he supposedly had a conversation with you a couple of years ago where you agreed to try to make the reunion happen. However, he claims that the whole thing fell apart a short time later after you made unreasonable financial demands and "lawyers" got involved. Did you, in fact, have any such conversation with Max, and if so, what caused the talks to break down?

Andreas: "It started, I think, in 2009 when SEPULTURA and SOULFLY finally actually played at the same festival [at the Devilside Festival on June 28, 2009 at Landschaftspark in Duisburg-Nord, Germany]. So our tour buses were parked side by side. I left my tour bus and saw Gloria [Cavalera, Max's wife and SEPULTURA's former manager] there. I walked over and just gave her a hug and said, "How are you?" I mean, there was no reason not to do that; I never really held any animosity or any hate towards them at all. Anyway, after that, it was cool because I think it opened the door, really, to our communication — without really even thinking about anything, reunion or nothing, just people that know each other and worked together, just to talk to each other again. So we opened this channel of communication, and it was clear from the beginning that Gloria really wanted to do a reunion. Actually, she started really trying to put this together, and I talked to Max for two minutes, or maybe a minute and 48 seconds [laughs] — it was really quick, and she had him on her side. I think it was the first time that we talked on the phone for ages — since he left the band — or even [that I talked to] Gloria. So it was good to have that kind of talk. I was happy to at least talk to each other again. And we talked about football and just like basically bullshit — just to say, 'How are you?' 'How are things', kids, whatever, football... and that was it. It was just a conversation of trying to get back in touch [with one another]. But [everything that our new] album ['Kairos'] is about is opposite of what they [Max and Gloria] wanna do. I guess I live my life in a different way. And it's kind of really annoying, that kind of pressure, from everywhere, not only from the press. We see promoters trying to put pressure when promoting our shows in the States, trying to... trying to get in the way somehow, not to let SEPULTURA just have our path or our way. We are on a very good label [at the moment], with our business in place and stuff, a great album, and I don't think Max and Gloria respect what we achieved [in the years after Max left] and what we are doing [right now]. I guess SOULFLY did great, or is doing great, and I don't see why he's even worried about us. Everyone chose their way — Max chose to leave the band, Igor is doing his MIXHELL stuff, and he's happy about it; he's very active and he's doing great. Even CAVALERA CONSPIRACY, I came to see their show here at a festival in São Paulo — I didn't meet them, I didn't see them, but I saw the show and I thought it was great; it was cool to see [Max and Igor] playing [together] again. I don't see what the problem is for us to get on with our career and stuff. I mean, the reunion stuff, it's not gonna happen at all. It was never a part of our plan to do that, and I guess they felt that the contact of speaking on the phone for two minutes was kind of my way of saying, 'Yes, let's do a reunion.' I mean, I wanna have a relationship with the people that I work with — I'm not a slave of the fucking past and I'm not a slave of people's expectations of what SEPULTURA should be. I live SEPULTURA every day — since I joined this band in '87 — and it's been like that to this day. And I still enjoy what I do, regardless of the challenges that we [face]. And I wish they could respect that and get on with our lives. Max is a very creative musician and he should be doing great stuff, as he deserves. And that's all."

Q: But Max has said in a bunch of interviews that you guys supposedly spoke, you agreed to try to do a reunion, and then all of sudden money issues came up...

Andreas: "It never happened. This is all a fantasy. What happened is what I said — it was a really nice, cool conversation, talking about nothing but family stuff; nothing about business at all. It would be stupid for us to, after [almost] 20 years [apart], expect for a phone call of two minutes to [lead] to a big reunion. [laughs] It's kind of naive, you know — it's kind of stupid."

Q: Is it safe to say that if you guys could rebuild your relationship and have a real friendship with one another again, you would be open to maybe doing a SEPULTURA reunion with Max, but unless that happens, you are not interested?

Andreas: "No, I don't [necessarily] connect our friendship with doing a reunion. But, of course, after getting to know each other again and talking about projects, we could even do different stuff — [work together again and] not call ourselves SEPULTURA. I mean, create some different project or whatever; it doesn't necessarily have to lead to a reunion. It [would be] just a relationship [like the one] that I have with [any of] my friends — that's all."

Photos below by Estevam Romera

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