Soulfly interview (Max Cavalera)

"Sepultura today is like Megadeth continuing without Mustaine. A joke, right?"

27/09/2013 @ 19:20
Max Cavalera is one of the most respected personalities in the metal scene everyone knows what he has offered through his music, either with Sepultura or with Soulfly, but also with any of his other projects. For the first time, since the early days of his career, he finds himself under a new label releasing Soulfly’s ninth studio album “Savages”. We talked about everything considering his new record, but also about his past and his future plans, with Max being very relaxed and honest as always.

SoulflyHi Max. It’s a pleasure to be able to talk with you.
Right on man! Thank you!

How are you?
I’m pretty good. Just excited for the album coming out in two weeks…

What’s the feedback you get so far for Soulfly’s new album “Savages”?
I think a lot of people like it. A lot people tell me that they really love the record and they like the mix of the half extreme, half classic and some new stuff, like “Ayatollah Of Rock N’ Rolla”. So far the feedback has been very-very positive.

Soulfly - SavagesFirst album for your new label Nuclear Blast and I guess it’s no big surprise you ended up with this label, since Monte Conner is there and it’s one of the biggest metal labels. Are you satisfied with this decision so far? Has something changed for you?
Yeah, I think they’ve done a great job and I think they want they are definitely one of the more powerful labels that are now in metal and they’re very excited, they love the record. When they heard the final mixes of “Savages” they got really excited, they really loved what they heard in it. They really wanted Soulfly and they wanted it bad. There were five labels fighting for Soulfly and they ended up getting it. There is a great share of a vision between us and them, I’m very excited to be in Nuclear Blast and I’m very excited for the new Soulfly album “Savages” to come out. I think the album is gonna do really good and we’re all very proud to be part of that.

SoulflyDid you have an initial idea in your mind that you wanted to follow regarding the music of the album or did the music just flow during its making?
The music just kind of flows. The only thing I did was a continuation of some stuff from “Enslaved” with some extreme songs like “Fallen”, “Cannibal Holocaust”, and “K.C.S.” with Mitch from Napalm Death, those are really similar to “Enslaved” kind of songs with the extreme elements. But also you can find me searching for an older Soulfly vibe like “Primitive”, “Prophecy” and I think you can hear some of these on “Bloodshed”, “Master Of Savagery”, “El Comegente” and it was really cool writing some new tunes like “Ayatollah of Rock ‘N’ Rolla” that was really new and exciting and different. I think the album has a little bit of everything and this is what makes “Savages” a good record.  

I think you basically follow the path that you took with you last three records, focusing more on your heavy and extreme elements. Is that something that comes naturally for you?
Yeah. For me, making records is always an adventure and always a challenge and I really love all the records I have made. All of them have their own special vibes and their own special things about them. I just really love the power of “Savages”. It’s a very powerful family record. I love the collaborations with Jamie form I Declare War, Neil from Clutch and Mick from Napalm Death, they’re perfect collaborators for the record and I’m very happy with. For me, it’s exactly what I want Soulfly to be right now. It’s the place that we want to be, the combination of extreme and tribal grooves that make Soulfly what it is today.

SoulflyBeing a fan since the first album, I thing that the more tribal side of Soulfly is steadily left behind after “Prophecy”. I personally have always loved this side of yours and it is your point of reference as a musician, so it makes me wonder, why is this happening? Why do you seem to hesitate to put as much tribal elements as you did in the first records?
I don’t know. Each album has kind of its own way and mainly has to do with what I was listening to at the time. These days I listen to more heavy stuff, I love bands like Man Must Die, Acacia Strain and some new, more kind of deathcore music and together with stuff like Nails, Pulling Teeth and Trap Them. You know, kind of grindcore. I really love that style of music also. I also like stuff like Black Tusk and Kyles and Doomriders, kind like trippy, like Black Sabbath, like Mastodon a little bit, Meshuggah, Gojira. All those are why I decided to make Soulfly go heavier. It was a conscious decision to make them go heavier and maybe when I find the right time I’ll write a good tribal record again. But, it’s got to be made right, with the right percussion and ideas. We got to really be fired to do that, it’s not something that happens. The creation of records like “Soulfly” and “Primitive” was very special, at a special time. There is a special frame of mind that you need to do it. It can’t happen all the time. If I have that feeling again to write another tribal record I’ll have to wait for the right time, I cannot just do it like that. In the meantime I keep writing heavy records, keep Soulfly heavy, extreme and powerful, cause I get that demand from the fans and I want Soulfly to be strong in the metal scene. And because of that we continue doing more heavy stuff. But, I all of them man. I like the early stuff, I like the tribal stuff, and I like the middle stuff with “Dark Ages” and “Prophecy”. I like “Enslaved” a lot, I think this album was amazing, very-very extreme and I’m very excited of “Savages”, I like it a lot and I think it’s a very cool record.

