Point Blank with Max Cavalera

Max Cavalera discusses the new Soulfly album, Savages, among his many other projects.

September 9, 2013

First, a little background: I grew up with Sepultura. Beneath the Remains was the first true thrash/death metal album I owned. Then came Arise, and the title came to make perfect sense, as a new metal tribe had risen. Chaos A.D. and the tour that followed changed my life and my expectations of all metal that would come after it. Roots then helped change metal forever. Soulfly will never be the classic Sepultura I grew up on, but it's damn close. Of course, at the center of it all is Max Cavalera, one of metal's most influential and well-known figures. An idol or role-model? Certainly not, but when all is said and done, he will stand alongside the metal greats.

The first time we interviewed Max was in 2009 after the release of Soulfly's Conquer. I obviously knew the Sepultura story and Soulfly, but wanted to get to Max's "roots." I wanted him to reflect back on his legendary career in metal and offer his own perspective.

This time around, with Soulfly about to release its ninth album, Savages, I wanted this interview to focus more on the present and understand his mindset today. To the ideas and style behind the making of Savages, to the new project he's working on with Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Troy Sanders of Mastodon, to his upcoming autobiography, My Bloody Roots, Max gives it all to us "point blank." -- Jeff Maki

LIVE METAL: What's up, Max? I'm a huge, huge fan going back to the Sepultura days, and we've actually talked before when Soulfly came to (the Recher Theatre in) Towson, Md., with Prong (in 2009). So good to talk to you again. But we're obviously here to talk about the new album, Savages, which is due out Oct. 1, 2013. My first question is, what does "Savages" refer to? Are these savages of the past, present, or our society as a whole?

MAX CAVALERA: It's pretty much mostly about right now and the state of the world. We claim to be sophisticated, and with the Internet and computers, but we're still decapitating each other, chemical-gassing people--it's just (savagery). I think the human spirit is still very much a savage, so that's why I thought the name would be cool. I think (savages) is a cool word, a simple word, but it works with the album cover, with the big skull. And we love the stuff that's going to go inside with the record. The lyrics--stuff like "Cannibal Holocaust" and "El Comegente," that deals with serial killers and cannibal people. I think all together it really works on the level and the whole savagery idea for the whole record.

I had the chance to listen to the album last night and again today. You mentioned that Savages is a simple title, and the music to me sounds more groove-oriented and more stripped down than the last few Soulfly releases. Would you say that's accurate or something you were going for?

I think we continued what we started on Enslaved with "Cannibal Holocaust," "Fallen" and "K.C.S.," which has Mitch (Harris) from Napalm Death. Those are really brutal, extreme kind of songs that would have been perfect on Enslaved. And then there's some other stuff that's more like old Soulfly, like Prophecy or Soulfly I. It's kind of more groove-oriented like "Master of Savagery," "Bloodshed"" is kind of like Meshuggah. And some of it's new, like "Ayatollah of Rock 'N' Rolla." It's just a totally new song. I had never even done a song like that. It starts with a southern rock riff, slide guitars and Neil (Fallon of Clutch) is doing like some talking vocals, and it ended up being seven minutes long--a really long song with a lot of different parts on it. It's very exciting actually to have a song like "Ayatollah ... " on the record. I love the song, and I think it's a new side of Soulfly that people have never even seen yet.

Yes, there's definitely a lot of variety on the album, but some of the songs that stood out for me were the groovier songs that hearken back to even the first Soulfly album, like you said.

Yeah, I think some of it really captured the spirit of the first album. The first album was really raw and had really killer groove. I love the groove on stuff like "No Hope, No Fear," "Fire" and "Eye for an Eye." So some of the stuff on this album is to remind of that, and some of it is extreme, like "Fallen," which has Jamie (Hanks) from I Declare War. It's just death metal, and I think he has some sick vocals, and the song has just got a death metal riff. It could have been on Enslaved easily. So it's just a continuation of what Enslaved had started.

But I really didn't want to do Enslaved part two because that would have been too much to do a whole other extreme record again. So I thought it would be good to mix extreme and some of it kind of like classic groove, and have the combination of those (styles) be the essence of this record.

