conversations with bianca

Max Cavalera on: New Music, A Return To Roots & Having A True Metal Family

When the announcement for Max & Iggor Cavalera’s Return To Roots Australian Tour showed up in my email inbox I had a little squeal of delight. In my collection I have multiple copies of Sepultura’s Roots record: vinyl, CD (advanced promo with slightly alternate track order), regular CD and cassette; I also have a promo Roots mouse pad! Roots (released in 1996) was a very special album in the metal universe, it was daring, groundbreaking and influential. The fusion of heavy music and world music made it exciting, new and original—resonating strongly with my heart. I’ve always had an affinity for artists that are the trailblazers, the rebels, the one’s that just do them! The track ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ from the album is very much a positive, believe in yourself kind of song, just the kind of vibe conversationswithbianca.com is all about.

Max spoke to me about Roots, the new Cavalera Conspiracy album, Soulfly playing the Nailbomb Point Blank record live and the new record in the works for next year, his lyrics, lessons learnt from the Xavante tribe, of his family, his dogs and more.

Having followed your musical journey since I was a teen, I’ve observed that you’re constantly creating and working; where does your hard work ethic come from?

MC: I always dreamt of doing this since I was really, really young. I started Sepultura when I was thirteen, with a big dream to one day actually live off music, that I wouldn’t have to have another job or anything—we’ve made that dream come true! Now to maintain the dream, some people say that that is even the hardest part, even harder than to make your band famous; that’s one of the reasons we have to keep pulling stuff out. Also though, I love to keep busy. I always say, you rest when you are dead. When we are here, I like to keep busy and working, producing and creating; for me that is the best use of my life, to stay creative.

What does it mean to you to be creative?

MC: It can be anything. It can be a new record, like we have the new Cavalera [Conspiracy] right now’ or a new tour; other projects that you have, ideas for future projects or other bands. In my case, I have four bands, I stay pretty busy with them, and sometimes it’s hard to juggle all of them. I have plans for Soulfly next year, hopefully something with Killer Be Killed later. It’s great, I love it, just going from band to band, they’re all different from each other and that’s what keeps it exciting. Soulfly is its own thing, Cavalera is its own thing, Killer be Killed is its own then, then the Roots tour is its own different beast! That’s an album that was done 20 years ago, and we’re revisiting that, and that’s so exciting. I love all of these projects that we got going.

I know that your wife Gloria is also your manager, it must be nice to have someone that you can trust and rely on to have your back take care of the business side of things which then frees you up to focus on creating.

MC: Yes, we have a really special relationship as a team. That’s why we maintain for so many years. We like the same stuff, we like travelling, we watch the same TV shows that we love, we read a lot of the same books—we’re really close like that. It’s great that I can just worry about music and don’t have to worry about the business side, I let her worry about that, she’s really good with all that. She has spent so many hours on it, sometimes she’s up at three or four in the morning doing business in music. Concentrating on the music side is what I’m here for, to be able to do that is a blessing. In my case it goes even further though, we have the whole family involved, my son plays drums for Soulfly now, some of the other sons work with us too, one is a roadie for the bass player, and my other son Richie sells t-shirts on the road. My step-daughter Christina, works with us too. The whole family is involved with the music, with the metal—we are a true metal family in essence, not fake but, real, genuine, true. I am so proud of it, it’s great. We all support each other’s things, my kids have bands, Lody Kong and Incite, I do what I can to help them and they do what they can to help me. I have a really good relationship with my young son, Igor, he likes a lot of the same music, heavy music like me, he’s always showing me bands so I get to know bands like Nails because of him—it keeps me modern so I don’t grow into no old fart! [laughs].

When you come to Australia soon, you’ll be playing the Sepultura Roots album; how does playing ‘Roots’ 20 years later inspire your current and future projects?

