Interview conducted August 19 2015
Interview published August 25 2015
"Every time you make a
record, you get criticized for it."
With Soulfly's new album Archangel being recently released (August 14th),
Metal Covenant spoke to main man Max Cavalera
to hear his thoughts about the album and also to find out more about his
and the band's current activities.
"I mean, they know in their
hearts that what they are doing is not what it was."
Tobbe: Of course we're gonna talk a lot
about the new album and I guess you're excited and eager to hear about
the first week sales.
Max: Yeah. We are very excited. There was a lot
of buzz on this album and a lot of really good feedback from fans and
some reviews are really good, so I'm very excited.
Tobbe: What's the biggest difference between
Archangel and your previous work?
Max: I think Archangel is a bit more extreme.
You know, it's really adapting to death metal and some of the riffs
are even black metal. I think it's really cool to mix the energy and
power of death metal and black metal, together with the trademarks of
Soulfly that's my voice and my riffs. I think it's a different record
in general. Everything we did on it, from the biblical themes, to the
production, to the producer Matt Hyde. Everything about Archangel was
done differently from the last record.
Why did you decide to use that title?
Max: I found out through my mother that this
year was the year of the archangel Michael and I thought it was kind
of cool to make a record about this, because it's a weird fact, you
know, that it is the year of an archangel. But it's not really big news
and not really publicized. It's kind of underground. Only a few people
know about this, but I thought it would be kind of cool to make a record
with this name. Yeah, so I just gave the album the name and started
to write some songs about this kind of stuff. And then we got the album
cover. The artist [Eliran Kantor] did a great job and we got something
Tobbe: Is it tough to come up with lyrics
nowadays, considering the fact that you've done like 25 albums already?
Max: It becomes harder and you have to look for
different inspiration. But it's there, you know, you can find it. I
really love how the song Sodomites came up, because I used a couple
of verses from the Old Testament and that's kind of original. I've never
done anything like that. In a way I think I almost opened a road for
me, that I can make more songs like this and that I can make more records
similar to Archangel that'd be really good and very powerful, so I think
I might continue this. I definitely gonna continue on the extreme metal
path, which I really like. In my spare time, all I listen to is death
metal and black metal, so I'm gonna continue, you know, playing near
the stuff I listen to.
Tobbe: "We Sold Our Souls To Metal".
Is that gonna be your new anthem?
Max: We're hoping it becomes some kind of metal
anthem. We just had this fast song, that sounded like Cannibal Corpse,
with punk rock, with Discharge, and I really thought it was a cool song.
I always wanted to make a song about the music I love. "Anthem"
would be the best way to describe it, but those things are not in our
power, to make it into an anthem. The crowd's gotta make it into an
anthem, but by judging of what they've heard, it's going good and I
think a lot of people really like the song and people are really excited.
Tobbe: Yeah, I think people can actually
relate to it.
Max: Yeah, I hope so. All of us that love metal,
we all feel the same, you know.
Tobbe: This is actually the band's shortest
album to this date. It's less than 37 minutes. Was that something you
thought of at an early stage?
Max: No, that just happened. That was actually
accidental. You know, I wasn't timing the album, so I did not worry
and didn't care about how long the album was gonna be, as long as it's
good. I was more worried about the album being powerful and being full
of energy and full of creativity. I found out later that it was the
shortest album, and that kind of makes me happy, because I think a shorter
album is okay to have these days. I think people will probably listen
to it more, than if it was a longer album.
Tobbe: When you write songs today, is it
mostly like a routine job or do you occasionally try to, you know, consciously
look outside the usual framework too?
Max: I do both, you know. There is the kind
of Max-riff that's really kind of similar, but in other projects, like
with Killer Be Killed, I really push hard and I was working a lot with
melodic riffs, which I've never done really much in my life before.
And I ended up recording all the guitars for the Killer Be Killed album,
so it was really kind of exciting, but a lot of pressure also. I try
to do as much different as I can do. I think the riffs on Archangel
are really killer.
of them had this kind of Middle East quality to it, especially like
Bethlehem's Blood and Shamash. It's really, really cool. I love that
kind of exotic riffing and I wanna do more of that. And some of the
other riffs are really kind of like the Max-riff and the Archangel riff
is a typical heavy, groovy Max-riff. You know, you've gotta have those
too, so I think it's a good combination of all of that.
Tobbe: Is it, at this point in your career,
actually possible for you to make a Soulfly record and not repeat yourself
just a little bit?
Max: No, you end up repeating a little bit, because
it's almost impossible to do something totally new. There is some lyrics
on the album that sounds like something I did before. But I was trying
really hard, you know. That's why there's some Latin in some songs and
some Jewish Kabbalah in Archangel. We were trying to come up with as
much different stuff as we could.
Tobbe: So what do you believe that this
record, at the end of the day, will mean to you?
Max: I hope it's a new beginning, you know, and
something that I can actually take further. I would like to even go
deeper in another record. Like explore really cool biblical topics with
extreme metal. I'm not gonna give up on it. I love it and I'm gonna
go further down the road of becoming more extreme. Hopefully more extreme
even with the next record.
Tobbe: What's the biggest challenge for
you with trying to improve with each record released?
