Sepultura interview with Max Cavalera: From the Vault

Below is a cleaned-up version of an interview D.U.‘s editor conducted that appeared in Deathcheese ‘zine #1 back in 1991.

Sepultura came to the 9:30 Club on the last leg of the Beneath the Remains tour, and what a show it was! Hours beforehand, I was able to sit down with Max Cavalera and his Portuguese accent and talk about stuff. Max was playing a tape of the new album faintly in the background, and it sounded brutal enough. But it was time to get down to asking Max some important questions.

Deathcheese: I get into arguments about what the correct pronunciation of Sepultura is.

Cavalera: Here you go. [laughs] Sep-ul-tu-ra.

Okay. Do you get that a lot?

Yeah, like in Europe, a lot of different countries say it different also, with the accent. But because a Brazilian name, you know, we say Sepultura.

Why don’t you tell me about the new album?

The new album’s called Arise. It’s gonna be 10 songs on it. And, uh [pause] it’s hard to describe, really. It’s different than Beneath the Remains. We didn’t felt like did a Beneath the Remains number two, so we pick it up kind of not totally another direction, but in some ways is more different. I think it’s more aggressive, you know.

Do you think it’s more like Morbid Visions or Schizophrenia?

No, it has nothing to do also. It’s a new thing like we never did. If you compare, I think it’s a little bit like the change we did from Schizophrenia to Beneath the Remains, which is not too big, but it’s still a change. I think it’s more angry, it’s more fucked up, you know, like, pissed off. We been touring, got a lot more idea of things that we been seeing, and when you come back to Brazil it’s lot of fucked up things and all that feelings. So I think this album is more aggressive, definitely.

Have people been telling you you’ve sold out recently, because Beneath the Remains doesn’t sound like Schizophrenia?

No. Some people think it’s too different from the first album, but that’s just a few people. And these people don’t understand that you have to grow. We are on a band that grows, but we don’t forget our roots. You can’t say our shit is commercial, because I think it’s too aggressive. Is just not death metal, pure 100 percent evil anymore. Like, we are singing about different things. We are trying to do something original instead of copying Hellhammer or Venom or Slayer, you know? So we decide to do our own thing. But we didn’t have in mind nothing like as a commercial or a wimp or sellout. If the album sold, that was because was good, not because was more mellow.

I think “Primitive Future” [from Beneath the Remains] is the one that sounds most like the songs from Schizophrenia.

Yeah. It’s like, Schizophrenia is an album that we did in a kind of embarrassed situation. Like, Jairo [Guedes, guitar] just left the band. I was writing the stuff with him. Then Andreas [Kisser, guitar] came with his new way, new influence, new everything, so it’s 50 percent without Andreas, 50 percent with Andreas. Plus, the 50 percent before Andreas I almost did myself because Jairo was at that time not really interested in the band anymore. So I wrote most half percent of that album, and Andreas and me did the rest. And Beneath the Remains is more together because we did the whole thing together, so is more complex.

And this new album is even more original, you know. So I really don’t care too much when people say something. We are kind of band that don’t think about that too much. We are open to receive criticals, but we really don’t give a fuck too much. We do what we want. It’s our music. People listen to it, can like it or hate it.

Why did you release Beneath the Remains with remastering and lyrics? That’s rather strange.

Yeah, that was a Roadrunner idea, because they figure out after they were too cheap to even put lyrics on the first thing. We want the lyrics, we want everything, you know.

You don’t see labels spending extra money like that, to put it out again.

Well, they decide to do that because was selling too good. Was selling very good, so they say, “Well, this is gonna be one of the most selling albums.” And it is right now selling like King Diamond or Annihilator, so they realize they can’t stay in good selling album, we don’t even have the lyrics on it. Besides, Scott [Burns, producer] thought it can be heavier, so he did the remix. So he put more bass, he add more bass, more body.

How did you get the deal with Roadrunner? Did they go to Cogumelo [Records]?

