Intervju med Mille Petrozza i Kreator!
Det här är andra gången jag snackar med Mille. Första gången var för några år sedan när de spelade på Klubben tillsammans med danska Hatesphere. Har jag för mig i alla fall. Mille var urtrevlig då och som nu och det blev snack om bl a omslaget på nya plattan "Phantom antichrist, att skriva texter, att tvingas ner i ett akvarium och att de kommer hit i slutet av året tillsammans med Morbid Angel och Nile.
Mille Petrozza: Niclas, it´s Mille from Kreator.
Ah, guten abend.
MP: Guten abend. Alles gut?
Ja, alles ist ja gut.
That´s all the German I know, even though I took classes for six years.
MP: It´s better than my Swedish. (laughs)
Right to it then. Where did the title “Phantom antichrist” come from?
MP: It´s a metaphor. It was inspired by certain things that I read in the media, especially the death of Usama Bin Laden, who got killed and thrown into the ocean for religious reasons even though there are no such thing as a sea burial in the Muslim religion. It´s a metaphor for control and for the state of the world at this time basically and that´s also what most of the songs are about. You get your typical Kreator treatments where I talk about injustice, war, horror, pain and oppression of course.
It is a crazy world. In your country, how are things with the former East and Germany as a whole? Are things getting better for former East Germany?
MP: That´s a tough question to answer. I mean, I´d like to say yes, but I´m not an expert on these things. I can say it has definitely gotten better in some parts and a bit worse in others. There are places in the eastern part of Germany where there´s nothing and all the people there, when they turn 18 they leave to go to Berlin or somewhere in the west maybe. There´s no work there. Of course it´s great to have access to the eastern part of Germany, which wasn´t the case when the Wall was still there and it is also great that the people who live in East Germany can go wherever they want to, but there are still a lot of things that need work in the future.
Right. The artwork for the album then? The first thing that came to mind when I saw it, was the movie “The Thing”. Have you seen that one?
MP: The old version or the new one?
The old one. The John Carpenter version.
It kinda reminded me of that with the legs sticking out. Who did the artwork?
MP: It´s an American artist Wes Benscoter and he´s worked with Black Sabbath, Dio, Slayer, Autopsy and many others. He´s a typical horror artist in the graphical sense of the word. It´s a painting and he does airbrush paintings. It´s not your typical… these days it seems that a lot of bands are using photo shopped artwork and we did that for the last couple of albums as well, but we wanted to have like a classic painting and real artwork.
It really catches your eye.
MP: Yeah, it´s kinda disturbing isn´t it?
It is. Every time you´ve got a new album and you have to get the artwork done, what is it you give to the artist doing the artwork? Is it the title or do you tell him what the songs are about? How does it usually work?
MP: In the case of Wes Benscoter, I gave him some song titles. The artist that I worked with for the “Hordes of chaos” artwork, wanted the demo tape of the music. Wes only wanted some song titles and it worked for him. I gave him four or five that were ready at the time and I think I told him of the title “Phantom antichrist” and I told him that I wanted an apocalyptic nightmarish artwork and that was about it. It was all done through e-mail. I never talked to Wes on the phone… maybe once in the very beginning. Basically, he knows what he´s doing. I think the first pencil sketch that he sent was already great and I was like “Yeah, go ahead and do the artwork!”.
Cool. You mentioned that it´s a painting. Do you get to keep the original?
MP: (laughs) Reminding me. (laughs) We can use it, but we don´t get the original.
The video then? It looks like you spent some money on that one. It´s a great looking video!
MP: In my opinion it´s either you do a video and you do it right, or you don´t. In this day and age, maybe it´s not necessary to make videos anymore. For me it´s an art form and it´s always exciting. It makes sense to me. There are still a couple of TV-stations in Germany that play it and some stations play it in South America and even in North America. There are still some stations that play metal videos. It´s not money out the window, but of course most people watch it on YouTube, but I think it´s a great promotion tool and also a great art form, in my opinion.
A video like that, how much is your idea and how much of it is the director´s idea?
