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Max Cavalera left Brazilian metal band Sepultura back in 1996. His brother, Iggor, quit a decade later, as the last original member. But the Cavaleras are still closely associated with the group, partly because they are performing its classic album "Roots" in its entirety on tour, and partly because the two sides always seem to be going off on one another in the media.
Ahead of the Cavaleras' Sunday show at Metro Music Hall in Salt Lake City, The Salt Lake Tribune did a phone interview with each brother, talking about the tour, their other projects, and their bad blood with Sepultura.
So, a bit of housekeeping, first: I've seen your name spelled with one "g" and with two. Which is correct?
I changed it [to two g's] a few years back. My mom, for some crazy reason, she's really into numerology and stuff like that, and she told to, and she thought it would be cool to do it. And since she's the one that gave me the name in the first place, I was like, "Yeah, sure."
Is this band different from Cavalera Conspiracy?
It is different due to the fact that we don't play any of the Cavalera Conspiracy stuff. Even though we are the same members. That's why we decided not to call it Cavalera Conspiracy, 'cause we would not be performing any of the songs. So it's just like a special night where we play the "Roots" record. We thought that it would make more sense to call it Max and Iggor, rather than the band.
I read that the first six Sepultura albums, which both you and Max played on, were just given a big re-release, so I was wondering if that held any special meaning for you or if you have any special affection for your oldest stuff?
Yeah, we're really proud of the stuff that we did, there's no doubt. It's cool to see, especially the way they packaged the stuff it's really cool. Especially with vinyl and the box set. Personally, I'm a vinyl collector, so for me, it was really cool to see how they did it. And, of course, for a lot fans, it means a lot to have those first records as part of their collection.
You guys started doing this "Return to Roots Tour" last year in honor of the album's 20th anniversary. So can you describe to me what the album means to you and what its continuing legacy seems to mean to the fans who show up to see you play it?
It was such a special album for us, in the sense that it was very experimental at the time it broke a lot of barriers. The fact that, to be honest, in the beginning, I was, like, not really into the idea. And then I went to see Black Flag play in London, and they were performing all their old tracks that I never really had a chance to see live because I was in Brazil at the time and they never made it there. For me, that was quite special I had a chance to experience a band that I'd been a fan of my whole life. And they were older guys really kicking ass. And then, for me, that was very inspirational. Because even though I want to move forward and do things with Cavalera Conspiracy, it's still valid for a lot of people who didn't get a chance to see what we did on "Roots" then, to see it nowadays. Young people, or even people who are gonna revisit that time. That was quite special.
Given that this is kind of a unique performance, what do you have planned for once this tour is over?
I just finished recording with this band called Soulwax, from Belgium, and I'm gonna be touring with that. And then, of course, Max is gonna jump back into Soulfly, and then at one point this year, we're gonna record a new Cavalera record, so it's gonna be a pretty busy year with all the things that we're doing, and trying to do a few more shows for "Roots" before we finish this.
It seems like there's always something of a back-and-forth, things being said by you or Max, then something being said by one of your former Sepultura bandmates. Can you give me your perspective on where that relationship is, if it's totally broken at this point? If there's nothing but negativity on both sides?
It is negative because, to a certain extent, me and Max believe Sepultura doesn't really make sense nowadays, to do what they're doing, and with that comes a lot of anger from their part. But, at the end of the day, we don't really care. This is what we do. And we're really happy with what we have right now. I know a lot of fans appreciate that by coming to see us. I don't know life's too short to be angry and fighting and doing all this stuff. So I don't really care what they do or what they don't do.
Just one other question along those lines. I've read where Max has said in the past that he's pursued a full-lineup reunion and was met with resistance. Is that something that, if attitudes changed and there was a meeting of the minds, you'd be open to in the future? Or have you just washed your hands of it at this point?
We don't really … Unless it's something really solid and we haven't seen that from their part of doing something totally professional and coming together, trying to do something like that. At the end of the day, it would be special for the fans, so it's not like a closed door, but at the same time, we have no time to spend energy with this kind of thing. So we just move forward.
