» Mille Petrozza - Kreator
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Interview conducted November 11 2016
Interview published January 05 2017

"I'm not so concerned about whether or not I repeat myself."

Kreator puts out its new album, Gods Of Violence, on January 27th. On his promotion trip for the album, founding member, guitarist and vocalist Mille Petrozza visited Stockholm for interviews and a listening session for invited fans at the Spotify Office.

"…but in the music it sounds like very serious, even though we're not that serious. There is a lot of humor in the music, but it's very hidden."

Tobbe: Gods Of Violence, your new record, I think it pretty much follows the road, on which you've lead the band into in the early 2000's, so what were you looking for to come out with when you started writing for the record, really?

Mille: Basically we wanted to continue, like you said, but add a new something to the music. And by working with Jens Bogren [producer] for the second time, I think we kind of achieved that. I mean, we knew each other once we started the recording sessions and we already knew what to expect from each other. And I know that Jens is one of the best, if not the best, producers for metal around, at this point in time and I really enjoyed working with him.

There was no master plan for this record. It was more of "Yeah, let's try to follow up the last one and make it even more brutal and make it more melodic." You know, a new album. A new album is always a challenge and it's always an adventurous thing, you know, and I didn't wanna just have a Kreator album that only follows the path of Phantom Antichrist [2012], but adds a new dimension to it. And I think we kind of achieved that, because when you listen to the lyrics and the songs in general there's a lot of, like, things that you haven't heard from Kreator before.

So yeah, it's been a ride, man. It's been a fantastic journey to dig deep into my creative psyche and come up with something else. 14th album, man. And something I really didn't want was… You know, having the 14th album sounding tired would have been fatal for me. I wouldn't even have touched the new record if it would have been like that. So you try to keep it fresh.

Tobbe: So when you wrote the album, did you have kind of like a map on the wall where you place key elements or notes? Like, "We gotta get more intensive here." or…

Mille: No, no, no, no, no. It's all in here [His head]. What it starts with is always, like, the basic idea or a song title. For example, the title track was the first title that I wrote down and the first song that I wrote and in my mind I wanted to make a connection between Greek mythology and modern day events, like current catastrophes, current terror, wars, whatever.

And even though most of the lyrics talk about the dark things, the message, if there is one on the record, should be a positive one. We want people to overcome violence, we want people to overcome war and enjoy their lives and concentrate on the nice things in life, like, you know, art, music, literature and movies. Those were also the main influences on the record.

Tobbe: In the past you have written about society, politics, and injustice, dystopia, and non-religion, so you wanted to change that a little bit obviously?

Mille: You can still get that in the record. You know, there's still a huge element where it's influenced by politics, but [sighs] I'm so fed up with politics at this point. I don't wanna be sucked in into this depression that surrounds everything that society has to offer at this point, you know. Society has become more complicated, so there's more complexity, but a demand for easy answers.

So in my opinion that explains the rise of the populist movement again. A lot of the lyrics were influenced by misery caused by politics, but it's not a political album. I want people to forget about politics when they listen to Kreator, you know what I mean? [Laughs]

Tobbe: You know, some bands of the 80's kind of don't put out records anymore, but Kreator puts out records, like, every 4th year, so what makes you still creative personally?

Mille: It's the reason why I'm into this. It's not only playing live, which is a great thing also, you know. Coming out on stage and playing for the people is amazing, but my main focus also, and the thing that makes me a little happy, was always, like, creating new music.

I could just stay at home the whole time playing and creating music, but on the other hand it's also great to play on a big festival and to play on a tour. So I'm happy with what I'm doing. So the reason why we record records is because when you're a musician that's what you should do. [Laughs] You know, to create new music.

Tobbe: So when you enter a new record cycle, is your mind always set to top the last one and always improve?

Mille: Yes, absolutely. Not to a point to where we destroy the whole concept, but more of, like, extending the ideas, like coming up with new and fresh ideas and dig deeper and see what's there and exploring new grounds. At the end of the day it's hard work, but it pays off at the moment when you sit at home and listen to your new record.

