Earlier this week I had the chance to talk to another one of the legends of metal, Max Cavalera. He was very laid back and down to Earth and he is the first person I’ve interviewed that has brought up some of our local bands without me asking first! Max talks about Soulfly’s new album and tour as well as his time in Sepultura, the future of Killer Be Killed and he even gave some cool background stories as well. The entire interview lasts a bit under 15 minutes and you can stream it below by pressing the orange play button, download it as a 20mb mp3 here or read the transcription below where my words are the ones in bold. I hope you enjoy this interview as much I did!
Photo of Max Cavalera by Hannah Verbeuren
Hello everyone. This is Metal Chris and today I’ve got the honor of interviewing Max Cavalera who is the main man behind Soulfly [and] who is also a current or former member of many other bands including Cavalera Conspiracy, Killer Be Killed, Sepultura and Nailbomb. Soulfly is currently on tour right now and they will be playing at the Ottobar in Baltimore on Wednesday, October 21st. So to start things off here Max, let’s talk about the newest Soulfly album, Archangel, which came out this past August. Can you tell me about the concepts behind it? It seems to have sort of a Biblical feel to it.
It’s a different record for sure you know it’s our tenth album and we are trying to do something a bit different from everything we have done and I decided to call the album Archangel and having a couple of biblical references in some of the songs like “Sodomites,” “Bethlehem’s Blood” and some old Babylonian themes like “Ishtar Rising” and “Shamash.” It was cool. It was a fun record to make. We had a really good procuder, Matt Hyde, he has done Slayer‘s God Hates Us All, and Monster Magnet and Deftones. So he’s a very good guy, very good producer. And we had a good team you know. The artwork was done by Eliran Kantor. He’s a guy from Jerusalem that lives in Germany and does some amazing album covers and the inner sleeve was done by Marcelo Vasco who is a friend of mine from Brazil. [He] does a lot of death metal album covers. He actually did also the new Slayer album cover. So I like the album too. I think the album is extreme. It’s got a lot of influence from the stuff I listen to and I think it is very energetic. It shows a very energetic side of Soulfly that things are not slowing down at all. We’re just getting started you know, even on our tenth album. So it’s pretty exciting.
Cover of Archangel by Soulfly
To my understanding Mike Leon from the band Havok is playing bass on your current tour. So how did he end up joining Soulfly?
Yeah we found out that Mike was not with Havok any more and we thought it would be a great fit for Soulfly because he’s such a good bass player and he’s a good friend too you know. So we knew him, Soulfly did a tour with Havok, we all became friends and he kept in contact with us. When he played near my house with Arsis he came to see me and so we flew him in and did some practice and he’s amazing. And he brought a whole lot of new blood to Soulfly man. A lot of people are saying this line up is the most lethal they’ve seen in a long time man. It’s pretty kick ass. I got somebody I can headbang with now ’cause [Soulfly guitiarist] Marc [Rizzo] doesn’t have any hair. So you know I still got all my dreadlocks and you know Mike has a lot of hair so we can headbang together, haha.
Now I know the guys in Decapitated were having visa problems getting into the country for this tour. Have you heard any update on if they’re going to be on the tour at all or are they still just awaiting to hear anything?
They’re going to be on [the] tour but I just don’t know when. They’re supposed to be getting that cleared out any day now. In fact I heard rumors they were supposed to be here tomorrow or the next day. They’re going to be here. So we just keep our fingers crossed because I love Decapitated and I love to have them. It’s such a good bill with them on it you know it’s a strong four bill tour and it’s a shame that it had to happen to them. I hate those visa things and government things like that so you know it’s like it sucks when that happens. But we are hoping that they will be here soon so we can at least finish the tour with them.
As I mentioned before, you’re in a bunch of bands and after this Soulfly tour ends, which band are you going to be focusing on?
Well right now I’m focused on Soulfly for a long time ’cause the album just came out and I’m really excited for Archangel. I think it’s an album that we can do a lot with you know we can really tour a lot for it and we are going to try to tour a lot. We have two tours right now. This one with Soilwork and Shattered Sun and then we have another one in November with Crowbar and Incite and Shattered Sun and then we have some shows already in Australia early next year and Europe and some invitations to do some other stuff that we are looking at right now and hopefully we can go [to] South America, Australia, China and Japan, Middle East I hope you know and another US run because we didn’t do a lot of the big markets like Detroit, Philadelphia. We didn’t do that on this tour yet so there’s still places to play in the US so for another tour so we are hoping that we can get another one of those tours next year.
