Words Dave Mullins.
Max Cavalera might be one of the most prolific artists in heavy metal music history. From humble beginnings in Brazil, he formed the seminal metal band Sepultura with his brother Igor, which would make him a household name (at least amongst metal fans). After famously splitting from the band in 1996 he formed a new act Soulfly. The band’s subsequent albums would feature collaborations of some of the most prominent names in metal (and outside of it). Cavalera also fronts the extreme metal band Cavalera Conspiracy (also with his brother Igor) and is part of the metal supergroup Killer Be Killed. Soulfly’s 10th studio album, Archangel will drop on the 14th of August this year. We had a chance to talk to Max about the band, the album and all things metal.
Dave Mullins: The last time I spoke to you, you were about to tour Australia with Killer Be Killed, how did that turn out?
Max Cavalera: It was great, it was one of the most fun times I’ve had. We had great crowd reactions, the Australian’s loved Killer Be Killed. Those were the only shows we ever did, we never played again after that. It was awesome, it was a great time. I love the Soundwave shows and the headline show with Lamb of God went really good too.
Dave: That’s really cool, are there any plans for Killer Be Killed or is it on the backburner for a while?
Max: Yeah, it’s kind of on the backburner as all the other guys are in other bands touring right now. Greg (Puciato) is with Dillinger Escape Plan, Troy (Sanders) is with Mastodon, so we’ve got to wait ‘til next year. I think we’re going to do some stuff next year.
Dave: The new album is fantastic, there’s a great mix of styles in there. You’ve long had influences from tribal and traditional music, where do you influences come from?
Max: Really from everything I listen to all through my career from different areas of the world. Especially on an album like this that has the biblical elements on it, it forces us to look at places in the world that are more Middle-Eastern. Stuff like Iraq and Iran, which used to be Mesopotamia and Babylonia.
Max: Musically what I listen to is a lot of death metal like Melechesh (Israel) and Balphegor (Austria), Behemoth (Poland), 1349 (Norway), Decapitated (Poland). I listen to a lot of metal like this on a daily basis. So the music came from that, and the lyrics, a lot of it came from bible readings and stuff I found out on the internet actually, and some documentaries I saw on TV.
Dave: In the past, you travelled to Serbia to record for Prophecy, what sort of work goes into incorporating and recording that sort of music?
Max: Well I wish I could do more, on this record it would have been perfect to go to Armenia or even Afghanistan and record some tribal stuff from some of those crazy areas of the world, but we didn’t have a chance, we didn’t have the budget to do that unfortunately. So we ended up doing everything we could from L.A., from a studio, and kind of recreating the sounds and that’s the passages you hear between songs like Archangel and Sodomites and between Bethlehem’s Blood and Titans there’s all these kinda creeping dark biblical sounds. We create those in the studio ourselves with the influence of imagining to be in these places. I’d like to continue my musical explorations in the future and keep travelling. Going to different parts of the world and recording, because that’s something that with Soulfly… it’s kind of like our trademark almost, and I don’t want that trademark to go away.
Dave: You should check out some of the traditional music from Australia, it’s pretty cool.
Max: Yeah, I’m aware of it. I love Aboriginal culture, and the New Zealand Maori, it’s really killer man. And Australia’s really awesome right now, you have great bands like King Parrot, Deströyer 666, and Psycroptic. You’ve got a shitload of killer bands coming from Australia at the moment. I love Australia, I love visiting it, playing and hoping I can spend some more time there.
Dave: Speaking of King Parrot, you’ve got Matt Young doing a guest vocal on the album, how did that come about?
Max: Well, we met during Soundwave, he came to our Lamb of God show and we met him and he was super cool and awesome and I was already a fan of the band by then. I told him right there in the dressing room that I was going to invite him to be on the new Soulfly record, he got really excited.
The time came, I was making the record and it happened he was on tour right here in America. We came to the show in Phoenix, and the next day he played L.A. I gave him the address of the studio, the producer Matt Hyde was producing. I told him what to sing, in my car I showed him the song, he loved the song and we did it like that. It was killer and I love Matt’s voice on Live Life Hard! he’s got such a unique voice and that came out really, really killer.
It was also cool because they’re a young, new band King Parrot, and Nails, Todd Jones from Nails is on Sodomites. Those are the two guests on the album and they’re younger, newer bands. I found that my love for metal keeps me in contact with these bands, and I wanna do more stuff with them. So this is just the beginning.
Dave: Are there plans to tour the album in Australia?
Max: Yeah, we’re hoping next year. We have the whole year open. Right now we only have a tour date for the end of January in Europe, the rest of the year is open. So we hope we can come down to Australia, I’d love to play more places. Come to the west coast as well and do more shows than normal, to do a big Australian tour would be awesome.
Dave: I think we’d all love that. Between Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy and Killer Be Killed you must be pretty busy, how do you keep focused, stop yourself from going insane?
Max: Well, that is what keeps me sane, is the music. My therapy is the band and the projects and the more time I spend with the project the better musician I become. The better songwriter I become. Especially I learned a lot from the Killer Be Killed record, dealing with a little bit more melodic riffs and melodic sounds and it really developed me into a better songwriter than I ever was before. I just love it, I love keeping busy. I don’t like time off so much, I don’t like taking vacations and stuff like that like other people do. I’d rather stay busy and stay on the road and playing and keep bringing metal to the masses, it’s why I’m here.
Dave: That’s a great answer. I guess for you music has always been a family affair, and that’s pretty unique. Is that something you planned or did it just fall into place?
Max: That just kind of happened. My kids grew up in the atmosphere, they grew up on tour with me. It would have been very strange if they’d become anything else but musicians. So I think the natural thing to happen was for them to become musicians, and they became really good musicians actually. Zyon and Igor are kicking ass on tour with me right now, they’re playing every night, sweating and giving 110% every night, and I couldn’t be happier and more proud as a dad to have both my kids playing with me.
Dave: That’s got to be an incredible feeling, you’ve grown up playing with your brother and now watching your kids doing the same thing.
Max: It’s pretty cool, it’s kind of surreal sometimes looking at the stage and looking at my son in the back playing drums and now I’ve got my other son playing bass. But it’s really killer because we’re a true metal family, that loves metal and we all work for Soulfly, Soulfly is our life. Yeah, I wouldn’t trade it for anything man, we’ve got the metal family rolling across the world right now.
Dave: That’s awesome dude, it’s something pretty unique and pretty special. The last time we spoke, and you were just about to tour with Killer Be Killed a lot of people were asking me “You didn’t bring up Nailbomb!” Is Nailbomb ever going to happen again?
Max: Nah it’s actually finished, because we made a commitment to destroy it and Alex doesn’t want to do anything with it. I still play some Nailbomb stuff live, I did with Cavalera on the last Cavalera tour we did Sum of Your Achievements and I’m thinking about bringing World of Shit back into the set. It’s just such a cool record, the Point Blank record, still to this day it sounds great, it sounds just as good as when it was done. It’s too bad we just make two (records) and then end it. But we wanted to make it into some kind of cult band that people really like and the only way to do that is to not make too many records, and that’s why we decided to only have to records out.
Dave: You’ve already talked about the Australian bands that you like, what other bands are out there that you’d recommend, any five bands that are out there kicking ass right now?
Max: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been listening to a lot of Deathspell Omega from France, Hour of Penance from Italy, Melechesh from Israel, Aborus from Belgium and Benighted from France.
Soulfly’s Archangel is out August 14 through Nuclear Blast.
Check out the first track from Archangel – We Sold Our Souls to Metal