Only The Beginning – An Interview With Soulfly

Soulfly-2013Since emerging as a teenager from Belo Horizonte, Brazil in the mid-80s, Max Cavalera has been on a mission. That mission has been to make killer heavy music with no compromises or limitations. He has been an innovator and a trendsetter at every stop along the way through his projects such as founding Sepultura, Nailbomb, and now in Soulfly. Almost thirty years down the road, Max is still flying in the face of convention, mashing sub-genres, and following his own muse. With is new album Savages, a new label in Nuclear Blast, and playing a band with his son Zyon, you could say everything has come full circle for him.

You have come back really quickly with Savages following Enslaved last year. Why the fast turnaround between albums?

It felt good to bang out another record quickly. It’s not always the goal, but it was good to write some new music right away. We like to keep it moving. We had everything planned to do a new record for the new label Nuclear Blast. The deal with Nuclear Blast came through perfectly. My son,Zyon, came in to play drums. We had Terry Date on board to do the record. And I really love what Terry did with it. He did a great job, with a raw sounding record. And we just went for it. It was great to have all of these great fucking people on the record! I love the guest appearances the most. ‘Ayatollah of Rock N’ Rolla with Neil (Fallon), ‘K.C.S.’ with Mitch (Harris) from Napalm Death, Jamie (Hanks) from I Declare War on ‘Fallen’, and my son Igor on ‘Bloodshed’ For me Savages is a combination of both worlds. It has the grooviness of the first Soulfly album and it also has that extreme death metal sounding songs. A lot of people liked Enslaved, so I didn’t want to get rid of it entirely. A lot of people wanted me to go back to the killer grooves of the very first Soulfly album. So I decided to write an album that has more of that. And I also like the songs are quite long, like six minutes, seven minutes, ten minute long songs, like ‘Ride The Lightning’, and ‘Master of Puppets’, on those old Metallica records. The songs don’t even feel like seven minutes, to listen to them. Time just flies when you listen to it. It makes you feel good, and the songs are killer. Overall, I’m really happy with the record and I’m very stoked and I can’t wait to even play these songs live. It felt like the right record to make. Like I said, it’s a combination. ‘Fallen’ is a perfect song, with Jamie from I Declare War. To me it’s pretty much a death metal song. It’s got all of the elements of death metal. And ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ is a pure, thrash/grind/death metal song. But I didn’t want to make that same record again. I wanted to do something totality new. But a song like ‘Ayatollah of Rock`N Rolla’, it something totally new. I never did anything like that before. It starts with like this country, cowboy riff, and Neil starts talking over it and it was so killer! And of course that line in the chorus Ayatollah of Rock`N Rolla is from ‘Mad Max’. It’s probably my favorite song on the album. I don’t want to make the same record over and over. So Savages got new things on it that no one has heard from me before, and I am really glad about that.

I think it is very difficult in music, especially in metal, to reinvent your self all the time. Do you keep that in mind from album to album?

I kind of just go with it. I don’t think about that stuff. I just roll with it. If I think about it, it will make me crazy. I just make records. I don’t have a favorite one. They all fit together and they are all a part of my history. They are all a little different, which is great. I have been doing this a long time and I have a lot of records under my belt. What I am interest in is to keep going. I have a vision for my music, I see it going for a long time. We don’t have to write stupid radio songs. We write what we like, we play what we like. And the fans really connect with that. We are playing what we love. They know we are not writing stupid bubblegum, radio songs, concerned with getting played on the radio. That’s not what we’re here for. We are here for the heaviness, for the metal that we love. Because I love metal. Metal is in my veins and it is what I love. I want to keep doing this for a long-ass time. To me, this is only the beginning.

You have produced the vast majority of Soulfly’s albums yourself. What was it like to turn over the reigns to Terry Date?

It was just the right time and the right place. Terry has been coming to Soulfly shows forever. The last time was in Seattle with Five Finger Death Punch. He came to the show and he was just hanging out. I said to him “Man! When are we going to work together?” I kind of gave the question to him. And he said ‘just call me!” and we’ll do it. So when it came time to make the record we called him. He gave me a great deal because he really wanted to work with me. We first met with the Deftones when they did Around The Fur I came into to do ‘Headup” Terry is a really a rocker man. He loves metal and he loves rock. He is a real professional. He has done so many amazing records like the Pantera records, Deftones, the Soundgarden records like Badmotorfinger. Those are heavy records. Just classic, fucking records. I was really excited and very motivated to work with him. So a lot of the writing for Savages had that in mind. I was thrilled that Terry was in charge of the record. I knew working with him, it had to be good. And he didn’t disappoint me. To me it’s my favorite sound. This is the best sounding Soulfly record. Best guitar sound, best drum sound. Terry has done an amazing job and not to put any others down, even me but this is the best one. The other records are good, but it doesn’t compare to Terry’s stuff. Terry is just a master.

