Kreator Guitarist Comments on Current Tour and Recording "Phantom Anti-Christ"
Kreator is currently touring North America with fellow German metal pioneers, Accept. Although this tour highlights cuts from their current “Phantom Anti-Christ” album; the group gives its audience a history lesson that spans nearly thirty years. Each show is a class on staying consistent with one’s brand, while incorporating new forms of expression. They treated fans to early, barbaric speed metal numbers such as “Tormentor” and “Flag of Hate” to middle era, groove-based thrashers “People of the Lie” and “Phobia” to “Hordes of Chaos” and “Phantom Anti-Christ.”
Starting with “Violent Revolution,” the group penned a sequel to their breakout 1990 album “Comma of Souls.” Each subsequent album, “Enemy of God,” “Hordes of Chaos,” and “Phantom Anti-Christ” showed the band progress as song writers, utilizing more moods and tempo swings.
Guitarist Yli-Sirno has participated in the creation of each of the above-named albums. Metal Underground.com caught up with the Finnish musician to get his take on the progression that led to “Phantom Anti-Christ,” as well as getting the scope on recent events concerning the group.
Darren Cowan (Rex_84): How long has Kreator been on the current tour?
Sami Yli-Sirno: We’ve been on tour for about three or four weeks now. We started out in Washington and did five shows in Canada as well. Then, we came down the West Coast and here we are.
Cowan: What’s it like touring with Accept? Did they influence your playing?
Yli-Sirno: Maybe not me as much as the other guys. I’m from Finland and they are from Germany. Actually, I know the legendary songs like “Metal Heart.” I heard those when I was a kid, so I know of the band. It’s nice touring with them. They are cool guys. I don’t see much of them because they come just before the show and then leave right after they play. Every five days, they have a day off, so the singer can rest his voice. We decided to do shows on those off days. Kreator plays with Swallow The Sun on those days Accept has off. We decided, since we are over here, to not waste time.
Cowan: Do you notice a drop off in crowd numbers without Accept? They probably have a different crowd in some respects.
Yli-Sirno: It is a different crowd. The places we’ve played have been a little smaller, not all of the time, but usually. It’s been a good turn out, though.
Cowan: Kreator was forced to cancel its show at Metal Fest Austria. What led to this cancelation?
Yli-Sirno: [laughs] That was due to a hail storm, the biggest storm that I have ever seen in my life! It was like tennis balls of ice coming down. Cars were full of dents and cracks. The main stage started dropping into the mud because it couldn’t hold it. The mixing desk was completely destroyed. Naturally, we had to cancel. We wanted to play, but there was no stage! [laughs]
Cowan: What happened, did they give people their money back? Do you know?
Yli-Sirno: Yeah, I wondered about that. I wrote the booker about that and asked how it was going to be. Since it was a three-day festival, the other days went fine. Only two bands had to cancel—we were the headliners that day, and they did nothing about it.
Cowan: Kreator is getting ready to embark upon the high seas and play 70,000 tons of Steel. Is that something you’ve done before and are you looking forward to it?
Yli-Sirno: Absolutely. I’ve never been there before. For me, January in Finland is the shittiest time of the year! It’s dark, boring and there is nothing to do. We have one show in Israel in January, too, but I’m happy to go there because this will be five days in the Caribbean. I’m looking at it as a vacation, too. We’ve done those metal cruises in Europe, smaller ones, though. This is nice. We had an offer there from the very first one, and for some reason, we didn’t take it. I was kind of pissed off that we didn’t go.
Cowan: Phantom Anti-Christ came out in June. Now that it has been out for a few months, how do you feel about the release? Are you content?
Yli-Sirno: I feel good about it. I think it’s better than the previous one. We put a lot of effort into it. We used more overdubs, guitar wise, than the last time. I think it offers a wider palette of expression.
Cowan: I agree and I have a question concerning its “wider palette of expression.” The melodies on “From Flood Into Fire” often express a different mood from German thrash. Are you trying to branch out and experiment with various styles?
Yli-Sirno: That song was written by Mille [Petrozza]. When I heard the first demo, I thought, “We can’t do this!” I didn’t appreciate it so much, but then we did twelve songs and ten ended up on the record. We tried to see what would happen with that song. In the end it sounded so good that we thought it should definitely end up on the album because we thought it was a strong song.
Cowan: “Phantom Anti-Christ” is a heavy album, but it’s melodic at the same time. Songs such as “Until Our Paths Cross Again,” “Mars Mantra and “United in Hate” follow this formula. The last two albums “Enemy of God” and “Hordes of Chaos” featured melodic songs, but this album seems your most harmonious effort. Do you agree with this statement?
Yli-Sirno: Yeah, I guess I would because we took more time to do the overdubs and concentrated on that stuff. Also, in the studio we used Jens Bogren to produce it. He had all of this vintage guitar equipment there. It was like a guitarist’s dream to get in there and start testing out equipment, so it was nice.
Cowan: Can you tell your fans a little more about using vintage instruments?
Yli-Sirno: He has a whole room of Les Pauls, Strats, Fendercasters, old amps and compressors from the ‘60s that make a haunting, clean sound without too many effects. We even had a delay—a huge delay. It was the same model that was used on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” I went for that! [laughs]
Cowan: How do you view the band’s progression of melodies and as a band itself?
Yli-Sirno: If you think there is a progression, that’s a very positive thing. I’ve been in the band now for ten years. As a musician, you always avoid trying to repeat yourself. What comes out of it is sometimes not very controlled or planned. It’s just the way things happen. You record stuff that you think the song needs and it’s not like that. It’s hard to analyze because I’m so close to it.
Cowan: So you find it hard to analyze your own music?
Yli-Sirno: Yeah, and I don’t listen to it, either. It doesn’t matter what band is in question. [laughs] You hear it so much in the studio and then once it’s done, you can’t listen to anymore. [laughs]
Cowan: Are you hard on yourself in terms of being perfect?
Yli-Sirno: The short answer to that question is no. Not to be misunderstood, of course, I always try my best. That’s also why you have a producer, somebody who is outside the band who can tell what is good and what is not. Jens always wanted several takes of the same part, but he also wanted to have a live feeling and avoid using Pro Tools too much.
Cowan: Besides heading out on the high seas, what else do you have in store after this tour?
Yli-Sirno: First we have a couple of weeks off in October and then on the 2nd of November we start a European tour with Morbid Angel, Nile and Fueled By Fire, which is a younger thrash band. That tour goes all the way until Christmas Eve. I’ll be home on Christmas Eve. Yeah cool, I don’t have to buy any presents for anyone because I have a good excuse. [laughs]
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