I read that you just did a guest spot on the song 'All Love Is Lost' from the new Body Count album. So I was wondering if you'd just tell me about your involvement with that?
Me and Ice-T, we go back quite awhile, we go back to the Sepultura-Ministry-Helmet tour. The Helmet band, they had an accident so they couldn't make some shows, so Body Count played those shows, and I met Ice-T at that time. And he was a big Sepultura fan he loved the heavy stuff, like Slayer. He was cool as hell. And we kept in contact. I just saw him last year … and they came to Phoenix. And I was backstage, and Ice was like, "I'm making a new record. Why don't you come down and check it out and maybe bring some riffs?" And I was like, "Yeah, sure, I'll do that." He was doing the record in Phoenix, which is where I live. So I worked on three of my favorite riffs that I think will fit the Body Count vibe, and I brought the riffs with me to show them. And he loved the riffs and he used all three of them! So I'm very honored. And then he asked me to sing on a song, which is great. He sent me the song with his vocals on, and I just put my vocals on top of it. And it came out killer. It's a great song it's awesome, heavy.
The thing that impressed about Body Count is just how good they are right now they're just tight. They're a totally awesome metal band that's just really tight. And real nice guys, too, so it was just a lot of fun. Some of those guys I remember from the Helmet-Ministry tour, like Ernie, the guitar player. So I was very honored. Ice-T's got credibility, his stuff is legendary. To be part of his record like that, to be involved with it like that, it was killer, it was something that I'm very proud of. I've always been a big Ice-T fan, and I love everything that he does, and I love that he's so proactive and funny. When he plays live, he just [messes] with the crowd most of the time. It's amazing and it's funny as hell. I can't wait to hear the whole thing done.
I'm very proud that they asked me, and very honored that they used all three of my riffs. That's probably the part that I like the most, that he likes the riffs. 'Cause that's what I do I'm a riff man. I love riffs, I live for riffs, I get up in the morning writing riffs, I go to bed writing riffs. Most people think of me more for the vocals and the lyrics, but I like to think that my main craft is the riffs. So I'm very proud that he loved the riffs.
Iggor told me you'll be doing some more with Soulfly this year. What can you tell me about that?
Well right now I've got a couple things on my plate. Right after this tour is done, we're making the new Killer Be Killed finally, the second record! And I'm so excited because I know the guys better now, I know Troy [Sanders] better, and I know Greg [Puciato] better. And they have also really stepped up in their own careers. If you listen to the projects that Troy has done, like Gone Is Gone I love the "Gone Is Gone" record. And I love the new Dillinger Escape Plan record I think Greg is an amazing vocalist and probably the best frontman of the last 20 years. He's an amazing frontman. So I'm so excited to bash out new Killer Be Killed.
Killer Be Killed, to me, it was so fun making the first record. I don't have to do much I only sing 30 percent of the album. Again, my main department on Killer Be Killed is riffs. I did a lot on the first album, I probably wrote 90 percent of the riffs on the first album, and recorded them which is the most guitar I have recorded on an album in forever. So that was really, really fun. I really loved doing it. And I think the variety that the three vocals bring between me, Greg and Troy is also amazing. It's really unheard of, that this trio, everybody with a deeper and distinguished voice, putting their part into a song. It's quite amazing. Yeah, I'm looking forward to that.
And I'm gonna work on a new Cavalera album eventually, at some point. I've got some new ideas already. So, Soulfly is actually down the line as the third record I'm gonna make. I don't even know when that's gonna be. Probably not 'til the end of the year or next year. But it will come eventually.
I asked this of Iggor and I'll ask it of you: You guys started doing this "Return to Roots" Tour last year in honor of the album's 20th anniversary. What does the album means to you and what is its continuing legacy?
"Roots" was a very cool record in terms of what we can do with it live. It really is a good record to play live. What we did with "Roots," at the time, was simplify everything. A lot of the songs, we cut the fat out of the songs and we just kept it really focused and really sharp. So, stuff like "Spit" and "Cut-Throat," even "Roots Bloody Roots" most of the song is two notes and can be played with only one string. If you only had one string on your guitar, you can play "Roots." The simplicity, I think, the minimalistic way we did the record was really great. I think that's the secret to the success of the record. Underneath all the tribal stuff, the simplicity really comes in, and really works out great live. Especially live.
