The 2019 Grammys

Max & Iggor Cavalera Explain Returning to Sepultura's 'Roots' for Upcoming Tour

Tom Barnes
Max and Iggor Cavalera

Heavy metal and world music used to be pretty much mutually exclusive. But Brazilian thrash band Sepultura changed that with the 1996 release of its sixth album, Roots, and made an enduring metal classic in the process. To commemorate the album’s 20th anniversary, two of Sepultura’s original members, brothers Max and Iggor Cavalera, are hitting the road to play Roots in its entirety on the Max and Iggor Cavalera Return to Roots Tour, starting Sept. 12 in Las Vegas at LVCS.

While the tour is celebrating the album that solidified Sepultura’s legacy, it’s apparent from the tour’s title that the band isn’t involved. Roots was the last album that vocalist/guitarist Max performed on, since he left Sepultura the year the album was released following a band dispute regarding its management (Max’s wife, Gloria, managed Sepultura at the time) and formed Soulfly, with Gloria remaining as his manager. Drummer Iggor stayed in the band for another decade, leaving in 2006. Having made amends with Max after a 10-year feud resulting from Gloria being fired, the brothers formed Cavalera Conspiracy.

Sepultura is still active, but the Cavaleras didn’t notify it to let it know they would be doing this tour. “We let the Internet do it for us,” says Max. The rest of the touring band consists of Cavalera Conspiracy bandmates Johny Chow (bass) and Marc Rizzo (guitar).

The idea to revisit Roots was born from a July Soulfly show that Iggor happened to attend in London. “Iggor got up and we played ‘Roots Bloody Roots,’ and the place went nuts,” remembers Max. “A light bulb went off in Gloria’s head, and she said, ‘If they’re going crazy for one song, just imagine if they heard the whole record.’ We’d never done that before -- I’d never played a whole record [live] before in my whole life. We started talking, and the idea just went from there.”

Roots is aptly named, for it explores the musical influences of Sepultura’s native country. Brazilian percussionist Carlinhos Brown lent his skills to several tracks, and Roots contains such traditional instruments as berimbau, sitar and djembe. Most notably, the band went to the ancestral home of the Xavante tribe, the Mato Grosso state in Brazil, to record the song “Itsari” with it. Even the album cover’s image -- a picture of an indigenous woman -- was taken from a discontinued Brazilian bank note.

While Roots tracks like “Roots Bloody Roots” and “Attitude” have been staples of both Sepultura’s and Max’s live sets since the album was released, many of them have never been played live. “On other tours, there were a lot of songs we couldn’t play because we were playing a lot of songs from other albums,” says Iggor. “A lot of the songs were fun to revisit and play for the first time.”

Other guest appearances on Roots besides Brown and the Xavante tribe have made some its songs hard to re-create, such as “Lookaway,” which features Faith No More’s Mike Patton,Korn’s Jonathan Davis and former House of Pain and Limp Bizkit member DJ Lethal. Iggor has plans for bringing some of those tracks to life. “I was already doing a lot of experimenting with sampling so I didn’t have to bring all the percussion to shows, and I don’t think it’s going to be different this time,” he says. “A lot of stuff that we’d recorded on the album, I’m going to try to sample and put into my electronic drums so I can hit it and have those sounds play as we play together.”

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Is there a possibility of Davis or Patton appearing onstage with the band to reprise their parts on “Lookaway”? “We hope so,” says Max. “Mike’s a good friend of ours. Iggor meets with him a lot when he’s in San Francisco and eats sushi with him. We know Faith No More from back in Brazil; when they played Brazil, we’d hang out with them and became good friends. That would be really cool if that happened.”

Max attributes Roots’ enduring appeal to the simplicity of it. “It’s very minimalistic for us,” he observes. “A lot of the stuff was simplified. Even songs like ‘Roots Bloody Roots,’ it’s almost the same riff, like a mantra, except for the end, when you get to the heavy part. Then you have songs like ‘Spit,’ which is pure punk rock. Three, four chords max, but very effective, when you play live, especially.”

While the band didn’t know during Roots’ recording that the album would be so revered 20 years later, Max recalls that when it was being created, “we felt really strong about it, and we knew we were on to something different. It hit home [when we recorded] with the Xavantes. It’s something that had never been done before in metal, and I was very excited about it. It was at the center of the album. I didn’t expect that [Roots] would be as big as it was, because it got huge, and now it’s a classic.” He said that Sepultura’s mantra was that every time it went into the studio to never repeat itself, but to make the best record possible.

Max and Iggor have already played one show doing Roots in its entirety, at Canada’s Amnesia Rockfest in June. “It’s going to be a great tour, and I’m very much looking forward to it,” says Max. “Whoever’s going to be there will witness history, because once we’re done, we’re never going to do Roots again. It’s a special thing for sure.”

Combichrist, Allegaeon, All Hail the Yeti, Oni and The Black Dahlia Murder will support the Cavaleras on select dates throughout the tour. It was announced in July that Warner Music is releasing a special vinyl edition of Roots in 2016, along with a CD/vinyl boxed set of classic Sepultura albums, though a street date has not been confirmed.

Max and Iggor Cavalera Return to Roots Tour dates:

Sep. 12: Las Vegas @ LVCS
Sep. 13: Albuquerque, N.M. @ Sunshine Theater
Sep. 15: Nashville @ Exit/In
Sep. 16: Louisville, Ky. @ Diamond Concert Hall
Sep. 17: Rochester, N.Y. @ Montage Music Hall
Sep. 18: Philadelphia @ Rock Allegiance
Sep. 19: Knoxville, Tenn. @ The Concourse
Sep. 20: Athens, Ga. @ Georgia Theater
Sep. 22: Oklahoma City, Okla. @ Diamond Ballroom
Sep. 23: Dallas @ Gas Monkey
Sep. 24: Houston @ Houston Open Air
Sep. 25: New Orleans @ Southport Music Hall
Sep. 30: Jacksonville, N.C. @ Hooligans
Oct. 1: St. Petersburg, Fla. @ State Theater
Oct. 2: Fort Lauderdale, Fla. @ Culture Room
Oct. 6: Chicago @ Reggie’s
Oct. 7: Detroit @ Harpos
Oct. 8: Dayton, Ohio @ Oddbodys
Oct. 9: Pittsburgh @ Rex Theater
Oct. 10: Ottawa, Ontario @ Mavericks
Oct. 11: Toronto @ Opera House
Oct. 12: Montreal @ Les Foufounes Electriques
Oct. 14: Quebec City @ Imperial Theatre
Oct. 15: Worcester, Mass. @ Rock N Shock Festival
Oct. 16: Cleveland @ Agora Ballroom
Oct. 17: Sauget, Ill. @ Pop’s
Oct. 20: Los Angeles @ The Regent
Oct. 21: Tempe, Ariz. @ Club Red
Oct. 23: Sacramento, Calif. @ Aftershock