Dance Music Cities – Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo – MixHell

From sell out stadiums to tearing up the slipmats

Iggor pounding on drums live, sweat dripping off his tattoos, muscles bulging, vinyl spinning – beside him his beautiful wife Laima cutting up, re-editing their hard beats and jumping around as the dancefloor becomes a clubbing mosh pit. Many dance artists have introduced live instrumentation to their sets. None have ever had the power and intensity, and rock as hard as Mixhell and what really makes them stand out from all other dance acts is when Iggor leaves his turntables and gets behind his drum kit, which he prefers to play in the middle of the dance floor.

Welcome to the world of MixHell…

Hi Iggor. An amazing career which has seen you go from one extreme to another, switching from drumming in the superstar Thrash Metal band Sepultura which sold over 15 million records, to now putting on DJ and live performance sets at cool dance music clubs and festivals around the world with your wife Laima under the guise of MixHell. So, how did Sepultura begin in the first place?
“Well usually it’s a case of kids at school just messing about with instruments and deciding to form a band, most kids do it. Well myself and my brother Max were a little different. We came from a small city called Belo Horizonte. We were 15 and we had always tried to do things a little differently, no one had heard of Black Metal back then so we gave it ago, we were always trying to do the most extreme stuff we could think of, we wanted to surprise people. It’s like now, my wife and I are doing the same thing with the dance and club stuff, it’s really like going back to the mid-eighties and finding out about new things. We like a challenge.”

So you’re living in Belgium for the Summer, away from your home city which is now Sao Paulo….
“We have had so many live gigs over in Europe with it being festival season and all that we just had to take the decision to re-locate for a few months. So we have rented a nice house here, we chose Belgium so we could be near to the Soulwax/2manydjs boys – they’re like our second family. They let us use their studio for all of our remixes and production work we are doing so it all works perfectly, they’re like our second family. We have some wonderful grandparents back home who look after our five children until we’re back, they understand the decision that we have to work hard for a few months of the year which enables them to go to nice schools and have what they want. When I was in Sepultura I never had the opportunity to check out any of the cities we played in, it was a case of get off the bus, play, back in the bus – off. This has given us the chance to explore this country.”

Usually when I ask about people’s early influences, they cite people like Stevie Wonder, Kraftwerk, Derrick May and DJ Alfredo. I would imagine the bands and sounds that you were into when you were younger are slightly different…?
“Ha, you could say that. It was a lot of Samba for sure. I was playing a lot of percussion before the whole band thing came about. Then I got into Rock, then Metal, then Hardcore Punk. Then the whole Def Jam hip hop stuff really got into me and people like Bomb The Bass – records with crazy production, real open minded stuff, totally across the board. I couldn’t listen to the stuff we were playing 24/7 or I’d have gone mad. Also, when we were making new material the fact that we’d all been listening to such diverse artists really helped as there were so many ideas being thrown about.”

When I first went to Sao Paulo it was back in the early 90s, the city has certainly changed since then…
“We always hear about things later than other parts of the world, it used to take a while for things to hit us. Now with the Internet and other technology we’re catching up. We now have the opportunity to look around the world to see what’s going on and start producing music – but with our own flavour. Stamp or own authority on things, it’s been incredible for the DJs too as years ago it was nigh on impossible to get records, well those days are long gone.”

So you support the football team Palmeiras, I support the English team Everton, two teams who have not won a trophy in years and years. How is it looking this season for you?
“It’s looking good, we’re mid season and doing well. I am not as fanatical as I used to be, I wasn’t a hooligan or anything, I just to really support them so much. Nowadays it’s just a great day out with the kids.”

Pele or Maradonna?
“There is no competition. Pele was way beyond a footballer, he was the complete athlete – perhaps of the last century, he was like Jimi Hendrix of the footballing world. Maradonna was amazing but he sits somewhere in the twenty or so players behind the king…”

After founding Sepultura with Max, you spent 20 years touring the world selling out stadiums and selling over 15 million records. In fact, you are known as one of the best heavy metal drummers of all time, then suddenly grew bored of it and jumped ship into dance music. Why?
“A bunch of things were happening in my life that I wasn’t happy about. I was sick of touring, not feeling good about myself. Then I met my wife who was working at The Museum of Modern Art and she opened my eyes to a whole new world out there outside of rock…”

So how did the whole DJing thing come about, had either of you ever spun a record before?
“Nope. It all began by playing at friend’s house parties. We certainly couldn’t mix back then, it was just a case of selecting records and smashing them in, there was no masterplan, we were just having fun. Our intention wasn’t to take people on a journey, it was about surprising people, cutting up tunes and having fun.”

What is your favourite Motorhead story?
“Sure there was a lot of the usual madness you hear about, but my favourite story is not rock n’ roll at all. One of my hobbies is drawing and I used to sneak up when Lemmy wasn’t looking and quickly do sketches of him when he was on the toilet or in real party mode. Then I’d leave them in places where he’d eventually find them. It really pissed him off as he couldn’t figure who was doing out. The whole tour went on and he eventually twigged. He came rushing over to me and I thought I was going to have the shit kicked out of me. He stopped, placed his hand on my shoulder and handed me a copy of his ‘White Line Fever’ book with a beautiful inscription and told me my drawings were amazing. That made an impression on me more than the after hours nonsense.”

Has there been an occasion when a clubber has come up to you to shake your hand and they tell you that they used to come to your metal gigs?
“Wow, so many times. I am so glad that people have moved in the same direction as me and have got tired of Metal. I get at least five or six a night clubbers coming up to me at every gig saying ‘we were there, we were there!’. It really was surprising that these kids didn’t stop in time, the thing about the devotees that remained faithless to my old sound is that they don’t go out. They don’t go out to clubs, they wait for the gigs and in the meantime just stay at home and listen to their music. Boring huh?”

How would you describe your DJing/live show ?
“For us, it’s all about the live experience. We don’t really play a lot of other people’s stuff, we play mostly all of our production, re-edit as we go along, no set list, feel the vibe from the crowd, try new things, look at each other and know where we both want to go. When I play the drums it’s purely improvised, I just get on there and jam with the tunes.  Make it up as we go along with big fat smiles on our faces…”

What is the best dance club/festival you’ve played at so far?
“Our whole connection with the Soulwax boys is so great. Every year we get together to do the Soulwax Xmas parties, they started two years ago with a single party in Belgium, last year they stretched out to four around Europe – basically it’s a big family get together artist wise, friends like Erol Alkan and The Crookers join us all and we simply, party.”

You are playing Ibiza Rocks at the end of July – have you been to Ibiza before – do you know what you’re letting yourself in for?
“Never been, heard so much about it – the beautiful side of things and the terrifying side of things too. We are just really curious to see what it’s all about.”

Do you miss anything from the band days?
“Dan, nothing at all. I feel so happy today. Age just let’s you know when it’s time to move on and start afresh. The great thing about what we’re doing now is that it’s us – and nobody else. No dramas, no hangers-on – just two people doing something they love without all the hassle of an entourage of people who don’t really know what they’re doing.”

And finally, hot off the press, is news of the MixHell Digital label swinging our way…what can we expect?
“We have so much material in the bank. Firstly we are going to put all that out and then concentrate on new talent from around the world, crazy people, crazy ideas, craziness all the way…”

“Peace Dan”

Interview by Dan Prince