We are very percussive people
Video production by Sebastiaan Spijker of Metal Media!
It’s nice to see you again, thank you for taking the time to talk to us again!
Max: Good to be here!
How are things in your world?
Max: Everything’s going great man, it’s a great tour. I think it was a really cool idea to do this now, twenty years later. Sometimes I think as a musician, in order to go forward, you have to look back, and have a little time to dissect some of your old material. This is a perfect example of a tour that really works, because me and Igor, we’ve been through so much together, and we got the idea to do this and it’s really exciting. I don’t know, for some reason it’s exciting as hell *laughs*
Well, it’s a special album!
Max: The fans are excited, we are excited, we are playing very good, the shows are fantastic. There are a lot of sold out shows, so we’re going to end this year with a lot of great shows, and work on some new stuff next year.
This album, Roots, it’s one of those alltime classics, and it still holds up very well today. It’s still a very vibrant album when you listen to it, it aged well. Why do you think it’s still so current?
Max: Well I think it’s kind of a timeless record really. It’s kind of one of those really right place, right time kind of records, with the ideas. It gave birth to so many cool things in music I think. Not just for me, but for other projects and other bands, in other parts of the world. I think that the world music idea of Roots, the tribal idea of mixing native music with Metal, and percussion with Metal, all that had quite never been done like that, before Roots. It was the pioneer of that kind of thing.
It was really new!
Max: Yeah! It was exciting, and it was well done I think. It was really well portrayed. We added the tribes song, going to the tribe the Itsari, and I think it came out better than what we had in mind, when we first thought about the project. When I first thought about the Roots project I didn’t think it was going to come out quite so good, and I didn’t know it would have this much impact. That’s another thing we didn’t know. Back then we just went into the studio to make records, and to make a good record, you know? Nobody entered the studio thinking, we’re making a classic. I think you’re making a classic when you’re not thinking about making a classic. When you’re thinking about it, then it doesn’t happen *laughs*
Then it doesn’t work.
Max: Then it doesn’t work. Yeah, that’s one of those things about Roots.
If you listen to this album, it’s really unpolished in the best of ways. You can hear that you just had fun with it. You went for it.
Max: Yeah. A lot of things were simplified on the music side especially, the riffs. The earlier Sepultura stuff, especially Beneath The Remains, Arise, even the Schizophrenia era is very complicated. A lot of riffs and, you know, Thrash stuff. So with Roots, what we tried to do is to show the other side of this spectrum, that you can make Metal but you can simplify Metal, and it can still be good. It has a bit of a Punk attitude with it. That’s why songs like Spit, Straight Hate, Cut-throat came out so powerful like that, but it’s very minimalistic. It’s kind of primordial.
How much can you take away for it still to be Metal.
Max: Yeah, and I was like less is more, that kind of approach. Less is more, you get more out of making something more simple, than making something very complicated. There is still some complicated stuff, like the beginning of Straight Hate has a lot of parts. Songs like Dusted have a lot of different kinds of patterns, different speed patterns on it. Dynamics, you know?
That’s why it survived the time as good as it did, because you brought it down to it’s core.
Max: I think so. I think it was good. At that time we were feeling it, it was what we thought this is good right now to do. I have no regrets. I think that it was the right thing to do.
Absolutely. I like the little giggles between songs and the little elements on it. In between songs you have like little laughs and such. It makes it feel real.
Max: That’s just part of capturing live recording, you know? I think Ross was really into that. Between us talking, just that vibe, he was really into it. Our power as a band when we got our instruments and just jammed, explosion came out of it. He was really into that. He also liked when we spoke Portuguese, I think it was like exotic for him. I think he captured a little bit of that, which I think is cool for the record, but I think the coolest thing about Roots is the team that was used. Ross recorded, and his recording was very raw, very unpolished. We sent it to Andy Wallace, who was the producer of the last album, Chaos AD. Andy Wallace has worked with everybody, from Nirvana, Slayer to Madonna. He is a real master kind of guy. He grabbed the album and really made it sound, just amazing.
