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  • Interview: Max Cavalera of Cavalera Conspiracy

    Wed, 20 Feb 2008 09:42:24

    Interview: Max Cavalera of Cavalera Conspiracy - Brotherhood is forever

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    Max Cavalera may very well be heavy metal's Dr. Dre. Even though he's not a producer like Compton's finest is, Max remains one of his genre's true innovators. He has fronted some of metal's most diverse bands: Sepultura and Soulfly. Similar to Dre, his creativity and "family" mentality have led to some downright powerful collaborations. He trades roars with KoRn's Jonathan Davis on Sepultura's classic "Lookaway." On Deftones' "Headup," he and Chino Moreno rage together, causing a primal catharsis. That song even coined a band name for Max in the process: "Soulfly." Max keeps it all in the family, and that's why he's commanded so much respect over the years. He also happens to be one of the nicest and most thoughtful metal guys that you could ever talk to.

    He's still a legend, though. With Sepultura, he broke creative ground, forging Brazilian tribal grooves and death metal riffs into some downright powerful heavy music. Sepultura's records remain guideposts in Metal 101: from Arise and Beneath the Remains to Chaos A.D. and Roots. However, after Sepultura's most commercially successful record, Roots, Max split with the band and consequentially, his drummer/brother Igor Cavalera. Max and Igor began a long silence that would not be broken until now. After five successful albums with Soulfly, Max and Igor buried the hatchet, and they are once again playing together in Cavalera Conspiracy. Their Roadrunner Records debut, Inflikted, is a raw, violent epic that channels their old creative energy and builds upon it. With gnashing riffs and rumbling vocals, the band unleash pure fury, and they once again prove that they are heavy music's strongest brotherhood. Max took some time to talk to ARTISTdirect about this and much more.

    What was the creative process like for Cavalera Conspiracy?

    Well it's moved very differently, just because I'm playing with Igor again. That's a huge thing in and of itself. We spent more than a decade apart. For over 10 years, we didn't speak or see each other. When the idea came to do this album, I was very excited. So I wrote a lot of riffs and lyrics. I wanted to do something different from what I normally do in Soulfly. I like both, but Soulfly's more experimental. This is Igor and I going back to the roots of metal, punk, death metal and the shit we grew up with. I just threw down 11 classic metal songs and recorded them [laughs]. We had some good people working with us, too: Marc Rizzo, my guitarist in Soulfly, is in the band. Joe from Gojira, a French band I like a lot, is playing bass. People are talking about the album a lot, and I'm very happy to be doing this.

    Was writing riffs different? This album feels thrashier.

    Not too much on my part, because my riffs are very basic, man. I cannot riff any other way. I play four strings, and I don't play lead. Even when I try to do something different, it always has that Max-sound to it. It's good and bad, I guess. I think what's different, is Igor and I are together again. The songs have Max and Igor's secret playing style, which nobody can figure out—even us! When we play together, there's something cool that happens. It's very special. The brutal parts are super fast, but there are a lot of cool grooves too. Being from Brazil, we both are very into grooves and percussion. That's all I can think of as to why this project is different from Soulfly, or even Sepultura. We're doing this right now, and we've been interested in all kinds of different music. I always let music influence my shit all the time. I'm not afraid to capture new music, so I think that's what's different. It's very thrashy, like you said. People are also saying, "It's the heaviest shit, I've ever done." So I'm good with that.

    It's very passionate, too. You guys just went into the studio and captured what was going on in the moment.

    It is, man. It's hard to understand, but my emotions are going really deep on this record, because I'm back with a brother I grew up with. Because of the music we loved so much, we didn't speak for 10 years. We were separated for this long period of time. The album's brutal and all, but inside of this brutality, there's emotion. It was a fucked up time for Igor and me, but we made it through together. We are brothers. It all shows on the record. So, I'm glad for that. It's definitely special. I'm always going to like this record a lot, because it's the first thing I've done with my brother in so long.

    Do you feel like your bond with Igor is stronger than ever now?

    Yes, because we've grown up beyond the bullshit that we let bring us down at the time. If what happened in '96 was going on today, I honestly would've handled the situation differently, and we probably would've never split. I was younger, though. It was a crazy time. It was just a brutal time, involving death and a lot of crazy shit. Sepultura was blowing up. At the same time, my family had a big crisis with the death of my stepson, and I really couldn't handle all of it. I handled it the wrong way, I guess. Now it's cooler, because of that. We really appreciate each other as people. We try not to let that bullshit interfere. We just get to play together and be brothers. We both have other projects, which is also a cool thing. When we're not doing Conspiracy, I'm doing Soulfly, and Igor's doing MixHell, the DJ project that he has. It's better now definitely, yeah.

    It's great to have different creative outlets too. That must be fun for you as an artist.

    It is. I think one of the things that led to the fucked up shit that happened between me, Igor and Sepultura was too much time together [laughs]. It's weird, but it is destructive, if you do too much. We would stay on the road all the time for too long. I think that made the relationship go bad. Now it's better. I compare Cavalera Conspiracy to the Led Zeppelin movie The Song Remains the Same, where Zeppelin is always in different parts of the world. Then they get one phone call, they meet somewhere, and they all go on tour. That's how kind of my life is right now, with everything, actually [laughs]. The Soulfly guys don't live here. Igor lives in Brazil. I love that, man. I spend three months without seeing my band mates, and then when I do see them, it's better, and it's a lot stronger. So I like this a lot better than what it was.

    When you have that perspective, you can step back, and when you do get back into it, it's more fun.

