Westword: How did you first get into heavy music growing up in Brazil?
Max Cavalera: My first experience with music was Queen, when they played in Brazil at a soccer stadium in 1981. My cousin took me and Igor to see it. I loved it right there. I liked it so much, I went and bought a bunch of Queen tapes the next day. At the store the guy said, "If you like Queen, try this band, Kiss." Then we both listened to those tapes, and that grew into getting into heavier and heavier bands like Motorhead, Black Sabbath and, later on, Slayer. It got heavier and heavier, to the point where I wanted to make my own music.
What was it like in the early days of your being a band in Brazil, and what was the turning point for you in becoming a band that was known well outside of your home country?
In the beginning, it was kind of rough, because we were poor and didn't have a lot of money. We were very poor. We had shitty equipment, and we did whatever was possible to make it work. My brother didn't have a drum kit. He just had a couple pieces of drums put together to make a strange drum kit he'd play on. The major turning point was when we got signed with Roadrunner. That was after our third album in Brazil. The fourth was Beneath the Remains, from 1989. That introduced us to the world.
We played all kinds of different places that we could. There were some metal festivals organized by friends of ours -- the Xerox fliers and word of mouth. A thousand people would show up and we'd have a good show. We'd have some kind of shitty P.A., but we had a good time. The other shows we did were competitions for radio stations, like a battle-of-the-bands type of thing. We entered a couple of those things. We did okay, but we didn't win anything. But we got our music heard, and more people found out about us.
Why are organized religion and repressive, even corrupt, governments such important themes in your work?
Some of the lyrics are influenced a lot by the time I learned about punk rock and I discovered bands like Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Misfits and Discharge. Sometimes they talked about political stuff, and I always found that to be really cool, and I just decided to do that with Sepultura.
Sepultura had a political album like Chaos A.D. that concerned itself with politics and war. I continued that in some areas with Soulfly. Some of the songs on the new album are about murder, and there's a song about lethal injection. "Rise of the Fallen" is about metalheads in general. Like: It's our time to rise, being the underdogs for so long. Most of the topics are violent.
Omen is probably one of the darkest albums we've done, with lyrics about death in general. Songs like "Jeffrey Dahmer," and "Bloodbath & Beyond" -- which I took from Bed, Bath & Beyond, making a joke out of the store name. Only in America does that joke really work. In Europe, they don't know what Bed, Bath & Beyond is, so it didn't work over there. Here it's cool.
Do you see your spirituality as tied in with your political views in any way?
The spiritual side in Soulfly is going to be present in one way or another. In the beginning, it was more important for me to sing about those things. But later on, I got drawn back into metal and a darker sound and imagery. It's still part of it. It's together with everything else. It's part of me and my personality and the topics I choose to sing about -- they're all connected. When I sing songs from the first album, "Eye for an Eye," "Tribe" and "No Hope = No Fear," there's a spiritual vibe to it. But with the new ones, it's all connected.