Max Cavalera (Soulfly)Ok, I understand it. It’s the first album with your son Zyon as the drummer. How does it feel to be in the same band with your son?
It’s really cool, you know. It’s similar to what I had with my brother Igor. I worked with Igor in the old Sepultura days, on albums like “Beneath The Remains” and “Arise” we rolled them together at home. Just me and Igor writing them and it was great. I had to do the same with Zyon. Zyon, even plays similar to Igor, has the same style of hitting hard and very kind of physical drumming. We spent a lot of time for “Savages”. We spent about two months, just me and him together on this album, the two of us playing together and I think that this is something really cool about the creation of this album, the creation of “Savages”. It reminds me of what I did with old Sepultura recordings. So, it was like for me a little bit of a trip back in time to create “Savages”. Kind of reminded me the way I did some albums back then, like “Beneath The Remains” and “Arise” that we entered the studio knowing what we were going to do. For albums like “Enslaved” we entered the studio without knowing what was going to happen, everything happened in the studio. I think I prefer to be more prepared, like on “Savages” and write the stuff at home. I think for me it’s a little better like that.

Also, your son Igor Jr is handling some vocals on “Bloodshed”. I know that Soulfly is family, but what would you reply to someone who would speak about nepotism?
I needed kind of a punk voice for “Bloodshed”. “Bloodshed” was a song that was written quite ahead, a really kind of Misfits, Bad Brains kind of riff and it needed some kind of punk vocals and Igor had the perfect voice for something like “Bloodshed”. He was grateful to do what he did and I think the song turned out exactly what I wanted and his involvement was short, but it was really powerful and It was something that I wanted to do. It’s only the chorus but it makes a difference when I listen to the song, to have his vocals in the chorus of “Bloodshed”, because did a punk chorus and we needed a punk voice.

SoulflyMark Rizzo has a great talent in acoustic guitar, but we only hear a flamenco type solo from him on “El Comegente” and I guess that “Soulfly IX” will also have some acoustic guitars as always. Why are “Soulfly” songs considered as bonus tracks? I always think they are among the best songs in each album.
Yeah, that was a decision that we started on “Enslaved”, as we do that kind of instrumentals that are not for everybody, some people like them, some people don’t like them. So, we give the fans a choice. If they like them they can get them on the special edition and if they don’t they can get the album without it. These songs are just so melodic and personally I love them, I think they are great and I love all of the Soulfly instrumentals. Some of them are great with the violin or the noise of the rain in Serbia recorded on the roof, the bells in Russia from a church bell in Moscow and really cool things like that, that you can find in these instrumentals. But, you know, most of them want Soulfly with heavy stuff, with hard stuff, so it’s a choice they can make whether or not they want the special edition. I really love the acoustic guitar of Marco on “El Comegente”. It reminds me what we did on “Mars” on “Prophecy”. It’s like “Mars pt.2”, but very Led Zeppelin kind of. I think Marco was inspired to create something really amazing. I had a blank space for him to do something and I was expecting him to do something amazing and he did, like Mark always does. I can always count on him, he’s an great guitar player, he’s been together with me for 10 years and he never disappoints me, he always surprises me in the studio in a good way and we are a good team together me and Mark. In terms of riffs, we work on them together to make them cooler and better and I love his work on “El Comegente”, it’s one of my favorite parts on the whole album, it’s so cool, it’s like it’s a different part, a different place when Mark comes in.

