Kreator (Mille Petrozza)

"If an album is shit people will get it from the mp3. But, if the album is good, people are gonna buy it"
on Wed, 09/11/2013 - 18:12
Kreator

An interview always depends on the way it’s conducted and of course on the person that’s interviewed. Being backstage at the Rockwave Festival, on a hot summer afternoon, with Mille Petrozza, drinking beers and talking about Kreator’s whole career, we should expect that this would end up more like a conversation among friends, rather than a typical interview. Kostas Polyzos and Chris Karadimitris had to take care of this difficult mission...

C.K.: So Mille you’re back to Greece after a short time. How are things going for you since your last visit here?
Did a lot of festivals basically, worked for our DVD, organizing the bands for great festivals this time of year, one or two festivals every weekend. So yeah, it’s been fun.

K.P.: How did the fans react to the new album? From what I saw in the DVD they were very loud. And you played a lot of songs out of it…
Our fans are really enjoying the album. I think that we are at the point that people enjoy classic Kreator stuff. There are, also, a lot of people that like the new stuff, which is a big thing.

K.P.: Would you say that there are two Kreator? The Kreator of the past and the new Kreator. You know more melodic and stuff…
No, it’s up to you. If you listen to stuff from “Extreme Aggression” or “Coma Of Souls”, the style was already there. Now it’s more defined, it’s more mature, more modern sounding. But “Coma Of Souls” was like the foundation of what we do now. Back in the 90s we didn’t follow that path, we did a lot of experimental albums, and we got back to this with “Violent Revolution”.

C.K: You reinvented your sound, but at the same time you reinvented your fanbase I think. You have a whole new generation of fans that are now in their twenties and they have Kreator as their favorite band, just like in the 90’s. How difficult is such a thing to achieve? I’m not so sure that many bands have accomplished something like that.
It’s not something that you plan. There’s not something like “Ok, let’s do this and then we get to the younger fans”, it’s something that happens and something that we’re really happy about. It’s good to see that sometimes a father comes to the show with his kid and the kid likes it as much as the father, which is good. If I look at bands like Saxon, who have been around from the generation before, I’m happy that we get there. Of course, we’ve been around since ’85, we started as a very young band and now we are grown up! (laughs) I think that we still have the energy and as long as we have the energy, we’ll continue. And I think there’s nothing worse than a band that get worse and worse with every album and tries to get back. It’s hard, but we try…

K.P.: Now let’s talk a little bit about the DVD. The first thing is the setlist. You have too many songs and you have to balance between some older ones and of course some of the new albums. How do you decide on the setlist? Because, for example, I’m a big fan of Kreator and my favorite album is “Coma Of Souls”, but there’s only one song from that album on the DVD, “People Of The Lie”…
It’s hard! It’s getting harder and harder. There’s good and bad when fans like the new stuff. The bad think is that we have to decide what songs to play. Sometimes there’s an album that we don’t even play any songs from it. So, it’s getting harder and harder to come up with a setlist where everyone is happy. But we try. Like on a tour, when we do headlining set we play this one. We try to play at least one song out of our most important records. Not of every record, but from our most important records. But for festival situations, we have to do it like a festival set.

K.P.: I have a solution. Play more than two hours… (many laughs)
Tonight, we only play one hour, so it’s going to be a very tight setlist. But, it’s ok there’s a lot of old songs.

K.P.: I think I like you more when you play indoors. In a festival there are usually issues with the sound and stuff…
Yeah, I know, I know… we try to do our best.

C.K.: Most of the bands that have such a long career as you do, have an “experimental period” as I like to refer to it, but in metal there are two things. Either bands fail to do something good outside their main genre, either this change is not accepted by the fans. Your experimental period came with “Outcast” and “Endorama” both of which I still adore and I think they were very successful artistically, but they were not embraced that much by your fans who waited for an album like “Violent Revolution” to re-embrace you. How tricky is it for an artist to follow his instinct and experiment or choose to stay true to his fanbase?
I think that, if anything, we’ve never been a boring band, we’ve never been predictable. Like you said, the experimental period of the band was exciting to a lot of people and it was exciting to us and paved the path to what we do up to now. I think “Violent Revolution” is a mix between “Outcast”, “Endorama” and “Coma Of Souls”. We needed this time to do something different. You cannot always have control of whether people like what you do or not. So there are two ways: Either you continue as a band and define your style and come up with something that you are happy with and make other people happy as well or just record something just for yourself and give it a different name. But Kreator, for some reason, the brand, the name Kreator to so many people it means “Betrayer, “Coma Of Souls”, “Pleasure To Kill” and I respect that. I think that we’re very privileged musicians, because we have survived over the years, we have gained new fans like you said, but we also kept a lot of old fans. It’s tough man, it’s tough. At this point, with “Phantom Antichrist” I think we still have experimental songs. A few, but people don’t get it because we have heavy orchestration. The song “Until Our Paths Cross Again” is the last song on the record, it’s almost a ballad. Nobody is complaining. I don’t know, I don’t get this psychology so well, but I think it has to do with the variety. If you only like one head around, like never speed up -that was the dogma not to speed up, to stay in the mid tempo - and maybe a lot of people like us because we are fast. And we will continue playing fast music.   

