Nothing breaks up a monotonous Saturday during tax season like an interview with a lead vocalist, but when that vocalist is Derrick Green from Brazilian heavy metal giants Sepultura, taxes are the furthest thing from the mind. I listened to the latest disc, The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, all morning psyching myself up for what was about to be unleashed…
Toddstar: Derrick, how you doing Sir?
Derrick: Fantastic, thanks.
Toddstar: Excellent. Well first off let me thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. We really appreciate you taking some time for us today.
Derrick: Yeah, of course, definitely.
Toddstar: Well, let’s jump into the new release: The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must be the Heart. This latest disc about to drop later this month from Sepultura, and having listened to this thing a few times myself now, once the fans get their hands and get dug into this, what are some of the things about this album you can tell us that they may not get off the first or second listen?
Derrick: Wow that’s a good question. Well I think, it’s really hard to say because each person is going to have their own impression of what went on, or what goes on, but I think you know, for us, what went on in the studio and the recording of this album, and the reconnection with working with Ross Robinson had such an impact on what’s being…. The power of the album, actually. We had a lot of the songs written before we got with Ross, but the delivery of everything became even more… became potent, extremely potent with Ross added to the picture. So I think a lot of people might realise that, or might not. It’s hard to say, but it’s an experience that… we recorded everything, even documented being with Ross, but it was something that was very personal as a group because we lived in this house, and we recorded at his house, so we were very focused. We became, you know, as a team, all of us together, to produce something that had never been done before.
Toddstar: So this is your second album on Nuclear Blast, and you’ve recorded several albums with the band now.
Toddstar: It seems with every release, even as you guys have moved labels, you guys seem to get more aggressive, and fine tune the machine with every release. Do you still see that growth, or hear that growth within the band?
Derrick: Oh absolutely. I mean I think that was a primary goal from day one that I got in the band that is what they’ve been telling me was hey, let’s evolve and grow together, and the reason that we picked you was that we felt that we can evolve and have this evolution. When I joined the band there were a lot of singers that were giving demos that sounded like the previous singer, and trying to imitate that, and with mine it was a little different, there was maybe some melodic stuff from my old band that I had, and then some progressive stuff. They felt, you know, choosing me, which they would have these options and not be constricted in a box where you couldn’t step outside and do something different without people walking away from what you’re doing. So I felt this, and everybody I think in the band has felt this, as we’re also getting older, and ideas and everything are changing, we’ve been able to travel the world even more, and to different places that we’ve never been before, so I think that has also an impact in the evolution of the band, and our creativity, you know, wanting to try to outdo the last album, or try to do something different from the last thing we did. I think as artists, you know, that’s something that is highly important for us to do, to achieve.
Toddstar: Well this album seems like a really good snapshot in time, like you guys may have written the music from the heart, and what you saw, and the lyrics are… everything just seems to timely. Is that something, a different kind of focus you guys took in writing? 'cause again, you guys have always put something down that meant something, but this just really seems like here is what we are right now. Not where we are ten years ago, or where we’re going, but this is what we are.
Derrick: That’s right. It’s the excitement that we have because we had a change, you know, we have a drummer that has been with us for two years now, Eloy Casagrande, and he joined when he was 20, and he has so much, he’s such an incredible force, you know, and we felt that with him we could do pretty much anything we wanted to, and go in any direction, so we started playing all the songs and material, and we were really excited to record with him, because we’d just been playing all this stuff that he had never been on or anything, so he was anxious. His energy was contagious, and at the same time with Ross like I was saying, he was great at bringing out the inner core of why you’re there, you know, why you’re in the studio right now, why did you write this song, what’s behind the lyrics, and he made sure everybody heard why we’re writing the lyrics, not just me and him one on one, like everybody in the room at the same time giving their interpretation after my interpretation, really getting everybody connected and charged like okay, let’s do this and do this with meaning. Even if there are fuck ups, great, you’re human. Let it go, don’t even think about that, just let it flow. You know, just give to the fans, just give to the people. Just don’t think about yourself, just do what you do and really focus on just being free of that. Free of any of the outer bullshit that is in your mind, just really concentrate on why you’re here. I believe that we are able to do that; all of us. We do things we know we can do, and you can hear a lot of that on the album, it’s like being in a studio, just the timing, the energy, the flow. Everything was just really connecting very well.
