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Interview with Sepultura guitarist & solo artist Andreas Kisser

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Sepultura is a band often credited with being one of the most important components of the death and thrash metal movements of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Even though Max and Igor Cavalera, two of the driving forces behind the band have departed, the group is still hard at work thanks to guitarist Andreas Kisser. Kisser has been with the band since 1987 and has helped define the group’s signature sound. And while Sepultura is still writing, recording, releasing albums and touring, Kisser has finally found the opportunity to release his debut solo record Hubris I & II. The two disc set contains twenty-one tracks written and recorded over the last decade and a half. The guitarist will be quite busy in 2010 as he will be balancing Sepultura’s heavy touring schedule with some planned solo shows. I recently had the chance to speak with Andreas mainly about his debut solo disc but also a bit about what’s going on with Sepultura these days.

Your debut solo studio album Hubris I & II just came out a couple of months ago. Now that it’s been out and you’ve had some time to reflect, how do you feel about how the album has turned out?
Andreas: Great man, you know for me it took like six years to make everything, to put it all together, to put all the ideas together, to develop everything, to record, to go in to the studio, it’s a real solo album you know. I made it all myself, I did all the guitars, played some bass and the vocals and I did all the studio work, the production, the technical side so it was great, the experience and so far the reaction has been very positive. It’s very different from anything I did in Sepultura, it’s very experimental, but it’s great, it’s been a whole new experience.

The record is of course a double disc with ten tracks on the first disc and eleven on the second. What made you decide to release your debut as a double album?
Andreas: Um, because I had so many good ideas, so many songs and I really wanted to use this opportunity to do everything I like and not being pressured to make an album you know in a band, the way we did it in Sepultura you know, which is we have a certain way of writing songs and recording and everything. But this time it’s totally a new world, totally different, I had so many songs that I didn’t want to put everything on one album, especially because I wanted to do a lot of the acoustic stuff and the instrumental stuff, a lot of classical guitar, I wanted to do that, to experiment with that because in Sepultura I don’t have... almost nothing of the acoustic stuff, very few things here and there maybe intros and stuff but now I had the option to do whatever I wanted, it was a great opportunity to experiment a lot. I had this concept you know of doing one more electric and one more acoustic, it was much easier to go out and write songs and choose whatever song we feel was better on each album. And from then on, we just saw how everything would flow and with the concept in mind then we put everything together.

With your lengthy history in music, it’s hard to believe that Hubris I & II is your first ever solo disc. Why did it take this long for you to release something on your own?
Andreas: Well I don’t know man, I always wrote on the side but most of the stuff was for Sepultura, ninety percent was totally for Sepultura and whatever concept we were going for. But then I got an offer from Mascot Records you know, it was a really cool opportunity to do something solo, especially because I had so much stuff around that I had been working on. I had so much different music going on you know, stuff that I didn’t use in Sepultura or soundtracks from movies or any other project from a different band and stuff. So I got the idea to do the album and it felt right, I mean it took five years, six years to put everything together, you know I was in no rush to do something in a hurry. Of course I was working on Sepultura albums and finding new drummers and everything so I would just record my album whenever I could. It was a great experience for me, you know I learned a lot doing everything myself like with studios and technicians, it was great, great jamming, a great experience and I had a blast and like I said, I’m very satisfied with the result.

What was the writing and recording process like for the record? Are these songs recently written or have you been working with some of them for a while now?
Andreas: Yeah the album is like a collection of songs or at least ideas that I’ve had on demos, there are even things that are like sixteen years old and some are more recent, some are ten years old so you know it’s a collection of a lot of stuff that I’ve been writing for a lot of years in many different studios, some in America and now here in Sao Paolo. I have a lot, I could put out a double album easy you know, I have many ideas going on and I always keep recording every little thing you know, anything can be anything, a simple riff on an acoustic guitar can turn into a full orchestra with a metal band you know. So we would have the idea for the guitar or an idea for the music so it’s important you know for me to keep the ideas and demos in hard drives, whatever you know where we keep our ideas. Depending on the project, we would go there and research and stuff like that and I’d develop whatever is needed for the project.