MC: Oh big time! Not much in the music though, although there is a song on the new Cavalera album that is a little tribal, it has some recordings from Africa that Iggor [Max’s brother] made, so that is very much coming from the Roots idea, it could even be on the Roots album, it’s that kind of song. Everything else, the influence is more in terms of how positive the reaction of the Roots has really been, it’s shown us that people really appreciate what you do, even 20 years later, it’s such a huge thing for some people and means so much to them. With albums that you make, like this Cavalera one right now, we hope that these albums will be just as important and good to people as albums like Roots. That’s what we tried to do at least. Coming out of the Roots tour and going straight into the studio, it was the best thing that could have happened for us; we went straight from tour to recording—that deeply affected the record. The success of the Roots tour was a big push on the album.

I watched a little promo video, The Conspiracy Diaries, for the new Cavalera Conspiracy and I noticed that you had this pretty cool looking notebook you were writing in and flicking through the pages of, when in the studio. I noticed some of the lyrics to a song called ‘Necrotyrant’; can you tell me about that song?

MC: Yeah, I actually ended up not using that song. Maybe I’m going to use that in the future, for something like Soulfly. [Laughs] that’s so funny that you caught that! That’s so cool. You have a good eye.

I told you I care, I’ve been listening to your work since I was a teen. In high school my friends and I used to rock out to your songs, it meant so much to us, and still does.

MC: Thank you. You have to watch out with the internet though, it’s crazy [laughs], little details like that can be caught, like you did [laughs]. I’m pretty blown away by that right now… the words for that song that you saw didn’t make the cut. A lot of times when you are writing a stuff, you have a feeling for the record, and that song didn’t match what we were trying to do with this album. If you see that song on the next Soulfly, you will remember that it came from that [laughs].

Those books we write lyrics in are cool, we take them on tour and I write everything in there. A lot of times a lot of my influences were born on tour. ‘Refuse/Resist’ was actually from a jacket, I was on the subway in New York and there was a Black Panther guy with a leather jacket with a bunch of words on it and it said ‘Refuse, Resist’ at the bottom of his jacket, I turned that into a song. Omen, was the Soulfly record, it was some spray-paint that I saw in England on a wall; someone had written ‘omen’ on the wall and I thought that was cool name for a record. A lot of times it’s cool to have these notebooks on tour so that any ideas that you have you can put it in and use later, that’s what we try to do, and put in as many ideas that you can. By the time you make a record you have some many ideas and stuff written that you don’t really have to do so much, it works out pretty good like that for us.

I also noticed in your book a copy of, The Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon [a biblical book of poetry celebrating erotic love].

MC: Yeah, the book and that was a present from my wife.

I thought so!

MC: [Laughs] Yes. I think she brought it on tour, it was for my birthday or Father’s Day, a commemorative date. It looks really cool, it’s really beautiful, it’s leather and has all these really cool poems in it. I love stuff like that. She actually just gave me a new one, which I’m supposed to write some stuff for the new Soulfly in it, the cover is made out of wood, its real heavy and looks really old school.

Wow! Very cool. I love unique notebooks too.

MC: What we do that is cool also is that when I am done with the lyrics, I give the books to her to put away. She has all my lyrics going all the way back to the Sepultura days. She has a lot of the originals. She put them away for our kids hopefully, when we’re not here anymore, they can have stuff like that to remember us. If it was up to me, I’d throw everything away, I don’t care, I don’t really collect stuff… except headphones! [laughs]. I don’t collect my lyrics or any of that shit, I am glad she keeps it though. The other day in fact she found a lot of cool recordings from when I was writing Chaos A.D., and Roots, she put that on the internet for people to hear. I haven’t heard those tapes in years so it was really cool to listen to them, it was quite a trip to hear some of those 4-track songs. It’s still the exact way that I record now, how I’ve been recording since Chaos A.D., with a drum machine, a 4-track recorder, a couple of guitar pedals and a guitar, that’s all you need to make all the riffs for the album. Sometimes full songs come, ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ was a full song and done on 4-tracks before the band was even involved, I had most of the song done. [Soulfly’s] ‘Eye For An Eye’ was like that, we had a full on… we went into Roadrunner’s office with a demo with ‘Eye For An Eye’ and ‘No’ that’s how we, Soulfly, got signed after they heard the songs. It’s cool to have those things.

