Max Cavalera Details ‘Rotten’ + ‘Broken’ Situation That Led to Sepultura Exit
In 1996, Sepultura released their masterpiece Roots, but despite the positive reviews tensions were brewing beneath the surface and frontman and band founder Max Cavalera would exit the group after support of the album. Reflecting on that period with Heavy 1 / Hard Force Radio, Cavalera detailed the deterioration of his relationship with the group.
While speaking of the Roots album cycle, Cavalera explained, "It is marked by glory and tragedy. At the same time you're commemorating this big record, there's a big tragedy right in the middle of the thing, which is Dana's [Wells] death," stated the singer, referencing the 1996 death of his stepson. "It's bitter, man. I don't think I ever actually fully enjoyed what Roots brought because of that. It was cut in half, because of that. But that's life, man."
When asked if Wells' passing was a factor in his exit, he added, "The situation in the band, it had been going bad [even before that]. It wasn't the beginning of that, but it added to it."
He continued, "One of the main reasons why it added to it — a lot of people don't know the story — we were in England, ready to do Donington with Ozzy. And we received the news that Dana died. And my wife was in total despair. And I'm her husband; I have to comfort her. So I [flew] back to America to be with her. And I found out later that Andreas' [Kisser] wife tried to move the body, tried to steal Dana's body and tried to get him buried real quick so we could go back on tour."
"I was, like, 'Who does that?' It seriously made me think about the people I'm making music with. Are those my real friends? It was confusing, man," stated Cavalera.
He continued, "Then it got worse because, eventually, they ganged up, including my brother — I cannot put him out of that thing; he was part of it — it was like a mutiny. The three guys against me, and against Gloria. So they wouldn't talk to her. That last European tour, it was just pure misery; it was miserable. Of course, it [didn't] show in the music; the music [was] great [and] the shows were great. But the other 23 hours of the day was fucking misery — trying to deal with that."
Cavalera says contrary to some public perception, Gloria wasn't fired. Her contract had run out and she decided not to renew it. Max says she even left the choice in his hands if he wanted to continue with the group. "I just couldn't do it because of things like that. There's that kind of stuff going on — heavy stuff," said the singer.
"They had different ideas. One of the main ideas was to replace Gloria and a lot of our crew and people with very 'professional,' big people. And to me, that seems a fucked-up thing to do, where the people that helped you get to that was [these] people, and now that you're big and successful, now you can hire anybody," says Cavalera. "You're just, like, 'All right. Fuck you. You're done. Your shit's done. We're going with [these] successful people.' I didn't agree with that, because I think everything was going good. We were getting all the major festivals."
Looking back on that period, the singer says, "Honestly, I think the best thing we could have done would have been to take a whole year off, and everybody should go somewhere, clear their heads and come back a year later, and talk about it, but even with that, there was no remedy. It's broke — the thing is broke. It's rotten, man, from the inside. It needed something, and eventually what it needed was separation."
Cavalera would go on to form Soulfly in the aftermath of Sepultura while the band would continue with Derrick Green stepping in on vocals for Sepultura's 1998 Against album. Max's brother Igor Cavalera would exit Sepultura in 2006 and the siblings would later reconcile and start their Cavalera Conspiracy band together. These days Max is a member of three bands, with Killer Be Killed joining Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy in his balanced rotation of projects.
Max Cavalera Talks to Heavy 1 / Hard Force Radio