When did you know Zyon was ready to be a full time member of the band?

Well, we took him to South America to drum for Soulfly. People in Brazil loved it. I remember the Sao Paulo crowd loved him man. They were amazed at how good Zyon did. The energy he brought to the band was great. People really were amazed at how good the old Soulfy songs sounded. Especially right after David Kinkade. I don’t have a problem with Dave Kinkade, but he really couldn’t play the old Soulfly stuff. So touring was really hard with David. And that really sucked. It was really a problem for him and really, and he could only do the extreme stuff, And even then, he had problems with that. For me it was really a risk to put Zyon on the record. To me another musician wouldn’t have done that. Someone else would say I’m gonna someone more professional, get a more experienced drummer, and not waste a record on a kid. I went with my gut feeling, said I am gonna take a risk with my son. His heartbeat opened Chaos A.D.‘ twenty years ago, and now he is recording a full record with. It is a great story. And as a father, I couldn’t be more proud. He took it very seriously, worked very hard on the songs. We worked on the songs for two months before we hit the studio. He worked hard and he pulled it out. I’m very proud. Eventually we’re going to have to find a new drummer, because he has a band with his brother Igor, Lody Kong, and I don’t want to steal him from that. But it was a risk to use him on the record and I’m a person who likes to take risks. My whole career is full of them. To call the album Roots, that name was a risk. A lot of people didn’t like the name at first, in including the Roadrunner people. They didn’t want me to call it that. They thought it sounded like a reggae compilation album name, and I agreed with them, where they were coming from. But I told them, ‘after we put this record with the name ‘Roots’ on a Metal album, the word roots will never be looked at the same again. And even now there is a program on Liquid Metal called Bloody Roots of Metal. Roots is everywhere now and it’s connected to metal, not just reggae. Using Zyon was a risk. But I stand by my choice with Zyon, and for this record, he was the perfect drummer. He was new blood, young energy and had exactly what I needed for this record.

You’ve spent almost your entire career on Roadrunner Records. Why the move to Nuclear Blast now?

Nuclear Blast really had the best offer. We talked to Napalm Records, Century Media, all of them wanted to sign Soulfly really bad. Which to me is a sign that the band is in a great state. It made me happy that we have a desirable band. But Nuclear Blast, their offer was great. They are a metal label that believes in metal and fights for metal. I had a great time at Roadrunner, but Roadrunner isn’t Roadrunner anymore, not from the glory days. It was the best move to go to Nuclear Blast. Gloria was already looking to leave actually. We had already talked about leaving and it turned out, this was the perfect time for us. I love being with Nuclear Blast! I love what they have done so far. I visited their office. I drove to California and met everybody in the office, Charles (Elliott) and everybody there. It actually reminded me of the old Roadrunner vibe. And now we have Monte there as well. And working with Monte again is killer, because Monte has been with me my whole life, my whole career. I couldn’t imagine making this record without Monte. It’s a label that loves metal. And so to me Nuclear Blast has the old Roadrunner vibe like when I was in the old Sepultura days. And Roadrunner, once they got fucking Nickelback, all they wanted was another Nickelback and all this bullshit. The label got lost and they didn’t know what to do with it. And they lost their passion for metal. And it sucks because I had a lot of good memories from that phase, but life goes on. I’m happy with this new phase and happy to be on Nuclear Blast.

What is the status of your project with Greg Puciatto and Troy Sanders ?

We enter the studio in September with Josh Wilbur. We don’t have a name yet, which is lame, I have to agree. It is sooo lame that we don’t have name! Maybe we should call the band Lame? No it’s not lame. It’s the opposite of lame, it’s fucking killer! It’s really bombastic. Three singers, me, Greg, and Troy singing on every song, that’s gonna be huge! Just for that factor, it’s killer enough for the curiosity, that it’s going to be good. It’s a very unique experience to have these three singers on every song. That in itself, is gonna be sick. This just doesn’t happen every day. We have all the songs written and the songs sound great. They sound amazing and I can’t wait to find a name for this fucking thing, finally, once and for all and release the album next year. Hopefully, we will even do some touring for it!

Keith (Keefy) Chachkes

 Soulfly – Facebook