Yeah, Cogumelo is our first record label.

Did they go to Cogumelo and buy your contract?

From what album, from Schizophrenia?


Yeah, they bought the albums from Schizophrenia. You know, before that the Schizophrenias they have in Europe was all bootleg. So now it’s official.

How did you get the Cogumelo deal in the first place?

They saw us play live once and they like it. They offer us to record an EP. Like, we never got a demo. We’re a band that never had a demo. We were old already, like one, maybe two years of band, playing around my old city. And they used to be just a record store. So they saw us live together with Overdose, and they came up to me and said, “Yeah, we are just a record store, but we wanna become a record label. What do you think about you be the first band to do an album with us?” And us, we got interested. It was the only thing going on in that time, so we said, “Why not? We will. Let’s do it.” So we put that four songs on it [as Bestial Devastation]. Then we did other shit: Morbid Visions, Schizophrenia.

What’s going on with the underground scene in Brazil right now? I read in an interview once when you said it was nowhere.

Not anymore. It’s getting better.

And that’s as far as we got on that question, because at that moment someone came in the back door and said something in Portuguese.

Cavalera: Mmm, I think we gonna have to stop and keep after. I have five minutes for soundcheck. That’s okay for you? We come back here after soundcheck.

Sepultura tossed a couple of riffs around at soundcheck and played some of “Detroit Rock City” and “Sarcastic Existence,” among other things. Then we were in the back of the bus again. As we passed through the middle of the bus, [bassist] Paulo [Jr.] was sitting there playing a pocket Nintendo game. Max grabbed his favorite beverage, Perrier.

Where were we here? Okay! How come you put the “Troops of Doom” remake on the new [version of] Schizophrenia?

Cavalera: They said they need a bonus track or something, just, like, to make something new on the album, not just release normally. So they asked if we could do something. We always been doing old stuff, like we still playing “Antichrist” from Bestial Devastation, and then we were doing “Troops of Doom” live and we like they way we redid it again. It was sounding more aggressive, more like, um, better in structuring and with a crunchier sound. We felt enthusiasm at it to do, so we were in the same studio we did Schizophrenia, back in the same place, and we did “Troops of Doom” for the album. I’m pretty happy with it. I like it a lot, the new version. Besides, the old version’s out of tune. [laughs]

The whole Morbid Visions album is out of tune. We didn’t have no money at all. ‘Cause we too have no experience in the studio, we didn’t figure out that we have to tune. We record one day, and the other day I didn’t give a shit, I just start to record without take care of tune. You know tune?

Yeah, like tuning to E.

Yeah. [laughs] So it’s out of tune. It’s like a little bit down.

So you weren’t in tune with yourself or with anybody else?

I wasn’t in tune to myself from the last night. [laughs] Like, we spent one week recording. I spent two days doing the guitar. The first day I record something and I forgot to tune, just start to record something right away. But it’s okay. When we play live it’s good. Sometime we play “Crucifixion” live, it’s pretty heavy. The music was well done, but the production was very shit.

Why didn’t you have the original logo on the latest record?

Uh, record label says that people can’t read, and at the time we didn’t have any power through Roadrunner because we’re just another new band. So we say we like old logo, and they say, “I know you like the old logo but we wanna use this one, because people have to read. People have to know that you are Sepultura and you’re from Brazil and all that shit.” It’s like, if you wanna keep fighting for the old logo, they gonna say, “Okay, so go find another record label.” They got more power at that time to do anything they want. We gonna have the old logo back, now that we show them that we sell, and we show them that everybody likes the old logo better.

“Am I still mad? Yeah. Things don’t get better. Things never get better.”

When you’re back home, do you ever sing in Portuguese?

Just in real beginning, really back in ’82, ’83.

How did you learn English?

