For a few areas of metal, Miland “Mille” Petrozza, the frontman of Kreator, is someone who needs no introduction. As Kreator and In Flames are bringing Klash of the Titans to Australia, I was afforded the opportunity to speak with Mille about Kreator and the tour.
Tickets to Klash of the Titans are available here.
Ez: I want to start off by asking you – ’cause you’ve obviously been spending a lot of your life touring at this point. I imagine Kreator is a very successful band on that front. That’s a safe assumption to make, yeah?
Ez: Post-COVID, touring has become less financially viable. Rising costs, inflation, all those fun things. Australia is – to my understanding – a very expensive country to tour, what with how spaced out it is. Knowing how long you’ve been in the industry for, is it difficult to – at this point – make touring financially viable, especially in a country like Australia?
Mille: It is not about… of course everybody needs to get paid and stuff like that. It needs to make sense financially first and foremost, yes, but once we have the opportunity to tour Australia we make it happen somehow. I think if we would of only had Australia as a tour it wouldn’t have been possible. We did some gigs around it. We start this tour in Malaysia and then we go to Indonesia, China [and] Japan, and I think that kinda makes it work.
And of course hopefully there will be – since we’re touring with In Flames – it’s gonna be a huge metal package. There will be enough fans that are coming out to make this a great event for everybody.
So we’re not too worried about these things.
Ez: Fair enough. I just thought it was important to ask, what [with] how everything’s kinda changed, especially post…
Mille: It has changed but everything has changed. It’s easy for bands to say “Wow, the costs have exploded and we can’t tour. We don’t make enough”, but that’s the case for everybody. It’s not only for bands. Everything became more expensive, so who am I to complain? We have the opportunity to tour Australia. We have the opportunity to tour at a worldwide level, and let’s do it. It’s not about the money; it’s about the music. It’s about having an amazing time while we’re still alive.
Every opportunity that I have to tour Australia, I’ll take, no matter what *laughs*
Ez: So this tour is mostly, sort of the back end of supporting Hate Über Alles?
Ez: At this point do the songs still kind of mean the same thing to you with this kind of distance from the album, or through performing them live has their meaning changed, has things in them reinforced?
Mille: Of course when you record a song and you’re in the studio, you’re all excited because something that you have thought about for a long time. Then finally it’s to be released and you see the reactions of the fans… it’s one thing. But the other thing is if you take the music to the people, in a live situation and start playing these songs live, they develop their own little world, so to speak.
We start – without spoilering – with “Hate Über Alles”, and best case scenario, people already start the pits. Already a great kickoff for the show. Same with some of the other new songs that we’re gonna play, so yeah; they develop a life of their own because we play them live, and the reactions of the crowd is quite good.
What I think is important is if you have a history like Kreator – and [we’re] on our fifteenth album or something now – if you play a song like “Hate Über Alles” or “Strongest of the Strong” or “666”, these new songs, in a situation where they follow off to classics like “Betrayer” or “Extreme Aggressions”, it needs to kinda feel natural. This is not like the odd new song that nobody wants to hear. It needs to be the song that people are looking forward to in that environment of classic songs that mean a lot to people, and it works quite well.
Ez: My understanding as well is that, at least before touring for Hate Über Alles started, you’d already begun writing the next album.
Ez: Has performing this material started to shape and change how the new material’s going to be?
To me, songwriting is something that I do naturally. Every time I pick u pa guitar… I never practise in the sense of like I practise scales, or practise other people’s songs. The guitar to me is a tool for songwriting, and so that’s how I see it. I see this as being every time I pick up a guitar I’m writing new stuff, so I’m constantly writing stuff, and I’m constantly looking at new music, and the trick is to come up with music that lasts.
I’ve written songs for the next album even while I was writing Hate Über Alles songs, so picking the good songs, picking the songs that are relevant to me at the time when we release the new album; that’s gonna be the challenge, and make it like an organic selection of music that makes sense next to each other and the concept of…
I know it’s kinda like old school, but we still think in the context of albums. A lot of bands nowadays think “Okay, we’ll release songs”, especially in other genres; for example hip hop and rap, and pop music. People just keep releasing songs and all of a sudden there’s going to be an album and you know five or six songs already because you’ve heard them. We’re not like that; we will release maybe one or two singles before we release the next album, but that’s gonna be it. We’re gonna concentrate on the album. We still think in the format of the old school metal album that you can enjoy; Hopefully for forty-five or fifty minutes, and not get bored.
Ez: Has the material that you’ve been writing affected how you’ve been playing songs from Hate?
Mille: No. The songs from Hate Über Alles, the inspiration is more like the actual situation at the concert that we’re playing.
