Soulfly är aktuella med sitt tionde album, “Archangel”, och vår favoritbrasse Max är mer exalterad än någonsin. Rocksverige ringde upp honom i Berlin för att snacka nya albumet, låtar, “Chaos AD”, att vara en influens och hur livet varit utan frun Gloria:
“I´d probably be dead actually. I was pretty destructive in my early years and I was abusing drugs and alcohol a lot. She helped me get straightened up and see that life is more important than partying, which it is. I´m glad I´m here making music instead of being dead, like all the other idiots that didn´t take care of it and was on the same path. I was on that path and I was pretty self destructive for many years and just got lucky.”
Tell me about the new album “Archangel”. You seem more excited than ever?
Max: Yeah, I´m pretty excited. It´s a different album and also our tenth album, so I was already excited about the idea of making a tenth album. I went into the studio with this idea of trying to make something quite different from everything else I´ve done and I think I came out with something quite different. “Archangel” is at least compared to “Savages”, like night and day. I really like the vibes on the album and the biblical stuff, the kind of exotic material, the Middle Eastern vibes and the riffs are a bit different too. The music is actually kind of extreme, it´s like we´re going more into extreme metal influences with Soulfly. I think it´s cool and I´m happy. I think it´s a cool record that people are gonna like. People really like the “Sodomites” video and the lyric video for “We sold our souls to metal”. We´ll be working on a real video for “Archangel” when we get home. I think it´s gonna be a good record for us.
What´s the story behind the song and the title “Sodomites”?
Max: It´s from the bible and the story of Sodom and the destruction of Sodom, because the people were sinning and God sent some angels to check it out and the people wanted to rape the angels, which is insane. It´s such a crazy story. I wrote the song and the riff is really killer and it reminds me a little bit of a Black Sabbath riff and maybe a little bit of Nailbomb. You have great vocals by Todd (Jones) from Nails, which is one of my favorite new bands. Todd did an amazing job with the intro. It sounds like he´s a ten feet tall, pissed off god, ready to unleash hate upon makind. (laughs) When I first heard that I went; “Oh my god, this is so good! This is better than I expected.” I thought he was just gonna do a talking voice, but he actually did it with this screaming voice, so he sounds even more pissed off. I think the song´s got all the cool elements that makes Soulfly. It´s got the groove, the fast part, the catchy chorus that people are gonna sing and there´s even a choir, after the sodomites chorus, like a chant and I did that with my voice. Those are my vocals on the chant. It´s a really exciting song and I´m really happy that it came out as a lyric video.
There´s a lot of biblical and religious stuff on the album, just looking at the titles?
Max: I really like the biblical and Babylonian themes. I like a lot of that history and when I was making the record, I wanted to make it half biblical and Old Testament stuff like “Archangel”, “Sodomites” and “Betlehem´s blood” and some of it with Babylonian influences. “Titan” is actually Greek, like the titans of the Greek mythology. I borrow a little bit of the old world to make something kinda cool, exciting and different and then you have the songs that are non biblical, like “We sold our souls to metal”, which to me is like a metal anthem. Then you have “Live life hard”, which is about going on tour and “Deciever” is about shit talkers and “Mother of dragons” is a bit like mix of “Game of thrones” and what people call my wife, so I made a song for her. It´s quite a fun record and there´s a little bit of everything, but I think the core and the soul of this record is very metal. It´s almost, I would say, classic metal. Extreme metal, but classic in some way. There´s not much tribal stuff going on, so it´s very metal to the core.
The songs with the biblical stories, is that stuff you know by heart or did you sit down and read about it when you were getting ready to write lyrics?
Max: I read a lot about it and make a lot of effort to find out more about it. There are some really good documentaries on different channels in America, like History channel. I watch a lot of that and I read a lot on the internet also. It´s a mix of all that. You can find a lot about the Babylonian stuff on the internet, so that´s one of the ways the internet is very useful.
