Every so often, although not often enough, an album explodes on the scene that DEMANDS your total attention. The tracks contain no sugarcoated niceties, no whining or wimpy ballads, no tear-jerking tales of lost love and broken hearts or shit like that. Instead, like a brick right between the eyes, we are hit with REALITY and FACTS about an unjust and fucked-up system that brutalizes and oppresses. The warnings being sounded in the music grabs us, shakes us, and tries to wake us from this "corporate mass media hypnotic sleep" that far too many of us have fallen into. We are confronted point-blank with an audible picture of some of the shit going down all around us. An ugly picture that most people either can't, won't, or don't want to see. If one listens very close one can also hear the faint whisper of hope being sounded like a "wake-up" call insisting that we cast off the "sheep mentality," get off our ass and become activist in the REAL WORLD doing something to change it before it's too late for us all. The debut album by RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE was such an album. "The soundtrack for the revolution," was the only term I could use when asked to describe it. And just when all of us here at the R.O.C. bunker thought we had an adequate supply of bottles for the making of Molotov cocktails, along comes SEPULTURA with "CHAOS A.D."
"CHAOS A.D./Disorder unleashed/Starting to burn/Starting to lynch/Silence means death/Stand on your feet/Inner fear/Your worst enemy..." (from "REFUSE/RESIST.")
I had the privilege of speaking with Sepultura's lead vocalist MAX CAVALERA about the new album and his thoughts about the "wake-up calls" being sounded on it. As you will see, MAX had a lot to say about many other current issues as well. Before we hear all that Max had to say, I want to express our sincere thanks to Sepultura's manager, Gloria Cavalera, to Max, Igor, Andreas, and Paulo Jr., and to their tour-mates Alex, Adrian, and Dave of FUDGE TUNNEL for making sure that R.O.C. was able to have our booths at a number of their shows on this tour. We also appreciate the announcements from the stage about R.O.C., and the dedication of songs to our organization. But most of all, we especially appreciate the endorsement of R.O.C. on the album sleeve of the Sepultura/Fudge Tunnel side project called NAILBOMB. The album is appropriately titled "POINT BLANK" folks and it's available on ROADRUNNER, so get off your ass and check it out, you'll be awful fucking glad you did. Enough now! Let's hear what Max had to say to the readers of THE ROC.
ROC: What are some of the alarms and warnings being sounded within the tracks of "CHAOS A.D.?"
MAX: Pretty much everything that we think is fucked up. A lot of people seem to take advantage of other people, you know, abuse of power and stuff like that. We've tried with each song to address a different topic, but in the end they're all connected to the way we think we should talk about how they should change, it goes from police abuse, to riots with youth, to territorial wars, to governments taking away the Indians lands. Every song is different but connected. "BIOTECH IS GODZILLA" is about how biotechnology is creating laboratories and are doing all kinds of tests on both animals and people.
ROC: Yeah, we kinda noticed that each song was linked to a central theme, like 'hey, wake-up and look what's happening.
MAX: Yeah we tend to do stuff like that. Since we stopped writing songs that were Satanic or whatever. They were just lyrics before. We realized that we could write something with more important values and meaning. Being from Brazil and having a chance to speak out, and with the band getting bigger and stuff, we just decided to get more conscience and more deeper with the lyrics and try to write even better stuff.
ROC: Great! Great! Would you elaborate a little more on the story behind the "KAIOWAS" track?
MAX: It's a really horrible thing that happened and nobody seemed to talk about it afterwards. It's like Brazil is very famous for death. People have really short memories. A lot of stuff happens and in a weeks time, the people have forgot. When we were in the studio, we had this acoustic piece and I was looking for a title for it. Everyone said to just call it something stupid or something, but I wanted to give it a title with meaning. It came to my mind about the Kaiowas incident where the whole tribe committed suicide rather than give up their land and their beliefs. Right now one thing that's going on in the Rain Forest is that all these preachers are trying to pacify the Indians. We're totally against that because the Indians should be left the way they are. Why should they want to change them?
ROC: Absolutely! They've lived their own way for hundreds of years.
