“You can’t let fears of other people let you down when you are making music. You have to follow your heart and I always follow my heart!”
Legendary groove metal band SOULFLY return with its new album “Savages” which is going to be released in October 2013 by Nuclear Blast. Metalpaths grabbed the chance to talk with one of the most legendary figures in heavy metal, the main creator of “Savages” and founder of Soulfy; Mr. Max Cavalera.
In a pretty spicy interview Max talks about everything around “Savages”; From what inspired him to name the album like this, to the recording process and from the great story behind “El Comegende” track, to be working with the famous producer Terry Date.
Furthermore, Max talks about an unnamed super-band side-project with members of Dillinger Escape Plan and Mastodon (!!!) while on the other hand he reveals his plans of making a grindcore record with Cavalera Conspiracy next year! Last but not least, he talks about the future plans of Soulfly and shares his thoughts about a possible Sepultura reunion! Observe….by Panagiotis Karagiannidis
You can also listen to the audio format of the interview using the player below:
Hello Max and greetings from Greece. It’s an honor talking with you. Where do I find you at the moment?
Well, I’m actually at home, only for another hour and then I’m driving to California. Tomorrow I start the recordings for an un-named (so far) project with guys of Dillinger Escape Plan and Mastodon. We are entering the Fortress studio in L.A, with the producer Josh Wilbur (Lamb Of God, Gojira), and we are going to make a full record, which is going to be released next year. I’m very excited about this album and for the new Soulfly record, ‘Savages’, which comes out in October. I’m also working on a new record right now, so it’s always busy here, but it is good, it feels great.
You are about to release your new album “Savages” in October. What inspired you to name the album like this?
The title refers to the state of humanity in general, about the human condition of the world right now. We have advanced technology but we are still killing each other and we are still decapitating all the people in Middle East. We are using chemical weapons like in Syria for example, so we are still “savages” in many ways. I like the title, I think it is a simple title. It is a strong word, very powerful and it means a lot of different things. I always liked the word ‘savages’ and I thought it would be a great title. We made the album covered with a big skull, screaming at you which I think together with the name ‘savages’ and the songs like ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ ‘El Comegente’ and ‘Ayatollah Of Rock ‘N’ Rolla ‘and ‘Fallen’, they are all connected with the savages’ theme. It is a really strong album I think with really cool guests. The essence of the album is very powerful, because I think the half of ‘Savages’ is the continuation of ‘Enslaved’ in the extreme area and the other half is softer, like ‘Primitive’, ‘Prophecy’. ‘Savages’ is more like a combination of those two. It is a powerful record, I’m proud of it!
So can we say that “Savages” is the continuation of “Enslaved” ? Is there a deeper connection between the two albums maybe?
The half of songs in ‘Savages’ could be on ‘Enslaved’, like ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, ‘Fallen’ and ‘K.C.S’ which features Mitch from Napalm Death. Those songs are extreme songs, very heavy songs. They could be on ‘Enslaved’ for sure! So in that area, ‘Savages’ is a continuation of ‘Enslaved’, but there are also new things like “Ayatollah Of Rock N Rolla” which is totally new. I’ve never done a song like that, with Neil from Clutch putting on some talking word on top of this. It is very cool. The main course is like Queen of the Stone Age, kinda of a rock beat, but in the meantime the course is very metal, very Soulfly. So that’s completely different of everything we have ever done, I’m very proud of this song. I think it shows the new side of Soulfly. It shows people that Soulfly can expand, that Soulfly can still show something new to the fans. We can share some new sounds, some new ideas. I also love the extreme side of Soulfly. ‘Fallen’ is one of my favorite songs. It sounds very death metal like Cannibal Corpse. Marc’s riffs on it are very death metal and Jamie from I Declare War put some very brutal vocals on it. I love a lot of these new bands like I Declare War. For me the association with new groups is important. I promote them, I’m in contact with these bands and for me is where metal is going these days. It is going in a heavy area with a lot of cool new bands. It was very cool to have Jamie singing on ‘Fallen’. He put brutal kind of vocals and made the song be kinda part of this new generation of metal that I like. So I think it is also good that it shows Soulfly going into the future. We are not afraid of getting contact with new bands and be influenced by them as well. It shows the band is moving to the future, growing further and further.
Tell us a few words around the composing process of “Savages”. Are all the songs included in the album new compositions or maybe you used any tracks that have been left-out from the “Enslaved” record?
Some riffs from ‘Fallen’ or ‘K.C.S’ were left out of ‘Enslaved’ , but I worked with new stuff only for ‘Savages’ because when I found out we will be working with Terry Date I got very excited. I knew it was going to be a great record. I immersed myself into the job of writing riffs, so I wrote maybe a thousand riffs for ‘Savages’, ending up using maybe fifty of those riffs. It was a big selection to try and find the best ones for the album. I got to work the whole night, writing at home. The system I used was very cool. I wrote in the morning and in the afternoon I went in a room with my son Zyon and we made the songs with drums and guitars. The foundation of the songs was all done here at home, before we entered the studio. I haven’t worked like this since the Sepultura days, during the recordings of the “Arise”, when we used to rehearse the whole album before we entered the studio and when we entered the studio we knew what to do exactly. There wasn’t any much experimentation in the studio. ‘Savages’ is more like that. I played for three months with Zyon at home and we knew exactly what was going to be in the album before the recordings. We left the experimentation for other guys like Mark who did a lot of guitar experimentation in the studio.
