INTERVJU: Max Cavalera från Soulfly

Allas vår favoritbrasse är på gång med nytt med Soulfly. Vi ringde upp den pratglade lille mannen och snackade om allt från favoritplattor och nya albumet “Ritual” till indianer och saxofoner:

It´s pretty hard to come up with different stuff after doing eleven of those things (albums). We had a couple with a violin and ”Archangel” had a duduk from Armenia, this really weird instrument, but this one sounds cool. I really like ”Soulfly XI”. It´s almost like jazzy with a saxophone and we´ve never had a saxophone on anything I´ve ever done, so that´s a new thing for me after all these years.


What´s going on in the world of Max Cavalera?

Max: Right now I´m just doing a couple of interviews and talking a bit about the album. Getting excited about releasing Soulfly´s ”Ritual” in October and a little bit of jamming and practising for going out with my brother and playing ”Arise” (1991) and ”Beneath the remains” (1989) in South America. But most of all very anxious about the release of ”Ritual”. We worked very hard on this album and we think it´s a very powerful album and a lot of peopla are gonna like it. It kills me when you make a record and you have to wait. The wait is so… it hurts almost to wait that long. Then we´re gonna prepare a really cool tour for that one next year.

Let´s talk about the last track on the album, the instrumental ”Soulfly XI”. You have a saxophone in there?

Max: Yeah, it´s a guy from The Pretty Reckless that plays it. It´s Josh´s (Wilbur) friend. We made the song in the studio and I had this riff, an old melodic riff I´ve had for years and I didn´t do anything with it, so I told Josh I wanted to do some kind of Massive Attack with no drums… some kinda programming kinda drums, very ambient sounding and I showed him some Massive Attack stuff so he got the idea. He made the track and we used all the parts from my old recordings, but it was missing something so I called him and went ”Hey Josh, do you know anybody that plays saxophone, because that would´ve been cool? Just to put a saxophone on top of all that. It´d be like the icing on the cake.” First he said ”No man, I can´t do nothing.” and I was like Ah, shit!” and then he called me the next day ”I found somebody! I worked with this guy from The Pretty Reckless years ago and he´s a saxophone player. I already called him and he´s coming over.” It worked out pretty good and I think the track came out really good too. It´s pretty hard to come up with different stuff after doing eleven of those things (albums). We had a couple with a violin and ”Archangel” had a duduk from Armenia, this really weird instrument, but this one sounds cool. I really like ”Soulfly XI”. It´s almost like jazzy with a saxophone and we´ve never had a saxophone on anything I´ve ever done, so that´s a new thing for me after all these years. (laughs) Still finding new shit. It´s crazy.

You mentioned Massive Attack. Is that a band you´ve listened to throughout the years?

Max: Yeah, I like a lot of that stuff, Massive Attack, Dead Can Dance and even a little bit rockier stuff like New Model Army, but it´s very melodic, you know. Right now I´ve been really into Link Wray. I had never heard of this guy and a friend of mine told me about this documentary called ”Rumble – The indians who rocked the world” (2017) and I watched a little bit of it and it completely blew me away. I went back and listened to some of his old recordings and they´re so killer man. It´s so good, so I´ve been listening to a little bit of that and a little bit of Joe Walsh. Trying to get into some stuff I missed, because I wasn´t even here (USA) when those guys were rocking, I was in Brazil.

It´s so cool to discover new stuff which makes you dig even deeper into music you haven´t listened to.

