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Andreas Kisser: Guitar Hero

April 28, 2010

Andreas Kisser In the world of death metal (and extreme metal as a whole), there are very few lead guitarists that can match Andreas Kisser’s body of work. After being the guitar hero for SEPULTURA for almost 25 years, Kisser has released his first solo release and labor of love, Hubris I & II. Enlisting the help of some of Brazil’s most well-known musicians, Kisser has dished out a musically diverse and stimulating double album. APESHIT spoke to him from his home in Brazil about such his musical roots, his guitar heros, jamming with METALLICA and the SCORPIONS, and more.

APESHIT: Hubris I & II is quite an ambitious project, and thankfully, it’s not the predictable guitar shred album. The beauty of the album can really be appreciated with subsequent. How long have you been wanting to put out a solo album?

Andreas: I started doing this album six years ago. Before that, I did not have any specific idea to put something out. But I always wrote music, randomly. Whatever for SEPULTURA or whenever I have an idea I put it on a four track. Later I got a computer and do my demos. So I have songs on this album that are 16, 15 years old. These ideas are demos and stuff and then I developed them for the album. So it was a very free album. There are songs in Portuguese, English, a double album, instrumental stuff. A lot of the acoustic stuff I don’t use pretty much at all in SEPULTURA. It’s an instrument [acoustic guitar] that I played even before the electric guitar. I never really quit either one. The song list is just something that I’ve been working on for so long. They’re ideas that don’t have a specific…they’re just songs that I had…the lyrics also. So everything is very experimental, very free. I don’t have that pressure of being in a band. I do everything myself. I tried to do as much as I could… to play all the guitars, do some vocals…I play some bass…some percussion. I went out to the studios to find the right technicians to work with. Closed the deal with the label. So it was a great learning experience. I’m very happy and satisfied with the result.

APESHIT: One thing about this double album is that there is so much diversity… of sounds, of styles, of genres. There are just so many different things. Did you plan on having such variety or did that come about organically?

Andreas: I did it song by song pretty much. I really respected what the song was asking for. There are lyrics in Portuguese that I felt that would fit the song better. For other stuff, English was better. One song, I felt pretty confident to sing. Other stuff I was not confident with, I call friends of mine…big names of Brazilian music, other names that are not very known in Brazil but they play in local pubs at night…they are very great musicians, good friends of mine.

Like I said, it was song by song and I try to make this unit myself…to do everything as much as I could. Also, on two points…the drummer, I called Jean Dolabella, who is in SEPULTURA now, to do the drums to keep a unit, a spine there. One guy mixed everything to keep that unit. That was the bond. It didn’t matter if there was heavy guitars or acoustic guitar to express different sounds and tones, guitars and amps. I didn’t want to make a traditional guitar album. It sounds almost like a school with scales and all that stuff. I really wanted to work out the melodies, harmonies, and really do songs. But of course with the guitar in mind, leads and stuff like that because every song came from the guitar.

APESHIT: You have so many friends contributing on this album. Was it hectic to schedule everyone to come into the studio and record their parts?

Andreas: Oh, definitely man! [Laughs] Because I didn’t work on the project 100% full time because I’m doing two albums with SEPULTURA, I have to look for a new drummer because Igor left. Finally, the drummer is Jean. Between those things I was doing the album in many different studios. But it was great. I took my time. Not really pressured to put the album together quickly. It came out when it was ready to come out so I really took my time. Like you said, scheduling studios like that, I did everything myself. It was great. I wanted to do that. It was an opportunity for me to do that and to learn more about everything.

APESHIT: Like you said, you didn’t want to write this kind of predictable rock instrumental album where you just play solos the whole time and just play super fast.

Andreas: Yeah, it would be very obvious. Just to use all the arpeggios that you know and scales here and there. I’m not saying bad stuff about that. I like stuff like that. Those guitar players are amazing musicians. It wasn’t the type of stuff that I wanted to do. I really worked with the sounds. Like I said in the beginning, a collection of different sounds, pedals, amps, pick ups, and guitars. It was really like painting a canvas with different colors and with not just one type of attitude. I wanted to explore different vibes like a soundtrack for a movie. It was much more interesting working that way. A lot of stuff happened spontaneously like jamming in the studio.

APESHIT: The production on the album is strong. I feel like I’m in the room watching you guys play the songs because the sound quality sounds so live and clear.

Andreas: Yeah, that was the goal. We needed to keep the vibe fresh and alive, very organic. Jean was really the one who put the spine as the drummer. He’s a great musician. I was so used to listening to the demos with drum machines so when he came in, it was great to have a live drummer.

I’m really glad that you can feel that because that was really the intention to keep things really alive and very organic.

APESHIT: Yeah, it’s not just the acoustic instruments or the classical instruments. Like with your electric guitars, the tones and the richness is perfect. And you didn’t have to spend $6 million dollars to do that.

Andreas: Exactly, exactly. I did everything in Brazil. Of course I know a lot of people like studio owners, technicians. A lot of people helped me out to put this together, especially the label that was not really pressuring for a due date or anything like that. They really respected the time that it took.

I’m really glad that this point got across. It’s great to see that the intention is clear.

APESHIT: My favorite song is “Eu Humano,” not just because you sing on it but I just love the catchiness of it. The riffs are so catchy and the guitar solo just smokes! How fun was it to record that song?

