For Soulfly frontman Max Cavalera, music has always been a family affair. Cavalera, along with older brother Iggor on drums, was a founding member of Brazilian thrash/death metal legends Sepultura in the mid '80s before bolting the band to form Soulfly in 1997. After Iggor also left Sepultura in 2006, the brothers reunited to form Cavalera Conspiracy in 2007. Cavalera has two teenage sons, Zyon and Igor, who each played drums on a pair of bonus tracks from Soulfly's latest album, Omen.
The Cavalera family was dealt a crushing blow in 1996 when Max's stepson, Dana "D-Low" Wells, was killed in a fatal car accident near Cactus Road and 24th Street in north Phoenix. Cavalera and his wife, Gloria, have long contended that Wells was intentionally run off the road, but no criminal charges were ever filed.
A longtime Valley resident, Cavalera has held a D-Low memorial show in the Valley every year since the accident. The annual show has a history of surprise guest appearances, including the long-awaited reunion of Iggor and Max at the 2006 show. The 14th annual D-Low memorial show is set to take place this weekend, and, like previous shows, friends and family figure prominently into the bill. Cavalera's other stepson, Richie Cavalera, fronts opening act Incite, and Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato is also scheduled to appear.
Up on the Sun recently spoke to Cavalera about the D-Low memorial show, his songwriting process and the likelihood of Sepultura's classic lineup ever reuniting.
Q&A with Soulfly's Max Cavalera
Up on the Sun: The D-Low memorial show has a history of surprise guest appearances. Your publicist already let the cat out of the bag on Greg Puciato. Do you have any other surprises up your sleeve?
Cavalera: Well, I think Greg is like the main one. We did a song with him on the last record and we were never able to play the song with him live yet, 'cause we haven't crossed paths yet. We called him and we told them about the Dana show, and he was available. He said "I'll be there," so that's awesome. We're really looking forward to that. Apart from that, probably just the family being involved in the show, like my kids playing drums. Each one of them plays drums in a different song, so Zyon and Igor, they're probably going to play drums in two different songs, and Richie, who is opening the show with his band Incite, is probably gonna sing some for his brother, either "Bleed" or one of the songs that was done for Dana, "Tree of Pain" or something like that. So it should be a really cool show, a lot of cool things going on, like all Dana shows have had some really cool stuff on them.
I went back and re-read the New Times cover story from 1999 about the circumstances surrounding Dana's death. Have your and Gloria's opinions about the incident changed in the past 11 years? Do you still believe it was a murder?
Yeah, yeah, I have no doubt about it. She redid the case so many times in her head and talked to so many people that we know for sure that that was a murder. It's just kind of one of those things. I told her the way I feel about it. I think, to me, the people that did this are gonna have to deal with God one day. They've got to have this heavy conscience on themselves anyway, you know, even without getting caught. They still have that, waking up every day and knowing that they did that to somebody. That's probably the punishment right there. But we're still hoping that something's going to come up. That's why she's still doing the case. We're still doing the benefits to keep people aware that that went on. Hopefully this thing comes to closure one day.
It seems like holding a memorial show every year would bring back lots of anger and sadness. How much longer will you keep doing these shows?
Well to me, the show is more of a positive thing. It's more to remember his memory through the music, because Dana was a very musical person who was always into music. He got me into a lot of new bands that I ended up working with later, like Korn and the Deftones, he was the first one to get me to hear these bands. To me, it's more to remember him as a person in the family who was into music, so it's a celebration of music for that reason, and that's why I like the show so much. It's so cool. At the last one, they had a huge banner at the front of the stage that the fans made for Dana with his name on it. It was hand-painted, really really cool with big letters. It was right in front of me the whole time of the show. Just showing the fans that kind of stuff, that's the spirit of the show, so I think that's great.
You've been living in Phoenix for over 15 years now. What's your opinion of the local metal scene? Do you ever go out to see any local shows, or is it too much of a hassle with being recognized and hounded for autographs and pictures?
Well, I don't mind really, but a lot of times when I come back from a tour, especially a two-month tour where I played every night until two in the morning, when I come home, I really try to rest. I just kind of chill at home most of the time, unless a band comes here that I know that are friends of ours. When the Deftones are in town, I'll come and see them and I sing with them, 'cause I do a song with them. Other than that, I just kind of chill at home and get ready for the next tour, 'cause I know it's gonna be hectic.
As the lead singer and primary songwriter for two bands, how does your songwriting process work? Do you sit down with the intention of writing a song specifically for Soulfly or Cavalera Conspiracy, or do you just write songs and decide later which group they're for?
I write the songs without knowing which band they're for. I just write the songs first. Later on, when I listen to it back, when I'm choosing the songs for the albums, that's when I pick - "Okay, this one goes for Soulfly, this one goes for Cavalera Conspiracy" - and that seems to work out better. That way I just write nonstop. It doesn't stop my pattern of thought on the writing. I keep writing nonstop. I've got a lot of songs I have not recorded yet. I just write all the time. I'm not one of those guys that writes just for the album. I write all the time, even when I don't have to. I love to just sit down with the guitar and write riffs. It's one of my favorite things to do. I've got tons and tons of songs that I haven't used yet, that I'm gonna use for the next [album] or the one after that. I kind of just listen to them later and then pick and choose which one's gonna go to which.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of Sepultura's debut album, Morbid Visions. You're probably sick to death of this question, but will we ever see a reunion of the original lineup?
That's something I don't know. That's a hard one. A lot of people ask me that, and sometimes I feel optimistic. I convinced Igor to do it, 'cause he didn't want to have anything to do with those guys [bassist Paulo Jr. and guitarist Andreas Kisser] ever again. I convinced him to do it for me, and he said he'd do it for me if that was the case, but the other two guys, it's kinda hard. They're still trapped in an old mindset, so it's just something that's gonna have to wait. I mean, it would have been cool to do it next year. There's a lot of cool offers for us around the world. People want to see that reunion, so I just kinda wait and see. In the meantime, I'm super busy with both bands. Soulfly is going to Israel and China and Australia next month, and I'm going to Brazil with Cavalera Conspiracy for a huge festival in Sao Paulo. So I'm pretty busy with both bands anyway, so I just kinda wait. If that happens, it's cool. If it doesn't, it's still cool. I'm busy anyway.
Soulfly is scheduled to perform at the 14th annual D-Low Memorial Show on Saturday, August 28, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook