Max Cavalera. The name alone breathes heavy metal. From Sepultura to Soulfly to Cavalera Conspiracy, Nailbomb and Killer Be Killed, the legendary frontman, now 49, has been at the forefront of heavy metal music for over 30 years and now clocks up 20 years with his band, Soulfly. Created on the back of a nasty split from Sepultura way back in 1996, Soulfly came to fruition in 1997, releasing their first album, the self titled Soulfly, in April of 1998. Fast forward 20 years, the band are about to release album number eleven on October 19 (our review here). Ritual sees the band delve back into that tribal feel of earlier albums but the nu-metal/thrash elements are hard to miss. Wall of Sound spoke to the man himself to get the low down on the new album, his thoughts on the Soulfly drummer (and his son), Zyon Cavalera, and we get some updates on what’s next on the Cavalera schedule and when we can expect more Killer Be Killed!
Max, thanks for joining Wall of Sound. Congrats on Ritual. I know every new album has that feeling that it’s a good Soulfly album but I got halfway through listening to this new one and I just had this visualisation of you in the studio just grinning from ear to ear recording the riffs on this one. Was this album one of your most enjoyable Soulfly albums? I think your enjoyment comes across in the music.
Thank you for liking the record. I was very proud, very happy in the studio. I worked very hard on this album (Ritual). I had just finished Psychosis with Cavalera Conspiracy and I felt really inspired on the back of that and I went straight into the writing for Ritual and it actually came out quite easy for me. I was kind of surprised. I thought it was going to be little stressful but I think with the help of Josh Wilbur (producer) and the other great musicians Soulfly has made it that easier. I love the tracks, ‘Dead Behind the Eyes’, ‘Ritual’, ‘Under Rapture’, ‘The Summoning’. It’s going to be great playing those songs live and I think it will be an album that fans will enjoy. If you’re a real Soulfly fan, you are going to love this album.
Your son, Zyon (Cavalera). I feel his drumming is just getting better and better and on this album in particular he really shines. It’s business we all know but as a father, you must be very proud of his playing on this album?
Zyon has been groomed since he was little, kind of like one of those Soviet athletes. It’s kind of like he was thrown into ice water and came out wrestling bears. It’s that kind of shit. His training started on Chaos A.D when I put his heartbeat on the Sepultura record. That was the day he started training to be on Soulfly and now finally the day is here. He is killer man, especially on Ritual as you say, his drumming is amazing and he’s playing great live and I couldn’t be any happier as a Dad, but also as a musician. In the band I talk to Zyon more as a musician than a father, but yes, very excited for Zyon with his drumming on this record.
Josh Wilbur, the producer on Ritual. We’ve read about how he wanted to bring back that tribalism on a Soulfly album. He’s done that but it’s not over the top, it’s subtle to a point and it works incredibly well.
We had this idea from the beginning to make this record as a commemoration of twenty years of Soulfly and we were going to bring the real good elements of Soulfly, but like as you said, in a subtle way. We didn’t really want to overdo the tribal stuff and that’s the outcome and how the Navajo’s came into the picture. I was friends with them, I had visited the Navajo reservation for the last twenty years and had become friends with the Vice President and the Chief of Police, and it was all done very underground. It was like black metal style. Cheap microphone, a four track. I got in my car, drove out there, they made a circle around me and they chanted I recorded it. Josh got hold of it and it’s all over the record. That was the purity of it. It sounds like a National Geographic expedition kind of field recording and I really enjoyed doing that, I think when you mix that with metal it’s really cool, especially in the title track, Ritual.
Josh, of course, a massive Soulfly fan. How was the chemistry there?
That was kind of cool, unique. Normally we have a producer who just produces and be professional and all that. I’m not saying Josh wasn’t professional, he’s super professional but at the same time he was this huge Soulfly fan in the studio wanting to hear all this crazy groove tribal songs and when I give it to him he was so happy to hear that stuff. I think he got to hear the songs he wanted. I got to make songs I wanted too and everybody won. Like you say, it’s tribal but not all the way tribal. It’s got grooves but not just grooves. It’s got plenty of thrash, plenty of death metal, almost black metal and still plenty of aggression on all the tracks. There’s even a Motorhead like track with ‘Feedback’! It’s not a really long record, but a good amount of songs and I’m glad we got Josh on board. It was really cool recording with a guy that got so much enjoyment from it.
Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) helped out on the track ‘Dead Behind the Eyes’. Was Randy always someone you wanted to work with or did this idea of incorporating Randy come from Josh’s connection?
