Rainforest Rumblings Revealed
An Interview with Sepultura
by: Adrian Bromley
Few will argue that Sepultura is one of the most powerful metal machines ever conceived. Even fewer will fight the fact that they stand apart from hundreds of metal bands and continue to grow with each album. And with each release, they continue to mold a solidified rampage of chugging riffs, pounding rhythms and gut wrenching growls around the strong political and social issues of their lyrics.

Listening to the band's latest and most compelling album to date, _Roots_ (release street date March 13th), many will see a band at the edge of creativity and anarchy. Fused by anger, tension, frustration and personal release, _Roots_ finds itself home to a truly unique format for Sepultura: the addition of the primal, furious tribalistic sounds of the Xavantes tribe, a group of Indians living deep in the heart of the Amazon Jungle.

Even as some may see this as a gigantic leap of experimentation for the band, one has just to point to the obvious Brazilian sounds and styles that Sepultura have always added to their brilliant masterpieces. The Brazilian sound has always been evident within their music and always manages to smoothly bind with their pounding guitar riffs inspired by such acts as Motorhead, Slayer and Metallica. Just listen to songs off of 1993's hard-hitting _Chaos A.D._ with tracks such as "Refuse/Resist" and its use of South American percussion stylings, the rhythmic beats within the true tale of "Manifest" and the stunning song "Kaiowas", a tribute to the tribe of the same name.

This time around, with _Roots_, the band went right to the source of Brazilian culture and music, and brought out a triumphant taste of generations of music that allow the album to spark an interest in how two distinct cultures molded as one for the recording of _Roots_.

Sepultura has not had to take on such a load of responsibility since the transition the band took upon themselves after struggling to release their first two efforts, _Morbid Visions_ (1986) and _Schizophrenia_ (1987) and metamorphosizing their talent to produce such prominent masterpieces as their Roadrunner debut _Beneath The Remains_ (1989) and _Arise_ (1991). These boys are more of a band now, still trying to find their niche; as their writing matures, their visions become clearer. They are searching for the Sepultura sound that'll keep their fanbase growing and their integrity and maturity intact. In 1993, the band stepped in the right direction with _Chaos A.D._. That record opened the doors to a greater variety of fans, with the album selling a million units worldwide and two years of extensive touring with such acts as Ozzy Osbourne and Pantera as well as a successful headlining jaunt.

To make the perfect addition to a long line of successful LPs was a task that lead vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Max Cavalera would have to undertake and in the process, he had to retain a sturdy will for the band in the face of commercialism. Cavalera, and his group - brother/drummer Igor Cavalera, bassist Paulo Jr., and lead guitarist Andreas Kisser - locked themselves away in Indigo Ranch studios in Malibu, California to create _Roots_. As the album came together bit by bit, over a long lengthy process, it was evident that the album was very personal for the band, but it also helped preserve the music of Sepultura's homeland.

"We thought it was a real important record," starts Max Cavalera over the phone from Phoenix, Arizona. "We wanted to give the fans more than what they expected and that takes time. We want fans to see and experience what we created, more than what they did with _Chaos A.D._. To be able to listen to the new record and every time they hear it to see and hear something new from the record. Sepultura has always been known to do different things and try to play music and show the fans stuff they may not have known before. So far the responses for us has always been good when we release an album because fans know they will get something unique with one of our records. Working with the tribe is just another experience for them to be part of." Cavalera continues on about the recording process; "We took a lot of time with this record. More time and effort than any other record because we recorded the record in different phases and also the writing process was done different so the end result is obviously a different record." But Cavalera assures us that the band has not lost their trademark aggressive anger. "The main element is that the intensity and heaviness is there and not that it is stronger than before. It is just that there is a lot going on. It is a very open record."

Another component to the makeup of this album is the addition of several other musicians who helped bring about a certain new slant to the Sepultura sound. About the other musicians' help - which included famed Brazilian percussionist Carlihnos Brown, Faith No More's Mike Patton and Korn's Jonathan Davis - Cavalera says, "It was very cool and very experimental." He continues, "I like all those artists and what they do with their bands," speaking about his choice of artists to work with. "It was cool that they came into Sepultura and made music adding their own style and characteristic."

The biggest outside contribution to _Roots_ came from a most unexpected contributor: the Xavantes tribe. Solely for the purpose of recording with a tribe that has thrived for thousands of years in the heart of the Amazon Jungle, the band decided to pack up their recording gear and venture into the heart of the Brazilian foliage for three days to meet, live and be a part of the Xavantes tribe. It was without question one of the most amazing experiences that Cavalera and his band have ever gone through, and it is something they won't soon forget. Max says, "The band became part of the tribe and lived like they did."

