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Cavalera Conspiracy: Brothers Reunited

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Friday, March 28, 2008 @ 2:42 PM

"10 years is a long-ass time not to see your brother"

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At least for now, half of a Sepultura reunion is going to have to do. And truth be told, for most fans, brothers and band founders Max (guitar/vocals) and Iggor Cavalera (drums) are half that really matters anyway. After 10 years of literally not speaking, following Max’s abrupt departure from the groundbreaking Brazilian quartet at the end of 1996, the Cavaleras have reconciled and are performing together again — now as Cavalera Conspiracy, with Soulfly guitarist Mark Rizzo and Gojira guitarist Joe Duplantier, here playing bass, filling out the ranks.

The band’s debut, Inflikted, was released March 25. And as “next-best things” go, it’s about as good as it gets, recalling the thrash metal fire and aggression of pre-Roots Sepultura and the balls-out venom of old-school hardcore, while nicely sidestepping rote metal-core trappings and largely omitting intrusive tribal embellishments. There’s definitely nothing tentative about Inflikted, as Max and Iggor seem to have picked things up musically right where they left off. And the urgency brought on by a decade of being apart only gives the album that much more energy and oomph. It’s sonic proof that time does, indeed, heal all wounds. And there were some pretty big wounds to heal. Max walked away from Sepultura after Iggor (then Igor) and the other band members — guitarist Andreas Kisser and bassist Paulo Jr. — informed him that they did not want to renew their contract with manager Gloria Cavalera — aka Max’s wife. The timing could not have been worse, given that Dana Wells, Gloria’s son and Max’s step-son, had been killed in an auto accident a couple months prior. So when given a choice of business or family, Max chose family and cut off all contact with his former bandmates, Iggor included.

Max went on to form Soulfly and settled down in Phoenix, while Sepultura soldiered on with new frontman Derrick Green, all of which created an even further divide as the bands continued to record and tour. And as more time passed, the chances of any sort of reunion seemed to grow ever slimmer. But in January 2006, Iggor took a sabbatical from Sepultura to spend time with his family, then left the band altogether six months later citing “artistic incompatibility.” It was about this time that Iggor finally broke the silence and made the phone call that set Cavalera Conspiracy in motion.

What the future holds for the band remains to be seen, but for now the Cavaleras will savor the present. Cavalera Conspiracy will be playing festivals and select shows in Europe later this spring and most likely will do a smattering of dates in the states, before the members return to their main concerns — Max and Mark Rizzo to Soulfly, whose sixth album has already been recorded; Duplantier to Gojira, who will soon be recording a new album; and Iggor to the Mixhell DJ project he founded with his wife, Laima. On the phone from Phoenix, as landscapers blast leafblowers in the background, Max spoke about reconciling with his brother, the genesis of Cavalera Conspiracy, the prospects of a full-blown Sepultura reunion and ways to diss Fall Out Boy.

KNAC.COM: How's the initial response been to the new project?

MAX CAVALERA:So far the response has been very good, very positive. People really dig the record, they like the fact that it's a very straight-forward metal album and me and Iggor are playing together. It's been a lot of fun. There's been a lot of excitement and interest, not just from fans but all around.

It's been kind of crazy. Family calling, other people who I've been on tour with. I was on tour with Megadeth and Dave [Mustaine] was talking about that it was so cool I was talking with Iggor again. So I think it's cool, it shows that there is a broad impact, and I think that most people are happy we are together after 10 years without talking. And the fight with Sepultura and all the bullshit is behind us and the future is where we're looking. I'm definitely excited that the fans are behind us and ready to hear the record and see us on tour. That's why I'm here for, you know.

KNAC.COM: That the album is as heavy and brutal as it is is icing on the cake.

CAVALERA: I like the album cuz it's short (laughs). It reminds me of the old Van Halen records, or [Slayer's] Reign In Blood. Most people who know me know my albums tend to be pretty long. And I'd be the first to admit, my albums are almost impossible to hear all at one time, the whole thing, even I can't a lot of the time. The Soulfly albums, they're like bibles, they are really long and have a lot of vibe. So I really like the fact that the Conspiracy album only has 11 songs, and they are done really fast. But I think that the feeling at the finish is that you want more, you know. It's not so exhausting. It's simple, it's to the point. It's like right there, no bullshit, it comes in and kicks you in the face and doesn't let it go until the end. I'm happy. It was a good time to make a record like that.

