Kreator – Return to ViolenceSunday, 15th January 2017
Many veteran metal acts have prospered as well if not more than their original time of popularity through the internet revolution- especially in terms of live performances in all corners of the globe. Kreator for instance put themselves on the 80’s thrash map through pinnacle records like Endless Pain, Pleasure to Kill, and Extreme Aggression – becoming one of the Teutonic Big Four beside Destruction, Sodom, and Tankard. Admittedly the 1990’s would see sonic shifts and experimentation as alternative forms of expression usurped a lot of the thrash firestorm – but by the 2000’s, Kreator would return to their prominent speed/thrash status with Violent Revolution, and they’ve been consistently releasing studio records on a four to five-year clip due to the heavier tour demands.
Gods of Violence is Kreator’s fourteenth studio album – another blockbuster in terms of accelerated rhythms, fierce drumming, and lead breaks that will drop jaws and mesmerize. The band add in spots of acoustic guitars and bagpipe work without sounding out of place, not an easy feat in a genre that is meant for relentless energy and an outpouring of channeling negative emotions into a positive outcome. In the midst of a heavy two day media blitz from Nuclear Blast’s US offices in California, vocalist/ guitarist Mille Petrozza handles these questions like an old friend – which is what this scribe has felt like when it comes to Kreator’s music since discovering those early 80’s albums as a teenager.
In this talk we tackle a love of mythology, favorite books, the experimental discography for Kreator in the 1990’s, as well as the need for younger bands to keep the metal scene alive for the future generation to become torchbearers. And get ready for another long touring schedule for the band- where Mille assures me ‘will feature different set lists from tour to tour’.
Dead Rhetoric: Gods of Violence is the latest Kreator album. How do you keep the creative juices flowing this deep into your career? Is there ever a fear of keeping the standard as high as the previous records?
Mille Petrozza: That is always the challenge. Coming up with the follow up to the last album is a little bit tricky. There’s a lot of hard work, but it’s always worth it in the end.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you always had an appreciation for Greek mythology prior to the parallels you used for some of the songs on the new record lyrically?
Mille: One of the first books I read was Homer’s The Iliad, so I always wanted to create some material that took into account Greek mythology. I had the original idea to come up with a whole concept record surrounding these gods, but in the end I found that this would be more of a limitation to the creation of the material. Once the songs came along I knew that it wouldn’t be a full-on concept record.
Dead Rhetoric: The guitar playing on the new record is superb – with numerous remarkable lead breaks. How deep and refined of a process do you take from inception to completion as far as guitar parts for yourself and Sami – what are your views on your individual strengths as guitarists?
Mille: Sami is more of the one that expands on my basic ideas. Sami turns my ideas into something that is really more technical. He’s an amazing guitarist and he comes up with a lot of brilliant ideas when it comes to harmonies, double guitars. Every time we work on an album that’s what he focuses on, because my part is to write the songs. Once the songs are actually there, he makes them even greater.
Dead Rhetoric: Have there been any particular standout moments in Kreator’s career where you knew the band was taking things to another level in terms of personal satisfaction, professionalism, or musicianship?
Mille: There have been a couple of moments where I felt that we were taking things to the next level. For example, when we recorded Pleasure to Kill, I felt that after the recording I knew that this was a lot better than the first album. I thought Extreme Aggression was a much better album than Terrible Certainty. When we started to write the music for the Violent Revolution album – from then onwards I have had great feelings about the albums that we have done. I think that we continue to bring things to the next level with each successive album, we have found our sound now and the journey is exciting.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences between the thrash scenes say in mainland Europe, the Far East, or South America versus North America? Would you say things are stronger now for the support and popularity than in the first wave of the 1980’s – or is it just a matter of a different time and multi-generational appeal?
Mille: It’s a mixture of both, I guess. I think the 80’s (were) also strong for heavy metal because it was the beginning of the scene. Nowadays, you have a younger generation that is going to the shows. You have bands still going from our generation along with these newer bands that write great music. So it’s still very exciting times for metal.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you handle the changing metal climate during the middle of the 1990’s? Is that why the nature of certain material on Renewal through Endorama could be considered Kreator’s ‘experimental’ era due to the moving, mutating landscape?
Mille: I guess it was more about the musical climate of that time period. When we were doing Renewal for example we felt that we need some new methods of expressing ourselves. We wanted to channel our anger from a different point of view. In the 90’s those albums ended up being important for our musical evolution.