<at this point Iggor Cavalera enters the tour bus>
Iggor: Sorry, we’re a bit late. Hello guys!
Hey there, welcome!
Iggor: Thank you, how is it going?
Max: Fresh from a haircut!
Iggor: Yes, I had to clean up a little. Could I just sit here?
Yeah, absolutely, no problem. We were just talking a bit about the album. So, continue!
Max: So the less is more idea works for Roots on many levels. I think the simplification of the songs really works, and it translates great live.
Yeah I bet.
Max: Very powerful live. Right now on this tour I think my favorite songs to play are Spit, Straight Hate and on the jam side, Ratamahatta, because it has a very percussive sound.
That’s a very special song, Ratamahatta.
Yeah. But it’s really fun to play this stuff after twenty years.
I bet! There is a lot of percussion on this album. Does that mean you have extra percussionists on the stage?
Iggor: No, no.
Max: He’s doing it all!
Iggor: I mean, that’s the cool thing about Roots also, we’ve done it in a way that we could redo it live. It was more like certain jams and certain beats are very percussive, so we can reproduce that. And there’s a part in the show where me and Max do a proper drum percussion jam thing, which is one of my favorite parts of the show. It really translates our state of mind at the time, trying to put a lot of the tribal energy into a Metal show. For me that was like super important. Not only to do myself, but also to get Max involved, because that’s how we were feeling at that time. So, to bring this back today on stage, for me it’s very special.
When I listen to the Roots album it sounds a lot like the record of a personal journey that you make us a part of. It’s like a really spiritual thing it seems. I really like that about the Roots album.
Max: I’m glad it had that effect, we didn’t know what effect it would have, because we were not there with the fans when they were listening and absorbing, you know? It’s the mystery of music. It’s what makes music mystical and amazing. I think that’s the best thing about music. This mystical thing that happens when people get into the record, but I think Roots, if you get into the whole thing like a journey, it’s really cool. And now we’re playing the whole thing live, and it feels great. We play the whole record live, so, I’ve never done a whole album before like that. First time.
Iggor: Yeah, even the order of the album if you listen to it, is the order that we play live. It’s something really cool. At first I was not sure, for live it’s a different animal, but looking back it’s like even the order of the songs totally makes sense, translated to a show. That’s something I had no idea of, when me and Max started going back and forward about doing this, if it would work, or if we had to manage the songs to be more like a show. But we didn’t have to do anything. Once we played from the beginning to the end, we were like wow. It really works as a show also.
One of the other things I really like about the Roots album is that the percussion on it is really hypnotic. There are rhythms in there that just drag you into the songs. How is it to play those songs live? How does the audience respond to it?
Iggor: I don’t know. Like the percussive side, usually it does kind of put people in like a mantra state, I really enjoy this. Me and Max, even before Roots, always talked about this. On how to incorporate certain beats that can be repetitive, and at the same time have a groove to it, and be heavy. That was the trick, because for us, we are very careful not to do it just for the sake of doing a Brazilian thing. We were like very meticulous at the time to make sure that it felt like we were doing something that we would come up with, not just us trying to be a Brazilian percussion band, or a Samba school band.
Max: We could have turned into some kind of Jazz experiment, that maybe wouldn’t have been as cool.
You didn’t want it to be a gimmick.
Max: Yeah, I think songs like “Roots Bloody Roots” are like he said, like a mantra. It’s repeating itself back and forward, all the way through. It’s very hypnotic. It has a really big impact on the people. And then you have the big chorus of course. It’s always important, I’m a big fan of big choruses, I always love it when crowds sing together, you know? Chants of big choruses.