KNAC.COM: The other night I played Chaos A.D., which I always though was pretty mean-ass album, but compared to Inflikted it almost seemed like slow motion.

CAVALERA: It's funny because I expect a lot of comparison between this and what we did with Sepultura. But as people are hearing the record they are actually realizing it's not just a copy of what me and Iggor did, there's something new in this thing, there's a new sound involved. Even the production, the sound of it, it's new, it's a right now sounds. It's not the sound of those [old Sepultura] albums.

KNAC.COM: It's very clean sounding.

CAVALERA: It is, and you can hear everything. And even though I produced the album, I give full credit to Logan [Mader] for engineering this thing, which was not an easy task. I'd ask him every morning, "you want some aspirin? (laughs)" It's big, there's a lot of channels, a lot of solos everywhere, chaotic. But it's very exciting.

And I think Iggor's performance on this album is great, I really think Iggor's on fire. I'm so happy to be playing with him again. It's difficult to explain to people, but 10 years is a long-ass time not to see your brother, especially in the case of me and him, because we spent so much time together growing up and touring. Not having him around for more than 10 years was really strange, but I'm glad it worked out good, we're brothers again, we're friends again.

In a way it's better now than it was. It was really difficult, especially during the Roots time to combine brotherhood, friendship and business. It was hard. Especially in Brazil, it was really chaotic. I couldn't go to his house just to be a brother. And we have that now, and I like that.

KNAC.COM: The family rift didn't really seem to slow you down?

CAVALERA: The last 10 years have been pretty crazy in my life, it's been eight years away from Brazil, which is the longest time I've ever been away from there. It's almost like I was in exile, and 10 years without Iggor. But at the same time, many good things have happened with Soulfly. I'm so amazed that not only has Soulfly survived, it's kept going stronger and stronger every year. And it's a really solid band today. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I'd have thought all this shit was going to go down this way, I'd have said "no way." I would never have imagined this, but that's just not how life is.

KNAC.COM: So just how did the reunion with Iggor happen, what set it in motion?

CAVALERA: It really started with Iggor, who called me out of the blue. He actually called Gloria, I was on tour in Europe. He talked to her for a good hour and half and that was really important because he knows how close Gloria is to me. The shit that happened when she was our manager in Sepultura was what split us apart in the first place. So that was really good, Igor needed to talk to her and he did, and it took a lot of courage.

He basically told her "I know I fucked some things up, I said some things I didn't mean, it was a crazy time, I love you, I love your family, I love Max and I want to be with you guys again as a family." And that did it right there, it was about family and Gloria was completely open and welcomed him back and after that I asked him to come to Phoenix and we played the Dana [Wells "D-Low" Memorial] Show. And to me, when we played live "Roots" I felt like the world was going to blow up, at that second right there. It was one of those weird feelings, it was so explosive.

I realized right there that I gotta do something with him, we've got to play together again, we've got to make another record. And in the dressing room after the show, that's when I told him "I'm writing an album, I'm gonna send you some songs and we're gonna be in the studio soon," and he really liked that.

KNAC.COM: I guess the obvious question is what took so long?

CAVALERA: We are both very proud, very stubborn people. We will stand our ground, obviously to an extreme (laughs). The way the shit went down when I left Sepultura, I knew it was going to take time before we could patch things up, because it was really personal. But I don't think anyone thought it was going to take 10 years or whatever.

KNAC.COM: When he made the call, was he still in Sepultura or had he left by then?

CAVALERA: No, he'd left.

KNAC.COM: Was that what prompted the call, getting out of that situation and clearing his head?

CAVALERA: I don't know, but it was crazy, because when we finally talked he told me "I'm not in Sepultura anymore" and I did not know. I didn't follow really that, and I told him afterward many times "You know, I didn't heard your records, I'm really sorry, but it was hard for me." To me, it really didn't matter what it took to make him call, I'm just glad he did. But it was weird, he wasn't in the band anymore, it sounded like he wasn't even playing drums anymore, so I had to do something, I had to interfere (laughs). I had to drag his ass back to metal, and that's what I did. Iggor can say whatever he says, and I know one side of him is experimental and likes to do other things, but I also know the "metal Iggor" who was born metal and will die metal, just like me.

No matter what happened to us, metal is like inflicted into our hearts. You can't take that away, you can't shake that off even. So I laugh at him, I say "you might fool the world but you can't fool me, you're my brother and you're all about metal, motherfucker. You can do you DJ thing, that's cool, but you're a metalhead and you have to come play metal with me again." And he had a big smile on his face when I said that, so I knew I was right.

