SOULFLY's Max Cavalera - "SEPULTURA Started As A Death Metal Outfit And I Love The Style"
May 2, 2013, a year ago
By Martin Popoff
Max Cavalera’s SOULFLY recently came through Canada in support of their eighth album, Enslaved, their crushing, caustic indictment of slavery set to an extreme metal soundtrack of barked vocals and slicing Rizzo riffs. Got to sit down with Seps legend as well as his stepson Richie Cavalera, whose band INCITE sounds like a virulent blend of the heaviest things Soulfly ever get up to rocketed by the fire of youth.
“It’s more extreme, from all directions,” laughs Max, asked to frame Enslaved within the quickly growing Soulfly canon. “I like Conquer and Omen, but I thought a third record similar to those would have really staled Soulfly, and made it into like repetition, fall into the repetition loop. And I did not want that to happen. So I started to look at ways to do something quite different, but is still part of me, you know? And I thought death metal has always been with me; like, I’ve been referred to as death metal my whole life, from the beginning (laughs). SEPULTURA started as a death metal outfit and I love the style, and thought, let’s give it a try. Let’s try to make an extreme record with a lot of double bass, and very heavy riffs.”
“And then the interesting thing to me was to create a certain kind of death metal record without death metal lyrics. It’s not about Satan at all; Satan has nothing to do with it. The whole record is about slavery. So that to me was an interesting combination, of having kind of this MORBID ANGEL/DEICIDE SOUND, with enslavement lyrics—that was attractive. And then the stuff I was listening to at the time, I was listening to a lot of old classic death metal - ENTOMBED and MASSACRE, MASTER - and then newer stuff that I really like that’s going on right now, like OCEANO, IMPENDING DOOM, MOLOTOV SOLUTION, CYCROPTIC, this new wave of thrash/death metal that kids are doing right now, a combination of that. That led me to do this record. And of course working with Zeuss also helped. Because Zeuss has worked with a lot of these new bands like Oceano, so he knew. Although we’re not a seven, eight-string kind of band. We’re the typical... I still play four strings, and we’re still a typical metal band, but it was fun to push into the realm of death metal and extreme music. But it’s still a Soulfly record. It still sounds like Soulfly; it’s just Soufly with an extreme touch on it.”
It better be, because Richie’s band, Incite, are capable of giving any headliner a head-to-toe beating on a nightly basis. Says Richie, “We take a lot of our influence from the old pioneers like the Sepulturas and SLAYERs and stuff, but I think at the same time we have a new vibe to our sound that is not out there right now. People say, oh, you sound like this band or that band or this band, but no one quite puts it on us. I think what makes us different is we just come out and kick your ass live. Fans haven’t experienced that in some time. We’re a band that just walks out and then demands everything, and we bring that energy that people are just looking for. Especially out of a heavy metal band. With the music that we have, it just sets it up for a great collision of madness.”
“When I was real small, I was immersed in it,” says Richie, about being raised in a famous metal family way. “One day there would be NUCLEAR ASSAULT sleeping on the couch, the next day it would be ATROPHY, SACRED REICH. It was there, and Gloria never hid us from that. She wanted us to be a part of what she was getting into. That’s one thing about our family, we don’t go into anything alone. We’re all together, we all support each other, we all back each other, and I think I’m grateful for what they’ve done. Because I couldn’t be happier.”
Adds Max, “Richie was actually the model for the Atrophy album cover, Violent By Nature. The little mascot in the sandbox. That was crazy times back then. And Rob Halford gave him a cock ring as a gift, and we were like, boy, what a gift for a kid, right?”
Pointing at max, Richie pays his respects... “He’s been my biggest influence; he’s pushed me out in front of crowds, and just to watch how he can just take every single person in the room and they’re just in his hand, from the moment he says go. So I think that’s just an awesome thing to see on a daily basis. There’s not a lot of people out there that have that kind of touch on people. I hear the stories and stuff, and it just inspires me more to keep doing it. And help people get through whatever they need music for.”
If Incite’s new album, All Out War, has a modern metal sheen to the production, well, Soulfly seems also to be after than same kind of articulation, tapping Zeuss for the production of Enslaved.
“I think overall, he did real good drum sounds, guitar sounds,” says Max. “He’s a real professional. He’s on the ball. He knows his game. And from the moment I met him, it was like, this is going to be cool. This guy knows what he’s doing. I’m totally secure with him. And as we progressed through the record, when I heard ‘World Scum’ for the first time, without the vocals, just the music, it blew me away. I was so happy. I thought this is exactly what I had in mind—extreme, but it’s clear. You still can hear all the instruments; it’s not muddy. Because sometimes old death metal records, it’s very muddy and shitty sounding. I wanted to make a record that sounds good, and Zeuss brought that to it. And I think he’s kind of a newer producer too, who adds a kind of new sound to it. And we worked a lot on the lyrics and the vocals, because I was repeating a lot of lyrics (laughs). He really kind of forced me to write lyrics that didn’t repeat. He’s like, ‘Don’t repeat that!’”
As for news, well, there’s lots going on within the ranks of this always active band and beyond... “Oh yeah, actually have two things, three things, actually, going on this year. I’m writing a new Soulfly record after this tour is done, and then I’m going to go into the studio with Terry Date, who is going to produce the record. I’m very excited to work with one of my favourite producers of all time. To me, working with Terry is like working with Andy Wallace—it’s that sort of importance to me. As a producer, he’s done some amazing records and our friendship is really solid. I think we’re going to Seattle to do it, and it’s going to be really great, and I’m really excited for that. And then in September, I have a project with Greg from DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and Troy from MASTODON and the drummer from MARS VOLTA, Dave Elitch. We don’t have a name for that yet, but that’s going to come out next year. And that’s going to be really cool, because the three of us are singing, so it’s completely different. It’s totally a new thing in metal; I don’t think nobody has ever done a project like that in heavy metal, with three singers, with three different voices, and every song, the three of us are going to sing different parts.”
Finally, Max has got his long-discussed, long-awaited biography coming up written in conjunction with the UK’s most esteemed metal journalist Joel McIver, who is following up his slammin’ well-regarded MACHINE HEAD biog... “Yes, that should be pretty exciting too. The book with Joel comes out the end of the year. We are getting to the final touches now. We’ve been working on that for like two years, thousands of interviews... he has interviewed a lot of people. We cover it pretty good. And we got Dave Grohl to do the intro for the book, which is pretty cool.”