Mike Exley speaks to Mille Petrozza
ENEMIES OF GOD… AND THE WHITE HOUSE?
All is looking rosy in the world of KREATOR as the new studio album flies up charts all over the world and the band digests the effects of its recent trip throughout Europe and South America. Singer and lead guitarist Mille recently made some none too complimentary comments about George Bush, but as the diminutive front man tells Mike Exley, don’t think he’s decided to hang up the heavy chords for life as a ‘political’ animal just yet.
Mille Petrozza, front man for Kreator, guitarist in same band, the man who along with drummer Jurgen ‘Ventor’ Reil has kept the band on an even keel now since 1982 and all round good egg, is beaming. You can’t quite see it; back stage at a recent show he’s wrapped up in a heavy mix of T-shirts and jackets, but inside his heart’s thumping because new album “Enemy Of God” has taken the band by the scruff of the neck and thrown them around the world on one of their most successful tours in a decade. It’s not surprising – said album is a great step on from their last (2001’s “Violent Revolution”) and has definitely kept them at the forefront of the European revolution now coming back into the world of Heavy Metal. You see, Kreator have survived by being both consistent in the studio and by giving their fans what they’re looking for in the live arena. As we notice that night, not only do the boys now play like demons, they also very subtly cover most of their career in the set, pleasing not only the diehard ultras, yet also the first time punters who have just caught the feedback from “Enemy…” and want to check out what all the fuss is about. And talking of fuss; Mille isn’t normally one of the more outspoken fellas at the front of the queue wanting to have a go politically, but some none too subtle comments about a certain George Bush are sure to make things interesting when Kreator hit the US on the current “Enemy…” tour?
Mille; “Well, this has really surprised me. People have said that I’m too political criticising some of the things I thought were wrong with the way George Bush conducts himself in the world and at home. It’s the same everywhere with all government, really. Kreator is not a political band, and I have not put this in the context of Kreator, just my own personal views. If that makes me too political, then I’m too political, sorry! I hate talking about the past, but now it seems that people have forgotten that many musicians have been very political in the past – great musicians much better than Kreator; and now, it’s wrong suddenly? Whatever! All I can say is that being a musician is not only about escape – many write about dragons and stuff, and that’s fine, but with the internet there are many people out there hiding and putting out a lot of propaganda, divisive stuff that hurts people. I said what I did when no one else was speaking out and people take it seriously because it’s written down on their screen, so it must be more than just my opinion??? Of course not! I’ll tell you also. When I made those points against Bush, I had people from the States, ‘Oh, you’re in trouble when you get here pal,’ blah, blah, blah. We’ve been to the States doing press. Does anyone come up to me and say anything? No. It’s not important, is it? One person’s opinion. All the nerds out there who care, fine. Me, it’s my opinion but it really isn’t going to change the world, get over it! We, Kreator want to hit you with our music. I don’t want to hit you with my opinion; just have the freedom to express it. Thank you!”
And hit is a very appropriate term really. Put simply, “Enemy…” is a great album that pulls few punches. Guitarist Sami Yli-Sirnio has settled in so well, that the real powerhouses of the band, Mille and Ventor behind him, have seldom seemed as tight in a decade. Some of their previous material – “Endorama” (1999) and “Cause For Conflict” (1995) particularly - failed to hold my attention but now, they seem to be on a very rich vein of form and hitting the road running? Can this be put down simply to the ‘Sami effect’, in the same way that, some would argue, the band benefited in the Frank Blackfire post Tritze years?
Mille; “Well, Sami has been with us for some time now, so this is not new for me. He deputised for Tommy Vetterli (ex Coroner) way back, nearly ten years ago and has been a full time member for a long time. He’s always been there for us. On this album it was very important to incorporate both the feeling of the last, because we definitely liked the feelings that that created within the band as well as with the fans, and to keep moving forward with some of the more experimental stuff we’d used before. Keep the original style of course, but put in a lot of the stuff we’ve learned over the years. It’s a nice mix.”
“Sami is totally different from Frank. He’s a very hard working musician, much easier to find a way forward with than Frank was, more professional……… It really helps the creativity of the band. Musically, his theory is way better than mine, so it’s a definite plus.”
The album has an anger that is immediately obvious, right from the word go in the title track. Are you an angrier person the older you become?
Mille; “Not really, it’s just that I’d begun to miss this anger in music. I really liked what I might call the ‘Second Wave’ of thrash – the late ‘90s and early 2000 wave of new bands; but they lacked some of the song quality. The riffs were good, the production was good, but the anger was often muted. I believed that Kreator could contribute to this, not only on the last album but also on this one and that’s how we approached “Enemy Of God”. Ventor and I sat down and we said, ‘let’s just write an album where we don’t think too much…”
Mille; “Of course. ‘Endorama’ and ‘Outcast’ (1997) were intellectual albums, but this time we just wanted to turn up, very raw, very natural, very live. It’s like riding a bicycle. The attitude came back right away. The earlier albums helped to make the slower parts fit more particularly, the brutal stuff came naturally too, so it was a very positive time for the whole band. Sami can function at any level, so can Chris (Giesler – Bass), so why not press those buttons and do it?”