K.P.: Yeah, you have 5 fast, dynamite songs on “Phantom Antichrist” and nobody complains, but you also have the more mellow, the more melodic stuff and I love it. You have married thrash with these melodic elements and it’s fucking cool. Really, how did it go commercially?
It did great!

K.P.: Nowadays, I assume that people download music and it’s not the same as it used to be…
Yeah, but it’s only if you record shitty albums. Seriously, if you record a shit album, people won’t buy it. We record an album that people wanna have, like the real deal. They don’t wanna have only an mp3 of it. They are buying it because they’re collectors and they collect everything that has quality.

K.P.: I had the same conversation with Bobby from Overkill and he answered me the same thing…
It depends. If an album is shit people will get it from the mp3. But if they want it, if the album is good, people are gonna buy it. It’s very easy.

C.K.: Speaking about that, Nuclear Blast, which is probably the biggest metal label in the planet, doesn’t have an official distribution in Greece…
I have no idea about this. I have talked to them about this. I talked to them about this and I told them “what the fuck is happening?”. But then on the other hand, I’m not so  keen on the business side of things to tell them what to do. But I’d just tell them “Fuck, we have a lot of people in Greece who like the band. We can’t let that happen”…

C.K.: I know from the first hand that there were not enough Kreator copies to satisfy the demand for the latest album on vinyl. You know, people trust Kreator no matter what. They want to have the album…
There’s the same with a lot of good bands. If you look at the music chart when an album comes out, like the Top 10, Top 20, it‘s not like in the 80s. A lot of people still want metal, the pop stuff, commercial stuff suffers more. Going from 10 million albums to 1 million is a big loss, for Madonna for example, with the big production and everything. This is not important… the important is that somehow the music gets to the people, no matter how.  

C.K.: Now, we all know the Big Four of American thrash metal and we all know the Big Four of the European thrash metal. Could you consider Kreator as the European equal to Metallica?
I wouldn’t compare myself to the biggest…

C.K.: It’s not a comparison.
K.P.: What he means is that Kreator are the biggest ones of the Big Four of European thrash…
Maybe, but you’ve got to look to the dimensions. I mean Metallica is not only the biggest metal band in the world, but the biggest band in the world. So, I would love to be in the same pedigree, we’re not.  If you look at the gap between Metallica ant the other big three…

C.K.: …that gap is exactly what I meant between you and the other three… (laughs)
Yeah, yeah, that might be true, but on a different level of course. It’s like you said, the market is changing. You’ve seen the metal scene coming from tape trading to CDs, to vinyl or whatever. I think it’s important the whole world to see that metal is getting bigger and bigger and more people go to the concerts; people are really celebrating this music and always will. No matter how we listen to music in the future. Maybe they’ll plug some fucking headphones in our ears and become something like a biomechanic person, you know what I mean? (laughs)

K.P.: Mille, I always wanted to ask you about your lyrics. You passed the “Satan” phase in the beginning, the Tormentor stuff, but now your lyrics are great…
Thank you…

K.P.: They are politically correct. You have your opinion and you speak it out. Sometimes it’s like dark poetry…
I think a lot of people see the lyrics as a fifth instrument, like “ok here’s the song, write something and make it work” and I see lyrics as 50% of the song. It’s not a fifth instrument it’s more than half. I mean it’s the bass, the drums, the guitars and 50% are the vocals and the lyrics. If you have lyrics that don’t mean anything, the song won’t mean anything.

K.P.: If lyrics are shitty or whatever they are not destroying the song, but if they are great…
Exactly, it gives the whole thing another dimension. That’s what I like, I like to do things right. And I know that after I’ve written like 120 songs or something, not all the lyrics have the same quality, there are better ones that are…. But I try to come up with new things, that’s the most important part, that’s also the most tricky part, it’s very hard, it’s hard to come up with new things.

