With the recruitment of vocalist Derrick Green, Brazil’s SEPULTURA started the second chapter in their illustrious career. Despite the fact that many have counted them out ever since replacing original vocalist Max Cavalera, SEPULTURA are still hungry to prove that they’re not quite finished yet. With the release of their latest album, Roorback, the band prove that they have more vitality and a stronger focus than old school thrash peers such as METALLICA and SLAYER. APESHIT recently spoke with Derrick about activism, the U.S. hardcore scene, Jason Newsted, and fighting to regain their place as one of the most respected extreme bands on the planet.
APESHIT: Can you tell us how you guys got the idea to do Revolusongs?
Derrick: I think the idea just came about to try and do something very different as far as covers. We wanted to try and do covers of bands that really influenced us but not to stick to just metal bands. For us, it was a lot more interesting to try to do something different sounding like MASSIVE ATTACK and U2, so it was a little more challenging. It was more surprising to the other people because it wasn’t the basic cover album of us doing metal songs, which is very easy for us.
APESHIT: Did the recording of the EP influence how you guys wrote Roorback?
Derrick: Definitely. It gave us a lot of motivation and energy going into writing the new album. It was easy doing the EP. It worked so smoothly that it gave us, I don’t know, more confidence to work on new stuff and actually opened up a lot of creative to try different things.
APESHIT: Roorback is such a political album. It’s very punk. I think that you guys are being more vocal about than ever about Brazilian as well world politics. Can you explain why guys wrote such a political album?
Derrick: I think it’s because of all the events that are going on in the world. At the time of writing, it was just a very political time. I mean there were the elections going on in Brazil, which was a big deal just for the fact that there was a president elect that was very left wing. And at the time, so many right wing governments are taking control all over the world and pretty much becoming empowered so this is something very cool that happened in Brazil. And also with 9/11 and all the politics involved with that. You know, there are a lot of people in confusion about how it could’ve happened. So I all these different things really added to us in the writing process and actually made us very aggressive. Also for the for the fact that we were leaving our record label and just looking around, frustrated with the music scene in general especially the business side.
APESHIT: SEPULTURA has toured with numerous hardcore bands such as HATEBREED, BIOHAZARD and STRIFE, as well as covering the CRO-MAGS. It seems like there is a more hardcore influence in the last 3 records. Do you feel like that the band is moving closer to the playing more hardcore influenced stuff?
Derrick: Yeah. I think that happened just for the fact that on this album we really didn’t experiment that much and collaborate with different bands and different people. We really wanted to do stuff (with) the four of us just jamming. And a lot of it was just going back to basics and trying to make that interesting which can be challenging sometimes so I think that was just the mood that we happened to be in and we’ve been moving towards. It’s like, why complicate everything? Let’s try to something that challenging as far as making things very basic and simple and making it very powerful.
APESHIT: The artwork for the album basically expresses what you guys are thinking with the music.
APESHIT: With each SEPULTURA album, you guys really concentrate on the artwork and design. How much time do you guys put into thinking about that?
Derrick: Oh wow, it’s a lot of time actually because we really look around for things that are happening and throughout the music scene in general. And for us, we did a big search and realized that there is a friend of mine from Cleveland, Derrick Hess, who is doing a lot with hardcore bands and a lot of really powerful artwork that he has on doing flyers for shows that he really doing a lot of stuff. We thought that it would be a cool idea to contact him to do some stuff. For us, we really wanted to change the artwork for each album, to really get somebody that’s fresh, somebody doing something new so Derrick Hess was definitely that person for us. It’s just like Shepard Fairey back then was the person for us for Nation. Him doing a lot all over New York and that you know, guerilla wall print stuff everywhere…propaganda stuff.
APESHIT: It seems like you can categorize each different era of the band by looking at the styles of the albums. Morbid Visions and Bestial Devastation was raw black/death metal. Schizophrenia, Beneath The Remains, and Arise are all brutal thrash. It seems like you guys always try to improve on a certain style and then progress onto another. How did you guys know when it’s time to progress to a new sound?