A little bit of both. You know, anytime I get to work with the guys I like, it’s good. I’ve been a big Randy fan for a long time. He’s an important guy in the metal scene, he’s a legend in the metal scene and his book is super cool and I think what he does in Lamb of God is amazing. I knew he was really tight with Josh and good friends so I kind of used that connection. It’s all in the name of metal man in the end. Randy was happy to be on the record and we also got Ross from Immolation. One of my favourite bands. So I got two great guys on the record. I love these collaboration songs. We’re going to continue doing them on all the future records and it just makes it a more friendly record, a more unified thing. I think all the metal bands should be a more unified and together in metal.
You’ve had a host of guests on Soulfly albums across the years. When you invite a guest to work with Soulfly, do you have a song in mind that you think would suit a particular artist prior to asking them or do you see whose available and then work them into a track?
A lot of times we write for the person. But sometimes, somebody else comes in and has an idea and a track comes out of nowhere. In some of the early Soulfly recordings we wanted those guys like Chino (Deftones), Tom Araya (Slayer) and Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour), we handpicked them because I was a big fan of their music.
Two decades now into Soulfly, it’s incredible in that time you’ve released eleven albums with the band, considering your other projects and the relentless touring schedule you’ve had. You must be proud looking back on those years with what you have achieved with Soulfly?
I’ve been very busy and very proud of Soulfly. Soulfly has been a rock. I can count on Soulfly for anything and it’s the band that saved me, gave me a second chance in metal. I love all my projects though. I love Cavalera Conspiracy and playing with my brother. Our album, Psychosis, a lot of people like it. I’m looking forward to the new Killer Be Killed album next year. It’s good to have all these projects but right now my focus is in Soulfly land at the moment.
Of course you’ve been doing the Cavalera Conspiracy, Beneath/Arise shows with your brother Igor. Just seeing some of the footage on Instagram and YouTube, these look like killer shows, how has it felt covering some of these old tracks alongside Igor?
Oh man, it’s been great. I love playing those tracks and playing with Igor, it’s special, you know? It’s the real feeling, the real nostalgic, going back in time kind of vibe. We did Russia and the fans there went crazy for it. It’s cool as it’s both records together, the best of both records, so it’s all killer, no fillers! We’re doing that in South America next and I don’t know, maybe we play more of those shows next year, I don’t know what the program is yet. I really enjoying playing with Igor and those are legendary records that people want to hear us play, so when they hear these songs they go nuts and I totally understand why they’re going nuts.
Australia last saw you earlier in 2018 on the Return to Roots tour. It’s been a while since Australia has had a Soulfly tour and playing what is now a monstrous back catalogue. Any tours in the pipeline you can reveal?
Nothing official but we definitely want to keep Australia in mind for the Ritual world tour. We have this big plan for this album, starting in America in January and we hope we can continue throughout 2019 and I hope that includes Australia. I think Australia really loves my stuff and Ritual is a perfect album to tour Australia.
Killer Be Killed. I’m led to believe you’ve recorded some music? Where’s that at? Are there any band changes since Soundwave a few years back?
The same people who played Soundwave a few years back including Juan Montoya (ex-Torche, Cavity, Floor) on extra guitar. We’ve already done a demo of ten songs, it sounds fucking great and we are hoping that the first break I get next year from Soulfly we can get everyone on board and either write a little more or go straight to the studio and start recording this thing. So, I’m looking forward to number two of Killer Be Killed. It’s going to be amazing!
Finally, I’ve watched one of your YouTube videos via Nuclear Blast Records where you explained that one of the albums you want to make at some stage is a reggae/metal mix. So, what are you thinking like Skindred or Benji’s previous band, Dub War, or more of a punk feel Bad Brains mix?
It will be a little different like the real heavy old school reggae, like Roots reggae. I’m not sure, I haven’t really thought about it. Like African Headcharge or Dub Syndicate kind of thing. But right now it’s just an idea. There’s no songs written or a label, it will be when I’m done with everything else. It will be probably the last thing I do. It will happen. Like I said in the interview for Nuclear Blast, I won’t care if anyone likes it or not, it’s one of those really guilty pleasures thing, I just want to make.
All the best Max, hope to see in Australia soon. March would be nice.
Right on mate, nice talking to your brother!
Interview by Jim ‘Plugga’ Birkin
Ritual is out Friday October 19th via Nuclear Blast Records.
Soulfly – Ritual tracklisting
2. Dead Behind The Eyes (feat. Randy Blythe)
3. The Summoning
4. Evil Empowered
5. Under Rapture (feat. Ross Dolan)
7. Blood On The Street
8. Bite The Bullet
10. Soulfly XI