We talked to Max Cavalera of Soulfly about their coming show on Rockmaraton Fesztivál this July, we discussed spirituality, music, moshpits and much-much more!
You will be returning to Hungary in less than a month to the festival you played many years ago, but since then you also had a club show. I know you visit a huge number of countries and it might get confusing, but do you have any special memory of Hungary?
Oh yes, I love playing in Hungary, the fans are really great and we always have great shows. I love the whole area of Eastern Europe, I think it is beautiful, I love cities like Budapest, I think it is a beautiful city, I love the architecture, the buildings. I’m a fan of Hungary, I’m really excited to get back!
I heard do you like not only metal, but also folk music and obviously, tribal music is a huge inspiration for your own music, but I was wondering if you’ve heard any Hungarian folk music?
I have not yet, unfortunately, I need to hear more, I’m a big fan of folk music. Of course, metal is my favourite kind of music, I listen to it all the time. I also like the culture of the places we go to, so maybe someone can show me a little bit of Hungarian folk music, maybe I can introduce, put it on the future Soulfly LP!
Have you seen any injuries or some incident on your gigs?
No, most people just want to get the aggression out. The way I see it, for a lot of fans who work all the week in a job they hate for a boss they hate, and they go to a Soulfly show and they can let all the anger out, let all those feelings out. I was talking to an MMA fighter from England, Dan Hardy, he said he broke 10 ribs in a Soulfly moshpit once. I figure the most of it is very peaceful, we look out for each other – if I see someone getting beat up, I stop the show and make them stop beating each other. I also don’t let security beat up the fans, I don’t allow that in my show, that doesn’t happen. The rest is, well, I let the people have fun. The music is aggressive so you have to let the people let the aggression out. I let the aggression out in my own way, I’m not in the pit but I’m on the stage and I hit my guitar, I treat my guitar like a machine gun, I shoot, I feel like I’m at war. When I go on the stage, it is very serious business, I actually let all those feelings out like going to war.
What is the correct way to treat support bands on tours?
You give them a chance to open the show, that is a really big thing. We go as far as saying hi, taking pictures with them, a lot of times we don’t actually get to see their show when we arrive a little bit later. Sometimes they give us their band t-shirts and of course, we keep those. I think that is the right way. I like this because I think everyone has to start somewhere. I opened for bands many-many years back in Brazil, with Sepultura. To tell you the truth, we weren’t always treated so well, which kind of sucks. I try not to do that, I try to be as nice as possible, give them a soundcheck, let them take some pictures and give them an opportunity to show their performance to the audience.
How much pressure do you experience from labels to do certain things, or are you given complete freedom in your actions?
I have complete freedom. In fact, we never had trouble with any labels. We have been to very cool labels, right now we are with Nuclear Blast. After the last album, I’m free to go wherever I want, I can go to every label in the world, I can move, but I don’t know where I’m going to go next, I haven’t thought about it yet. I don’t let any label tell me how to play my music. I will play my music the way I want it – if I want to make it all black metal, if I want to make it all doom metal, if I want to make it whatever, jazz, I can make jazz. I care for the fans. I try very hard to maintain a level of professionalism and a level of quality in my work. I think the records I create… If you listen to our album Ritual, a lot of people say it is their favourite Soulfly album in a long time, even the favourite since the first one and that is saying a lot, because that is twenty years of making albums. To me it is more important to please myself, because first of all, I am a metal fan, I’m not just a musician but also a fan, so I got to please myself, and I have to please my audience, I also have to play what they want to hear. But I think it works great, the stuff I like is very similar to the stuff they like. They see me wearing band shirts and they also like those bands, too – Gatecreeper, Gojira, the fans also like these bands and they see that I like these bands, too. I think my connection with the Soulfly fans is very-very strong. We are preparing a very-very special setlist for this European tour, it is going to surprise a lot of people because there will be some really cool jam sessions between songs they have not heard before.
You had a co-headline tour with Nile, a guest appearance with Devildriver, Dave Grohl wrote the foreword for your book – are you friends with any of these bands? Are you able to maintain friendships across the show biz?
Yes, but you know, it is a different kind of friendship, it is not like friendship with the guy you grew up with, who lived across the street and you see them every day. You don’t see those guys every day, but they are all my friends! It is great because I’m also a fan of all their work, I love Dave Grohl and I love all the guys. I pretty much met all my heroes, so that is really cool to me. For a kid from Brazil, my dream came true, I met Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson – they are my heavy metal heroes. I met all of them! I consider them friends in a way, but they are also my idols. It is very very cool to get to work with a lot of them. On the last record of Soulfly, we had Randy from Lamb of God, we had Ross from Immolation. I also like underground black metal and death metal, we’re friends with guys from Dark Funeral, and so on. We are friends with a lot of people! It is so fun to go to Europe and see all your friends, especially on festivals. This is why I like a lot of festivals, you get to see a lot of cool people, good people and good bands.
You consider yourself a spiritual person, have you considered some retreat that is fashionable now, into some Buddhist place, just to be on your own or anything like that? or where DO you find your peace?
