Max Cavalera is a heavy metal lifer.
Having formed Sepultura as a teenager in Brazil alongside his brother, Igor in 1984, Cavalera has spent the past 31 years in the metal scene with both Sepultura and Soulfly, as well as side projects Nailbomb, Cavalera Conspiracy and Killer be Killed.
After leaving the band he helped create in 1996, Cavalera formed Soulfly, which released its self-titled debut album for Roadrunner Records in 1998. Soulfly’s tenth album, “Archangel,” was released by Nuclear Blast on August 14, 2015.
In support of “Archangel,” Soulfly will hit the road in North America with Soilwork, Decapitated and Shattered Sun for the first leg of its We Sold Our Souls to Metal Tour beginning September 30 in Los Angeles and ending October 30 in Albuquerque, N.M.
The second portion of the tour will feature support from Crowbar, Incite and Shattered Sun, and will begin November 6 in Las Vegas. The We Sold Our Souls to Metal Tour will be at Memphis’ New Daisy Theatre on November 19. For more information, visit newdaisy.com.
In advance of the tour, I chatted with Max on Sept. 18 about the new album, the tour and the evolution of Soulfly’s sound over the years.
Back in 2003 in my second year of college, Soulfly was probably the first concert that I actually went out to … on the Planet Max Tour … on my own. I grew up in a rural area in Arkansas without the opportunity to go see live music, so you guys were kind of my foray into going to the clubs and bars and small venues to see shows. I’m really looking forward to the show coming up when you guys hit Memphis, especially with Crowbar coming, too.
Yeah, man, I love that they’re on that tour. We have two tours right now. The first one is with Soilwork and Decapitated and Shattered Sun, and the second one with Crowbar. I’ve always loved Crowbar. They’re so heavy and I’m really excited for that.
We’re super excited for those tours. We’re planning to play a lot of stuff from the new record, “Archangel” … it looks like both tours are going to be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to start. I’m actually itching right now to get out of here.
Talking about the new album … we’ll kind of backtrack here to … the evolution of the sound. Back when that first album came out in ’98, would you say that, with the self-titled and “Primitive” both, were they kind of the continuation, creatively, of where Sepultura had gone with their sound on “Roots?”
Well, it’s my continuation. If I would have stayed in Sepultura, the record probably would be … actually quite similar to “Soulfly” one because that’s me (and) that’s my ideas. But I think Soulfly has its own thing, too, which is cool. That’s what I like about Soulfly. All the records are very different and I think that’s amazing to be able to do that.
If you compare “Soulfly” one to “Archangel,” it’s almost like two different worlds and I think that’s so killer to be able to do that and to still maintain our roots. It’s still my voice, my trademark riffs, my trademark choruses. But, we’ve managed to do different things all the time and “Archangel” is probably one of my most different albums I’ve ever done. I really love the whole biblical theme that I brought to the table and working with (producer) Matt Hyde really helped. I think the album came out even better than I planned when I first planned the record in my head. So, I’m very excited.
Listening to those albums, there really is a stark difference, because if you listen to a song like “Bleed” now and then you listen to “We Sold Our Souls to Metal,” it really does sound like a completely different band. So, creatively, you’re 10 albums in now … what is it like … you as a creator of music and as a creative force behind the band, trying to not only stay relevant, but stay true to the music you want to make, also? Because I know there’s probably a balance you have to strike there.
Well, for me, metal is everything. It’s my life. It’s what saved me in Brazil. I had options to get into drugs and crime and I chose music, and it saved my life and got me out of Brazil. You know, it’s been really, a lot of ups and downs, but I have to say that metal saved my life and that’s why I wrote “We Sold Our Souls to Metal.” It’s my own thank-you to metal, to the music that I love.
I’m a musician that I could say really (stays) updated with new stuff. I love the new bands (and) that’s why we have Todd (Jones) from Nails on the new record and (Matt Young of) King Parrot. I love listening to new stuff (and) new bands all the time. I go to shows all the time and you know, I love being a metalhead. It’s my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I do believe I sold my soul to metal when I was young.
Can you speak to … being in the scene this many years now and still putting out new material and still hitting the road, where a lot of guys maybe, at this point, would have said, ‘I’ve put in my time. I’ve done my time,’? Like you just said, metal is what got you out of Brazil and is what saved your life. Is that why, this many years down the road, you’re still out there plugging away?
Plus, I love it. I really, really love touring. I love … I’m made to be a nomad and a road warrior. I love waking up in a different city every day. I love the tour bus. Man, I love the whole lifestyle that comes with it. You’ve got to be kind of born for that, I think. It’s not for everybody. Some people freak out (and) can’t deal with it. I’m not like that.
I love making records and looking to the future. I don’t really dwell on the past. I know there’s a lot of great records and a lot of cool music (that’s) influenced a lot of people, especially the Sepultura stuff. That stuff, for me, that’s the past. I look forward. I still think I have to make better records, I have to make better music and I keep looking to the future, man. That’s where it’s at. I’m a guy that lives for the moment. For right now and for the future.
You mentioned the Sepultura stuff. At this point … if you really think about it, it’s almost crazy, you’re kind of in a unique spot where you’ve fronted and been one of the creative forces behind two very successful bands, and a lot of people can’t say that. I mean, you might have success here and then go on and try something later and it not work out. But, you went from being in a band like Sepultura, which was very influential and groundbreaking for what it was, to now Soulfly (that) has been around … 17 years, maybe? And still very successful. I think that’s kind of a rarity. Can you kind of speak to that, also? Finding success after leaving such a big band.
