Metal

Cavalera: “To me, that is purity that only happens in bands that have brothers. It’s crazy… It’s a connection….”

In our latest cover story, iconic frontman Max Cavalera discusses the re-recorded classic albums and how magical the power of metal is…

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Cavalera, photo by Kevin Estrada

If you want to list iconic metal frontmen who have shaped a whole generation of heavy music over the last forty years, names like James Hetfield, Tom Araya, Jonathon Davis always spring to mind. Another name which always nears the top of that list is Max Cavalera, a man who, back in the 80s, emerged from the Brazilian underground metal scene with some of the most brutal music going on to forge a career which has seen his many projects continually push the boundaries of heavy music.

Over the last twelve months, three of those albums, Morbid Visions, Bestial Devastation, and now Schizophrenia have been re-recorded giving them a fresh coat of paint without losing any of that grittiness which made the originals so iconic.

In our latest Cover Story, V13 sat down with Max to talk to him about his career, why he chose to re-record those albums and, to find out how he would like to be remembered.

It’s been a long journey, Max. I remember seeing you back in 1991 with Sacred Reich and Heathen definitely. I want to dig back into that journey. Starting with the re-recordings of Morbid Visions and Bestial Devastation. What prompted the idea?

Max Cavalera: “Yeah, I think we were touring the other records like we did Roots, and then we did Beneath the Remains and the reaction was so explosive and the fans were reacting so good with the way we were playing that stuff live that, I mentioned to Igor that it would be cool to have this sound on this old records that sound like shit especially if we can get them to sound the way we sound now because we sound great right now with the way we are playing.

A lot of people are… there’s a big taboo about re-recording. There are a lot of people who are [freaked out about touching old stuff. I had to kind of block all that and think fuck it, let’s do it, man, but let’s do it the way we want to do it, the way we want to hear it as fans. I think that’s the difference in the approach that we took. So Morbid Visions, Bestial Devastation, it’s still very dirty and aggressive, maybe even more aggressive than the original. You know? We play a little bit faster and it’s more angrier.

I don’t know how, but it’s angrier than the original. I think that’s key for these records. We don’t want it a digital, brand new modern sound. We just want it to sound live, like a good live sounding and we did that. I think that’s why it sounded so cool. Of course, when we did those, we knew what we were going to do with Schizophrenia because it’s another record that we feel it’s never really lived up to the potential. The songs are great, but they were never really recorded the right way. So now we’re very happy. We did the three, we got the trilogy and we got to tour for it.

It’s amazing. I cannot wait for people to hear Schizophrenia, the re-recording, because, out of the three, it might be my favourite one because I think it’s the one that is even a little bit faster than the original. It’s got more of a lot of energy and attitude in the way we re-recorded. It is quite cool to hear that right now with a good proper sound.”

Your comment earlier was that when they came out, they sounded like shit, the production, but to me, that rawness defined a whole era. You were a new band, those albums came out at a time when there wasn’t the technology. You wanted to keep that grittiness and rawness of the records, how hard was it to do that given the way technology has progressed?

“I’m not gonna lie, there’s some records that I would like to hear with a better sound. Maybe even stuff like Show No Mercy would have been cool. Imagine Kill Em All with the sound of, let’s say, And Justice For All or even the Black Album, which is good quality-wise. To imagine that would be cool to make these records sound like that.

Of course, I cannot re-record Metallica or Slayer, but I can do, Sepultura. So it was just a question of that, but I think the temptation is there to change shit, change riffs. We were very disciplined in not changing the songs and keeping the recording process dirty. I talked to the producer Arthur and said that this shit cannot sound clean. It cannot. This shit needs to stay fucking pissed off and angry. A little bit dirty even. I listened to the re-recording of Morbid Visions and I think the guitar sound is extreme-sounding. Originally, we couldn’t get that guitar sound because it was a shit, shit studio with shit gear.”

