Before their incredible performance in Glasgow recently (reviewed here), Pit Troll and I had the chance to sit down with the band for a quick chinwag. On arrival we were offered the choice of Andreas or Derrick to talk to; sort of like a Sepultura-esque menu. Given that I’d spoken to Andreas in 1996, we opted for some time with Derrick. After all, nothing much has happened in the last 19 years of Sepultura history so I doubt Andreas would have had anything new to say… ;)
Derrick turned out to be a great guy. His gruff voice and off-stage persona completely at odds with his thoughtful answers and aggressive front-man appearance which we would enjoy later in the evening. Mind you, he’s also the first band member I think I’ve met who could give Pit Troll a run for his money in terms of height!
Does it surprise you that the band is still going strong after over thirty years, almost twenty of them with you on vocals?
It kind of is, yes, but I always felt that we could keep going as long as we wanted to. It was difficult at first but we’ve had a lot of support, especially from the fans in places like Brazil and around the world, and it slowly evolved into something that people were comfortable with. There’s a lot of correspondence now, especially compared to when I joined. There’s the internet now, and back then I don’t think I even had a computer!
I had no idea of what was going on in the way that I would now. I just knew from going to shows and seeing people face to face, watching their reactions – reality. That was my perception of how things were going.
The reception [of Derrick taking over vocals – Mosh] was quite positive. A lot of people were very sceptical at first, you could see. Just stood there listening, but we were able to “capture” a lot of these and have them anticipating the next album and the next show.
You’ve never gone away, either. Many bands over the last thirty years have taken a break then come back – you’ve never stopped.
No, because we truly love what we do. We’ve never wanted to walk away. We enjoy playing, we enjoy writing music, we enjoy being on stage. There was no reason for us wanting to leave. This is something we’ve strived for and something we have a lot of respect for.
This is a thirty year anniversary tour. You yourself have been with the band for just under twenty years. Can you think back to 1996-7 and tell us how you came to join the band?
It came from knowing people and having a desire to do music in general. I started in Cleveland – I was born there – and had been in punk and hardcore bands. If I hadn’t done that and moved to New York, I’d not have met Mike Gitter [Hope I have that spelling correct – Mosh] who worked for Roadrunner at the time. He was a person who went to a lot of shows. He saw my old band play and he thought I’d be an ideal person to audition because a) I was nothing like the old singer and b) they couldn’t go back and try to find someone to imitate him, or try to have a clone. It wasn’t going to work with this band.
He was thinking about the future of the band and what they would need to move on. He suggested to me that I try out and he gave me the tape. I recorded my idea for the song and gave it back to him to pass on to them and they liked it. I didn’t hear anything for about a month then I got a call from Igor – right as I was going to work at a bar doing security – saying “Hey, this is Igor – how about coming to Brazil and meeting up…?”
I was thinking “yeah, sure”, maybe the end of the month… and he asked me to come at the end of the week! They sent me a ticket so I could go and meet them and to see how things went.
Can you remember the song on the tape?
Yes, it was “Choke”. We’re doing it tonight. It had no lyrics when I got it. They were only working on new material at the time, coming up with ideas for new songs. Nothing old.
Did you cover rhythm guitar for a while after you joined the band?
Yeah, I was playing guitar on some songs up until maybe the third album and then I started getting more into percussion. Just because I wanted to get deeper into vocals and focus on that. I’m not a really strong guitar player, so I thought I would be better at that. Now we’ll see – I’d like to do a mixture of both on the next album.
I did play guitar on stage, too, but only for three or four songs on each set. Now the drum is just there and I use that for a bunch of songs.
No plans to mimic Phil Collins and do everything from behind a full drum kit?
No! I wish! I mean, I’m a huge Phil Collins fan! But no, no Phil any time soon!
When you opted to focus on vocals did the band ever consider expanding and bringing in a fifth member on rhythm guitar?
No, it felt like we’d be adding too much. We didn’t need that. With one clear guitar you can hear everything being played. Andreas covers all the leads and he can be heard very clearly.
From what I recall, Max only ever used the bottom four strings anyway. So with Paulo playing a 5-string bass you just ramp the bass up and his rhythm fills the gap in the older songs?
Yeah, that’s right. They’d been changing things around a bit with the older songs, and it took some people some time to get used to it. I think they’re more used to hearing it from an album with two guitars. Live I think you’ll hear a bit of a change, but for me it’s much more clear, much more simple. More direct.
Maybe back to the hardcore days where you started off?
Absolutely. So many of my favourite bands have just one guitarist – Pantera, Bad Brains… These bands were so powerful.
Probably a tricky one, but thinking back over almost twenty years… what stand-out memories do you have with Sepultura?
God, there’s so many! Of course, just getting into the band. The first show was to something like 40,000 people in Sao Paulo, which was mindblowing. That was something else. Hometown crowd, the Xavante Indians who came, Jason Newsted, Mike Patton, Jaior – the first guitarist in Sepultura… It was like a bunch of people from the history of Sepultura coming together for this show called “Barulho contra a Fome” (“Noise Against Hunger”). That was pretty intense.
Then playing Rock in Rio a few years later was something extremely special.
Back then you must have been the only member of the band who couldn’t speak Portuguese! Do you speak it now?
Yeah, I do now! I live in Sao Paulo so I had to learn the language. That was difficult – adapting to the culture and the lifestyle of being in a new country, but I learned a lot really quickly just living alone. I met people, learned things on my own because the other guys lived on the other side of the city and have their own families.
But it was a great experience. Brazilian people are very open and they love the band so much.
Living in Brazil there’s one question that everyone will ask you when they first meet you – what football team do you support?
Palmeiras. Everyone in the band has their own teams, but it was the first game I went to when I arrived in Brazil. I went with Igor and a bunch of other friends. The team colour is green, same as my last name. They weren’t the most popular team, and I wouldn’t want to support the most popular team anyway – I’d rather support the underdog. At that time they were still pretty popular but still the underdog.
I love football now. Being in the band and living in Brazil watching football is at a whole new level.
You were on tour in Europe during the last World Cup, weren’t you?
Yeah, for most of it… watching that Brazilian match on television. But I was really rooting for America, and they did really well.
So what’s next for Sepultura? I hear you’re about to start working on a new album?
We’re going to finish up the year in December, go back to Brazil and play a show there then one in Peru, and then start the writing process in February.
Any ideas as yet? Is there a chance of another concept-style album like A-Lex or Dante XXI?
I don’t think a concept overall, but the first few songs may have some kind of concept that Andreas and I have been talking about recently. We have bits and pieces of ideas that are slowly coming together now. Once we sit down and start working on it in the studio I think it’ll just start to flow.
Andreas had a recipe put in a book a few years ago for Churraco in Soy Sauce. What would you have submitted?
Something without meat or animals for sure – I’m vegetarian! Boca burgers are a favourite, I love those. I’ve not had them in such a long time! I make a pretty good vegetable curry, so maybe that. Kinda spicy. I like spicy.
If you bumped into a new band who were just starting out today, what advice would you give them?
Do what you love. Stay true to what you love to do. Don’t play to appease other people. Stick to what you want to play and the rest will follow. That love, passion and positivity will come out and people will see that.
Header Image by Garry Cooper.