MP: Basically it´s all the director´s idea. I sent him some rough scripts and then he came up with his own script and I was fine with it. The script that I had was a little bit different, but it was all his idea. I sent him the lyrics I think. The lyrics they wanted and I think they did a great job. It looks spectacular and it doesn´t look like an amateur video or something.
Those old school gas masks are always kinda creepy.
MP: I know. (laughs) I think it´s still some kinda 80´s trauma and nightmarish vision that we all have. It gives an association of terror and the apocalypse. It´s quite disturbing if you think about it, but that´s what I like about it also. The artwork and the music round it up quite nicely.
Most definitely. What was it like working with Jens Bogren and was that something that you decided early on and what made you go with him?
MP: Well, we were basically looking for a new producer and there were a couple of people that I had in mind, but a friend of mine who worked with Jens, Nick in Paradise Lost, he recommended Jens in 2009 already. He was like “You should check him out, he´s great!” and I checked out Nick´s album and I was really enjoying it and I thought it sounded great and it was quite an organic sounding record, so when I first talked with Jens on the phone, it was either I work with him or I don´t, but I got a great vibe from him and the most important thing, if you work with somebody for production, is that you like that person and when he makes a suggestion you have respect for it and he has respect for the band. I didn´t really think too much about working with Jens because I had a great feel towards the guy. He´s a metal head and he knows a lot about music. When I sent him the first demo tape he wasn´t like “Oh, this is great!”, he was very critical, which I thought was great. He was never too enthusiastic, but if he liked something he was like “Yeah!” and if he didn´t like it, he made it better. To me he was the perfect producer and we had some really great times. Sweden is very cool for a recording situation. The people were very nice and it was nice living in Örebro. A nice little city. There was not much to do there, but if we went out it was always great. There were a couple of great nights we had there and it was good.
You´ve been doing this for such a long time now, but do you still feel that you need a producer?
MP: Yeah, definitely. In my opinion there are very few bands that can produce themselves without losing focus. I mean, you might focus on things but sometimes you… you know, when you´re in the studio you´re very emotional about your music and I think somebody from the outside is always more critical. If I was to record my own album and produce my own album, not only would it be more work, but I wouldn´t know whether or not it´s gonna be better. I trust people, I trusted Jens and I´ve trusted the people we´ve worked with in the past so, yeah, we need a producer. We´ve always done it with a producer. Sometimes we had producers that were great and sometimes we had producers that were ok, but it was always a good experience or an experience. Sometimes it was a bad experience, but most of the time it was great experiences. You always learn something.
I was wondering about something. You´re on the cover of the latest Close-Up magazine here in Sweden and it´s you looking like you´re crawling out of a grave, but how often does it happen that the photographer comes up with some really weird things for you to do? Does it ever happen that you say “Nah, I won´t do that.”?
MP: In that particular case the photographer was amazing. She had a great idea for this grave thing and she showed me a couple of test shots she did and it´s the same thing there, you really have to trust the photographer and in that case it was really, really good. We´ve had ridiculous ideas in the past, of course, since we´ve been doing it for so long. The worst was… I thought it was a good idea at first, but there was this photographer that put us in an aquarium and a real big one. He said “If you go in there it´s gonna sound really weird. You´re gonna be under water and it´s gonna be eerie.”. All it did was that we looked like fucking… I don´t know… like some corpse that you took out of the water and our heads were exploding almost. We had huge heads and it looked really shitty and it was very hard to be in this tank under water. It was stressful and it wasn´t worth it. Sometimes you have to try things also, but it was definitely something to talk about.
Good one. Have you ever thought of doing music in German, the way Rammstein does it?
MP: Yeah, I´ve thought of it, but I´ve never really followed through with the idea. From an artistic point of view, starting songwriting and writing songs in German now, would be like starting at zero. I´ve been writing songs in English for I don´t know how many years and switching to German would be ok. “I´ve never done this, is it gonna be good?” and I´m very self critical when it comes to lyrics and it´s hard. To me, it has to make sense artistically. A lot of people here in Germany start singing in German nowadays, because they think they´re gonna sell more, but that should never be the motivation for it. I never thought it was necessary to sing in German. If I get the idea for a German song and I think it´s great, then I´ll do it, but right now when I start writing songs, I immediately start thinking in English.
