Max Cavalera: 'For Me Music Is a Never-Ending Journey'

Though time of our chat was cut short, Max did fill us in on the various new projects he's been working on.

Max Cavalera: 'For Me Music Is a Never-Ending Journey'
Max Cavalera is not someone to let the grass grow beneath his feet. Roadrunner Records recently issued an impressive box set called "Sepultura: The Complete Max Cavalera Collection 1987 - 1996," which covers his impressive body of work with the Brazilian band. Later this year, his autobiography - "My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond" - written with heavyweight metal journalist Joel McIver is being published by Jawbone Press. Also later this year, Cavaler's long-awaited heavy melodic rock project Killer Be Killed comes out. Teaming up with Mastodon bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist/vocalist Greg Puciato and former Mars Volta drummer Dave Elitch, Cavalera shines the light on what he calls his "lighter" and more musical side. And lastly, the guitarist has put the finishing touches on Cavalera Conspiracy's third album that will once again bring onboard drummer Igor Cavalera and first time bassist Nate Newton.

So it isn't surprising to hear that Cavalera only has 20 minutes for our conversation because he's in the middle of a UK Soulfly tour. In fact the international call catches him standing outside his tour bus prior to hitting the stage for a gig at the Islington Academy in London. Though time was cut short, Max did fill us in on the various new projects he's been working on.

UG: Roadrunner Records just released "Sepultura: The Complete Max Cavalera Collection 1987 - 1996." When you look at that body of work, what are your memories?

MC: It was great, man. I have great memories from it. I had a good time doing it and I think we pushed metal into something different especially with "Chaos A.D." and "Roots" that were two very different metal records that had never quite been done like that before. I'm very proud of it. It's really cool to have a box set like that and people get to hear it altogether in one place like that. I'm excited.

That box set is a remarkable document of your work with Sepultura.

For me music is a never-ending journey. I'm already into new projects. I'm already into what I'm gonna do from now on so I'm always looking for new things and always trying to keep busy. Even though I'm on tour, I'm already thinking of new projects that gonna come out later this year or next year. I'm always excited about working with new stuff.

What is some of this new stuff you've been working on?

Killer Be Killed comes out in May and that's with Greg [Puciato] from Dillinger Escape Plan, Troy [Sanders] from Mastodon and the three of us are singing on all the songs. It's a very exciting project and some people have called it a supergroup.

Is it a supergroup?

I kind of agree with that term because it is kind of a supergroup with people different bands and all of us bringing something different to the table. It's a mix of all that that makes Killer Be Killed exciting.

How far along are you with the album?

The album is all finished. It's all recorded and mixed. We're finishing artwork right now and it's gonna come out in May. So this year is actually gonna be very exciting for me. I have my biography coming out in April.

You're talking about "My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond."

The book comes out in April and Killer Be Killed comes out in May. And in October, I release a new Cavalera Conspiracy record. So it's gonna be kind of a crazy year with a lot of stuff coming out and I'm gonna be touring for most of the year.

Where will you be touring?

I'm in Europe right now and I'm gonna go to Russia with Korn. We have 10 shows in Russia with Korn and then I'm doing Metal All Stars in Eastern Europe with Phil Anselmo, Joey Belladonna and all those guys. Zakk Wylde. So it looks like it's gonna be a good year. I'm very excited for all the things that are happening. I'm proud of the records that are coming out and especially Killer Be Killed and the Cavalera records. They are two very different records.

How are they different?

Killer Be Killed is more melodic and a little more light and Cavalera is very brutal and almost like a grindcore album. I'm excited. It's gonna be a good year.

Do you need to put on a different hat so to speak when you're working on music that's really heavy as opposed to something more melodic?

Yeah, it was different because I was sharing with other musicians then. It's kind of more like the jam session Max comes out more for Killer Be Killed. Through jamming with other musicians, that kind of Max came out more on Killer Be Killed. There's some riffs that were written I had in mind would be really cool if I can sing on this riff. So I wrote the melodic riffs I have not done in a long time.

Did you play guitar with Greg Puciato?

I played 90 percent of the guitars on Killer Be Killed. All the rhythm was done by me. There was one song Greg recorded and everything else I did it. All the guitars. So it was really exciting to make the record. I have not played that much guitar in a long time by myself on one record. But it was really exciting to do that for Killer Be Killed.

But as you mentioned you're sharing vocals with Greg Puciato and Troy Sanders.

I'm sharing vocals with Greg and Troy and the amazing vocal stuff they're doing. Every day was something new coming out of the vocal booth and more and more exciting stuff. We'd build on top of that. By the end of the Killer Be Killed record, we knew we had something special. There was definitely some amazing magic that happened with the jamming of all these musicians together creating something new.

You've obviously very excited about this.