About the title “We sold our souls to metal”, when did you sell your soul to metal?
Max: I was probably 15. (laughs) I was getting ready to record the “Bestial devastation” EP (1985) We never actually went into a place and sold our souls, but as a figure of speech. We loved this music so much, so it feels like we sold our souls for this kinda music. The title is of course borrowed from Black Sabbath´s “We sold our soul for rock and roll” (1975) and Black Sabbath has always been a great influence. “Roots bloody roots” was taken from “Sabbath bloody Sabbath”. They are always influential in my work.
What do you feel producer Matt Hyde brought to this album?
Max: Matt was just super awesome and he was the best guy for this album. Apart from being a great engineer and having a great experience from making great records like Slayer´s “God hates us all”, Deftones and he mixed the Behemoth album, he was also very experienced with this kinda music. He was also very into the whole biblical thing. He actually helped me on some songs like “Archangel”. There are some words I say in ode to Jewish Kabbalah, like some kinda magic words in Kabbalah that he told me to put in the song. We had a lot of fun making this record. Matt was super excited and I think he really liked working with me on “Archangel”. We were both like two little kids in a candy store and just having fun looking for trumpet sounds and horns and biblical sounds and crazy shit like that. It was a lot of fun.
After all these years and with the experience you have, do you still feel that you need a producer?
Max: I do. I can do it myself, like I did with “Prophecy” and “Dark ages”, but I like producers. I like working with producers and they get something out of me that I normally can´t do by myself. I like producers that tell me; “This stuff sucks, you gotta write a better riff.” I like them to challenge me. At the beginning of the sessions, I tell a lot of them that they won´t hurt my feelings if they tell me my riff sucks or if my lyrics are stupid. It will just make me work harder. A lot of them can kinda get liberty from saying that, that it sucks and I´ve heard it before. When I was doing Killer be killed (band featuring Max Cavalera, Troy sanders, Greg Puciato and Dave Elitch), I was doing the chorus to one of the songs that me, Greg and Troy wrote and the producer (Josh Wilbur)pretty much said; “This is the worst chorus I´ve ever heard in my life.” (laughs) So we went back in and made a better one. It was good for the record, that he did that. There are no egos when you´re making a record. You can´t have egos. You gotta leave the egos outside. Making an album, for me, is a little bit like going to war. It takes a lot of casualties, you dodge some bullets and hopefully you come out alive.
What can you tell me about the forthcoming Killer be killed album?
Max: We´re working on it, but there´s nothing solid. I´m gonna tour a lot next year for “Archangel” and my plan is to go everywhere. We have offers from Russia, South Africa, Australia, Japan, South America, Europe, America a couple of times, so we´re gonna tour a lot. After I´m done with all the touring, I have a place in Crete for me to write the Killer be killed riffs. My friend gave me his house in Crete for me to write the album, so I´m gonna go there and write the riffs. Even if it doesn´t come out next year or if it comes out the year after that, it´s still ok because I´m planning on slowing down. Too much of Max can be a good thing, but I have to be a little careful and slow down.
Is there stuff that you recorded for the first album that might end up on the next one?
Max: Yeah, there´s some stuff we didn´t use. There´s a song called “Bag that bodybag”(?) that´s really killer and there´s another one called “Killuminati”(?) that was also really good, but we ended up not using it. But I don´t know. Now that I know the guys better, I think we can really come up with a big, big strong second record.
When I talked to you two years ago, you mentioned a title called “A throat full of broken glass”?
Max: That´s just lying around. There´s stuff like that everywhere. (laughs) Pieces here, pieces there and I love gathering those and making stuff out of them later. It´s always cool.
You mentioned writing a song for your wife Gloria earlier. What does she mean to you and would you have made it without her?