K.P.: Now, we’re talking about lyrics. You made the video for “Civilization Collapse” based on the riots here…
C.K.: …and there’s something I wanted to ask about that. Ok, we Greeks relate to this song and video for obvious reasons, but how did the rest of the world react to it?
It’s very funny, you’ve got to go to the YouTube and there are the comments. I’ve never seen anything like that in any Kreator video. People are talking so much not about the music, but for politics or whatever. But, on the other hand it’s not really a political song. It’s a song about changing things. You know, the voice of your opinion could be in the political system, it could also be in your life. “If you don’t like something, say it and change it.” That’s what the song has to say. It fits perfectly to the situation you have here. They gave us the photos and the footage and it was perfect…  

[Ventor enters the room] K.P.: How does this beast manage to play the drums and be so stable? (laughs and gibberish from everyone)
I think in the new album he came up with great drum beats…

K.P.: I think his best drumming is on “Coma Of Souls”. It was fucking great!
C.K.: It was pioneering. I think in a way, even bands like Fear Factory could have been influenced…
Ventor: Dino [editor: Cazeres, Fear Factory’s guitarist] was at the studio when we were doing “Coma Of Souls”!

C.K.: Then I was right!
Ventor: Seriously, he was hanging out with us. It was before Fear Factory. He was at the studio, playing with the mixes and everything. He was just hanging out, he was only a guitar player, he didn’t have a band. It was Dino and Ross Robinson, the producer. So, those guys came to the studio and we went to see Ross’s old band. He and Ross were friends and we didn’t know many people in the club at that time and one of the few people that we met there was Dino and he was there the whole time.

C.K.: Well, I’m not so sure I’ve seen Kreator taking too much credit for that, as the basic thing you could hear at the time is that you started to slow down or that you started to mellow. I think that metal fans need some time to realize that bands need sometimes to try something different…
Yeah, but a lot of the classic albums that came out at the time, the first reactions was never that good… At the end of the day all of these are classic records, but when they came out a lot of people like “Ok, too melodic”. I remember we had a review at Kerrang at the time, 3K out of five, “this is too Iron Maiden” something. And now, it’s like a backfire, they liked it when we released “Violent Revolution”. Everyone was like “it sounds Swedish”… Fuck no, it doesn’t sound Swedish, no fucking way we sound Swedish. We’ve been playing this fucking style of music on “Coma Of Souls” and the bands from Sweden, the playing, all these guys and all these great bands, they told me that they were listening to “Coma Of Souls”. You know it, I know it, but there’s a certain amount of people that don’t know it, because they heard these bands before Kreator and you know how it goes…

C.K.: If you have great idea for a diverse album, would you consider making a side project? Why risk with your fanbase and maybe people get it after 10 years when it won’t matter?
Ventor: Maybe. But the thing is you know, I’d love to do like a side project someday, but there’s no time. Seriously. We tour a lot more than we did back in the day, so I’m never at home, I’m always on the road.

K.P.: Well, I started listening to music 20 years ago and I was into thrash, but as time passes I listen to a lot more, different things. Don’t you ever need to write different music?
The thing is - that might sound weird to you – but, when I’m at home alone I don’t listen only to metal. I take things from many-many different styles, but as soon as you play the piano like on “Endorama”, when you play it on guitar, nobody’s gonna accuse you of being untrue. And that’s why we do everything that we do with guitars and for that matter we can do whatever we want. The creativity goes straight to Kreator and it’s a whole new world, a whole new universe, a whole lot of opportunities and possibilities on the composer side. You can do anything. I can come up with a melody that I took from Lana Del Ray or something and put it into metal. I’m a big fan her and I wish I could stay to see her. That’s the thing. Nobody will know, nobody knows where the influences come from.

K.P.: Did you ever write something that you thought was good, but didn’t use it because the fans wouldn’t like it?
No, I think that if I don’t like it it’s the only criticism, the only element of whether or not the song will work. If I like it, the fans will like it I know. Or not. But if I could add something that I like…

C.K.: you’d stand behind it…
Exactly. I have the passion and I want you to heard the song and tell me if you like it or not. But if I feel like “ok, I have to do something”…that’s what I meant with not planning things. If you, as a musician or an artist in general, try to please everyone, it’s how you fail…

K.P.: How does it work for you? Do you firstly try to keep yourself or your fans pleased?
When I’m pleased my fans are pleased, seriously. We’ve found a very nice way of writing exciting music. Exciting, fast music. And put everything in there, all our hearts and souls in this. If I can find a song that has a Metallica feel or something and it works for Kreator, I’ll do it, no matter what. I would never sit down and…

K.P.: In purpose to write a song…
You know what I mean. Inspiration comes and goes, it’s nothing you can control consciously.