Yeah! Back in the day we were all listening to metal and punk but we always had other stuff that we always really liked. I remember New Model Army was one of them and we ended up covering ”The hunt” (Chaos AD, 1993) so I´ve always had this kind of flirting with different styles and I went through a big Bob Marley phase of course and discovered a lot of reggae and dub that I really like and then I of course went through a Paul Simon phase, especially the stuff that he recorded in South Africa and ”The rhythm of the saints” (1990) which was in Brazil. That was kind of like the beginning of what I wanted to do with Soulfly with those kind of recordings. To do shit like that. Some of that stuff is really expensive and you can´t do that all the time. I ended up doing some of it like on records like ”Prophecy” (2004) and ”Dark ages” (2005). There was a little bit of travelling involved and I went to Egypt and Russia and Serbia which was cool. For this one, ”Ritual”, I just had to go next door to the Navaho reservation and I found inspiration there which was great. I recorded really old school. I just had this Radio Schack mic that cost $10 and an old piece of crap four track machine and we met with them in a hotel room in Tuba City and recorded it in the hotel room. It was so cool, man. It was so, like underground. People don´t do that stuff anymore. It´s like ”You want tribal chanting?” and you just go on YouTube. You can get it and it´s easy and it sounds pretty cool, but I think if you do it the way we did it, going there, travelling… I jumped in my car with my wife and we drove there, got together with them and recorded it and then we got invited for the treaty show, which was the 150the anniversary of the treaty between the Navaho and the American government and Soulfly was the band that closed the night. We got to meet all the talkers and the president of the Navaho nation and they gave us a plaque. It was great! At the end of the show it was the coolest thing… I hope we get to do a documentary. I´d love to do a Soulfly documentary that captures all. At the end of the show there were all these little kids everywhere and on the last song I pulled everybody on stage and there was like 30 little kids on the stage for ”Eye for an eye” and it was just awesome. It was so cool. The energy was amazing. We´ve been there before and my whole family got blessed so we have a really cool connection with them now and I´m so glad we ended up including them on this record. Even writing ”Blood on the street” which is the story of the Navaho girl that got murdered. I call the songs documentary songs, they´re kinda like manifests. They tell a story of something that happened. A lot of people don´t know about this thing, so it´s kinda cool to lett hem know. It´s a big injustice that happened and there are other real things that happened you can check out. There´s a movie called ”Wind river” (2017). A lot of the murders in the reservations don´t even get cataloged as murders by police. They don´t even treat them like people. It´s really fucked up, so I had to do this song. It was a huge injustice by the police and I read this huge article in The New York Times. I did some searching and found more stuff. I´m really glad we got the song on the record and we got the chanting at the end of the song. I´m always hoping to do more of that stuff, the world music – Soulfly connection.

About the tribal music. I just read the other day about a tribe that´s been isolated all this time and they were recently filmed by a drone that flew over the jungle. It would be so cool to find out what their music is like after being isolated for so long.

Max: Exactly. The original idea for ”Roots” (1996) was like that and I thought it´d be cool to record in a Brazilian jungle and we did with the Xavantes. My original idea was to record with the Kayapos, but they would kill all of us. (laughs) The Indian affair lady told us and she was like ”you´re not going there. It´s suicidal. You can go, but you´ll never come back.” and I thought ”I would be good to come back. We wanna record and stay alive.”. Xavantes was the tribe we picked and it was very cool, man. That was my first taste of that, that spark. You can trace that back to the spark moment, where this idea came to life and I was like ”Actually, you can do this, man and it´s cool and different and it rocks.”. It doesn´t take anything away from the record, it actually makes the record more interesting for the listener.

A track like ”Feedback” is that some kinda salute to Motörhead? It has a real Motörhead feel to it.

Max: Yeah, the original riff was full on ”Ace of spades”, but we didn´t wanna really just do a… I mean, we could´ve done a full on tribute song, but I thought it would be kinda cool to have the music be the tribute and the lyrics be about our life. It´s really inspired by stuff like ”We are the road crew” or even like ”Metal militia” or ”Whiplash”. It´s about the life on the road and I love the second line about ”shitty venues that smell like rot”. I thought that was cool. A lot of people can relate to that, especially in our kinda music. We go to these fucked up little shitholes and it smells like death. (laughs) That´s no exaggeration, that´s the reality of it. Not as much in Europe, but in America we do a lot of those. I also love that my son Igor contributed to the lyrics and the chorus came out really cool. I put a little bit of counting in Portuguese in there.

Max Cavalera

Tell me about “Dead behind the eyes”, which got Lamb of God´s Randy Blythe  on it.

The song ”Dead behind the eyes” is about “Hellraiser” and Cenobites and I found out where Clive Barker (director) got the idea for the Cenobites from. It´s actually an old European religious tradition of them hurting themselves and all that shit. That´s what gave the idea for the ”pleasure and pain” with the chains and all that. That was really cool and I started reading more about Cenobites. They were from Greece and Rome and they used to torture themselves. We´re hoping we could make a video for that song and especially if we can get Randy in it too and we´d have all of us dress up as Hellraiser characters from the movie. I think that would be fucking fantastic.

Did Randy bring anything more to the song than just vocals?

