The always prolific Max Cavalera’s schedule has been mighty busy during the past few years, juggling both the long-running, more experimental Soulfly and the recent creation of the rawer, heavier Cavalera Conspiracy. Soulfly will release their eighth studio album Enslaved this week, featuring guest appearances from DevilDriver/Coal Chamber frontman Dez Fafara and Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitation, as well as Cavalera’s own children. Enslaved also showcases a rejigged lineup, featuring new additions Tony Campos (Static-X, Asesino, Ministry) on bass and drummer David Kinkade. Just a few hours prior to performing a blistering set with Cavalera Conspiracy during the band’s recent Australian tour, Loud caught up with the former Sepultura mainman at his Sydney hotel to discuss the creation of the new album, juggling his various projects, his forthcoming autobiography and vomiting on Eddie Vedder.
Q: I’ve been listening to the new Soulfly album and it seems you’ve now made a rather clear musical distinction between that band and Cavalera Conspiracy. Is that how you approach the bands, such as when you’re writing a riff you know which project it will be suitable for?
A: Yeah, Soulfly’s still more elaborate and Cavalera is more shorter, the songs are shorter, more metal, kinda hardcore/metal. It’s more direct. The Soulfly material is longer; the songs are like five, six minutes, some of them even seven minutes. Like “Chains” on the new record is like seven minutes-and-a-half. They are longer so they have more parts. But I like that, being different between bands, you know? That Soulfly is longer and Cavalera is shorter. It’s cool to keep them separate like that, so they’re not the same project.
Q: It seemed like with the first Conspiracy album that the distinction perhaps wasn’t as clear, but (second album) Blunt Force Trauma definitely changed that perception.
A: Yeah, definitely.
Q: From where did you derive your lyrical inspiration on Enslaved?
A: I think that the idea behind the Enslaved record to me is 80 per cent of the music, especially the riffs, are coming from a death metal mentality and are very much death metal riffs. There could be like old Morbid Angel songs or Death or Dark Angel, which is bands I listen to when I grow up. I loved the aggression from these bands and I always miss that. What I did not like about those bands was the fact that they were all just Satanic and they were all just singing about hell, the devil and shit like that. To me, it was kinda boring and I thought it would be cool if we had the music of death metal, but with like political lyrics and slavery lyrics. So that’s where “slave” comes in. It takes the energy of death metal, but it doesn’t have the Satanic stuff.
Q: Interesting. Dez Fafara makes an appearance on this record too. I believe he’s a long-time friend of yours; given the band’s history of collaborations is there any reason it’s taken this long to get him to appear on a Soulfly album?
A: No reason really, we’ve been friends for a long time, but it never worked out. When I was making the record I thought of him and it was perfect timing, ‘cause he was going to be in Phoenix with DevilDriver and it was really easy to make the connection, bring him to the studio and show him the song. He really got into it, we did it and it was great. “World Scum”, that has Travis (Ryan) from Cattle Decapitation, that was a little bit different. I wrote the song, sang one of my parts and left all of the other parts open. I send the song to Travis in San Diego and he went to the studio by himself and put it on. Which is something I normally don’t do, I normally work with a musician, so we’re face-to-face in the studio. But we didn’t have enough time to do that on “World Scum”, so I end up just sending the song and getting the song back from him. But it was cool, I like what he did.
Q: “Revengeance” on the new album is also about your slain stepson Dana, whose death was the catalyst for the creation of Soulfly. Your sons appear on the track; Igor and Richie on vocals, and Zyon on drums. Did you feel it was vital to include them on that particular song?
A: It was fun to do, and it was also a real personal song. As you say it’s about their brother that was murdered; it’s a heavy topic. Some of Richie’s lyrics were taken from Dana’s diary and that makes it really special and really emotional. Just having my kids in the studio is fun and different from the rest of the recordings, which was with the other Soulfly guys. So one day of the recording, we had like all the family people coming in and doing riffs and drumming and shit, so it was cool. It was different.