I like Zyon’s energy and when he joined Soulfly a year ago when he played a couple of shows with us, we felt this burst of energy in the band. We haven’t seen that much energy in a long time. It was like the revival of the Soulfly’s sound and there was much more energy coming out of the band. Mark and Tony felt the same way. That was what I wanted to capture with Zyon; his energy. So I let him play the way he plays. I didn’t really change his drumming style at all. He has a very unique drum style, very similar to my brother Igor. He hits very hard, he is very powerful the grooves he can put in a song are very cool. He does a lot of tom work, he uses toms a lot. I explored that and I told Tony: ‘We really need to explore the energy of this kid. He is only twenty one!’. Finally, that’s exactly what we did and I think it was a good idea to work with him. As a father I am very proud of him of course. But I believe he did an awesome work as a musician too. I’m very proud of how he recorded the sessions of ‘Savages’. He took it really seriously and did an excellent work. It was a great idea to have him in the album I think.
Did you put your son into music since he was a child or he became a musician on his own decision?
He was always into music. He toured with me all the time with Sepultura. He went to every single Sepurtura tour that I was, as well as with Soulfly. He started playing drums really early. He always liked drums. In fact both him and his brother Igor have playing drums, but Igor finally changed in guitar and singing and they have a band together ‘Lody Kong’ and its really cool. They did really good together; it reminds me and Igor in Sepultura. Zyon was always into beats. When he was four years old he was always banging the drums, he was always carrying drumsticks with him… So I always knew he will end up being a drummer, I always felt that for him, he was going to have it anyway.
How has been working with Terry Date again on the production?
Amazing! I thought Terry would come in and say ‘I don’t like that’ and ‘I don’t like this’ and change anything. However, he didn’t do that at all and he explained to me why he didn’t do it. He told me; Max, the original idea is always the best idea! When you start fucking with something, start messing it up, it destroys the original idea; something which is good will turn into shit. So I like what he did with ‘Savages’. The work I did with Zyon at home was perfect, was the original idea. He wanted to capture that. He didn’t want to change anything! It was perfect the way it was and it was recorded that way. He did it man! It was a pleasure working with him. He is very professional but also very friendly and a fan of the music. I recorded the vocals next to him in the control room. I’ve never done that before, it was the first time in my life. It was a great experience. We worked song by song and in the end of every song we shook hands. It was like ‘mission completed’! Then we passed into another song. It was a great teamwork. I think Terry wanted to do a record for us for a long time and I wanted that too. So it was the perfect mix of two people that wanted to work together! The final result of ‘Savages’ is amazing, he did a great job.
There is a song in Spanish which is called “El Comegente” and there is a cool story behind it. Would you like to tell us what this song is talking about?
“El Comegente” means ‘people eater’. It is the story of Vargas, a Venezuelan cannibal serial killer from the 80’s. This guy was completely nuts and he used to kill people and eat them. He made soup with eyeballs and stuff like that. Me and Tony found out his story on the internet and we downloaded some videos of him talking about his victims. He is in a madhouse these days, in a hospital for mental illness people. We thought he could be the best idea for a song, because he is a cannibal and it is related with savages. We sang in Portuguese and Spanish, which is mine and Tony’s language. It is a continuation of what we did on ‘Plata o Plomo’, which is a big song on ‘Enslaved’ record. A lot of people like this song and we decided to do ‘El Comegente’ which is ‘Plata o Plomo’ number two. The only difference ‘El Comegente’ has is a piece, about three minutes long after the five minutes song, with an acoustic jam session a little bit like Led Zeppelin. Mark created this jam with flamingo guitars. It is a really killer one and Mark did a great piece of instrumental to end the song. The actual song, ‘El Comegente’ is a little bit a mix of Gojira meets Meshuggah. It is a really resonant kind of riffs, with a lot of different kind of weird beats. It is a really interesting song to work with and we did an excellent job in vocals in Portuguese and Spanish and the story is really unique. Not a lot of people know about this cannibal guy’s story so I think people now can go to youtube or the internet and watch videos with him or see pictures of him. He was nicknamed ‘Hannibal Lecter of the Andes’.
Let’s talk about your other activities… Do you have any news regarding Cavalera Conspiracy?
I have an idea about how I want the new album to sound like and it is very powerful. It is a combination of stuff I’m listening to like Neos, Pulling Teeth and Trap Them and like a lot of this… I want to make a grindcore album with Cavalera Conspiracy. I think that would surprise everybody again. I have to talk to Igor about it and he will go crazy on the drums, he is going to have a lot of energy. But for me it would be the perfect album to make; a grindcore album. I’ve never done an album like that before in my life. It could be amazing to put that record out so I’m gonna try it.