In order to get this planned expedition off the ground, Cavalera explained that there was an extensive amount of communication and paperwork between the tribe and the record label and the process of actually getting the early November (1995) trek underway took months of planning. About the idea for the use of the tribe's music and culture he says, "Once we decided to call the album _Roots_, with us wanting to show the roots of Brazil, the tribe had to be included or we would have had to call the album something else." Another reason reveals Cavalera: "It was an attempt to show people the different sides of Brazilian music and we did that with the Xavantes tribe." He states, "It was hard to pull it off, dealing with several people and the people who were working with the indians. It took a couple of months to get it going and we had to work hard to bring in gear and record. I think though, the end result was worth it." Does Cavalera feel that the two extremes, Sepultura's rage and the Xavantes culture and mystique, clash in any way, shape or form? "I think the tribal music is very spiritual and it allows us a more spiritual feeling to that part of the record and I believe that it is very strong." Adds Cavalera, "I wouldn't say that the Xavantes music is very mild. It is aggressive in its own way."

As the music takes on another shape or form this time around, so does the lyrical content of the album. Cavalera explains that the album's music lends itself to being captivated by emotions, their political ideas and thoughts are avoided this time; making _Roots_ a very emotionally charged and personal album for Cavalera. "Every song is different from each other. The music is mostly about life and stuff like that. To tell people that listen to this kind of music to not take shit from no one and believe in yourself. This album is less political and more personal." He is quick to state that the band's musical knowledge has not been the only change for Sepultura. The actual direction and definition of the Sepultura sound has been finally discovered; "Our music is very original now. It has its own face and now leaves an impression which is what we have been looking for all these years. We don't want to be the 'next anything' like what most record companies want. We just want to be a band that can sound different and be proud of it."

And the appeal of Sepultura's music? "We are not trapped in any genre and we have created our style and will continue to grow deeper and deeper into our style. To become a stronger Sepultura. I hope the next record tops _Roots_ where it will be a more exciting and intricate album."

While on the topic of success, I ask Cavalera if the band feels that, after so many releases, world tours, and respect from critics, they have reached a successful point in their careers? "We try to reach success that comes together with integrity and fan appreciation without having to compromise ourselves," acknowledges Cavalera. "If you can do that, it is the best success you can get. For me, that is important to me even though we could get bigger than we are by being commercial. This way we feel like we have earned it without feeling like a music whore."

About today's music scene he mentions, "It is fucked up with all these bands sounding like one another. It is like, why bother ripping shit off like that? Bands are so disposable. They make the cash and that's that, and that is what record labels like. I am not like that, don't want to be and never will be like that. I am not into that greed stuff. I do this because I like to make music and watch how people react to it."

If success hasn't changed Max Cavalera's outlook on life much, marriage and fatherhood sure have (Max is married to Sepultura's manager Gloria Cavalera and father to his toddler Zyon). Max relates, "It hasn't changed me much except maybe that I spend more time at home doing some recording with my four track. My son spends time with me while I record. I used to spend less time with music and more time just getting fucked up," he chuckles and says, "Now I live a different lifestyle but it is in some way or another interconnected with music all the time."

The topic now turns to the fact that Sepultura will be heading out on tour once _Roots_ hits stores in March and, like the _Chaos A.D._ tour, it will be an extensive one. "I am convinced that we will tour more than ever before with this album. We toured two years with the last record and it just seems that there is a whole lot more to do and places to play." Cavalera outlines the reasoning for such a long tour by saying, "We don't see just Europe and America as the only places to play. We gotta go everywhere because that is what we are all about: playing out."

Mentioning the possibilities of the band going out on a headlining tour, Cavalera says, "I'd like to play at clubs and venues without seats where fans can be close to the band and can get a better show. I don't like arenas too much [noting the size of the Ozzy tour]. If there is a chance to go out on tour in arenas with a big band, I will do it in order to promote the band and the record." When asked about the band's attitude and aggression on the stage he responds, "We are all very different on and off the stage. When playing, Paulo, Igor, and Andreas just go all out on stage, but they are not like me. I just let anything happen sometimes as I don't hold myself to anything. The stage is where I am and do let all my frustrations and feelings out."

Seeing that Cavalera has lived with his wife and family in Phoenix for some time, does he miss living in Brazil? "I go back home a lot and as much as I love it, Brazil still pisses me off. For me, it is better to be here [U.S.A.] where my head is clean," explains Cavalera about all of the problems facing his homeland, including drugs, police corruption, illegal government activities, and so on. Many of these problems have been the backbone behind numerous Sepultura songs about politics and social issues. "It is all true. All the shit that is going on there, it is just that people are afraid to say things because there is a code of silence amongst many."

Cavalera is very much aware of the dangers of travelling there too; "When I was there last time, I was paranoid that I would be sabotaged by police or kidnapped. I was paranoid because I think I am too outspoken. When I was there last time, I did a few interviews with some big newspapers and basically said that the police there are a pile of shit. And now I realized and have thought to myself that saying stuff like that could cost me my life. So now I don't go back as much and it is because now that I have kids and a wife. Why risk it? I mean, why have them kidnapped, tortured or killed when they haven't said anything? I just gotta be more careful from now on."

Back to the grind one more time, Sepultura prepares once again to tour the world, and they are hoping in the process that their fans, as well as newcomers, pick up on their 'roots.' It is definitely something that would make them proud this time around.

(article submitted 9/2/1996)

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