Finally back on the road to promote 2020’s ‘Quadra’ release, Sepultura are in Dublin for a show that’s been sold out for almost two years. Eager to put pandemic delays behind them, it’s a refocused Derrick Green that greets us backstage ahead of the show. “It’s an exciting time for us”, says the front man; “we’re fortunate despite a lot of difficulties that have been going on for everyone to be able to play again and have that enjoyment and be so fulfilling”. Talking the new album, the tour, and his incredible 25 years with the band, we sat down with Derrick Green. The mediator; Eamon O'Neill.
Hi Derrick, how are you today?
Fantastic, yeah. Thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to this. It’s been a long time coming. Two years in the waiting, and it’s very exciting to be here in Dublin again.
You’re no strangers to the Irish capital, are you? You’ve been here a lot.
Yeah, many times, and it’s always good, I have to say, and every time coming here it’s better and better, I feel.
As you say, it’s been two years in the making this tour; that must make it even more exciting to be back on the road.
Absolutely. I mean, we have no idea what to expect. So many artists and bands are out now and it’s really difficult to jump back into everything now. There’s so many people wanting to tour, and to see shows and everything’s spread out, so you never know what to expect, but we’ve been very fortunate. A lot of people have had time to listen to the new material that we have out, or the latest material, because it’s two years old now, but for us it’s new to perform it and play this live and feel the reactions. So it’s an exciting time for us, and like I said, we’re fortunate despite a lot of difficulties that have been going on for everyone to be able to play again and have that enjoyment and be so fulfilling.
You’re playing to a sold out crowd tonight, so that must feel great.
Oh yeah. I think what’s really great about it is this was the first show that sold out of the whole tour, so it’s very exciting to be here and know that the love is here for us. I know that there’s a large Brazilian community is here as well, so it's always a pleasure to play here. And again, you know, being the first sold out show on the entire tour is a great feeling, and most of the shows have been sold out for this tour. We weren't expecting that, with so much trauma and stuff going on, you know, before and you don't know what to expect. But it's been a great turnout.
It's a great package, with Sepultura, Sacred Reich, and Crowbar.
It definitely adds to the bill. You know, it really creates such an unbelievable magnet, especially because we're all friends. We've done this before in the US, and I think the styles of music that we have a little bit different so that helps to create a great package; not everyone sounding the same, and having their own styles.
2022 marks an incredible 25 years since you joined Sepultura. I mean, that must seem unbelievable to you.
It is! It's definitely unbelievable. I mean, it's crazy how time flies! But it's been an incredible journey. A lot of things happen that I never would have imagined. It's been a challenge, and that's something that I knew from the very beginning, that it would be a challenge. I'm just fortunate enough to be able to be part of the Sepultura story.
There's obviously constant chatter about reunions that you’ve endured since joining the band; how do you manage to maintain such decorum?
When you're just focusing on what you can really control and what's in front of you, it's the most important thing to do. It's the reality of any situation, is what's happening in that moment, and for us, the moment is playing together as a band with Eloy [Casagrande, drums], Paulo [Jr., bass], Andreas [Kisser, guitarist] and I, and going into the studio, and performing these songs live. You know, that's the reality of the situation. The relationship that we have, you know, that's very strong. A lot of people like to create certain scenarios and things to happen in their mind, but when it comes down to realistic things that are happening, you know, when you come to see a show live or listen to an actual album, then you understand that we’re a group, we're together, we’re on a mission, and we're evolving as musicians as artists, so that's what we stay focused on.
One of the things that you can't predict when you join a band, is if the interpersonal relationships will last; how the hell have you managed to stay together for 25 years?
I think the passion, the will of wanting to be in the band, and also the communication is extremely important. To maintain the level of respect and communication, I think it's many things that need to come into play in order to make it happen. And everyone being on the same page wanting to go in the same direction, it helps tremendously; patience and destroying any egos that might exist. Really squashing that and being very honest,
Rewinding to the start, and when did you first hear that Sepultura were looking for a singer?
I heard about it through a friend of mine who was an A&R person that just started working at Roadrunner Records, and I was living in New York, and that's how I heard about it. His name was Mike Gitter and he suggested that I try out for the band. Considering they had one song, no vocals, the new song…
Was that ‘Choke’?
Yes. I got that song and did a recording of it, and sent it to them, and that's how everything kind of really started rolling, from then on. But it was because of him I decided to actually do the audition, because I had no idea what was going on. There was no internet or anything like that then, so it's just word of mouth or from reading some type of magazine or something, you would only find out. It was exciting. I wanted to try something I'd never done before and I wanted to play with musicians who were established and very serious.
So what was like your audition like?
Well, first, I sent them what I did, and then they asked me to come to Brazil for two weeks. So I flew there, and that was the audition, and they would play new songs, and then they would ask me to just make up something on the spot, which was terrifying! So it was really bad for the first few days, but then after being there and having a good conversation with Paulo actually, I just decided to really be free, and just not be so afraid of holding back, and then things started to really flow. We felt a little bit of a connection, but then once they decided that they wanted me to come back and record, then it was a process, you know?
We knew it wasn't going to be easy, but we're all up for that challenge. So this was something that was going to take time, and I knew that in my own mind, because I never met them before. I had to develop a relationship as friends, and going on the road, and they already had this relationship from the past. It was a new person within that configuration that we had to develop, and that takes time in order for it to be something that's real and not forced. And so I believe that's what's happened throughout the years with different albums, with different people changing every now and then, and getting to a certain degree of comfort within the band.
