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Monthly Archives: October 1998

Interview with Igor Cavalera of Sepultura
October 24, 1998; taken by Jo
The Odeon; Cleveland, Ohio

Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with one of Sepultura’s founding members and drummer, Igor Cavalera.

Jo- Can you give me some general background information on the band- when the band formed, how, lineup changes…?

Igor- Well, the band started around ’83/’84 with me, Max and Paulo. That was in Belo Horizonte in Brazil. Then in ’87 our old guitar player Jairo left and Andreas joined the band. Then after that, about 2 years ago, Max left the band and we got a new singer.

Jo- And he’s from this area…

Igor- Yeah, he’s from Cleveland. He’s actually really psyched to be playing here…

Jo- I would be too! So, when Max left the band were you discouraged? Was it tough finding a new vocalist?

Igor- Ehh… I mean, not discouraged. Its just one more challenge that we had to go through. We were just thinking how we would do it in a way where we’d be most comfortable.

Jo- How did you find Derek?

Igor- Well, actually through Roadrunner. We have this friend that works at Roadrunner and he knew Derek through his old band (Outface). He thought it would be a great idea for him to try out, so I thought we’d try him out and see. He was pretty much the right person to do it.

Jo- He was what you wanted…

Igor- Yeah…

Jo- What do you feel you personally add to the band?

Igor- I think drumming wise, I just put 100% of all my energy into my drumming. I do a lot of research on Brazilian rhythms and tribal rhythms and stuff like that. I try to add a little bit of unusual flavor to Sepultura rather than just the usual drum beats. It’s really fun trying new things out with Sepultura.

Jo- I know ‘Roots’ had more of a “tribal theme” to it. That was a nice touch. Its nice to see when a band puts a little more into writing their music…

Igor- It was a concept that we had of going back to our old roots of the whole Brazilian music and putting a lot of that into the whole album. It was something that was great to do. But at the same time, when we were doing ‘Against’, our new album, we didn’t ant to repeat ourselves… we never did. We wanted to go even further than ‘Roots’. So, we wanted to experience some different stuff, like, working with Kodo drummers in Japan, with RDP (a Brazilian hardcore band) and worked with Jason Newsted from Metallica… Just trying new things for Sepultura.

Jo- How was it working with Jason?

Igor- Good… He’s always been a really good friend of ours, so it was just a matter for us of giving him a call…

Jo- You guys go back a long time, like Metallica.. I remember back in the seventh grade Inner Self was one of my favorite songs…How has the reaction been to your new album?

Igor- Its been great, especially touring. I think touring is the best way of really finding out how the new songs are turning out and how our fans are reacting to the new stuff. I mean, so far we’ve spent like almost a month in America doing this tour from the west coast all the way here, and the shows have been very positive.

Jo- That’s good… How is it playing here as opposed to playing over in Europe?

Igor- In a weird way, it’s always been with Sepultura, where we have very hardcore fans in a smaller number (in the US), where in Europe its a lot bigger, and Brazil its a lot bigger. So, in America there’s still a lot of grounds to conquer for Sepultura.

Jo- What do you feel you gain from touring? What can a fan expect from you at a typical show?

Igor- The main reason we do this is just that the best thing we can get out of our music is to do a show. Without it the album can be very boring.  Everything on the album can be pretty much not as fun as playing live, so… It’s just the main reason why we play music- we get to tour.

Jo- Create a whole new fan base…

Igor- Yeah…

Jo- Sell merchandise… How is the label (Roadrunner)? Are you satisfied with the support they’ve been giving you?

Igor- They know how to work and promote our album, but a label’s a label.  It’s never going to be a good relationship.

Jo- Yeah…. but I’ve heard some are better than others.

Igor- I can’t name one good label. It’s a business. They have to run whatever they feel they have to so they can survive. I don’t see any difference between Roadrunner and any other smaller or bigger labels cause they’re all after one thing…

Jo- Green… So, your satisfied overall though if you’re sticking with them…

Igor- Yeah, overall that’s what we need, someone who’s going to back our album 100%, and they’re doing that.

Jo- How do you choose the material you play live?

Igor- We come up with a set list of songs that we see that go better, like over the years… a lot of old songsSepultura Picture and stuff. And then at the end we just pretty much change whatever. If we see the crowd wants us to play certain songs, we can throw them into the list and just keep updating that.

