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Metaphorically Speaking: An Exclusive Interview With KREATOR Frontman MILLE PETROZZA

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, January 23, 2017 @ 1:08 PM

“I try to be very much optimistic still, and all of these lyrics are optimistic. There's not one single lyric where I go 'Oh man, the world's gone to shit, let's just destroy everything.'”

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The “riot of violence” Germany's KREATOR began 30-some years ago with Endless Pain shows no signs of abating. Indeed it could not be a more fitting description for the band's 14th and latest album, aptly enough titled Gods Of Violence.

With the furious “World War Now”, “Totalitarian Terror” and “Army Of Storms”, KREATOR hits as hard as ever on Gods, and maintains is menace even during the less ferocious, more dramatic “Satan Is Real”, “Fallen Brother” or the epic finale “Death Becomes My Light” - thanks to guitarist/frontman Mille Petrozza's always incisive, evocative lyrics and teeth-clenched delivery.

Where the band once explored the specter of the Iron Curtain that divided Europe and the threat of nuclear annihilation during its formative years in the mid/late '80s - before the Cold War came to a close - today its focus is the climate of fear, hatred and fanaticism fueled by political and religious dogma, and the atrocities that often comes as result.

During a recent phone interview - and after some initial technical difficulties - Petrozza detailed the inspiration for Gods Of Violence, his thoughts on the “serious times” in which we find ourselves and his hopes for the future for the long-standing band, which since 2001 has been rounded out by original drummer Jürgen “Ventor” Reil, guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö and bassist Christian “Speesy” Giesler.

KNAC.COM: So, off to a flying start!

PETROZZA: (Laughs) Yeah. Something happened with the connection, but now we’re back. Hopefully for good.

KNAC.COM: Are you in L.A., or are they patching you through from Germany?

PETROZZA: I’m in Los Angeles, yeah. At the Nuclear Blast office.

KNAC.COM: A ha. How was the trip?

PETROZZA: It was long (laughs). But it was good, I’m relaxed. I’m in Düsseldorf, so to get to L.A. I have to fly from Frankfurt. This time I flew through New York, so I had another flight, which was not the best. A direct flight is always the best. So I learned my lesson (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Before we get started, Happy New Year.

PETROZZA: Thanks, same to you, man.

KNAC.COM: How was your Christmas holiday, are you much of a holiday guy?

PETROZZA: I was not doing much this time, I was seeing some friends with my girlfriend and we were just hanging, making some nice dinners. My father’s birthday is the 22nd, so I saw him then. I have a huge family, my brothers and sisters have a lot of kids, so this time I skipped that (laughs).

KNAC.COM: How was the mood over there at Christmas after the market attack in Berlin?

PETROZZA: Of course, the mood wasn’t the best. Everybody was shocked that some lunatic would drive a truck through a crowd of people two or three days before Christmas. I hate to say it, but compared to a couple of years ago, seemingly every other week there is a new terror attack somewhere. We’ve kind of gotten used to this, not only in Germany but everywhere, which is a really bad thing.

It’s not going to get better in the next couple of years, but what can you do? Don’t let them win, don’t let them take over, don’t let them ruin the way you live your life. Just keep going.

KNAC.COM: It’s become the "new normal,” which is pretty fucked up.

PETROZZA: I agree. It’s not normal and it shouldn’t be normal. We shouldn’t accept it as being the new normal. But it’s hard to track these crazy people because they are everywhere. I hope they find a solution, but where are you going start?

I don’t want to be in the shoes of some of the politicians in Germany at this moment because they have a hard job figuring out what to do. I wouldn’t know what to do, nobody really knows what to do because the situation is so new to all of us. But people want answers, they want solutions, and where do you turn?

KNAC.COM: And then you see what’s happening with the Brexit vote, the election here in the U.S., the new government in Poland, what could happen with the election in France, etc. People become very reactionary and more easily swayed by extremist positions themselves.