And I'm a fan. I'm a metalhead. I'm a fan of all kinds of music, but first and foremost of course metal is in my DNA because that's what I've grown up with. So if I listen to my album at home and I'm satisfied because of the fact that I think that I've managed to achieve my goals, musically and creatively, it makes my happy.

Tobbe: You know, you have the lead guitar playing harmonies or melodies in quite a few of the songs, and I think that attribute made Kreator advance even further up the stage of recognition, so what made you, in the first place, put those elements to your music, because they weren't really there in the beginning?

Mille: It was a development and a progression of course, because when we started out we were sometimes even afraid of melodies, you know. I think the music, even like the very early stuff, has a lot of melodies and I was always a fan of melodic stuff.

But sometimes we wanna be the most brutal band, on some albums we want to be the most experimental band, and nowadays we wanna combine all that on one record. We wanna experiment in order to be brutal and make the brutal parts even more brutal by creating a contrast between the melodic and the brutal parts. That, to me, gives it a different dynamic.

Tobbe: Yeah, because the guitar playing in the verse, those melodic hooks, really, really bring something to the brutality, just as you say, and it's a nice attribute, I think. So keep doing that.

Mille: [Laughs] Thank you.

Tobbe: On the other hand, you were very young when you first started out with making music, so.

Mille: Oh yeah, back in the day. Yeah, I know, but I still feel the same, even though I'm of course getting older and that I'm happy that I'm still alive, you know. But the minute I go into rehearsal and pick up a guitar I turn into a 17 year old metalhead again, which is absolutely necessary to keep fresh and there's nothing more boring than, like, a day job band that just comes up with something that doesn't sound exciting. So I always push myself and I always want the new Kreator album to be the best one possible and every time I write the riffs they should sound exciting.

Tobbe: So, like you said, 14 records, and is it possible to not repeat yourself just a little bit at this point?

Mille: Depending on how you look at it. Of course there's certain elements that always pop up and there's a certain style that we play. Sometimes when you listen to it, and especially my voice, you know right away that it's Kreator.

But on the other hand… [Pause] Repeating myself… I'm not so concerned about whether or not I repeat myself. I'm more concerned about "Is it still exciting?". You know, if I repeat myself and it's still exciting it's okay, but if I don't repeat myself and it becomes boring because I do something that I don't really feel, then it doesn't make sense to not repeat myself.

People from the outside might say "Okay, this is Kreator as we know it." and we didn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to Kreator's music, but if you dig a little deeper we have definitely added something to it and a new dimension on the new record, I think.

Tobbe: So how important are development and change in a fans' point of view? Or do they want the same stuff all the time?

Mille: I don't know. There's definitely a huge interest in what we do. You know, we can see that once we put out a video people go like "Yeah!" and then start to discuss whether or not we're still the same band, or whether or not they like the song, which is okay, you know. Constructive criticism is always good and I think it keeps things fresh.

Also, when you read comments it can sometimes be devastating and you're like "Really?". But on the other hand it's, like, people who care about the music and they take the time to actually react, you know, which is a good thing.

Tobbe: Ventor's [Jürgen Reil] drums on the album are very recognizable from the past. He has his playing style of course and you know the sound, like the toms and the snare sound pretty short, in lack of a better word. Or flat, in a good way flat. So have you ever thought about changing that a little bit or does he always have to sound like Ventor?

Mille: I think he cannot sound anything else than being Ventor, you know. I think it's the same with me. I couldn't change my vocal style completely even if I wanted to. It's a part of my personality and also a trademark. You know, it's a trademark.

Tobbe: When thinking about Ventor, like when I listen to the record, I can also hear that you have weaved in older stuff as well in the record, because I hear things like "Oh, this could be from 87, or 88 or something." and was that something you thought about when you were making the record, to kind of stick to the original idea too?

Mille: It's hard to say, really. I don't see it that way, but if you tell me and you point these things out I start looking at the music or listening to the music differently, because it wasn't our intention, but it's probably in our DNA. It's probably in there. You know, there's this certain experience and these certain elements that are recognizable and a part of our sound, I guess.

