United in Hate

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Many an interview I’ve done over the years and a handful will always stand out, often based on the intelligence and affability of the musician to whom the questions were posed. I can now add Kreator’s Mille Petrozza to that list of highlights, based on my recent discussion with him on a tour bus parked in front of The Beaumont, the venue at which the German legends melted faces and lacerated eardrums at the Kansas City stop of the North American Teutonic Terror Attack tour with Accept. Though I did interview Mille sometime around the release of Violent Revolution several years back, aside from recalling him to be quite congenial and informed then too, it was conducted by phone and my memory of it is fuzzy at best. Mille is not only a staunch advocate of metal and someone who cares deeply about Kreator’s rabid worldwide fan base; he is a genuinely nice guy and a progressive-minded citizen of Planet Earth. He also happens to be writing some of the best thrash metal of his career, as evidenced by the recent release of the musically refreshing, surprisingly catchy, and (of course) aggressively thrashing Phantom Antichrist on Nuclear Blast. Let us prey.

I remember buying the Flag of Hate cassette, which was one that really changed the game for me in terms of aggression in metal. And here you are nearly three decades later on a tour bus, about to headline another show. Could you even begin to fathom that you would be doing this nearly three decades later?

I never thought about whether or not I’m still going to be here because 2012 and 1985 seemed like an eternity apart [laughs]. You know what I mean? On the other hand, I feel very privileged that I am actually still here and still able to do shows and tour the world and release albums that people still like. It’s very rare since I think we are one of the few extreme metal bands where a lot of our fans still like the new albums when they are released. Some bands from back in the day, their new records are ok, but they tour so much that they don’t put a lot of time into writing stuff; that’s the impression I get sometimes. We take time off in between tours. We take at least a year or a year and a half off where we play not many shows or no shows at all, and instead just write the album. And I think a lot of bands forget about that. They go straight from the road into the studio, and that can’t work.

And they may be forcing things.

Yes, exactly.

What about you contemporaries? Would you say Destruction and Sodom have maintained that album quality to which you refer?

Yeah, they do to a certain extent. But I’m not here to judge their albums. I love the guys and we are good friends and I think they work very hard, especially Destruction who are out on the road all the time. Sodom release quality albums still. So yeah, they’ve maintained it; the power and energy for sure.

Accept and Kreator touring America as a tandem in 2012… That’s a pretty big deal; a force of German metal invading the U.S. How has the tour gone so far?

Very good! You’ll see tonight that the crowd is very different. Kreator is more extreme. The night begins with Swallow the Sun who have the doom and are a very slow kind of band. Then Accept comes in and it goes a little faster. I mean Accept are Accept; they’re a classic metal band and everyone knows them. Every metalhead has heard of them. They have “Balls to the Wall” and “Fast as a Shark,” I mean those are classic metal songs. And then we come out and we’re more extreme [laughs]. It’s not like when we play with Vader or Exodus or Napalm Death. When we go out with those bands the crowd is getting an extreme band before we even go on. This tour is a little different. So a lot of the people that only came to see Accept sometimes are a little taken aback [laughs]. Because when we play there is a mosh pit and everything. For Accept people are head banging and singing the songs. So it’s working quite well.

It’s not like Accept and Kreator are so far apart as to be an odd pairing either. It’s not like it is Accept and Nile or something.

Oh no, no… Exactly. To me Accept is one of those bands that also had these last two albums that they put out that are really good and they proved… I mean they’ve been around since I was a kid. One of my first concerts ever was Accept. They’re just a classic heavy metal band and we’re really, really happy to be out with them. It might not be the same style that we play, but it works. The song “Fast as a Shark,” every time I hear this song I think that this is the roots of thrash metal. It’s the first time ever that a band used double-bass the whole time through, even before Metallica did it. Accept are the inventors of this genre without even knowing it.

I recall on one of the Art of Noise tours when you were touring with Vader how much it seemed to mean to Peter, as a huge Kreator fan now and growing up, to be touring with you guys. He mentioned it on stage in fact. Just like you’re talking about Accept in terms of influence; he was talking about Kreator.

Yeah, this is the great thing about metal. We all like each other’s bands [laughs]. In theory I could be in there right now watching the whole Accept show. It’s a show I would go see myself.

Any highlights of the tour thus far?

