Interview by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Alan: Welcome back to Dublin. You’ve been here quite a few times before.
Sami: Thank you very much. We like to come to Dublin. The last time was in a different venue, I think it was the end of 2014. We had a really nice time.
Alan: I think it was the Academy. Any particular memories of that visit?
Sami: I remember we were there with Arch Enemy and the place was quite packed, and we had a good time. But it was pretty much the same as this time. It’s too hectic these three UK dates. But it’s fun always. We should do this more often.
Alan: Yeah, you had a show last night and again tomorrow. That’s a lot of traveling.
Sami: It is. We have to take the ferry because there’s no other way, and we arrive in London pretty late. But what the hell… We’ve got to do our best.
Alan: The line-up for this tour is amazing. How did it come together?
Sami: Of course we know the guys from Sepultura from the past, and it also happened that they put out an album just before we did which was also produced by the same producer as our new album and we knew that it’s really good. And they were just looking for whatever chance to go on tour and they’re also on the same label as Kreator. So it just made sense, timing-wise and also musically. It’s been fun to watch them. Their new drummer is an animal! I mean, he’s not that new, but he’s… wow!
Alan: Yeah, he has definitely brought some renewed life to Sepultura. And then Soilwork and Aborted… Maybe slightly different styles…
Sami: Yeah, that’s what I think is great about this package. Four bands are all metal but all with their own different approach.
Alan: So Gods of Violence was released last month. How are the new tracks going down live?
Sami: We’ve done six already. I wanted to do even more, but there’s got to be some room for the older shit in the set as well. So we thought that when the festival season starts, and we have quite a few lined up, we’ll do some other new songs. We have the same six that we rotate now on this tour.
Alan: I saw that the setlists over the last few shows have been fairly rigid.
Sami: Yeah. There’s a reason for it. It’s for the visual side.
Alan: I presume there won’t be any pyro in here tonight.
Sami: I think they won’t allow us to do that here. But it’s not the end of the world.
Alan: And from the six new songs that you’ve been playing live so far, what’s your favorite?
Sami: I’m so close to it, it’s hard for me to analyze. But the first new song in the set is ‘Satan is Real’, and I like it.
Alan: That was released a few months before the album itself was released, so people have had a bit more time to listen to it.
Sami: Yeah. It was one of those songs where our producer said “You can’t put out a song with that title. It’s way too naive.” but then when he read the lyrics he understood what it was about and he thought it was alright. It wasn’t for him to decide anyway, but it’s important that when people ask about that song, that it’s easily misunderstood.
Alan: And the album has reached number one in the German charts. I think that’s a first?
Sami: Yeah, absolutely the first time.
Alan: How important was that to you?
Sami: Well, of course, it feels nice, but we’re living in 2017, so for example 15 or 20 years ago it would have meant a whole lot more, especially financially. But it’s the same for everyone. Even Beyoncé or whatever. Of course, it feels nice, and you can see that we had more sold-out shows and that’s where it’s reflected.
Alan: There seems to be a bit of renewed appetite for German thrash lately. We’ve had Destruction and Accept here in Dublin recently.
Sami: Yeah, old farts coming on tour. But it’s also nice to know there’s also younger bands and it’s nice to see some younger kids coming to the shows.
Alan: I know you’re the “new kid” in the band, even though it’s been something like 15 years, but Kreator has been around for three decades. What do you think is the most significant change for musicians in that time?
Sami: I also started making music and touring when I was around seventeen, so of course, everything has changed. The whole structure of the music scene and how to survive there is completely different to what it used to be. Except for fact that we’ve got to go out and play live. And I think the significance of that is bigger these days than it was back then. It’s not just the downturn in album sales. There’s more of a scene for live music now. I don’t know how it is here in Ireland, but I come from Finland and there’s never been so many clubs and shows happening all the time as there is right now.
Alan: Maybe the money people save by downloading music illegally is spent on going to see bands playing live instead. What’s your take on illegal downloading?
Sami: I do it myself sometimes too. It’s good for the listener, but terrible for the artist.
Alan: Well people only have so much disposable income. They could spend it on CDs and albums, and you guys can sit on your couches and relax, or they could download the albums for free and then pay money to see you perform live and buy a t-shirt at the show. Which would you prefer?
Sami: I wouldn’t be sitting at home anyway. I like being on tour. It’s fun.
Alan: What aspect of new technology do you try to take advantage of?
Sami: Well, stuff like this for example [interviews for webzines]. I’m not even on Facebook, but the band has a Facebook page and there are lots of followers there. It’s good to keep in contact and tell people what the stage times are and if there are any changes in plans. That’s great. We didn’t have that before. But that’s just stating the obvious, isn’t it?
Alan: And any negative aspects of technology?
Sami: No. I couldn’t say that. Except the fact that physical CDs are not being sold anymore, and people get to hear music for free, but I don’t mind. I do it myself. Who am I to complain?
Alan: But I think people are buying more collectible or niche products now. Didn’t you guys release the new album on cassette?
Sami: A cassette, yeah!