Morbid Visions, Bestial Devastation, it’s still very dirty and aggressive, maybe even more aggressive than the original. You know? We play a little bit faster and it’s more angrier.”

I saw the last show in Manchester when you toured last (review here) and everything about the show felt pissed off and angry. It was fast. It was ferocious. It just felt like you’d captured that era again perfectly.

“Those songs I love them, first of all. I think they are very powerful. You have to play them as powerful as you can. They’re simple songs, especially Morbid Visions and Bestial Devastation. Schizophrenia is a bit more intricate. It becomes a bit more technical, but it’s still very ferocious.

I’m intrigued about this tour because now we get to mix Schizophrenia material into the set. I’m excited because I can only imagine playing say “Troops of Doom” and “Septic Schizo” back to back. To me, it’s going to be like a teenager Max Cavalera’s dream come true to be playing this shit live again, and we feel the energy of the crowd.

All the shows are going to be full of energy. Packed with a good vibe in the air. People just want to enjoy the metal and feel nostalgic about a special time in metal. It’s worth celebrating something so cool like this.”

Definitely. Now, you talk about that trilogy of albums. What do you remember about that period of your musical journey which was teenager Max starting when nobody had heard of you outside of Brazil?

“Well, I remember sitting down with Jairo and he’s teaching me Mercyful Fate riffs and I’m thinking this is fucking cool. I remember learning “Curse of the Pharaohs” and, I think the other one was “Evil” and expanding my mind in terms of riffs, where I can take these riffs to the next level. I think you can see the growth. I think Bestial Devastation was very black metal influenced but then Morbid Visions, you can start feeling thrash is coming in little by little in songs like “War” and “Mayhem.” Now, Schizophrenia is full-blown death/thrash which, to me, is one of the coolest two clashes of types of metal coming together.

The death/thrash era is very special. It has created so many special records that I think is a unique thing that happened in metal back then, kind of like the crossover era. I remember that time we just didn’t care about anything, except going really fast and playing hard. Don’t give a fuck about anything, just play as hard as you can, fast as you can and it felt great. It felt like a cleansing, like a therapy. Once you play this shit, you had all that aggression out and it felt great.”

V13 – MagazineCover – Issue58 – Cavalera

That’s the feeling I got when I saw the show last year. It just felt like it was, without sounding dated or nostalgic, it just had that feel again of those early shows that I went to where you came out with a ripped t-shirt dripping with sweat.

“Which is a great thing. It’s a great feeling about metal. I think you don’t have to complicate things too much. You leave them in a simple setting that is just really about connecting with the fans, through the music, the power of the music and, I think that live feeling you get is a unique thing that happens with metal. The old records that been around for 30 years, and people had 30 years to grow up with these songs. I say some of those songs are in people’s DNA, you know, but some people have heard the songs for 30 years. When they go see it live, it’s an out-of-body experience.”

This goes back to something you said early on about people not wanting original recordings touched, to stay the way they are. What’s the reaction been like from hardcore Max fans and Sepultura fans?

“I was real surprised with the reaction for Morbid Visions and Bestial Devastation was real positive, like the majority of people felt like the way we felt. Making them we get to hear the riffs for the first time. We couldn’t hear them on the original because they are buried with crappy sound and not a good guitar sound and shitty drums. When you hear them, it’s almost like the song is coming to life again, almost like magic. I don’t know the right word, but it feels like magic.

It’s like it shouldn’t work, but it works, somehow. There are always a couple of people that like the original better saying “fuck this shit.” I like all the classics too and I listened to all of that but if you ask me point blank, and I’m not bullshitting you, do I like to listen to Morbid Visions, the original or the newer version, I like the newer version because you get to hear the riffs. You get to hear the power of the songs, but, if you want to hear the original too, it’s fine by me. I’m not losing any sleep over that.”

During that whole period, the production technologies weren’t there. What did you learn as a musician?