Doing it for so long as you have, does it get easier or more difficult coming up with good lyrics?
MP: I´m not very patient when it comes to lyrics. Writing lyrics is a whole different thing. With music you sometimes know right away if something works or not. With lyrics, they develop from when you start writing the first words down and you sing them to the music. You´re not very critical because you just need some words and then you keep rewriting and rewriting the lyrics and they come alive after a while. There´s a meaning all of a sudden. At first you just write down some words that sound cool and then you have to put a meaning to them and it´s a long process. The only thing that I see these days is that I want the lyrics to be perfect from day one, but that´s never the case. I´m very impatient when it comes to lyrics and I have to admit that writing lyrics is very hard. It´s probably the hardest part and for me, I can´t enjoy the music if I don´t like the lyrics. Of course there are great songs where the lyrics mean nothing, I know that. Sometimes it just happens and the words just work with the music. I think Ozzy Osbourne said that once, he still doesn´t know what this one particular Black Sabbath song (Fairies wear boots) is about, which is also cool. It´s hard enough to find words that sound cool. The cooler the words sound that you´re singing, the stronger the music gets. It´s a long process and I´m more patient with music than with lyrics.
Does it ever happen that you write something and you realize that you´ve already written about it 10 years ago or that you´ve used similar lyrics before?
MP: Many times. And then you have to rewrite the whole song, which doesn´t make your life easier. (laughs). It doesn´t start with the title, it starts with the words. Look at a band like Manowar! I´ve got nothing about Manowar, but if you take their lyrics, their vocabulary is very limited. Not that I´m saying that my vocabulary is larger or anything. I also have words that I use all the time like terror, war, pain, death… They´ve all been used and I think you have to be convincing. Even on the new record there´s a couple of songs, like I had this title “Death to the world” and it´s a great title, but it sounds like I´ve heard it before and there´s probably a couple of bands that have that title. Then you start googling and you see that Nightwish has a song called “Death to the world” and you wonder “Can I still use it? Is it cool?”, but you have to make it your own song. There are so many songs that have the same names and you cannot always have an album with song titles that nobody´s used before. But I think a song title like “Phantom antichrist”, with two words combined that doesn´t really make any sense, is a song title that nobody has. It´s also a very controversial song. When we put up the song title, many people on our website said “This sucks man! What´s up with that?”. There´s always people complaining.
That´s something that has happened a lot lately, a lot of metal musicians talking about people writing negative comments and so on. It´s so easy these days, to sit at home in front of your computer and write negative stuff and not be creative at all.
MP: Yeah and it´s something that I don´t take that serious. Of course we get that many times and I know in rap it´s even worse. In metal it´s still ok. People are very passionate about metal, so it´s ok with me. On the other hand it´s so strange. The reality on the internet is so much different from the actual world out there. I´ve never heard anybody, at a concert or anywhere else, say something like that to my face. As easy as it is for people to write negative things, it´s just as hard to actually say that to anyone. Whatever. I guess it´s just a human thing when you have too much time on your hands and you start complaining about things. People that don´t do much have the time to complain.
Probably. A final thing. Your last name is Italian, were you born in Germany or Italy?
MP: I was born in Germany. My father came from Italy at the end of the 60´s. I don´t even speak Italian, but I have my Italian last name of course.
Do you ever go back to where your dad comes from?
MP: As a kid, yes. I´ve been there with the band many times and it´s great to go there and it´s always great that people don´t forget that you have Italian roots. They make me feel at home.
Cool! Well, I´m looking forward to seeing you guys live over here.
MP: Oh yeah, we´ll be coming in November or December.
Is that gonna be with Accept?
MP: No, that´s gonna be with Morbid Angel and Nile.
MP: Yeah, a nice package, right?
Totally! Thanks so much Mille and have a great evening!
MP: You too man! Take care!