Dead Rhetoric: How far back does your relationship with Andy Sneap go, who produced Violent Revolution and Enemy of God– as I’d imagine you were well-aware of his work in Sabbat?
Mille: Yes, we knew of each other through his work in Sabbat. We would run into each other many, many times over the years. We even played a show together at the Berlin Wall, we played one of the first shows together after the wall came down. Sabbat was opening up for us at that time.
Dead Rhetoric: At this point, do you have a personal preference for the types of places you like to play in terms of club shows, theaters, or festivals – or is the mindset and outlook fairly similar?
Mille: To me it’s most important to put 100% into the show. To get the full Kreator experience, that’s hard to do in smaller clubs.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you ever had any weather-related concerns when it comes to playing on outdoor festivals?
Mille: Yes- we just recently had that happen at a show in Vienna, last year. There was a storm coming through and we had to end the show because it was too dangerous for us to be on stage. The good thing was we were only going to miss the last song anyways.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you define success at this point – and has it changed through the decades for Kreator or for you personally?
Mille: To me success doesn’t necessarily mean commercial success. It’s all about touching people’s hearts. If you are able to touch people in an emotional way, that to me means success. Keeping a band together is always a new challenge with every year. When you go out on tour, you know that sometimes it’s going to be rough. Keeping fame in this kind of music is also a sort of success. You want to make sure that you don’t lose yourself along the way.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s left on your personal or professional goal list to achieve? Any particular places, experiences, or activities/hobbies that you’d love to pursue for the future?
Mille: Yeah, we want to continue doing this until we think we don’t have anything else left to say. We still have a while, because I have a lot of things left to say and Kreator has a lot more to come. I want to be able to record new albums and come up with new music, without losing the creative spark, you know?
Dead Rhetoric: How have you handled digital recording technology given you grew up recording in an analog world- as I understand you try to use as many analog techniques as possible even on these new records?
Mille: To be honest with you, we use any kind of technology. It’s about the song, not about the technology. A good song would also work on crappy guitars. If you don’t have a good idea, that to me is the essential part of a great recording. Back in the day when rock and roll was born, they were recording on two tracks, and it still sounded great. It should be about the musicianship, the skills, and the songs. Technology is just a tool, and it’s a convenience nowadays. My demos these days sound almost like album quality at this point. You can be a lot more creative nowadays with the tools that are available.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you handle instant technology and social media use – do you take into consideration a lot of the fans perspective when it comes to their thoughts on the band, future set lists, etc.?
Mille: Of course we try our best to make our fans happy- but first and foremost, we have to make ourselves happy. The set list is going to be a little tricky on the next tour, because we have 14 albums to choose from and we really like our new material, so we want to present some of the new record. It will be a little difficult to pick the songs but we will manage.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of heavy metal in the current scene? What are some of the positives you see, and what improvements (if any) need to be made to ensure the vitality and future of the genre?
Mille: The younger bands are very important. Once the older bands are gone, we will need these younger bands to make a bigger impact on the younger generation. They will hopefully carry the torch ahead to create the next wave of bands. It’s just as exciting if not more exciting than listening to a lot of the older artists.
Dead Rhetoric: I’ve read in past interviews you love to read books when you have free time – what have been some of your favorites through the years or latest reading material that you’ve enjoyed?
Mille: Right now I am reading a book called The Girls – I forgot the name of the author (Emma Cline). It’s about the Manson family. I like a lot of books by George Orwell, a lot of dark romantic books.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next twelve months shaping up for Kreator – are you looking forward to the Decibel Magazine North American tour this spring?
Mille: That touring is going to be such a crushing tour- especially with Obituary. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and it’s going to be nice for the people that like extreme metal. The guys in Obituary go way back with Kreator- it’s going to be a nice package tour. We will be doing a lot of touring, but it’s not a bad thing! (laughs). People want to see live music more than ever. We are in a privileged position that people all around the world want to see Kreator live.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s the hardest part for you when it comes to touring the globe- is it the jet leg going from country to country and getting used to the different time zones?
Mille: (laughs). You know talking about time changes- I am jetlagged as we speak now. I woke up tonight at 4 o’clock in the morning, and I couldn’t fall back asleep because I am here in Los Angeles for only two days. That is a problem, and it’s not fun. I never really complain, but if there is one thing I don’t like is the feeling of being jetlagged. Travelling is not easy as you get older. I’ve tried everything- there was a band we were touring with recently that gave me a Xanax, and I will never ever do that again! I was so dizzy and I felt like I was walking on rubber. I just listen to my body from now on.