KNAC.COM: When he left Sepultura Iggor said it was because of "artistic incompatibility." Has he said whether he was just disenchanted with their music or metal in general?

CAVALERA: It was probably both. At first, in my head, I was thinking, "OK he's left the band and he's not playing drums anymore," but I also was like "Hmmm, you now what, if we play together he's going to come back because I know him. And if he doesn't, then I'm wrong and I'll call quits, but I'm going to give it a try." So that's what I did.

So that's why I think when I played "Roots" live with him, it was unbelievably important - to play that song live in Phoenix in front of all of the fans without any warning, it was a clear vision that "yes, to me there was no doubt that we should continue to make music together." You've got to be completely insane to do something like that and then go, "no I don't feel like playing that music anymore." It was so strong.

KNAC.COM: Plus, now you've whet people's appetites by playing together, if you hadn't followed through, everyone would have been pissed?

CAVALERA: (laughs) I know. But you know, that's not why we did it, we did it for us. That might sound selfish, but it's the truth. I was something we had to do for ourselves and get everything out of our systems.

And it's not a bitter album about me and him and what happened at all, I blocked that off. I'm not this miserable guy that's gonna just go and talk shit. What happened, happened, it's done. There is some anger coming out, but it's in the riffs and in the music more than anything else. But there are a lot of feelings coming out from definitely not seeing each other and the whole bullshit we've been through.

So the album actually is a really great release of feelings from both of us, like therapy. It was like this is the album we want to make, this is the music I want to play right now, and he felt the same.

KNAC.COM: It's definitely explosive.

CAVALERA: I was shooting for that big time, and we were in good company. Mark wanted to go faster, a thousand miles an hour every song, which is good, that always helps, although I had to slow him down (laughs). And Joe from Gojira is a huge fan and a really cool-minded person. He's from a new generation of metal, I can see him being influenced by Sepultura and Morbid Angel, but with an imprint of himself on his playing and his vocals. That's a good team, and I think that helps.

Sometimes bands, or projects like this, they don't work because they have the wrong chemistry, you can have great players and something not that good comes out of it. But this thing worked from the first time we played together, everyone felt connected and we never stopped, from the first song all the way through.

KNAC.COM: Did you know Joe before this?

CAVALERA: I did not know him at all. Actually Gloria recommended him. She knows a lot about bands. All the packages from the Sepultura days - with Sick Of It All and Napalm Death, etc. - she did all those packages, I think she has a really great ear for people and musicians. She found me Mark Rizzo for Soulfly, so I trusted her when she recommended Joe. Nobody knew him so it was a little bit of a suicide mission because if this guy comes here and he sucks or we don't get along then it's really going to back everything up.

But in a way, that danger element, I liked it not be so sure of it, let's roll with it, let's hope he's a good guy and we do something good. And we did. It was really wild the first day in the studio just meeting the guy and playing with him, it was some pretty intense and crazy shit.

KNAC.COM: Not only is he a French guy playing with a bunch of Brazilians, he's a guitarist/vocalist who's playing bass with you, so he's totally out of his element.

CAVALERA: There's definitely a Nailbomb thing to it. Me and Alex [Newport, formerly of Fudge Tunnel] did everything on that. We don't play bass, but we played bass on Nailbomb. So the Conspiracy has a Nailbomb side to it, which gave a bit of a don't give a fuck experimental side to it, more punk rock, that kind of attitude. Bringing Joe into the picture like that was very much like Nailbomb, and it's one of those things where you've got to just trust your gut feeling and go with it. He did a great job.

KNAC.COM: I saw something about Gojira getting ready to record their new album this spring, will Joe be able to tour with you guys?

CAVALERA: We're trying. I saw Joe last month when we did the video in France and he very much wants to do it, and, of course, we want him to, and we don't have confirmed dates yet, so those things are being worked out. I hope he can do it, I hope there's a way. Conspiracy's not going to tour that much, we're going to do a bunch of shows and then that's it until we do the next album or whatever. Because of that I think it's possible he'll come and play with us.

KNAC.COM: I'm sure everyone's been asking you this, but now that you're playing with Iggor again are you interested in a full-blown reunion with Sepultura, or this enough for you, just playing in a band with your brother, no matter what that band is?