Because all of us come from well-established bands - Troy from Mastodon and Greg from Dillinger. We all have our own bands that are established but we went into that studio to make something new and we succeeded. I think that's why the Killer Be Killed record is gonna be really great.

What was it like working with Josh Wilbur on that record?

It was good. We knew Josh from Andy Wallace [Wilbur mixed and engineered many of Wallace's projects] and Andy Wallace was the producer on "Chaos A.D." I loved working with Andy and Josh has very similar techniques of recording. It's very similar the way Josh works and it's very similar to Andy so I felt very comfortable with that because I was used to the way Andy Wallace recorded. Josh is really great and we're very excited about what was going on and I think he was the right guy for this record.

Because you could have certainly brought in anyone you wanted to produce.

He also brings out the best out of all of us. There was some songs where the chorus wasn't quite there. We were trying and he was very honest and he'd say, "It's not here yet. I'm not hearing the best these songs can be yet." And we kept hammering and hammering and we went back and redid it and tried a new chorus and then Greg came up with a new chorus and it was very exciting and we nailed the song.

Josh Wilbur really pushed you and the other guys?

I think in the end he was the right guy. He wasn't afraid to tell us when something wasn't there yet. Somebody else might have said, "Oh, this is fine. This is great" but he wasn't like that. He wanted the best it could be. He wanted us to be on top of our game - all of us. And he got that from each one of us. The level of musicianship and vocals on the record is very high and I'm very excited for that.

What was it like for you sitting down and write your life's story for "My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond."

It was a long one, man. It took two years to do it all and a lot of interviews and remembering a lot of things. We had to get in contact with a lot of cool people. Dave Grohl did the intro and he's a massive Sepultura fan and loves "Roots." His story on the intro is amazing about how Roots blew up his $50, 000 speakers - you can't make that sh-t up, man.

Dave Grohl blowing up $50,000 speakers while listening to Sepultura is totally believable.

When you have a story like that opening your book, you know it's gonna be good. There's a lot of great stories in the book and it was really fun to do it. What I'm most proud about the book is the book's gonna be here even after I'm gone. My sons' sons can read the book in another generation when I'm not even here. They can hear my story and be familiar with my story and my life and what happened and what I did. I mean that's really cool, man. That's like leaving a mark in your life and making something of your life.

You're talking about creating a legacy.

It's a very inspiring story coming from Brazil and it was all against the odds to make it into the international scene and become a rock musician. When I was a kid, if I knew I was gonna be friends with Ozzy Osbourne and meet with James Hetfield and King Diamond and all my idols, I would have probably s--t my pants. I would have never believed it. But it all has happened and I met all my idols and it's so great and I'm so blessed to be in metal today. Some people really enjoyed what I did through the years and I've become an influential musician for a lot of other new bands and that's also something I'm very proud of.

You should be.

It's been quite a journey, man. It's all documented in the book. It's easy reading. Joel McIver did a great writing it. It's really easy and really catchy to read. It's not a long book; it's 250 pages so you can probably finish in a couple hours. And you get a chance to hear my whole story in a matter of a couple hours and I think that's quite amazing. I'm very glad I did the book and I'm very excited it's coming out around the world in April.

Joel McIver is one of the best metal journalists around.

Yeah, he did a great job. Joel was fantastic. He was the right guy to do this and he had experience with journalism and experience making these kinds of books. I think he did the Glenn Hughes book and he did...


He did Metallica and he did Slayer. He's a metalhead. He knows his stuff. He knew everything about me and we could go really deep into the story and he helped me remember a lot of the stories. So there's a lot of really cool passages and a lot of funny stuff. I think it's gonna be a good read for everybody that gets into the book.

Was it hard recalling the moments in your life when you lost relatives and were deep into alcohol and drugs?

Yeah, but it was like therapy. It's all good to get that stuff out. For me especially the part where I'm telling everybody if it's true what I went through with drugs and alcohol. I think that felt really good to get that out of my chest because a lot of people never even knew I had problems with that.

How did you hide that?

It never really showed alive because I was never really f--ked up on the stage that much. I never went on the stage drunk except for a few times only. But most of the time it never really showed. It was like a hidden thing but it felt good to tell people. It showed people I'm vulnerable like everybody else. I fight demons like everybody else. I'm a person like everybody else and it was really cool to make that point. There are stories about the stuff I did like drinking vodka at six in the morning to start your day. There was some sh-t like that I went through and it needs to be said.

When did you get sober?

About five years ago.

When you listen to the music you made before and after becoming sober, can you hear a difference?

Not much because I always loved the music unconditionally and I don't think alcohol and drugs never really had too much impact on the writing. I always liked music for itself so even before I drank in Brazil, I loved music and music has always been a passion of mine regardless of the other stuff. I don't think there's much of a change. Even the way I wrote when I was doing drugs and alcohol is very similar to the way I write now. The difference is you remember things better without alcohol. There's no hangovers involved and you get to actually enjoy the shows.