Q: Are you a hard taskmaster in the studio when it comes to working with your kids? (laughs)
A: A little bit (laughs). I wanted them to do it as good as possible, you know? So I was like, “you better know what you’re doing”. So I told Igor that he was singing and he never sang in the studio before. So I told him as much as I was gonna help him, I told him to be prepared too. Like, “have your lyrics ready and be certain of what you’re going to sing”. But he was, he was pretty prepared. I think “Revengeance” is a cool song because of the vibe of it is different from the rest of the record; it’s much more raw-sounding from the rest of the album. It’s got real heavy, raw guitars and I like that it changes the sound of the record in the end. So we end the record with “Revengeance” and it changes the sound, it’s much more raw than the rest of the record. I like that, it kinda made it cool for the record to end with that song for some reason.
Q: You have a new lineup on the album as well. What did your two new members bring to to the table?
A: Well, Tony is a great bass player, man. He’s played in a lot of great bands – Ministry, Prong, Asesino and he’s just an amazing all-round, great bass player. Has a great bass sound and knows his shit, you know? Knows how to play in a band and how to make songs exciting and build up parts and things like that. David, I especially picked him because of the way he plays drums, very extreme, comes from a death metal school of drumming. He can play all the old stuff like Terrorizer, Morbid Angel, easy. Double-bass and fast shit, blast-beats. To me it was a chance to actually make a Soulfly record more extreme. Having a drummer that can play that stuff; which is not easy. Having an extreme drummer allows me to write extreme songs. So I took advantage of the situation and wrote a more extreme record.
Q: Do you feel Cavalera Conspiracy has pushed you to make Soulfly heavier overall?
A: Maybe a little bit, maybe the influence of having… Although the Soulfly songs are longer in comparison with Cavalera, which are shorter songs. But in the heavy, aggressive way I think there’s some influence from Cavalera, for sure.
Q: Soulfly is renowned for its collaborative spirit, but who haven’t you worked with yet that you’d really like to in the future?
A: There’s a couple of guys, like veteran guys I really like, like Ozzy, Lemmy are two guys I would really like to work with. From the thrash era, James Hetfield and Phil from Pantera are two of the names that I think would be great to do a song with. But, let’s see.
Q: Have you contemplated just calling one of those guys out of the blue and asking them?
A: I know all of them personally, I met all of them. I’ve been to Ozzy’s house and have toured with Phil. I’m sure if I ask at the right time, I’m pretty sure that they would probably do it. I’ve just never had the balls yet (laughs), to actually do it.
Q: (Laughs) To call Phil Anselmo and say, “hey, will you do a song with me?”
A: Yeah (laughs). But one of these days I think it will happen.
Q: Good to hear. Now this is your last run of shows with the Conspiracy before Soulfly are back in action I believe.
A: Yeah, Cavalera is done after this for quite a while, ‘till next year. Then I go from here, I go back to Soulfly. We go to Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico and then we’ll have an American tour with Five Finger Death Punch, which should be awesome.
Q: They are a very popular band Stateside.
A: Yeah, they’re really popular in America and so the venues are bigger and they specifically ask us to open the tour, which is very exciting for us. The guys in the band are fans of my music and yeah, the offer came and I was really pleased because it’s at the right time, right when the album’s coming out. So we’ll be able to give Soulfly some exposure, maybe make some new fans.
Q: I understand you also have another musical project in the works as well – a collaboration with The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato. What can you reveal about that?
A: Yeah, I’m doing the thing with Greg, like a Nailbomb kinda project. We worked on “Rise of the Fallen” (from Soulfly’s previous album Omen) and it really came out great. We became good friends and we did jams together. Out of the blue, Greg had this idea that I should do a Nailbomb Part II with him, so it was his idea. So he started calling me all the time and I’m like, “Oh God, stop calling, man, I’m too busy, I got Soulfly and Cavalera,” (laughs). He would never let up and so I finally told him, “alright, let’s do it, you’re not gonna give up on it, so let’s do it”. We started jamming and it was cool, we wrote like 15 songs together and it turned out really cool. Then we got together with Dave (Elitch) from Mars Volta, the drummer, and we jammed in L.A. We got four songs done and I think we’re gonna get Nate (Newton) from Converge to play bass on the record, so that should come out later in the year. It should be pretty good.