My mother actually sent me a notebook, it was the first time that I wrote Sepultura lyrics in it and wrote the Sepultura logo, I was thirteen. Gloria knew someone at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, she mentioned she had this book, and they loved it. She let them borrow it, now it’s on display in a heavy metal exhibition in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, which is awesome! We went there to see it and took some pictures, it was really cool. To me it’s a trip, to think that something like that, a notebook is in a place like that! Thank god my mom saved it and sent it to Gloria.

On the new Cavalera Conspiracy album will there be a song called ‘Excruciating’?

MC: Yeah, it’s the last song on the album. There’s actually nine songs, there’s an instrumental. There’s a song with Justin [Broadrick] from Godflesh called ‘Hellfire’ it’s about drones and how drones kill people from the air, eye-in-the-sky type shit. The record is done and mastered.

They’re going to release some more of The Conspiracy Diaries. We had a guy that filmed the whole process. To be honest it was kind of annoying, he had the camera on all the fucking time, even when nothing was going on. I’d look at him and be like, man, shut the camera off, we’re just sitting here listening to the recording, no one is even saying anything, you’re wasting film. He did capture a lot of cool stuff though, how you make the record. I hope that the fans can get an intimate look at how an album like that is done, from beginning to end. That was the idea of filming everything. We did our part letting them film. We did interviews about the recording. We’re excited, it came out really good. I like the record a lot! It’s my favourite Cavalera album of all of them—it’s one of my favourite albums I’ve ever done actually.

I can’t wait to hear it. I saw that your dog was sitting beside you on the couch for some of the recording while you were playing guitar.

MC: Yeah, that was at home recording.

What’s your dog’s name?

MC: Well, we have three. They’re called, Luba (she’s a girl), Sophia (another girl) and there’s also Truffles (he’s a boy). We had the dad, Spanky, but he died last year.

Oh-no, I am so sorry.

MC: Yeah, he got bit by a bigger dog, it was really fucked up and really sad. We gave one away to Gloria’s step-daughter, it’s called, Rick James Bitch! [laughs]. That’s its whole name. That place me and the dog was sitting is my writing place, I’ve been writing there for a couple of years. For this album I went crazy, I spent two months writing riffs. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before, I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time writing riffs. I was obsessed with the record, I wanted to make the best record that I could make, in terms of riffs, so I went all out. I think I only used about 10% of the riffs that I wrote. There’s 90% of riffs I can use for other things now, which is good. I have stuff for Soulfly for next year [laughs].

What’s your favourite thing about the new Cavalera Conspiracy?

MC: My favourite thing is the purity. It has a pure heart. It’s the music that me and Iggor really love, all of the elements we really love: aggression, fast stuff, breakdowns. It’s based on thrash and death metal, the both styles that we love. It also has some new stuff, modern stuff, like noise and industrial stuff like the song with Justin. It’s got some tribal stuff too like the instrumental song ‘Psychosis’. It’s real alive man. The record is just really vibrating and really alive. The producer Arthur [Rizk] did a great job, it sounds fantastic. We had Joel [Grind] from Toxic Holocaust mastering, he did a great job. It’s a huge sounding record. The songs in itself… I did some stuff I haven’t done since Morbid Visions [Sepultura’s debut], like just going crazy with the vocals without thinking too much, just putting down a crazy vocal pattern—it was so much fun doing that! We had a blast in the studio doing spur of the moment stuff, I think it came out good because of that. Iggor’s playing is great, his drumming is amazing. Marc [Rizzo] did some great solos. Everybody was really motivated, doing a labour of love, everyone really loved what they were doing—when you have that, a lot of the time the result will be good. I’m so impatient, I want people to hear it, but the label is like you can’t show that to anybody yet [laughs]. I just want people to hear it!

Is there a release date yet?

MC: They’re looking at October or November right now.

Aaah that seems so far away!

MC: I know, right?! It’s like torture! [laughs].

Yes! I have an interview clipping from 1992, where you comment: “If I forgot my roots I’d lose my self-pride…”; what are the things that you hold dear that keep you connected to your roots?