For exmaple, we were playing a big festival. It’s not that we’re performing the songs different but to me it’s always, no matter if we’re playing in front of a small audience or a huge audience, it’s all about the energy.
When you go on stage you feel the energy. There’s energy there, there’s passion, there’s a celebration of music. That’s where you get the energy from; Performing your songs. So that can change from the actual situation at a concert. You go out and you play these songs, and people go berserk. It’s a different energy to if you go out and play the songs and people are watching you or looking at you, or you play a festival and not everybody knows the band. These are the things that [more influence] the way that we perform.
Not to a huge extent, but to some extent because we try to perform with the same passion and energy, even if the audience doesn’t react at all, but it kinda influences you. If you see the audience go wild from the first note you’re playing, it’s a different energy than if people standing there staring, you know? Or sitting down.
We’ve experienced that also. We did a tour with Mercyful Fate and I think two of the shows that we played were seated venues and we were like “What the fuck? This is odd”, but it was great at the end of the day. People were standing up of course.
Ez: I can only imagine that would’ve been pretty weird at first.
Mille: It was strange but it worked. I don’t know how many places we’ve played where it was a seated venue. Maybe four or five throughout our whole career.
Ez: I guess if it happens again you could always just go “Alright, we’re just gonna talk at you guys instead until you start standing up”.
Mille: Yeah it’s odd! You have to think differently because there will definitely be no mosh pit.
Ez: And of course if they’re sitting down they’re going to be experiencing all the sound in a different way than standing up.
Mille: Yeah, but like I said there were seated venues but people were still standing up. There was nobody sitting down, but still.
Ez: Would you say then, in a sense, Kreator is life-affirming?
Mille: Yeah. absolutely. But it’s still an odd situation. I prefer the real deal and that to me is a venue where everybody goes berserk. Hopefully that’s gonna be the case when we come to Australia *laughs*.
Ez: I’m sure you know it is gonna be. The thing about Australians is that I don’t think anyone could describe them as a polite crowd *laughs*
Mille: *laughs* Good. That’s a good thing.
Ez: Kreator kind of started roughly around the same time as Einstürzende Neubauten. Has that group ever had an influence on how you’ve approached music?
Mille: Not in the beginning. More later on. We knew who they were but I became a fan when I got a little older because when I started the band they were already there, and I would be a liar to say that I was influenced by Einstürzende Neubauten in the beginning. I heard about Einstürzende Neubauten, this whole Berlin posse that was doing strange new things, but I became a fan later on with Haus der Lüge, and I’m still a fan.
I’m a big fan of their music, but I really love the attitude. I love what they do and what they did for music. One of the most influential bands of the world, and the attitude is like, to me, a band like Einstürzende Neubauten is very like “We do whatever we love and we do what we want, without trying to please an audience”, and I think that’s a great attitude, because they please themselves first, and then the audience is gonna be automatically happy with what they do because they play from the heart. That’s when the audience can feel something.
If you try to please an audience and you’re like “You know what? I’m trying to write a song so everybody’s gonna do this and that”; sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it does, but I think that the attitude towards music itself…
And they rethought how… they invented their own instruments, come on. They were hitting fucken’ metal, and [they’re] one of the heaviest bands in the world.
I’ve experienced them live only once, but I’d love to see them again. I always keep missing them even though I only live in Berlin, you know?
Ez: It’s kind of the way it is though, right? I imagine that most of the time you don’t have too much down time.
Mille: Yeah, I’m always on the road. I’m touring a lot, but if I have downtime the bands I love to see are not playing. Basically every time I go on tour I see those tour dates of my favourite bands are [at] the same time.
Ez: Maybe you should hit them and go “Hey, let’s do a combo tour”.
Mille: *laughs* Yeah. It would be amazing.
Ez: So focusing on the tour at hand; In Flames and Kreator: What is about these two bands together do you think works best, tour-wise?
Mille: I think both bands have their own thing going. In Flames have their own sound. They’re very unique and nobody sounds like In Flames, and I hope that’s the case for Kreator as well. We both come from the same kinda like influences. Our roots are basically thrash metal and melodic heavy metal. We’re both influenced by the same bands.
I also heard that In Flames [were] influenced by Kreator when they started so it’s a nice mix of… how do I put this? We’re coming from the same background but both bands have a different approach, so in my opinion it’s gonna be an interesting combination of bands for the audience. It’s two full-on headlining shows in one night, and two bands that do their own thing, and two European bands that developed their own style, and I’m looking forward to this.
Ez: You both have already done a bit of touring together, right?
Ez: So not anything specifically like this.