Max: Nah, I´d probably be dead actually. I was pretty destructive in my early years and I was abusing drugs and alcohol a lot. She helped me get straightened up and see that life is more important than partying, which it is. I´m glad I´m here making music instead of being dead, like all the other idiots that didn´t take care of it and was on the same path. I was on that path and I was pretty self destructive for many years and just got lucky. Honestly, I was just a lucky guy that didn´t end up dead, because I abused everything for many years. We have a great relationship and working relationship. We have our manager on the road with us and she´s taking care of me. You almost get spoiled. We got good buses, good catering and she takes care of us. She´s like the mother to all of us on tour and acts like the big mother, not just me, but all the guys, the whole crew. It´s a very special relationship that we have. She never says anything about my music and I don´t say anything about how she manages and I think that´s the secret of our success.
You´ve been around for a long time now and written some amazing music. These days, other bands cite you as an influence and I recently talked to the Duplantier brothers in Gojira and they were talking about their coming album being their “Chaos AD” and Mario said that album was probably his all time favorite. How does that make you feel?
Max: It´s a great compliment coming from guys that I think are taking the music to the next level. Gojira is one of the great new bands coming out and they are doing something special these days in heavy metal. When we made those records we didn´t know what we were doing, honestly. I was just ready to do something crazy. Even the idea on “Chaos AD”, like recording a song about a Brazilian tribe like “Kaiowas” was completely absurd. There was a lot of absurdities in the “Chaos AD” world. (laughs) It´s a cool record and we were trying different things and we were working with the great producer Andy Wallace. That brought out a big deal of evolution in us. I feel honored when musicians say stuff like that. It´s really, really cool.
About tribal music, could you see yourself making an album where you would explore more of that music? Something that might be completely different from Soulfly and Sepultura?
Max: Yeah, because I like what came out of that fusion of tribal and metal. It´s really exciting and the “Roots” album was an incredibly experimental album and also the first Soulfly album, which was also very experimental in the tribal area, but I´d like to take that idea even further and go into the heart of it, like Africa. If I was to go to Africa and record some really heavy tribal beats and mix them with something, that for me would be one thing I could really do to surpass something like “Roots”. That would be the only way to do something like that. I´ll keep trying to do this. (laughs)
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Max: Not right now. We finished the book (My bloody roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and beyond, Joel McIver 2014) and it came out really good and a lot of people really liked it. I finished the record with Killer be killed and Cavalera Conspiracy and I´ve now finished “Archangel”, so I´m kinda taking a bit of a break. I´m just gonna tour for “Archangel” as much as I can. I would like to, at some point, do a video documentary of my career. I think it would be interesting, because there´s a lot of cool footage from all the years, like early Sepultura footage. A really well made documentary about my life, that would be similar to the book and maybe even using the book as the guideline for it. You have to find the right guys to do it. I love Sam Dunn, the guy that did metal documentaries (Global metal, Iron Maiden: Flight 666, Rush: Beyond the lighted stage, Metal evolution). Somebody like that would be great for something like this. I would only do it if you deal with somebody special, someone that is really dedicated. We would have to go to Brazil and go back to the roots where I grew up and show all the places. It would be a real project and take some time, but I think it would be really cool. It´s on a wish list for the future, to do something like that.
While you´re out touring, there has to be days when you´re not feeling really up for it? What do you do to pick yourself up and get back in the mood again?
Max. Metal man. I jam some metal, very aggressive stuff that puts me in the mood. Then the crowd itself picks us up and even if you´re tired or sick, you get through thanks to the crowd because they´re so great. The best part of my day is the show. It´s so good to be alive and playing the songs in front of people that want to hear them and sharing all the energy. It doesn´t matter what happens, every show is different, even though you blend them all together and it becomes a bit of a blur. Still, I´m excited to go on tour and I am as excited as I was 20 years ago and I hope I don´t lose that. I hope I don´t become one of those guys that don´t want to tour anymore and are sick of the road. I haven´t gotten to that point yet and I´m still enjoying it.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen