INTERVJU: Max Cavalera från Soulfly

När Soulfly gästade huvudstaden nyligen, slog vi oss ner i turnébussen och snackade lite med Brasiliens största stjärna, Max Cavalera. Max är en vänlig och ödmjuk brasse, som är tillfreds med livet, även om det innebär att kuska runt Europa tillsammans med 17 andra människor i en stor buss. Vi snackade bl a Lemmy, målning och det där med att känna att man lyckats och vara nöjd med det man har:

“For me, this is the glory days. This is it and this tour is as good as it´s gonna get. I don´t need fives star hotels and private jets. I´m fine with this (tour bus) and it´s cool as fuck. This is awesome and I think the fans kinda feel that it´s cool that you´ve given up your life for this. I think they feel that it´s something they respect, because of that. An artist that gave up his life for something like that. There´s something admirable about it.”


What´s left on your bucket list? You´ve made successful albums, toured the world, you have a book out…

Yeah, it´s getting empty, right? (laughs) I don´t know. I look at guys that have been doing this for a long time like Ozzy, the Iron Maiden guys, the Judas Priest guys and I wanna do that. I´m getting up there as well.

Can you see yourself on stage at 65?

Yeah, I think it´s possible. The more the years go by, the idea of metal for people changes. If you would have asked me that 30 years ago, I would probably have said that I couldn´t do this for a long time, but nowadays I think I can. Even the heaviest of metal is easy on the ears and as long as your body and mind can still do it, I´ll keep doing it for as long as it holds.

Soulfly debut

Do you have one album so far, that stands out as being your favorite one?

Well, it wasn´t fun to do, but I think the first Soulfly (1998) album was very important. It was kind of a make it or break it record. If that record hadn´t succeeded, my career would pretty much have been done. It was very special and and a very important album. I think it came out really good and I really like it. It was well done and I put a lot of my heart into it. The right stuff at the right time. As far as my personal favorite, I think I like the projects. I like Nailbomb and Killer Be Killed a lot because it´s real freedom and it´s not attached to anything and I could do whatever I wanted. Nailbomb was stuff that was done at home and not really caring about what people thought. They might not even have liked it, but we didn´t care. Killer Be Killed (2014) for me, was a lot of fun because I worked with these guys that I really like, like Troy (Sanders) from Mastodon and Greg (Puciato) from The Dillinger Escape Plan. It was really exciting and the way the album came out was very exciting. I´m really excited for our second record actually. I think it will be a really interesting album to make. We´re gonna try to make a really, really cool one. The first Cavalera Conspiracy (2008) was also very important. It was cool to have Joe Duplantier (Gojira) playing bass and it added a lot to the record. I´m a big Gojira fan, so it was really fun to work with him. Then of course, Sepultura. Take your pick! “Arise” (1991), “Chaos AD (1993), “Roots” (1996), they are all important records.

When it comes to Killer Be Killed, do you guys have any new material?

No, nothing. After this tour with Soulfly, we go to South America and then we have a US tour with Suffocation. We´re pretty busy, but I think in the middle of this year it will slow down a little bit and I can go home and start compiling riffs, which I do first. I´ll gather the riffs first and then I´ll get together with the guys and do a bit of jamming. Killer Be Killed is a kind of a jam band. We jam a little bit and stuff gets created. That´s how we did the first record and it worked. It was a fun process and we got a lot done in a short time. It was only weekend jams but it created a lot music, which was super incredible, that it actually worked. I was so surprised. We worked really hard on that album. It was one of the hardest albums to make for me, because I did all the guitars. I´ve never recorded so many guitars in my life, but it was good. Then it continued with Soulfly´s “Archangel” with the Biblical stuff and different areas of influence, like extreme metal that I listen to on my free time. It´s gonna be interesting to see where it goes from here. I´d like to get Soulfly as heavy as it can get. Get heavier and heavier and go as extreme as possible. Even if it gets smaller, I don´t care. That will probably be the case. The more extreme it gets, the smaller it gets. It´s the mathematics of the game. If you go commercial you get bigger, but that´s not why I´m here. I´m not here to get really big. That is not on my bucket list.

Killer be killed

With you being so busy, it sounds like a new Killer Be Killed album is more likely to be released in 2017 and not this year, right?

Yeah. I hopefully think we´ll write it this year, get the music done and maybe even record it at the end of the year and then release it early next year.

When you´re at home and not touring, what kinda music do you chill out to on a Saturday night?