What does the Cavalera Conspiracy project mean for you and what are the differences between working for a Soulfly record and a Cavalera Conspiracy record? Do you have a different approach for each band when it comes about music?
Yeah…even the idea to make a grindcore album for the Cavalera Conspiracy is certainly different from a Soulfly album. I have a different approach. Working with Igor is also different; I have a long history of making metal with my brother. We go back a long time ago. When I play metal with Igor is very powerful, I have a connection with him and people can see that. All the fans of both Cavalera Conspiracy and Soulfly agree that when I’m on stage with Igor it is a very explosive combination. That’s what we try to keep alive; the spirit of the brothers. We play metal since we were thirteen and I’m forty four now, so it is a long time of playing metal together and I think I have a great connection with Igor. We haven’t talked for ten years and now we are back playing metal again and making music again. Cavalera Conspiracy is a great band. For me it was an insane project when it came out. I have Joe of Gojira in bass, so it is something refreshing and stuff like ‘Inflikted’ and ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘Ulta-Violent’ are really powerful stuff. They were done different from Soulfly. Soulfly have their unique style and I love it. I like to elaborate with Soulfly and create records for them. But what I do with Cavalera Conspiracy is also very special and very cool.
On the other hand you also did some guest vocals for the forthcoming album of Man Must Die…
Yes I did. They are a good band, I like them. They are from Scotland and I love Scotland. It is in another area of the world. They are a pure deathcore band and they participate in the deathcore movement like Psycroptic, Suicide Silence and these types of really heavy stuff, brutal stuff. The guys contacted me and they knew I was a fan of them because I have t-shirts of the band, which I bought by getting in contact with them from the internet. I got my son send them an e-mail, saying that I was a fan of the band and then I got some t-shirts from them. They asked me then to be on their album. They said that they didn’t have a lot of money and I urged them not to worry about money, I would do it for free. I would do it because I like the band and because I am a fan of the music. So, I went in a studio, in Kansas City I think, somewhere in the American Tour. They sent me the lyrics and they sent me the song. It is a great and powerful one. I put my vocals on it and it was really cool. Can’t wait for the record to come out!
During the years you have been accused by the fans for changing your music directions from thrash metal to more groove and modern sounds. Going back in time, the first reactions for “Roots” were not that good but as the years were passing by “Roots” became an all-time classic record. However there are still some fans that miss the old-school Sepultura. What’s your point of view for this subject and how do you approach the music as the years are passing by?
I’m glad I was involved in all of them. I’m glad I did the old Sepultura stuff like ‘Beneath the Remains’, ‘Arise’ and I’m also glad I did stuff like ‘Roots’, which broke barriers. You can’t let fears of other people let you down when you are making music. You have to follow your heart and I always follow my heart! When everybody talked shit about ‘Roots’ I didn’t care and now it is a great classic album, which a lot of people love. You can’t let this impression of people put you down. You have to just go with your instincts. That’s what I do in my music. That’s what I did in ‘Enslaved’. I wanted to do an extreme metal album and I felt in my heart that was the right record to do. I heard some good responses for ‘Enslaved’, I heard some bad too. That happens. It is impossible to please everybody. I think it is actually a mistake to try to please everybody. You’ll end up in a bad spot, trying to please every person in the world. You have to say; ok I will deal with it, because that’s what I want to do, that’s what the album is going to be like. You move on and you do another record, another song and life goes on. I’m proud with everything I’ve ever done. I’m proud of Sepultura’s stuff, Cavalera Conspiracy, Soulfly. I wouldn’t change anything; it was all big part of my music history.
Returning to Soulfly, what are your future plans? Have you scheduled any tour?
Yes, we have an American tour in October with Havok and we have a European tour in the end of February. The European tour is with DevilDriver and we hope to come in Greece with this package as well. Soulfly and DevilDriver is a great package for the fans. I love both bands and I think DevilDriver’s last album, ‘Winter Kills’, was great. It will be great sharing the stage with them. Next year will be all on the road, except in sometime in January when I’m going to try to record the grindcore record with Cavalera Conspiracy.
Before closing this interview there is one question that I couldn’t resist to ask…. Would you be positive for a possible Sepultura reunion-tour?
It’s possible but it is very difficult. A lot of policies are involved with the Sepultura guys and their management. They are managed by a dentist you know, he doesn’t know anything about the business. That makes them hard to operate in a normal way. I think that’s why the band isn’t going anywhere. More and more they go down to the ground every year. Less people like them. For some reason they don’t really seem to get the idea that a reunion tour would be the best thing to do for the fans and for the name of the band. I would like to do it for myself and for the fans, especially because everybody is here and it is possible. For example, Pantera can’t do a reunion tour because Dimebag is not here but with Sepultura everybody is here, everybody is still alive. We can do it but it is not up to me. There are many people that need to get involved and make this thing happen. That may happen in the future, but in the meantime I’m getting busy creating my music music for the fans.
Thanks for your time Max. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Best wishes with your new releases and hope to see you soon in Greece.
Thanks a lot man, take care!