INTERVIEW: Max Cavalera

There’s no introduction needed for living metal legend Max Cavalera. He’s amassed an ever-expanding post-Sepultura discography, and he’s not letting up anytime soon—and that goes for the studio and the stage. He’s been performing “Return to Roots” live with brother Iggor, commemorating the influential 1996 Sepultura album, and also playing another fan favorite, Nailbomb’s “Point Blank,” live in full with Soulfly. But that’s still not enough for Max. Beginning April 17, Soulfly hits the road with Nile on the “From the Amazon to the Nile” tour. (View tour dates here.) In addition to embracing the past, there is a plethora of killer music that Max already has released or soon will be releasing: Killer Be Killed, Cavalera Conspiracy’s  “Psychosis” (Live Metal Best of 2017 pick), Soulfly’s “Archangel” and a new Soulfly album on the way this year.

Saying I’m a huge fan of all of Max’s music is an understatement. No apologies here if I come across as a fanboy. We cover just about everything, from the anniversary tours to details and descriptions of the upcoming Soulfly album, to what he watches on TV. And I found out the most important question of all: Is this the end for Nailbomb?

LIVE METAL: It’s obviously well known throughout the rock and metal world that you’re just a busy, busy guy with all of your bands and projects, but what is a typical “day off” for Max Cavalera? Are you cutting grass, barbecuing, shopping and doing the normal things or is it 100 percent music all the time?

MAX CAVALERA: Yeah, most of the time it’s music, but sometimes I’ll take a little time off. I’ll watch series with my wife a lot at nighttime. We got into a lot of those shows like “The Following,” “The Killing”—the Netflix type shit. I like those murder shows. We also watch a lot of American History Channel because there’s a lot of those biblical stories. And if we’re on tour, we go to museums a lot. But most of the time, it’s just music, man. It always just goes back to music. So I’ll take a little time off, but most of the time, it’s back to work, or I’ll listen for inspiration.

OK, so on to the music. With your many projects, when you’re writing riffs, how do you decide what riffs and music are for Cavalera Conspiracy, Soulfly or Killer Be Killed? Do you set aside certain times or writing sessions for each?

I like writing for a specific record, because it can kind of shape the direction I want to go to. Like “Archangel” was very biblical with a lot of really heavy riffs, and then “Psychosis” was more of a death and thrash metal mix. The new Soulfly has got a lot of grooves on it, but it’s all still very fast. So I like writing for each record, and I immerse myself in the record, and I can only think about that album. It’s kind of like it becomes an obsession, and I don’t get satisfied until it’s done the right way, the way I envisioned it in my head. The things that’s cool is that even when you plan the record, sometimes it comes out different than what you envisioned. And it always surprises me a little bit. Every record is a little bit different, and every record is different that what you planned in your head. But that’s the beauty of it, that’s the magic of it. And I get a lot of excitement and motivation when I go to make a new record. The process of making a new record, for me, is totally a magical thing that happens.

And now, this is Soulfly’s 11th album, and I got all the Sepultura stuff, Nailbomb, Killer Be Killed, Cavalera Conspiracy—it’s a long list. (laughs) But it’s real fun, and I really enjoy the whole process.

I don’t think you’ve ever had an album that’s disappointed me in any way. Even if not the entire album, there’s been something on every album or every release you’ve ever been on for me.

Thanks, man. I appreciate it. We try hard, but sometimes here and there, there are songs that don’t click or come out as cool as it could’ve. But it’s kind of like a trial and error thing. There’s no training (for this); we learn it all with life. It’s like falling and getting back again and trying again. Really, part of the journey is making mistakes and trying to fix those mistakes and try to get better.

For me, records are like an extension. I can go back on a record and remember exactly what my life was at that time. They’re really personal, and they really become part of you. I love the whole process of making an album and creating and getting inspiration for it. I get so excited when something clicks. When a good song clicks or when a good riff comes on, it’s always so much fun.

Yeah, I’ve heard other bands and artists describe their albums as their “babies” or their “children.”

It’s kind of like that, yeah. So I have a big family. (laughs)

And a growing family, too. Since you mentioned Soulfly, what is the current status of the new album, and is there anything you can tell me about it that hasn’t been put out there already?