At home, when I listen to music, it´s all metal. I listen to a little bit of different stuff like dub and Dead Can Dance, just to break the mold a little bit, but I always go back to metal. I´m really into the scene and I really wanna find out about new bands and who´s doing what and what´s exciting right now. What we do at home, me and Gloria, is that we watch a lot of TV-series like “Narcos” and “Game of Thrones”. I also do a lot of painting. I paint these vests that we sell on tour and they´re doing really well. Selling like hot cakes. (laughs) It really is therapy for me to paint. I love painting, so I just put on my favorite metal and paint. Each vest takes about eight hours.

Is painting something you´ve done for a long time?

I always did a little bit of it, but my brother was always better. Igor is pretty good. I have stuff that I´m good at, like lions and dire wolves and double headed eagles. I like stuff like that. People like to get the vests since they´re homemade. A part from that, there´s not much else. I try to read a little bit. The Ozzy book was really cool. Then I write of course. I do that all the time. I grab my guitar and write some riffs that eventually will go somewhere.

Soulfly arch

Do you have a favorite painter?

Yeah, I like a lot of artists and some of them I work with like Elian Kantor, who did the “Archangel” cover, which is one of my favorites. I´ve always been a fan of Pushead, who did the Metallica stuff in the early days. I like H. R. Giger of course. One of the greatest and it´s too bad he passed away. I really like stuff like that and of course Michael Whelan , who did the Sepultura stuff. His books are fantastic. I always look at a lot of artwork books whenever I´m looking for a new artist for an album cover. Like “Omen” (2010) was done by a guy (David Ho) that did a lot of Star Wars stuff and “Savages” (2013) was done by Paul Stottler who did Sacred Reich. I think metal and art is cool and I love album covers. I´m fascinated about it.

Totally different thing, what´s it like touring with your sons Zyon and Igor Jr? Are you a strict dad?

Not really. They´re good kids and completely cool and really don´t do nothing stupid and crazy. It´s fun and I love playing with Zyon every night. He´s a really cool drummer and very creative and energetic. I think he brought a lot of new life to Soulfly, between him and Mike Leon (bass) Soulfly really got a kick of new life and you can feel it live too, that it´s way better now and stronger. It had been losing as a little bit for the last couple of years and now we´re back where we´re supposed to be. We have 18 people on the bus, three bands, so it´s pretty wild. At first I was like “This is not gonna work.”, but we make it work somehow and nobody gets on anybody´s nerves. It´s a long tour too, seven weeks, and we´re on our sixth week now.

It must demand a lot from everybody to make it work.

We make it work because we all love what we do. I have almost my whole family here and some of the roadies have been with us for 15 years now, so they´re like family. It really is a family environment, which is really cool. A lot of bands don´t have that and they have new roadies every year and they´re always working with someone new that they don´t really know. I probably wouldn´t like that very much. It´s like “Can I trust this guy? I just met him.” Here we have a lot of trust between us, so I think it´s cooler this way.

Last time we talked, we talked a bit about how Joel McIver´s book “My bloody roots” (2014) could be used to make a documentary about your career and you mentioned Sam Dunn. Have you had any more thoughts about that?

I did an interview with Sam last year and I kinda mentioned it to him “I want you to do it, man.”, but it´s gotta come from him. So far it´s kinda on the waiting list, which is ok because there´s no hurry for that. It can be done anytime, but there are a couple of things we maybe can do now, like a Soulfly live album. I thought that might be kinda cool, because now we have ten albums and there´s not really a need for a new one so soon. We´re playing a lot of cool places this year, like Nicaragua, so hopefully one of those shows can get recorded. But the documentary idea is still good. I just really like how Sam did the documentaries about heavy metal and I think he would be a good guy to make it. I mentioned that it could be cool to go back to the tribe (Roots) 20 years later and visit them now. It would be so cool to have that on video. Then go to where I grew up in Belo Horizonte and visit the house where I wrote the early Sepultura stuff. Maybe talk to some of the original members and some of them are still around. It can be a very interesting documentary.

Roots bok

Do you have a lot of archived footage?

Yeah, we do. It´s all saved and Gloria has it all. Great stuff, like recording with Sean Lennon, Tom Araya and all the guest on the Soulfly albums and we have a lot of the “Roots” stuff, the tribe stuff. A lot of that can be used which is really cool. People have stuff so you can always find it. I´ve seen a couple of things on YouTube. The other day I saw stuff from the recording of “Arise”. It´s funny, because I speak Portuguese with Igor and I ask him for 25 cents to buy a Coke and he didn´t have any. That´s how broke we were. Nobody had any money at all. And then I´m changing songs and I´m driving Scott Burns (producer) nuts because I keep changing the way I sing and he´s not having it, “Make up your mind about what you´re gonna sing!” It was really fun to watch. It was like a real trip down memory lane.