You mentioned some of the guest artists already, but I wanted to talk more about having Neil Fallon of Clutch on here. Sepultura took Clutch out on the road in the early days way back in 1994 (on the Chaos A.D. tour). I saw you guys on tour (and the bill was) Sepultura, Fear Factory, Fudge Tunnel and Clutch at the old Hammerjacks in Baltimore. So it's almost like coming around full circle. So what was it like to get Neil on the album?

It was great, man. He's a great guy, and we have a good relationship. We saw them in Europe a couple of times. Actually, Sepultura took them through Europe after that U.S. tour. And I think we kind of taught him how to smoke pot. (laughter) They weren't potheads before, but after they met with us and met with our crew, they became potheads. Which I feel a little guilty about that. And I think we influenced their songs, too, because they became more groovy and more spacey, and I think it's cool.

I love Clutch, man. (laughs) I had the idea to have Neil on an album for a long time, but every time an album comes around, I never really had the chance. But this time we were gonna do it, so I got in contact with Neil and said, "Dude, I got a special song for you called 'Ayatollah of Rock 'N' Rolla,' and we're gonna kick ass on it, and it's gonna be great." And he loved the track and did a great job. He emailed me and just said how much fun it was to be on a Soulfly record, and it's just great--a great collaboration.

You had a bunch of guest appearances on Savages, but you recently made a guest appearance of your own. My brother told me you were on the Five Finger Death Punch album (The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 1) that just came out (July 30, 2013). I know you guys had toured together in the past, but how did that come together?

(Vocalist) Ivan (Moody) just called me and said he had a really heavy song and I would probably like it because ... you know ... I like heavy stuff. (laughs) And he asked me if I wanted to do some vocals on it. He asked me to even do Portuguese vocals on it in my native language. I believe the Portuguese version made it on the record. The song is called "I.M.Sin." So I went to the studio in Phoenix, and it only took two hours. The song is pretty cool. We had a lot of fun with those guys--they're great guys. Ivan is a big fan, and he reached out back to me and said is was a really cool, catchy, heavy song. And I'm glad I was part of that. They reach a lot more people than us, and they have a bigger, growing mass listening to them, so it was cool to be part of that. He loves Sepultura and Soulfy and everything I've done, so coming from him to ask, it really was an honor.

Obviously, you have been a part of so many influential and just classic metal records, again, going back to the Sepultura days, and even for those guys, too, it almost set the standard for everything you guys have done since. Now is this pressure that you feel going into each and every album trying to live up to the past Sepultura and Soulfly albums, and to fans expectations?

A little bit. There's always a little bit of pressure, but I work good with pressure. I think it's motivation. And it's always a challenge making a new record. I just gotta follow my heart really on an album and don't even pay attention about what people are gonna say. You now, a lot of people didn't like Roots when it first came out. There was a lot of negative reaction. And now it's a classic record. Now people praise the album. So you let the time do the talking. I think time fixes everything. And to me, the way I feel about records is, if the record's good and powerful, I'm good with it. And that's how I feel about Roots, and that's how I feel about Savages. It's a powerful record done from the heart and exactly what I wanted the record to sound like. And 10 years from now, we'll see where that record will be in people's minds. But I think it will remembered great.

Obviously, you're really busy now with Savages, and you'll be out touring and promoting this album, but you're also involved with a project with the guys from The Dillinger Escape Plan and Mastodon.

We're actually in the studio right now. As soon as I get off with you, I'm going straight to the studio and we're gonna record. We've done four songs so far, and we'll be recording the fifth song. We're just doing the drums right now, but it's coming along great--great stuff. I think it's really cool when we all sing--me, (The Dillinger Escape Plan's) Greg (Puciato) and (Mastodon's) Troy (Sanders). That's what's gonna make the project really cool and really special. And it's gonna cone out next year.

There's a lot of buzz going around about it. Can you give me any idea of the sound or style that this band is gonna be?

It's definitely heavy--actually energetic. Because with the four songs we recorded, all of them have fast parts, which was quite amazing because I think people wouldn't think it would be that fast. The (producer) has said that it's kind of a Chaos A.D./Nailbomb-type vibe on it, which I think is cool. I'm glad with that. But once I think Troy sings, he's gonna bring some Mastodon-vibe into it, and once Greg sings, some of The Dillinger Escape Plan-vibe into it. It's gonna change. It's gonna make the whole thing really different. So you can expect a high, heavy, energetic metal record but with a lot of different voices. I think that's the best description I can make out of it. There are a lot of great personalities involved, and I think it's going to be an amazing record.