K.P.: I asked the same question to Blitz from Overkill. You are among the older in the thrash genre. Are you still going to be playing thrash in your sixties? Do you feel you are as so passionate as before to go on for ten or fifteen years?
Yeah. When you do it with your heart, it’s something that you have to do; it’s not something that you can control, something that you do to be happy…

K.P.: So it’s natural for you to go on stage…
I’ve done this all my life, I don’t know any better. If I feel bad and I get in concert I feel better afterwards. Seriously, it makes me happy. It’s not something that I have to do. It’s something that I want to do.

K.P.: How do you manage your vocals when you perform live? I saw the DVD yesterday and you were like “aaarghhh” all the time and there was some silent parts that you were speaking… (laughs)
It’s, also, a magical thing. Of course I’ve had vocal lessons and everything, but I just try to stay in good shape, try not to abuse, I drink a lot of water instead of beer…

K.P.: Nowadays, because in the past… (laughs)
I used to drink a lot more and I still drink if I want do, but that’s not my main focus. My main focus is the music. It always has been, even in the school era of the band. Music keeps me going. I’ve never experienced like a thing “I can’t sing because my voice is off”. I’ve never experienced that, it’s always working, because it’s just me, I don’t have any special technique or anything, it just works.

C.K.: If a label gets here and tells you “this is the budget you’ve got, go and find some persons you wanna collaborate with outside thrash and then get an album”, who would be the first?
I’d love to play with many artists. I have a lot of favorite artists. I’d love to play with a lot of different musicians. But on the other hand some dreams should just stay dreams; you know what I mean, because you may ruin the dream. If you live any dream…I could do this, I could be like Mike Patton for example and work with…you know what I mean. Mike gets everyone he wants to sing on his stuff, but I’m so focused on writing albums for Kreator.

K.P.: If you should make the all-star band of all times in heavy metal, who would you choose?
That’s a tough question, I’ll tell you one thing: It’s the chemistry, it’s not the quality of the musicians. If you take for example Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne, those three are great in this combination of people. But if you take Geezer Butler or Tony Iommi and put him into Kreator then it won’t work. Or Tony Iommi. The all-star band probably wouldn’t work

K.P.: What was your favorite band as a teenager and some new music you’ve heard (metal or not) nowadays.
I still listen to the stuff that I listened when I was a kid of course. I’ve always been a big fan of the dark wave stuff: Siouxsie And The Banshees, Fields Of the Nephilim, all that down wave stuff, dance etc. Old heavy metal: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and nowadays I listen to anything from like I said Lana Del Ray to Royksopp, you know, strange electronic bands. The new metal bands that I like, I’m a big fan of Ghost, a lot of musicians like them and other friends don’t…

K.P.: Ghost? Well, we don’t… (laughs)
You don’t like them? (laughs)

K.P.: I saw them live and I wasn’t impressed…
You should listen to their albums

C.K.: Aren’t they overhyped maybe?
There are so many bands that are overhyped in Germany. Like for example Mastodon. Such a hype, but I never liked them. Who else? All these bands like Down and stuff. But I realized that hype doesn’t matter. I like Muse a lot, but I didn’t like their last two albums at all…

K.P. : You know all this thing with James Hetfield wearing a t-shirt and Phil Anselmo getting them on stage and stuff… Isn’t it too much?
I know, I know and I understand that. But I was already a fan when that happened, I was already into them. And you know when all that happened, everyone was jumping to this band, they were playing with Iron Maiden, big mentions and everything… Kind of sad maybe,

K.P.: Ok, one more question as time is running up. When you came last time you came out at twelve o’clock, something that was very frustrating for the guys waiting there. What happened then?
We got stuck at the borders. There was a tiny issue with the roadie. We figured we’d be in Athens a lot earlier, but we got stuck in traffic and on the borders. Many issues...

K.P.: Any plans for a new album?
Sometime...

K.P.: Sometime soon I hope!
Not so soon! Next year we’ll be touring, maybe the next year.

K.P.: Will you be coming back to Greece?
Of course! Always!

K.P.: Thank you Mille for your time...
Take care guys and grab a beer as you leave...