Alan: People aren’t buying those because they want to listen to Kreator on their Sony walkman. They’re buying it because it’s a nice souvenir or collectible item from a band they love.
Sami: Exactly. It reminds you of old times, back in the day.
Alan: Kreator has had a solid lineup for some time. How important is it to have consistency in a band?
Sami: It’s a good thing. I guess one secret might be that I live in a different country. It makes it easier. But of course, while we were making the album I spent a lot of time in Germany last year, going back and forth all the time. But yeah, it’s been the same guys for ages, and at least you know what to expect.
Alan: Obviously, Sepultura has had high profile changes in lineup over their history, but most recently their new drummer, Eloy Casagrande added something new…
Sami: He brought something very new, and it got a lot better.
Alan: In contrast, you guys came out with a great new album without the need for new blood or changes.
Sami: Thank you very much. I never really thought about it that much, but there’s no reason to change anybody. Why bother? And also, when you play together with somebody for a long time, a kind of telepathic musical connection does occur after years, and sometimes even gets stronger. The only negative side might be that you know too well what’s going to happen.
Alan: Speaking of bands that have been around a long time, I’ll mention Metallica and their collaboration with Lady Gaga. What’s your take on that? Did you see it?
Sami: I saw a little clip of it. There was something wrong with the sound and Hetfield got all mad. Wasn’t it like that?
Alan: Yeah, he got pretty pissed off.
Sami: I think that’s not the way you should handle the situation. If you have some technical problems you should keep them for yourself and try to do it as good as you can.
Alan: To be fair, on the live broadcast, he tried to hide his annoyance, and he made it work as best he could. His microphone wasn’t live and he was trying to sing into Lady Gaga’s microphone. But there was a clip that circulated on the internet afterward where we saw him kicking his mic stand and throwing his guitar to his crew. But that clip wasn’t officially aired.
Sami: But people know. I don’t think anybody did it intentionally, you know. It’s James Hetfield. Nobody wants to sabotage a show like that.
Alan: Aside from the technical issues, what did you think of the idea of Lady Gaga performing with Metallica?
Sami: Why not? Rather her than Lou Reed! It’s a one-off thing. Why the hell not?
Alan: Lars recently joked that she’s going to become a fifth member of the band and it was funny to see people taking it so seriously.
Sami: She’s a good musician. I don’t own any of her albums, but the few singles I heard… Why not? It’s a different style. Let her do her thing!
Alan: If you guys were to collaborate with a “popular artist”, who would you do it with?
Sami: Kate Bush? I don’t know!
Alan: In your recent video for ‘Fallen Brother’, there are lots of images of musicians who have passed away, some very recently…
Sami: And Phil Lynott!
Alan: That’s exactly what I was going to ask you about. Have you ever been to visit the Phil Lynott statue here in Dublin?
Sami: No. I’ve just seen pictures of loads of friends being there. I’ve never been there myself. I should.
Alan: From all of the fallen brothers, if you could turn back time, and bring any of them back, who would you choose?
Sami: Well, thinking about Phil Lynott, it’s weird that Black Star Riders are still doing that. I don’t think they should do that. They toured with the name Thin Lizzy when they were supporting Judas Priest. I thought that was not cool. So that’s a good reason to bring Phil back! A few years ago I was staying in Essen and spontaneously a friend said: “You want to check out the farewell show of Judas Priest?”. I said, “Sure, why not”. I was very tired from a long flight. But I went anyway. And supporting was Thin Lizzy. I thought “This is wrong. That’s not how it’s supposed to be”. So it’s good that they’re not using that name anymore. I mean if they want to play the songs, of course, it’s fine. But using the name without Phil… I think it’s kind of wrong.
Alan: That reminds me of a question I wanted to ask the guys from Sepultura later. They have twenty years of music since Derrick joined the band, but they still rely on the old staples for half of their set and ignore the albums since the late nineties.
Sami: I think they’re entitled to do that because Andreas started the band and he came up with the name and he wrote the riffs for those songs. And in that kind of music, the riffs are equally important as the vocals. So I think it legitimizes it for them.
Alan: There’s a lot of bad-mouthing goes on between Max and Sepultura, and it’s a shame.
Sami: Yeah, it’s pretty unnecessary.
Alan: So before we wrap it up, what’s next for Kreator and for the rest of the year?
Sami: Tomorrow in London, and then Belgium and Essen, which is where the rest of the guys live, so it’s going to be an interesting show. There’s one day off and then we go to Moscow, and then we have a week off and then we go to the States. There’s this magazine called Decibel magazine, and we’re doing a tour for them with Obituary. And then when we come back it’s almost festival season.
Alan: Any more planned single or video releases from the new album?
Sami: There were three songs that didn’t get released. One was on the Decibel magazine, one was in the Japanese version, and there is one that is still nowhere. I don’t know how it’ll come out, but it will.
Alan: And any messages for your Irish fans?
Sami: Well, thank you very much for your interest. It was great the last time that so many people turned up for the show. Thanks for coming and please come again!
Alan: Thanks very much!
Visit KREATOR online at www.kreator-terrorzone.de/