MAX: Right, they're much more healthier than us and they have their own life, their own culture, beliefs and religions. They should be allowed to live their own way. So the song is about the Kaiowas who were so into what they believed that for them to give it all up just to become Catholics or whatever, they just decided to kill themselves. They just thought they'd be better off dead.
ROC: How many were in the tribe?
MAX: Over 30.
ROC: You've mentioned the song "BIOTECH," can you tell us about it's origins?
MAX: Yeah, that's Jello Biafra's lyrics. It's not really mine.
ROC: We noticed that. How did the fusion between Jello Biafra and Sepultura come about?
MAX: We met before and now there's actually a co-relationship between him and the band. I like a lot of DK and Lard stuff, and it's the other way around, he likes our stuff. We ended up doing a track for a compilation called "Virus 100." We did a cover of the song "Drug Me" from the first DK album. After that he came to Brazil, I wasn't there but Igor and Andreas were and they played with him at two shows doing DK songs. So after that, a little relationship started and since I've always like his lyrics I called him up and asked if he would be interested in writing some lyrics for us. On our past albums like "Schizophrenia" and "Beneath The Remains" we have a song that is written by someone who's not in the band. Yeah, I just decided to call Jello up and ask him and he was really into it, and "BIOTECH" is the song he wrote for us.
ROC: When Igor and Andreas played with Jello, was that during the Rio '92 conference?
MAX: Yeah it was at the same time, but the reason why they played was because of a book that was being released there about American underground rock, and Jello is like the most important person in the book. So the people promoting the book flew him (Jello) into Brazil and he wanted to do some shows. He asked about who could put a band together and he could sing. Igor and Andreas, together with the guys from a band called RDP put the band together and they played two shows, and they went very well.
ROC: We heard that some members of Ministry were also involved, is that correct?
MAX: Yeah, Paul Barker from Ministry was there. I'm not sure if he played, but he was there.
ROC: WOW! We'd love to have seen that show!
MAX: Yeah, I understand it was great.
ROC: Is there anything about the current political climate in Brazil that you'd like to comment on?
MAX: You probably know as much as I do because I've been living here in the US for the last year and a half. I just know that the President was impeached and know they're creating a whole bunch of industries and companies that are really stealing and weaseling the money from the people. So it's pretty chaotic there right now. It's pretty fucked-up and it isn't getting any better.
ROC: So you're permanently residing in Phoenix now, right?
MAX: Yeah, my son, Zyon was born like 10 months ago and I decided to write most of the album here. We had a better practice pad and Phoenix is such a weird isolated place we could really focus on the album. Brazil for us, I really like the country, but it was getting out of hand because everybody knows who we are and it's kinda hard to concentrate and work there. You're getting disturbed like every five minutes. It was just better for us to move.
ROC: Have you ever caught any flack from the government or police in Brazil because of your material? You are openly critical of a lot of their policies.
MAX: Agggh, you see Brazil used to be under military control. A lot of artists got into trouble around 20 years ago. Some of them were tortured, some of them were killed. Then they changed that and the military government went down. They now have what they call 'democracy,' and believe it or not, in regards to the issue of censorship it's better there than it is here in the US. It's more open in Brazil. You are able to speak your mind and say what you want. We burn the Brazilian flag on stage all the time, it's alright, you can do that.
ROC: And this is supposed to be the freest country in the world, ha, ha, what a joke.
MAX: Yeah, it sure is.
ROC: The walls come down in other countries around the world while they're going up here. Anyway, how about other South American countries you've toured in?
MAX: We've toured Argentina which is more organized and it looks like Europe. It's closer to Europe than Brazil. We've also toured in Venezuela which is kinda like Mexico.
ROC: So you've not had any problems from openly criticizing any of these governments with your music?
MAX: Not in any of these places. I probably think the worst place to play would be Chile because they always have the military thing going on, like Pinoche and stuff like that. I guess we'd play there if we had to, but I haven't heard of many bands that even go there.
ROC: How bout here in the 'good old USA,' have you ran across any problems with censorship?
