MAX CAVALERA: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
To say that Max Cavalera put metal on the map isn’t exactly accurate; metal’s formative years dealt with pond-crossing pollination between Europe and the U.S. But Sepultura helped bring the idea that metal was a global entity into being, from their early death metal albums, proving them more than competen,t to their later thrash/groove metal records, which combined primal heaviness with South American instrumentation. Max has continued this in Soulfly, which, despite hisliving in the U.S. for the last decade and a half, still includes bits of his heritage. Though Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, and so forth may have (unintentionally) presented metal as a mainly Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, Sepultura proved that if metal were going to be adored worldwide, it would be made worldwide as well. Their far-reaching success (both in the form of Max Cavalera’s Soulfly and the current incarnation of Sepultura) cements their very important place in metal.
Despite being in the game for more than twenty-five years, Max hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down. He founded Cavalera Conspiracy with his formerly estranged brother/ex-Sepultura drummer Igor; Soulfly’s recently-released Omen shows the same strength, vitality, and palatable riffs that the band has always been known for; and he’ll no doubt be hitting the road for the foreseeable future. In an interview with MetalSucks conducted shortly before the album’s release, Max talks about making Omen, discusses how he manages to rope in guest performers, and makes some lofty claims about the upcoming Cavalera Conspiracy album.
I haven’t been able to hear Omen yet. What can you tell me about it?
I think it’s more of a columniation album – a continuation of Dark Ages and Conquer, like on the heavy side, but with some grooves and stuff that are more similar to the first album. So it’s a little bit the best of both worlds for Soulfly fans. I think they’re going to like it because of that… because a lot of people like the grooves from the first album and a lot of people like the thrash stuff that we were doing on Dark Ages and Conquer. We continue doing that by mixing both of them and making it Omen.
Alright. It’s kind of a best of all worlds that you guys have done so far?
I think so, yeah. I think that’s a way to explain it.
Was that an intentional thing, or was that something that came along when you guys were writing the record?
I think it just came out that way. I think subconsciously it was what we felt like we should do. I was in charge of most of the writing, so I did most of it at home. I noticed that half of the stuff was really fast, really thrashy and the other half was really groovy and really reminded me of the first album. I felt good with that, so I just went with it.
Yeah. You’ve had the same lineup for the last couple of records after having a few lineup changes before that. Has that changed the way you write for Soulfly?
No, my writing style is the same – it’s been the same for many years. I write everything on 4-tracks first with a drum machine so the songs are almost complete songs when we enter the studio. The guys learn the songs and then we transform them and add more parts to them. It was just easier to make an album with this lineup because I know how they play now. I know how the guys play. I know how Bobby [Burns, bassist] and Marc [Rizzo, guitarist] operate, so it’s easy for me to ask them what I want from them. That way making an album with a band that you’re used to is easier. It was easier making the record than let’s say when I first joined with them, back on Prophecy. That was different. It was new. I didn’t even know how they were on an everyday basis. Now I know, so it’s easier.
How would you say that this album is different from other Soulfly albums? Is it different, or is it really in the same mindset?
I think it is and it’s not at the same time. I mean from the beginning, “Bloodbath & Beyond” is pretty much a hardcore tune. The first riff is completely hardcore. It could be a Sick of It All tune or Agnostic Front or Discharge. It’s really coming from the hardcore area. I think it’s going to surprise some people. I chose to open the album with that. It’s very different, right away, right off the bat for Omen. Then you get “Rise of the Fallen,” which is a song with Greg [Puciato] from Dillinger Escape Plan, so it’s a collaboration song. It’s got his vocals on it. From that point on, the album would just carry on and bring you some little things from time to time – some little different things. Overall, it’s a Soulfly record, and you’ll notice that it’s Soulfly. It’s very trademark – my voice and all the riffs that we’re famous for are all in there. At the end of the day, it is a Soulfly record. It continues to sound like Soulfly.
How did you hook up with Greg from Dillinger and Tommy Victor from Prong to guest on this record?
