Max Cavalera: Ink Spot | Revolver

Max Cavalera: Ink Spot

Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy singer-guitarist shows off his favorite tattoos
MaxCavaleraInk.png, William Jacob Reder
photograph by William Jacob Reder

"The Soulfly logo was invented by a tattoo artist, Leo Zuleta; a lot of people don't know that," explains Soulfly, Sepultura, and Cavalera Conspiracy founding singer-guitarist Max Cavalera. "He's one of my all-time favorite tattoo artists because he pretty much was the first guy who brought tribal tattoos to America, you know. He did that shit, like, 30 years ago." The frontman, who recently dropped Soulfly's thrash-tastic sixth album, Conquer (Roadrunner), says that while he's seen a shitload of fan Soulfly tattoos, he's still in the planning stages of his own Soulfly ink. "Mine is gonna be right here," he says, pointing to his Adam's apple. "And I'm doing it with Leo Zuleta, but all the times I was, like, ready to do it, he wasn't in town because he does a lot of fucking conventions. So, I'm still waiting. One of these days I'll get it; the spot is reserved. It's gonna hurt like hell." Sober for years, Cavalera adds with a grin: "I'll probably drink for that one."

Tribals (neck): "Those are actually Paul Booth, believe it or not; probably the most normal, not-satanic Paul Booth tattoos ever. This is a design from when I recorded [Sepultura's] Roots with a native tribe in Brazil. It's a traditional Brazilian tribal design. The tribespeople gave me a bunch of stuff while I was there, like masks and stuff, and one of the designs of the mask had that. So I want to put that on my neck to give the vocal cords some kind of tribal relation with the throat and the screaming. But also, when I did this tattoo, it was my own statement to myself that there's no turning back into society now. I'm fucked. I did that on purpose. It's, like, crossing the line and knowing you can never be normal again. And I was cool with that. I have lots of friends who stopped being into metal and just quit. Not for me, man. I'm into this shit for life."

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Eyes: "Those are from A Clockwork Orange, from that one part of the movie where he's, like, with the fucking claws in his eyes, watching the shit. A Clockwork Orange was one of my favorite movies as a teenager. I had a big poster on my wall in Brazil. Getting these fucking hurt like hell. I quit a couple of times; I actually got up from the seat and Paul Booth was like, 'Get back here, man!'"

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Gargoyle: "I like that he's got hair on his head now; it looks real now with fucking hair."

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Tribal (arm): "My first tattoo is underneath this one. It was a dragon—you can see it in the Schizophrenia photos. I was probably 13 when I got it. My mom was upset. I was talking to her about getting a tattoo, and she was like, 'No fucking way. You do a tattoo, I'll kick you out of the house.' So I show up one day, and I'd done the tattoo, but I'm really sloppy, man; that's why I'll never be a good serial killer—I'll get caught. I cleaned the bandage, went to bed, and forgot all of the bloody bandage in the sink, and my mother is, like, turning the light on at 1 in the morning and is like, 'Get the fuck up! What is this shit? Show me your arm.' And I'm like, OK, I'm busted. She actually made me sleep on the porch. The irony is, now she has three tattoos! Now she has the Sepultura 'S,' you know, on her arm. But at first she was completely against it. We laugh about it now."

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Dot (hand): "It's our wedding tattoo. It's a thing that tattoo artists do when they get married. They do a dot here, and [my wife] Gloria has one there; when we put our hands together, the dots, they touch. So, in my backyard we got married, and I remember everyone was like, What are they doing? We give the rings, I kiss the bride, and then we do the fucking tattoo thing, you know, with the needle and shit. So that was cool. It's really small but represents a lot."

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