Sound Check with SEPULTURA
Festival Hall, Melbourne, June 1999
During the Australian league of their world tour, Andrián Pertout speaks to guitarist Andreas Kisser, guitar technician Silvio Gomez and live sound engineer Nino Notaro about the essence of ‘Sepultura on the Road’.
The unique music of South American band Sepultura was officially launched to the world in 1984 by founding members Max Cavalera, Igor Cavalera, Paulo Pinto and Jairo T., who was later replaced by guitarist Andreas Kisser in 1987, and in the years that followed became the impetus for the glorification of their Brazilian hometown of Belo Horizonte. Today, the group has a collection of highly acclaimed albums, which includes producer Ross Robinson’s 1996 sonically groundbreaking crafting of ‘Roots’, where Brazilian samba’s stand-up drumming traditions and the sounds of Amazonia’s Xavantes tribe are amalgamated into 90s metal hardcore. Sepultura’s latest album ‘Against’ introduces new vocalist Derrick Green to the arena, while also highlighting a notable appearance by Japanese percussion group ‘Kodo’. The current world tour has so far included South American shows with Metallica, Marilyn Manson and Placebo, and following this Australian rendezvous are scheduled to appear in New Zealand, Japan, UK and the European festival circuit, before a hibernation period in anticipation to an ‘Against’ follow-up album.
How do you prepare yourselves for a world tour? Is there months of afternoon rehearsals with mornings at the gym? What do you generally do?
AK: "(Laughs) …We try to visit the city, wherever we are, you know, sight seeing or looking for new music, new food, whatever. That’s one of the good parts of touring, just travelling, and getting to know different people. And for almost a year-and-a-half we stayed without touring, and without playing live. We were like just writing new material, looking for a new manager, a new singer, everything was very confusing, so right now we’re very excited to be able to go out and tour. But we don’t have any special rules, we rehearse the old material of course, especially because Derrick is in the band now, but even with Max, we’d take like three weeks to really prepare the shows, and we’d play some covers, prepare different arrangements for songs, and stuff like that. And we did that when the album came out, because we had to prepare a general set list. But throughout the tour we’ve just like changed songs here and there, changed the order, and tried to introduce different things so that the show can be exciting for us, night by night.”
Do you warm up individually prior to a performance, psyche yourselves up in any way, or is sound check time basically the ‘rain before the storm’?
AK: "We like to stretch, like muscles and stuff, and kind of the same way we do before we play soccer, to get the muscles really lose. But I don’t stay in the dressing room, warming up with the guitar, because I play a lot of acoustic guitar during the day. I play classical guitar, and that keeps me warmed up, so I don’t need special exercises to go on stage. And pretty much just a beer in hand, I have a beer and relax before the storm.”
Tell me about the band’s stage gear. How do you recreate the colossal analog-to-digital-compact-disc sound of Sepultura in a live situation?
AK: "We don’t try to really get too deep into that stuff, and to try to reproduce whatever we did in the studio live. We have our basic sound that we take from the stage into the studio. Of course, in the studio you have different effects and overdubs, so you add to that sound. But that basic sound is there, and that’s the basic sound we bring to the stage. And in my case, I use the Mesa Boogie stuff, you know, Strategy 500 valve power amp and the Triaxis valve preamp, which is my basic sound, with distortion and stuff, together with Jackson guitars, ESP guitars and Fernandes guitars. And I just use the wah-wah pedal on stage, that I control myself, and my tech controls the rest of the effects. I use the Telefax, it’s like an effects rack unit for chorus, delays, and stuff like that. I have a DOD envelope filter pedal that I use in certain parts, especially on the newer songs, ‘Rumours’ and ‘Tribus’. And I also have a pedal that imitates the sound of the Lesley speakers, because I used that a lot in the last album.”
Some of the guitar sounds on the ‘Roots’ album were pretty wild. Did you basically use the same set-up on that?
AK: "Yeah, the Mesaboogie was there, for the balls and the peaking that I need.”
So your live sound is your studio sound.
AK: "Yeah, pretty much, and vice versa, we’re learning from each other, how to develop the best that we can.”
Do you leave room for spontaneity, experimentation and improvisation within the set, or is the band ideologically more about refining one great performance?
AK: "Both, I think in a great performance, you really have the room to improvise, and to do a different arrangement, but you know, even from a mistake we can develop something really cool. And for instance, a song like ‘Kaiowas’, we recorded it acoustically on the album, but we do that song in like twenty different ways, different arrangements, different instruments, acoustically and amplified, twelve-string, six-string, or just percussion. So that mobility, that freedom really to mess around with different arrangements is what we look for on stage. So with a song like ‘Kaiowas’ we do a lot, ‘Tribus’ is another song that we develop in different ways, and just like ‘Ratamahatta’ and ‘Hatred Aside’. But we don’t try to reproduce the same exact sounds and notes that are on the albums.”
What is life on the road really like? While travelling from city to city, do you try to establish some form of normality, or do you simply give up and just go with the flow?
AK: "We pretty much just go with the flow. If you think too much you go crazy! But touring is a very harsh life, very much like being on planes, it’s not very good for your health. And especially travelling like that, you know, city by city and country by country. But best of all is the time on stage, the hour-and-a-half that we have on stage. And that’s why it’s worth it, to be here away from our families and kids. I mean, we miss that part a lot, Brazil, the football, family and friends, and that’s the bad part of touring. But I think normal is kind of a weird definition (chuckles), because my normality is that, to be on the road. And I don’t feel like settling down yet (chuckles), I’m very happy moving around. Even when we’re not touring, we spend our time between Brazil and the States, you know, we have two houses, so depending on what the band is doing, practising, dealing with business, or just a vacation, we move between the two countries.”