Mille: No, no wait. We toured with In Flames before, but that’s so long ago. That’s when they just started. It’s been so long.
I think it’s ’97, ’98. They just started and they were on the bill. We toured with them for one short European tour.
Ez: My understanding is they’re pretty good live as well. With this tour with In Flames, knowing that they are pretty good live – not so much in a competitive way – does that make you want to play harder?
Mille: Absolutely. It’s a challenge to go on either before or after them. We’re gonna flip every night, [so] you go out and see them perform and it makes you want to play better.
That’s what we love. We love playing with bands that are strong so it makes us stronger. It’s not a competition; it’s more like a challenge.
Healthy, in a nice way. Friendly competition.
Ez: Seeing as it has been such a long time since you last toured together in such a manner, and seeing as you’re inspired to play harder with them, do you necessarily feel that’s going to make the shows automatically better, or is it still like a balancing act there?
Mille: Hopefully it will make the show more exciting for people because they get – like I said – two full-on headlining shows in one night. I think that’s a good thing and it will make the show better. Absolutely.
Ez: Is this something both bands have wanted to do for a while and it’s just happened to line up now?
Mille: We have this tour, Klash of the Titans. We’ve done this with Testament, with Sepultura in the US, and it’s kinda like a string of shows where we team up with a band we love and a band that is their own headliner and their own legacy band, and we call it Klash of the Titans with a K.
We asked In Flames to come along with us and they were like “Yeah, let’s do this”, and I think… yeah. It will be fucken’ great. Especially since we’re not getting to tour Australia that often.
Ez: I’m sure that if most people could bring the country a bit closer so it’d be easier to tour, they would.
Mille: *laughs* Maybe climate change will fix that *laughs*
Ez: *laughs* We’re already floating in this kind of puddle. We don’t need to be more floating, you know?
Interesting that you mention legacy. Do you see Kreator as a legacy act?
Mille: I see Kreator as a band and I don’t really think of these categories. I think those are labels that sometimes I hear from people that are talking about the band. That’s for other people to decide. I think we just do what we wanna do and we try to play music the most energetic we can and just be a relevant act even though we’ve been doing this for a few years, but just try to keep it exciting. That’s what we wanna do.
We don’t try to be any legacy… one thing we don’t want to be is a nostalgia act.
Ez: That’s more what I was leaning to there; the idea of nostalgia rather than legacy, so to speak. Nostalgia; I understand why some people like nostalgia but I imagine for an artist such as yourself, that kind of looking back and living in what has been is healthy to going forward.
Mille: It’s not our thing. Even though we’re totally aware of what we created in the past, and I know that it means a lot to a lot of people – especially the eighties stuff that we’ve done. It introduced our music to a lot of people, songs like “Betrayer” and “Extreme Aggression”; those songs are kind of like classic metal songs, and it’s a part of our history but it’s not all of it, you know?
We still think that we’re able to come up with great stuff in the here and now, and that’s how we always saw the band. When we started the band that was always our approach. Always what we wanted to do is write great music and write great metal songs that are timeless.
Ez: In some very brief, brief looking into Kreator I learned that you have some Italian heritage.
Ez: What I wanted to know is has that heritage had any impact on the way you approach music?
Mille: Yeah. Absolutely. My father was listened to a lot of traditional Italian music. He was listening to Domenico Modugno, all the greats. I listened to the stuff later on, and I love Italian music, and so the influence is definitely there.
I love Italian art, I love Italian movies. I love the lifestyle so it’s definitely a part of me.
Ez: I thought it was gonna be a longer one, but that’s pretty succinct, actually *laughs* so I guess I’ll squeeze one more thing in.
My understanding is that Kreator does involve some sort of social commentary in the music. How important is it for you to ensure that the message gets across clear rather than allowing it to be open for interpretation?
Mille: I think lyrics should always be open for their own interpretation, so you’ll never find any Kreator lyrics where I go “I don’t like this”, “I don’t like this kind of thing”, “I don’t like this person”. I think what it comes down to is you read the lyrics and in the best case it kind of creates an image in your mind, and you are excited and it makes you think about certain things and it might inspire you. But those lyrics could always happen at any time, anywhere and [at] any place, so it’s never about politics in the sense of “I’m for this and I’m against this”. It’s more like on a humanitarian level. It’s more like making a comment of how you see the world, you know what I mean?
Mille: It’s hard to explain my own lyrics. I think they speak for themselves, so I think there’s always a little bit of that in there, but it’s also a lot of emotional stuff that are of course based on stuff that I’m not totally agreeing with, or you know… They’re self-explanatory and they should make you think and they should leave a lot of room for self-interpretation.