You co-produced Hubris I & II with none other than Jean Dolabella, drummer of Sepultura. How did Jean become involved in the project?
Andreas: Well actually he wasn’t involved in the production at all, he came in to play the drums and I wanted the demos on drum machines you know, very mechanical stuff and it was great that when he joined Sepultura, we started practicing to write the new album and stuff and at the same time I practiced to develop the arrangements with him you know like drum ideas. He’s a great guy to work with; an amazing musician... technically perfect and he could play any style of music. It’s great, it’s always great to have him around, I’m really glad I have a drummer like him that can help connect a song together. Of course I’m playing all the instruments and stuff but I think the drums were the most important thing, to have only one drummer there because to use different drummers for different songs could be a little confusing. I think to have only one drummer there, to have one guy there, to be kind of like a unit kind of vibe... he was really valuable in the recording process for sure.

Double albums often have themes or concepts behind them. Would you classify Hubris I & II as a concept record or at least an album with a recurring theme?
Andreas: Yeah I guess so, I think that the title expresses the concept of the album and besides the music that I wanted to do, that was the main concept... around myself really you know, all the stuff that I like from classical to metal to blues to Brazilian music to reggae, to whatever, you know that was the concept, combining everything that I like in music through the guitar. It’s not like a typical guitar album, it’s almost like a guitar class you know, I really wanted to do a musical album that explores different guitar tones, amps, different guitar pick-ups and really respect what the music was asking for. I think Hubris represents, it’s an ancient Greek word and it means arrogance you know, that kind of feeling that really rules us, either this arrogance of thinking in ancient history to human beings wanting to be god, to monarchy and kings. At the same time, this drove the human being to try to fly or to invent the plane or to go to the moon, like really arrogance towards nature itself, not willing to respect the human being limits you know, limitations. At the same time, this kind of started and drove us to create and to invent but at the same time it creates a lot of problems, a lot of pollution, a lot of litter, a lot of fucking bad stuff that comes together with that kind of development. So I think that the vibe of the lyrics and the songs and the inspiration for the instrumental songs names and stuff is this kind of concept, this kind of vibe.

Do you have any plans to do any solo touring behind Hubris I & II?
Andreas: Yeah definitely. I already did some shows here in Brazil and it was great to be able to jam, I have a keyboard player, an extra guitar player, a bass player that can play electric and acoustic and I’ve been doing a lot of acoustic guitar on stage. It’s really cool to have such great musicians with many different options, we can present the song in different ways. I can’t wait to have the chance to tour outside Brazil so hopefully soon we can confirm some dates and I think it’ll be great.

Aside from your solo career, you’re of course best known for your work in Sepultura. What’s the status of the band at the moment? Are you guys on a break?
Andreas: No, no, we are touring, last week, last Saturday actually we played with Faith No More in San Tiago in Chile and tomorrow we’re going to play with them in Sao Paolo alongside Deftones and Jane’s Addiction. We do a lot of shows here in Brazil, you know we did about two runs in Europe, one in the winter, one in the summer and hopefully we can keep touring. We are celebrating twenty-five years of Sepultura so we have plans to release a DVD and we’re planning to do a lot of stuff to celebrate this very important date for us. The album came out only this past January you know so there’s many many places that we have to go on this tour. And it’s going great, the tour’s just been fucking great, we played many different shows in Brazil and it’s been doing great, a lot of fun and the album’s been well received every night so it’s awesome, everything is really good.

The most recent Sepultura album A-Lex came out earlier this year. Are you happy with how that record turned out?
Andreas: Yeah man of course, I mean in Sepultura I mean without the changes and stuff, it’s very hard, Max left and then Igor left, two of the main pillars, the foundation of the band. But we always come up with something new, a new chemistry and that’s what’s kept Sepultura alive, I’m not a slave to my past, Sepultura is being recreated every day and we feel very strongly about the band. I still enjoy a lot about being in Sepultura, playing to all the world, visiting places for the first time like Cuba and the Phillipines and you know we have offers to go to Lebanon and Malaysia... and that’s very exciting. There’s always a new challenge for us and it’s great to be part of a band like that and the passion is still there you know which is important.  [ END ]
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