Being broke and then still moving forward takes a certain kind of person.

I always loved the feeling I get from metal and even if it was tough with money, we found a way to survive and struggle. My dream when I was a kid was to live off music, so right now I´m actually living my dream. For me, this is the glory days. This is it and this tour is as good as it´s gonna get. I don´t need fives star hotels and private jets. I´m fine with this (tour bus) and it´s cool as fuck. This is awesome and I think the fans kinda feel that it´s cool that you´ve given up your life for this. I think they feel that it´s something they respect, because of that. An artist that gave up his life for something like that. There´s something admirable about it. We do meet & greets and it´s so cool to hear from them what they think about the show and what it means to them. It´s cool to make so many people happy through metal. A lot of people have a negative look at metal, but they don´t see what we see. We see different things, so I find metal to be very positive. For me it´s real freedom.

Max Cavalera live at Metal All Stars
Max Cavalera live at Metal All Stars

About the early days, are you a nostalgic person?

Not really. From time to time there might be a YouTube video. It´s fun to watch, but I´m not much for living in the past. I´m living right now. A lot of things I didn´t feel good about, like the success of “Roots”, that people talk about. For me, it was the worst time of my life. I was drinking and taking a lot of drugs just to cope with it and it sucks. We got so famous that in Brazil I couldn´t even go out. It´s not for me, man. It´s not what I´m here for. Once that died out and we split up and Soulfly came, it was really cool and it put me back in a place where I belong. Some people might feel different and be longing for that, but I´m not one of those guys. I´m happy playing a small club full of fans. For me, that´s the real metal. From time to time, exciting stuff happens, like in Belgium we met the mayor of Gent. His right hand man was a big Soulfly fan and he had a Soulfly tattoo, so he called the venue and asked if I could come meet the mayor? We met the mayor and it was so cool. He was an older guy that spoke Portuguese, so we spoke a little bit. It was kinda surreal and totally like “What the fuck is going on? Why am I meeting the mayor of Gent?”, but I roll with it.

“Roots” is turning 20 years old this year and you´re gonna play the whole album. Don´t you just go, where did all the time go?

Yeah, but I think it´s cool. We´re doing the US and maybe Europe too. We´re looking at it right now. For me it´s really interesting to do that with Igor. First, because I´ve never played a whole record before. If it works, I told Igor we could do the 30th anniversary of “Arise” or whatever, so we really hope it´s gonna work. Igor talks about showing some videos, so we´re gonna try and see if that will work. We´re looking for a bass player and we´re gonna find someone cool to do it. I think it´s gonna be cool. The whole record, properly played and properly done. I think the fans are really gonna like that.

Max C live

We lost Lemmy recently. What did he mean to you?

He was great. My relationship with him didn´t start off good. We got off on the wrong foot. I was really young and Sepultura was opening up for them in Germany. We did a photo shoot and I came with wine and I was throwing it all over him. I was just being a total asshole. In my head, I thought that was rock and roll. I can see how he looked at me and just saw me as an arrogant asshole kid being drunk in the middle of the afternoon. Just being a fucking idiot. We got off on the wrong foot and then we went out on their last show all naked and ruined their show and he wanted to kill me afterwards. He told Gloria “This guy better not come near me.” And I was like “Ah shit, I pissed off one of my idols. How did that happen?” because I loved the guy and his music. The first time I met him was really cool. I was bugging him and he emptied a whole glass of whisky on my head. I thought that was the coolest thing and I just thought I´d been baptized and I was like “Fuck yeah!”, but he did it to push me away, like “Let me play my machine.” I didn´t shower for a week. The greatest thing was at one of our shows in the UK, right after Dana (Max´s stepson who was killed in a car accident 1996) died. He had heard about it and came up to me and was really sorry for my loss and he also said “By the way, everything is good between us. You´re good in my book.” I was like “Cool. Finally.” I didn´t wanna be the guy that pissed off his idol. It was a funny relationship. I was real sad when he died.

Did he ever say if he liked your music?

Yeah, he did an interview for a Brazilian magazine and he said somethings that almost made me cry. How important I was for Brazil, “What he did for Brazil and coming out of Brazil like that, is an amazing feat.” and I thought it was so cool that it came from him. I didn´t expect that. The guy from the magazine sent it to me and said “You´re gonna like this.” That was cool and very nice.

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk, Stephansdotter Photography

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