Derrick: I think it just happens from touring and seeing the reactions of the fans. It’s pretty much ourselves. It’s just like we just want to try to change. We really don’t want to make the same album over and over again. It’s way too boring so for us, we like to change after each album if possible. And not to change so radically where people will be like, “where did this come from?” We’re not going to do a funk album next or anything. We definitely want to challenge ourselves to come up with a new sound but still have elements of SEPULTURA which will always be in our music.
APESHIT: Do you plan on doing even more clean vocals in the future?
Derrick: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I don’t know the feeling of what it will be like in the practice space when we start jamming. I like to do a mixture of both. I can’t say that I want to just do clean vocals, but I like doing the aggressive vocals as well. And I think that on Roorback, it’s gotten even stronger so it’s hard to say which direction we’ll go. We’ll always be a mix, and if not a mix, just straight-on, super-aggressive all the way through depending on the mood. Mixing it makes it a little more interesting though if it’s just not one way. If it’s just screaming the entire time, it can become very boring. I think doing clear vocals can be very aggressive in its own way. There’s a lot of bands that are like that have very clear and soft vocals. There’s no heavy guitar, but it’s heavy, heavy in general.
APESHIT: I saw a video online of you and Andreas Kisser (guitars) covering THE DOORS‘ “Riders On The Storm” on Brazilian TV. Did you guys just perform that one song?
Derrick: Well, Andreas was doing a whole showcase of different Brazilian artists that are very popular in Brazil and getting together with them doing jam sessions of different bands like DEEP PURPLE and THE DOORS. He asked me to do “Riders On The Storm” with them, and then other songs we did with Igor Cavalera (drummer) and Paulo Jr. (bassist). We did JUDAS PRIEST and RAMONES and stuff like that. It was a big show and that was just one part of it with different guests.
APESHIT: When I heard you sing “Riders On The Storm“, I was like “Wow! I didn’t know that he could sing like that.” (laughs)
Derrick: (Laughs) I think a lot of people were really shocked and especially people in Brazil were like “Oh my god!” They were like “Holy shit!” It was kinda cool to let people know and hopefully we can use that in the future with SEPULTURA on some few songs. I don’t know…just to make it interesting, different. So we’ll see.
APESHIT: Speaking of Brazil, you guys are more involved in certain aspects in Brazil more than ever. Can you explain what kinds of things that you’ve been up to? I’ve read a few things about the government is interested in having you guys help promote some things.
Derrick: It’s just different commercials and stuff that the government wanted to use musicians to promote people to be thinking and motivated on certain issues that are going on there. And we’re definitely down to do that. I know that we have a lot of things, as far as soundtracks, that we as a band worked on for a movie that’s coming out in Brazil very soon. That’s something we hope to do in the future even more, working with soundtracks and stuff like that. Igor and I are doing a clothing line that we’re going to start. It’s going to be pretty much a big project with helping a lot of people and charities in Brazil and at the same time, promoting this clothing and getting people really involved. Each person’s got different things going on but as a group, we’re always thinking of new ideas to do there. I think the next thing we’re doing is a tour with DEEP PURPLE and THE HELLACOPTERS, like four shows, really off the wall line up. But it’s possible in Brazil. Anything is possible in Brazil.
APESHIT: I think it’s cool that you talk about how fucked up the world is but at the same time are actually doing to do something to change it. It’s like most bands will say shit about the world or whatever but after that, they just go back to their personal lives.
Derrick: Right, right. I think for us, it’s really important because we’re amongst a lot of the shit that is going on as far living in Brazil and being there and talking to people and witnessing it. In any way, as far as it can be helped, it’s something that we want to do. It makes us feel good and in the future we hope to do more. Definitely to start some type of fund and to really help kids. There’s a lot of kids that need help. You know, me getting into heavy music as a kid, I can relate to a lot of kids that are out there into heavy music and may not have that much money and stuff like that to go to shows. You know they have the same interests as far as like reading books and really doing something with their lives. I can definitely relate to that.
APESHIT: SEPULTURA has achieved so much in its history and have come a really long way from the very humble beginnings. You guys have been to “the metal mountain.” What are your goals with Roorback?
