SOULFLY’s MAX CAVALERA: “The Past Was Great, And We Should Pay Respect To It…But The Present And The Future Is Also Amazing, And We’ve Got To Be Part Of It”

June 13, 2022, 12 months ago

By Greg Prato

feature heavy metal soulfly max cavalera

SOULFLY’s MAX CAVALERA: “The Past Was Great, And We Should Pay Respect To It…But The Present And The Future Is Also Amazing, And We’ve Got To Be Part Of It”

There are some musicians who like to take time off after a record-tour cycle, and eventually gently ease their way back into another go-round. Not Max Cavalera. There is seemingly not enough time in the day for Max – who seems to constantly be either touring or recording, or plotting his next project. Case in point, 2022 – Max is currently on tour with his brother Igor, on the Return Beneath Arise Tour (which pays tribute to their former band Sepultura), has a Soulfly box set coming out June 17 (The Soul Remains Insane: The Studio Albums 1998 to 2004), a new Soulfly album arriving on August 5 (Totem), and as he told BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato, other projects on the horizon, as well.

BraveWords: How did the idea come about to do a box set now?

Max Cavalera: “That was actually Gloria’s idea [Max’s wife and manager]. In fact, all those tours – doing Roots, Arise, Beneath The Remains – those are all her ideas. Even back in the day with New Titans on the Block [a 1991 tour that featured Sepultura, Napalm Death, Sick Of It All, Sacred Reich, Biohazard, White Zombie, and Type O Negative]. She thinks outside the box a lot of times. Because I’m really good at song ideas and riffs – that’s about it. So, she came up with this idea – ‘I was thinking of BMG doing a box set of your first four records. What do you think about that?’ And I thought that was great. And, ‘We can make a really cool booklet. I can figure out some photographers from that time that have pictures of you guys…and we’ll go from there.’ And I loved it – I loved the idea. I love that it’s vinyl, too – vinyl and CD – because I’m a huge fan of vinyl. I have some really cool vinyl that I saved from when I was a kid. There was a Ride The Lightning that I had to cut my hair for it! I saved that vinyl – I still have that today. And there is a Primitive picture disc that is on my wall. It was a great idea. And I came up with the name, The Soul Remains Insane – which is a little play on ‘The Song Remains Insane,’ which came from Led Zeppelin [‘The Song Remains the Same’], anyway! So this is the third time around we’re using the same kind of name idea.”

BraveWords: Looking back, what do you recall about each album included in the box set: Soulfly, Primitive, 3, and Prophecy?

Max Cavalera: “To me, starting with Soulfly I, that is the most difficult record I ever made. Second to that would probably be Beneath The Remains – because although they are very different in terms of music, in terms of spirit and state of mind, they are very similar. It was kind of like a make-or-break kind of record. When I made Beneath The Remains, I felt that pressure – the ‘whole world against you’ kind of pressure. So, we had to make a really good record. I felt all over again the same pressure when I was making Soulfly I – it was you against the world again. You’ve got to make a strong record. So, that’s what I did. Soulfly I is almost like a no hope/no fear state of mind. You just go for it. And then you have Primitive, which is a bit more relaxed. Soulfly was accepted – I already had the stamp of approval from the fans, which was the only thing that mattered to me. Soulfly was hugely popular at that time – we were riding the wave of success of Roots. And a lot of the bands that were around at that time, we were playing with System Of A Down, Incubus, Neurosis, Hatebreed, and doing all these Ozzfests. 

“We ended up making Primitive right after that, and I had a lot of guests. It’s kind of like an old school hip-hop idea – I had like, ten different guests. I thought, ‘Nobody’s ever done that in metal. Let me be the one to do that.’ And I did it. I had all different people – Tom Araya from Slayer, Corey from Slipknot, Chino from the Deftones, Grady from Will Haven, and Sean Lennon was the most surprising one. Nobody expected that – it was sort of like The Beatles meets Sepultura of sound. That was super cool to do. And I got to work with Neville Garrick, who is Bob Marley’s artwork director. That was another cool thing that I found him, and he was this legendary guy that did all of Bob Marley’s artwork. He made the colorful phoenix rising [on the album cover]. I remember at the time, Rolling Stone was starting to call me ‘the Bob Marley of metal.’ [Laughs] Which I kind of just laughed – it was funny. But Primitive is a great record – I love the whole vibe of it. I think it’s cool having so many people involved. The songs itself were cool, and I think the production is amazing – Toby Wright is a great producer. And then we did 3, which is a little more stripped down, back to basics, recorded in an old church in downtown Phoenix. And then Prophecy was where I think the real, real gene of Soulfly comes out. 