    It is, and it's more important that you get to do it when you're more ready. Everyone gets something out of it. The shows are better. The tours are better. The interviews are better. It's a process that took me a long time to understand, but now that I know, I prefer to do it like this.

    This album wasn't really planned, right?

    Nah, and it's pretty amazing how much time it took. All of Igor's drum tracks were done in 10 days. So that's basically more than a song day, because we ended up recording 13 songs. There are 11 on the album, but there are two b-sides. One is a Possessed cover we did for "Exorcist" and another song. It was really fast. The time used was really good. We didn't fuck around too much. We just went to record, jam and work on the songs a lot. Somebody pointed out to me that some of the songs seems like they took us a long time, but they didn't. I think it's really cool it happened that way. We wanted to make a straightforward metal album. I just wanted to make a good heavy metal record that you don't think about too much, even if it did take a long time to compose the songs. It blows my mind that it feels like some of the songs took months to make. Some of the time changes are just weird and crazy. That was the thing I liked most about the record, the way it came out. It even surprised me in the end.

    It's a record that, as a fan, you can listen to over and over again, and find something different each time, because you guys captured that natural sound.

    I hope so. I think that was the goal. This album has the songs that rip your head off right away, and it's good for that. It's not just that though, because if it were, you'd probably get tired of the record really fast. There are the songs that are more elaborate, and they're going to stay with you longer. I think that's a good formula. Nailbomb had some of that, and Sepultura's Arise had some of that. When you look at "Arise" it's a really fast song, and then you get "Desperate Cry," it's a slower song. Usually fans like "Arise" first, but then later, they like "Desperate Cry."

    You have "Sanctuary" and "Never Trust," and you get a whole spectrum of sound.

    I was trying for that. That really was the whole idea, like without really planning. It was just in the back of my mind, and I thought it would be really cool. I was aware of this "Arise" vs. "Desperate Cry" thing. I recognized it in my records before, and I like that. It's a good way to make records. When you go on tour, you need to rip peoples' heads off with the first couple songs of the show, but you also need some slower songs for the middle of the show. I was really going for that. Everybody's input really helped. I was really surprised by Joe from Gojira, because I wasn't really aware of his capability. I love his band, but I never really knew much about Joe as a musician. He really surprised me, and he was awesome. He came up with some crazy bass lines out of nowhere. He ended up singing on some stuff, too. Marc sang on some stuff. We got Rex Brown from Pantera to play bass on one song. So it was cool. There was a good vibe. Everybody was fighting for it together, like an army going forward. That's always a good thing, when you have everyone in the project going forward.

    Your projects have always been collective efforts. You welcome so many other musicians in, and they become part of the family.

    Yeah, I like to make music like that. I don't think this is a competition, because it's not. Regardless of who's more popular today or ten years ago, I already went further than I ever thought I would. I'm really satisfied with myself. So I'm not competing. I'm not trying to be heavier, better or more impressive than anyone else. I like to jam with other musicians. I always have. Even on Sepultura's early albums, I worked with Brazilian musicians. With Soulfly, I worked with many musicians from Sean Lennon to Tom Araya of Slayer. That list is huge. I like to work with musicians. It's great, man. It's a cool exchange of shit. Fans really like it. I think, the more, the better. In metal, collaborating like this was never really that big long ago. Now it's more popular, and I'm happy that I have contributed a little bit to some of these exchanges with some of the groups. Nowadays, a lot of people work together. It's cool, and I like that.

    This record reminded me actually of that Sepultura cover of "Symptom of the Universe." It has that brutality and diversity, plus that raw passion. That vibe is there.

    Yeah, I'm glad that you compare it to that, because that's one of my favorite things that I've ever done. It was very nerve-wracking, because it's not easy to cover Black Sabbath [laughs]. We were so excited that we took it as kind of a challenge. I think it's actually true. My favorite Sabbath riff ever is that "Symptom" riff, and I think that is why I picked that song. I thought, "Even if we suck at this cover, I'm happy just playing this riff [laughs]". That was my attitude. It was really different, and we didn't worry about any mistakes or anything like that. I was more excited that I got to play that riff and record the song. In a way, I like your comparison of that to the new record. I never thought of it that way, but I completely agree that the sound and the vibe of the record are close to the "Sympton" recording. We didn't really practice for "Symptom." I remember we went to the studio. We were doing Chaos A.D. with our producer Andy Wallace in England, and we were suggested to do that Sabbath compilation, and I was like "We have to do 'Sympton.'" We just learned it right there, and Andy was ready to record. We went for it. It's kind of really similar to Conspiracy actually.

    What [producer] Logan Mader did on Conspiracy feels similar.

    Yeah, they don't work very similar. Andy's got his own way of recording and everything, but in a way what I was shooting for was similar with both producers. What I was telling Andy during the Chaos recording was very similar to what I was telling Logan. I said, "This is a live band." Regardless of the project, I don't give a shit about that. I know this; four people playing together is a live unity. There are no ProTools or none of that shit. It's a live band, and that needs to be captured as best as possible. We wanted to capture that live sound, while playing in the studio. It's very different, because you're not really motivated in the studio, because the studio sucks. You can be in the best studio in the world, and it will suck, because you're not in front of a crowd with mosh pits. It's a cold environment, but I tried to transform that as best as I could. I wanted to make it feel like we were playing live in front of 100,000 people. We tried to record this like that. I think we got close to it.

    You've got your own lyrical voice for this album. How would you describe it?

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