Yeah, that was the hard part. You’re right, a lot of people cannot do it twice. I had a second chance. Redemption. It feels good. I’m doing what I love. It wasn’t planned like that. I formed Sepultura when I was a kid and I named the band. I thought I was going to stay with them forever. That was what was in my head. Apparently, that was not the case and I had to start over and Soulfly came.
But I think Soulfly also brought a lot of cool things, a lot of positive things (to) my life, too, that maybe I wouldn’t have done if I had stayed with Sepultura. I look at it like that. Kind of like, there’s different ways to look at the situation, but I think I’ve been very blessed and I have to thank all the fans for supporting me from the moment they heard, “Eye for an Eye.”
A lot of people tell me that when they first heard “Eye for an Eye” they were sold on that. They were like, ‘This is awesome,’ ‘Max is back,’ and, ‘We’re going to back him up on this new thing.’ (It) took a little longer in places like Brazil. The beginning was hard. People could not accept that I was in a different band. I had a tour (where) there was some boycotts and not many people showed up. It was tough, but I never back up from a challenge, man. I’m a survivor kind of guy. Metal, for me, is like a weapon. My guitar is my weapon, so I have to go to war. I made it into (a scenario where) we’ve got to curl down and go forward.
(We) kept at it. Different members. Soulfly (has) changed a lot of members through the years. Changing the music a little bit, too. I’m glad what I did – I think it’s really cool and special – which is, get heavier as I get older. I think that’s something that’s really unusual and doesn’t happen to a lot of musicians. Most people go mellow, more commercial and I went heavier. I got heavier as I got older.
I listen to more extreme music when I listen to music on my own. I love the underground of metal and I want to be part of that. I knew that by doing that, I had to, kind of, sacrifice a little bit and Soulfly (would) maybe be less popular, but that’s OK. Because it’s not about that. It’s not about the chart numbers or Grammys or none of that bullshit. It’s about the passion you have for the music. And people see that in me, that I’m doing it from the heart. I’m doing it from the passion. I think that’s what attracts the fans to what I do, and I believe that’s why they stay loyal to me.
If I’m not mistaken, the last couple of albums, for sure, you’ve had the opportunity to get your boys involved, also, and have them be a part of your records. What is it like now, as a father, being able to have them be a part of what you’re doing?
They’ve been involved from the beginning. Zyon’s heartbeat opened “Chaos A.D.” before he was born. When he was in his mom’s belly, he was already part of history without even knowing. So, it was destiny. It was meant to be. I just had to wait until they got a little bigger and learned how to play so I could jam with them.
But right now, Zyon is in Soulfly. This is his second record. He’s doing great. I really believe he’s going to be one of the real killer drummers of the future. That’s something very special, the way he plays. He’s very natural … almost like a wild animal. (His drumming is) kind of out-of-control. I love that quality of it. I think it’s great. I don’t see that in a lot of other drummers. My brother had that. Igor had a lot of that.
And the other kids are all involved in metal. We have a metal family, which I totally love. I think it’s great. I wouldn’t change anything in our house. Igor’s got Lody Kong and helped me on the last European tour playing bass for Soulfly. Richie’s got Incite. Jason does crew for Zyon and Richie comes and sells T-shirts on tour with us. Gloria’s my wife and my manager and we work together. It’s a full-on metal house, man. It’s great. It’s kind of chaotic at times. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love it.
You probably get some of the best jam sessions out of that, too.
Yeah, it’s really good. When we worked on the records, especially “Archangel,” I got to go with both of my boys (Igor and Zyon) up to … we have a mountain house that has some kind of studio set up, and I jammed a lot there. We made most of the record there. So, by the time we went with Matt Hyde to the studio in California, the album was pretty much all mapped up and ready to go.
That was an advantage. (We) didn’t have to spend too much time in the studio working on songs. They were pretty much done and we did them here jamming with Zyon and Igor as a power trio. It was really a lot of fun and I will probably do more of that in the future.
With (“Archangel”) being your tenth album and you getting ready to go out and support that when you hit the road, what are your thoughts and visions for the future of Soulfly and where you want to go from here?
The cool thing about “Archangel” is that it’s kind of opened doors for me. I think I can go more in that direction if I want to. I can make another kind of biblical record and it be awesome because it’s really attractive to me. It’s kind of an experiment that went well and it worked. I didn’t know how it was going to be before and just had the idea in my head.
I think it was a very important tenth album for us to make. It needed to be different from what we’d done before. I think because of that now, it’s like an open road in front of us. We’re going to tour a lot for the album. We set up some kind of really cool-looking stages. There are going to be some screens with the archangel Michael on both sides. So, it’s going to look kind of like … an orthodox church a little bit. So, it’s going to be our church. Our church of metal.
I think it’s going to be great. I’m excited as hell. I’ve got to start practicing next week. We’ve got Mike (Leon) from Havok playing bass with us, too, which is going to be amazing. I think he’s going to bring some of that thrash magic that he had in Havok into Soulfly and make Soulfly more thrash. So, the future looks good. It looks like we’re going to do a lot of cool stuff coming up.
It’s almost hard to do a setlist today, because there are so many songs with 10 albums. The variety and the choice becomes real big in front of us. My idea is to play a lot of stuff from “Archangel” because we’ve never done that before. Having a new record and playing a lot of the new stuff. So, I want to try to do that and see … maybe that would be cool for the album, to even push the album further. And then, play all the other classics that people love, and even some Sepultura in there. Maybe not too much. You’ve got to have a little “Roots” and “Refuse/Resist” in there just for the diehards. I never back down from that. I think it’s going to be a cool, pretty full setlist. At least an hour-and-a-half of metal for the enjoyment of the fans and I’m excited for that.