Iggor: I don’t know anybody who can do it as good as him. Because seriously, very few bands in Metal can do something that is still powerful and is still catchy. Catchy is the word. It’s not pop, but it’s catchy. For me, Max is the master of that. He can make the kids sing something, even on this tour I was surprised how much the kids were singing, all the way through the whole show. I was like, wow. Of course the first time we played Roots, it was still fresh on people’s mind, when we did the first tour for Roots. And now, people are way more absorbed, the album is in their DNA somehow, so it’s like they’re singing everything, and only he can do that kind of shit man.
We’ve been playing that album for twenty years man, we know it!
Iggor: *laughs* I know, I know, they better know it, right?
Well, there are a lot of great lyrics on this record. “Open up your mind and go your own way”, “Live your life, leave me alone”, “These roots will always remain”. What are your favorite lines on the album?
Max: “Open up your mind and go your own way” has a funny story. We were driving, and I was driving the car to the studio, to sing, and I came up with the idea and had to stop the car on the side of the road. “Find something to write down, I have a big idea for a lyric!” We were looking through the car, in the glovebox and found a pen and some paper. So we’re at the side of the road writing it down, went to the studio and sang that. So sometimes the ideas just come like that. It’s a good thing it wasn’t during the morning *laughs* but that would have worked too.
These times it’s easier. You have a phone to record stuff.
Iggor: Or the ipod, or whatever.
Max: I also like the song “Cut-Throat”, where we made a reference to Epic, we had some experiences with Epic records an album before, and it was very… yeah, we didn’t like it. The big label shit, ugh, so corporate. It was like so not us. We were so “this is not for us at all, man”. Goddamn. So we made the song Cut-Throat and I sing about Epic, you know? Enslavement pathetic, Ignorant corporations. So that was kind of cool. Sticking the knife in the big boss *laughs*
Those are great singalong lyrics.
Max: Like “Attitude” was cool, mostly because it doesn’t say on the name of the song, but it has the “Can you take it” part that everybody sings along. Again, it’s a different way of making a song catchy. You use different words, not exactly the chorus, but different words and make that into a kind of catchy phrase like thing. I think it works really good, you know? I love the connection between my riff, the vocals and the drums. Because Iggor is doing some stuff that goes with the vocals, and that’s pretty magic.
That combination is very important.
Max: Yeah, that’s like so intricate, but it works man, on so many levels.
Iggor: It’s also because, I have to say, me and Max are very percussive people. Even the way he plays the guitar, it’s very different than a lot of rhythm players. Like on the show right now, he does a lot of effects and things, for me it’s more like he’s playing percussion. He’s not really doing the typical guitar playing. And that also goes for the vocals. I remember sometimes we would be jamming, and Max would start singing something without lyrics, but just like mumbling something very percussive, that later he will find the words to fit in there. I think that percussive side of it is really cool. That communication becomes a new thing. A new style of us writing, differently than the typical Rock band, or even like a Metal band for that. For me, that’s what makes it special. Especially as a drummer, to have that, it means that you have a lot of freedom to create, rather than just follow a guitar riff or bass line, it’s a lot more of a challenge.
Even if you look at the title track, “Roots Bloody Roots”, it’s just one or two notes that rhythmically played in a certain way, even then it’s already really rhythmic I think. On this album you did things a little bit differently than on the previous album. With Chaos AD you already brought some new elements to the table, but you could say with Roots you redefined the Metal genre. What do you think makes a song heavy?
Max: I think a good riff and pounding drums on top of it. And then some good screaming, you know? *laughs* I have these three elements, put them together and you have a powerful recipe in your hands. That’s pretty much it. For instance, a song like “Spit” is pretty much like that. You have the opening riff that the bass does, and then the drums comes in with all the power of the drumming, and then the vocals come in later. Those three things are like the core of a song.
Iggor: I would add like, the raw power, when you do something. For me, even a song like “Look Away”, which is like very simple, but it has this like weird energy to it, that makes it like super heavy with the low end, and the way the drums are a bit more slow. So I think those elements that Max says, but also adding a bit of this energy that sometimes you only hear in a riff like the first Black Sabbath thing. Which is like simple, but maybe one of the heaviest riffs ever. It’s like, wow man. Those things are really important. The right energy at the right time.