Max: It was really cool. He´s really tight with Josh and Josh has done all the Lamb of God stuff and he was working on the Burn the Priest record, so I just told Josh to give him the tracks and ”Show them to him and if there´s anything he likes, if he wants to sing on it, it´s all cool.”. I didn´t have a song for him so he showed him everything and what Josh told me was that they were listening to it and the minute that song came on, it was nicknamed ”Bruiser brothers” and the minute he heard it, it was like ”That´s it! This is the one! I don´t wanna hear anything else.”. I had already written the lyrics so I sent him all my lyrics and it was just good to have the Randy voice on it. He´s got a real distinctive voice, really unique and that´s what I like about guys like him. It´s very original and you know it´s him. That song, the vocal pattern is really based on ”Schizophrenia” (1987) and ”From the past comes the storm”. It´s totally influenced by that. When I worked on the song I worked with my son Zion and he was listening to ”Beneath the remains” and asking me about songs like ”Stronger than hate” and all those parts and mesmerized by it and I was like ”You know what, let´s challenge this! Let´s make a song like that!”, so I started working with him and added all those parts and it has one of my favorite guitar solos of Marc Rizzo. I gave him a whole section. It was crafted like ”Ride the lightning” era. You´ve got this solid rhythm behind the leads, which not many people do. It can be kind of a headache to put it together and it might take a little time, but I think the final result is fucking awesome.

Max Cavalera live at Metal All Stars

You´ve worked with so many other musicians throughout the years. Is there anyone now that you feel you would really like to work with?

Max: On my bucket list is always still Ozzy and Rob Halford. That´s like old school metal that I grew up with. I went on YouTube the other day and watched Ozzy and Rock in Rio I. I watched it and it was so good. He´s such a madman on that show. That was probably Ozzy at his best. I read his book and he tells the story about how he almost got arrested on the airplane for being drunk. An out of control maniac. To work with him would be really cool, as an Ozzy fan. It´s one of those things you don´t wanna push, even though I have met him many times. You kinda gotta wait for the right time and if it is ever gonna happen it will happen. I´m a believer of that. If it´s meant to be it will be. But I´m really happy with all the collaborations, because to me it´s not about how famous the person is, but about the art itself. To me, working with a guy like Todd (Jones) from Nails was really exciting. I love hiss hit, I love what he´s doing for the new generation of metal and the future of where metal is going. Having Todd on ”Archangel” was a huge deal for me. Or like on the last Cavalera record (Psychosis, 2017) we had Justin (Broadrick) from Godflesh and I remember me and Igor talking about when we first discovered Godflesh. It so blew our minds. It was so good jamming ”Streetcleaner” (1989) and going ”Ah, this is crazy!” and they´re still here doing it, man. I´m really glad I get to work with those guys and even happy with stuff like Killer Be Killed, that I get to do that suff with Troy (Sanders) and Greg (Puciato). We´re gonna work on a new album and we´ve already demoed 10 songs. It was fucking amazing! They spent for days here and it was the best. It was kinda funny… even though we´re a super group and all, it felt like we were a high school band. They all came to my house and we all went into the pool together and I barbecued for everybody. It was great and the demos came out great and next year we´re gonna finally make a second record.

When it comes to classic metal albums. Can you come up with one album that really matters to you? You get to pick one album that you get to bring to a deserted island.

Max: There´s a couple, man. When we first started listening to the stuff, I remember we used to listen to Accept´s ”Restless and wild” (1982) and I still think ”Fast as a shark” is the ultimate pre thrash song of all time. It has all the elements of thrash, the double bass, the guitar picking and it sounds fantastic. I think that record was way ahead o fits time when it came out. I like Celtic Frost a lot. The stuff between ”Morbid tales” (1984) and ”Into the pandemonium” (1987). ”Morbid tales” sounded kinda hardcore. Tom Warrior had all these kinda hardcore riffs. That is another classic album. Again, also a band kinda ahead of its time. Those two are some of the records, without counting Iron Maiden´s ”Killers” (1981) and I just read Bruce Dickinson´s autobiography. I love the part where he´s talking about the producer Martin Birch and how het old Bruce ”You have to tell them your whole life in the first two lines of the song!” I never had a producer tell me that. I would shit my pants. That wa show he came up with the beginning of ”The number of the beast” (1982). It´s great! That´s so awesome. I haven´t worked with a cat like that yet. (laughs) Maybe I should? Then of course Black Sabbath and ”Sabotage” (1975). It´s my favorite Sabbath record. One day I put it on random and it played ”Hole in the sky” and went straight into ”Symptom of the universe” without the little music in between and I was like ”They should´ve done it like that!”. It was so good!

Do you remember the first record you bought with your own money?

Max: Yeah, it was Queen´s ”Live killers” (1979). I love Queen. And my brother bought KISS ”ALIVE II” (1977). It was cassettes. I wish I still had those cassette tapes. They would´ve been a cool collector´s item now. Queen was great and we got to see them too in 1981 when they were touring for ”The Game” (1980). It was mind blowing, man! Freddie had the crowd in the palm of his hand. It was fucking huge!


Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk