Over the course of a career spanning over a quarter of the century, pressure comes from many - both fans and media alike. If a group cuts a landmark album or even a string of landmark albums, or perhaps has a "classic" lineup, the pressure to relive that sound or return to that lineup is overwhelming. A famous example might be the pressure on Metallica to record another "Master Of Puppets", or Iron Maiden and Judas Priest's years in which they didn't have their most famous frontmen (Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford respectively) in their ranks. Such a pressure is placed on Sepultura without the Cavalera brothers, but the band soldiers on regardless with their head held high.
Issued on June 24th, 2011 in Europe via Nuclear Blast Records, twelfth Sepultura studio album "Kairos" landed at #45 in Switzerland, #49 in Germany and #75 in Austria. Shifting 2,500 copies in its inaugural week of North American release, the record was issued on July 12th in that country. Los Angeles-based freelance artist Erich Sayers designed the full-length's artwork, having met Sepultura for the first time at the band's concert at the House Of Blues in West Hollywood, California.
Recorded with producer / guitarist Roy Z (known for working with Halford and Bruce Dickinson), sessions took place from December 2010 to March 2011 at Trama Studios in So Paulo, Brazil. Two cover interpretations were recorded: Ministry's "Just One Fix" and The Prodigy's "Firestarter", the latter of which is included on a deluxe edition version of the album - the former is on the album's regular track listing.
Themed around the concept of time, "Kairos" is autobiographical in nature, having been influenced by Sepultura's 25-year anniversary as a group. The second album to feature drummer Jean Donabella, this is also the second Sepultura effort to be completed without vocalist Max and drummer Igor, the Cavalera brothers.
On May 19th at 16:30 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser to discuss "Kairos".
Andreas Kisser: Hello?
UG: Hello. Is this Andreas?
This is Robert Gray from Ultimate-Guitar.com, calling for the interview arranged through Nuclear Blast in Europe.
How are you?
I'm doing well. How are you Andreas?
Good, all good.
Would it be ok if we began the interview?
How did Sepultura come to sign with Nuclear Blast?
For our last album we were working with SPV, but they had many different problems - financial problems and so on. They unfortunately went bankrupt and the personnel changed there, so the people there we used to work with all left and now they have a different approach and different plans for everything. We decided to leave, although they kept our back catalogue. At the same time though, we were free really to deal with a different label for our next album. We were very lucky and very happy to have a chance to work with Nuclear Blast; they are a metal label, they've been there forever, they really understand the market and all the changes, and they survived because they understand what they're doing. They're real metalheads; they understand the fans, the style of music, and how to market this stuff. Like I said, we're very fortunate to have such a partner for this album and we're very happy to be together with them. So far it's working great, just preparing everything for this release since last year and building a plan and everything. It's all working really good - we're glad.
Twelfth studio album 'Kairos' deals with the concept of time.
This is an album that in the end is inspired by ourselves; we were celebrating twenty-five years of Sepultura's career last year, and doing a lot of special things to celebrate that - special shirts, and we had our own beer in Brazil celebrating our twenty-five years and all this stuff. When you do that, you tend to look back on your career; you remember your beginnings, where you started, where you come from and that brings a lot of feelings. We're still here in 2011, playing music, travelling the world and signing a new deal, and being who we are. That brought a lot of ideas, and we were inspired by books for our two previous albums - 'Divine Comedy' and 'A Clockwork Orange'. This one is almost our own biography book; as we were reading our own story, we were inspired by that. Our lyrics talk about our families, our friends and our relationships with labels and managers and the press. We talk about our experiences onstage and travelling the world. It turned out to be a more intimate album and I think 'Kairos' represents this moment that we are in, respecting our past without being slaves of our past and really living in the present as much as we can. The now, 2011 - what Sepultura is today. It's a pretty strong concept that helped us a lot to write all the stuff, and we are very happy with the result.
You said how Sepultura doesn't wish to be a slave of its past. Is that a reference to all these interviews where Max Cavalera keeps talking about reuniting the old lineup, whereas you want to just continue doing what you're doing?
Yeah, it's a little bit of that as well - trying to reproduce what isn't there anymore. We live in the reunion age; many bands from many different styles are coming back together - some of them were really cool, but other ones were very weak. It's actually impossible to relive something that's not there anymore, so I guess yeah, we can't reproduce what we were but we can really respect that and build from there. I guess the most important time is now, as always (laughs).
You said how 'Kairos' is more or less a biography of Sepultura. Have you ever been tempted to sit down and write your memoirs?
Not really, but at the same time we are doing a movie right now. Since last year, when we started writing the album, the whole process of composition and then in the studio and now on the road, we're filming every day. We are talking about our history and at the same time really showing the actual moment of Sepultura, so the intention is really to film everything that's gonna happen during this album cycle and maybe in a year to a year and a half we're gonna be ready to release a movie talking about Sepultura's history. We're not actually writing our memoirs, but at the same time talking about ourselves and our history not in the form of a book but a movie. Let's see how the film develops; we've already filmed a lot of stuff, but we still have a lot to go.
Will this Sepultura documentary be released in conjunction with this filmed orchestral performance where the group played with Orquestra Experimental de Repertrio on April 16th at the Virada Cultural festival in So Paulo, Brazil? Or will that be a separate release?
It's gonna be a part of the movie. We filmed everything of our appearance with the orchestra, but at the same time we didn't have a chance to really record a proper sound. The sound's not really that good, but the whole experience was amazing. It worked very well, but the intention is really to do more songs and try to do this type of show in a closed environment instead of doing it at an open festival like we did in So Paulo. We can then control a lot better the sound, not only from the band but from the orchestra especially, but this is something for next year. Everything is being recorded for the movie, and everything we do we are recording and filming so we have as much as we can to decide what's gonna be in the movie or not.
In light of the fact 'Kairos'' lyrics weren't based on a written work as was the case for its two predecessors, did that provide more of a freedom as to where to go with the lyrics?
Oh definitely, yeah. When you talk about yourselves, at the same time it's more intimate and it's easier just expressing your feelings. Of course it was great to work with books like that because they are so rich in characters and situations, and you could express your point of view through the story and through the characters. This time it was just about ourselves though, and we just talk about family and friends and everything that's related to our lives, professionally and also privately. I guess it's easier when you express something that you're feeling yourself, so yeah, it was much more - like I said - intimate, and a lot easier to write.
Did Sepultura's twenty-fifth anniversary have a musical effect on 'Kairos'? Maybe flavours from some of the older records?
I think so man, not only from our records but from influences that we had during those days. Like the thrash metal bands and the punk and hardcore scenes, which we still listen to today. In those days those influences were stronger than they are today though, so I guess yeah, I think the whole celebration of twenty-five years was really something that brought that idea of time and what time is, and what the concept of time is. Then I found this word "kairos" that was really powerful, and really inspired the whole thing. It was great.
How did you discover the word "kairos"? In a book or something?
Yeah, books and internet searching and documentaries. It was really cool to see that. A lot of people see time and feel time in very different ways, and such a concept like that is amazing. It's not chronological time, but is just a special moment and opportunity. It's a very powerful concept. It's something that was really perfect for us, really inspiring.
Some of the tracks on 'Kairos' are numbered; for example, one is numbered "2011". Are there any meanings behind the titles of these numbered tracks?
Yeah. There's four interludes and each one of them has a number, and these numbers represent the current year that we're living in in different calendars; 2011 the Christian one, 5772 the Hebrew calendar, and then the Chinese and Muslim calendars. We are all living here in the same time, but we have different concepts of it and these interludes represent that. Sound-wise, they're just like different situations in normal daily lives, like an opera house in Prague and then a subway in Spain, and bells in Germany and the band warming up backstage somewhere in the world or going onstage. Just daily stuff that happens every day, constant situations in people's everyday lives. It's good to see that people have a different concept of time. Together, that's what those numbers represent.
"I guess we can't reproduce what we were but we can really respect that and build from there."
Besides the thrash, punk and hardcore influences, are there any others you can pinpoint which influenced 'Kairos'?
Well, we listen to every type of music nowadays; classical, jazz, reggae, blues and of course metal. Everything is there a little bit. We always keep our ears open, listening to music. We've had the privilege to travel a lot, so we're always learning something new and hearing a new band here and there. There's influences from everywhere pretty much, but of course the elements we use on the album were very raw. Just guitars, bass, drums and vocals, and that reflects that kind of real rawness of thrash metal during those days, so I guess there are influences from everything and everywhere. Just the whole concept and the whole vibe was thrash from the old days.
Would Sepultura ever cut a studio album with an orchestra?
That's the idea to really control more the sounds and to mix well, so we can feel the band and the orchestra as most as we can the peak of the sounds and stuff. So yeah, that's the idea. We don't know when exactly we wanna do that because the album's coming out now and we're focusing on this release and everything, but we are already working on some new arrangements to improve the setlist. Let's see if we find the space to do something like that, because it was a really great experience and I think it's gonna sound amazing.
'Kairos' is Sepultura's second album to feature drummer Jean Donabella, who has played numerous shows with the group now. Was there that improved chemistry with Jean on 'Kairos'?
Yeah, definitely. He's been in the band for like five years already and this is his second album with Sepultura, and we've been playing everywhere in every kind of situation from Cuba to South Africa to everywhere pretty much - we went to India and so on. Of course, this brings a lot of experience to play in any kind of situation and I think our playing is very tight. It makes you ready to face any type of situation really, live or in the studio. It makes working easier. We know each other better and the chemistry is there, so yeah, it's working great.
How did Sepultura come to work with guitarist Roy Z, who metal fans will know from his work with the Halford band and Bruce Dickinson?
We wanted to work with somebody different. The last albums we did pretty much ourselves with our technician Stanley Soares, doing the engineering and stuff - we were producing the albums ourselves. This time we wanted somebody different to work with, and Roy is a guy that we've known for awhile. He's been in Brazil many times and worked with Brazilian bands, and he's an amazing producer who works with great names in metal, and also a producer who's a very active live musician onstage - he tours with Rob Halford and has different projects of his own. We had the best of both worlds; he is the same age as us, and is very sensitive because he's a great musician, great guitar player. Overall he was a perfect choice for us, and it worked out great together in the studio. He mixed the album as well and did an amazing job. We're very happy with the result.
Since Roy Z is a musician, he was able to help where the live sound was concerned, as well as being able to make small suggestions regarding the song arrangements?
Oh yeah, definitely. That's why he was there. Every time we have a producer working with us, he's the extra member of the group. His ideas and his input are crucial for us to build something together, so yeah, he was vital to the whole process definitely.
There was one track left over from the 'A-Lex' writingsessions.
Yeah. This is a song called "Seethe"; we played that song a lot while we were touring, and at the same time we were writing the material. This song was left over, so we kind of re-did the song; we re-recorded and we improved and wrote little extra parts, compared to what we recorded for 'A-Lex', and that was the starting point of our writing process for this new stuff. This was the only song that was left from the old stuff, and all the rest is new.
'Kairos' features the Ministry cover "Just One Fix".
Yeah. We put it on the album, plus a bonus track called "Firestarter" that's a cover of The Prodigy. They're two bands which we've never covered before and both of them have such a different influence on our career, especially Ministry during the 'Chaos A.D.' days. Sepultura has done so many covers from Black Sabbath, Motrhead to hardcore bands to U2, Devo, Bob Marley and New Model Army - it was kind of hard to find a band we hadn't covered. Prodigy are also very heavy but in a different way, so it was really cool to cover them and we're very happy with the results too. We liked it so much that we felt one of them could be on there, so "Just One Fix" is on the album.
Why did Sepultura choose to cover Ministry's "Just One Fix", as opposed to say another Ministry track?
"Just One Fix" is the song that put Ministry on the map. Of course Ministry had many other songs, but I think this is their most famous track and it's a song that really changed our heads a little bit. It was something with a very new sound and very raw, very direct, that industrial type of feeling, and "Just One Fix" I think is the most known song that they ever did and it's something that's very special to us. It's a song that we listened to a lot during those days, and we also had the chance to tour with them in '92 in America alongside Helmet - it was so amazing. They always played that song, and it was very powerful. It was just killer.
"This is almost our own biography book; as we were reading our own story, we were inspired by that."
How did Sepultura approach cutting its own rendition of "Firestarter", considering "Firestarter" features a lot of techno parts?
It was a challenge for us, but like I said, we've covered so many bands like U2, Devo and so on. Prodigy is very heavy though; we heard some live versions of "Firestarter", and there were a lot of guitars there. A lot of the hardcore punk feeling, so in the end it wasn't very hard. There were a lot of elements there that were very connected to metal and punk, and it fits perfectly. We were very happy with the result of this cover, and I think it could be very exciting to do that live. It's very powerful.
Erich Sayers, who handled 'Kairos'' artwork, Sepultura met at a concert at Los Angeles' House Of Blues in January 2011. How did that come about?
Yeah. He just came to see our show and we met him backstage, a young guy who was talking about his job. We were blown away by his style and possibilities. It was really cool that we had the chance to meet this guy. We were very lucky to find him that day, and he really understood the concept of what we wanted to have on the cover and he did an amazing job. We were very lucky to find someone like him that is a fan of the band, understands our music and is such an artist to portray this conceptual cover. It was great, very cool to see that, and we're very excited that we have something new to work with, so it's great.
Do you feel Erich is a name we'll be hearing more of in the metal world when it comes to artwork?
Well, let's see man. It's something that he's starting to do. I think he's worked with some other bands, but I think this is his first major work project. I hope yeah, he will be around and do some other stuff with some other bands and maybe continue working with us on future albums. Let's see what happens, but like I said, it's cool to find such a talent. We were very lucky that he was working with us.
What do you hope the future will hold for Sepultura?
I think the achievement is this. Keeping together and playing the music we love and living in the present as much as we can, living now, and the future is a consequence of that. Sepultura has always treated the future like that, really respecting what we have today and just playing everywhere. The immediate future is touring really; the album is coming out and we have the Wacken festival, many festivals in Europe. We have the Rock In Rio festival in September in Brazil, and many other tours coming up. We'll just keep touring, especially in America - the intention is to come back later this year. We'll just play as much as we can and enjoy life as musicians.
Thanks for speaking to me Andreas.
Alright, man. Thank you.
All the best with Sepultura.
Thank you very much man. See you soon.
Interview by Robert Gray
"The intention is to film everything that's gonna happen during this album cycle and maybe in a year we're gonna be ready to release a movie talking about Sepultura's history."