INTERVIEW: 'We are happy to share the struggle of Egyptian Metalheads,' says Sepultura Metal band

Adham Youssef, Monday 6 Jun 2016

Following a cancelation of the much-awaited Heavy Metal concert by Brazilian band Sepultura last Saturday, the band announced it has left the country. Ahram Online spoke to Sepultura hours prior to the scheduled concert

Sepultura band in Cairo (Photo: Adham Youssef)

After police stopped the Sepultura heavy metal concert last Saturday, the band announced it has left the country as the concert’s organiser got arrested. 

Sepultura’s manager Tom Gill told Ahram Online that band members felt sorry for the cancellation “because they've been dreaming to play in Egypt for a while.”

Last Saturday, a security force including riot police and an armoured personnel carrier (APC) stormed the villa where the concert was set to take place and stopped the event, citing a lack of necessary permits.

“What we have heard about the cancellation is that it was related to some missing permit payments, but we could not confirm it because we couldn't speak with Nader Sadek, the organiser,” Gill said. “They told us that he has been taken by the police.”

Sadek has been detained along with two others and remains in custody, according to friends, though Ahram Online could not independently verify this information.

The band’s manager told Ahram Online that after the cancelation, several fans apologised to the band members and expressed regret over the incident.

Sepultura wrote on their Facebook page that they are deeply “sorry for the fans that were anxiously waiting for the concert, but these are legal issues that are beyond the control of any artist.”

Hours before the scheduled concert, Ahram Online sat down with the band where they expressed their excitement over playing for Egyptian fans, and their willingness to share their passion with metalheads.

They also talked about their approach when it comes to writing lyrics tackling oppression, propaganda and police brutality; themes that can be understood internationally.

AO: Here in Egypt, Heavy Metal is still an underground scene, where musicians and organisers often have difficulties with society, government institutions and sometimes the police.

In the 1990s, several metalheads were arrested and accused of “Satanism.” An ongoing struggle has been taking place in the scene since then.

So for you to come and play here, you are now part of that movement and struggle, which is growing and recovering from past blows. How do you feel about this?

Sepultura (Andreas Kisser): It is great to have the possibility to come to a place like Egypt. It has been 32 years in our career. Egypt is the 76th country that we visited, with all its history, which is a beautiful mark for us. 

We played in several other places regardless of the political situation or religion or any other aspect. We played in Muslim and Catholic countries; we played in dictatorships, democracies and monarchies.

We played in every type of country. It is really great to see that Egypt has really opened the door and laid down those barriers and always felt like pioneers in that regard. It is not easy to come to Egypt and put on a Heavy Metal show, as you know [laughs]. We know also. We brought a crew to make the best effort to present the show, as we did everywhere in the world.

Hopefully, this Sepultura show will help people open more doors and make people understand that we are making art and music. We have interests in different kinds of music in the world, and we talk about everything in our lyrics, about society and different experiences in nations. We touch on different kinds of subjects and it's great.

Sepultura (Photo: Adham Youssef)

AO: In Brazil, when you started off in the 1980s, Metal was probably new. How difficult was it to be presented there, and do you feel it is comparable with the underground situation in Egypt?

Sepl (Andreas Casagrande): Of course in Brazil, in the 1985, we were coming out of a military dictatorship. At the same time, we had The Rock in Rio, which was the beautiful musical revolution that happened there and opened the door for international bands and for Brazilian music to be part of such a big festival.

Religion is something that made it difficult for people in Brazil to understand what we were saying at first. But slowly, by showing our way of playing and the lyrics we talk about, we opened the doors step by step. 

And now Brazil is one of the biggest Metal nations in the world. Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Metallica as well as other big names come to perform there in big stadiums for thousands of people. Plus the local scene is very strong. 

Metal was only in English. That is why we follow the English language as well. It is better for us musically, and helps us in international touring.

AO: You say that most of your songs are in English, as it is considered an international language understood by people from different countries and cultures.

I saw Egyptian heavy metal fans during the 25 January Revolution sharing your song Refuse/Resist as a way to relate to what was happening at the time. How do you see this?

Sepl (Andreas): It's great. It shows that music is really powerful and it shows that our music has a real message. Because like I said before, we had this kind of stuff before in Brazil. Refuse/Resist is a really powerful song from Chaos A.D, which was one of the most powerful albums in our career.

In the video we used images from China and South America and conflicts that we unfortunately see every day. Nothing has really improved since then, but it's great to hear that the band have the effect of expression without violence, where you can say your point of view and your wish for change.

For the scene in Egypt, I think Nader [Sadek, the concert’s organiser] is doing really amazing things in terms of creating means of enjoyment and expressing your frustration. People go to the show and scream in the moshpit. But people are respectful in the moshpits. It is not a violent dance. It is very exposing and very healthy.

You can have a two-and-a-half-hour show and leave with a feeling of relief. I think that is the main purpose, to have fun together with the crowd where you share the energy. 

The Egyptian scene is very similar to that of the Brazilian. We are very excited to play the show. Finally we are here. We know how much effort was spent by Nader.

It is amazing that he is doing everything he can possibly do. We are here to help him make it happen. Nader reaches out to different musicians around the world, and he has formed different bands, albums and projects. It is very interesting how he works. 

Sepultura (Photo: Adham Youssef)

AO: A question for Eloy, the band’s new drummer, is how you manage to survive with a band that has been playing and changing its style for more than 30 years. Since its creation the band has changed its approach from Black Metal, to Nu Metal, to Thrash Metal, and to including traditional percussions.

Sepl (Eloy): Before I joined the band I was already a fan. In Brazil, I used to listen to their albums, and when they called me for an audition I knew some of the songs. I try to respect the main lines of the songs and their structure. I respect both drummers who played before me, but of course I try to put my own style in the drumming.

For the last two albums I had full freedom to do what I want. We also have no interference from the record company or anyone else, and as you said, Sepultura has different kinds of Metal subgenres, plus the Brazilian style.

AO: A question for Derrick about the 2001 album Nation, which you heavily participated in writing. The album carried several political messages about war, nation states, humanity and revolution. How were you inspired to write the lyrics?

Sepl (Derrick Green): In Nation, what we really wanted to do was write an album that is extremely positive. It was very easy for alternative bands to complain and write negative things, which can be powerful and explain the emotions that people go through.

But we specifically wanted to write an album geared towards positive thinking, while creating the ‘Utopia Nation’ that we had in our mind. We had ideas of how to make that nation.

It was great to write in that way; the idea of a powerful and united nation and respecting different people in the nation, which is the most important thing. All civilisations need to respect each other, need to be able to solve certain problems without physical violence. 

The artwork for the album helped the idea, with a cover similar to a communist propaganda poster. But we wanted to take a positive side of this.

AO: How do you find Egypt so far?

Sepl (Derrick): Coming here and seeing everything in person as much as possible in the short period that we were here has been great. We found a tour guide who speaks Portuguese and he managed to explain everything, including the history of the sites.

It was an advantage coming here with a person who studied this in university, and who knows a bit about the history. And for us to be able to see everything in person was really fascinating. It was a dream come true.

Sepl (Andreas): It is great. We had time to see the pyramids and the museum; unfortunately we will not have time to go to Luxor and other places.

Sepultura (Photo: Adham Youssef)

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