INTERVIEW: Max Cavalera of Soulfly
SoCalMusicToday.com’s Chris Loomis recently spoke with metal legend Max Cavalera founding member of Sepultura and Soulfly. Soulfly released their 10th and most brutal album Archangel in August and the band is gearing up to hit the road on a World Tour. Max talks about the success of Soulfly, the making of Archangel, his relationship with guitarist Marc Rizzo and what it’s like working with family. Also is there a MaxFest music festival in the future?
Soulfly begins their North American tour on September 30th in Los Angeles. For the latest Soulfly information check out www.soulfly.com.
Hello Max, thank you for taking the time to speak with SoCalMusicToday.com.
No problem, thanks for having me.
Congratulations on the release of Soulfly’s tenth studio album Archangel. Looking back on Soulfy from back in the beginning to today, what do you believe is the formula that has kept Soulfly so successful in the metal world?
I think it’s been the diversity, all the albums being a bit different and bringing something new to the table but not forgetting your roots or the aggression of where it all started. Soulfly is a spirited venture and we have had lots of different members that have helped with the diversity.
Looking back now all the albums have been a bit different . . . in the beginning it was more tribal, in the middle it was more thrash and now we are getting more extreme. I think it’s been great. I am stoked we are on the 10th album, it blows my mind the 10th record is out and I am extremely excited about Archangel. I think it’s a very powerful album and very different from everything else we have done. So yeah I am just really excited right now.
From my perspective every album keeps getting better!
We keep trying . . .
Archangel is a brutal and bludgeoning album from start to finish, did you have a specific vision for this album when you started to write and assemble the songs?
A lot of my records come to shape themselves and that happens in the studio. I write the riffs at home then take them to the studio and then turn them into songs from there. Some of the songs for this album were already pre-conceived like “Archangel” was already a complete song, “Sodomites” was already a whole song. In the studio we created “We Sold Our Souls to Metal” and “Ishtar Rising” and also “Shamash” was all done in the studio.
I think this record is a reflection of what I’ve been listening to which is extreme metal. Just trying new ideas for riffs and chorus’. I really like the fact that the album has a lot of fast parts, I think my son Zyon did a great job on the drums, really playing those fast parts killer. I like how the album starts with “We Sold Our Souls to Metal”, a pure thrash/death metal styled anthem. I am very pleased with the result. I think this record is a new beginning for Soulfly . . . I am hoping we can do more extreme stuff like this in the future.
How did you come up with the title Archangel and what is the meaning behind it?
Not really. My mother told me this year was the year of the Archangel’s son Michael. She’s a high priestess in Brazil and her religion was kind of based on African/Brazilian religion and I was kind of fascinated by that so I decided to call the album Archangel and have the son Michael on the cover. I already knew the name of the album before we entered the studio, I knew it was going to be titled Archangel.
I had this idea of doing some biblical things to go with it like some Old Testament songs like “Sodomites” and “Bethlehems Blood”. The producer Matt Hyde was really into this stuff and the ideas and really helped with the vocals, we did some chanting and kabala words, and some ritualistic words so it was really cool.
Then there is some non-biblical stuff like “We Sold Our Souls to Metal”, “Live Life Hard!”, “Deceiver” and “Mother of Dragons” and you put it all together and you get one cool album with a mix of exotic biblical stuff and total metal stuff.
The artwork for the Archangel album cover has somewhat of a biblical look and feel to it. How involved do you get with the concept of the artwork?
Not much, I talked to Eliran Kantor (album cover artist) once and he nailed it, he was so good. I knew he has done covers for Testament, Hatebreed and some other bands and he has some really classic looks in his artwork and paintings but he went above and beyond the call on this one. He used the Soulfly symbol as the weapon of the angel and the colors he used on the wings of the angel; it’s just a really powerful cover. It’s definitely one of my favorite Soulfly covers we have had, it just goes really well with the music. The whole package just works really well together.
I think we had a great team on this record all together – it just worked really well from start to finish.
Hopefully there will be some killer tour shirts with the Archangel artwork?
Yeah we are working on that right now so yes we will have some great new shirts.
Once again you have some of metals most obscure yet powerful vocalists’ guest on Archangel in Todd Jones from NAILS on “Sodomites” and Matt Young from King Parrot on “Live Life Hard”. How did those two vocalists end up in the studio with you?
Well I always love having guests on the record and I am happy to see others doing it as I see the new Lamb of God has Chino Moreno from Deftones and Greg from Dillinger Escape Plan – I think that’s a really cool thing.
