INTERVIEW AND LIVE PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
Max Cavalera is the Brazilian vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter who currently plays with Cavalera Conspiracy and Soulfly. He co-founded the acclaimed heavy metal band Sepultura with his brother Iggor Cavalera back in 1984. The band released the album ROOTS in 1996, Sepultura’s most commercially successful album to date. After the following tour, Max left the band and formed Soulfly. Iggor left Sepultura ten years later and started Cavalera Conspiracy with Max in 2007. So far, the band has released 3 albums, including the latest PANDENOMIUM (2013). 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of ROOTS, and to celebrate that, Cavalera Conspiracy announced a series of highly successful shows where the band performed the classic album in its entirety. The sold-out tour reached Finland in early December 2016. I was able to meet Max on the tour bus before the band’s performance. We discussed the ROOTS album, the “Return to Roots” tour, the state of Soulfly, and many other topics, including Max’s favorite memory of Lemmy.
Do you remember what happened 25 years ago, in this same city? (Hameenlinna)
Max Cavalera: There was that festival, right? Daytime in summer?
Yeah. It was the Giants of Rock festival.
Max Cavalera: Yeah. I remember that well. It was a great show.
That was your first visit to Finland. Do you still remember how it was for you as a young Brazilian to come over here, to the other side of the world?
Max Cavalera: Yeah. I think I’m used to be here, running around somewhere or something? It was exciting for us, our first time in Finland. We’re always fans of Finland hardcore. We loved all the Finnish hardcore bands. So, for us to be here was really exciting. We didn’t know much of Finland, except for the hardcore. We knew the bands; Kaaos, Rattus and Terveet Kädet and Riistetyt. So, that was kind of like… What was exciting for us was that the bands we liked were from here. But I remember it was very weird for us because some way it never got dark. It was light all the time.
Yeah. It was midnight summertime here.
Max Cavalera: We arrived a day before, and we had one night off in a hotel. I remember I woke up at 3:00 in the morning and got dressed, and went down the lobby, and I was ready to do some stuff. That’s how fucked up I was. The guy in the lobby was like, “Everything is closed. It’s 3:00 in the morning” I was like, “What do you mean 3:00 in the morning?” Like yeah, it’s the middle of the night. There is nothing open. There is nowhere to go. So, I went back to my room, and I tried to sleep. But it was weird. But yeah, it was an adventure. I was wearing a Godflesh shirt. It was my favorite Godflesh shirt.
Do you still remember that?
Max Cavalera: Yeah. It looked good.
One hilarious thing happened at that festival. Do you remember who played after you?
Max Cavalera: It was some poser band?
It was Winger.
Max Cavalera: Winger, yeah. That was quite a lineup. Yeah, Winger. They didn’t have a good show. They got no chance. Sepultura was a brutal band to follow. It’s was a bad idea for anybody“Laughs.”
RETURN TO ROOTS
But now it’s 2016, and you on tour with Cavalera Conspiracy. The tour is called “Return to Roots” and performs the classic Sepultura album ROOTS entirely. I think that it’s just a fantastic idea to do. Is this something that you have been planning for a long time, actually?