Max: Try to make sure that, even if it's extreme,
it's still good, that it's quality work, and it's still powerful stuff,
and stuff that is gonna stand the test of time. When we do the songs,
we don't know how the songs are gonna survive the times, you know. We
can only hope for it. Nowadays I have songs like Prophecy and [Back
To The] Primitive that are classics, but when I wrote them, they were
not classics, they were just songs. So I hope some of the songs on Archangel
will become classics also. I think that Sodomites and We Sold Our Souls
To Metal will become future classics that we always gonna have on our
Tobbe: When you're recording albums, do
you put a lot of pressure on your bandmates and your relatives, or do
you give them some room, in order for them to put their own mark on the
Max: I'm very fair, you know. I demand a lot
from the musicians, but I give them a lot of freedom too. Like a guy
like Marc Rizzo [lead guitar], I let him do whatever he wants. I really
appreciate what he does and I let him go off. And if he wants to do
more flamenco or more solos, he can do it here. There's room for it
and I'm never really stopping him. And the other guys, I kind of help
push them to be better musicians themselves. I mean, that's what I try
to do with my son [Zyon] for example, and I think the drumming on this
album came out really good. You know, he's growing, he's only 21, so
he's got a long way to go, but he's doing pretty good.
Tobbe: You've had a long and pretty prosperous
career, but don't you sometimes feel like doing something else for a living?
Max: I don't know how to do anything else. I'm
not good at anything else. I'm stuck with this, you know. I've sold
my soul. [Laughs]
With today's sales figures, like in comparison to a few Sepultura albums,
what keeps you fighting against decreasing record sales?
Max: It's not much you can do. You can try to
tell the fans and hopefully they'll buy the record. But it's really
hard, because a lot of them really don't care and they just wanna get
it for free. Thank God we've still got touring, and touring really helps,
and selling t-shirts. Those things are what keep us alive so that we
can survive and still continue making music. You know, Soulfly 1 was
gold in America. It sold 500000 copies and I think that's not gonna
happen again. It's a different time, you know.
Tobbe: What do you think that you and Soulfly
have left to achieve?
Max: Well, for me it's more like to continue
and to go on for a long time. I look at inspiring guys like Ozzy and
Lemmy. Those guys have been going for a long time and are very, very
inspiring. They inspire me to do the same and I hope I can rock off,
you know, for 20 more years.
Tobbe: What plans do you have in the coming
Max: We have a lot of touring, you know. We
have a big American tour in October and like a 3 month European tour
starting in January. We're gonna try to tour everywhere after that.
Try to go everywhere, as much as we can. And maybe a little bit later
on in the year, I'm gonna work a little bit on Killer Be Killed. Try
to get some new songs. I have some ideas for the next Killer Be Killed
Tobbe: Of course you don't have a release
date yet, but what are you aiming at?
Max: I would like to have it released so it
doesn't conflict with Archangel, so maybe very, very late next year,
or the year after that.
Tobbe: Which lineup will you have for that
Max: We don't know yet. Of course it's me [guitars
and vocals], Greg [Puciato, guitars and vocals] and Troy [Sanders, bass
and vocals], but we don't know about the drummer yet. We've gotta figure
Tobbe: And what about your band with your
brother, Cavalera Conspiracy? Any activities planned?
Max: Nah, that's actually taking a big break
now. I really enjoyed what we did together with Pandemonium, but I think
we need a bigger and stronger album to come back after that. I'm gonna
have to work more intense on it and closer to Igor next time. You know,
whenever that will happen, it will have to be a better and more focused
kind of record.
Tobbe: Do you think it's hard to keep all
your work, with different bands, separate and not making them sound too
similar to each other?
Max: It's hard, but it's worth it, you know.
It really stretches my imagination and my mind. It's really helping
me, I think, to become a better musician too, because I really try hard
to make them different. You know, Killer Be Killed is very different
from Soulfly. Cavalera [Conspiracy] is a little bit closer to Soulfly,
but still quite different. I really try to have them be quite different
from each other, so that they have their own vibes and their own sounds.
When you're dead and gone in a distant future, hopefully, for what will
you mostly be remembered for?
Max: I hope for being very passionate about this
music and also for somebody that didn't really worry about taking risks.
I think I have taken risks my whole life and we have made the records
the way we wanted and not the way we were supposed to. Every time you
make a record, you get criticized for it. But later on people find out
that it actually was a good album. I think it was the case with Chaos
A.D. [With Sepultura, 1993] and Roots [With Sepultura, 1996]. Especially
Roots was really criticized when it first came out, but now when people
look back, it's a very classic album. You just have to follow your heart
and if you know it's good, it's good.
Tobbe: I gotta ask one question about the
Sepultura guys as well. You sometimes seem to like to bash the current
version of Sepultura and I wonder what purpose that serves?
Max: Well, it's doesn't really have a purpose.
I mean, they know in their hearts that what they are doing is not what
it was. I mean, they have to feel it and especially the singer who's
singing the lyrics, and he wasn't there when I wrote it and it's very
personal kind of lyrics. But I've really kind of made peace with that
already. I don't wanna even get in more arguments with those guys. I
really wanna do what I do and forget about what they are doing, you
Tobbe: What do you believe that Soulfly
has that other bands don't?
Max: I don't know. I hope that we have some
kind of excitement, and we try to bring new things to metal that weren't
here before, and I mean, that's one of the coolest things and I wanna
do more of that with the future of Soulfly. Sometimes I'm not allowed
to do what I want, because of money reasons or something. You know,
it doesn't allow me to travel or do more with Soulfly, but I'd like
to do more with Soulfly and I think it's kind of a cool, experimental
band and I like to be experimental in the metal world.
Tobbe: Soulfly has been pretty consistent
with album releases and you're up on your 10th now. A lot of bands of
your age tend to release a record like every 5th year, so how come you're
Max: Yeah, I don't know. I might slow down a
little bit now in the future. Like, for example, hopefully just tour
next year with Soulfly everywhere, even though I know that they are
gonna bother me with Killer Be Killed. But I would like to slow down
a little bit, because the last 5 years have been really intense.