“My vision for Soulfly starts with Prophecy – ‘guerilla style recording’ is what I call it. It’s like, you just put on your backpack, you travel, and you go find the sounds. You don’t go get them on YouTube – you go to the places and you record them. You find the sounds and you go after them. Like Paul Simon on Graceland – that was my inspiration. Or Peter Gabriel on the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ. You’ve got to go to the Middle East, you’ve got to go to Africa, you’ve got to go to those places. So, I went to Serbia – I found a Serbian band called Eyesburn, and I made this Bad Brains-style metal song called ‘Moses.’ It was one of the first metal-reggae hybrid songs. And I was introduced to Serbian gypsies. I ended up recorded them at the end of the record. And that’s what starts all these guerilla-style recordings – you have to throw the manual instructions book out the window, and you make records the way you want to make them. Crazy. Put on your backpack. Go to Serbia. Most people don’t even know where Serbia is. Let’s go to Serbia and record in Serbia. I found this guy who was a professor of middle ages music in Serbia in Belgrade, and he had all these old instruments, like sheepskin bagpipes and things from the middle ages. So, we put that shit all over the record. It was great. I was like a kid in a toy store. And I think that to me, the beating heart of Soulfly lies within Prophecy. 

“The other side of it was what I did in America – because I went to Navajoland, I went into Monument Valley. I went into the desert to look for inspiration, and I found it. Again, just get in my car, drive, find this place, and let those places inspire you. I did a photo shoot in Monument Valley, and became real good friends with a lot of Navajo guys. They let us shoot the video for ‘Prophecy’ in a sacred land. It’s a wild record – half of the record is based on Navajo, tribal, and Native American culture, and the other half is old Europe/Serbia traditions. Quite a unique kind of record. When I think of Prophecy, I find it very inspiring. It’s a very inspiring, courageous kind of record – that I love. I love those kinds of recordings and guerilla-style recordings – where you just do it. You don’t care. You just go for it. Follow your heart and cool things will happen when you’re doing that kind of shit.”

BraveWords: How is the Return Beneath Arise Tour going thus far?

Max Cavalera: “Amazing, man. It’s so cool. Those songs are imprinted on people’s DNA. A lot of those guys saw us back in the day and get to see it again, and a lot of young kids who never saw it…like last night, there was a young kid, he must have been fourteen, so he wasn’t born when we made those records. He actually had a sign that said, ‘CAN I PLAY ‘DESPERATE CRY’ ON DRUMS?’ And I put him up on the stage, and we played a song with him – I think we made that kid’s night, forever. But one of the coolest things that happened was the MDF Festival. We played, and we didn’t do anything special for our set – there’s no pyro, there’s no huge TV screens, there’s no fire. There’s only music. But the way we played, with so much savagery, there was no talk between songs – it was just pure carnage, man. Just going for your throat. Holding on your throat, and beating you without mercy. 

“And after that show, we talked to a thousand musicians that were there and they were all freaking out on this show. I wasn’t really expecting that. After so many years, you learn to expect nothing – that’s what I learned playing music. Don’t expect anything, then when you get surprised, you’re actually surprised, y’know? That was a real honest surprise – that so many people liked that show. I stayed one more day because I wanted to watch Hellhammer – I’m a big Tom Warrior fan. When I was watching Hellhammer, I realized how cool this is, because Tom is an OG like me – he’s been in this game forever. And when he was playing these Hellhammer songs, there was something special about it. I was getting goosebumps on the side of the stage. I realized that was how a lot of people feel about Beneath the Remains and Arise – they have that nostalgic feeling. Those songs bring them back to those years – ’89/’90/’91 – when the death/thrash movement exploding and where Sepultura was riding the wave of that. To be able to do that 30 years later and still do it with passion and anger and energy, it’s amazing. It was an amazing feeling.”

BraveWords: Is it possible that by revisiting this material, it may influence the sound or direction of music you’re writing now?