Max Cavalera (Soulfly)Out of the guests the one that I enjoyed the most is Neil Fallon on “Ayatollah Of Rock N’ Rolla”. How did you decide to work with him and who is the Ayatollah of rock and roll music? What do the lyrics stand for?
Yeah, the title is from Mad Max, from the 2nd Mad Max movie and some of the lyrics are connected to Mad Max, also like “fuel injector suicide”, the machine is from the first Mad Max. The actual name “Ayatollah Of Rock N’ Rolla” is a phrase from the actual movie, they say that in the movie. I wrote the riff in the beginning of creation of “Savages” and it sounded like a solid rock riff, it sounded like Clutch, it was really cool and I thought to myself that would be really cool if we could get Neil to sing in this song and make a “Soulfly meets Clutch” kind of song. The idea just broke then and we contact Neil, Neil got really excited, we knew each other from 20 years ago, when we were touring together. I think it came out really cool, because Neil really understood what the song was about and he also made some great lyrics, different kind of lyrics than what it was. In the end it’s a 7 minutes long song, but it does not feel like that, because it flows. I love Neil’s vocals in the whole song, especially in the spoken part. To me that was an innovation in the Soulfly sound, “Ayatollah Of Rock N’ Roll”. It is a new song, definitely something that we had not done before, I think it so cool to have such a powerful song on the record and I am very happy that we did that.

You toured with Clutch back in 1995. It seems like ages ago. What do you remember from this tour? Would you expect them to get that big as they are today, as a rock band?
Yeah, Clutch is still a great band they still make great records, like Napalm Death they always make good records year after year. We had a great tour together with them in America and also with Fear factory. They are great guys, they are really-really cool guys, amazing band. I used to go and jam with them, I used to come and play guitar and sing on “A Shogun Named Marcus”, it's the first song of their first record. I loved that song and I used to come on stage with Clutch and play that with them and that was really fun to jam with them like that. We got to be quite good friends on that tour. And, yeah, you know, we just had good memories and there was really good work with Neil after all these years. He did a great job and I love what he did on the track.

Max Cavalera (Soulfly)It’s been a while since you announced the side project with Troy Sanders from Mastodon, Greg Puciato from Dillinger Escape Plan and Dave Eilich that played with The Mars Volta, but only recently you started recording the album. The combination of the four of you is dreamy and I can’t really wait to hear the final product. Try to describe the direction of the songs and also tell me who will be singing...
Josh Wilbur is producing it and he learned everything from Andy Wallace, who did “Chaos AD”, so I think the sound of this project is really similar to a “Chaos AD” kind of sound, which is great. “Chaos AD” was a great sounding record as well, and that album is similar to that. As far as the music... it is a combination. People will recognize right away the Max riffs, very-very familiar Max riffs, that people know. It is gone have some melodic staff from Troy, similar to some Mastodon kind of style and Greg is gonna do some really killer singing, like he did, like he did on “Rise Of The Fallen”. So, I think it is gonna be very great. I think the coolest thing is the 3 of us singing on every song, it will alternate different verses, different choruses, everybody is going to do something different on every song and that is going to be the key for this project. This is the main thing that is gonna make this project different from everything else, with 3 singers, singing on every song. I am very excited. We haven't started singing yet, we have start working on some of the ideas for the vocal patterns, but we haven't singing recordings yet, this is going to take place next week. But, the sound is really-really great, I love the sound of the record, I love the songs, I think it’s going to be a very-very strong album.

Now, the last few days people are discussing about a statement that you made about Sepultura, that after your brother left the band you don’t really care about happens about them. I know you wanted a reunion some years ago. Does this statement mean we cannot hope anymore, especially the ones that we didn’t manage to see the real Sepultura?
Yeah, well I mean it still can happen, but I think it is very difficult. It involves a lot of politics and different people and it is very complicated when dealing with those guys. And my statement there was really true. There are no original members in that band anymore. Me and Igor have left. I created the band, I named the band. And Igor was the original drummer, so when he left there was nothing official there... To me it would be like Dave Mustaine leaving Megadeth and Megadeth continue. It would be a joke, right? I think the spirit of Sepultura lives on with Cavalera Consiperacy and what we do. I think that we will make a very powerful third album that is gonna be very strong, the classic Max and Igor that people love. I would like to have a reunion for the fans, but I do not see it happen for that reason.

