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Sepultura's Derrick Green: "I knew there would be backlash when I joined"

Sepultura full-band shot
(Image credit: Marcos Hermes)

Frontman with legendary Brazilian brutes Sepultura (opens in new tab) for the last 24 years, Derrick Green (opens in new tab) is modern metal’s favourite gentle giant. To celebrate the release of his band’s new album, SepulQuarta (opens in new tab) (a star-studded live set culled from weekly lockdown sessions), Derrick chatted with Hammer about the joys of punk rock, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, the power of positive thinking and the surprising but delightful outcome of an alcohol-free existence.

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“Music was introduced into my life at a very young age because my mom was a music teacher. So at home we had a piano, and she’d play classical music all the time. She also played gospel music, because she played at church. But I got really into rock music once I started meeting other kids who introduced me to The Beatles (opens in new tab) and AC/DC (opens in new tab) and Judas Priest (opens in new tab). I was like, ‘Yes! This is so cool!’ I started ordering tapes, from Cheap Trick (opens in new tab) to Pat Benatar and even Ted Nugent (opens in new tab) at the time! Ha ha! I didn’t know! But then I really dove into hardcore and the punk rock scene and there was full-on slamming and stagediving. I’d never seen music drive people to do those kinds of things and I just knew. This was what I wanted to do.”


“It all started when I was 14 or 15, when I started going to shows. One band in particular was Cro-Mags (opens in new tab), this band from New York. They came and played and they had books. Some of them were about the Krishna lifestyle, because the singer was very into that, and they were vegetarians and vegans. I just dove right into it. At the same time I started reading a lot of different books about the whole production of meat. As time went on, I started to become knowledgeable about the industry and also, through that time period, started to realise how it was having an effect on the planet and how they’re destroying it. So I really decided I didn’t want to give any money to these companies anymore, or to support them.”


“There are so many different websites and things people are doing, explaining techniques. It’s super-easy to find. There are great apps, like HappyCow. Anywhere I go in the world, I open HappyCow and it shows me all the places to eat that are vegan or vegetarian or that have both options. But always go with flavour and taste. That’s what’s changed radically in the plant-based world. Growing up, a lot of stuff was flavourless and it put people off because vegan food tasted like shit! Ha ha! But they’ve got really good at it. Ask your vegan or vegetarian friends what they like. Otherwise, go online and people will help you tremendously.”


“It really turns me off when radical vegans are getting in people’s faces. I think they gave it a really bad name by being so extreme and showing all these horrifying, crazy videos for shock, and not really explaining what’s going on in the process. That explanation is really important, so people truly understand. It’s about literally living by example. Veganism is not that crazy and we can find things that are good for the planet and our bodies, because a lot of those things are really relevant right now. Especially with climate change and things like that, people are really starting to believe it. One day they’re like, ‘Oh my God, it’s so hot here now! It was never like this before!’ Well, it’s all connected with what we’re doing on this planet.”


“When I started aiming for a healthier lifestyle, the results were obvious. I felt good! I could feel the impact of what I was doing, and other people could see that. I didn’t have to preach it. People would say, ‘You look fantastic! How old are you?’ I looked at a lot of people around me and I didn’t think it was that cool seeing bands or artists that were all fucked up onstage. They got this sickness, and I really didn’t want to go down that route. I felt that people who looked after themselves had longevity, and that was commendable to me. When you’re the only one not partying, it’s hard at first, but you just get used to it and you feel secure with that.”


“When I stopped drinking it was like, ‘Oh! So this is what it’s like to have a normal relationship with your toilet!’ Ha ha ha! Looking at old photos from when I used to drink, I was so bloated and I didn’t feel healthy. It just becomes depression after a while, especially the day after drinking, and it just wasn’t fun anymore. Having just one glass of wine, that wasn’t me. So I just stopped altogether. I feel so much better.

Suddenly I was spending no money and I could remember many things! Ha ha! So that and taking care of myself, food-wise, it all helped to bring out that healthiness. It just became a lifestyle, in the truest sense. I don’t want to eat crappy food because it makes me feel crappy. I like to feel good about myself, so I just do those things that make me feel good.”

Derrick Green

(Image credit: Marcos Hermes)


“When I joined Sepultura, I knew there would be a backlash, but I looked at the situation in terms of what was reality to me. Max (opens in new tab) [Cavalera] was somebody I’d never met. I didn’t know anything about anything he was going through. So that part of Sepultura had nothing to do with me at all. All I could control and focus on was the fact that I was in Brazil, I’d never been there before and I’d never heard people speaking Portuguese! Those were the things that were really on my mind, like how am I going to connect with these guys? How are we going to move forward and write music? This was my moment, you know? I was going to be performing in front of thousands of people. That’s where my mind was at!”


“I knew it would take time to win some of the fans over, but a lot of good things come out of that process of building things up again. That’s how Sepultura developed its fanbase over time, always evolving, having different ideas and never making the same album twice. Now, when we play the new songs from when I first joined, there’s a big difference. Back then, a lot of people were standing, arms folded, like, ‘Alright, let’s see what happens…’ but that was understandable. Now we play those songs and we get a lot of respect. People can see the evolution and they appreciate that we stuck it out.”


“We’ve spent so much time on the road together over the years that it becomes like family. So you really need to communicate your feelings. You get to know when certain things aren’t right, and it’s good not to sleep on those things and to talk them out, before moving forward with anything. Don’t go to bed angry, as they say! We definitely do that. If there is a problem, let’s talk it out now. It’s super-important, to keep that connection going. You all see yourselves going in a certain direction, so everyone needs to be on the same page, wanting us to be better, not just as a group but personally too.”


“To be honest, I don’t recall anyone ever talking about mental health, back in the day. There are a lot more people suffering with mental issues that are able to come out and talk about it now. These are definitely different times. I remember when certain people were suffering from it on the road, and there was just nowhere to go. It wasn’t talked about and people just didn’t have an understanding of the issues involved. But I think music helps a lot. A lot of artists have suffered from mental illness, and by being able to write about it through their music or through their art, I think that’s helped millions of people tremendously.”


“I feel we’re very fortunate to travel to so many places and to see, first-hand, what’s going on. For instance, a lot of people in the US have a horrible perception of Russia, because the negatives were shoved down our throats for so long, and it was the same in Russia, regarding America. But going there numerous times, and seeing it for myself, I love the place. So when people ask, ‘Oh, you’ve been to Russia, what’s it like?’ I tell them the real aspects of it, from actually being there. It’s the same with Brazil – I didn’t realise how many people have such warped conceptions about it, but being in a Brazilian band and travelling, I get to hear those warped conceptions and I get to explain that they’re absolutely false and this is my experience of living there.”


“We came out of the writing process for Quadra [Sepultura’s 2020 studio album] and it was such a magical experience, then we went into practising, getting ready for the tour, and then the lockdown came. The momentum that we had going, that turned into the SepulQuarta record. It was a great way to stay connected, to have something once a week where we get together once a week and talk with our fans. It grew out of that. Let’s invite people and let’s jam Sepultura songs! Let’s invite people that aren’t even involved in music, people we admire and respect. So a lot of it came out of the necessity of keeping a connection within the band and with the fans. It was a beautiful thing to have an album come out of that.”

SepulQuarta is out now via Nuclear Blast

Sepultura release new boxset Sepulnation The Studio Albums 1998 - 2009 on October 22 via BMG

Sepultura are due to tour the UK and Europe in November/December with Sacred Reich and Crowbar

Dom Lawson has been writing for Hammer and Prog for 14 intermittently enjoyable years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He listens to more music than you. And then writes about it.