MAX: Well it's always an issue here, as you know. You go into some of these venues and they go, "now you say this, and you can't say that." It's like with interviews, I was doing a radio interview a week before we went on tour and the guy kept telling me I couldn't say this or that about the police. I was like, hey I'm sorry man but you ask for an interview and I've got to say what I think or I'm not doing the interview. The guy got really mad because I wouldn't behave and keep quiet about the cops. I got even madder and told him again I wasn't doing the interview if I couldn't say what I want. I'm sorry, but I'm just like that. Well he tried to shut me up again so I ended the interview by hanging up on him. Unfortunately they didn't put on the air what I said about how I thought it was really wrong what the police does to people. They judge people by the way they look-instead of really finding out what a person really is about. And the really weird thing about this is that just a few hours after I tried to do that interview I ended up getting into an incident with the police in Phoenix.
ROC: Oh really!
MAX: Yeah, that's when I went to jail, and yeah it was exactly what I was saying to the radio guy on the phone, but here it was happening to me in real life a few hours later. I felt that I was never so right about what I said. We had some people shoot at us as we were leaving a Rage Against The Machine show, and of course I defended myself because I had my wife with me. When the police arrived the people doing the shooting were gone and the police took a look at us, and looking the way we did they didn't even think about the shooters, they just grabbed and handcuffed me and threw me in jail. When they found out later what happened I was released the next day and no charges were filed. But it is weird that everything I said about the cops in that interview ended up really happening. That's why I really believe the police system and other matters are really wrong.
ROC: When you hear the word censorship what is the first thought that comes to your mind?
MAX: For me it reminds me of Nazi stuff. It reminds me of the Third Reich and Hitler and stuff like that. Whenever any restrictions are imposed on doing and saying what you want, that reminds me of a Nazi attitude.
ROC: Here in the US a lot of record stores won't sell certain albums just because they have a warning label on them. How do you feel about Sepultura fans not being able to hear your music just because they're a certain age or because of a label?
MAX: It's totally wrong! It's a real problem when they do stuff like that. It's just like when they blame the music when a kid kills himself. I think the real issue is why don't the parents spend five minutes with their kids listening to the music, reading the lyrics and discussing the lyrics with the kid instead of blaming the music afterwards. The real fault lies with the family you know. When they try to keep the music away from the kids, they're gonna go around and get it anyway. It looks like the more they do that the more the albums get popular.
ROC: Do you think there's any hidden agendas behind this? Why do you think they really don't want kids listening to rap or aggressive metal or thrash?
MAX: Because it tells the truth! These bands, and especially the rap bands are saying what they (the censors) are afraid the kids will hear. They know it's the truth! The fucked up reality of how things really are, and they try to hide that. They get really nervous and really start freakin' out when there's a band that writes lyrics with a lot of intelligence. It will help change a kid's mind about things so they have to try to censor that.
ROC: Absolutely, because it goes much further than just concern about an album with some dirty words on it. They are more deathly afraid of the political messages and ideas in the music. What do you think?
MAX: Yeah! It's like being in a family where the father is a pervert and he doesn't tell his kids what he is, he hides that from them. It's kinda like that, you know? These censors are very hypocritical because they know that a lot of the stuff they censor and preach about they do themselves. Yeah, it's really scary when they censor and criticize stuff and at the same time they do the same stuff, like drugs.
ROC: As a musician what do you think other bands and musicians should be doing to fight censorship?
MAX: I don't know man, I think doing benefit festivals and shows and stuff like that are a good idea. Bands should get together more and do shows against it and help groups like yours who are fighting it. That would be a cool thing. Keep writing about it in their lyrics and support anti-censorship activities. Every little thing you do will end up influencing someone who hears your music, reads your interviews and hears you speak out at your shows. In the end, you can influence them and that's a good thing. You must speak out. Those people (the censors) can perhaps censor your albums but it's harder for them to censor your shows. By speaking out at shows, the fans see that you are expressing your feelings about what you see around you. It's like they can screw with your albums, but we have other stuff we can fight back with. We have our shows and our interviews. We should try to keep doing that stuff. That's why I'm doing this interview.
ROC: Yeah that's great Max, that's what we need, more bands willing to speak out and support us. On the other hand, what can the fans do to help the fight?
MAX: I think that when they see a concert or benefit show helping the cause, they should spend some of their money on it. That would be helping the cause. I also think they should buy albums that have warning labels on them. They shouldn't allow that kind of stuff put them down and make them not buy the album. Every album with a sticker they should go ahead and buy it.
