» Max Cavalera - Soulfly
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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.

Tobbe: 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 really cool.

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.

Some 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 setlist.

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 records?

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]

Tobbe: 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 year?

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 record.

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 record?

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 that out.

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.

Tobbe: 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 know.

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 so persistent?

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.

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