Kreator's Mille Petrozza: "When things are really, really bad, there can always be a way out"
Formed in Essen, Germany, in 1982, Kreator was one of the non-American pioneers of thrash. Like many of its peers, Kreator began as a speed metal band inspired by the new wave of British heavy metal, but the added influence of acts like Venom and Discharge produced an adrenalized thrash sound.
Trying out the names Tyrant and Tormentor before settling on its current moniker in 1985, Kreator had honed its sound by the time it released its 1986 classic, Pleasure to Kill. Compared to the American style of thrash, Kreator's sound had a more clipped yet flowing violence to its dynamics, with a darker vocal style that proved influential in itself.
We recently spoke with founding guitarist and vocalist Mille Petrozza about a variety of subjects, from how the bleak lyrical themes of the band's songs often contain an undercurrent of positivity ("We sing about war, death and destruction, but we always try to make it complicated. We try to put a positive message in there") to why Kreator has long since ditched using loops in its music.
Westword: What got you interested in playing heavier music instead of some other form of rock and roll when you were younger?
Mille Petrozza: The bands that started it for me were the early new wave of British heavy-metal bands. Then, later, it was a band called Venom from England that really influenced us to play faster and heavier. We took it from there and tried to set up our own style.
My favorite first love was Kiss, of course. I think I wanted something heavier, and I saw Iron Maiden opening for Kiss, and from there on, I discovered all these bands that I didn't know existed. We started our own band, and we wanted to play. We were, like, fourteen years old then. We tried to come up with something of our own because we didn't know how to play, but we taught ourselves. We never had guitar lessons or anything.
When you started playing in bands in Essen, were there places for you to perform and develop your band as might have been the case in the U.K. and America?
It was totally different. When we put out our first album, Endless Pain, we were pretty young and had only played three shows up to that time, because there was no place to play. We weren't very experienced, and we were thrown into the ice cold water. For that matter, I think Endless Pain came out pretty okay and pretty decently. I wish we would have spent more time writing it and playing stuff live, but we got a record deal.
All the songs that we wrote up to that time, even though we had a different band called Tormentor -- all of a sudden, we didn't like the old stuff, and we wanted to write better music, and we threw away many of the Tormentor songs and wrote new ones in a very short period of time and went into the studio.
Tormentor was more of a speed-metal band, right? And by the time of Pleasure to Kill, it was nothing like that at all.
Yeah, yeah. For some reason, we wanted to be even heavier and faster. We were big fans of Slayer and Possessed.
You've been playing Jackson guitars for a long time. Have you always played them, and why do you prefer them to some other models of guitar?
I used to play Ibanezes. I went from an Ibanez to a cheap Les Paul copy. I have a lot of guitars, and I play a lot of BC Riches at home and even Les Pauls. For live shows, my favorite guitars are my Jacksons. I have my own model now. Once I started playing Jacksons, I stuck with it, because it's one of the best guitars to play live and in the studio -- at least for metal.
Sometimes when you're sitting at home and writing melodies, it's sometimes fun to try Les Pauls, but the Jackson is the killer live guitar. Some people don't like the V shape because they don't think it's comfortable. For me it's the best guitar for a live show. It's a matter of taste, I guess, but I recommend everyone try it. When you play metal, the V shape is nice.
And Jackson guitars have all of those nice angles to it that suits metal for whatever reason, even in the acoustical qualities.