“It was so crazy recording those records. Let me tell you just a little story. We show up and the studio engineer is trying to convince me not to use my distortion pedal. He is telling me that I should just go clean guitar on this, and I’m going out of my mind as he wants me to play this riff without distortion so it sounds like fucking Chuck Berry or some shit? He thought that it sounded great. No, it sounds like shit. Then, of course, we put the distortion on, but it’s still shitty, even with the distortion.

We only had I think for the EP was three days. Three days or otherwise, whatever you don’t get done, some shit’s not going to be recorded. It’s fucking pressure to get it done and there’s no money and you’re hungry and you’re excited and tired at the same time. I don’t know. It was all kinds of crazy. I remember the first time I entered the studio, I felt like I was in a spaceship. I don’t know any of this shit, all these buttons, these controls. I don’t know any of it. I just know how to play my riff. Let’s record. Now I know so much more. There’s so much more experience in the studio.

I love studios these days. For a long time, I didn’t like it. I felt like the studio was lacking life, a bit like a dead space because you don’t have fans there. It’s a trick that you gotta do with your mind, you gotta imagine the song being played in front of a lot of people while you’re playing it in front of nobody. It’s pretty tricky, but I think it’s cool. It’s all a learning experience and we’re always learning new stuff and I love to work with producers.”

“I remember the first time I entered the studio, I felt like I was in a spaceship. I don’t know any of this shit, all these buttons, these controls. I don’t know any of it. I just know how to play my riff.”

Regarding the hardcore fans, you mentioned that these songs are in people’s DNA and I’ll hold my hand up, that’s me. Do you think, looking at the shows last year, did you see a new audience or a new generation of fans that maybe didn’t know about that era of your career, especially the early albums?

“Oh yeah. There’s a lot of young people throughout the whole tour. We met young kids and a lot of them were not even born when those records were made. I think it’s cool because I found myself thinking about myself. I remember Black Sabbath, the first Black Sabbath album came out when I was one year old so, by the time I was 13, the band had already split up.

When I discovered Black Sabbath, they were already finished, you know so it’s like these guys discovering Morbid Visions, Schizophrenia, Sepultura is no longer together, the era is over, but I got to see Ozzy playing Black Sabbah material and I remember the goosebumps. I had fucking full-on goosebumps listening to “Iron Man”, “Paranoid”, fucking “Children of the Grave”, and “Into the Void.” Fuck man, this is incredible. So, I understand. I understand the new young kids when they listen to these songs live, it’s very powerful.

They weren’t there, but that doesn’t matter. The passion is there. They love this. They love this music they are the new generation. As a musician, you always hope that you have new young people come in and listen to you because that’s how you manage to stay relevant, how you stay playing music. Otherwise, you just grow old with nothing. It’s a mix where we have a lot of older fans and we have a lot of new fans, a bit like the band, the band has me and Igor the old guys, and you have Travis and, Igor Amadeus, the young guys where that chemistry works.”

I was going to ask what is that dynamic like.

“Amazing. Me and Igor, we call it, veteranos. We’re veterans. We’ve been doing this shit forever. We know what you need to do, and what it takes to get results. Then you have young guys like Travis and Igor who are young, excited and energetic. When I look at them, it’s so cool. You just see the bullet belts, the spikes, it’s the full thing. It’s not just music. It’s the aesthetic as well.”

That was the thing I noticed. The whole thing, the lights, the smoke, the bullet belts, it was all there…

“It has to be. It was a conscious decision to do it properly. Let’s go back in time. To me, it feels more authentic this way. It’s fucking cool when you’re in a dressing room and you’re putting your spikes on. I asked him, my brother, to help me put my bracelet on and you feel metal and you’re ready for war. It’s a good feeling.”

“When I look at them, it’s so cool. You just see the bullet belts, the spikes, it’s the full thing. It’s not just music. It’s the aesthetic as well.”

When you look back at your career going through Sepultura, Soulfly, Nailbomb, Cavalera Conspiracy, taking Morbid Visions, Bestial Devastation, Schizophrenia, where do they sit amongst your favourites?