Tobbe: You mentioned your vocal style briefly and are you never worried about overstressing your voice a little bit?

Mille: No, the voice is never the problem. It's more the physical. The state of mind is more the problem. I even noticed that, like especially during the time when we recorded the album. You know, we thought it was a good idea, and in a way it was a good idea, to get out of the studio on the weekends and play some festival. And you're in a totally different state of mind when you go in the studio or on stage and I felt, for the first time I felt, not tired, but exhausted.

I have to admit I'm a very private person. When I'm not on the road and I'm not playing in a studio and when I'm not doing interviews like now, I'm very much on my own and just doing normal things that don't have anything to do with music and if they do it's me looking at music as a fan. So being in the studio and then going out on the weekends playing festivals was pretty rough and it hit me by surprise and I was like "Why am I so exhausted?". But then again I knew, because, see, we were in the studio from 8 o'clock in the morning up 'til 7 o'clock at night or something. You know, ridiculous schedules and very hard work.

And then, next thing you know, you're on a plane flying somewhere where people expect you to be very energetic, but in a different way than being creative. So these two states of mind kind of fucked with my head a little bit and I felt exhausted and I was like "Maybe next time we go into the studio we will not play any festivals.". [Laughs]

Coming back to your question: It's not the voice. The voice always behaves well because I take care of myself. I don't do any stupid things with my voice, like smoking or drinking hard liquor or whatever, so I'm a very healthy person. The voice is only an instrument or just a reflection of my mental state of mind, so if I feel sad or if I don't feel energetic my voice won't work. And that has never happened before. It has always worked.

Tobbe: How is it possible to sound so angry in so many songs through the years? You have this direct anger in your voice when you sing the songs and how can you bring forward that energy, like, every time for every song and enter that mindset?

Mille: That's a good question. I've never thought about that. I think it's just a part of the way I see metal. You know, when you listen to a song you hear where the soft parts are coming, or for example there's one song on the record called Death Becomes My Light where I go very soft in the beginning and then go into a more aggressive voice. It's whatever the song demands.

But I have never thought about it like "My voice has to have a certain form of anger." and I don't see it as anger, but to me it's how I listen to metal, or this kind of metal, Kreator metal. Most of the time it's a reflection of what I feel fits the song. Whatever I feel fits the song will be on the record. And it might sound angry, but I really don't see it as anger. I see it more as a form of expression that contains anger, but all kinds of different emotions too. Whatever the words are, whatever the song needs.

And I gotta admit that Jens Bogren is very good at getting that out of me. You know, expression is the key word and expression sometimes can come across as a very strong emotion, like anger, sadness, frustration, but also happiness in a way. Even though I think the happy moments in Kreator are rare. You know, we're happy in private, yes, but in the music it sounds like very serious, even though we're not that serious. There is a lot of humor in the music, but it's very hidden.

Tobbe: When you were laying down the vocals for the album, did you do it like track by track, or did you do one song here and one song there and do you rest your voice in between the takes?

Mille: I only did one song a day. Most of the time it was, like, as long as I could last. Sometimes I didn't feel it, but Jens always had a good ear about where my voice was. I was able to do one song a day. And one song a day is enough if you want the song to be really convincing.

So we went from vocals to lead guitars to whatever was necessary and constantly working on something, but, you know, also I had to work on my lyrics, because my lyrics, to me, are the most important thing and coming up with these little, like, stories and these little pieces is sometimes hard. You don't wanna repeat yourself, but you still do because your vocabulary is, not limited, but there's certain words that just sound better in metal, you know.

Tobbe: You know, a lot of fans actually like your material from Violent Revolution [2002] up to now even better than your old stuff and that's very rare in music, so is it relieving for Kreator to not have to rely on the old stuff?

Mille: Like you said, it's very unique. I don't know any… I don't know many bands where it's like that. You know, it's a very privileged position that we are in, but on the other hand it can also be a little hard to find the right setlist. It's a luxury problem, but it is a problem. You don't wanna disappoint people. When they come to the show they wanna hear certain songs and there will be sacrifices.