Tommy was on tour with Prong, and I’ve been a Prong fan for a long time. I really like their stuff. I love the old stuff. I love the new album, and I was on tour with him. So on that tour I wrote him saying “I’m making a new Soulfly album sometime later. I would like you to come over and sing something. It would sound really cool.” I wrote the riff of the song “Lethal Injection” – that’s the one Tommy sings. It’s very Prong-ish kind of a riff. It’s really cool, and it was really easy for him to sing on it. The other collaboration was Greg from Dillinger Escape Plan. Dillinger is one of my favorite new bands that came out. They’re completely original and different. They’re completely chaotic metal. I thought that they were really cool, and I love Greg’s vocals. I saw him at the Deftones’ show in L.A. We were both singing with the Deftones the same night. In the dressing room that’s when I hit him up saying “I’m doing an album here in L.A. Would you like to come and do some screaming on it?” He was like “Yeah, fuck yeah. I’ll be there and do whatever you want me to do.” So he came over, and in one day we finished the song. It was “Rise of the Fallen,” and he did some amazing vocals and some amazing parts. He’s also in the video. We shot a video, and it’s already done. So yeah, it I think it’s pretty cool. I’m very excited about the album.
Is that how you normally get guests for the album? You guys have had a lot of really amazing guests on your albums. Do you write with specific people in mind or does it just sort of fall into place?
It depends. Some guests come at the last minute – like Corey [Taylor] from Slipknot is a perfect example. We were doing Primitive in Phoenix, and I found out that Slipknot was playing in Phoenix. I got in touch with Corey, and I stole him from his sound check. I literally went down there to Corey and said “Come on, man, we’re recording right now. Fuck your sound check. Come and record with Soulfly.” He came over, and it was record in the afternoon and done. At nighttime I went to see Slipknot play in Phoenix. It was kind of like a kidnapping thing. [laughs]
Some others came more from that there was somebody that I wanted to record for awhile. Like on the last record, David Vincent from Morbid Angel, that was somebody I wanted to record with for a long time. I wanted to do a song with a full-on death metal guy for a long time. I chose David Vincent because Morbid Angel was a band that came out at the same time I did and is still going today and is still going strong. I like his vocals a lot, so I had a little more time to plan. I had a year in advance to plan that.
As opposed to just swiping him from his sound check?
Your sons are going to appear on some B-side songs for Omen. Your wife is your manager and obviously you’ve worked with your brother Igor for awhile with Sepultura and now with Cavalera Conspiracy. Is having your family involved with your music a coincidence or is it a necessity for you?
I think it’s something that I just do that I enjoy. I don’t separate my family from the music. I add to it. As time goes by, I can add more. Like this album had my two sons play on it, which is something that I wanted to do for a long time. It was a father dream of mine from a long time – to be able to play with my boys in the studio and do a song with each one of them. It was amazing. It’s easier this way because it’s been there for so long that I don’t even know any other way that would be different. Starting with Igor, I was already with a family member in a band when I started Sepultura. It’s always been like that. It’s always been involving the family. It’s natural for me to involve them.
Speaking of family, is there any news on the Cavalera Conspiracy front, or is that going to be quiet for awhile?
Actually I’m recording after this tour.
I’m going to get together with Igor, and I got some materials to finally send out to Brazil to him for him to hear and get used to the songs. Yeah, we’re going to make a new record. I’m really excited. It’s going to be more kick ass than the first one. We’re going to record it, and it’ll come out sometime later this year or next year.
Wow. You say it’s going to be more kick ass than the first one?
That’s quite a claim.
Yeah, but I got to do it. It’s me and Igor. I already talked to him and said that we really got to bring the shit for this one and really step up. So he knows about that. I think we can do it. [laughs]
I think you can, too. I’ll ask you one more question before I let you. You’ve been in metal long enough that you’ve gone from being sort of like a new kid on the block to being what someone would consider an elder statesman. Has your perception of metal changed over that time ,or is it still the same as it was when you first got into it?
I think the spirit is the same – the feeling is the same. When we go to a concert, the excitement is there. The live music is there. That’s one thing – the internet changed everything, but it has not ,thank God, changeed live music. That’s untouchable. That’s something you got to go there and experience. That will stay the same. It’s very exciting. The live shows are very exciting. They are never the same. Every show is different from each other and having the different kind of excitement going on. That’s something that is still the same. That’s true of metal that live metal is still alive, and I think that’s good.