CAVALERA: It's really good to play with him and this record means a lot, it was really, really awesome to do, but everyone knows I also love Sepultura and I think it's a very important band and very influential band, but I don't know. It's more complicated. Me and Iggor working together was easy, we know each other and we knew we could do this. But when you involve more people it becomes more of a problem. But I always never say never, I'm that kind of guy, I think it will happen sometime, I really do.

In fact I've said to many people I'd like to invite some of the older members too, the guys from Morbid Visions times, the death metal guys, like Jairo [Guedes, lead guitar]. To me, it would be really great to do a communal thing with all these guys, not just the "classic" lineup. I don't think it's going to happen right now, but it should happen in the future.

KNAC.COM: A retrospective all-inclusive thing sounds pretty cool. It would be something different than the plain old reunion tour?

CAVALERA: It really would. Our fans want it, I want it, my kids want to see it. So definitely the desire is there to do it, but like I said it's not entirely up to me. But I hold my ground, I'm ready to do it, I would love to do it. That's my attitude and it's been my attitude for the last couple years when people have been asking me about this. If it was all up to me we would be doing it right now, but it's not entirely up to me, so we'll just have to wait until everybody feels right. But I'm not worried about that right now, I've been super busy not only with the Conspiracy but Soulfly also has a new album that is in the making. So I've just got to take it easy and take one thing at a time. To be honest with you, if I would have been doing a reunion with Sepultura right now, it wouldn't be right because I'd be so busy with both things, that and Soulfly, that's not good. We wouldn't have the right amount of time to do everything right. And to do something like a reunion, I have to be devoted to that only and not be thinking of other things. So everything in its time.

KNAC.COM: Is the material on Inflikted songs you wrote just for this album, or ideas from the past that didn't fit in with anything else you were doing?

CAVALERA: 90 percent are new. I wrote them with Iggor in mind, right after the Dana show I started writing them. The only song that's not is "Inflikted," it was written before I reunited with Iggor. We put it on the [Soulfly MySpace] site when it was coming together, and a lot of fans got to hear how I record with a drum machine and no bass, just guitar, so that song did exist. And that song, a lot of people liked it, Iggor liked it, so even though that was a full song that was written to be a Soulfly song, we used it open the Conspiracy album.

But everything else, "Sanctuary," "Doom of All Fires," they all came afterward. It's cool because it gave me some kind of kick start on the direction. When I showed him "Inflikted" he [Iggor] was like "this is cool, but I want to do more," so that got me thinking of other ideas for faster songs and more hardcore songs like "Hex" and "Nevertrust." You've got to start somewhere and "Inflikted" was a good start for the whole record. It lets you know what you're in for (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Since your stepson Ritchie has written and recorded with you several times and has his own band going [Incite], are you giving him much advice as he getting into the game, trying to steer him a certain way? Or are you going to let him learn from his own mistakes?

CAVALERA: I think a big part of being in a band is making mistakes, it is a learning process, so I don't really talk to him about that that much at all. It has to be his thing. I never really liked people telling me what we should do. So I figured, it should be the same way with him, do what you want, do what your gut feeling tells you. That's the one thing I can tell him that maybe can help him, because it helped me. I'm not telling him which way he should go, there's 10,000 ways to go, and a bunch of them are good, they are different, but what worked for me might not work for him. You have to feel that you are yourself.

KNAC.COM: Are your younger kids into music yet, or are they still to young to be thinking about being in bands?

CAVALERA: My little one, Igor, he plays a lot of guitar and he loves grindcore (laughs). And it's good because he has diabetes, he has to take shots every day. I think music really helps him with the diabetes, he's had it since he was 1. I'm happy that he's found the guitar to deal with that. Being from Brazil, I found music to get out of there, to do something with my life, and he found the guitar to help him cope with his diabetes, and I think it does. So I encourage him a lot. But they [Igor and his older brother, Xyon] are still pretty young, they're doing school a lot, and that's the most important thing right now.

KNAC.COM: Is the knock on Fall Out Boy and the emo kids in "Nevertrust" from the music they listen to?

CAVALERA: Actually no. They don't like those bands at all. Where that came from was I was in the studio and I remember Iggor made a drawing, the big Iggor, my brother, he made a design for little Igor. He's really good with drawings and cartoons, and he made this fucked up monster holding the decapitated head of one of the Fall Out Boy guys (laughs). It was great. So it was like "you know what, I can beat you at that." So I made the lyrics in "Nevertrust" from that.

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