It's been fun doing this. All over Europe was sold out everywhere, all over South America, and now we're in the U.S. It's a great bill, with Full of Hell and Immolation two great bands. So I think it was a great idea. I can't take credit for the idea, that was my wife, actually. She thought of it, and she told us backstage when we played in London, "You guys should do the whole record. It'd be great to see you do the whole album." We never even had thought about it. We tried it, and it became a huge success. It's amazing, especially for the people who weren't there when "Roots" came out. There's a lot of young people in the crowd that weren't even born when "Roots" came out, so they really, really love it.
It's a great band. Tony Campos is a great bass player, Marc Rizzo is a great guitar player. So it's a solid band it sounds great. Everything from the beginning to the end of the set. And what we do is really cool: We play the whole record, and then we do this thing, it's kind of a whole range of things related to "Roots" a little bit like the B-side to "Roots," we do "Procreation (of the Wicked)" we do Celtic Frost and then we do thing that's just me and Iggor, and it's like going back in time, it's kind of like a garage jam we did back in Brazil, and play a couple little pieces of old Sepultura tracks, like "Desperate Cry" and "Inner Self" and "Arise" and "Beneath the Remains." And then we'll come back and do Motorhead's "Ace of Spades," which is a classic of metal, and then we do a new version of "Roots" called "Roots 2017," and it's pretty much the same beginning as "Roots" but then it goes into a fast, thrash beat, and it's kickass! I love the fact that we play the song twice in a set! I think it's great. That's how Queen did it in "Queen: Live Killers." They did "We Will Rock You" [faster] to open the show, and then they closed with it, so they did two different versions of "We Will Rock You." So we stole the Queen idea and put it into the "Roots" show. And it works great the crowd loves it!
You can't read about you or your brother or Sepultura these days without hearing about the legacy of the band, the original version vs. the current version. Can you give me your perspective on where the relationship stands with Andreas Kisser and the other guys, and what's behind the animosity 20-plus years after you left?
Honestly, I don't even think about 'em much. Even now more than ever. For a time for a long time there was a war in the press, like, "He'll talk this, I'll talk that." I got really tired of it, honestly. I'm not gonna do that anymore. So let them go their way and do their thing, and we're gonna do our thing, and I think that's the best for everybody. The fans know in their heart that we were there in the beginning. Unfortunately, we don't have the name, they continue with the name, but we have paid homage to real great records like "Roots," and we might do some other ones. And [Rhino Records] releasing all the 'Max Years' on vinyl and CDs it's a great compilation that just came out. We focus more on that and the other projects that I have. I don't really have time to think about what those other guys are doing, and I honestly don't even care. It's whatever, you know? They're gonna do their thing, and we're gonna do our thing. That's pretty much how it's gonna be. I don't listen to their stuff and I don't really care. I just really wanna do what I'm doing, and I'm happy with that.
So have you officially given up pursuing a reunion, then?
Right now, we don't even need it. It's been so much of that kind of bad vibes through the years that I don't even know how that would even really work out. I think what we are doing is the closest thing to that, and it works great, it works like a charm. It's amazing. I'm happy just with this. This "Return to Roots" thing, for me, it's enough. I don't even need the reunion. For me, this is great, this works just as great. And I'm having fun every night playing the songs that I love and were a big part of my life. But I'm a guy who looks to the future, too, so at the same time I'm doing this "Roots" thing, I'm looking forward to and excited about Killer Be Killed, for the new Cavalera, for the new Soulfly. I think, for me, that's more important than a reunion. It's what's in front of you. I'm very pleased with how things are turning out right now, so I wouldn't change anything.
Max and Iggor Cavalera Return to Roots
With Full of Hell, Immolation
When • Sunday, 6 p.m.
Where • Metro Music Hall, 615 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $25, Ticketfly