Yeah, we talked in our last interview about Nailbomb. I know you had said that Nailbomb was dead and it was done. But Point Blank was always one of my favorite albums of all time, so to hear you say that this new project may be along the lines of that gets me pretty excited, man.

On the other hand--again, I know you're very busy--but what's the status of Cavalera Conspiracy? Are we gonna hear any more of that in the future from you and (your brother) Igor (Cavalera)?

Yeah, we're making another record next year--all grindcore. I wanna do a grindcore record with that.

A grindcore record?

Yeah. (laughs)


Yeah, I think it would be really cool. People haven't heard that from me yet, and I think people will be surprised. I love that kind of stuff--(bands like) Wormrot, Nails and Pulling Teeth. Just super-heavy with like one-minute songs and kind of old Napalm Death style. I think Igor is going to go for it, man. I think we're going to pull it out. And then we'll really shock the world with that.

That sounds very cool, very interesting.

It's always good to do something new, something exciting. I thought of the grindcore idea when I was going through my music collection, and I thought, "I've never done a grindcore album. OK, well maybe it's time to do one? OK, let's do it with Cavalera (Conspiracy) ... OK, let's do it."

It would be something out of the realm and different for sure.

I'm all over that. I never like to repeat myself. So every chance that I get to do something different--just like with Enslaved. It got the label's attention with something extreme and brutal, and I love the record. Enslaved is a killer record, and I love the way it came out. But I like Savages more because it's just more raw and meaner sounding. It's cool because it just embodies new stuff that I never thought I would be doing 10 years ago, so it's good to be doing that right now.

I think I agree, in that I like Savages better so far, but like you said earlier, I guess time will tell.

So you had an autobiography in the works, when is that going to be coming out?

It's coming out at the end of the year in America. It came out in Brazil already. It's called My Bloody Roots, and it's great, man. It took two years to make this book and a lot of interviews. The English writer Joel McIver did the writing, and he did a great job. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) did the introduction of the book, and Corey Taylor (Slipknot) is on it, and Sharon Osbourne, and a lot of great people involved with me through the years. A lot of cool pictures with Ozzy and Motorhead and all the people we met through the years. There's a lot of cool topics, a lot of cool stories, funny things, tragedies, sad stuff, happy stuff, fucked up shit--everything, you know.

We're hoping to get it our before Christmas so people can give it to each other as a present. For Santa, ask for it from Santa.


Right, I'll put it on my list.

I'm not trying to put you on the spot here or anything, but with the new Sepultura album coming out with Ross Robinson as producer, I'm very interested to hear that. He, of course, did the Roots album and the first Soulfly record, so I think I have good expectations for this thing coming out. Are you interested to hear their new album--or have you heard any of it-- and what are your thoughts of them getting back together with Ross Robinson?

Ross hasn't done anything good in a long time. He had spent the last 10 years without anything except Vanilla Ice or some shit like that, which I was like totally disappointed, you know? It's like, "What is he doing? What the hell is he doing recording with Vanilla Ice, man?" You know, ... that's not cool.

I don't know. I don't really care for Sepultura. To me, I kind of don't care what they do. It's kind of a hard topic because I created the band and still consider that part of my life. And it's really hard to deal with the fact that they continue with the name without me--without any Cavalera. After my brother left, it was even more hard for me to look at them seriously. There's nobody original in the band. It's like if Megadeth was playing without Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson, it would be like, "Why are they still calling it Megadeth?"

That's how I look at Sepultura, and I think a lot of fans share the same opinion. I talk to a lot of fans, and they don't take them seriously either. You know, I don't know, maybe Ross can get something out of them, but nobody else could. But I really don't care what they do. It's not important for me. I got all my life, my work, my projects, and that's what I care about. I've been in Soulfly now longer than I was in Sepultura, and I love Soulfly and I love what Soulfly has created. And I'm very busy here, so I don't really give a fuck about what those guys do.

That's what I got, Max. Like I said, I've been a fan for a long, long time, and I don't think you've ever released anything that I hadn't been a fan of. I'm very pleased with Savages and looking forward to everything else. So anything else you got for us?

Nope, thanks for the interview and nice talking to you, brother. And hopefully I'll see you in October with Havok on our U.S. tour.


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