Talking to people, basically. They got a little bit in school in Brazil. It’s a obligatory language in Brazilian schools. But, you know, you don’t really learn. You learn the basic things like, “What time is it?” “The pen is on the table.” Something like that. [laughs] The main thing, I got it talking to people, doing, uh, letters. I was the picked to been doing it for long time, interviews and everything, by mail or by phone. So I was the first to talk in English. Now all of them can talk. They talk pretty good. You can talk to all of them.

What do you do to earn a living? You don’t make enough from the records to live, do you?

Uh, was like, I used to work in factories and all that shit, but, yeah, we did some good money from Beneath the Remains that at least I give some money for my parents. I still live with them, so they don’t give me shit. They let me live with them, me and Igor [Cavalera, drums]. And the same thing with the others.

They know we need a little certain time to do some, so they patience. They not real like, “Go get a job now,” or “Cut your hair and stop this bullshit.” No, they’re patience, you know, because we make them believe that we just need a certain time to show that we can do it in our own thing. And we start doing it already. So I hope for the next couple years, we can start living with the money of the albums without sellout or something, without wimping out. But we still need some money. This world’s fucking difficult.

But we got it better. We got good management now. We might move to the U.S. or Europe in next year, after everything, after we have about four tours.

Did you like the “Inner Self” video?

Yeah, it’s okay for the money we had, you know. It was just $7,000. It’s nothing. You can do your own video like that. [laughs] It looks a little bit like a home video. That was cool for that, was interesting, and I surprised that they tell me that MTV play it. ‘Cause they normally want a video that looks professional and all that shit. We did just three cameras, really cheap production. I mean, think about from the money, the things we have to do that, came out pretty good. It’s not like King Diamond video that’s hundred thousand dollars.

What’s that little bass line at the end of “Stronger than Hate” that Paulo does? Does that have anything to do with the song, or did you just stick it on there?

No, just stick it on, and he create that in a rehearsal. We like it, we thought it was pretty neat. Yeah, just stick it on the album. Doesn’t even have a name. It’s just a weird thing. Like, on the new album I have some weird stuff also.

Some more instrumentals?

Mmm, yeah, and we mix it with the industrial and tribal things. Some tribal drums that really neat. We have some songs with a little bit acoustic, but nothing like a whole song.

Are you still mad about the stuff you talk about in the magazines, about things in Brazil and how everything’s too expensive there?

Am I still mad? Yeah. [laughs] You know, things don’t get better. Things never get better.

How do you feel about them cutting down the rain forests?

It’s bullshit. It’s fucked up to everybody in the whole world. Like, it’s oxygen. And nobody stop them. Somebody should do something. There’s one man who tried to stop them. He got killed. The people with power there, you know, politics and all that shit, they killed this man. They torture him and then put on a tree as a symbol, like, “Don’t try this again!”

You know, we have very good wood there, plus they wanna do civilization there, but this is one of the last areas in the world that’s so big in nature and oxygen and all that shit. I mean, I think it’s bullshit why nobody do nothing about it. People seems like just joking. They think it’s just a toy, but it’s not. Like war, people don’t take war serious. They just take serious after one million dies. Then they start to think, “Ah, yeah, it’s kinda serious.”

How would you compare fans in Brazil to the fans in America?

Uh, it’s about the same. Depends on the areas we play. The city I live is like New York. Shows every day, all kind of stuff there, so it’s like, some people it’s kinda boring and hard to impress. You know, they just act like, “Oh, I sees so many things and this doesn’t impress me.” Kind of like New York. But the other cities, basically it’s about the same. Underground scene, they all about the same. They all react the same, they all crazy nuts and drunk, they get into the music. They are violent persons.

That’s about all I have. Is there anything you want to say to wrap it up, like “Go buy the record when it comes out” or something?

No, that’s fucking boring. I won’t say that. Not really, just thanks, you know. Thanks for all the support people give us, and see you next tour, see you somewhere. ■

Photos from the gig: D.U.

Check out more Sepultura coverage here at the blog. And read more old-school content in our From the Vault section.


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