Oh yeah, and we’re almost in the middle of the tour now. New York was amazing, Montreal was great… Yesterday we played in Joliet, IL; that was an amazing show too. Many of the shows were good actually. Some of the shows were a little slow, but most of them were great. The kickoff wasn’t really what we expected it to be, the one in Washington, D.C. [at the Howard Theater]. But it was a new club that had just opened and there had never been metal shows there before, so we were the first metal show. But it was good because that way we could try out things [laughs]. We definitely want to come back to the States within a year to support this album because we have working visas and we want to use them. Because on this tour we haven’t hit certain parts of the country that we still want to play, so the next tour we will hit those places.

The new album may be one of the best ones you’ve recorded, and I say that with the utmost sincerity. What you’ve really nailed on this one is the retention of the patented aggression/extremity whilst so deftly incorporating a better melodic sense. The dynamics at play are notable as well; you cannot say that one song sounds just like the next.

That was the trick for us. When we were going into the songwriting we had that in mind because we felt that the previous three [Hordes of Chaos, Enemy of God, and Violent Revolution] were great albums, but they sounded like they were taken from the same songwriting session in a way. So we were thinking about what was going to be the next step for us without changing the sound and still being Kreator.

That’s tough!

I know [laughs]. Basically, if you listen closely you’ll find a lot of influences from traditional metal, which is what we grew up with. You hear a lot of Judas Priest, even some Iron Maiden; that was the thing that we wanted to do.

Especially with the twin leads…

Yeah, exactly! A lot of those twin leads are tributes to the bands that we grew up with, which were Judas Priest, Saxon, Iron Maiden… That was even before the thrash thing came on. I mean we were teenagers and when I was 12 years old I listened to Iron Maiden for the first time and I was blown away. It was the first Iron Maiden album actually. They opened up for Kiss in Germany and I became an Iron Maiden fan. And from thereon I got into the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and then I found out that there were tons and tons of bands like that in Europe and America, and then during that second generation in like ’82 or ’83 was when Metallica came out and that changed the whole thing.

Aside from being a great song, “Phantom Antichrist” is the title track. Talk about the meaning of the song.

“Phantom Antichrist” talks about media manipulation. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I heard this radio show in Germany where they were talking about the dead body of Osama Bin Laden; that they made it disappear. And I thought wait a minute, that guy was responsible for one of the most fucked up tragedies in the world. And all of a sudden after they kill the guy they throw him into the water for religious reasons, even though there is no Muslim tradition for water burial? That was so strange because I thought they would keep him alive and ask him questions about the details of the September 11th thing. That kind of got me thinking. It was just very strange that this icon of terror was just gone and nobody talked about it. It inspired me to write the song “Phantom Antichrist,” which as I said is about media manipulation. The media makes you think certain things that you shouldn’t believe so the government can do whatever they want. So it’s sort of connected; mass media is a tool of the government. It’s kind of like a metaphor also. It’s like an invisible force kind of. It’s hard to explain the lyrics in details and I don’t really want to spoil it by explaining everything.

Right, I get it; you want people to make their own interpretations.

Exactly, and that is more important. Like what I just told you was just the idea of the song, but if you read the lyrics and you get something else out of it that’s fine. You can get inspiration out of your own thoughts and make it whatever you want it to be.

“The Few, The Proud, The Broken” is a great title and an even better song.

Thank you very much. I got online a lot to read blogs and that title was the headline in some American newspaper talking about people coming back from war. The promise the government makes when sending soldiers to war is that it’s all going to be so glorious, and these people come back with only one leg or something and their minds are all fucked up. I had seen something on television about this company that makes prosthetic legs and there were people that came back from Iraq missing legs or a bomb took their arm and they were proud of being able to get them because there was a select group of people who could go there and get these fake arms or robot legs or whatever. Instead of being pissed off at the government because their fucking leg or arm is gone they were proud that they were chosen for that program! It’s that whole brainwashing thing that this song is about. If you go to war you should think about it twice. It might not be what you think it will be. There is no such thing as a clean war. War is brutal and it’s the worst thing on earth.

The production on Phantom Antichrist is fantastic too!

We went to Sweden at the beginning of the year, which was a great experience. It was the coldest thing I’ve ever experienced too [laughs]. We went there to record with Jens Bogren. He is a very famous producer in Europe and he has worked with our friends in Amon Amarth, and he worked with Katatonia and many bands that are not really in our genre. I think we may be the first real thrash band he has ever produced. He is just one of these guys that looks at metal as an art form and he respects it. He really, really takes it seriously. We spent like six weeks there to record it and we’re happy with the results. He did a good job.