Max Cavalera: We haven’t really planned this for a long time. We’ve been trying to do the reunion for a long time with the other jackasses. But they don’t want to do it. They keep fucking it up, and at one time, I called Andreas. I said, “let’s fucking do it, man” I got so frustrated. I was just going nowhere with it. Because I want to do it for the fans. So, thank God, Gloria came up with this idea. She was saying, “How about just you and Iggor? Just do it yourselves. It’s your record. You wrote it. Iggor played drums on it. You wrote all the music on it. You sang all the stuff. I think people will like to see it just like this, and they don’t care about the rest” I was a little bit apprehensive at first. I was like, “I don’t know ?” and so we did a test. We decided to try it first, so we did a festival in Canada. The show was fucking great. Everybody loved it. And next, we did a whole US tour, and it was fantastic. The European tour was all sold out. Like all the shows were sold out. So, I don’t remember having a full sold-out tour like this ever before, and this was like the first time, So, it was like, this was like a great idea. I think most of what it works about is, and I think many people weren’t around when ROOTS came out, and they want to see it now. A lot of young kids and a lot of people were not able to see it back then. It’s a bit different because we play the whole record. So, it’s not the “Roots tour of ’96”. Because the “Roots” tour had all the songs, stuff from BENEATH THE REMAINS, ARISE, CHAOS A.D. This is just the ROOTS album first, for an hour and one minute. Then we do with the next half an hour, which is what I call our garage time. So, it’s us just playing what we love. A couple of solid songs that we played, like Celtic Frost’s “Procreation Of The Wicked.” It was a B side of “Roots.” So, it fits with the ROOTS theme.
And you’re also doing a great version of “Ace of Spades.”
Max Cavalera: “Ace of Spades.” We do it because it is an all-new version and it sounds fantastic to me. It sounds great, and it’s fun to play. Then every and now we do a little bit different things. A couple of pieces of Sepultura songs or Black Sabbath stuff that we like. Slayer sometimes a little bit. But it’s kind of like a garage time. So, you really feel like you’re in a garage, jamming with a bunch of guys. I think that’s the feeling the crowd gets. People that watch the show had said to me, “It looks like you’re having a lot of fun.” And I am, yeah. I am really having a lot of fun. Then we do a new version of “Roots” “Roots 2016”. It’s, of course, the last song of the show. There is a weird story behind the song. The original “Roots” demo was recorded four-track when I first wrote it, and it had a kind of fast ending, but that was never used in the studio. Now “Roots 2016” is almost all fast…
So, the version you’re playing now is based on the original demo?
Max Cavalera: So, it’s from the demo. It’s more like the original demo. It’s like the end of the demo. But we’re turning it really fast, to like a full song. So, it’s really cool.
As a longtime fan, I admit that I just love tours like this where bands are playing classic albums in its entirety.
Max Cavalera: I think that now it’s a good time for this. I sometimes think in an artist’s life, and he has to kind of take a moment and look back and then act. I think it’s good for artists to do that. I think when you do it, and you do it the right way like this. Then it’s very good. You get something really good out of it. It’s like Metallica said tomorrow they’re playing RIDE THE LIGHTNING. I love to see that. I will love it. Or if Slayer saying they’re going to play HELL AWAITS, the entire record. Who wouldn’t love that? So yeah. I think it works great.
ROOTS album was really successful, but after that, things started to fall. The album was like the end of the chapter, not just for you, but for the whole band. I think you must have some bad memories from that era as well?
Max Cavalera: I have a couple of bad memories. I didn’t like that time of our life, especially after the album came out. In Brazil, it got ridiculously big that was like Beatles or something. I couldn’t go anywhere else. Which the more I get mobbed with 200 people that didn’t even like metal? But it was just… It was like… It was like Sepultura mania, which was ridiculous, man. I’m a metal guy. I don’t need that. I don’t want that. I never got into music for that, to become that. So, for me, that part of my life fucking sucks. I fucking hate it, and I was drinking a lot to stay away from that shit and taking a lot of pills. So, the combination was terrible. Then, of course, inside, it was all crazy. Some people in the band listened to the wrong people. All of them listened to the wives and friends telling them this stuff, that stuff. The final straw for me was when one of their wives attempted to arrange Dana’s (a stepson of Max and a son of Gloria) funeral before Gloria, and I returned home from England. That for me, it was I can’t. I cannot be with you guys anymore. I grew up with these guys, but this is the kind of stuff that is for me beyond music. It’s like no respect for life, and so it was very heavy. So, I had to leave, man. I had to get out. I did, and I think it was for me the right thing to do. I think I don’t dwell on it like, what could have been if I would have stayed with Sepultura. Sepultura would have become one of the biggest… Like Sharon Osbourne says in the book, we’re becoming the next Metallica. Again, I never wanted to be the next Metallica. So, I probably wouldn’t be happy with that. So, for me to going to Soulfly, it was a really good decision actually. It was a good thing to do.
