Interview with Andreas Kisser (November 2009)

Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser has been churning out distinctive guitar leads and blistering riffs with his fellow Brazilians for over 20 years. He's not the original guitarist, but he's been with the band since 1987. The departure of the Cavalera brothers left Andreas steering the ship by himself, with original bassist Paulo Jr. still along for the ride.

Calling from his home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Andreas talked about his new double CD, the status of Sepultura and fatherly advice.

What's going on with Sepultura?

Andreas Kisser: We've been playing shows in Brazil, we're still touring for our album A-Lex. We just played in Chile with Faith No More, we have a festival coming up with Jane's Addiction next year in Europe. It's our celebration of 25 years, and it's very good to celebrate.

What motivated you to create the music on Hubris I & II? Was it nice to step away from Sepultura and create something this awesome for yourself to enjoy?

Andreas: Well, I started out playing the acoustic guitar, then the electric, but I always kept both. I started playing classical guitar (before joining Sepultura). I've always loved the classical guitar style played by Randy Rhoads and Ritchie Blackmore, and classical music and old rock 'n' roll. Some songs are 15 years old. I have a mini-drum machine and started recording and organizing demos until I had enough for the concept for a double album. I experimented a lot, as much as I could. My friends from Brazil play on it, and we had a blast. It took a long time to make it in between breaks from Sepultura. It's very different but I am happy with the results. We did some shows in Brazil and had some good response.

What was the concept behind the album, and what does hubris mean?

Andreas: Hubris is of Greek origin, and it means arrogance, a human being who thinks he's God, creator of the universe. It's related to men flying, an arrogance toward nature that drives us to grow in technology; trash, pollution, putting the planet in jeopardy, the extremes. That's what the cover art explains, with the brain covered in barbed wire, it symbolizes human relations. Music is spiritual, it has different cultures and freedom of expression. I tried to create each song as an experience of what I was feeling.

On the songs that actually have vocals, they are mostly sung in your native Portuguese , and the music sounds like it is rooted in the Brazilian/South American culture. How important was this to convey while writing the songs? Was it a conscience effort?

Andreas: I did everything here in Brazil, all the musicians are Brazilian. Brazilian people have a way of playing music, whether its metal or classical. Being Brazilian, living here and the culture, being exposed to a different style of music, it's always fresh. Being here, that experience came out in the music.

Where did you draw your influences from on Hubris I & II?

Andreas: Heavy metal is what I play. Everything I play has metal intentions, always deep and heavy, and I try to explore that all the time. But I also love the classical guitar as well as classical music composers 600 to 700 years ago. It's great to have a different perspective of writing. If you have classical guitar training, you can play any style of music. It's great to explore the classical side. Also the blues, guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. I don't like jazz that much, though ...

Really? Because while listening to some parts of Hubris I & II, it reminds me of jazz fusion guitar greats like Al DiMeola, Pat Methany and Stanley Jordan.

Andreas: Well, those guys are monsters! They do have a Brazilian influence in their music with the same similarities. That's a great reference!

On Hubris, you sing, play the bass, guitar, sitar and who knows what else, but you also have many local guest musicians, how important was it to keep it in the family, so to speak, when inviting musicians to play on the disc?

Andreas: I know so many people. There are many musicians not well- known here in Brazil who survive by playing in small clubs, and they are great musicians. I went after the musicians I knew. It was a great vibe, there wasn't any pressure of being in a band like Sepultura. It was a relaxed atmosphere, I could take my time. There was no pressure from the label, they gave me all the time I needed.

How did you separate the songs on each disc? Did you just know that disc 1 would be electric and heavier, and disc 2 would be the acoustic songs? How did you come up with the arrangement?

Andreas: The way the songs came about was on a small drum machine with rhythms and loops. It was creative, I'd just write. It depended on the day and what mood I was in while working on the songs. I was experimenting a lot. The concept was easy to separate and choose the songs for each disc.

Obviously you're very passionate about where you come from. Being someone who made it out of the struggles of your country, do you feel your music and concerts are a way of giving back to the community?

Andreas: Music is a great tool to reach people everywhere. Even in Sepultura, we played in Cuba, Asia and Africa with their different cultures, political and religious beliefs. But music opens doors everywhere. It's a powerful tool that brings people together. You can express your point of view of what we see around the world and relate to people everywhere. It's great to make friends everywhere and to travel and express this through music.

Are you a family man? Any kids?

Andreas: Oh yes, I have a daughter, 14, and two boys, 12 and 4.

I'm a father too, so I know it's sometimes difficult. What's your fatherly advice?

Andreas: Listen to Daddy! (both laugh) It's not easy to raise kids, but with the help of school, and how my father and mother raised me, the past experiences. Your kids have to come to you with their own experiences and conversation. I do travel a lot, but I'm very close to my family. The technology allows us to stay in touch more and be a part of their lives. You have to be a friend of your kids. It's great, though. We actually learn a lot more than they do! Every time they grow a year older, you actually learn something new.

What are your views on religion?

Andreas: Religion is very schizophrenic. It's a weird concept of creating an unnatural view of the world. Religion and politics are the same; it's the creation of enemies in their mind, human invention. It's confusing to deal with doubts or spirits; there's no start, no end. It's a political concept. You should try to learn from each other, don't force religion on people. Religion is not freedom. In religion you have an enemy, I can't say from where or with who, but if you follow religion, you will have an enemy for sure.

What are Brazil's chances at the upcoming World Cup?

Andreas: Brazil are always the favorite. The history we have, the good teams we produce that do very well with good players. We have a huge tradition. Brazilians are fanatics, including me!

I really appreciate you taking the time talking with me, Andreas. Any last words for your fans?

Andreas: I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my new album, and I'd like people to check it out. Just keep an open mind, and ears. I'll announce some shows. We're getting good response from the CD, but we'll see what happens. No worries.

Reviewed by Kelley Simms

Andreas Kisser - Hubris I & II

Album available on Mascot Records. /