So this time around I decided to go with guests from newer bands. NAILS is one of my favorite bands so I was really into having Todd on the record and singing “Sodomites”. The intro to “Sodomites” just blows my mind, it is so cool what he did with the vocals in reading of the Old Testament, it just sounds like a super pissed off God – it’s so killer.
Matt from King Parrot, I just met last year and became a big fan. King Parrot is just killer – an Australian band, Grindcore, kind of thrash. Matt is such a cool guy it was really killer to have him sing on the track. The song is about the way we live our life . . . hard, so it was a perfect song for Matt to sing with me.
Your son Zyon plays drum on Archangel. You have historically worked with family members in and around your bands – your brother Igor and your wife Gloria. What is it like working with your son musically and does it make things easier or harder working with a family member?
I think it’s easier. I really want him to become a good musician, I really push him hard – there’s no sugarcoating anything. I’m brutal with him in the studio, especially with Archangel and the double bass parts – I really pushed him.
I love playing with my brother, I love playing with my son, I love that my family is metal . . . there will be no reality show about my family but its cool.
Bass player Tony Campos moved on earlier this year to join Fear Factory. Who will be playing bass on the upcoming Soulfly North American tour?
Mike Leon from Havok is joining Soulfly for this upcoming tour and he is going to bring some of that thrash magic he had in Havok to Soulfly. So I am excited for this new chapter in Soulfly with Mike.
Was Mike brought in as a permanent member of Soulfly?
We are going to try Mike out on the tour then hopefully he will stay. I like his style, I like that thrash element he brings and he looks cool. I think his thrash background in Havok fits Soulfly perfectly. And he will bring a lot of energy to the band and the live show. Hopefully it works out then we can make the next record with him.
Bands today seem to be constantly changing members over time. Tell me about the chemistry between you and guitarist Marc Rizzo that has kept you two together for so long.
I always wanted a guitar player like Marc. The chemistry I had with Andreas in Sepultura was very unique and I was looking for that in Soulfly. We had a couple different guitar players in the beginning but once we found Marc we knew we had something special, he is just amazing. He can play anything, he shreds, he has good ideas for songs, he helps me with riffs and he is a good friend.
That’s the best you can ask for, to be in a band with somebody like a brother. He has been a great addition to Soulfly.
Soulfly begins a two month long North American tour on September 30 in Los Angeles. What can fans expect on this tour from a standpoint of new music from Archangel and the rest of the set list?
We are practicing now and are going to try to play the whole record on tour except for maybe one song. It should be a killer set list as it will also include everything back to the beginning.
I am really excited for this tour as I love Decapitated, Soilwork and Shattered Sun. It’s going to be an amazing tour and I am so eager for it to happen.
We are trying to get the Archangel images to be part of the stage so it would look like an old Orthodox European chapel. That will make the stage look cooler and give a vibe connected to the album. Aside from that just the power of the music, I love mosh pits, circle pits. We are the only music that has those things and I am so proud of that, we have that power that is our thing.
The fans are half the show when you go see Soulfly. The circle pits are amazing, sometimes I just want to stop playing and watch . . . it’s awesome I just love the whole energy of the show.
What’s on the horizon for Soulfly and Max Cavalera in 2016?
More touring. Archangel is a world tour so I hope we can go everywhere – South Africa, Australia, Japan and South America then do another North America run.
I am trying to organize like a mini Ozzfest, like a Maxfest, something with all my favorite underground bands. I am getting into a lot of new bands like Home Wrecker, Genocide Pact, NAILS. How cool would it be to have like ten of those bands in a little festival then have Soulfly headline. It’s something I am working on for next year so hopefully it will work out.
Wow that would be great, a Maxfest. You are so busy do you ever get tired?
I love staying busy. I am bored right now because I am home, my life is on the road, I belong on the road. I sleep better on the bus than I do at home, I’m a nomad, I like going from place to place, waking up in a different city every day. Some people don’t like that, I love it. I am made for the road so I am excited to start the tour.
Being today is the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy , do you recall where you were and what you were doing when you first heard of that terrible event?
Yeah we were at home; we had just flown back from New York the day before. My wife was freaking out and woke me up and told me to come to the living room . . . just crazy, crazy shit. It was a really sad day, especially watching all those videos and pictures on TV.
I actually made a dedication on the 3rd Soulfly album . . . I dedicated a minute of silence. Many people did songs but I felt the silence was the best way for me to show my support. That was all just such a shock for the way it happened, hopefully nothing like that will ever happen again.
Max, thanks again for speaking with me. Best of luck with Archangel and the World Tour.
Thanks brother. See you on the road.