Q: Indeed. Shifting topics, I know you have an autobiography in the works. What can you tell us about that?
A: Yeah, it’s gonna be released around Christmas. I’m finishing up all the interviews; I did like a thousand interviews, man. It was crazy; going through all my life and it has really cool details of things that happened in my life. Like how I got Sepultura signed for example, which was, I had to travel to America on a free ticket from a Pan Am. I had to go as a Pan Am employee, so I had to wear a tie (laughs) and my hair pulled back, which was hilarious. I have the picture (of) arriving in New York with that, and everybody laughing at me. All the guys that picked me up, like Don Kaye and Monte Conner, and they’re all laughing. They’re like, “this is their metal hero, showing up in a tie”, you know? So that’s gonna be in the book and there will be all the funny stuff like (being) on tour with Ministry when I puke on Eddie Vedder, that became a famous story.
Q: Has he spoken to you since?
A: No, I never talk to him after that (laughs). I actually puke on him, then he cleaned himself up, didn’t get mad, and right after that I asked for an autograph for my sister (laughs). Which was like the absurd thing to do, I just got done puking on the guy and asked him for an autograph. But he was pretty cool; he was hanging out with the Ministry guys. Stuff like that is going to be in the book. Dave Grohl is doing the intro of the book, I thought he would be cool because he’s a fan and I did the Probot thing with him, and he was really cool. He’s a huge name in music and it would be awesome to have him writing the intro of the book.
Q: What was the hardest topic you had to delve into for the autobiography – Dana’s death, the split with Sepultura?
A: Those together, as they’re both connected. Very much the hardest chapter I think is going to be the death of Dana, leading into the break-up of Sepultura, which in my life is a low point. There have been two low points in my life; there’s been the death of my father when I was nine, which led me to get into music, and then the death of Dana and the break-up from Sepultura. Those are the crucial points. But from all of them, something good has come out of it. Like from the death of my father, Sepultura came, and from the death of Dana and break-up from Sepultura, Soulfly came. So there’s good things that came out of both things, so a lot of tragedy, unfortunately, but good stuff comes out of it.
Q: How no-holds-barred where you about it – did you hold back on certain topics at the risk of upsetting someone?
A: No, I tried to be as honest as possible. It was really kinda hard to go through that period and bring that back, of what happened. But I tried to be as clear as (to) why I left, and why I couldn’t play with them anymore and how the feelings were towards Dana’s death and everything. So it’s going to be very explained in the book; a lot of people, once they read, they’re going to understand why I left Sepultura once and for all and maybe stop asking me questions, you know?
Q: Do you feel like your side of the story with regard to the split with Sepultura has never been fully told? It seems like during the past 15 years a lot of hearsay and rumours have been more or less accepted as fact.
A: Yeah, a lot of people take rumours and just listen to rumours or stuff that’s been created over the years that are not really true. So I hope this will put an end to that. Some of the things, especially from the break-up point, a lot of what I heard in the press and that, I don’t agree with it. So I think it’s good to have this book as a vehicle of expression that I can tell the story of how I feel and what I think happened. So these people can read and understand my side of the story.
Q: Sounds like it’ll be a pretty lengthy book then (laughs).
A: Yeah, it should be good. We did a lot of interviews and it covers everything from my childhood to beginning of Sepultura, to Soulfly.
Q: Who’s helping you with the writing and sifting through all of those recollections?
A: The writer is Joel McIver, he’s an English guy, he’s done an unofficial Metallica book that did really good. He did a Cliff Burton book, Randy Rhoads and Glenn Hughes also. So I chose him, I thought he’d be a great guy to do it with, so I started talking to him, we started doing interviews and it’s going great. So hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have it done.
Q: Are you an active reader of music autobiographies?
A: Yeah, I actually read a Motörhead one that was really good. I read the Ozzy one. There was a new one that just came out, Tony Iommi, called Iron Man. I want to read that, because I’m a big Tony Iommi fan. To me he’s the greatest guitar riff player ever, so I’d like to get into his head and maybe there’s some tricks (laughs), I can learn.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: No, just thanks and looking forward to being back here with Soulfly hopefully in the near future. Should be great; I love Australia, love to come back here and play more.