Max Cavalera: Fulfilling the Prophecy
October 31, 2009
If there was ever a prophecy written that one man would
arise from Brazil to lead two bands into the metal promised
land, then Max Cavalera has fulfilled it.
Not to take anything away from Soulfly, but I'll always
remember Max Cavalera as the guitarist/frontman for the Brazilian
metal band Sepultura. Beneath the Remains was one of the first
death metal records I ever heard, and I became a huge fan
of the band. During their long run, thanks to albums like
Arise and Chaos A.D., Sepultura became one of the most popular
and well-known metal acts of the '90s. Of course, all good
things must end, so after the groundbreaking Roots album,
Max had a controversial split from Sepultura and then formed
his new primitive, tribal-metal-machine, Soulfly. In 1997,
Soulfly picked up where Roots left off and Max has since traveled
the world for music and inspiration, taking the aggression
and tribal world fusion to all new territories over the course
of six Soulfly releases. The last two Soulfly albums have
seen even more of a return to Max's thrash metal roots, and
as Soulfly VII is in its early stages of development, fans
expect heavier still.
During a fall 2009 tour with Cattle Decapitation
and Prong, Live-Metal.net's Jeff Maki boarded Soulfly's tour
bus at the Recher Theatre in Towson, Md., for an interview
with Cavalera. Max talks about his metal legacy, the history
of Sepultura and Soulfly, and his other projects, Nailbomb
and Cavalera Conspiracy.
I wanted to ask you about Nailbomb. Was that just a one-off
project? Would you ever consider having another Nailbomb album
maybe with a different collaboration or anything like that?
Max Cavalera: No, Nailbomb
is actually done. It was just two records that we did, Point
Blank and Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide.
I still play some of the tracks live—I play some Nailbomb
live from time to time. A lot of fans like it, a lot of people
are asking about it, but not gonna do anything else with it.
We'd kill it, you know? We got done with it.
Yeah, I thought that
was something totally unique at the time, something completely
unexpected. It just blew me away. It's almost like it's a
cult following of the band and album.
Yeah, I hear that a lot about Nailbomb.
Let's say 20 years from
now someone's got the history book of metal. Where do you
think your legacy lies? Is it with Sepultura or Soulfly and
I think it'd be with both. Because Sepultura
was a big part of it, too, because we introduced a band from
Brazil. It was unheard of in that part of the world with a
heavy metal band. So it was the first of many things—first
South American band, first Brazilian band. The albums I made
with them, up to Roots, are legendary albums. People
consider them really, really cool albums that changed a lot
of people's lives.
There's also Soulfly, which is another chapter
which is unfolding right now as we speak. So, both.
You said “up until Roots.” I was actually listening to Roots on the way here and I think it's an amazing album. Is it in
your opinion that Roots is lesser of an album or
is that just what you hear from fans' perspective?
You have Sepultura fans that like different
records. Some of them like Arise, some of them like Chaos A.D., some of them like Beneath the Remains.
Some of them like Roots—different albums for
different people. I'm glad that they like it—they like
the album, so I think that's what matters.
Again, like Nailbomb, Roots was kind of unexpected—it was full of
surprises for me.
We took a different approach to it. The whole
trip to the Indians [the Xavant tribe in Mato Grosso, Brazil]
and the whole thing was really unique—the look of the
album cover with the Indian, that was unheard of in metal.
I think even Dave Grohl said that that was the album for him
that changed metal. He said that on an interview, so I thought
that was cool, coming from someone as high as him. So I'm
glad that the album did all that and I still play “Roots
[Bloody Roots]” every night—the song “Roots”
is a classic, it's something that I gotta play—a “mandatory
Max” song. I have a kick doing it, really.
The first Soulfly album
.... Not that it's “nu-metal,” but at the time
there seemed to be a shifting in the musical climate, pretty
much with Korn and Deftones and all these bands coming in.
And Soulfly—especially the first album—kind of
had that feel to it. But now with the more recent albums,
you've now shifted back to the even heavier side of the spectrum.
Why the changes? Was it just natural progression? And do you
have any regrets from the earlier material, like the first
album for instance?
No, I mean the only album we really changed
was Soulfly 3. It could have been a better record,
I think. I didn't think I spent as much time on Soulfly 3 as I did on the other albums. That's the weakest Soulfly album,
I think. But every band has to have one, so that's the one
Soulfly is regarded by many people,
a lot of them, as their favorite Soulfly album because of
songs like “Eye for an Eye,” “Tribe,”
“No Hope=No Fear.”
one I like.
