INTERVIEW: Max Cavalera – Return To Roots (Sepultura)


Founding members of Sepultura and brothers in metal, Max Cavalera and Iggor Cavalera are coming to Australia to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the legendary album ‘Roots’ – to be played in its entirety each night! Twenty years later, set beside a new crop of metal bands–groups who have pioneered new soundscapes, redfined heavy, and brought a new integrity to heavy metal –‘Roots’ still stands tall, a high water mark for metal. The Rockpit has had numerous chats with Max Cavalera over the years with his other bands Soulfly, Killer Be Killed and his partnership with Iggor in Cavalera Conspiracy so it was especially exciting to be able to discuss his original band Sepultura and the legacy that the Roots album has had over the last 20 years.


Steve: Good Morning Max, it’s Steve from the Rockpit in Western Australia. How’s things in your camp?

Max: Yeah pretty good man! I’ve just been doing interviews all day for Australia, we just got back from Iceland. It was nice, we had a really good show and in about a week we start touring again back on the road in Europe, then we are getting ready for Australia. We are very excited!

Steve: How did the Roots tour idea come about?

Max: The Roots idea came from nothing, it was actually my wife’s idea for us to play the whole record and and we gave it a try at a festival in Canada, it was a great reaction, we decided to keep going and so far we’ve done some amazing US and European tours and festivals. The reaction is always great, packed and I’m hoping the same for Australia. It’s a great package with Skindred on it so it’s great for any metal fan and I think for me it never gets old to play those songs, they are great songs and we play them a little bit different every night. We never play exactly the same so I think it’s fun and I’m super excited to show the Australian fans this record that was very important in our lives. It’s 20 years old so to hear an entire record like that is really cool, I’ve never done a tour for an album just like this.

Steve: Well I for one now for one now feel very old (laughs). I remember picking up the album when it came out and being blown away particularly by the track “Roots Bloody Roots”.

Max: Yeah it’s great, it’s a really different kind of album. People were not expecting that we do that and we went back to our own culture but we always like to do different things anyway, we never followed what was trendy at that time. Grunge was really big in the music world and everybody was wearing flannel shirts and talking about Nirvana, you know we didn’t feel like it was our world. We felt like metal is our world but we also felt like there should be a different way of making metal, not the same and we tried to prove that to the world and the fans that there is a different way and metal can be different if you have an open mind so I think that’s where Roots comes in. It shows a whole different way of making metal and I think it was very exciting and still today it’s very exciting to play those songs.

Steve: For sure I couldn’t agree more ! So on the track “Look Away” obviously you are friends with the guys who appear on the track but how did you come up with having Johnathan Davis and Mike Patton and DJ Lethal? Did you just say, ‘Hey guys I’m putting this track together, do you want to throw down?’  How did that come about?

Max: Well the original idea was just Mike Patton, we were good friends with Mike and Faith No More. They were big fans of Sepultura, especially Billy (Gould). He was wearing our shirts in their video’s before people even knew who Sepultura was, he was always wearing our shirt and we became friends in Brazil during a tour and Mike ended up spending some time at my brothers beach house and we became friends. I always loved “Angel Dust”, it was one of my favourite records of all time and when it came time to do “Roots” we thought of a guest. We just had Jello Biafra on Chaos AD doing lyrics for “Biotech is Godzilla” so we thought about doing something different so we invited Mike Patton but because Ross Robinson was producing the album – he was really good friends with John from Korn – so he ended up bringing John. That wasn’t even our idea, we never really knew that John was going to be on the album. Ross just showed up with him and we said the more the better you know, and also it was Ross’s idea to have DJ Lethal. At that time he was in House Of Pain so yeah, it just came out and we started doing some sounds and I had an opening riff that was really cool and Mike started doing the vocals. The Indian chant on it was really killer, it gave me goose bumps and then John wrote some words for it. We ended up doing it and in the end it was the three of us making weird psychotic noises like breathing so it was fun. It was a fun day in the studio, I love those jams in the studio. I’ve done those my whole life, I’ve recorded with everyone from Tom Araya to  Corey Taylor and Sean Lennon but that was one of my favourite recordings with Mike for “Look Away”. It came out really good, we’ve been playing it every night on this tour and we play it a little bit different. It’s one of those songs that allows you to jam in the end, some nights a bigger jam, some a little shorter. It’s a great live song to play.