My peace is at home, actually. I live in an area of Arizona, Phoenix, but I have two houses, one is in the city and one is in the desert. The desert house is very spiritual. When I go there, I don’t hear anything – I don’t hear cars, I don’t hear neighbours, I only hear nature, this is my spiritual place. When I’m not touring, this is the perfect place for me for writing music, for thinking about my thoughts. I have actually a lot of ideas for the future, I want to make a documentary about my life in entirety, we want to work on different kinds of projects and different ideas, and when I’m not touring, I come here and relax and live my spiritual life. I think it is great.
You had a video with 360°, do you have any even more innovative ideas for the future, or what new technologies do you plan to use?
I wanted to do for a video for Dead Behind the Eyes, that was the song with Randy. My idea was to dress us as characters from the movie Hellraiser, the song is about Cenobites and Hellraisers, and the whole pinhead and all those really crazy psychotic characters. Unfortunately, we haven’t made it yet, I’m still fighting with the label, I think it would be okay to make a video even now, even after the album has been out for so long, I think it is okay to put a video out. There is no rules, man. That’s what I like about metal, there is no rules – you make your own rules. You follow no rule, you create your own rule. The other song I love is Feedback! in the end of the CD. It is a big tribute to Motörhead, it is a Motorhead-support kind of song, I thought it would be kind of cool to make a video with us all dressed as Lemmys and play this video, looking like Lemmy. Maybe we are still going to make these videos, maybe we will do them real cheap and do them ourselves, and fuck it and put it out there. I think right now the world is in a very strange moment, you have the Internet, which is kind of out of control, you put some videos there and you get a million views. So many people go to the internet, they don’t read magazines any more, it is all in the internet, all in the Instagram, Facebook. People just use Facetime, you kind of lose the human touch. I’m kind of a caveman, I don’t have an Instagram page, I don’t have a Facebook page, I’m kind of a secret kind of guy like that. I like to be more mysterious and don’t have myself out there that much. But these do help, my wife does that a lot, Gloria, she is in contact with a lot of people on Facebook and Instagram. It helps the band, it helps to promote yourself.
You are doing parallelly both Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy, how do you have the energy for all of this?
In the future, I would like to concentrate more on Soulfly. Soulfly is definitely going to be my main band, it is the one I’m going to spend more time with. Cavalera is cool because it is with my brother and we play classic records like Beneath the Remains and Arise, we are going to play Chaos A.D. My main goal is Soulfly. But of course there are other projects as well, it is good to have different outlets of music. I would like to have a project with my kids, with my sons, because they all play music now and we could do a record with them now – just do something really cool, I don’t care how many copies sell. Just to have a family thing, you know. I mean, how many fathers can make an album with their sons? It is kind of rare, but I have two sons that can play very very well and I could make a whole record with them any time. Even right now, if I want to, I can make a record with them. That would be a cool idea for the future.
Your son has been drumming in your band for six years now, how has this affected the band dynamic? Is it good to have some young blood within the band?
Yes, it is a lot of energy, a lot of youth, a lot of fresh blood into Soulfly! I love our lineup right now! We have Marc Rizzo, he’s been with me since 2004. I joke with people, I say Marc Rizzo and I, we are both Italians, so it is like a mafia, we made a contract in blood – he cannot leave! If he leaves, I have to kill him, you know! If he leaves Soulfly, I send people out to kill him. He has to stay with Soulfly! (laughs) Then we have Mike Leon, he is a very thrash metal person, I like the world he comes from, the thrash world, he likes a lot of the stuff I listen to. And then my son, that is the greatest story, that is the big story – son and father playing together! He is a great drummer now, Zyon is very-very creative, very aggressive, very powerful. I think his drumming on Ritual is my favourite thing. He is also my physical trainer since I am getting old, getting 50 this August, so I need to work for staying in shape. He is my physical trainer, my bandmate, and my son, all in one, which is fantastic.
The Brazil flag is present in many of your things, backdrops, guitars – is this a part of your identity that is important to you and you work on passing it on in your family?
Brazil is such a sad country, there is so much violence, the only good thing is sometimes winning a football world championship… I feel like I have this responsibility to present Brazil to the world. This is a different kind of patriotism, I am proud of the culture Brazil has, I love the nature. The North of Brazil is where I want to get old.
In an earlier interview, you said that one of your great grandmothers has Indian heritage. Have you since been able to explore more about this side of your heritage, especially that you work with such elements in your music?
I have actually done this DNA testing where you send in your saliva for examination. The results were so exciting, an incredibly big part, I think half I am actually Eastern European, there are Russian, Italian and even Portuguese and Spanish roots, but even some African, which is surprising! And yes, I am very proud of the native roots of my great grandmother! I love the rituals they still do in the rainforest, I am going to return there and I got actually invited to be part of these rituals which is amazing.
What can we expect from Soulfly for 2020?
There is going to be a new album, and I want to do something different. I want to rent a place and live like a community with the band, so we have time to actually bond. I want to go there for a month and to just work, play music. Like Red Hot Chilli Peppers did for Blood Sugar Sex Magik – just go to a house and play all day long, day and night for a month, and then record it. Actually, I have been thinking to choose a place in Europe for this, but I don’t know yet, where exactly.
By: Vica, TM
Pics: Soulfly official Facebook page