When you came into the band, they were at their commercial peak on the back of the ‘Roots’ album; did that bring additional pressure for you?
I think, you know, my mind, I didn't have any expectations. I hadn't seen too much of Sepultura before and there wasn't again, the internet, so it wasn't really I could go online and check it out and see certain things. I just had in my own mind how big it was. I didn't realise how big it was around the world! I ended up like, going to playing a show, you know, in Europe or going on tour and seeing the fan base and everything, so I guess it was good that I didn't know how big it was back then. So I can only concentrate on what was happening, again, in that moment, which was; get on stage, perform these songs well, and that was the main focus. That’s the only thing you can focus on when you're put in that type of situation.
How do you view the ‘Against’ album now, looking back?
I think it’s great. I think it's fun to play a lot of those songs because it gets a great reaction from people more now, than before. Yeah, I think there were people that grew up with it that were kind of new to Sepultura at that time in ’98 / ’99, so they never saw anything from before; they only know from me, and then onwards in different configurations of the band. But I think it's great to be able to play those songs and see the appreciation for those songs because a lot of people wake to music differently. Like, for me of course if I hear ‘Arise’ and stuff like that, I have a different perception than somebody who's much younger than me and wasn't around when that album was out; it's not going to be the same. I mean, for even our drummer Eloy, when I asked him like; “what Metallica album turned you on to Metallica?”, and he said it was ‘St. Anger’ . That's how young he is! You know, he was just like; “hey, that was if for me! That was the album that was out”. I look at it that way; it's great that we have so many different generations of people.
Latest release ‘Quadra’  has been hailed as the best yet from your tenure.
It's incredible. It's challenging to really create something that you haven't done before, and I think we've been able to get stay on that track of never having the album sound like the previous album. I think it just comes naturally; growth being on the road, all the changes are happening in the world, and with ourselves. Like I said, it’s a process and an evolution that we're really working on, that like comfort of being able to play together and create together. It's awesome to hear that and actually see it you know, with the shows. I think it's great that the band still be very relevant.
You must have a lot pf personal pride having spent 25 years with the band, and have critics and fans say this is your best album.
No doubt about it, and you know it's definitely great to be 25 years in the band and have you know, like okay, this is it's getting stronger and stronger and that sense so I'm definitely happy about that.
What would you say are your favourite Sepultura albums from both eras?
I would say ‘Quadra’, of course, and then ‘Arise’. That was the first one that I heard as far as a Sepultura album. It brings back a lot of memories, even though I love Chaos A.D.  a lot, I think it was more of a hardcore album. It's more the personality of the band is stronger, and I think their identity is stronger with ‘Chaos A.D., but yeah ‘Arise’. It’s good memories!
Since we’re in Dublin, I wanted to touch on the U2 cover you did ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’.
I think the idea of that, doing a YouTube cover, and doing the covers that we did, was to do covers of bands that have influence on a Sepultura, not necessarily metal bands, but bands that revolutionised the way that we hear music, and very much challenge ourselves back to the typical like, oh, we can do a metal cover, but it's boring, but influences who area a big influence on all of us, you know, and do songs that people wouldn't expect us to cover, and really Sepulturise songs, and really bring it into our own.
You did perform it the last time you played in Dublin.
We did! I mean, it will be emotional even doing it now, let alone I have to remember the words! But yeah, it's great. It's always fun to do covers every now and then, I mean, I'm not the biggest cover person, because I usually don't remember other people's songs, but that one's really special because it was certainly one of the first big songs that we did, as far as having a lot of popularity in Brazil. We had a video and I ended up being the main character in the video where I, I did not want to be! I actually wrote the idea for the video and I imagined the little kid doing the running, but fortunately, I was in the shape to do it!
What have been your highlights in your time in the band?
I think doing the first Rock in Rio with the band, that was in 2000 or 2001. That was a big highlight. Doing a tour in India, touring with Metallica in South America, Those are some pretty high points in history for us.
You played you played with Steve Vai as well, a few years ago, didn’t you?
Oh yeah, that was at Rock and Rio, which was fantastic. You know, Steve was such a great guy, and it was an honour to be able to perform with him together, and also doing a lot of great performances, collaborations with Les tambours du Bronx from France [in 2011], doing that; with the orchestra for Brazil; just so many great collaborations over the years; Apocalyptica, and Jello Biafra; those were some other big highlights.
Walking into the Sepultura job in 1997, did you ever think that 25 years later you’d still be doing it?
No, definitely not at all. I mean, I couldn’t think about the year, you know, after that 1998, I don’t know! But now? I just knew that at that moment that I wanted to just go for it, and that was the most important thing; put myself out there.
Finally, what's happening for you going forward; are you going to keep working ‘Quadra’ or is the new album the works?
That's the idea, is to really keep working ‘Quadra’ because we never had a chance to actually perform the album live, or the songs live. So this is the fresh one for us, and so next year, we'll be doing the same; a lot of festivals we weren't able to play last year, we'll play next year, and we’ll keep pushing like the regular touring cycle, put out an album at least every two years.
Sepultura's 'Quadra' is out now. For Sepultura vinyl, box sets and limited editions, click here.
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