Toddstar: On the album I have a couple of personal favourites, but we’ll get to that in a second. I would never ask you what your favourites are because they're all like children; you can’t pick a favorite, at least not on the record.
Derrick: That’s right.
Toddstar: But going through, and remembering the process from start to finish, were there any of these songs that just came out, right from the get, you hardly changed them?
Derrick: Yeah, there was The Age of the Athiest, no I'm sorry, Trauma of War, the first song was one of the first song that kind of clicked really well in rehearsals and practice. We kind of never really changed that much. There was The Vatican, that was pretty much hardcore all the way through, it just kind of clicked into place. What else? Oh, Impending Doom, yeah.
Toddstar: Now, were there any…
Derrick: There were some that just kind of like dialed in and right there. Our songs kind of, we did some changes in the studio, but they were just like, they did so well on the changes and we were happy and I just kind of went with the time.
Toddstar: What was the hardest song to put lyrics to?
Derrick: Hmm, let me think. It wasn’t that hard to come up with the lyrics. I think the hardest… it’s never really that difficult with lyrics. I think the hardest is what grief is as far as the level of emotion Derrick: that was going into it, you know, it had to be really believable. It’s like one song that Andreas and I talked about would be the most difficult song to do, because we wanted to try to write like a ballad type song that we never had before. We didn’t want it to be cheesy, we wanted it to be very natural and very us, our personality. The song is pretty sad itself, and it’s about dealing with serious grief of loss, and having to go through that in order to rise from those ashes. But being down in that grief, I had to really dig deep, and it took a couple of days even to do the vocals just because the feeling, you know, it had to be right on or not at all. So that was likely the most difficult.
Toddstar: My personal favourite is The Bliss of Ignorance. I think the lyrical content is phenomenal, and I love the use of, I mean you guys are always a little tribal, I mean obviously hailing from Brazil the band kind of has that feel, but just the use of the percussion along with the lyrics, it’s very in your face, and very thought provoking.
Derrick: Yeah, I love the lyrics from that song, and also the percussion itself really drives it, you know? A friend of mine plays in my other project that I have called Maximum Headroom, Alfredo Ortis is his name, he plays a lot of the percussion details on the album and he used to be The Beastie Boys drummer, and so he’s the one that’s playing the congos and stuff that you hear. He just took it over the bat. He came in literally that day, never heard anything, and I knew that he can just jam, you know, free flow, just do it. Usually in like one take. So it was just like oh can you hear it? And he was like okay, let me just try something, and he just nailed it. Then it took that song to another level. It really, really drives it in. I definitely felt that’s one of my favourites for sure.
Toddstar: Cool. Let’s talk about you Derrick, for a minute. Who made you want to pick up a mic and do what you do?
Derrick: I guess going to my first hardcore shows. Two of the first bands I saw were Bad Brains and this band Cro Mags, and those two front people, HR and John Joseph, were the most energetic, craziest front people I had seen in my life. I was 14 years old, and they had like such a huge impact on me wanting to create that energy that they were, you know, performing at a show, getting the crowd completely pumped up and insanely crazy, and so it just seemed so natural to them, and they were so powerful, you know? I really admired their style and I definitely wanted to perform music this way, this style of music with this impact, and from then on I was always in a band. But that was the first two bands that really got me into wanting to perform. I’d always been into music, my mother was a music teacher, I’d studied singing, even classical, and I studied playing different instruments, like trumpet, and trombone. It was very natural to be around music, and loving all styles of music, but once I went to my first show I was just hooked on very heavy, powerful music like hardcore, punk rock, and metal.
Toddstar: Well growing up as a kid in Shaker Heights, did you ever think that you’d be at the level that you’re at now?