Max Cavalera: “Oh, for sure. I think that always happens. In fact, a lot of the records I made were influenced by touring. I mean, Arise was because we toured so much – we went to Australia, Russia, Indonesia. That’s why I think Arise had a much more international feeling to it. Even the new Soulfly – it was recording during the pandemic, but right before that, I did a huge Roots tour. We did some really cool Soulfly tours with Nile and Suffocation. All of that somehow gets in the record. I don’t shy away from inspiration – I actually run towards inspiration. So, if I’m inspired by the music around me – and there’s a lot of great metal right now around me – I totally go for the inspired, and put everything on those records. And I’m one of those old school guys that I would die for this record. And I’ve done that for all my records. It’s a weird feeling, and it’s even strange to say that, but I stand behind it. I am so fucking proud of them – they’re like your kids. You will die for these records. And I think it is cool when you’re making records with that much passion. And it shows. I think if I ever lose that, then I should not make a record. So far, it’s been good – I’ve been blessed to be inspired all the time.”

BraveWords: Were you concerned about touring with COVID still around?

Max Cavalera: “Not concerned, but more like, prepared. We take precautions. We don’t bring a lot of people on the bus, and you don’t really do meet and greets. You’re pretty much doing the show, and trying to be safe. We saw what happened to Randy and Lamb of God – we don’t want any of us to get sick and we have to cancel the show or find a replacement. That would suck. But I’ve been very lucky – Soulfly did a tour last September, we did a tour early this year with Dino from Fear Factory, and we’re doing this one now, and it’s all sold out. So far, so good. I’m knocking on wood.”

BraveWords: It seemed like during the early ‘90s, most rock and metal bands were creating their own unique sound and approach - bands like Sepultura, Fear Factory, Type O Negative, Faith No More, Soundgarden, etc. - which I think is largely missing today. Do you agree or disagree? 

Max Cavalera: “I think it’s a bit different – because you have social media, you have the internet. So many other different things that you do for your band that I don’t even think back in my day, we didn’t have to do any of these things. Back in my day, you just played guitar and sang. Now, you need to know about videos, you’ve got to know about putting stuff on social media. Even though I’m still kind of a caveman when it comes to that world – I don’t have a cellphone, myself. But I am around all the time, and I do see it. I like to take part…but not too much. I like to leave myself a little bit mysterious. There’s a little bit of mystery about Max Cavalera that I don’t put everything out on the socials, so people don’t know every second of what I’m doing. As far as the music…I’m a fan of music and I’m an optimistic guy. I don’t live in the past. There are some great records. Don’t get me wrong – the early Sepultura records, early Fear Factory, Biohazard, Faith No More, Slayer, Pantera – those are amazing records, man. But there’s a lot of amazing music being done right now. A lot of young kids – 200 Stab Wounds, Undeath, Gatecreeper – they’re all part of the new generation of bands doing stuff. I really like this band, Unto Others. We have a band on tour with us – it’s my son’s band, Healing Magic – and they’re a mix of YOB, Sleep, and a little bit of Discharge…which is really wild to mix doom with hardcore. It’s a crazy mix, but it works. Really refreshing to see people doing that kind of stuff – innovative stuff – right now. The spirit is always there – even with social media, the mythos period inside the musician will never change. That will never die. It’s just different times. But I think it’s always evolving, anyway. I’m a big underground metal fan, so I look at the positive side of metal. I’m not like one of those guys where, ‘Only the past is good.’ That’s not true. The past was great, and we should pay respect to it…but the present and the future is also amazing, and we’ve got to be part of it.”

BraveWords: Future plans? 

Max Cavalera: “Right now I’m working on a new Go Ahead and Die with my son, Igor – he also plays with Healing Magic. We are hoping to get our second record out – we did one last year. It’s really cool, it’s really ‘caveman metal’ – nothing special. It’s got that Hellhammer feeling. I just get to be a kid again playing with my son, and that’s amazing. And a lot of excitement around the new Soulfly that’s coming out on August 5 – one day after my birthday. We have a song coming out from Soulfly with Johnny from Obituary – John Tardy sings – which is cool, because he doesn’t do a lot of guest appearances. We got him to do one for Soulfly, so I’m really excited for that. And then hopefully a tour. I am going to South America with Igor – by brother – to play Roots. This is the 25th anniversary of Roots right now, so we are commemorating that, and we have Dino [Cazares] playing guitar for Roots, which is great. He played with Soulfly, and now he’s going to play with us. Pretty much booked ‘til the end of the year, and looking forward to next year. I’m hoping that I can do some Killer Be Killed dates. That is one of my bucket list things that I would really like to do – bring Killer Be Killed on an American tour would be amazing.”

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