Right. Actually, I remember, ’96 I was in Donington festival, and then Sepultura performed there without you, and I remember how it was shocking later on to hear what had happened… (Dana had died in a car accident)
Max Cavalera: Yeah, yeah. It was a tragic, tragic time. When tragedy strikes like that, you’re not prepared. You have to deal with it, but you’re not prepared. Yeah, it was really rough. Really heavy. We dealt with it the best we could, but I think by that time after he (Dana) died, the tour was… Musically it was still a good time. The shows were good, but outside of music, it was all rotten. It was all like corroded. There was no point in working together anymore.
THE STATE OF SOULFLY
You’ve been doing this tour for a while, but what you’re going to once this is over. And are we maybe going to see and hear more tours like this in the future?
Max Cavalera: Yeah, but I can’t forget about my own band like Soulfly. Soulfly is very important for me. So, I’m going to work on a new Soulfly next year. Because even many fans who came to the “Roots” thing asked me about Soulfly, they were worried about Soulfly. So, I had to guarantee to them that, listen. Everything is good. We’re not trading. Like I’m not stopping Soulfly for this, because I’m doing this kind of tour. Even as successful as it is, I love Soulfly. I love what Soulfly does and represents, and I’m excited about a new Soulfly record anyway.
What’s the state of the Soulfly new album?
Max Cavalera: We don’t have anything ready yet. We just have like ideas. I think I would try to do a mix of solid stuff done songs, similar to the first album. It’s going to be very tribal stuff that I haven’t done in a long time. Some of the stuff will be very heavy, like what it was on the last few Soulfly records. So, I think that this combination might be really cool. So many people are looking forward to it.
So maybe in few years, we could see another tour like this under some other special theme?
Max Cavalera: We could, we could. I think we are doing it when the time is right. We have to do it the right way like this tour was. This was really well put together as far like it was possible this fast. I think early in the year is when we first started talking about it. Then kind of like the middle of the year is when we did the festival in Canada. From that point on, we decided to do it. We did a US tour and European Tour, and now we go into Russia and South America. This year we do it at Christmas. We didn’t know how good it was going to be. So, for us, it was a little bit of a risky thing to do also. We didn’t know if people were going to approve it. If people were going to like it. But by the time we got to Europe, and we started hearing all this, the boss said that the stuff is sold out. So, it was fantastic. Even here, I think it’s being sold out for like a month of tour. So, that’s amazing. How can you not be happy with a tour that does that? Yeah, it doesn’t happen every day.
I have to ask if you have heard any comments from the Sepultura camp regarding this tour and the success?
Max Cavalera: I’m sure they are not happy. But no, I haven’t heard anything from them. But there’s like one thing I have to say about those guys. Like, tell me one great song they have written since I left? Name one great album they have put out after that? I haven’t seen anything. I don’t know one name of one song as popular as “Roots Bloody Roots” So, it just tells me like whatever they are doing, I don’t know how they keep ongoing. I don’t think it’s working at all. But somehow, they keep on going, somehow. It’s crazy to me. But we say, just fuck it. Because we got tired of asking them to do a reunion, and they never wanted to do it. So, I just said Gloria had the idea. Just do these shows, Iggor, and we’re doing this. Fuck it. I don’t give a shit what they say. We’re going to do this, and it’s great. We don’t care what they think or say. They can talk shit if they want to. I saw some interview where Andreas said something like, “ROOTS, it’s a very difficult album to play.” No, it’s not. I wrote 70% of it. It’s not difficult to play at all. SCHIZOPHRENIA is difficult to play, full of different riffs.
Or MORBID VISIONS?