SoulflyThe last few days I’ve been listening again to all the albums you’ve recorded, so as to make a buyer’s guide of your career. Which two albums would you choose as the masterpieces of your career?
Well, definitely “Chaos AD”. I would say “Chaos AD” and probably “Prophecy”. Those are two of my favorite ones.

Do you agree that “Roots” the album that changed your life the most?
I do not really think in terms of that, I don't really... I like just to keep going, keep creating, that’s what I am here for. I think there is going to be a lot more music coming from me, I feel very active, I am still very creative mentally, very passionate. I love the idea of getting involved in records. I love the idea that you can still make a good record, make a classic record. I believe I can make something as powerful as those old records. I believe it would be great one day when I am finally dead to look back at all these records and be proud for all of them.

Is there any album you regret making or you’d like to change something as you see it now?
What I’d like to change would be the name of “Soulfly III”, it would have been called “Downstroy”, which was the original name, I liked that name better. To me, it is called “Downstroy”, it’s the original title. It was written around 9/11, it was very powerful, it was a a very aggressive time and “Downstroy” was the first song I wrote for that record and it was very brutal. Great songs came out of it “Seek 'n' Strike", “Brazil”, "Enterfaith”, “Last of the Mohicans”, some of the most powerful Soulfly stuff. But, unfortunately, under the Led Zeppelin influence I called it “Soulfly III”, but it is always gonna be “Downstroy” for me.

Max Cavalera (Soulfly)I can remember in the mid 90’s after you had released “Beneath The Remains”, “Arise” and “Chaos A.D.” the metal community was seeing you as the possible next leaders of this music. Do you think all this affected you as persons?
No, I don’t care for that kind of staff, “the next thing or the biggest band”. I never really worry about that... Those labels don’t really affect me too much. I know what I am, I am proud of what I've done and I want to do a lot more. This is for me  is a never ending process of finding good riffs and finding good ideas for songs, making records, playing live. I am very happy that I work with my family and involve my family in the metal, in the music. I wouldn't change anything, even the separation of Sepultura was necessary for the creation of Soulfly, a band that I really love. Soulfly, actually, became my salvation to the music, because I could continue making music. I couldn't really see myself without music, it would have been a very negative dark life. The possibility of continuation of music that Soulfly gave me was really-really amazing and I am very thankful to Soulfly for that. Soulfly was very special for me, I see so many Soulfly tattoo around the world, so many people have a Soulfly tattoo and it shows to me that they are connected with me and we are part of this big tribe.

I was thinking that “Refuse/Resist” is still relevant for countries like Brazil and Greece and also “Territory” is relevant in our world today. Is nothing changing after all?
Yeah, I mean those songs they are more real now even before, even when they were written 20 years ago. They still have a really... shred of truth in them that is more relevant now than ever. What can I say? The world is has not learnt yet…

SoulflyNow, I have something like wishful thinking. Maybe you should open the ceremony for the mundial in Brazil next year by playing “Umbabarauma”. How does this sound to you, hehe?
I love the song I think it is great. It is really a song about football. It is true that Jorge Ben wrote it in the 70s as an anthem for the passion of football. I love football, as everybody knows and I would love to be involved in the World Cup, the next year. I want to be involved, maybe play some shows if it would be possible to do that. I think it will be great, if someone would use that song for anything that has to do with the world cup.

Do we stand any chance of seeing you playing live in Greece?
Yes, we are coming in beginning of next year, all over Europe and I think definitely Greece will be involved. We are definitely coming. We’ll be laying a lot of songs from “Savages”, new songs, new vibes for the fans. We are looking forward to. It will be a whole year of touring, so maybe we can come in Greece many times. I love playing in Greece, it has always been of my favorite places, the crowd is complete insane, I really like that about the Greek Fans, they are very-very fanatic, very chaotic, very great and I like feeling when playing live. The energy when I play live is always amazing. I am looking forward to come in Greece.

Thanks Max. It was really a pleasure.
Yeah, Thank you, thank you for the interview, I hope that you will enjoy “Savages” as much as I enjoyed making it. And thanks for listening to metal and spreading metal in Greece, keep metal alive and I see everybody on tour. Thank you. Take care brother.

Chris Karadimitris