That’s really cool you’re going to be playing on this for a while too but I guess that means no new Cavalera Conspiracy or Killer Be Killed any time soon?
No, not for a while. Cavalera [Conspiracy] is on a big break. I will not probably touch Cavalera [Conspiracy] for a long, long time and Killer Be Killed maybe. We [will] see where we [are] at next year. We maybe do some riffing and get some song ideas started for the next record and see where we are at. Where every band member is at the time. Troy [Sanders] had a little bit of family problems early with his wife having cancer and had to cancel a bunch of Mastodon dates so we’re hoping that things get better on his camp and then he can come back and do some more stuff with Killer Be Killed. I’m in contact with Greg [Puciato] all the time. He’s super excited for another record. We’re going to do it, it’s just, we don’t know when or where, but it is going to happen at some point. I think we are going to work a little bit on it next year and then eventually get it out there some time in the future.
Have you ever thought of doing a solo Max Cavalera album or do you sort of see Soulfly as your solo project?
Soulfly is kind of my thing like, ’cause I have all the guests on every album. You know we had Todd [Jones] from Nails and Matt [Young] from King Parrot on Archangel and I had David Vincent from Morbid Angel and Tom Araya from Slayer and Chino [Moreno] from Deftones and Corey [Taylor] from Slipknot and the list of people that I work with is real long but I would like to tour more with other bands. Especially I’ve got a lot of bands that I like. I like a lot of new bands you know like Homewrecker and Genocide Pact and…
Oh yeah, Genocide Pact is from here.
Yeah. Xibalba, Young And In The Way, you know I like a lot of this new stuff man. You know it’s great. The new Genocide Pact album [titled Forged Through Domination] is insane. I’ve been listening to that a lot and I love it and hopefully [Soulfly will] get one of those bands to tour with us next year. Would be great.
So are there any other DC area bands you might be into? We’ve got a bunch from here. Like you said Genocide Pact but also you know Pig Destroyer, Dying Fetus, Pentagram, Deceased.
All of those are great, haha. Me and my son Igor we really like them a lot. You know Igor is a guitar player [in] Lody Kong and they’re really good friends with the Noisem guys and the Full Of Hell guys so they’ve been to our houses a bunch of times and I never actually met Dom [Romeo] from A389 Records but my son Igor has met him. Hopefully he can come to the Ottobar show. I’m really dying to meet him and finally get to know him in person. I’m a big Pulling Teeth fan. I love Pulling Teeth man you know. I mean they were just an amazing, amazing hardcore band, grindcore band you know so I’m very excited to be out to the Baltimore show. I think it’s going to be a great show.
You’re kind of talking about some of like the hardcore bands, you know I remember back in the day when you were back in Sepultura, Jello Biafra helped you guys write the “Biotech Is Godzilla” song and I was always kind of curious, how did that happen?
I’m not sure if I remember exactly how but I think we kind of hand picked him out of our idols that we had growing up in Brazil. Dead Kennedys was a huge, huge band that me and [Max’s brother and former Sepultura band mate] Igor [Cavalera] listened to a lot. I especially loved the lyrics. I love Jello’s black humor on stuff like “Holiday In Cambodia” and “California Über Alles,” “Kill The Poor,” “Drug Me.” So we had the idea to let him to write the lyrics for the song and he did it and sent it on a cassette tape and I ended up using the growl that he did on the cassette tape. I put that on the record. And he was pretty surprised when he heard that. He wasn’t expecting it. He told me like, if I would have told him he would have made a better growl and I told him, “No, no but that’s what’s cool that you’re not thinking that was going to go on the record. That’s why I like it ’cause you weren’t really prepared for it.” You know so, I gave him that excuse and he was cool with that and you know I’ve always been into the whole punk scene. A lot of European punk stuff, Discharge, GBH, Exploited and on the American side of course Black Flag and Minor Threat and Bad Brains of course, one of my favorites. Amazing, amazing. I think they’re pioneers of so much of the stuff. Even some of the ideas that I’ve brought into Soulfly some of the stuff like doing kind of like the metal reggae versions of songs like “Bring It” and “I And I” are heavily, heavily based on the actual original idea of Bad Brains which was mixing hardcore and reggae and I love that mix. I think it’s a great mix. I still think more can be done with it and I think it’s something to dwell with in the future, to do more stuff with that.
You worked with another guy from the DC area in a project. That was when you worked with David Grohl in the Probot project. How did he contact you about that or were you already friends with him? How did you get involved in that project with him?
