Twenty years on and Sepultura’s classic Roots album still stands as a benchmark for metal. It was a hugely influential album melding traditional Brazilian tribal sounds with down-tuned guitars and the heavy grooves of the nu-metal era. Max and Iggor Cavalera are back together again playing the entire Roots album in full for the first time since Max’s split from Sepultura in 1996. Max and Iggor Cavalera bring the Return to Roots 20th Anniversary tour to Perth playing the Astor Theatre this Tuesday, September 26. WILL FERRIER had a chat to Max about the creation of Roots, short hair in metal and Brazil in the World Cup.
What’s it like being up there with Iggor playing the whole Roots album for the first time in a long time?
Oh it’s great. It was Iggor’s idea to do the Roots album. We started really small in a festival in Canada and then we just kept going and it kept growing. There was respect everywhere, it was a surprise for all of us, I was blown away by the reaction. I think it is a really cool concept doing the whole record, I’ve never done anything like that before, play a whole album. But it’s really great, it’s so fun.
We had to dissect the whole record, go song by song. We do everything, all the tribal sounds, Itsári drums, we do a tribal jam with Ambush, and then play the whole record, we do some cover songs that we really love, we play some little pieces of Sepultura songs that we love, little medleys that are different every night, hopefully we can do one new song from the Cavalera album that’s coming out in October. I think that would be great, I think Australia will be perfect for us to present the new album for the fans.
The new Cavalera Conspiracy album is coming out later this year, we’ve seen some footage of you guys working on it at home. How was that?
It was recorded here in Phoenix in the desert, it was great because it was underground, the guy’s studio was actually under the ground. It was desert upstairs, sun, summer, like 120 degrees but then you go downstairs, you go in the subterranean and it’s like the underworld!
When you started working on the Roots album, if you can you take yourself back to that time, the tribal influence was starting to come in on Chaos AD but Roots is very tribal and groove based. Can you remember the process of how the Roots album came about?
It was cool because with Roots we had a concept before we even entered the studio, we had a name, I already knew it was going to be called Roots and I had the song (Roots Bloody Roots) originally written and recorded on a 4 track. I had the idea to spend a couple of days with the Xavante tribe and get painted before the rituals, we had the idea to have Mike Patton on Lookaway, Carlinhos Brown on Ratamahatta, there were all these crazy ideas around the album. We had a really exciting album to make.
The influence Roots had on heavy metal in general was massive and it had that eclectic vibe of melding styles together. For you it was an evolution of the way you sing and play. On Chaos AD you sang in a higher register then you brought it down for Roots. Was that a natural progression for yourself personally or was it something you were playing with to sound more guttural with your vocal style?
Everything has been experimental in the studio. I always like to mess around with my vocals and with the last Cavalera album I sung really low, this album, the new one, I sing more classic Max voice, it’s like a combination, “The best of Max vocals”. I like my vocals on Chaos, I think Chaos is cool, a little bit of different phrasing. It was a different time in metal and we started to listen to different styles, Fear Factory, Biohazard, Ministry, Godflesh, so all those influences came out on the record.
I just really enjoy the process of creating songs, lyrics, I come up with some cool stuff to sing about, political or spiritual, put it on paper then go the studio and sing it and deliver. I think emotion is more important. I think all my records have a lot of emotion coming though, Archangel is very spiritual and I think very powerful with songs like Sodomites, Bethlehem’s Blood and Archangel. So it’s all part of it, I really think it’s emotion, singing with feeling is the most important thing you can put on the record. Be true to yourself and the vocals will come out the way they are supposed to come out.
It seems with Soufly you really did bring in your exterior influences as well as contributing musicians to make it a big collaboration with your family and friends. Referencing the Soulfly songs on each album, Soulfly I, Soulfly II, Soulfly III etc. Have you ever thought about doing a whole live set of all the Soulfly (I-X) songs?
So far it’s only been studio stuff, I’ve never even played those Soulfly(I-X) songs live ever. Maybe one of these days I’ll try to play them live. Maybe it would be cool to do a couple or maybe even do a whole show, that’s a great idea. We could have chairs, have everyone sitting down because it’s more mellow, not like the heavy stuff. I love writing those songs, I think the Soulfly(I-X) songs are really fun. For me trying to find melodic notes to fit in and always looking for different stuff. I play violins, keyboards, I have a duduk on the Soulfly and the Archangel albums. I always like these different wild instruments to be part of the Soulfly songs. When I work on the new Soulfly record next year I’m hoping to do a bit of travelling around the world to connect with some cultures and do some really cool world music metal, even more tribal, I think some of the songs are going to go back to the tribal stuff, so it’s going to be an exciting Soulfly record to make.
Getting back to Cavalera Conspiracy, it seems like you are making up for a lot of lost time with Iggor. When you first starting playing together again did you have a little dig at him for cutting his hair short? I know long hair was a such big deal when you are a younger guy in a metal band…
I always liked long hair, you know I still have it, I’ve got dreadlocks and long hair. Even if I cut my dreadlocks, I will still always have long hair, I will always like long hair, I cannot see myself with short hair, it doesn’t work. But Iggor’s got short hair, he likes it more now, it’s a better fit for him. I think it’s cool. I always say it’s what’s inside that matters, it’s your heart, not the way you look. There’s a lot of metal fans that don’t have long hair and they look like nerds but they’re really big metal fans. It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel and how you love your metal in your heart that is more important. I just like to represent, with the tattoos and the long hair and the camouflage pants and my black t shirts, which are my band t shirts, its like a uniform. That is a lifestyle for me, I’m proud to be a metalhead. Fuck society if they don’t like it, cause I don’t give a shit. I like to be this way so I’m gonna be this way, nobody is going to tell me how to be. The way you feel and the way you dress is part of your life, how you represent yourself, society always gives you dirty looks in airports and shit like that but I don’t give a shit, I love being metal, I love representing metal. I like the underground too, I like to wear the shirts of the bands that I’m into. I love the new bands like Bozer, Genocide Pact, Nails, I like all this new stuff thats coming up and I’m also a big fan of all the old stuff like Dismember, Celtic Frost, Entombed, Godlflesh, there’s so much great metal out there. Metal is a fantastic world with so much to explore.
On last thing, How do you think Brazil will go at the World Cup next year?
I hope they do good man, they need to do something. The last one was a big disaster in Brazil. We need to redeem ourselves, that will be redemption time. I’m hoping that we get the cup, I hope we win. Let’s hope so, it’s going to be in Russia next year so it’s going to be rough! We’ll hope for the best.