Max Cavalera Reflects on Impact of Sepultura’s ‘Roots,’ Plots ‘Big Campaign’ for 20th Anniversary of Soulfly
Sepultura and Soulfly legend Max Cavalera was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The vocalist / guitarist discussed the "Return to Roots" tour that finds him and his brother Igor performing Sepultura's classic Roots album in its entirety. Cavalera detailed the importance of this record as it presented a new heavy metal climate as well as working closely with his family and the 20th anniversary of Soulfly in 2017. Check out the chat below.
How are you?
Great. How you guys doing?
Lots going on in your world, as usual. Currently on the "Return to Roots" tour in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the legendary Sepultura classic, Roots. You are performing the album each night in its entirety?
Yeah, it's pretty awesome. You know, I've never done anything like that before so yeah we came out. I can't take credit for the idea. Actually, it was Gloria's idea and it was a great idea that she came up with while we were in Europe and we thought more about it, we decided to do it and it just became something on its own entirely, a monster on its own. It just really grew and people are really loving it.
You know it's incredible to think the impact this record had after 20 years. Everybody is singing all the lyrics and they are singing songs that we never performed live like "Look Away" and "Itsári." It's a full experience because we play every note of the entire record in entirety and it's pretty awesome. It's pretty powerful and with a couple extra things that we do in the end so it's a full on experience and we are just growing and America is loving it and we are going to Europe next and then South America so this thing goes to almost Christmas.
Max, why is the Roots album still so important to you?
I think it was a one of a kind record. It was really unusual. A lot of things were unusual on this record. We were really showing the world a new way of making metal. I think it was cool. It was like even the mixing with the tribe elements and the heaviness. Roots is a very heavy album, stuff like "Spit" and "Cutthroat," "Endangered Species," "Straight Hate," so it's a very exciting album. It also has a lot of dynamics, you know, it's stuff like "Look Away" which is a little bit slower and "Itsári," which is the tribal song we did with the tribe.
And then you have the classics "Roots Bloody Roots" and everybody sings along. It's a huge song and added to the "Ratamahatha." So it's a full on package, you know, it's great. And I think this album really has stood the test of time. This record especially Roots, it is one of my favorite ones I've done with Sepultura and it probably will be one of my favorite albums I ever was involved with and it's so great to play it especially now 20 years later.
It's even more special now than even when we did the tour. I think now it tastes better. It feels like there is something different about it. I think the album has aged with time and it has just a special flavor by performing the songs now than we had 20 years ago.
Roots took metal in a new direction. How much pressure did you feel when making it?
Not much. We always just kinda did our thing and it was really kind of fun in the fact that I think the whole process of creating those records — we never really kind of went back and tried to repeat the same album. We just thought "Okay, that's done, let's move on, what can we do next?" And that was the case between Arise and Chaos A.D. — Chaos A.D. was a huge record for us. We learned a lot with Andy Wallace producing and it was really a breaking point record for us and I think when it was time to do Roots I was really involved on bringing the Brazilian elements and the tribal stuff into the metal.
I think that was like for me it was like exciting because it was new. It had never been done before and it was really thrilling and I was really into the whole thing. The idea to go to the tribe was mine and it was like we have to do this because nobody has done this before. I think that record really took the world by surprise. It was so new of a way of making metal that was not possible before, that you can actually mix with different elements from culture and metal and it mixed really good together and I am so proud of it.
I think looking now at all the bands that are kind of doing the same stuff like Melechesh and I think even the stuff from Norway with the Vikings stuff like Enslaved and Immortal and Abbath. I think it's kind of similar to Roots, to what Roots was trying to say or was trying to do with the culture and bring the elements from your own culture into the metal.
I think everybody when they listened to Roots was kind of like, "Oh okay, so this is possible? We can do this now." I think it was a pioneer record because of that. It showed the world that nothing is impossible. Metal can be different, it doesn't have to be the same thing over and over. We can go to different territories and explore and it's okay to do that. It opened a lot of doors for us and for other bands and I think that's - a lot of good stuff came out of that, which I think is great. Including the first Soulfly, which I think is heavily influenced by Roots.
Max, would you ever have done a "Return to Roots" tour if you and your brother didn't start playing together again?
Probably not because that wouldn't be right because I think what makes this tour special is me and Igor playing together. It's like the backbone of what was Sepultura, the rhythm section was me and Igor. We created a lot of the songs, we worked a lot together and there was magic between the two of us. That's why we are doing it because the both of us are here.
People want to hear his drumming, his drumming is exceptional. Better than ever, he's playing great now. People, when they hear the songs sing with the original vocals and my rhythm guitar. I think there's something special about doing that right now with him that I wouldn't - if it was just me doing it with other people, it wouldn't be right.
So, I think this band is actually really great because we have Mark Rizzo on guitar. He's an amazing guitar player that can play it note by note even better. He just surprises me every night and Johnny Chow is a fantastic bass player. Very, very incredible and very on top of everything, so it is a killer band. We are going out every night and just showing the people how powerful and special and magical this record was. So I think every night we hear stuff from people that they're just blown away by the whole record experience. That's so cool to hear that now, especially playing the stuff that we've never played before. To me that's the most interesting part of the Roots tour. The songs that we never played before.