Max: I am also really intrigued by the beginning of Straight Hate, which is the first thing we wrote for Roots. This is where we started the whole project, we started with Straight Hate. This song reminds me of Bad Brains, it’s the build up of I Against I, a big take-over. It’s building up you know? I think we did that as an influence from Bad Brains, from listening to Bad Brains. If you don’t tell somebody, they will never know. They don’t know where it came from, because the way we do it is so much heavier, and full of feedback and stuff.
Iggor: And the drums are more tribal, opposed to straight, but I’m a fan of both, you know.
Max: Yeah, it’s a perfect setup for when the <hums the riff>, I mean when that hits, it’s like, YES! It came! *laughs* You were waiting for like two minutes of feedback and buildup and tribal, for that fucking, uhmmm. It’s just all that buildup, just for that. *laughs* Which is great. Details like that matter, when you’re making a record. It’s what gives it power. Even live, I love that part of the set. For me, one of my favorite parts of the show live is the buildup of Straight Hate. The buildup and the middle part, that goes into the same thing again. It’s fucking noisy shit, then the drums, it’s like losing your mind, out of control. It’s very Metal. *laughs*
Max: And Punk! Together. In a blender.
That as well. To me the old Sepultura and the later Cavalera projects have always been synonymous with family, something that’s also very important to me. You’re on tour with your brother, you’re on tour with your son and your wife, can you tell us a bit about what family means to you? The both of you?
Iggor: Well, for me, it took me a long time, but once I realized that success, it’s doing what you do, but also including people that you love, to do it with you. Once that hit for me, that was the moment I was like, okay, I’m successful. I mean it’s not about the money, it’s not about the things, it’s about feeding your kids but also making sure that they are a part of what you do. Max taught me that really well, from the beginning. It’s like, man, make sure your kids are part of it, and this way, even if they go do something else, somehow if they experience what you do, it’s much easier for them to understand what you do. Because sometimes, some kids in their head, they’re like why is my dad going away to do this? They know exactly how it is to be on the road. Like my youngest son, his first year he traveled with Cavalera Conspiracy for like, four months. Nowadays when I tell him I have to do this, he knows exactly. He’s not even going like oh dad… He’s like, yeah, I know what you have to do, because I’ve been there. That’s very important for me.
They’re part of your journey now.
Iggor: Yes, yes. And for me it’s super important, the way Max does this and the way I try to involve them. Like, I play in another project with my wife, and in the future, if I have a chance to do something with my kids, I also would love to do that. And it’s good, and it’s also very natural. For example, Zyon playing in Soulfly right now, I go see him play and it’s like a natural progression man, it’s the same way as when I look at me when I was 14, 15. I’m like, I don’t need to tell him anything, he knows exactly what to do. And he’s the same way. He observes, when I go play a show, he’ll be observing and I look at him, and it’s like, yeah. We know. It’s a quite special thing, you know? I never had to tell him like “Zyon, you should do this”. Nah, he knows what’s up.
Max: We’ve always been big on family. We come from Brazil, but we also come from an Italian family, that’s really close. We had like Sunday dinner, Sunday brunch… Every Sunday the whole family would get together, and everybody would be screaming at the table. It was fun, you know? We kept the family together. I’m very proud. I totally agree with Iggor, it’s success, being able to do what you love, and share it with your family. It’s the coolest thing, ever. I get to do the band now, I’m playing with him in Roots, and Cavalera Conspiracy, and I got to play with my son in Soulfly, so cool man! It’s like, I can’t complain. Those were some of my dreams as a kid, they came true. It’s fantastic.
And has your relationship changed over the years, if you look back at the Roots era, compared to now?