PETROZZA: But that’s maybe the tactic of the terrorists, you never know, destabilizing the community and all of a sudden we have right-wing governments left and right and everywhere because they promise to protect us (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Given that, are you all the optimistic about the year ahead?

PETROZZA: I think it’s going to be a great year, at least as far as the band is concerned. The political situation is nothing I can control and you have to roll with it. I will never give in to any extremists and be unhappy in my life just because there is a slight possibility I could die in a terrorist attack, I don’t want to give into this talk.

I just keep going and I’m looking forward to the release of the new record and I’m looking to playing for our fans again around the world. 2017 will be a very busy year for KREATOR, we will play many, many places and we will play many, many shows. We will meet a lot of great people and that’s what life’s about, not about these horrors.

KNAC.COM: Still, the new album details a lot of these kinds of horrors.

PETROZZA: Let me put it this way, when you listen to the news, you become inspired by these horrible current events. But on the new record I didn’t sing about what is happening. I’m metaphorically putting inspiration into my lyrics from these things and these events, but I wouldn’t say that I wrote anything about any particular event or horrible news that I heard.

For example, there’s the first song on the record called “World War Now”. I wrote it in the wake of the Bataclan terrorist attacks [in Paris in November 2015]. That was how the title came about, I felt like we were already in a world war that has no such things as battlefields, the world is the battlefield, because stuff like that can hit us at anywhere at any time. So these horrible events have been a good source of inspiration, but I could live without this sort of inspiration.

KNAC.COM: It must get depressing always having this well of bad news to draw from? Do you ever look for inspiration in something positive?

PETROZZA: Hmmm. The human psyche has violence and hate and negative thoughts, negativity is a part of our existence. So there will never be a time – and there has never been a time on Earth – where there will be world peace. We're living in serious times, and nowadays we get more information from more different sources, so it seems to us that the world has gone worse. But I think it's the same, with more information about details we might not have been aware of in the past.

I would rather find new sources of inspiration that might be more uplifting, but I try to be very much optimistic still, and all of these lyrics are optimistic. There's not one single lyric where I go “Oh man, the world's gone to shit, let's just destroy everything.”

I'm not that kind of person, I'm more PMA – positive mental attitude – I come from that school. I was a big fan of the band Bad Brains, this whole straight-edge movement I thought was very inspiring, thinking positive even though some things are kind of rough. Stop whining and just go out and do something about it, make the world a better place by contributing something positive to it.

KNAC.COM: As intense and brutal as your music can be, as well as the visuals that often go along with that, do you think that message can get lost?

PETROZZA: When you're an artist you should never think about whether people are able to figure it out. An artist, to me, is very complex. If we both look at a painting, you will see a lot of different things than I would, same with music.

Music shouldn't make sense, lyrics should be metaphoric, when you listen to the songs or read the lyrics a new world should open up in your mind, and you should be able to feel something. And if you don't feel the same as I do, fine. Music should also be entertaining and fun, don't take it so serious. If you want to dig deeper, fine, but don't be so serious about it. So take a song like “Satan Is Real”, for example, we got a lot of comments on YouTube where people were like “Oh, you guys are satanists now.” No, we're not satanists, we've never been satanists.

I wouldn't call myself an atheist, and I wouldn't call myself a religious person either. I don't have anything against religion in general. I could have also sang “Jesus Is Real”, then it would have been spun another way, that we're a Christian band (laughs). “Satan Is Real” has a meaning. The whole word “Satan” is a very strong word, it's very polarizing.

There were some other comments where it was like, “You think it's OK to attack Christianity, but you wouldn't dare attack Islam.” It's not about that. It's about becoming aware that religion has such a strong meaning in 2016, now 2017. All of these icons from the past that appear in the Bible, they are so real to so many people now, much more so than when we were starting out. And that's what worries me a bit.

KNAC.COM: There was more time between this and the previous album than you've had in the past, five years - although you had the live album/DVD Dying Alive in between - was the intent to give yourself more of a break this time?

