Vocalist/Guitarist- Max Cavalera
Will there be a Sepultura reunion? This has been the question on every metal fan’s mind since vocalist/guitarist Max Cavalera abruptly left the band — which included his brother Igor on drums — back in 1996. The band got a new frontman and carried on, while Max started a new legacy with his own band, Soulfly, which has found their own niche in the saturated field of metal. This past summer, after a decade of bad feelings, the Cavalera brothers reunited onstage and performed some Sepultura classics, whetting death metal fans’ already-rabid appetite worldwide for the reunion they said would never happen.
When I called up Max, he was more than willing not only to discuss his feelings about his brother and his love for the band he grew up in but also to offer up some commentary on his hatred for politics, his love for chaos and why Queen without Freddie Mercury is bullshit.
Why are Brazilian crowds so incredibly enthusiastic?
I think, they don’t get as many shows as Europeans and Americans, so they accumulate all of their feelings of anger, adrenaline the stress … so when they go to a show, they release all of that, so it seems like real crazy. This kind of music, my feeling over all is that, around the world — Max fans, Soulfly fans — they act like that everywhere. Most bands don’t like to play New York or London ’cause they say the crowd is spoiled, but I’ve never had that problem. Some of my craziest shows have been in New York, and other big cities. So I disagree, I think the craziest crowd I ever played for was in Indonesia. It was really insane when I went there ::laughs::.
Your music with Soulfly, as well as with Sepultura, is very heavy with percussion. Do you play an active role in the writing of the drum parts?
A little bit. I work with percussionists, two guys most of the time. One is a Brazilian guy who plays with Serges Mendes and Bossanova. The other is a Jamaican guy who played with Bob Marley and Lee Perry — ya know, these reggae icons. They bring that to the music. I really like drums. I’m kind of a frustrated drummer. I play four-string guitar because I wanted to be a drummer. I try to add everything within rhythm, everything within reason. I think a lot of bands try to imitate that; they say ‘Oh, we’re gonna be tribal metal,’ but there’s no such thing. I try to create something that you can recreate ’cause it was born out of accident almost, ya know. Sometimes I back away from percussion. For example, on Dark Ages, there’s no percussion of the album. Everything is heavy. I did that as a conscious decision to let people know that this is not a trend, I do it when I want to, but — check it out, it’s a good record even without percussion.
Are there any drummers, alive or dead, that you would have loved to collaborate with?
Umm … there’s a lot of great drummers, ya know. Stuart Copeland, from The Police. I like a lot of reggae drummers. They don’t get a lot of credit because people think it’s very easy to play reggae beats, but it’s not. It’s very difficult. Sly Dunbar is also a great drummer. And my brother, Igor — to me he’s the best metal drummer of all time. He can really make the drums sound like thunder, and not a lot of people can do that, regardless of the drum kit. I find that really amazing. When I played with him he’d actually change the drum sound without changing the drums, and it’s just weird (laughs), it’s like “How you do that?” So I’m very happy. I jammed with him two weeks ago, and we’re in good relationship right now.
Speaking of your brother, is there going to be an actual Sepultura reunion?
I don’t know. It looks like it could happen. I’m not gonna come out officially, ’cause there’s nothing official to be said, but it could happen. To be clear, though, Sepultura is one thing, and Soulfly is another, and I’m proud of both of them. They’re both really special in their own way. I kind of let things roll, see what happens. I have patience to wait for the right moment to do that, and do it for the right reasons.
I’m sure you must understanding all of the fans out there who are anticipating that reunion. Are there any bands that you yourself would love to see get back together?
I don’t like reunions when an original member is not part of it. I think that’s bullshit. That’s why I was really disappointed about the Queen reunion, that was bullshit. I loved the Black Sabbath reunion, I toured with them last year and getting to see them every night and that was great, it really inspired me. Actually another reason why I thought a Sepultura reunion would be great was because I saw how much fun those guys were having on the stage with Black Sabbath. Sepultura is, in a way, a little bit like Black Sabbath in being ground-breaking. Probably the reunion I’d like to see the most is Sepultura itself ::laughs:: — more than any other!
Awesome! You’ve got your son’s band, Incite, scheduled to open for you on the upcoming tour. Do you find it hard not to fall into the role of “protective father” when you tour together?
Yes, but he gets no breaks. He has to pay the dues, which include travel in a van, don’t eat for a few days. All the things I had to do. Though they have it a little easier anyways, ’cause my first gigs were really really fucked up. I remember joking with people ’cause, with Sepultura, when we first toured the U.S. we thought we were so cool ’cause we had a van. Everyone was like ‘Vans suck, man! I can’t wait to get big!’ And we were like ‘A van rules!’ We had to travel in buses with chickens and drunk people falling all over you! So I give him advice, but he has to do it on his own — for his own good, not me. ‘Cause eventually it catches up with you. He has to do it himself to figure out what he wants.
As a Brazilian who’s been a U.S. citizen for years now, what are your thoughts on our current government’s constant meddling in other countries’ business?
I wrote “Primitive,” really about that kind of stuff — political stuff in general. I hate political people, I hate politicians. Not just U.S., but everywhere. Brazilian politics, they stink as much as the president of France, or Germany or Bush. All of them seem to be in power for just one thing, and it’s not the right reason. So I stay away from politics, and my advice is that other people should, too, because politicians just corrupt people. I want live my life in music. I voice my opinion, of course, in songs like “Primitive” and “Frontline.” I’m against war and things like that, but you’ll never catch me with a politician. I’m not that kind of people.
You latest release, Dark Ages, has a pretty nihilistic feel to it. What inspired this darkness?
I’m addicted to chaos and human anger (laughs). Some people may find that weird, but I don’t know …. Sometimes I pray for a riot at my shows, ya know, cause if the tour goes two months without a riot I get really bored. I hope there’s a riot …. I try to start a riot myself. So I’m that kind of person (laughs), I just love the excitement!
What kind of music are you listening to these days?
I’m good friends with Mitch, from Napalm Death, so my favorite CD right now is their new one. It’s not out yet, it comes out in September, but it’s just a great CD — it’s gonna blow people away! I also like some different music than metal, like I love dub a lot. Bands like Dub Syndicate, and other stuff that’s very underground — not commercial at all. I remember, I was doing an interview with Jon from Korn, and I mentioned I liked dub, and he said “Yeah, it’s really in right now!” I said, “What do you mean it’s in right now?” He said “Oh, ya know, that guy Matsu…” whatever, I don’t know, that guy who’s really big right now. I just laughed ’cause that’s not what I listen to at all! … The dub I listen to is very dark, very underground. They don’t even have t-shirts, that’s how underground they are! I have to paint my own t-shirts, which I do, and I wear them I hope they forgive me when they see the picture on the internet of me wearing their shirt, which I made myself …
I don’t think they’d be upset.
… Yeah, that’s cool, that’s the spirit of the underground, right?
What’s up next for after the tour?
We tour excessive till the end of the year, U.S. tour and Australian tour, and then one show in England on New Year’s. Then we tour some more next year, and then work on the next Soulfly record. That’s what I have scheduled in my head. And then a lot of people have been asking me — they want me to do another project like what I did with Nailbomb. There’s a possibility I might do something like that, but nothing official yet.