When we headline a show there’s a lot of stage room to play, we cover all the albums. Its harder when you’re playing and you’re limited by time.  There’s only so much… Then you gotta stick to the new stuff. But once you have the chance to play with no limits, then you can pretty much put on a show that will go all the way from the first album, like ‘Beastial Devastation’ to ‘Against’. We can take songs from each album and put together a cool set list.

Jo- How was the transition from being openers to headliners? That must have been pretty exciting for you.

Igor- Good, but I think both are good really. You have the challenge when you open for someone that you can gain some new audience, like some of the people that have never seen you before, and that’s a cool challenge. But at the same time, when you’re headlining you have another challenge, and that’s seeing what your status is going to be as far as how many people show up to see you. I mean, both are really good, and both really make you work hard.

Jo- Have you had a good turnout so far?

Igor- Its been great.

Jo- How did you choose touring with Earth Crisis? Was that like a label decision?

Igor- No, its crazy. It was us- those are 2 bands (Earth Crisis and Vision of Disorder) that we really like today, and it was pretty much a coincidence that they were both on the label. We get to pick one headliner.  Some of the bands that we picked, they cancel the tour or the tour is booked. Fortunately we could do it with these two bands.

Jo- So it worked out perfectly then! What are you currently listening to?

Igor- A lot of crazy stuff… I don’t know. I go back to a lot of my old albums like Celtic Frost and stuff like that. I just recently bought a CD when I was in Australia that had Hellhammer and Celtic Frost on one CD…

Jo- Wow…

Igor- I have all that stuff on vinyl at my house, and I’ve never had a chance to get it on CD, so its cool.

Jo- Morbid Tales…

Igor- Yeah, Morbid Tales, Crypts of Rays… I listen to a lot of that. I’m not really into the whole death metal scene today. A lot of the bands today, they’re not really innovative or anything.

Jo- A lot of people say that a lot of the bands are in a rut or aren’t original, but when they finally do something different fans criticize.

Igor- I remember Celtic Frost- not only them but bands like Possessed- they were always trying new things at the time. That to me is challenging… for every album to come up with something different. Today a lot of the bands are pretty much doing the same things over and over.

Jo- A lot of people are criticizing the new Slayer (vocals), and when we asked Tom about it he said he can’t keep doing the same stuff over and over again…

Igor- I don’t even think the vocals are that different…

Jo- Yeah, they’re just slightly different but…

Igor- I don’t think its a radical change, its just how he felt like doing the songs. Its crazy how some people want a band to be like AC/DC, same formula forever and shit…

Jo- Same three chords changed around…

Igor- Juggled around… <laughs>

Jo <chuckles>

Igor- We’re actually doing a tour right after this with Slayer.

Jo- What a bill! I saw them twice this summer. They’re always good live.

Igor- I think its going to be a great tour. Depending on how this tour goes, we’re going to be trying to put together a heavy package for America with Slayer and some other bands.

Jo- I’ll be there!

Igor- Yeah…

Jo- How do you write your songs? What influences do you pull from? Life, experiences…?

Igor- Everything really. It can be anything- music you listen to, moods you go through. Our music is just really, when you get down to it, the four of us getting locked into a room and just jamming. And then after that we always just record a lot of stuff. Like, we’ll record it n tape and sit down and listen to it later. Some of its really good, and some of the stuff sucks. Then we just pick out whatever we think is right and just keep going with it.

Jo- So you all collaborate on the song writing basically…

Igor- Yeah, pretty much.

Jo- So, who does the lyrics?

Igor- Well, on the last album it was all done by Andreas. <Paulo walks by and we all greet him>

Jo- Drumming wise, what are your influences?

Igor- It goes from Bill Ward from Black Sabbath to Dave Lombardo, Mike from Faith No More. People who play with authority rather than just playing drums. They put a little extra into it…

Jo- When did you start playing?

Igor- When I was almost 8 years old. First all I played was like local rhythms.

Jo- Its a good way to learn though…

Igor- Yeah, definitely. At the time I didn’t really pay much attention to it, but today when I look back it was the best schooling that I could have ever had.

Jo- So you’ve been playing for a while… I don’t know how old you are, but…

Igor – 28.

Jo- Ahh… I’ll be 23 in November. Sometimes I feel so old, and people always laugh at me when I say that. I guess its like some ridiculous personal crisis I have…

Igor- Nah… its all inside.

Jo- Yeah, I guess its like people are young at heart.

Igor- Its how you feel really.