Andreas: Yeah, I felt comfortable on doing that song. I had the song first. I developed the song through the years on demos and stuff. The song really inspired me to write in that way…more mechanic vocals and stuff. I think it has a SCORPIONS kind of vibe too. The riffs and even the lead. It was my first attempt in being a lead singer, and [sing] in Portuguese. It was very challenging for me. I think I will be doing a video clip for that song.

APESHIT: One thing that comes to mind with Hubris I & II is that it reflects how you are as an open minded artist. You’re not just into death metal or rock. And it shows in SEPULTURA too. When did this open-minded approach to music start when you were younger?

Andreas: I guess I was always open minded like that. It was only in a short period of time when I started listening to heavier music. It was kind of more radical. Because at my house, my parents are not musicians. Actually, my mom can sing a little bit and she can play some harmonica. But they listened to every kind of music from Brazilian country music to BEATLES, THE BEE GEES, samba. My grandpa loved classical music, especially the Germans like Wagner, Heiden. So I listened to everything. But rock ’n roll was really my passion, especially with QUEEN, KISS, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, and then SLAYER and METALLICA. So around that time, it was a little more radical. I’ve always been open minded and, of course, growing up I had the privilege and chance to travel the world with SEPULTURA and to know different places and different music. It really helped to really open your mind and ears and to really absorb all you can from many different styles. And SEPULTURA is a band that played with artists like Sting and Peter Gabriel on the same stage. It’s great to have this kind of information when you’re writing. You have a lot of options really…not to copy anything because you already know what’s going on in order to do something new.

APESHIT: I’ve noticed that for many years now, you’ve been active in jamming with a lot of Brazilian musicians either at gigs or on TV shows playing DEEP PURPLE covers or something. When did you start branching out besides just jamming with the guys in SEPULTURA?

Andreas: It started in early 2002. That’s when we started playing with different people. I started a side project, BRAZIL ROCKSTARS, in which I invited big names of the Brazilian music scene to play this type of stuff like BEATLES, ROLLING STONES, HENDRIX, CREAM, ZEPPELIN, SABBATH, PURPLE. It’s great fun. It’s like putting together your old friends to play in the garage, drink beer, and play your idols. Also, playing with many different musicians and bands in Brazil, pop bands, pop rock groups, country musicians, classical directors. I played with an orchestra. It’s a great life experience and you learn stuff from new people, new ways of seeing stuff, doing music. It’s great. That’s the privilege of being a musician…to have that type of possibility. So I really enjoy doing that. I really grow as a musician and as a person.

APESHIT: Your soloing style is not just about playing fast but it’s about feel. On Hubris I & II you always preserve the concept of what feels right for the song. When you first started playing guitar, how did you develop that style?

Andreas: I don’t know. I always loved the melodic stuff. Like I said, classical music and then QUEEN. Brian May is a master of melodies and guitar tones. KISS with Ace Frehley with more of the rock feel of a drunk guitar player. [Laughs]

Then the other people like Ritchie Blackmore…very tasteful. Randy Rhoads…especially beautiful leads that are masterpieces. Very well thought…with every note, there is a specific place for it. I really appreciate that. The solo is a trademark. It’s there forever. It’s great to respect what the music is asking for. I appreciate that part of melody. There are parts that have to fast like whammy bar, wah pedals, and noise and stuff. There’s a cool balance between everything.

APESHIT: You played with the SCORPIONS last year on their tour through Brazil. What was that experience like?

Andreas: Dude, man it was a dream! It was a dream. It was crazy. It’s cool that it’s coming out on DVD now from a show we did in the north of Brazil. I did 14 shows with them. Ten in Brazil and four in Mexico. It was an electric and acoustic tour so I played electric guitar and acoustic guitar in the middle of the set. They were great people and one of my favorite bands of all time. I learned how to play guitar with their music. The simple but very catchy riffs the SCORPIONS always write. It was great to be a SCORPION. I just have to thank everybody, the band, the crew, everybody. They are amazing people. It’s great that they didn’t stop trying something new. This tour is an example of that. They came here and they wanted Brazilian musicians to be a part of the tour with percussion and back up singers and that’s why I was there, to be on the third guitar.

APESHIT: Back in the early 90’s James Hetfield got burned in the accident during a show and you got a chance to try out to play rhythm guitar for METALLICA, can you tell us what that was like?

Andreas: It was in ‘92. Fuck, that was amazing. I went to Denver, Colorado to audition and I jammed with them for two days all the beautiful classics that are a part of my life. [Laughs] Being in the room with them was amazing. That’s when I started a really cool friendship with Jason Newsted. And we did a lot of stuff together. He did some stuff with SEPULTURA and we toured together with VOIVOD. It was a great experience for me. I’m a big METALLICA fan and to just be there and jam with them was fucking unreal.

APESHIT: It seems like you’re constantly busy whether it’s touring with HAIL!, SEPULTURA, going somewhere like South Africa with them, doing TV shows, or playing football. When do you find the time to just chill out with your family or by yourself?

Andreas: Yeah, I have a family with three kids. [Laughs] Like Einstein said, “It’s all relative.” It’s possible because I do everything with passion. I really love what I do, either with my family or whatever projects I’m in. I put in a lot of passion and input and energy. With music, it’s an endless world of possibilities. I think I’m here for that. I’m a musician. It’s great to represent heavy metal and represent Brazil anywhere in the world. HAIL! is going Lebanon next week. First metal show ever in Beirut. I’m really excited about that. It’s the kind of experience where you cannot say no. It’s something that I will tell my grandchildren. It’s an amazing experience…only with music you’re privileged to do that.