Iggor: Yeah, and I think also that’s something that’s only with time. I remember when we toured Roots, it was a lot of drama, and a lot of stuff that, at that age I didn’t realize how important stuff was that we were doing, and I was just being an idiot most of the time. Also like the whole atmosphere, the crew, everyone was kind of like ugh. Nowadays when I do a tour, I don’t want to have any drama. I want to come in, I want to do my show, I want to see the fans happy, I want to hang out with my brother, exchange culture, exchange ideas, hangout with my family. I have my nephews, I have Gloria here, my wife comes all the time, that’s what it’s about. So it does change a lot, you know what I mean? It would be a lie if I said nothing changed with 20 years ago, no, it did, and I have to say, in a very positive way. Because we do learn from a lot of mistakes, and also try to redo some of the good things that we did. So I think it’s super important to have all those years, and to be able to come back and do this, like we mentioned last night, someone like Pantera cannot do that. They already miss one of their guys. For us, I feel super fortunate, that me and Max can still do this. We’re super healthy, we’re kicking ass, we’re doing our thing.
Iggor: Yeah. It’s a privilege, yeah.
Max: Exactly, yeah. I was like, you know, the ten years that we didn’t speak, I don’t say that it was necessary, but it was actually kind of important to when we came back and became brothers again. It made us realize that we really love our brotherhood. It’s something that’s very special, that we shouldn’t take it for granted. And looking at things like Dimebag, stuff like that, you do take it for granted sometimes. So we decided to enjoy every moment, and try to make it as stress free as possible, as far as you can control it. Some things you can’t control, but some of the stuff that you can control, we do it like that, and that’s why it’s so fun. Cavalera Conspiracy is fun, this thing is super fun. Cavalera Conspiracy, there’s a little bit of pressure on , for new songs and stuff like that *laughs*. People are going to compare with the old shit!
Iggor: Which for me, again, it’s all about challenges. I love the challenge of like, me and Max need to sit down and write some music that we love, and that for me didn’t change from when we were fourteen or fifteen. It’s the way we love music and the way we write music. We’re just getting together, putting our ideas on it, and that’s the cool thing about Cavalera. It’s also because we do have a very special connection with the right now, rather than just a connection to the past. It’s like now, what can we do that is cool, and we can be like yes. This is exciting. Let’s play this. I love that that feeling like okay, we need to come up with shit right now, to play tomorrow and have fun.
Well I can’t wait to see what the extended Cavalera family will produce in the near future, but it’s always fun to look back. We will do that tonight!
Max: Yes tonight is about looking back and having fun. We play the whole record, which is great. It’s like an hour and one minute, and then we come back and do some other messing around stuff, that we will keep a secret, we’re not gonna tell you. *laughs*
*laughs* I’ll be in front again, so I’ll see!
Max: Watch out for the water! *laughs* Don’t get too wet! But yeah, we love playing Holland, we think it’s going to be a great show. This whole tour has been fantastic so far. A lot of the shows are very packed, and there’s kind of an atmosphere in the air that’s really unique, because of the elements, because of Roots itself being twenty years old. Then you have young people that weren’t even born when Roots came out, and they’re going fucking nuts! They’re loving it, you know? And then you have old farts like us that were there.
Iggor: It’s a cool combination.
Max: A very great combination. People saying “I was there back in the day!”. For me, the older you get, the better it gets. Of course you can look back at the videos, and that’s really cool and stuff, but I think as a musician, the challenges, right now how we play, how we represent Roots right now, it’s fantastic. It’s a great energy, and we tweaked a couple of things on the songs, to make them their own right now, so they fit the time. We do a new version of Roots 2016, which is very powerful in the end, so it’s a fantastic show. I’m very excited.
I can’t wait to hear it! To close up, do you have any last words for our readers?
Iggor: I think Max summed up something that’s really important, that we’ve always had a really strong relationship with Holland. From the Dynamo days, in a very small club, going through Pinkpop, like a massive festival, and then doing of course clubs and venues like this tonight. I think there’s a very strong connection between what we do and Holland, so we’re really happy to be here.
Max: It’s going to be a great show, great show.
Absolutely. We’re very happy to have you! Have fun up there, and thank you for your time!