“It’s a special era. I think it’s kind of an innocent era in metal, where we are discovering almost like a shift of the guard. The old guard is Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, the new guard is coming in with Venom and Slayer and I guess Motorhead is part of the old guard, but they influenced the new guard a lot. It was an exciting moment in my life.

To me, those three records, I put them high up with everything I have done. Especially because when you consider that I was fifteen when I made Morbid Visions. That’s fucking young, you know? That’s like really just discovering the riffs and just being excited about listening to a riff and trying to make a new riff out of something that you heard, influenced by something, a time of discovering.”

You had Igor behind you on the drums for Cavalera. When you were re-recording those three albums, how important was it to have Igor with you?

“I had a microphone and a guitar and Igor was right in front of me and we would just jam looking straight at each other and that’s cool because that’s similar to how we used to jam when we were in Sepultura. Some of the guys had not arrived at the rehearsal yet so me and him we would start songs. I remember the best one was “Dead Embryonic Cells,” the whole intro was just me and Igor together. We came up with the whole beginning, there was just the two of us.

To me, that is purity and something that only happens in bands that have brothers like Gojira, Pantera, Obituary, there’s something that happens when you have a brother in a band. It’s fucking crazy. It’s a connection. It’s a different connection than all the musicians. It’s a deeper connection. I feel like that with Igor and we started this shit 40 years ago and we’re still doing it now. It’s fucking incredible.”

“To me, that is purity and something that only happens in bands that have brothers like Gojira, Pantera, Obituary, there’s something that happens when you have a brother in a band.”

That must be a huge buzz when you turn around, you’re on stage and it’s really going off and you turn around and your brother is there. That must be an incredible feeling after 40 years.

“Igor is such a beast on the drums. I don’t care what people say. Everybody gets older so you’re never the same as you were when you were younger, you have to recognize that. I think in terms of creativity, he’s one hella creative drummer who creates amazing drum beats forever like the percussion style. I feel lucky that I get to play with this guy. Sometimes I just go right underneath his drum bass and I just fucking get punished, man. I just feel it fucking kicking in my face.”

You were 15 when you recorded the early albums. You must have a favourite Max/Igor story from that era that you’d share with us…

I have a good one from the re-recording actually. He arrived in Phoenix with a 105-degree fever and he was sick, he was pale and white as a ghost and he recorded sick the whole four days he was here. I joked, “dude, this is real sick. Like, like really sick.” He’s like, “yeah, I am sick…” It came out great so I just said to him you should record more often sick because you sound better when you’re sick.”

What’s next for you then in terms of Cavalera? What’s in the pipeline? Are we going to get new music?

“We’re going to probably work on something new. I don’t know when but we have to do the shows and I’m working on some new Soulfly as well right now. Eventually, we will. We’ll get another record out sometime in the future, especially after we’re done with these recordings and it’s all kind of open for us for the future.”

Do you see any of the other albums like Beneath The Remains being re-recorded?

“I don’t feel that those are necessary. Beneath The Remains, that’s kind of like why are you doing that? Those sound pretty good. We did the others because I was unhappy with the sound of them. I think Beneath The Remains sounds good. Scott Burns know what he’s doing, you know?”

As I told you at the beginning, you’ve been part of my musical life as long as I can remember and I hold you up there with the likes of Hetfield, Araya, and Jonathon Davis in terms of iconic metal vocalists. For a lot of people you redefined heavy music with those albums but, when you look back at what you’ve achieved over your career, what do you see?

“I’m proud that I got to do what I wanted to do with my life. I think it’s a blessing, it’s a gift that I got to experience with family, friends and fans. It’s all connected, all part of the same organism. It’s great, really a great journey.”

And how would you like your legacy to be remembered?

“Have a fucking party, man! Play some music, have some drinks and celebrate. I think that’s the best way to go out.”

To pick up your copies of the re-issued albums, head over to the Official Cavalera Conspiracy website.

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