Having spent the last forty years as a key creator of the iron-clad metal riffs that put his native Brazil on the global metal map, Sepultura’s longtime guitarist Andreas Kisser has one hell of a backstory. After joining the now-legendary group at the age of nineteen, Kisser contributed his mighty axe chops to every Sepultura album apart from their 1986 debut full-length Morbid Visions. The seminal thrash epics Beneath The Remains and Arise were propelled by Kisser’s guitar work, who spent seven years studying classical guitar before crossing over to the dark side.
In the early-to-mid 90s, Kisser was there to help steer the group through the percussive tribal bounce of Chaos A.D. and Roots before co-founding member Max Cavalera left in 1996. Since 1997, after enlisting new vocalist Derrick Green, Kisser became Sepultura’s third longest remaining member alongside co-founding drummer Igor Cavalera (who departed in 2006), and bassist Paulo Jr. Their current fourth drummer Eloy Casagrande would join in 2011 to form the current lineup of Sepultura, who are returning to Australia for December’s Good Things festival.
Before two years of COVID-19 affected the livelihood of every professional touring musician on the planet, Sepultura released their latest studio album Quadra in February 2020. They persisted through the pandemic’s uncertainty with their unique musical vision, and recorded SepulQuarta, which featured cameo-filled re-workings of definitive Sepultura songs. Now back on the road, Kisser has announced his own guitar line, the Jackson Pro Series Signature Andreas Kisser Soloist. Kisser sat down with us to discuss current touring, his new guitar, and Sepultura’s formidable legacy.
How do you find the energy to play at three festivals in one week?
That’s the story of our life. Sepultura visited around 80 countries in almost 40 years, and we are on the 39th year of our history. I think heavy metal is the most popular music style in the world. You see a black shirt anywhere in the world, regardless of religion, regardless of politics. We played in Armenia once, and a band from Iran came all the way from Iran to Armenia to play because they are forbidden from playing in their own country. Heavy metal is not allowed in Iran, but that doesn’t stop them. I think metal represents [the] freedom to be what you want to be, and do what you want to do. It’s great that it reaches everywhere, regardless of censorship, politics, or religion. We don’t depend on charts, Billboard, or anything like that. We have a faithful following of fans that keep this band alive, and the genre alive. When these fans don’t buy bootleg stuff, but official stuff, like albums and shirts, the money goes to the right place. This keeps the whole system alive. It’s a very special world, the metal world.
Absolutely! Have you been touring with your new signature guitar, The Pro Series Signature Soloist?
Yes, I had two of them made in the USA. I use my original one on the road. The Signature Series has EMG 81 [pickups], [with] a Floyd Rose [bridge and whammy bar], [so] it’s a very powerful, comfortable guitar. To now have a signature guitar with Jackson is more than a dream come true. I love the brand because of Randy Rhoads. He was my first idol and he was very creative. I’ve been playing [his Jackson Rhoads guitar] for many years, but I was very happy to have this opportunity to help create a Soloist. It was made for heavy riffs. [Its whammy bar is one of] the basic elements for making heavy music, alongside EMG 81 pickups, which are the sound of thrash metal, and the Floyd Rose [bridge]. It only has one pick up, which is the Sepultura sound. I use a lot of acoustics in Sepultura as well, so its clean sound is also amazing. I’m so happy with the quality of the instrument. It’s a special guitar that players can grow with as musicians.
Do you still think of Sepultura as a thrash band, or is it something else now?
Sepultura is Sepultura metal. Of course I’m influenced by traditional metal, [and] I love the blues [and] classical music. There’s a little bit of everything in Sepultura. We use a lot of Brazilian rhythms and sounds, that put us in a special place through mixing Brazilian rhythms with heavy music, especially on Chaos A.D. and Roots. Samba and other carnival music in Brazil is heavy as well. Its percussion is very powerful. To see 200-300 people playing [together] is very inspirational. We take influences from prog rock as well. Thrash metal is still a big part of our characteristic sound - punk and hardcore as well. But Brazilian music, classical music, and blues are in there too. I think our last album, Quadra, is an album that really does have all those elements, because it was influenced by our history.
What is it that you most enjoy about your busy songwriting partnership with drummer Eloy Casagrande, the youngest member of Sepultura?
He’s a very creative drummer, and a fantastic musician, so that brought a lot of new possibilities for my guitar-based writing. To see all the great drummers that we play with, even [Metallica’s] Lars Ulrich and [Slayer’s] Dave Lombardo, leave their dressing rooms to go and take a peek at [Eloy’s] playing is really great. I think he’s really taking drumming to a new level while inspiring a new generation to improve even further. Experience is unique in each one of us. What matters is what we’re doing now with what we have in our hands.
What details can you reveal about Sepultura’s special 40th anniversary tour?
So far we have the [Good Things] festivals that we’ll do [in Australia] in December. I think we’ve got a few extra dates for ourselves during the festival run. Our intention is to go everywhere. We’re going to be recording the shows in Australia as we collect material to build this live album. Some time next year, we’re going to put it together and put it out. I would like to go back to Australia to celebrate 40 years [of Sepultura], because Australia is one of the most important places for us, historically. We have great memories and great friends here, so we’re going to be back for sure.