A couple of other songs come to mind when I think about this album. You’ve got “Death to the World,” which has a straight forward chorus, yet as a complete song offers some dynamics as well. The wellbeing of “mother earth” about which you sing makes it one of the more memorable tracks as well.

I wrote a song in 1988 called “Toxic Trace” and this is almost like Part II. When I was writing that song back in the day it was more about chemical pollution of the planet. “Death to the World” is more about the consequences and the way we treat the planet. All the resources will be gone in 50 or 100 years and we need to think about the alternatives. In my opinion, that time will come and there will be a whole new thing happening on this planet, a whole new form of awareness. In my opinion, “Death to the World” is a very graphic title, but it definitely talks about that planet earth is not going to die; it’s just maybe most of the human race will disappear. It doesn’t mean the entire human race will die, but maybe many people will die and something new comes up.

Whether you want to call it a conspiracy at the hands of certain corporate interests, like the oil companies, or not, if we don’t take much more seriously the development of alternative or renewable energy sources we may be in serious trouble. But there is so much money in oil…

The fact is that there are alternative energy sources, but they won’t be used as long as the oil industry controls things. That won’t happen under them because they won’t make money if it did. If everyone starts using alternative energy sources then the oil companies won’t make their big profits. That’s what can lead to destroying the earth; it fucks up a lot of things actually. It fucks up your health and it makes people sick in the minds. The people can try to change things, but the industries have to react on a bigger level or nothing will change.

Germany seems to do a better job within the realm of environmental health.

Ah maybe, in some parts yes. They use a lot more plastics here in the States I’ve seen. I look for vegan restaurants here when I’m on the road in the States and sometimes the food comes with plastic cutlery and it comes with a plastic bag. It’s an oxymoron if you know what I mean. There is way too much plastic on this planet anyway. But what are you going to do? Most of the things we are using every day are made of plastic. I don’t know. Maybe we will not experience in our lifetime the big catastrophe, but maybe our children will. We’ll see.

United in Hate” is also a good example of the depth of songwriting on this album too.

I got the title from a book. There was this right wing guy that was saying that certain groups in the left wing are uniting with the terrorists or something like that. Like people are supporting the terrorists in a certain way if they don’t be more anti-terrorist and be stricter against them and don’t do whatever the right wing thinks should be done. That was just the inspiration, but the song itself is about when I was a kid and got into metal and people would say I was going to grow out of it.

and here we are on this bus at our ages [laughs].

[Laughs] yeah! But a lot of people have grown out of it, like during the 90s and they’ve never made it back. But if you really like something… The song is not just about metal, but whatever you believe in. It could be metal or something else, but metal is one thing we can all relate to in some way. It’s a lifetime thing. It won’t disappear and we will also go back to it. Even though you can enjoy other forms of music, you can always go back to this. Some people when they get into metal they will die being a metalhead. I see this happening with our generation because we will never not be into metal in this lifetime. Even in 20 years if a new Slayer album is released we will check it out. So the song is about being united in things like this form of music.

Actually, the “united” part goes even deeper if you think about it since metal seems to be one of the few things that transcend race and nationality.

Absolutely. You know what? This is something that I don’t have to explain to people. When I’m taking to you here in Kansas City and then I talk to some guy in Poland or some guy in Japan it’s all connected. You can be conservative, you can be liberal; it’s this music that gets everyone together. To me it’s a very peaceful form of expression.

It’s the great unifier.

Yeah, exactly. You have all kinds of metalheads. You have your melodic guys or your extreme metal people. It’s fun to see that at the end of the day everyone in metal tolerates each other’s views on life because the metal community is a reflection of society in a way. It is about people getting together for a certain reason and they are very dedicated.

So maybe it’s time the rest of the world looks to metal.

[laughs] Exactly. But the thing is many of those people are so ignorant. We have this in Germany right now where the mass media is talking about these underground cultures and they talk about metal all the time because they think it’s a cultural phenomenon. They think it’s like the modern day jazz, which is the only other form of music that has fans just like the fans in metal. People that are into jazz are also nerdy and fanatical. I think metal has survived so many ups and downs, but it was always there and still is, and it will be 50 years from now too.





  1. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    Why doesn’t anyone ever ask Mille more about his politics? I’d like to hear what he has to say about anarchism, because as an anarchist myself, I see so many themes that seem to be drawn directly from the writings of Kropotkin, Proudhon, Goldman, Bakunin, Malatesta etc.

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