Mad Max

Metal dad Max Cavalera rocks the thrash scene and his Phoenix neighborhood

Indeed, Gloria and Max have become kind of the Sharon and Ozzy of Shadow Mountain. "We even had them as the grand marshals in last year's homecoming parade," Huffman recalls. "Right alongside [Mayor] Skip Rimsza. And they dressed the part of their jobs: Max was dressed in all the heavy metal gear, just like he dresses onstage. And Gloria was dressed in a kind of slinky black gown, kind of revealing, with all the tattoos and the green hair." For 10 years, Gloria kept her hair dyed a wild shade of green -- until its manufacturer finally took her shade off the market for potentially causing blindness in users.

Huffman was somewhat relieved later when the now-49-year-old Gloria showed up to speak to the Career Decisions class in considerably more conservative attire. "When the teachers requested her as a speaker, I said, Have you met her?' And they said, No.' Fortunately, she came in a very professional business suit."

Huffman chuckles at the memory. "Of course, there was still the green hair," he says.

Danny Otto
"I understand why people have trouble putting our message and our image together," Cavalera says.
Danny Otto
"I understand why people have trouble putting our message and our image together," Cavalera says.

While it's not always easy to hear that children-first PTA influence buried beneath the ferocious din of Cavalera's guitar, Soulfly's songs clearly address concerns on a more positive tip than most of today's self-loathing, revenge-bent metal. Faith, hope and unity are big themes in Cavalera's songs, and the CD jacket for Soulfly's latest release, 3, even includes a timely prayer to Saint Michael to "defend us in the day of battle."

"I understand why people have trouble putting our message and our image together," says Cavalera, taking a break on his tour bus traveling from Boston to Baltimore. "Especially when they see us live, it's so aggressive, so intense. I think people's first reaction when they see us is, Those guys are all crazy!' But when you go under the surface of our music and you see the lyrics, our message is actually very positive. Our songs are not about dragons or Satan or Hell. They're about life, about spirituality, and about positive messages that really connect people."

Of course, there's also the occasional f-word, too -- when you're competing against Disturbed, Mudvayne and Slipknot, you can't be Carlos Santana all the time. But Cavalera deliberately goes out of his way to provide a lyric sheet in his CDs that you can bring home to mother.

"Some fans have told me that the best way to convince their moms to be cool with the music they listen to is to show them some of Soulfly's lyrics -- before they hear the music," he says in a gentle Brazilian accent that's somehow obliterated in the bone-rattling growl Cavalera uses on record and on stage. "And that usually works. They see our songs are not about suicide or going out and killing someone, so they don't mind their kids listening to it."

Selling the Cavaleras' unconventional family values to the neighborhood has been a little tricky as well. Even before Gloria met Max, her habit of dressing up the little ones in bondage belts and slasher movie tee shirts often met with plenty of concerned frowns from the attorney types. Following a sweet 16 party for her oldest daughter back in 1988 that featured six major-league thrash bands and a ton of leather-skirted teens creating a mosh pit in her living room, Gloria recalls she found plenty of nasty notes on her car.

She never relented in her rock 'n' roll ways, however, finally marrying Cavalera 10 years ago and welcoming the Brazilian wild man into her community. Since then, the decibels have only increased around the Cavalera home: Metal pals like Metallica's Jason Newsted and Megadeth's Marty Friedman have dropped by to jam, and oldest son Ritchie now has his own band to add to the din.

Oddly enough, it's the community surrounding the Cavaleras that's bent more in their slightly twisted direction, rather than the other way around. Assistant principal Huffman says the Shadow Mountain area has become a veritable hotbed for aspiring rock bands. "We put on a fund-raising concert every spring called Shadowstock," he says. "And last year we had trouble limiting it to 12 bands. There really is a big band scene around here now."

Not surprisingly, young metalheads tend to flock around the Cavalera clan. "There is a big family vibe around them, even bigger than their own family," says Matt Strangwayes of the Phoenix band Greenhaven, who also occasionally works with Friedman in the Ramones tribute band Rocket to Russia. "There's a whole bunch of kids. Plus, you gotta consider that he comes from Brazil, where they don't have the limitations of the typical American family unit. There's that whole tribe' thing, you know."

Occasionally that openness surrounding the family has created problems. Gloria agrees that sometimes Max's fans can try to get a little too close. "We've had stalkers around Igor's and Zyon's school," she says. "We even had a guy living in our backyard for a year that we didn't even know about!"

Sometimes that openness surrounding the family has created problems. When Gloria's son Dana was killed in a car crash that some still claim resulted from the popular 17-year-old's association with two boys who were being chased by wanna-be gang members, some of Dana's classmates said he never would have been put in that dangerous situation if only he'd been able to avoid the "fake friends" who tended to follow him around merely to get closer to the rock 'n' roll scene.

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