PETROZZA: Not really a break. In order to be inspired, you have to have some time off, not jump out of the tour bus and into the rehearsal room or into the studio. That doesn't work, at least for us anyway. When I started writing, the first song, “Gods Of Violence”, existed since 2013, and I lived with the song for so long in order to see if it was a song that lasts. Does it have the quality to convince me that it holds up?

I'm a metal fan. The metal that I listen to has to be original in some kind of way, exciting and has to move me emotionally. And if that's not the case with my own music, how can I put it out and talk to you about and expect it to connect with our fans? I have to be convinced about it, and it takes some time.

KNAC.COM: Are you the type of person that once you get the ball rolling ideas come quickly after that, or do you take this painstaking approach with every song?

PETROZZA: That depends on the song. The title track took me awhile to get it where it is now. But, on the other hand, “Satan Is Real”, I can play you the demo and when you listen to that it's almost the same, not much changed. Some are a little tougher to get, and some are a little easier. “Satan Is Real” was an inspiration, the song was happening in one night. I had these riffs, I record most of my riffs on my iPhone, and we were doing a recording session in Berlin with a friend of mine who is also a producer and another friend who inspired me to work with the title “Satan Is Real”.

I told him that if I write a song called “Satan Is Real” I have to fill it with a meaning first, because it is a very graphic title, so when we were recording the song I knew it was gonna work. And then I wrote the lyrics and the lyrics came very naturally. Other songs, it's tough to get them right.

It can be painful because I am constantly thinking about the music and how can I make it even more killer, how can I make this riff even heavier and more complex. And it's very thought-consuming. It moves you in your sleep sometimes. But that's the exciting thing about creating something new.

KNAC.COM: I've only had the album for a couple days, but one thing that is quite striking right off the bat, along with its brutality, are the guitar harmonies and solo tradeoffs. Some of the stuff is almost AMON AMARTH-like with the guitar interplay.

PETROZZA: Yeah, we're big fans of bands that have twin guitar leads. We grew up with bands like JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN, all those great bands, and we want to keep metal exciting in this day and age. Let's take it over the top and make it sound larger than life.

KNAC.COM: This lineup has been together for 15 years, which is a lot longer than previous KREATOR lineups, what has been the glue that has kept the four of you together for this long?

PETROZZA: You have to be very, very respectful of each other. You have to be aware of the fact that we're all human beings. In the '90s, when the lineup wasn't stable, I learned one thing. I learned that once you get to know the members of your band there are ups and downs in their personalities.

And I'm not excluding myself, because I think I can be a pain in the ass for the other three guys as well, but I learned that once you change members and get a different personality in the band, it doesn't necessarily mean all your problems go away. It only means that there's new problems. You have to learn to deal with them.

We're good friends, but after a tour we don't want to see each other, which I think is normal. Finding the perfect band where there's no tension and no one gets on each others' nerves, I don't know if there's many or any bands like that.

KNAC.COM: It's pretty amazing, though, the staying power of a lot of thrash bands from the '80s. But have you've given any thought to how long you can keep things rolling, or do you have an open-ended future?

PETROZZA: It's getting closer, but it's getting closer every day when you start in your 20s (laughs). I think it comes when it comes, really. Right now, we're still enjoying it and we're coming up with albums that are still exciting and we still like going out there and playing for the fans - and they seem to like it too, which is the biggest thing, because without them we wouldn't be here now.

We're looking forward for a future of at least 10 more years or even more, depending on our physical abilities. I've been doing this all my life, and I haven't really done anything else. Maybe if I stopped the band I'd fall into a deep hole and be depressed, so why not keep this going, as long as I enjoy it?

I know so many musicians who try to get out of it and try to become a member of society, and they fail, and five years later they come back and make a reunion of the band, and I think that's lame. I've always kept going and always believed in what I did, even when things were not so good for the band or for metal in general, and I think that's the key.

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