Derrick: I think with Roorback we really want to take on the U.S. and really push that a lot more than we have in the past. And just to come out with a different stage show and play with different bands. Just make more people aware of the change that did happen in the band so people can make their own opinions from what they see and not what they’ve been reading or what their friends have been telling them. For us, that’s a challenge. It’s something that we plan on doing, showing the new phase of SEPULTURA.
APESHIT: How has your sense of motivation and input changed from the time when you first joined the band?
Derrick: Well I think now I feel a lot more comfortable being in the band so I want to give more of my ideas, which is not a problem. It’s always something that they’ve wanted from the time that I joined so I don’t think that’s a problem with being more involved in the songwriting. I was definitely involved a lot more in the songwriting on this album more so than any. So I think in the future you know, just playing a little more guitar and just really opening up a lot more especially visually with the stage set up and having something different from what they’ve had in the past. There’s a lot of things floating around but we want to do it in a way that doesn’t come off as cheesy.
APESHIT: I know that you play guitar live for songs like “Troops of Doom.” Are you planning on playing more guitar live?
Derrick: Yeah, definitely. On the new songs, I play a lot of guitar on. That’s something that’s just been evolving like I said before about having lot more input in the writing process. Some songs just need two guitarists.
APESHIT: I thought it was admirable that you guys chose to tour the U.S. this year despite the fact that you had no album out yet and no U.S. label support, and that you chose VOIVOD as a support act. Did touring with VOIVOD stir up any feelings of nostalgia with the old thrash days?
Derrick: With VOIVOD, we figure that it would be something really cool because we’re all big fans and like touring with them was something cool. But I think now, the next time that we come back we really want to tour with some really young bands that we got to see on tour that the energy there was just so intense. We want to have that open for us in the fact that the challenge is on and makes us want to play better. It also gives those bands a chance to play in front of a bigger audience and also for them to play their asses off. It’s like “Oh shit, we’re playing in front of SEPULTURA so we gotta play our best.” It’s cool to have these type of bands for me, like young hardcore bands that I really like because of the energy that they have, and that’s something that is important so that you don’t get used to being in one position and getting too comfortable.
APESHIT: Are there any hardcore bands in particular that you want to tour with?
Derrick: Yeah, I really like EVERYTIME I DIE, THE HOPE CONSPIRACY, and there’s MASTODON that are not really a hardcore but this really crazy band. There’s KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, which I really like. I just saw them last night here [New York City]. CHIMERA, they’re a cool band. They’re from Cleveland. You know, any of these bands I really wouldn’t mind touring with. They’re great and the energy that they have is really great too.
APESHIT: I know that you guys are good friends with Jason Newsted. I can only imagine how hard it was for him to leave METALLICA. How did you guys feel about the news of Jason leaving METALLICA?
Derrick: I could see it coming. He seemed that he was unhappy towards the end just for the fact that he wasn’t able to really give his own input. I mean that’s what I believe. And you know, he’s a musician and he has to have that input so he needs that in order to grow and become better at what he does. I think he made the right decision for himself and had a good time so that was something very admirable. Some people would stay and burn themselves out, which wouldn’t be good at all for METALLICA and for himself mostly.
APESHIT: There are a few thrash riffs on the new album but do you guys ever see yourselves revisiting the old brutal thrash sound of the past in any capacity?
Derrick: Yeah, I don’t see why not. For us, it’s just a matter of the mood and how we feel. For us, it’s just like so easy to do. It’s just a matter of doing it well. If that feeling, that mood comes about and we feel like “Alright, this will be cool to do, then we’ll definitely do it.” There’s no laws or boundaries. We might want to do a whole album like that. It’s just like “let it flow” and not think too much about it because then people might be like “Oh, they contrived this album to try to be…” It becomes less of an “emotion” and more of an “attempt.”
APESHIT: Are you guys going to tour the U.S. again this year?
Derrick: Yeah, for sure. Right now we’re just figuring out who to go on tour with…and it’ll probably be in the fall. That is a must. We gotta hit the U.S. everywhere with the album out and just really push it.