Derrick: No. I never imagined this at all. Even coming to Brazil or anything like that, but I really was passionate about doing something with music, and I knew that I’d be doing something, you know, with my voice, and playing and performing, but I never realised on this level, no.
Toddstar: So you guys are getting ready to hit the road. Looks like it’s going to kick off right around the 1st November. When you guys take this out on the road do you plan on really taking the new music to the fans, or are you going to pepper a couple of tracks in?
Derrick: No, we’re definitely going to hammer it into the fans. We really feel it is necessary to show the work, and I think they’re going to like it because with the mix of the classics it’s going to be an extremely powerful set. Like really over the top, the energy level, and so… I believe with these new songs people will enjoy them live with the mix of the old songs, so I definitely feel that we have to have a proper number of new songs for sure in the set, it’s just a matter of placement and trying to find how to build this set list.
Toddstar: Sure. So when you hit the road, what are the couple of things that you need to take on the road with you? What are your must haves?
Derrick: A healthy body. I think it’s essential to really be in shape and able to handle all the shows, have the energy, the consistency from the very beginning of the show to the very end, the same energy levels, if not a higher energy level at the end of the show, for the fans you know, you don’t want to see a dude that’s been drinking all night, like are hung over on stage trying to perform, especially if they're paying a lot of money to come to a show, you know, you want to see full energy, all out, 100%, so I think it’s essential to be healthy before going on the road. It’s key to survival. And also mentally be prepared to endure being around a lot of people consistently, many interviews, being focused on why you’re there, because it’s easy to get de-railed into some stupid, you know, nonsense that can be going on around you. I think those things, you know, having a strong mind and body is extremely important before going into touring cycle mode.
Toddstar: I'm sure you bring an iPod with you.
Derrick: Oh yeah, and a great playlist.
Toddstar: I was going to say, what was the last album that you downloaded?
Derrick: Actually, Alice in Chains album.
Toddstar: Oh okay. It’s a great choice.
Derrick: Yeah, definitely. It’s such a great album.
Toddstar: Are there any new bands out there that you listen to and you think ‘Damn, that’s pretty good’?
Derrick: There’s this band Dustbolt that we always play with in Germany, and I sang on one of their tracks when we had a day off in Munich, and I really like them. I really like them live, they have a great energy, and whenever I hear their songs I'm really happy that they're doing some really awesome thrash, and I think they have a good future, so I'm always excited to hear anything that they're going to be doing new, and they're like young kids. There’s a band Arm for Apocalypse that I really like, from California, and they always have a great sound. I always want to take them out on the road. I’m always looking to see what they're doing.
Toddstar: Cool, well I have one more for you before I let you go, if you don’t mind?
Derrick: No, no problem.
Toddstar: It’s 2013, you guys just this week saw the drop of the new single, The Age of the Athiest, at the end of the month you’ve got the album on the 29th coming out here in the US, and you’ve got a tour starting three days later. Things are looking up. But in 2013, to Derrick Green, what is the meaning of life?
Derrick: Oh, I guess the meaning of life is to, I mean for me, at this moment, is to really be honest with myself, and I think that honesty is… that projection of honesty is infectious. I think for people to see vulnerability, and to see strength, to see all different sides of your personality and to be secure in that, it’s extremely… a great way of focusing and going through this life. I feel people are attracted to that, and they can learn from that, and it’s something that’s extremely positive. I think the setting, these examples are just… living these examples instead of trying to preach it and tell somebody, it’s doing it is the best way to have this infectiousness, this positivity spread.
Toddstar: Well very cool. Listen man, I cannot wait till this tour rolls through Detroit on November 9th.
Derrick: Yeah it will be great, man. I’m looking forward to it.
Toddstar: And I look forward to seeing what the fans say about this album.
Derrick: Yeah me too. I’ve been dying for these past months. Like oh my god, please, let it be out already.
Toddstar: Yeah, I love it, so I can’t wait to hear what the die-hards are going to say about it. Thanks for your time today, we appreciate it. See you out on the road.
Derrick: All right. Thanks a lot, take care.