Max Cavalera: Right. Or BENEATH THE REMAINS, which has all these thrash riffs. But ROOTS is actually much more simple. We simplified the writing, and the riffs became more punk, more straight. So, it’s actually easier to play live. Of course, it took quite a while to get it done right. So, we had a bunch of practice for this tour, but we got it right. I think it sounds fantastic. You’ll see it tonight. See, it’s exactly like the record, song by song. Which is the first hour, and then we had the garage thing in the end. It was just really cool too.
I think it’s great that you and Iggor are doing this Cavalera Conspiracy thing together. After you left Sepultura, you two had a long break with no communication with each other so, doing this thing together must do good for your brotherhood?
Max Cavalera: Yeah, it is. Especially, after all we went through, not talking. It’s hard to say. But he is one of the reasons why I even quit the band. I wasn’t getting along with him, and he’s my own blood, and it happens. It happens in the family. The family is sometimes difficult. It’s not easy to deal with the family. It’s sometimes very hard, hard. But now we’re on great terms and really enjoying it and playing live. I think I hadn’t had as much fun in a long time. Where I just go out there and just enjoy myself. It’s like it’s fucking great. Just to hear his drumming sounds great, and sometimes I just have to pinch myself. Is this really real? It’s happening. Yeah. Because that 10 years I was… It was a tough time, man. For me as a brother, it was a very painful time. I was doing Soulfly, of course. My career couldn’t stop, and I couldn’t let it go to waste. But on a personal level, it was very difficult. For me, those 10 years that I didn’t speak with him. It was a very hurtful time.
When Iggor finally left Sepultura in 2006, he started to do totally different things. He did some DJ stuff and… So, what is hard for him to come back into the metal world?
Max Cavalera: I don’t think so. Igor always loved metal, but he has always been different. Even in Sepultura, he was a different guy. Like if you go back to the phases. You can go back to basics, to the early years… Sometimes around SCHIZOPHRENIA, he was heavily into skateboarding and liked stuff like RUN DMC that I really wasn’t too crazy about. I have always been more metal. But Iggor has always been kind of like; he always liked the different stuff.
He was always your opposite?
Max Cavalera: Yeah. But you know, it was good. It’s good to have different ideas. It is good to get inspired by different things. But for Iggor and me, we are not that different. Like, I think I’m more of a metal fan than him. He says, like tonight, he says he doesn’t listen to metal when the show is over. I’m the opposite. I go up to the bed and put metal on, and I love listening to more metal after the show. So, we’re different in that area. But in the other areas we kind of like… we agree on a lot of things. I think it’s good. That’s why it works that great.
We’re going to end this interview soon, but there are few things still left to ask. You have a couple of shows left. Russia, the second leg of US shows, what’s going to happen after that?
Max Cavalera: After Russia, we go to South America. We save all the way to Christmas. We play one show in particular. I think it’s going to be very emotional in Sao Paulo. Because it’s December 16th and it is a very special day, that was my last show with Sepultura 20 years ago in Brixton. So, that’s the day of the Sao Paulo show. So, that will be a little bit emotional kind of to repeat.
And then the tour is finally over by now?
Max Cavalera: Then the tour is over. Then I go home, and I start to write some new Soulfly shit. We do another run of “Roots” -tour in February in America with Full of Hell. Then we do some festivals in the summer with “Roots” and then…
Are you going to do some festivals in Europe?
Max Cavalera: Yeah, we’re going to try. We’re going to try. So hopefully, yeah. Hopefully, I will have Soulfly recorded by that time, and the album can hopefully come out. Hopefully, by the end of the year.
It’s time to end this interview soon, but before that, I would like to ask you a question, Lemmy who sadly passed away a year ago, I know that you were his big fan, so whether you have a good Lemmy story to tell our readers?
Max Cavalera: Yeah, man. Lemmy stories, there a lot of them in my book. I tried to put all of them in the book.
Maybe you can share one with us now?