Max and Iggor Cavalera - Return to roots Australia tour


Steve: Awesome! So for tracks like “Itsari” did you take some recording equipment out to a remote village and just hit record? How did that one come about?

Max: Yeah we took like a battery operated recorder that ran on batteries and I think it was an eight track machine and Ross Robinson went into the jungle with us. We were in the tribe for like three days and we had to get it because once the battery ran out that was it, we had to get the song while we still had a battery but we did it and it was cool and it was a full on experience hanging with the tribes, watching their rituals and ceremonies and paintings. The whole thing was like a National Geographic experience! I love culture man, I love your culture, I love the aboriginal culture. I think it’s beautiful so we had a chance to do it with our own Brazilian culture so I always want to do more stuff like that. I never had the chance to do it but hopefully in the future maybe Soulfly can do something like that?

Steve: That would be amazing! I love the way that you seem to incorporate, I guess you could say an international feel to your music wether it’s been Sepultura or Soulfly.

Max: Yeah we’ve always got to keep trying, a lot of times we wanted to do it but you can’t because of budgets or you don’t have enough budget to do a crazy idea like that. Sometimes we can and things work out good, that’s why with something like Soulfly we can do more of that and I’m going to try with our next record. Next year we get to do something like that especially coming from the Roots tour that was really inspiring, I think the inspiration of the Roots tour will bleed through when I’m making the new songs so hopefully I can create something similar to that and it will be really cool for the fans.

Steve: Definitely looking forward to it and that leads me into my next question, what’s going on in the Soulfly camp? I suppose it’s in it’s infancy at the moment but have you got any idea’s at this point or is it still a blank canvas?

Max: Yeah it’s too early but we are going to have an album next year because next year is the 20th anniversary of the first album, the first Soulfly album that came out in 98 so we are celebrating that. In the mean time we have a new Cavalera Conspiracy album that is done, it’s going to be mastered tomorrow. It’s going to come out in October on Napalm Records, it’s a beast of a record. I think it’s got a really cool mix of death and thrash metal, it’s a really well put together album and we have Justin from Godflesh singing on one song. I put it neck to neck with anything we did in the past, by far my favourite of all the Cavalera albums. I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people. I think we did a great job on the production, our friend Arthur Rizik, he produced the last “Power Trip” Record and “Inquisition” album so he’s kind of an underground up and coming producer, he was really excited and motivated to work with us and I really think he got some stuff out of me and Igor that wouldn’t come out normally. He manged to get it out of us, that was great so I’m very excited for people to hear it out in October hopefully.

Steve: I can’t wait to hear it!

Max: Igor’s drums sound huge. The guitar sounds super crispy, super catchy and crunchy.

Steve: So Arthur really pushed you guys to your limits, he didn’t let up on you?

Max: Yeah it was kind of a process. I started with riffs, I worked for two months only on the riffs and I went crazy writing riffs all day long and we separated the best riffs out of those two months and out of those riffs we could make the best songs from it. Then once the music was all done it was time to work on the vocals, we worked very closely on the vocals and it was cool because he was showing me a way of singing that I haven’t sung since “Morbid Visions”. He would play pieces of “Morbid Visions” for me and would say, ‘What do you think when you sung that?’ I was like, ‘I wasn’t thinking’. ‘Do the same with this song, just don’t think about it’. I would do something crazy and it was fantastic, it was kind of a liberating experience when you have that “No Hope No Fear” type feeling you know? So we just went for it, we have an instrumental song that’s amazing, we have the Godflesh song and great thrash songs like “Impalement Execution” and “Judas Pariah”. I think people will really love this one.

Steve: Awesome! Well it’s been great speaking with you this morning, I really appreciate your time as I know your super busy and the Australian fans, myself included are busting to catch you guys very shortly.

Max: Alright thanks brother, thanks for the interview. Take care!



Destroy All Lines, Chugg Entertainment, Hysteria Magazine and Heavy Magazine present:

Max and Iggor Cavalera: Return To Roots Australia tour


Thursday 21 September: Eatons Hill, Brisbane – Lic A/A

Friday 22 September: Big Top, Sydney – Lic A/A

Saturday 23 September: Forum Theatre, Melbourne – 18+

Sunday 24 September: HQ, Adelaide – 18+

Tuesday 26 September: Astor Theatre, Perth – 18+

Tickets on sale now


About Steve Monaghan 84 Articles

Writer and Reviewer of Metal. Loves the heavier side of music including progressive metal, death metal and more.