Yeah. Even having Fred Durst, which was a
person that turned out to be a jackass later on in his career—at
that time he wasn't. He was normal, like regular—he
wasn't the rock star that he is today. So, no, I don't have
Back to what I was saying
with the nu-metal thing ... Kind of when Korn and those bands
came along, it's almost like Sepultura, Machine Head and Fear
Factory—all of them kind of changed. They updated their
sound a little bit. Was it pressure from the label? Was it
natural? What do you think?
I think it was natural—kind of an exchange
of influence. You go through different phases. Soulfly decided
to go heavier with Dark Ages and Prophecy and Conquer—heavier and heavier. It's something
that happens natural. At that time, what I think bands like
Machine Head, Fear Factory and Sepultura did was a little
bit of an influence from Korn and Deftones in some areas.
And the funny thing is that we influenced those bands from
when they started out. I talked to the Korn guys and they
said they listened to Chaos A.D. religiously when
they started—it was like one of their favorite records.
So it's kind of a 360 degrees kind of influence—back
From earlier on, how
much harder is it now to get the Soulfly name out there. For
instance, you got people my age that grew up with Sepultura,
but for these newer kids coming along that haven't even heard
of Sepultura, it's not like they've been following your career.
So how do you get it out for them?
Live is pretty important. Touring is one
of the best ways to promote music. The Internet is very important,
too. So having good Internet sites—we have a couple
that are really good. They take care of us. Having a label—Roadrunner
is a good label for me. They understand, they never pressure
me to do an album that I don't want to do. I do whatever I
want to. That's killer for an artist.
has been your highest and lowest point of your career with
Sepultura or Soulfly?
Lowest was the death of [stepson] Dana [Wells] and the breakup
of Sepultura, which happened both at the same time. That was
the lowest point. At that time, I even thought about giving
up music for a while—just really depressive times.
Highest ... I think with Sepultura it was
the tour with the Ramones in Brazil. That was awesome. That
was only five shows—it was the Chaos A.D. tour
and the promoter decided to bring the Ramones to do five shows,
co-headline, Sepultura and the Ramones. And it sold out, spread
out like wildfire. And for me it was a legendary tour, touring
with a legendary band like the Ramones, sharing the stage
with them. They were real nice guys, really cool guys. That
tour was great. It was in my country. And I played my hometown.
I think the hometown show was probably the highest point.
Five thousand people show up in my hometown, all Sepultura
fans, so that was great.
What about for Soulfly?
Yeah, the lowest point, like I said, was
number 3. It had some good songs on it—“Downstroy,”
“Seek 'n' Strike,” “L.O.T.M.” But
it lacked a little bit of something. Maybe the name was just
a lazy name to call it “3.” It was just
kind of like something on the side. I don't think I paid too
much attention to the record for some reason.
The highest point ... I think it's actually
right now—I think we're living at the highest point.
The band has survived the times and has made it. We are working
on a seventh album which is killer. I never thought we'd do
seven albums in Soulfly when I started. Wow, you know. So
right now, it's pretty cool.
Talking about the new
Soulfly album, I've seen a few things recently but any song
titles or album names you wanna throw out there?
No, it's kind of early. I don't have anything
yet. I'm working on the riffs right now. I'm separating the
riffs that are gonna become songs. So I made a CD for everybody
that everybody has listened to on the bus. And then in November
we're going to go in the studio and those riffs are gonna
become songs. And then I'm gonna name them and everything,
so it's too early right now.
is that another thing like Nailbomb? A one-off thing?
No, actually, Cavalera Conspiracy is actually
gonna to continue. It's something that I'm gonna carry on
for a long time—I think for as long as I can. It's great
to play with Igor [Cavalera]—it's my brother and it's
a huge connection to the past. And it's great to make records
with him. I loved doing the Inflikted album. It was
so much fun to record with him again. No pressure, it was
just fun. It's fun to be in a studio with him and bang those
songs out and just watch the album come alive. And a lot of
people are asking me for the second one. It's in the works.
Sometime next year or whenever.
Obviously, you're really
busy, but you've had a lot of collaborations in the past,
so is there anything you can see in the future? Any particular
bands or artists that you'd like to work with?
At the moment, I'm just still getting ready
to think of a new Soulfly album. But there's some people I'd
like to have on the album, but I haven't talked to them yet.
Like [Mike] Muir from Suicidal Tendencies. This was one of
the ideas I thought would be really cool. I love Suicidal
Tendencies. I think that bridge between metal and punk could
be even cooler. Because I did that with Sepultura with [ex-Dead
Kennedys vocalist] Jello Biafra on “Biotech Is Godzilla.”
So I still believe in that bridge between punk and metal,
and that's still alive today. So to do something with [Muir]
might be cool, but I haven't had the time to ask him yet.