Interview with Max Cavalera of Soulfly


By Will Harris

How’s the tour going?

It’s going great, people love the Maximum Cavalera Tour package, so it’s been awesome. We’ve been touring for a month, we’ve been to Poland, Italy, Scandinavia and we did three shows in the UK: Manchester, Dublin and Glasgow.

I understand you’re a big fan of Napalm Death, how is it playing with them?

Yeah it’s great, we played with Napalm a while ago in Switzerland and it was great. I toured with them a bit in the Sepultura days, in America we did a tour with them and Sick Of It All. So it’s gonna be great, it’s good to see them, it should be a real real fun night.

So it’s the Maximum Cavalera tour and you’ve got two of your sons’ bands playing tonight? I understand that you already went around the US in the spring, how is that as a tour, going out with your family?

It’s great, we’re all sharing a bus and there’s 19 of us, it’s like a big family and everybody’s really enjoying it and having a good time. I’m really proud of them; they’re young and some of them remind me of when I was young. And some of them are hungry for experience; they get excited for shows and it’s really cool.

Three of them appear on the last track on the last album don’t they?

Yeah, ‘Revengeance’. We’re doing that live on the tour.

With a pretty large back catalogue of eight albums, how do you choose set lists?

I kind of play what most people want to hear; you’ve got to please the fans, Soulfly’s had a lot of favourite songs on the records like ‘Prophecy’ and ‘Back to the Primitive’, ‘Tribe’, ‘Eye for an Eye’. We play all of those, so I think the show is really the best of Soulfly of 15 years put together in an hour and 15 minutes. There are a couple of Sepultura songs that I still play. It’s a great show you know, we’ve got ‘Revengeance’ with the kids at the end and it’s a really cool show, I like the Soulfly set list.

You released Enslaved earlier this year — one thing I think you can feel on the album is that in some ways you’ve come full circle: there are the thrash elements that have always been there but tracks like ‘Plata O Plomo’ has an early Soulfly feel to it. Would you agree with that?

Yeah, I mean it’s more kind of a groove song, and it’s got a really great riff grooving. It was fun singing Portuguese and sharing with Tony singing Spanish. We worked together on the lyrics, we both read the Pablo Escobar book because the song is about Pablo Escobar’s life. So it was great you know, I think the overall feeling of the record is exciting, because it’s Soulfly’s most extreme record. ‘World Scum’ was the single and it’s so brutal and heavy and a lot of people didn’t expect that, so I thought that was good.

‘World Scum’ genuinely is brutal. Was a darker, more extreme sound something you were going for from the
outset when you started writing for that album?

Yeah, from the beginning was what I wanted to do after listening to a lot of heavier stuff. There was older stuff I listened to like Dismember and Napalm Death, Entombed and bands like that, then newer bands like Carnefacts, Impending Doom, I really like this new generation of heavy bands. So from the combination of that I really wanted to write a heavy record. But I needed musicians to be able to do that, so that’s why I got Dave on the drums, he’s big on double bass and can do a lot of that stuff. And it’s great to work with a musician that can do that, so I was able to do it with him, so we worked together on the record so it was cool.

Has your writing process changed at all over the years?

It’s pretty much the same. I started writing with Sepultura, from ‘Arise’ I started writing by myself, using a four-track and drum machine and I’d just write riffs. Sometimes with vocals, if I had a certain chorus that I knew was going to be on it, but sometimes just riffs, and they become songs. I’d take them to the studio and each riff would become a song. And I still write like that today, with the same four-track and the same drum machine. I don’t want to update them, I like the sound and I’m comfortable with that way of working. And it works for me, I get the best of material like that.

The lineup’s changed a lot and that’s something you’ve said in the past was something you wanted to do from the outset. You’ve had an almost endless list of different collaborators on songs, including Tom Araya from Slayer, Dave Elefson from Megadeth and Tommy Victor from Prong. Does that affect the writing process at all? Do you ever write a song with a certain person in mind?

It depends. Sometimes I pick a song specifically for somebody; the song’s already written but I think it’d be really cool to have this person on the song. I did ‘Rise of the Fallen’ with Greg and I thought he could do some really cool Dillinger Escape Plan-style vocals on top of this and it was really cool to have that. I really enjoy working with other musicians; to me it’s not a competition, I’m not competing with anybody and it’s cool to work with friends. I’m fans of their music, so to work with Tom Araya and David Bissed from Morbid Angel, these are some of my favourite people in music and it’s great to work with them you know?

For you, what’s more important, the writing or the touring?

Touring. It’s more fun to go from place to place and play shows, and it’s more exciting. Writing can be a little boring, I do it at home and a lot of times the writing process gets a real drag that you can’t wait to get done. Even in the studio it can be boring; I don’t like studios that much, I go there to make the record but I’m not a big fan of them. Most of them are dark places and people drink a lot of coffee and smoke cigarettes all the time, and it’s not really the environment I like. I like this, going place to place, seeing different people every day. I like the tour bus, it’s my second home. I feel so at home here it’s ridiculous, I feel more at home here on the bus than I do at my own house.

Do you write a lot on tour?

No. I used to, but there was so much shit to carry — cables, cords, etc — and I had to find the plug and a lot of the time I didn’t have the right plug I just decided, ‘you know what? I’m not even going to mess with that.’ When I’m done touring, when it’s time to write I just put my mind into writing for whatever record. When I’m on tour I’m just going to enjoy the tour.

When do you decide that you’re going to start writing an album?

It kind of tells us the time. We’ve been on the road for a while and most of the places you’re supposed to go. That kind of gives you a hint and says ‘right, maybe it’s time to stop and go home and write new material’. Because you always need new stuff, for whatever. A lot of it I always write even if I don’t need to write for a record, just because I like the writing process. I have fun writing riffs, it’s just one of my favourite things to do. I’ve always liked that since I was a kid, writing riffs and listening to them and creating them, trying different things with tunings and stuff like that.

Do you have any idea of when your next album is coming out?

The next thing I want to do is a project with Greg from Dillinger Escape Plan and Troy from Mastodon and Dave Rosser from Mars Volta playing drums. It’s going to be a great project, kind of like Nailbomb, influenced by Nailbomb but of course different because my voice, Greg’s voice and Troy’s voice are completely different from each other. So I think it’s going to be cool to have these three metal voices on one record, and that doesn’t have a name yet; we’ve got 10 songs already and we’re going to write some more in December. I think I’m going to spend most of December writing this stuff, record it in January and then have an album out next year.

How did that come about?

Troy’s friends with Greg, Greg toured with Mastodon in America and became better friends, and I kind of know the Mastodon guys a little bit just from playing at some festivals, but Greg knew Troy really well and so called him and said ‘do you want to be part of this new project I’m making with Max?’, and Troy was really into it and happy to be part of it. I think it’s a really cool idea having three singers, it’s kind of unusual and you don’t see that every day, it’s going to be a cool project.

Would you be planning to take that on the road?

Probably a little bit but not as much as Soulfly. I think we’ll probably do the big European summer festivals, and then go back to Soulfly and Cavalera.

You’ve always had several projects on the go, is there anything else at the moment?

Nah, it’s pretty good at the moment, I’ve got that with Greg going, I’ve got Cavalera Conspiracy with my brother, we’re doing some South American shows in November. Then I’ve got that project with Greg in December, then that’s released next year. Then next year I’m probably going to record another Cavalera album as well, so that should be it for next year. Then the year after that should be back to a new Soulfly album.

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