“We put out a new album this year called Machine Messiah, and it’s gonna be exciting to do a lot of the new songs,” enthused Sepultura vocalist Derrick Green ahead of their Australian tour in May next year. “There’s five or six new songs and a mixture of the classics, so there’s a big catalogue to draw from. It’s great to have so many songs and also the diversity in the songs. After so many years of playing, there are many generations that have been able to get into the band, and they all have certain material they love, and I think with this set they are able to hear a bit of everything.”
Machine Messiah has been heralded as a welcome return to form for Sepultura, widely regarded by both fans and critics alike as the bands finest release since Green took over vocal duties from Max Cavalera in 1997, a topic that sits well with Green.”Yeah, I would definitely agree,” he nodded. “I feel like there’s been an evolution and it’s a beautiful process being able to move forward and have people agree and understand this feeling as well. As an artist it’s something that you strive for: to be better and feel better and do better than you felt you’ve ever done in the past. I think everything is important from the past. We wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t had those building blocks and I think we’re still moving forward. It’s something that’s so… within us. It’s part of your natural life evolving and changing and I think that happens with the music as well.”
“Yeah, I would definitely agree,” he nodded. “I feel like there’s been an evolution and it’s a beautiful process being able to move forward and have people agree and understand this feeling as well. As an artist, it’s something that you strive for: to be better and feel better and do better than you felt you’ve ever done in the past. I think everything is important from the past. We wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t had those building blocks and I think we’re still moving forward. It’s something that’s so… within us. It’s part of your natural life evolving and changing, and I think that happens with the music as well.”
After eight albums with Green at the helm, it could be argued that he has grown into his role more as a reason behind the success, but he argues that it was more a case of general timing rather than anything he did or didn’t do differently.
“There’s a lot of different elements,” he mused. “I think with the timing of writing the album, a lot of things were happening surrounding us politically here in Brazil and also the U.S. The ideas that Andreas and I had going on were having to deal with technology and have we been able to connect better with each other as human beings or are we disconnected? Is there a balance in between that? All these different questions that are about having to do with timing. Also the fact that we wanted to work with a different producer Jens Bogren in Sweden was an idea that I had just for the fact that I love a lot of the work that he’d done and I was a big fan of his clean vocals as well, and I knew that there were some songs on this album that I wanted to have clean vocals. I felt that he could do that justice and really balance it out and have it sit well within the music. I think he was able to do that. It was a collaboration of us working with him and him being really into it and understanding where we wanted to go with it.”Another thing many people were saying about the album is that it is a deliberate return to the bands early sound and roots, but Green is quick to refute this suggestion.
Another thing many people were saying about the album is that it is a deliberate return to the bands early sound and roots, but Green is quick to refute this suggestion.
“I think it’s impossible to replicate in all honesty,” he argued. “There are elements that can come from your past of course that are gonna be relevant and important to the music you write, but I don’t see the point in trying to replicate the past. I think what made things so special in past history and in that time period was it being in that time period. You can’t really go back to that. Those elements that were glorious and amazing can grow with you and be a part of you but when you try to re-enact that it becomes something that I feel is impossible to do so… it’s better to focus on what’s happening now and do what you feel now and feels right to you, and if you stay true to that, then the rest will follow.”
In 1997, Sepultura was suddenly rudderless. Max Cavalera had left the band and left imposing shoes to fill, with Green being selected to right the ship after an extensive audition process. While admitting it was a daunting task, he also believes the addition of fresh blood was the right thing to do.
“They were pretty happy to have someone come in and give ideas and really be a part of the band,” he detailed. “It was super important to collaborate and be able to collaborate together. I think the direction of the band was already moving because they already had songs written before I got there, and I think that’s just an element that has always been a part of Sepultura is to change. From Chaos A.D. to Roots was a tremendous change, just like Arise to Chaos A.D. There’s tremendous change going on, but I think that’s just something that happened naturally. They were growing up as individuals, and each person was changing, and the direction of the music is gonna change with that, so I think that’s always been an element of Sepultura that we’ve been able to survive for so long is adapting and changing and not being afraid to do that.”
It is never easy stepping into the role as lead singer of any band – let alone one that is already established and has a huge following. Despite the obvious musical challenges Green had to endure and overcome in the early years, he says it was more the personal side of things rather than the musical that took some adjusting.
“It was pretty difficult, but I think there was some other things that I think people don’t realize that were going on. The fact that I moved to Brazil – a place I’d never been before and a culture I knew nothing about. I couldn’t speak the language, I didn’t know anyone there. I had no family. That aspect of my whole life and changing that was pretty intense. Doing the music was something natural. That was something that I loved to do and had always done, but it was even better doing that with people who were on a professional level and were all going after the same goals. I think that element of being in the band and everything was something that I was excited about, but it was difficult with a lot of the feedback at first because I was still getting comfortable being in the band. I think those things were in my head on a higher level, like getting along with the band and trying to do my best and represent myself within the band. That was something that was very different, and the pressure was there more than anything. Wanting to please my bandmates and especially please myself, and to really win over the situation as far as being in Brazil and being in a different culture and having to adapt to that. I wanted to conquer that, but it was something that was very difficult to do.”
After releasing Against, Nation and Roorback to a mixed response, Sepultura came out with A-Lex in 2009, minus Igor Cavalera who had left the band, marking the quartet’s first album without any of their original members. While being poignant in that respect, Green stresses that it wasn’t that much of a milestone moment in the band’s career, citing the fact that as far as he is concerned Paulo Jr and Andreas Kisser are as vital a piece of the Sepultura machine as either of the brothers.
“It wasn’t so much a fresh start,” he measured. “I only knew Sepultura from the past as Paulo, Andreas, Igor and Max, and for me, I have been working with Paulo, Andreas and Igor for many years so I don’t think it was that strange for me. I always saw Andreas as such a major contribution to Sepultura. I don’t think many people would have ever heard of them unless he joined the band. I think most people recognize his guitar work as far as solos and being the lead guitarist and having such a major impact. For me as a fan before being in the band, I felt this, so it’s not that weird actually. Paulo is pretty much an original member of the band… most of the fans that go to the shows don’t know anything about that past as far as Morbid Visions and stuff. You don’t really see people yelling those songs out (laughs). Even if we did play them – which we have, we did a lot of old school stuff. We did a full tour for that, but people were like, oh man, they didn’t know it. It had been so many years, but they really recognized the stuff that Andreas was a part of. Stuff like Schizophrenia, that changed the whole game and really put the band on the map.”
With Against being Green’s first album with Sepultura, he feels the resulting albums have all shown progression in the bands sound and output. while acknowledging growth is a key element of any bands success, he also feels such growth could not have come without a concerted effort from each band member.
“For me, I feel like it’s been an awesome journey and evolution of the band from Against to Machine Messiah,” he smiled. “I feel like it’s going in a fantastic direction. It feels really, really strong to be able to play the new songs and the old songs and having the whole history underneath is really inspirational in so many ways where it is always pushing us to do more and want to do more so I think it’s in a great position. You get to see the evolution listening back and listening to certain things that really help push to the next level. They are all equally important from Against to everything in the middle to now.”
With the overwhelming success of Machine Messiah, it would be easy for Sepultura to attempt to replicate that process with the next album, but Green says the opposite is the case.
“We will be approaching the next album with a completely fresh outlook,” he assured. “We definitely don’t look at anything so much as analyzing something we did from the past. You would just end up killing yourself doing stuff like that (laughs). I think the fresh outlook is always the best approach and is what we are usually doing. We write when we feel comfortable, not pressured like we have to do this… It will definitely be a fresh start.”
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