Max, you come from Brazil. What was the hardest thing to get used to about American culture when you started living here?
The pace of things being so fast. Especially N.Y. and Los Angeles. I remember my first time in New York, it was — I just looked at the skyscrapers and people everywhere and then running bustling around, I was like, "This is crazy." In Brazil, where we come from is much more mellow and more slower. There's nothing like that. Probably that was the first thing that I noticed, the life was faster in some of these place.
But then we started going inside America and saw the deep inside of America, like Texas and Montana, Nebraska. The whole other side of this which is really cool. I fell in love with the Southwest. Phoenix, Ariz. is my home now for 25 years or so. I really love the whole desert vibe. The whole Southwest, I think is a very magical place. Especially when you go to the four corners and Sedona and the Grand Canyon. There is some really mystic, magic there that I love. I just feel empowered by it. That's what I love, truly. Being in Arizona, I love being there when I'm not touring, it's a great place to be. A great place to chill out, make and write songs and I made that my home after Brazil. It's been great. I love the Southwest vibe.
Max, despite all the interesting twists and turns of your life - what never changes about you?
I think my love for metal. That's something that's so pure, I'll fight tooth and nail to keep it like that. I'm still a 15-year-old kid trapped in a 47-year-old's body. I still love listening to metal. I get people looking at me, they think it's sometimes ridiculous but I don't care. I love it. I love discovering new bands, getting in touch with them, getting shirts. The whole feeling you had from the underground. So that goes back to my times with the early Sepultura days where we were tape trading with the guys from Death and Morbid Angel and Mayhem. I'm still involved in the same way now with the whole young bands and it's so great. I love that.
I think also, my passion for working with my family. That's another thing that's really killer. My whole family is metal and I work with Gloria we are a great team together and then we have our kids with their bands. Richie with Incite and Igor and Zyon with Lody Kong, I'm so proud of them. They're doing their own thing. Richie is out on tour right now with Tengger Cavalry.
So I think that side of me, the family side, I'm proud of my family being so metal and so involved with everything we do. I really love that. I love working with my wife, we're a great team. I'm super proud of the kids. It's something that I just wish would have happened when they were first born and now it's reality. Zyon is even playing with me in Soulfly, which blows my mind. It's insane. Every night I have to pinch myself to make sure it's real, it's really happening. He's a great drummer. They're really great kids. They're really talented.
Igor writes novels and plays every instrument. Rich is a hell of a frontman. I've seen him work hard, playing shows with not a lot of people there and he gives 200%, which is so inspiring to me to see that. Yeah, I love the fact that our family is so deep rooted in metal and we're humble too. We teach everyone to stay humble. I can not ever get a big head because I get grounded by those guys all the time. [laughs] I'm not even allowed to get a big head.
Everybody stays humble, which I think is a great thing. I hear from other people who meet them, they say, "your kids are great, man, really cool." The Gojira guys when they met them, and the Full of Hell guys, other people that meet them really love them. I think that's something I'm very proud of.
Next year is 20 years of Soulfly. You're planning on making another record?
I hope so very much. That's one of the thing, it's in big planning right now. I have to finish this tour first with the Roots thing which goes all the way to Christmas. Then I think January I start writing into the new Soulfly, which I think is going to be really great because I'm very influenced by right now by a lot of things from black metal like Abbath and Batushka and Mgla to stuff like Enslaved and Gojira, and Abbath and to underground stuff like Full of Hell, Nails, it's gonna be a hell of a record.
I think it's influenced by all of that, hopefully we get to work with Matt Hyde again. He did the last record. I just gotta think of a topic, something that's very special for the 20 year. I think we're gonna release it on Nuclear Blast, hopefully before the end of the year, next year. Then go on a big tour for that. That'll be great.
Then sometime later, I'd love to do a little bit with Killer Be Killed, which is another project that I really love which is the stuff with Greg [Puciato] from the Dillinger Escape Plan and Troy [Sanders] from Mastodon. We did one record and it was very well received, and I think we can do a better one than that. I think we can really — if we work hard on it — we can make a kick ass second Killer Be Killed album.
Those things are kind of my plans for next year. Heavily writing. I think we're doing a little bit of the Roots touring, even a little bit, places like New York, that we didn't go with this run. We're gonna try to do it I think in March. So I think there will be a little more touring with Roots to close it up, finally. Then it's back to Soulfly 20 year, a big campaign on the whole 20 year anniversary of the band. Make a record out of it, have a kick ass record to celebrate the 20 years of this band I'm very proud of it. So, yeah. It's gonna be a busy year, we're looking forward to that.
Thanks to Max Cavalera for the interview. Stay updated on everything Max is doing by following the Max & Igor Cavalera Facebook page as well as the pages for Cavalera Conspiracy and Soulfly. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
Max Cavalera Plays 'Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?'
Sepultura Albums Ranked