Tobbe: But still, when you play live nowadays the old stuff is, like, Endless Pain, Pleasure To Kill, Flag Of Hate, Tormentor maybe, and 1 or 2 more, and then there's a lot of new stuff, which I like, I must say. But I like the old stuff too, so.

Mille: Yeah, same with me. I look at the music the same way as you do because I'm a total metal nerd and, to me, listening to the old era, like up to Renewal [1992] maybe, it is almost like a different band; almost like a different vibe. And I know why some people, on the other hand, say "I only like that era of the band!". And whatever, you know, "At least you like any era.". [Laughs]

Tobbe: You have a strong lineup now. You've had a consistent lineup for 15 years, or 16 maybe, and I never hear fans calling out for a reunion with you and Ventor, and Rob [Fioretti, bass] and Tritze [Jörg Trzebiatowski, guitar] or maybe with Frank ["Blackfire" Gosdzik] on guitar. So why aren't fans looking for a reunion when it comes to Kreator? You know, you hear things like "Bring back Anthrax!" and so and…

Mille: I understand. Let's just take Anthrax as an example. Their singer [Joey Belladonna] was essential for the band, even though I think the other singer [John Bush] that they had was also good. But our singer never changed. I was always the singer. But there were some times that people were like "The best lineup was with Blackfire", but that wasn't because of the lineup. That was because of the songs that they like and I wrote the songs, most of them, so it didn't matter whether or not it's Frank Blackfire or whoever else.

Also I think that Sami [Yli-Sirniö] is like a phenomenal guitar player and why would you wanna… Nothing against these people. They were a part of our history, but I don't see a reason why we would even ever consider doing something like that. It would be like shooting ourselves in the knee.

Tobbe: Some bands even take a one off tour or gigs with the original lineup, like Dokken just did, but of course there was very good money in that.

Mille: You know what? I don't believe in these things. I believe in progression and I believe in the here and now. It would feel so wrong doing this, you know.

Tobbe: Kreator is a successful band in metal and what does success mean to you personally?

Mille: Success is not to be measured. I think, to me, if there's an album that's not so successful, it doesn't necessary have to mean that it's not a success for me, because I try to achieve certain things musically. For example, I know that Endorama [1999] isn't the most successful record, but to me it's a success, because it's a transition from the old or the more experimental Kreator up to Violent Revolution.

So to me it's a success, because I have experienced to go on a musical journey that I wanted to go on and I succeeded because I was able to fulfill my visions. So success is in the eye of the beholder maybe, or whatever. Of course it feels great to play in front of a 100000 people on a festival, but it also feels great to listen to something that you have dreamed up and put it into reality and that, to me, is huge success.

Tobbe: So what is your opinion about record sales decreasing, Spotify…

Mille: [Whispers] Spotify. We're here. They're listening. [Laughs]

Tobbe: I totally forgot about that. …and record stores going out of business?

Mille: But there's a big revival of record stores, like vinyl record stores. I think there's music, and there's different ways of listening to music. You can't turn back time, so whatever happens happens. The fact that we're sitting here at Spotify says a lot. We have to embrace the changes and celebrate music no matter what.

Tobbe: So what are you looking for when it comes to record sales for Gods Of Violence? Have you still got high hopes for the record selling good?

Mille: Yes, of course. It's gonna be a huge success record sales-wise, because I know a lot of people are waiting for our new record. But on the other hand, you know, metal is always selling because people are collectors. You know, people wanna have the vinyl, they wanna have the artwork, and the poster, and the special edition with the demo, whatever.

So it will be successful no matter what, but, like I said, there's no measure, and there's no, like, "Oh, we sold this much less than on the last record.". It's not like that anymore. It's like: Where are you with the band, how convincing are you, what's your life situation, how do you perform live?

So, you're on a festival and you're playing with this band and you're playing with that band and "Did you blow them off the stage?". That's another measurement, you know. Or did they blow you off the stage, because you were tired? So it's a little bit of a different way of looking at things nowadays.

See also: review of the album Gods Of Violence

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