Max Cavalera has reflected on the breakup of SEPULTURA's classic lineup, saying that the situation in the band was "rotten from the inside."
The Brazilian four-piece fell apart in 1996 with the exit of Max after the rest of the band split with his wife Gloria as their manager. His brother, drummer Igor Cavalera, stuck around with the group for another ten years before leaving SEPULTURA and re-teaming with Max in CAVALERA CONSPIRACY.
Although SEPULTURA has maintained a diehard fanbase in all parts of the world throughout the band's nearly four-decade history, Max-era albums "Roots" and "Chaos A.D." were by far SEPULTURA's most commercially successful, having both been certified gold in the U.S. for sales in excess of five hundred thousand copies.
Max looked back on his final album with SEPULTURA during a brand new interview with France's Heavy1/Hard Force. He said (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). "The whole 'Roots' thing is a very confusing time in my life, because I don't think I knew how to deal with the whole fame thing very well — especially in Brazil. We went to Brazil, and the record was massive — like real, real big; like BEATLES big. And I remember I tried to go to the mall with my wife, and we got mobbed. And I knew that 70 percent of the people didn't own a SEPULTURA record; it was just the curiosity of the celebrity thing. And that really bugged me. It was, like, 'Yeah, all these people, they don't give a fuck. They're just there. It's a thing. I don't understand this thing.' So I struggled with that a little bit. At that time, I was drinking heavily and taking drugs. So I was wild. And, of course, 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," referring to the August 1996 passing of his stepson. "And 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."
Asked if Dana's death was the starting point for many of the disagreements that led to the eventual breakup of SEPULTURA's classic lineup, Max said: "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. And 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 the [Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle] Donington with Ozzy [Osbourne]. 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's [Kisser, guitar] 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. And that's — c'mon, man. 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. And 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. And eventually her contract was done. They always say in the press that she got fired by those guys, but that's not true. Her contract was actually done; she decided not to renew it. In fact, she told me, 'Go with them if you want to. It's your choice. Don't make me hold you back.' And I just couldn't do it because of things like that. There's that kind of stuff going on — heavy stuff."
According to Cavalera, there were other differences that contributed to the split, including the rest of the band's aspirations to work with more established and notable figures within the music industry.
"They had different ideas," he said. "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. 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; we were supposed to headline Big Day Out in Australia, so she couldn't be that bad of a manager, the way they envisioned.
"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," he added. "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."
Last year, SEPULTURA bassist Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. said that he has had "zero" contact with Max, adding that a reunion with the band's original frontman would have to happen "naturally."
Back in 2017, Igor Cavalera told The Salt Lake Tribune that he and Max "believe SEPULTURA doesn't really make sense nowadays, to do what they're doing." The drummer also downplayed the possibility of a reunion of SEPULTURA's classic lineup, saying: "Unless it's something really solid — and we haven't seen that from their part — of doing something totally professional and coming together, trying to do something like that. At the end of the day, it would be special for the fans, so it's not like a closed door, but at the same time, we have no time to spend energy with this kind of thing. So we just move forward."
Max echoed his brother's sentiments, telling The Salt Lake Tribune that he doesn't even think about his former bandmates much. "For a time — for a long time — there was a war in the press, like, 'He'll talk this, I'll talk that,'" he explained. "I got really tired of it, honestly. I'm not gonna do that anymore. So let them go their way and do their thing, and we're gonna do our thing, and I think that's the best for everybody."
While stopping short of completely ruling out a reunion of SEPULTURA's classic lineup, Max said: "Right now, we don't even need it. It's been so much of that kind of bad vibes through the years that I don't even know how that would even really work out. I think what [Igor and I] are doing is the closest thing to that, and it works great, it works like a charm. It's amazing."
Igor and Max have spent much of the last six years celebrating the 20th anniversary of SEPULTURA's "Roots" and 30th anniversary of "Beneath The Remains" and "Arise", respectively, on tour all over the world.
SEPULTURA's current lineup — vocalist Derrick Green, guitarist Andreas Kisser, bassist Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. and drummer Eloy Casagrande — released its latest album, "Quadra", in February 2020 via Nuclear Blast Records.