So alcohol really affected your memories more than your writing?

A lot of the Sepultura shows, they feel like a blur in my mind. I don't remember. There's some tours and the entire tour feels like one big blur. I don't remember anything about it because I was so f--ked up. But now I get to actually enjoy being on the stage and enjoy every moment. I know that it's very special because you're not here forever and one day it will be over. I try to enjoy as much as I can from every moment I'm on the stage. Now it's very special because it's a special thing to have that connection to your crowd. I don't take it for granted now.

What else do you write about in "My Bloody Roots?"

The part about my dad's death. He was very close to me and he died with me. That part actually was very strong on me from the book. Actually a cousin was just here visiting me and going to the show in Cambridge and he told me he got the book in Brazil and he translated it. He read that part to a lot of the other cousins in the family and all of them cried on that part. It really hit at home with me and I think I did a good job. If it had that kind of reaction from them, it was the right thing and the right reaction I was expecting. It was really very cool. So I'm excited for the book. I think it's a quite cool book and a lot of cool stories in it. There's a lot of amazing things on it and it's quite fun to read.

The other new project you mentioned is the upcoming Cavalera Conspiracy record. You've taken the music in a grindcore direction on this third album?

Grindcore has a lot of energy in that music. Igor is a great drummer that can actually play fast and has that kind of built-in energy that can come up with stuff like that. He came with an open mind and I explained to him, "I would like to do more of an aggressive record that you play fast on every song." He was totally into the idea and he loved it. He wasn't like, "Oh no, I can't do that. That would be boring." There was none of that. He actually thought it was a really great idea and he didn't mind playing fast on every song.

You knew the tempos were going to be way up there?

I almost kind of forced that on him. It was like, "You have to play fast on every song." It was my whole idea behind the record. But he did and it was as exciting as hell, man. This album was created in high energy and very much built on aggression and energy and adrenaline. It's full of it all the way through and it's all you hear on the new Cavalera. It's on crack - it's like everybody was on crack but we weren't, hah hah. But it was the idea.

Had you been listening to grindcore to get inspired?

I've been listening to a lot of Nails, Noisem, Pulling Teeth and Trap Them and I think the energy on all those bands are amazing. I wanted to do something similar for the new Cavalera.

How is this new album different from Inflikted and Blunt Force Trauma?

The first two records are very much thrash and I wanted to do something extra and quite different and be something more brutal. I thought making the Cavalera version of grindcore is what I call it. Which is not exactly grindcore but it's similar and it's very cool, hah. The new record is very exciting. Out of the three it's my favorite is the new one. It's the one I've been listening to more now and I cannot get enough of it. I love the process.

Nate Newton has replaced Johny Chow on bass.

Nate from Converge played bass on the whole record and sings one song and it was great. It was really creating a great way. Nate's got a great bass sound that he uses with Converge and I wanted to use that sound with Cavalera and especially with this record. I thought it would fit the music perfectly. I love Converge. I think they're one of the great new bands to come out and I think their sound is fantastic. Nate also sings with the Doomriders and Old Man Gloom. So we also had him sing on a song called "Salem." So it was great and he did a great job.

It was cool working with Nate Newton in the studio?

The only thing was he wasn't in the studio with us. He recorded in Massachusetts. We sent everything through Internet and you can do that in this day-and-age. Everything is moving so fast that you can actually do that kind of stuff. He did a great job and he did not let me down. His bass sound is great and he got to do everything and it was super exciting. I think the album is gonna come out and surprise a lot of people. I think coming out of Killer Be Killed, which was more melodic and more light, the new Cavalera is gonna come out at a perfect time. It's gonna surprise people how heavy it is. It will be great because people know me from the heavy stuff and the Cavalera record is right there with that.

You talk about bass sounds, describe what you were doing on guitar on this new Cavalera Conspiracy album?

The Cavalera was me and Marc [Rizzo] working together again and we got a real super heavy sound. I was showing Marc stuff like Noisem and he was like, "This stuff is super f--kin' heavy, man." We tried to get something similar to that and I think the guitars on Cavalera are super heavy. I really like the guitar tone on the Killer Be Killed album. Josh and me worked on the guitar for a long time and we got a really heavy guitar tone. So combining both - Killer Be Killed and Cavalera - is some of the heaviest guitars I recorded in a long time.

You're playing the ESP on both albums?

They're great and they're a great company. I love the Camouflage line and the EX guitars they did for me. I still play my Brazilian flag and everything with four strings and one volume. Just a volume button [knob]. I love ESP. I think they're great guitars and they're a perfect company for me. We get along great and I love the guitars they made for me. They're the best guitars in the world for me.

Interview by Steven Rosen
Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2014

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    Max is a great musician, the lyrics to their songs were very powerful and while most credit Chaos A.D. , Beneath the Remains and ARISE are the albums that stuck out to me the most. \m/