Famous Firsts: Max Cavalera

The founder or Sepultura, Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy reveals how a Queen gig in 1981 changed his life and it was a three Motörhead fans that first ‘got’ Sepultura.

*What was the first album that you ever bought? *“It was Live Killers by Queen. I think I was around 11 years old at the time. It was 1981 and Queen came to Brazil to play in Sao Paulo. A cousin of ours took me and Igor (Cavalera, Max’s brother) to the show, and we loved it – we were blown away! The next day I went to the store to find anything I could by Queen, and I found a cassette tape of Live Killers. Igor bought Kiss Alive too. They were the two cassettes that we had to begin with, and we listened to both of them non-stop. A couple of years later that same cousin introduced us to the Ramones, Ozzy Osbourne and Accept as well. In fact, one time he was trying to get me to go straight and be a good kid, so he blackmailed me and said that if I cut my hair he would buy me whatever record that I wanted. I wanted to get Metallica’s Ride The Lightning, so ended up cutting my hair for a copy of it, but the hair grew back, and I got Ride The Lightning so it was worth it. In Brazil we have a saying, ‘If hair was that important then it wouldn’t grow on your ass!’ Ha ha! But Queen were the first band I discovered, I always liked Queen. There was nothing that band couldn’t do, you know – they did everything! And to watch them at the top of their game in 1981 was amazing.”

What was the first single that you ever bought? “That had to be a little bit later, and I think it was Slayer’s Haunting the Chapel EP. You’re supposed to play singles on 45rpm right, but we played it at 33rpm and it sounded all slow, like Venom. It sounded awesome, though! A friend of ours pointed out, ‘I think you guys are playing this thing wrong’, and we switched it to 45rpm and it got even better. The song Chemical Warfare by Slayer is still one of my favourite songs ever.”

What was the first gig you ever went to? “That would be that Queen gig in Sao Paulo in 1981. We didn’t really care for music before that – we were more into soccer. But that Queen concert changed everything because it had the energy of the football but with something else, which was rock. For me that was very exciting, and that gig changed my life. In Brazil at that time there was only one international concert a year, and after Queen came over it was The Police and then Van Halen and Kiss. I didn’t get to see any of those other bands, but I did get to see Queen. They were the pioneers of arena rock, and Freddie Mercury was the master. He just knew how to control the show and make the crowd say whatever he wanted. He had charisma, the voice – he had everything, man. It sucked when he died. I always really respected Queen.”

What was the first gig you ever played? “We actually found some photos of our first Sepultura show the other day, and we used them for a pass on the Cavalera Conspiracy tour. It’s me and Igor with our black eyes, and Igor has an Ozzy helmet on. It’s a really funny picture! The show was at a small pub in Belo Horizonte and there were only about 20 people there. Out of the 20 there, three guys had Motörhead shirts on and they were the only guys that liked what we did. It was just noise really – Napalm Death would’ve been proud! My guitar was totally out of tune, and the bass player didn’t even show, so it was a power trio – me on out-of-tune guitar, Igor on drums, and Wagner (Lamounier) our first singer on vocals. But it was the beginning, and we felt this feeling on the stage that gave us the hunger. After that, we wanted more.”

How was the first Sepultura tour? “That would’ve be the Sodom tour that we did in 1989. We’d never been out of Brazil before that, and we’d just released Beneath The Remains. People were eating that record up – they loved it – and we got invited to open up for Sodom on their European tour that year. They were touring Agent Orange, which was a huge record for them in Europe, and the shows were packed. We played great places like The Marquee in London and the Gibus Club in Paris. A lot of people said we blew them away, but I don’t know. I liked Sodom and I thought they were a good band, and we got along pretty good – they were cool guys. It was a great experience all over. The most shocking moment for me was arriving on the bus in Vienna and seeing all the Sepultura t-shirts. We couldn’t believe that people were wearing our shirts because we weren’t used to it. In Brazil it was only our friends that wore our shirts – we didn’t have a mass following or anything. So that was the first time we got kind of shocked, you know. We were like, ‘Wow, this is really happening man! We’re entering the big leagues now!’ It was a very exciting time.”

Soulfly’s new album Archangel is out now via Nuclear Blast.

Soulfly: Archangel

DJ, presenter, writer, photographer and podcaster Matt Stocks was a presenter on Kerrang! Radio before a year’s stint on the breakfast show at Team Rock Radio, where he also hosted a punk show and a talk show called Soundtrack Apocalypse. He then moved over to television, presenting on the Sony-owned UK channel Scuzz TV for three years, whilst writing regular features and reviews for Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazine. He also wrote, produced and directed a feature-length documentary on Australian hard rock band Airbourne called It’s All For Rock ‘N’ Roll, and in 2017 launched his own podcast: Life in the Stocks. His first book, also called Life In The Stocks, was published in 2020. A second volume was published in April 2022.