In January 2017, Brazilian metal titans, Sepultura, will release their 14th studio album, Machine Messiah. The band will also release a first ever movie documentary of the quartet’s three-decade long career. Sepultura was founded by brothers Max and Igor Cavalera in Belo Horizonte in 1984. The band moved to larger city São Paulo, Brazil where bassist Paulo Pinto Jr. and guitarist Andreas Kisser would ultimately round out the band’s first significant incarnation. Frontman, Max Cavalera would depart the band a decade after the release of Sepultura’s debut album, Morbid Visions. Cleveland-born vocalist Derrick Green would replace Max the following year. Drummer Iggor Cavalera would depart a decade after his brother. Young drum prodigy, Eloy Casagrande now sits behind the kit.
Vocalist Derrick Green celebrates his 20-year anniversary with the Sepultura in 2017, and he admitted joining the band had a bit of a harrowing beginning. He flew from New York to Brazil where he knew no one, and did not understand the language, to audition for a gig thousands of vocalists wanted. He ultimately earned his place in the band, but it was not without a lot of hard work, chemistry, and anxiety. This week, Metalholic caught up with the mighty frontman to chat about Sepultura’s new record, his thoughts on technology and fake news, and the baptism by fire that began his career with the band two decades ago.
You guys went over to Fascination St. Studios in Sweden to work with producer Jens Bogren on this Machine Messiah. How did you guys make that choice?
“I’ve been visiting Sweden, and I’ve really been impressed by the sound’s I’ve been hearing coming from out of Sweden. There was just something about the sound that I was hearing, and I started asking a lot of people, a lot of friends about what’s going on and who are some producers. I thought it would be great for Sepultura to do something there, completely out of our element. There’s a Brazilian band that had worked with Jens before, and Jens had worked with many different artists all over, but this was definitely the connection that got us closer to Jens. Once we met and started sending him demos it just really connected well. He’s a great producer because he’s very meticulous. The stuff that he’s worked on was really inspirational for us as far as pushing for something different for us.”
Going over across the pond and isolating yourself away from everyone, working with Jens, eating, breathing, living this album every day; what did that do for the sound of the record?
“I think working with Jens and being there isolated definitely had an impact. We were very focused with everyone living under the same roof, and the studio was right below us. Sao Paulo is a crazy city and it’s always very busy, so it was nice not to be thinking about anything but focusing on what we were there to do, which was make a great album. I think this brought us together even more being under these circumstances, and really going deep into ourselves and trying to pull out things that we had never done before. I think the chemistry flowed very well for us to do that. I think being so isolated and focused, we were bound to doing something different than we possibly imagined.”
It feels like you are doing more vocally on this album. Was that Jens Bogren pushing you, or was it a conscious decision by you to stretch out a bit vocally?
“I think it was a combination of us both. I was telling him I really wanted to do something very different with the vocals on this album, and I had heard stuff that he had done with people who were singing all the time on certain albums. Not screaming all the time. So I really felt he could bring out something in my voice. And it was a lot of fun doing that. I had done this before on Sepultura albums on certain songs, but it was really great to have this be a representation of the first song, ‘Machine Messiah.’ And then just being so extreme and dynamic. So we weren’t really afraid to go there. We felt this was something that was needed. I felt it was a really fantastic song for my voice where I could really show a little bit more.”
The album has this incredible covert art and the title Machine Messiah sounds like it could be a concept record. Is this a concept record, or just a thread of a theme running through it?
“Machine Messiah is an idea…the entire album is not based around it. It’s definitely a theme throughout the album. It was something that Andreas came up with. Just looking around today and looking at certain people and how they are so absorbed in electronics and technology and their phone. It’s almost like a new messiah has come and everyone is worshiping it. It’s controlling our lives. We feel safe with it, or security with it, and when we don’t have it we’re losing our minds. This was something we were noticing during the writing process and traveling the world. At the same time there were a lot of things going on in politics. There were a lot of things going on involving technology like the cyber bullying that goes on a lot, and this false news where people are desperately trying to put stuff out there without fact checking it first. So all this misinformation, and the politics and technology were definitely things we were writing about on this album.”
It is a bit terrifying that people will believe almost everything they read, and this is the most obscene time in American media and politics…but it’s not just in America.
“I agree 100%. I mean, it’s not just in America; it is many places around the world. The standards of reporting in news have dropped to an all-time low. It’s really disgusting because a lot of people truly believe in the news. What they see, they see as fact. Or they see something on the internet. A huge number of people just believe what they are seeing and that’s a scary thought because you can manipulate a lot of people by doing this. I think it’s healthy to question everything that’s put there, because the internet has created such a mass of crap out there. You have to sift through it to find the good things that are there beneath this morass of lies and negativity that people are posting.”
Green is quick to note that Machine Messiah captures some of Sepultura’s most inspired individual performances. Casagrande, on his second record with the band, is far more comfortable and able to be more creative. Paulo Jr., who generally dislikes being in the studio delivered some of his best performances ever. Likewise, guitar virtuoso, Kisser, stretched his talents in more expansive and inspired directions. Derrick turned Andreas on to an instrumental band which in turn led the group to record perhaps its finest instrumental to date, “Iceberg Dances.” He also noted Bogren’s significant contributions to the record. From the opening title track to the epic finale, “Cyber God,” Sepultura is back with its most intriguing record in years.
Editor’s note: In what is something of an ironic twist given the theme of the new record, the second half of this amazing interview with Derrick was lost to a technology failure. He shared at length his thoughts on Machine Messiah’s sound, his thoughts on his bandmates incredible performances, and he looked back on the 20th anniversary of his joining the band and the experience of making their first album together, Against.
Catch Sepultura on tour this fall with Testament and Prong, and pick up Machine Messiah which releases on January 13 through Nuclear Blast Records.