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that the album was written piece-meal, between tours and over longer periods than some of the previous ones. How did you manage to keep the consistency? The album flows so smoothly; you would never have guessed that there was a break in the pattern?
Mille; “You see, we were very lucky with this album and I may have glossed over that somewhat. Sure, I had written songs when we were on down time, not on tour etc. but we started actually rehearsing them back in May 2004 and spent a long time getting them right before the studio. This is a real band album; and by that, I mean that the whole band has built what Ventor and I originally wrote into the final product. There are very few effects added, almost no trimming in postproduction and everyone has been present. It’s all two guitars, drums and bass, very few guitar tracks and it sounds very live. No gimmicks, just keeping the dynamic flowing……… I think we’ve actually found a way to experiment without experimenting, if you understand that? To us, we experiment, but to the listener, it just sounds like natural Kreator. That is the key to any bands studio output – it’s a very special moment.”
You’ve heaped a considerable amount of praise on producer Andy Sneap for not only capturing this moment you mention, but also, in a way, creating it! Just how important was his contribution?
Mille; “Very, man! Most of the records you hear nowadays have two, or possibly more, guitar tracks recorded on each side so that you hear four or more actual guitar tracks hitting your ear. It allows a great depth of sound and harmonising to be created, of course, but it’s fundamentally a trick. It’s not real; how many bands have four or more guitar players? OK. What Andy wanted to do with “Enemy…” was just to have a real live sound. Andy had done a live record for us and he hinted to me that he could now recreate that sound in the studio with just Sami and I going through the desk as live as possible. And, you know, it worked! It’s a lot more work of course, especially with Andy who is a pretty hard taskmaster, but this teaches you to have that guitar spot on. That’s how you create time to then experiment on the recording in other areas. Technology is a real help when you’re in a studio for two months or so. We all make mistakes, but with this Pro Tools thing you can do three takes of a drum; if you f**k up one you can lift another perfect one out of another take, paste it in and it sounds identical. Magic!”
Obviously the strength of the album is also due in no short amount to the length of time you were clearly given by your label SPV? Explain how their support has helped you this time?
Mille; “Well, SPV has a long history of working with metal and with established bands who know how to go about the recording process in a professional manner. Our previous company Gun were a young label, very ambitious, but very young. SPV just know how to let a band ‘breathe’. If you’ve worked with Motorhead and others, you know how to promote, distribute, build support in different territories; do all the right things that make the process of creating the music, for the band, a lot easier. As a musician, you shouldn’t have to think about whether your record will be available to the people who come to see you, or whether any of them know that you’re actually playing in their town that night, you know? That should answer your question.”
OK. Let’s move on to some of the tracks, and particularly their titles? ‘Suicide Terrorist’, for example?
Mille; “ OK. OK. I know you’re going to get right into my opinions here, but it’s just a song about trying to put myself into the mind of someone who can take explosive, put it in a car and blow up themselves as well as people they don’t know, you know? We haven’t had to deal with this in Germany and thankfully, neither have most people, so we can’t understand this, but it’s a terrifying subject. With America putting pressure on Iran, North Korea, and the Middle East, you can begin to understand what motivates people to do these things even if you can’t understand it on a human level. You even gain insight into some of this stuff when you visit countries where music is very underground, sometimes even repressed. We went to Peru which is a police state, other places in South America where the military has a huge influence; even Russia where we hear a lot about the thawing of repression and democracy and where still, on the ground, it’s almost a police state and you see how depressed and frustrated people can be. But, then when I go to the Russian embassy or we go to Russia, we are checked and see probably as many police as when we go to the States now, so maybe there isn’t that much of a difference? It’s understandable of course. People would not allow their country to be put at risk, but you do see it and if you see it, so must people from the Middle East, from Russia….?.”
“World Anarchy”. Come on, there must be somewhere where it’s not going totally barmy?
Mille; “You know, sometimes we exaggerate these things but this is to try and bring out the positive outlook too. Whilst this music is as strong as our following seems to suggest now and whilst the music continues to grow, there are many positives to be taken from this whole thing. It’s not just about the fans’ job, or our job, or even the opinions of one or two; it’s still about escaping the daily grind of your life and enjoying yourself with music. We are very lucky; Ventor and I particularly have been doing this band since 1982 and in 2005 we’re having one of our best years, so thank you to everyone for that and we hope to see more of you again, with “Enemy Of God.”
And so say all of us. Kreator appear, at least at the moment, out of Europe for much of the summer but if you haven’t seen them on tour this time yet, you surely won’t have long to wait. Terrific album by the way; or have I said that!!
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Thanx for the interview Mike.