ROC: R.O.C.'s position is that the stickers shouldn't be there in the first place, and we've collected to date over 50,000 signatures on a petition calling for their removal.
MAX: Yeah man, that's great. Also when you have to put a sticker on an album it takes away from the cover art. It's just a bunch of bullshit, I think. I mean we don't go around...you know what man, if they want to sticker things they should put stickers on fuckin' Bibles man, or on those papers that the freaks give you in the streets and at the airports and stuff like that. They should put them on all that stuff if they are going to really censor everything. Just do it, not just on albums.
ROC: Did you know that just a few years ago that was one of Glen Danzig's pet projects? He said he was going to start a movement to get warning labels on Bibles. As far as we know he never did it, but it was one hell of a good idea.
MAX: Yeah it is. I didn't know about Glen Danzig, that thought just came to my mind. It's like Igor did when we were on tour with Ozzy. There was like 20 Jesus-freaks outside the bus telling people that Ozzy was Satan and how they shouldn't go to the show. So Igor gets out of the bus and talks with their leader. Igor's like 'hey can I get the address of your church?' And the guy's like 'yea sure, you can come there.' Igor's like 'yea I'm gonna come there with a bunch of Sepultura CD's and ask your people why are you here preaching this bullshit at our shows. The guy like really freaked out, and of course, he didn't give Igor the address. Igor really did that just to piss him off, and he did.
ROC: You mentioned Rage Against The Machine a little while ago. They're one of the bands (besides Sepultura) that we're really excited about. What do you think about some of the issues they are addressing with their music? Like Sepultura, they are right in the face of the establishment.
MAX: Yeah, I really like them a lot. I bought their album and I read all the lyrics and I thought they really have some conscience behind what they're saying. I saw them at their show in Phoenix and I saw their videos in England. They seem to be serious about what they're doing and I fucking appreciate that. I admire band that do that shit. They're not just using the politics to sell albums. A lot of bands use that just to get popular and get their name in the news. I believe what RATM is doing is just the opposite. What they are doing is something intelligent and I don't know man I just really appreciate that.
ROC: Oh yeah, when I first heard their album if just fucking blew me away. Compared to some of the stuff being released today it was like a breath of fresh air, and like you say, we also believe they are truly sincere about their beliefs, and we too appreciate that. Wow Max we've really touched on a lot of subjects, but now for the burning question of the day. Max, do you still play with only four strings on your guitar?
MAX: (laughing intensely) Oh yeah man, that started a long time ago and I always play rhythm you know. I don't know how to do leads or anything. A long time ago the string broke and I just never replaced it. It ended up becoming like a trademark so I just decided to never replace it. I never thought about it until everybody started talking about it. I just said 'fuck it' now I'm not gonna put it back. I was reading a magazine from Europe just the other day and one of the guys in the magazine had the nickname of 'Eddie Max's Other Two Strings.' It was bizarre and I just started laughing. It's weird that people can notice stuff like that. You know I never really bothered to think like, "oh what are people gonna say about that." I just did it because it's more simple, it's easier and I spend less money.
ROC: Max is there anything that you'd personally like to say to our readers?
MAX: Yeah, FUCK CENSORSHIP, and I hope that our fans will support your cause, because we are a band that will support it, and people will see that in our lyrics and at our shows. Don't let those fuckers take your art and your freedom away. You have got to fight to keep that. That's the only way you win in the end.
ROC: We had our R.O.C. booth a while back at a number of shows with your current tour-mates, Fudge Tunnel. They were also very supportive of R.O.C. We've spoke with your management about having our booth on this tour, so we'll be seeing you at some of the shows.
MAX: Yeah, Gloria told me about it and we're looking forward to having you there. You can expect nothing but support from us.
ROC: Great! We really appreciate that Max. We really believe you have a winner with "Chaos A.D." and all we can say is keep tellin' it like it is because that's what is needed. Some of these sleeping people really need to be woke up.
MAX: Yep! Like I said, I look forward to seeing you guys at the shows. We'll look after you guys and everything.
ROC: Ok Max, hey thanks a lot man for talking with us.