APESHIT: With the rise of the U.S. underground hardcore scene in the last few years, I don’t see why those fans wouldn’t like Roorback.
Derrick: I agree 100%! I just think that they gotta see it. They have a lot of preconceptions about SEPULTURA. And being at the shows, Igor and I went to check out bands like THE HOPE CONSPIRACY and CONVERGE, who we really like, and all those bands. It’s like “Yo! We really enjoyed the show. Let’s tour together.” For them, they just can’t believe it a lot of times. They’re like “Holy shit!” And we’re dead serious. SEPULTURA took STRIFE on the road. We took HATEBREED on the road. It’s like “Why not?” I mean, for us, once they see it for themselves, they’ll be really into. That’s something really want to accomplish, we really want to push because I love that scene and I think that we can bring that into our fanbase. Opening a lot of new minds.
APESHIT: So how does it feel to be on your new record label, SPV? Is everything going well?
Derrick: Yeah. So far, so good. It’s a smaller company so it’s easier to get a hold of people and get things done. You don’t have to go through a hundred people in order to get something very simple, an idea, across. At SPV, you talk to two people and it gets done. They work their ass off. They have no past with SEPULTURA so they’re not trying to create something that happened years ago. They’re trying to create a future. They have a lot of confidence in the band so that’s something that is a 100% turn around. They work their ass off like we work our ass off so it feels like we’re working all together. With our old label [Roadrunner Records], it’s just a lot of people working there. It’s totally turned into something where they forgot what it’s all about. We think that it’s about them. They forget that it’s about the music.
APESHIT: I think in recent years, they’ve just been trying to capitalize on more mainstream sounding bands.
Derrick: Yeah, they’ve been doing it for years. They’ve been really exploiting a lot of different bands and they’ve pretty much taken all the things that they’ve worked for years and just robbing them straight up. Their merchandise, their music, just keeping it for themselves. And it happens all the time. You hear about bands getting robbed all the time and it’s true, especially with them [Roadrunner Records]. They’ve built up this catalog and then they sold it to a major. So now they’re lost for ideas and creativity and they have a bunch of crap. They have a few good things and they’re hoping that they pan out. And it’s not at all where they started. It’s like in another dimension. It’s like NICKELBACK…that’s what makes the money for them now.
APESHIT: Glen Benton from DEICIDE was so vocal about how the band was so unhappy being on Roadrunner. I heard rumors that they wrote shitty albums just to get…
Derrick: …Out of their contract (laughs). I wouldn’t doubt it because they really tie you in there. Luckily, we only had one more album to do. We had the option to leave or make another album. With Nation, they didn’t even promote it really and they wanted us to make another album, go right back into the studio. “We’re not going to pour our heart into an album that you’re not even going to promote for a second time.” Forget about it. We’re better off with “you guys do what you want to do and we’ll do what we want to do.” No hard feelings but we’ve learned a lot. We learned never to do something silly like that again (laughs). And not to sign to a big label just because they are a big label…that’s the worst mistake that bands make, unfortunately. They think “Yeah, it’s going to be great!” But in most cases, all those big labels are suffering and the smaller ones are doing very well. And the smaller labels have the best bands now anyways. That’s where I want to be. I want to be where you can survive, not where they’re going to kill us. You should have integrity and respect for what you do, that should make you survive not selling yourselves out for one minute of glory and then it’s over. SEPULTURA‘s always been able to survive.
APESHIT: The video for your cover of U2’s “Bullet The Blue Sky” is not cheesy or tasteless. You guys really made sure that it has class.
Derrick: Thank you very much. I’m excited about making a new album even with this Roorback album out. We have the ability now and the freedom to say to the label, “We’re going to do an EP now of all new songs.” It might be those old school, speed metal-type songs. We can do that now and have a lot of fun with it. I feel like we’re definitely growing and getting better the more time we tour and spend together so it’s exciting, it’s good. All the shows that we played in Europe so far are packed. The kids are really into it. A lot of young kids, a lot of hardcore kids, a lot of metal kids…just a mix of people. It’s a great response so it’s great. We’re definitely on the upswing.