Yeah Dave used to come see all the Sepultura shows all the time. He was a big fan. When he was living in Seattle he came a lot to the Sepul shows and we struck a friendship and we got contacted from him out of the blue about this Probot project and he sent me five songs actually and he told me to pick one and I love “Red War.” It reminds me of [the Sepultura song] “Territory” the beginning and I even told him that. “Like that’s cool man. Sounds kind of like ‘Territory.'” I love the beginning of the song and so I went in the studio and put the vocals on it but I love the idea [of] an album with his favorite metal singers and I love the record I think that the King Diamond song is excellent, the Cronos song, the Lemmy [Kilmister] song. It is a very, very cool record. A very cool idea and I think he pulled it off man. He’s such a good drummer and the music on it is really good. The Probot music is actually really, really powerful and we actually played “Red War” live with Soulfly a couple times on a European tour and it was really fun. I did a book last year [titled My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond] and we actually asked Dave to do the introduction of the book and he was very, very honored and he did it for me and gave me the coolest introduction ever about his speakers that cost twenty thousand dollars getting blown up by the Roots album [by Sepultura]. I thought that was such a great story and it was really cool you know so I was really glad that he got to do the introduction of the book and he’s such a huge fan and loves Roots so much so it was great having him do that for the book and I was very excited.
I’ve always thought you’ve had a really cool story too. You guys came out of Brazil almost out of nowhere out of this underground metal scene that was pretty much unheard of until you guys took the world by storm. It must have been really hard finding an underground metal scene at all in those days. You know this was way before the internet. How exactly did you get into metal in those days back then?
It was very different. Like you said it was before internet. We used to do tape trading and sending tapes out and painting our own t-shirts and sending them out and we were in contact with a lot of underground bands. I remember being in contact with Death, Morbid Angel, Obituary and Kreator and Destruction, Dark Angel, Possessed and all those bands wrote back to me and in fact my first time I saw the name Sepultura was on the first Death album Scream Bloody Gore that he thanked Max and Sepultura. That was really cool for me to see that for the first time. So yeah it was a different time, different era but I look [at] it both ways. It was exciting at the time but I think it’s cool now too because I think you can find a lot of cool stuff on the internet. You can look for bands from different parts of the world. You find Psycroptic from Tasmania and Nervecell from Dubai and Melechesh from Israel. I use Spotify a lot and find a lot of cool bands on it myself so I think it’s cool.
So you live in the Phoenix, Arizona area now right? So do you ever think of going back to Brazil to like live back in Brazil do you ever visit there or anything?
Nah I go there to play and my mom lives there. I get to see her and I do a lot of shows there. I did a big, big Cavalera [Conspiracy] tour. We played everywhere. We had a tour bus even for the first time ever and we went from city to city and went to some really obscure cities of Brazil and it was a great tour and I have been going to Brazil more often than ever the last three, four years. I’ve been there quite a lot, quite massively. It’s great you know. So I don’t really plan to move there. I love Phoenix. I love Arizona. For writing it’s really good where I am. I write my music in peace and it’s really good you know so I love going to Brazil to play but that’s about it.
Now I think I already know the answer to this but I feel like I have to ask. Do you think there’s any kind of way that there will ever be any kind of Sepultura reunion with you. Even just a one-off live show or anything?
Probably not you know. I mean I don’t see it happening and I don’t really care much about it. I think the time has gone when it was exciting to do it was like ten years ago it would have been cool but not now. And we all moved on from everything. You know I got a lot of projects. I got Cavalera [Conspiracy], Killer Be Killed, Soulfly is doing great so I don’t really need it you know it’s like, kind of let it become a, kind of a cult thing as it was. You know when I was with them we did great stuff. The records were amazing and live shows were killer and a lot of that is captured on video and people can see it. We can not live it up to, um, not to ruin it because a lot of those reunions they’re not really good you know so it’s like why ruin something that was good? So I think it’s kind of better to leave it like that you know.
You know I feel lucky I actually got to see you guys on the Roots tour with Ozzy and Danzig out here in like ’96 or something. Well thanks so much for your time today Max. If you’ve got anything else you’d like to tell the fans out here in the Washington DC, Baltimore, Virginia area now’s your chance.
I’m really excited for the show. It’s going to be a great show. You know keep supporting metal and we’ll see everybody at the show. It’s going to be an amazing night. You know I can’t wait. Can’t wait at the Ottobar. It’s going to be a great, great night for metal and we’re going to try to play as hard as we can play. Try to give them the best show possible they can get.
Alright well thanks so much again for your time man. I’ll be seeing you on October 21st at the Ottobar with Soulfly. Thanks again Max.
Alright, thank you man.