Sepultura’s Derrick Green: Some Bands Are ‘Fearful’ of Playing New Songs Live
Sepultura singer Derrick Green was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. He discussed the band's latest record, Quadra, and the unique theme enveloped within that unites medieval academics and modern socio-political topics on a global scale.
Having the benefit of touring the world and living in a handful of different places, Green's perspective is fresh as he tackles issues of great importance on Sepultura's 15th album. For him, it's his ninth record with the band and in the chat, he recollects what that transition was like, entering as the new frontman.
Read the full conversation below.
Sepultura already had a legacy based on albums such as Arise, Chaos A.D. and Roots. How has the way you envisioned your legacy brought the band where it is today?
I definitely envisioned needing a proper amount of time to really get to know each other as individuals and as bandmates. This was something very important for me when I joined the band and I knew this would take some time to formulate as well as to get accustomed to recording and to playing live and all these aspects that naturally grow from being in a band.
So there wasn't a timeline set, but it was just to do things as they come. We've done a lot of touring, a lot of recording and I've felt the evolution of the band growing in a sense — we're getting better as musicians and getting better at knowing each other and what works, what doesn't work. So there's processes — it's live and learn, basically. Being an artist, it's the most important thing.
There is a very real philosophical aspect to Quadra in terms of cultural and social divide. What specifically brought you to the lyrical commentary of this album?
Well, it really started with Andreas Kisser's idea from a book called Quadrivium which is about the four basic elements of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music forming these four units together. The number four is a representation of four people in the band. In Portuguese,"quadra" means a playing field which is in four [sections] with four sides. So, this was all connected together and with that it was an understanding that each person is born in their own quadrilles. Each person is born in a certain part of the world with certain laws that you follow.
The album is about dealing with those certain rules and laws that you're born into. I really wanted to focus the album around these things that had an effect on me — people and friends around me socially. I wrote about certain topics like addiction, the rainforest, and refugees. I decided to go really go deep into some very serious topics and we were able to do that with this idea that we had.
The song "Isolation" moves from an ominous choir passage into the aggression we expect from Sepultura. In what ways does the tension of that kind of build up give your vocal and even greater intensity?
It really gets me motivated hearing those buildups in those intros. It adds to the theme of the song and the atmosphere of a song and that's important because in our heads, we want the most dramatic sounding music as possible especially with the themes that we're writing about. It's always a challenge to work my vocals through so many massive guitars and drums and bass, but I really learned a lot over the years from doing it and finding my own space within this wall of sound.
New York, then San Paulo, Brazil, and now Los Angeles. How has the path of where you live affected both the personal and artistic growth of a kid from Ohio?
It adds so much to your environment and what is surrounding you. It can give you a lot of inspiration if you have an open mind. So for me, I always knew that I would live outside the U.S. and it was very natural for me to go to Brazil. I had no idea what I was getting into — I'd never been to South America and I had never been to Brazil. I'd never heard Portuguese spoken to even know it. But I was definitely up for it and I was just very enthusiastic about it.
Every day I learn something new. For me that was such a great aspect of living outside of your own country is really being able to experience other cultures and be around different people and seeing your country in a different way as well.
There's a lot of stereotypes that go with not knowing certain places. A lot of people have stereotypes about America or Europe in general, but a lot of that was broken from actually just living the life there, learning the language and finding new friends. It was such an unbelievable experience I had never imagined would be happening to me.
I was 27 when I moved there, so it was relatively young and the experience just always stuck with me and it always will. Coming back to the U.S. I noticed so many differences as far as possibilities and opportunities that are definitely a lot more relevant here and more open and I really appreciate where I come from a lot more. But at the same time, Brazil became a home to me.
In support of Quadra, you'll be touring the U.S. with Sacred Reich, Crowbar, and Art Of Shock. What's the best way to introduce the entirety of a new album without actually performing all of it?
[Laughs] Well that takes some time. From touring, you really figure out what's the best scenario for your set list — what works well with old songs and combining that and finding what flows well.
It's really just making some choices and moving there from show to show. So we definitely will be playing a lot of new songs on this tour. With our last album, we played a lot of new songs and it's important to really showcase that. When watching bands come out with new albums and they only play a few songs, I'm disappointed at that. I felt that they were fearful playing new songs just because people didn't know them.
But for us I think it's important and it works very well for creating a different show. It comes from trial and error — let's work out five songs and pick the five songs and if one of them isn't working, then we rotate that with another new song. It's about finding the best setting for them in the set list and devise a set list that makes sense.
Thanks to Derrick Green for the interview. Get your copy of Sepultura's 'Quadra' here and catch them on tour at these dates. Follow the group on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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