Max Cavalera performs at Tons Of Rock Norway 2018. Photo: Avalon/PYMCA/Gonzales Photo/Terje Dokken/UIG.
While the legendary Max Cavalera was here on the Australian leg of the Return Beneath Arise tour, we enlisted the help of our mate (and long-time Sepultura fan) Higgo to chat with him about touring these iconic records and what things were like back when it all started. Max and his music projects have been hugely influential in the world of metal and it is awesome to get this insight from one of the greats.
Read The Interview Now...
We are super bloody pumped for what’s happening here in Australia, Beneath the Remains and Arise in full, I know it’s the 30th anniversary for Beneath The Remains this year, but when did the idea between you and Iggor first come about for this?
We did it last year in Russia and South America and it was so good, it was so powerful, the reviews and the fans and everything we saw was really really positive that it made us kinda like want to do more, and then the opportunity came to come to Australia so we were like, super excited for that. Ya know we did the Return To Roots in Australia and it was a big success, it was one of the best tours we did. So we thought with that in mind, we thought this is gonna be great! “Let’s bring the Beneath The Remains and Arise thing to Australia, they’re gonna fuckin love it!”
We’ve gotta go way back for a moment, you were what, 18 years old when you recorded Beneath The Remains? I think the musical world sometimes forgets how young you guys were. You had to travel from Brazil to New York to get the deal done with Roadrunner Records, how did you handle that as an 18-year-old kid?
People often ask me what advice I’d give young bands today, like, you have to do stuff that other people wouldn’t ordinarily do. The way we got the deal was, I had to go as a Pan Am employee with my hair tied back, ya know fuckin' insane kind of conditions. I was there for two days only, but I came back and we got the deal with Roadrunner. You have to fight for those things, you have to get hungry, and you have to go get those things.
Now it’s cool, it’s like 30 years later [and] we’re commemorating the record in the best way possible by playing it. The feeling is great, especially that era. The death thrash era was very special in metal in general and I think playing both records together like we’re doing is fantastic. It’s really really fun.
Were you aware of the impact you were having as a band? Your voice, message, and sound as it was back then was different. Were you aware of what was happening?
Not really. Because we were in Brazil and we are so remote from the rest of the world, we were just trying to get anything we could to get going ya know. When we got the contract to record, the only studio available was at night time from midnight to seven AM, and I was like, "wow this is fuckin' crazy we have to record at night time and sleep during the day!?" but that was the only way to get it done.
We had Scott Burns recording with us, producing for the first time and the first time we had a real producer working with us, so that was pretty cool man. Learning from this guy that was like the death metal master. He touched so many great records. So, we had this great producer and we were in this state of mind to just trying to get better than we were. We had done Morbid Visions and Schizophrenia, but we weren’t satisfied. I think we could do more, there was more to give to the people. We went full throttle man, I was very inspired at the time.
A lot of people don’t know this, but a lot of the lyrics of Beneath the Remains were inspired by U2. I always was a big fan of old U2, especially albums like WAR and The Unforgettable Fire. So I was reading a lot of their lyrics, and there were a lot of anti-war lyrics and they inspired me to write a lot of the Beneath the Remains songs. Especially stuff like Mass Hypnosis, Slaves Of Pain and Beneath The Remains.
During the 3 years between Beneath The Remains and Arise, you did extensive touring, recording technology changed, and Sepultura’s sound changed. Still undeniably the same band, but did you find you had to grow up quickly in those 3 years?
We were all trying to get better, especially as musicians and I think we were lucky, because Iggor is such an incredible drummer. We worked hard as people as well. I had a lot of cool riffs, Andreas' solos were really good, it was a good band, ya know, it was very powerful. Like you said, those tours really helped too because once Beneath The Remains came out we had offers to tour Europe and America, and then the Arise tour was the biggest we’d ever done. It went on for like 2 years. That was when we went to Australia for the first time.
I remember it very well!
I think we grew up quite a bit in those years man and you’re right - I look back at those times and man, it was a young age to be doing that kind of stuff! But ya know we started real early in Brazil. Me and Iggor [were] 13 - 14 years old. It was real real young and all you ever wanted to do was play music. It was the only thing we wanted and the only thing we were good at, so it’s kinda like, fight your whole life for this ‘thing’, this privilege and searching for that dream.
I look at it now, the way I am now with stuff. I have Soulfly, Killer Be Killed, Cavalera Conspiracy and I get to do special tours. I feel very proud man, very honoured and proud of the works how it has affected the metal world, and honoured to have influenced so many bands. I hear the influence that Sepultura has in so much music even today, in stuff like Pig Destroyer, even Alien Weaponry I hear some of Sepultura in there, so it’s kinda cool knowing that you left a mark. I’m 49 now so it’s like I’m no kid no more, I got a big family and I just love that my family’s involved in the projects. My wife (Gloria) manages us, my son Zion plays in Soulfly, I get to do things with Iggor, it’s fuckin great man.
Exactly. Ya know it’s funny, you say that you’re not a kid anymore because you’re 49, but you’ll always be someone to me who I look up to, but I see you as a much younger man because in all the times we’ve spoken, and all the times I’ve seen you live, you’ve never ever lost that spark. You’re always working, always collaborating and it’s so admirable, that the spark has never left you, it won’t ever.
Thank you man, ya know that’s a part of me that I will fight very hard not to let it die. Which I think is the purity of the love of the music. You can easily let it die if you don’t care for it. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of friends of mine in Brazil. I remember they just stopped caring, stopped liking it, didn’t want to play anymore, but I was like "we’re gonna get this thing man, no matter what".
I remember Sepultura we were the worst band in the fucking world when we started man. Everybody hated us. Like in Brazil, everybody hated us, “they can’t play, they don’t know what they’re doin, they sing in English, that’s absurd, that’s an insult to national pride”, all this shit was thrown at us man. After you get through all that shit, you become real tough ya know? You grow a tough skin. I decided that I was never gonna let that teenage Max kid die, ya know, that’s gonna stay with me forever.
That’s why I like so many metal bands, and I get involved with many young bands like King Parrot, Nails, ya know more recently American stuff like Genocide Pact and Gate Creeper and stuff like that. Metal is my life, it’s my salvation it’s what saved me in this world and I’m a metal head for life. I’ll never let that feeling go away.
Max Cavalera at Pinkpop Festival 1996. Photo: Paul Bergen.
Yeah, I understand what you’re saying, but no one is going to forget you mate.
That’s why I have all those projects: Soulfly, Killer Be Killed, Cavalera Conspiracy; so I can stay active and current in the metal world, but it’s fun man I love it. I love collaborations, I love working with people. I tell you man, this Beneath the Remains and Arise tour, I was telling Iggor in South America it’s not supposed to be like this because there was like 200 people at the airport greeting us. It was [like] being back in the late ’80s.