MC: Hopefully my interest in the whole idea that was kind of born from the Roots album—world music, tribal music with metal. It was never quite done before we did that. I’d love to expand more on that. In the early Soulfly stuff, there was a lot of percussion on it, stuff like that. Later on albums like, Prophecy [2004] and Dark Ages [2005], I did some travelling, I went to Russia, Turkey and Egypt, to try and capture sounds, world music to put on the record. Now that I’m going to work on the new Soulfly for next year, I really want to go hard with this idea again, the whole world music meets metal thing, full on! It should be a really cool album, I have a lot of travel planning to do field recordings.

The melding of heavy music with world music and a tribal-ness in your work is something that has always resonated strongly with me, there’s such a primal quality about it. I admire people who create something new and that push boundaries—to me that is punk rock.

MC: Yes, right! I think so. It is liberating. I was wondering where could we go after Chaos A.D.? From Arise [1991] there was a big change within our sound, we decided to change again. We wanted to do something people weren’t expecting, we could have easily made Chaos A.D. part two, and it would have been just as great, people love Chaos A.D., or even made an Arise part two, but we wanted to do a new thing. The tribe thing came out of that. We actually got to go to the tribe in Brazil and that was an amazing, amazing experience. I’m glad we did it and stuck to our guns when it came to the Roots album, even though it was controversial and not everyone liked it. I think that that’s a hallmark of a good record, it’s not for everybody, but those who like it, really like it!

What did you learn from spending time with the indigenous people?

MC: A lot of it was to respect nature and the spiritual side of things, the rituals. A lot of the chanting that they did were spiritual chantings, that was really cool. They don’t have religion like us, they’re not obligated to go to church, they are not under God. Nature is their God, so they respect that, that is really cool. I learn a lot from that, that’s why I like a lot of nature stuff. I love the desert, that’s why I live in Arizona, its beautiful here, a lot of beautiful landscape. There’s some really awesome sunsets and thunderstorms, especially this time of year, they’re called monsoons. Having an appreciation for nature is the best thing I learned from them.

In the video you recently did announcing that Soulfly was playing Nailbomb’s Point Blank record, behind you the sky looks insane, the colours are so vivid and beautiful; is that what you’re talking about?

MC: Yeah. It was funny because we did a video inside the house and I looked out the window and saw the crazy sky and said, we gotta go do this outside, it looks apocalyptic as hell. We went outside and did it, it was right at the sunset, that’s the sunsets I was talking about. One of the guys on the internet commented: Max lives next door to hell! [laughs]. I thought that was funny as hell, it was so cool we got a comment like that. We got lucky on that one and got to capture the bright, crazy red sky! That announcement was perfect for that.

It’s so exciting that you’re playing that! My husband still has his Nailbomb shirt from 1994 that says on the back ‘Feels Good to be a Punk Loser’, it’s totally worn with big holes and changed from black to grey!

MC: [Laughs] That’s so cool. We just had to do this album. People have been asking me for this album for 20 years. People want me to make a new Nailbomb too, but that’s not going to happen; me and Alex [Newport] are totally done with it. We never said that we’d never play it live though, so we decided let’s go ahead and do that. We’re preparing that right now, when we come back from Australia we’re going to practice some more and get it done. Hopefully next year we keep doing this with Nailbomb and we bring that to Australia as well.

Yes! Please do. I cannot wait to see you play soon.

MC: It’s going to be great, the shows will be awesome!

Buy tickets for the Return To Roots Oz tour HERE.

Please check out:

maxandiggorreturntoroots.com

cavaleraconspiracy.net

soulfly.com

killerbekilled.com

gloriacavalera.com

facebook.com/INCITEband

facebook.com/lodykong7

Also, DONATE to the IGGY FUND! Your donation will support ‘Iggy Kits’ during a frightening and overwhelming time for children who are newly-diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes: DONATE HERE.

CREATE FOREVER, B xox

* Live photos courtesy of the Cavalera Conspiracy instagram @cavaleraconspiracy

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