On and off stage, is there strict rules or certain principles that the band must follow, or is everyone totally free to enjoy and celebrate being in the spotlight?
AK: "No, everybody’s pretty much free. There are no rules on stage, and that’s the beauty of it all. The stage is the place where you learn the most, that’s why the music develops so much from the album to the stage, and that’s where you get prepared for the next one. And we know our limitations, and I think we are responsible for ourselves, to set our own limits. So we don’t have to be like, ‘Oh, don’t drink that, we’re not allowed to do that!’ Everyone has the freedom to do it, but everyone knows that when the time on stage comes, they’ve got to be professional, and at the same time enjoy it.”
What have been some of your most memorable highlights of the world tour so far? How was South America?
AK: "It was beautiful, especially playing with Metallica. We did some shows with them, and some extra shows in the north of Brazil, a place that we hadn’t visited for more than ten years. So that was very special, going back there and presenting Derrick to everybody. And South America and Australia are very similar in a lot of ways, you know, like they’re both in the southern hemisphere, with a lot of beaches and stuff, so the feeling is pretty much kind of the same. But in South America they’re very energetic, they like to scream, to jump, and to mosh. It’s not like Japan, where everybody stands up like really tight. And they do enjoy the show, but not in the same way. So places like Brazil and Mexico, Spain, the Latin blood, it’s warmer. But this tour overall has been very, very great, especially with everything that’s happened to Sepultura, losing a very important member, to then have to find another singer, rebuild a career, relationships with tour managers, record labels, and stuff like that. So we’re very proud of everything that we’ve achieved, it was very difficult and disturbing times for everybody, but now professionally we are pretty much back again, and that’s the best feeling of all.”
Where is this tour taking Sepultura to in the next few months?
AK: “We’re going to New Zealand, to Japan, back to Europe to do some festivals, and then in August/September we’re going to stop for a break, write some new songs, and hopefully come back here in January. We’d like to do the ‘Big Day Out’. And we have a new single coming out, ‘Tribus’, and Mike Patton did a song with us recently, so we have that happening, plus some other unreleased stuff. And so the ‘Big Day Out’ man, hopefully we can come back here and do this fucking festival!”
Interview with guitar technician Silvio Gomez.
Silvio Gomez is Andreas Kisser’s guitar technician, and as well as being responsible for setting up the band’s gear and basic guitar maintenance, he controls most of the guitar pedals during the show. "I do guitars for Andreas, take care of his guitars and his presets during the show,” explains Silvio. “He doesn’t operate any pedals, so I take care of his preset changes. And he plays in three different tunings, so I have to like swap guitars pretty much all the time, because we’ve been using B flat, which is a really low tuning, and D.”
Andreas then adds, “And I use .013 to .056 gauge strings, so it holds pretty well. But I also use another tuning where the whole guitar is in D, except for the sixth string, which is dropped one step down to C.”
Silvio continues, “And before the show I set up the gear, change strings, and make sure that everything works. I have to be at the venue for sound check, and then we have a little break. And at the end of the show I pack everything back in the cases.”
Interview with live sound engineer Nino Notaro.
Nino Notaro is Sepultura’s live sound engineer, and his basic strategy for the shows is to do the OKs in the sound department. “I just make sure that everything works basically,” he points out, “Because it all changes from sound check to show. The acoustics change totally from an empty room to a full room. And so they just come in, dick around with their little things, fine tune their stuff on stage, do a song, and that’s it, time to eat!”
Nino prefers not to overdo the digital effects processing of the Sepultura sound. “I pitch change a couple of times,” he says, “A little bit of distortion on the vocals, but only a couple of times, and just basically delay and reverb. And with the pitch change, I just drop the voice like four octaves, so I drop it way down there. But that’s only for like two little special parts that don’t even last for five seconds, and that’s it for entire show. The rest is just like Derrick singing and a little bit of reverb, and delay on some stuff. Otherwise it’s all clean, no effects on anything.”
With regards to a question about riding the mix during the night Nino replies, “Oh yeah, I’m all over it, all over the board, because their stuff changes so much on stage too. Like Paulo’s got new distortion patches, and stuff goes up and down, because they’re also still experimenting with a couple of things.” As far as post sound check equalization he states, “If anything, I usually just brighten it up a little bit, just to cut through, but other than that, not a whole lot.”
And what gear does Nino like to use? “Usually, just a working PA that will reach like a 120 clean, back- and front-of-house,” he says. But when it comes to effects Nino leaves nothing chance, so he lugs a custom rack around with him. “Yeah, I’ve got a rack that I take out at my own gigs. And in the rack I’ve got a DAT player, DBX 120 Sub Destroyer, SD 330 delay, an SPX-90, a 990, and a bunch of Behringer gates and compressors, which makes life a little bit easier.“
“Against” out on Roadrunner Records. “Against” out on Roadrunner Records. For more information take a cyber tour on the Official Sepultura Home Page or the Official Sepultura Brazilian Fan Club Web Site.
'Australian Musician' ~ Issue 19, Spring, September 6, 1999
AUSTRALIAN MUSIC ASSOCIATION
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