Max Cavalera: I think my best one was meeting him in London, we were on tour for BENEATH THE REMAINS. They were off somewhere. So, we went to a pub, and it was a famous pub, and I forgot its name. But Lemmy was there playing his little machine, and we were at a table. It was me, Andreas, Paulo, Igor. So, I wanted to go and talk to him. So, I needed liquid courage. So, I got drunk first. Then I got drunk, and I went up to him, and I started barging him. “I’m from Brazil, man. I love your band,” and he looked at me and goes, “You have to leave me alone now. I’m playing my machine,” I was like, “but you don’t understand. I’m a big fan,” and then he grabbed a whiskey, and he pours on my head for me to leave. For me, that was the best thing, because I came back to the table and I told the other Sepultura guys. Like I just got baptized. Lemmy had baptized me. You could smell the whiskey in my head.
How many days did it take before you took a shower because you had Lemmy’s whisky on you? “Laughs.”
Max Cavalera: Yeah, yeah. It was like a week. Smelly and everything, Lemmy’s whiskey in my head. So, that was cool. Then we kind of became friends a little bit on tour. We started now liking each other first. He didn’t like me first, and I think that’s really cool. Because I think most people that will revolve around Lemmy always kiss his ass, and I didn’t do that. I called him ugly. I think the first time. I said you’re fucking ugly as hell. I don’t think most people say that shit to him.
What a great way to start a friendship! “Laughs”
Max Cavalera: Yeah. So, that was bad. Like he didn’t like me, and I like his music. But I was like, that guy is a punk man. So, it was a weird, weird relationship. But I think that’s what he liked about it. He liked the arrogance. I think he said that in an interview, “Those Sepultura guys, they are an arrogant son of a bitches like us.” I think it was really cool that he said that “Laughs.”
So, when was the last time when you met him?
Max Cavalera: The last time I saw Lemmy. Yeah, it was late. I was already with Soulfly, and everything was good between us. We became friends again. He didn’t care for the crazy time. It was all under the water. I think that was… The last time I saw him was the Black Sabbath show in the park in England. I think it was two years ago. It was Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Faith No More…
Wasn’t that show in Hyde Park in London?
Max Cavalera: I think it was Hyde Park? Motorhead was playing there, and Lemmy went to the stage with a golf cart and a wheelchair. It was sad. Right before he went on the stage, I shook his hand to say, “How are you doing, man?” He says he’s good, but you can tell. He was not good. And we have friends that work for them. So, they told us bad stories. So, it was a bit sad. It was weird because we were… There are those hoaxes that happened before. I don’t know if you remember those?
I remember that rumor….
Max Cavalera: There was this death hoax that people died and one of them was that Lemmy died on my birthday. Which freaked the fuck out! It freaked me out. It was like, “Wow! Holy shit! He died on my birthday.” But it was fake, and I was like, good, my friend is feeling good. It was fake. But then he died for real. The next time was real. And Lemmy was a real guy. I think that you cannot contest that. I think he always will be an inspiration for many of us, and I always like the rebel side of it. I always thought that was cool. That was genuine… He wasn’t a plastic rebel; he was a real rebel. You can tell the difference between a plastic rebel and a real rebel when somebody is trying hard to be a rebel and somebody that’s really for real.
And he was a real rebellion for his whole life.
Max Cavalera: Yeah. So, it was like… I’m glad that our relationship started like that. Like with commotion and not good. I’ve put a lot of Lemmy stories in my book. I try to remember as much as I could. There are some really great pictures on the Internet, I think. We did a photoshoot for Kerrang. I was on a cover of Kerrang with him. I had a bottle of wine that I was throwing wine all over. He didn’t like that very much.
Because it was the wine or… “Laughs.”
Max Cavalera: Or because I was really drunk, I don’t know. Because he did drink a lot, but he didn’t get drunk, right?
Yeah, yeah. That sounds like Lemmy’s “Laughs.” Thanks for this interview, Max!
Max Cavalera: No problem. See you on the show soon!