Max Cavalera: Your Guide To His Tattoos

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Soulfly mainman Max Cavalera has tattoos all over his body. And they've all got a meaning for him, as the thrash icon explains each in depth

WHICH IS YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

“My first tattoo is actually covered up now. I had a dragon but I covered it up with a big tribal piece. I had it done before tribal pieces were ‘in.’ To get the dragon tattoo I sold my collection of Kiss albums – I had 30. I wish I had those albums now. At the time, I spoke to my mum and told her I wanted a tattoo and she said, ‘No way’, because she was strict. But I got it done anyway. When I got home from the tattoo place I cleaned the bandage from my arm in the sink and left it there with all the blood. When she found it she burst into my room at 2am and said, ‘Show me your arm’, so I showed her my left arm, and she said, ‘No, the other one’. When she saw it she made me sleep on the porch. Now she has three tattoos herself.”

WHAT CAME NEXT?

“I can’t remember the order exactly. I think it was one that’s very Conan The Barbarian.”

AND BELOW THAT?

“This is a Hindu prayer in sanscrit – it’s from my mum.”

AND THEN?

“One, which is Sepultura in Japanese. I wanted the name of the band but not in standard, normal letters.”

WHAT IS THAT ON YOUR FOREARM?

“This is my Tasmanian devil – one of my favourites – eating the symbol of peace. From the days when I was anti-hippy, like, ‘Fuck hippies, fuck peace, go chaos!’. I was about 18 or 19.”

WHAT’S THAT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF YOUR ARM?

“I don’t remember when I got this done, or why, but I really wanted a black Shiva.”

**WHAT’S THAT ON YOUR KNUCKLES? **

“These are the names of my kids, inspired by Ozzy of course. Zyon was my first son, I drew it when he was born and I thought, ‘Fuck it I’m going to tattoo it. And then Igor was born, and then Dana [Max’s stepson] who passed away [in 1996]. I have room for another kid with four letters! I didn’t realise this until recently, but all the letters from the names can spell ‘Graziano’ which is my father’s name. That was trippy, because I didn’t do it on purpose – it was totally subconscious.”

TELL US ABOUT THE EYES ON YOUR ARMS…

“These are Paul Booth tattoos. I like these a lot. All of his tattoos are really dark, Paul is 110 per cent evil. When I went to him I wanted something different – I call them my Clockwork Orange eyes – that’s where the idea came from.”

WHAT’S THAT ON YOUR WRIST?

“This is from The Last Temptation Of Christ – I love that movie. This is the crown of thorns.”

TELL US ABOUT THOSE PRAYING HANDS?

“This is for Dana when he died. This was on the card that we gave people who came to the funeral.”

TELL US ABOUT THE ‘GLORIA’ TATTOO…

“Gloria has a ‘Max’ tattoo so I got a ‘Gloria’ one done [Gloria is Max’s wife ands manager]. This and the Tasmanian Devil are the only colour tattoos I have. Gloria and I got a lot of our tattoos together. I’m just waiting for the kids to leave school, so we can get our faces done – like Mauri tattoos.”

WHAT’S THAT ON YOUR NECK?

“This is a tribal design from Brazil. I love the effect that they have on old ladies, [falsetto]. ‘Oh my god, that must have hurt!’. It didn’t hurt, it was more annoying, because the machine is whirring right next to your head. These were Paul Booth as well. I think they’re my favourite.”

DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING ON YOUR LEGS?

“I got this cross done by a German guy who we call Butcher. It’s not his name, he just hurts so much. He’s the most painful tattoo artist I have ever met, he’s so heavy-handed. Gloria got a whole arm done with colour and everything – I don’t know how she did it.”

MAX’S TATTOO DOS AND DONT’S

”Firstly, and this is a serious one, is hygiene. Especially now. Not so much in Europe because they’re good, but in Brazil they’re a lot of people who do tattoos in the street on a box, and they don’t clean the needles. And a lot of people get AIDS from that shit. The second is quite funny: wait till you’re a little bit older, because your skin stretches. If you get a tattoo on your arm when you’re 10, by the time you’re 15 your tattoo will be up your neck because your skin grows.”

Max Cavalera was born on August 4, 1969