SOULFLY's MAX CAVALERA Talks About His Early Musical Influences In New Interview

Tom Murphy of Denver Westword recently conducted an interview with SOULFLY mainman Max Cavalera. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Denver Westword: How did you first get into heavy music growing up in Brazil?

Max Cavalera: My first experience with music was QUEEN, when they played in Brazil at a soccer stadium in 1981. My cousin took me and Igor [Cavalera, Max's brother] to see it. I loved it right there. I liked it so much, I went and bought a bunch of QUEEN tapes the next day. At the store the guy said, "If you like QUEEN, try this band, KISS." Then we both listened to those tapes, and that grew into getting into heavier and heavier bands like MOTÖRHEAD, BLACK SABBATH and, later on, SLAYER. It got heavier and heavier, to the point where I wanted to make my own music.

Denver Westword: What was it like in the early days of your being a band in Brazil, and what was the turning point for you in becoming a band that was known well outside of your home country?

Max Cavalera: In the beginning, it was kind of rough, because we were poor and didn't have a lot of money. We were very poor. We had shitty equipment, and we did whatever was possible to make it work. My brother didn't have a drum kit. He just had a couple pieces of drums put together to make a strange drum kit he'd play on. The major turning point was when we got signed with Roadrunner. That was after our third album in Brazil. The fourth was "Beneath the Remains", from 1989. That introduced us to the world. We played all kinds of different places that we could. There were some metal festivals organized by friends of ours — the Xerox fliers and word of mouth. A thousand people would show up and we'd have a good show. We'd have some kind of shitty P.A., but we had a good time. The other shows we did were competitions for radio stations, like a battle-of-the-bands type of thing. We entered a couple of those things. We did okay, but we didn't win anything. But we got our music heard, and more people found out about us.

Denver Westword: Did your inclusion of traditional Brazilian musical elements first appear on the SEPULTURA album "Roots", and why did you weave that sort of sound into the kind of music you were already writing?

Max Cavalera: "Roots" was a unique album from the beginning. The first time SEPULTURA got influenced by Brazilian music was the album before that, called "Chaos A.D.", with a song called "Kaiowas". It was all instrumental, and it was about a Brazilian tribe that committed mass suicide. It was really our first collaboration with Brazilian instruments. Then the time came for "Roots". We were on the verge of discovering other Brazilian stuff, and we invited Carlinhos Brown, who is a Brazilian percussionist, to be a part of the album. He came to the studio in California and did an amazing job on the album. We did a song called "Rattamahatta", which was cool and percussive — Brazilian-sounding, with Brazilian lyrics. "Roots" was really the trip to the tribe that took us to recording with an original Brazilian tribe in the Amazon, which was more like a National Geographic expedition than a rock-band thing. It was amazing how we stayed with them, ate their food and made music with them, with the Indians. It was us and like 300 Indians making up the background of the recording. The digipak had photos of us being painted by the Indians. They had painted all of us for ceremonial rituals. The album cover had a painting of a Brazilian dollar note from a long time ago that had the face of an Indian. It was really striking, and that was the cover of the album, the Indian face, and we just added the SEPULTURA symbol with the tribal "S" somewhere on the neck of the Indian. Otherwise, it's the same as on that Brazilian note. The artist didn't change it that much. The whole project was interesting from the beginning, because it was our own way back to our roots and making a metal album that was recorded with a tribe. That's never been done before. I think a lot of people were shocked at first, and a lot of people were at first like, "What the fuck is this? This is some crazy shit! Bunch of guys recording with a tribe. What's going on here?" Afterward, I think it was really well received, and I think "Roots" was one of SEPULTURA's most famous albums.

Read the entire interview from Denver Westword.

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