Jo- Exactly. When did Max start playing guitar? Was it like you took up the drums, he took up the guitar, and you guys figured you’d start your own band someday?

Igor- Actually we both played drums but I was a lot better than him, so he had to go to guitar.

Jo <laughs>

Igor- But we both started out jamming on drums. But I kicked his ass, so he was like ‘Alright, cool… I’ll go with guitar’ and shit.

Jo- He’s older isn’t he?

Igor- One year…

Jo- Ahhh… one year older… okay. How do you feel about his new band? I just saw Soulfly at the Ozzfest, and they were pretty good. Do you ‘dig’ his music?

Igor- It’s okay. If he’s happy, I’m happy, and that’s all I really hope for.

Jo- Why exactly did he leave, did he just feel like he had to move on?

Igor- Not really, its just we decided not to work with our manager anymore, and she was married to him, so…

Jo- Ahh yes, the wife.

Igor- So that’s how the whole thing came down.

Jo- I wasn’t sure, there were so many different stories and rumors floating around. Just in search of the official reason from the horse’s mouth!

Igor- Yeah, it was as simple as that and people made it into a lot of drama.

Jo- It was a huge thing cause I remember you guys were supposed to tour and then the tour was cancelled…

Igor- Yeah…

Jo- From there on out it was a huge soap opera, and nobody really knew what happened. What do you do on a typical day off when on tour? I know tomorrow is your day off cause one of your roadies told me earlier.

Igor- It’s really pretty basic. Go see movies, try to do my laundry, stuff like that. Try to find a mall sometimes just to walk around.

Jo- Touring must be a great opportunity to see a lot of different places.

Igor- Yeah, I don’t really get to do that much site seeing because of the time restraints. A lot of the time we get there and usually it’s late already, so we don’t get to plan ahead too much. But its cool.

Jo- And annoying publicists like me that want to do interviews, taking up your free time…

Igor- But its all part of it. I don’t freak out, I know a lot of people who freak out doing interviews and shit. If you don’t want to do that though, just stay home, don’t play music.

Jo- You have to be in the public eye I guess…

Igor- Yeah.

Jo- Who thought of the band name?

Igor- Me and Max.

Jo- Doesn’t it mean coffin or something?

Igor- Grave… It was form a Motorhead song ‘Dancing on Your Grave’. Me and Max used to translate a lot of that shit into Portuguese. No deep meaning to it… <chuckles>

Jo- Sometimes its interesting how people come up with their band names.  That’s cool though cause Max just got to play with Motorhead.

Igor- Its been cool cause we’ve been able to play with a lot of our idols.

(Brian (Jo’s friend)- Black Sabbath reunited. They were at the mall the other day… my cousin went.)

Jo- Oh yeah, I heard about that. I heard it was a mob scene. I didn’t even know until after the fact, but I was at work at the time anyway.

(Brian- The line was all the way out into the parking lot.)

Igor- Holy shit… I would be in that line.

Jo- Yeah, get there early.

Igor- Especially with the original lineup.

Jo- I missed it. *sigh* Working for chump change. (Note- have since quit and now has a much better job! :o) ) The sound on your new album- what influenced that? Was the just the direction you happened to go in, or was it Derek…?

Igor- It was just the way we felt our music should go. We just felt we should write and album like that and took a very strong approach to it. We felt if we wrote an album similar to ‘Roots’, people would listen to it and not get a strong reaction out of it. We wanted to write something to get a crazy reaction- it could be negative or positive. If you want to try something new you’ve really gotta stick your head out all the way and not worry about it.

Jo- Cause if you wanted to do something just like ‘Roots’, it’d be like just listen to ‘Roots’ again.

Igor- Yeah, and a lot of people would be like ‘Alright, cool… whatever.’

Jo -How do you feel about the scene in general? Do you feel its underpublicized?

Igor- I come from a background where I don’t need to watch MTV to find out about good music. I’ll go out to find the music- tape trading, fanzines and things like that. There are a lot of people that do look to MTV to find out what to listen to, but there are also a lot of people that don’t.

Jo- How would you classify your music?

Igor- I don’t… I really try not to. If I had to tell a record store where to put it, I’d let them figure out what it is. Everything is a part of our music.

Jo- I think that’s about it. I feel totally nonfunctional and out of it at the moment… I don’t even know what time the show starts. <laughs> But thank you so much for doing this interview. I know you’ll kick ass tonight!  (Which they totally did. Be sure to check them out live!)