It’s kind of hard to describe, but it’s got a lot of groove and fast stuff, and we brought some of the percussion and the tribal element back. (Guitarist) Marc Rizzo was amazing and was really inspired on this record. Mike (Leon) did really good on bass, and my son, Zyon, really kept tabs on the drums—it’s my favorite record he’s done. He really brought it to a whole another level and even did a couple blast beats, which I didn’t even know he knew how to do blast beats. So we used all that, and we got everything on it.

It’s a strange record—really classic sounding on one hand but crazy on the other. A lot of songs are really wild or weird. Some of them have three choruses, tribal intros and a lot of cool fast stuff, too. I’m really happy that we kept that, because I’ve always loved the death/trash kind of thing. It’s always been a part of me. The first song, “Cenobites,” is one of my favorite songs. It’s all put together really good, and I think this is going to be a quite strong Soulfly record. I fell very positive listening to it, and I think a lot of people are going to like it. I think I’m in a good inspirational mode right now, coming out of “Archangel” and “Psychosis” and, of course, Killer Be Killed. So this (new Soulfly) is part of this really inspired Max that’s been going on.

The Cenobites from “Hellraiser?”

Yeah, I actually did some more reading about it and found out the Cenobites are monks from hundreds of years ago that used to self-inflict pain on themselves. And I think that’s where “Hellraiser” came from. Of course, I like the movie, too, so it’s got a religious and biblical influence and also the “Hellraiser”-type thing. It’s got a huge melodic solo part that reminds me of Swedish death metal like Entombed and At the Gates, and then it goes into this crazy ending with industrial sounds.


Speaking of you being on a roll, I was blown away by the last Cavalera Conspiracy album, “Psychosis” (Read review). To me, it sounded like it could have been released between “Arise” and “Chaos A.D.”

We wanted to go back and make a record with that feeling from that era but with the sound of right now. We had the Godflesh song with Justin (Broadrick) called “Hellfire” and the tribal song, which was “Psychosis” itself, which is like a Mastodon kinda tribal song. Then the rest of it is pure death and thrash, which I love. I grew up with that stuff, and it never left. I still love it, and it’s what I listen to right now. Genocide Pact, Suffocation, Immolation—all that stuff. I fuckin’ love it.

So I’m excited and think we got a lot of good new releases coming up like Behemoth’s new record, Nile’s new record, Soulfly’s new record. (laughs) We are going to have a good 2018.

You’re out once again with Soulfly performing Nailbomb’s “Point Blank” in full. When we spoke in person several years ago in 2009, that was the first question I asked you: “Was there ever going to be anything with Nailbomb again?” And at the time, you told me Nailbomb was “dead” and over with, so why now all these years later did you have the change of heart with Nailbomb and decide to go back out and do this tour?

We’re never gonna make another record, and me and (Fudge Tunnel’s) Alex (Newport) aren’t doing that anymore. But I always though it’d be cool to play that record live again because it’s such a good record. “Point Blank” is one of my favorite records I ever did, and it’s amazing how great the record sounds live. This record was meant to be played live. So we gave it a try last year, and we went on tour with Cannabis Corpse, Harm’s Way, Noisem and Lody Kong, and it was great, man. It was this underground tour, and people loved it. It was small places but packed and everybody really having a great time. And I had a great time myself, so I thought, “I want to do some more of this.” So we decided to do it again right now before the Soulfly record comes out. We have these two tours in front of us with Nailbomb, and then Soulfly and Nile.


I think we’re going to add a couple of things for the Nailbomb (set). We’re adding “While You Sleep, I Destroy Your World,” which was (one of the two new studio tracks) from the live record (“Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide”) and maybe a Dead Kennedys cover. On this run, we have Uncured and Today is the Day and Lody Kong, so we’re keeping it underground again. (We have) shows in Canada, which is cool. We’ve never done as many shows in Canada as we’re doing now.

I’m excited for it, and I’ll get to enjoy it playing with my sons: Zyon on drums and Igor doing keyboards and samplers and vocals, doing Alex’s parts. I get to jam with my kids, and that’s a great feeling for me as a father. It’s something I really treasure, and it’s really special. Once this (tour) is done, I don’t know. We would probably only do Nailbomb for special occasions. But I’m excited for this tour and think it’s going to be a great tour.

Hypothetically speaking, if there ever were to be a new incarnation of Nailbomb, would you have a dream lineup in mind? 

If I were to do another Nailbomb, it would be really cool to get me, Alex and (Ministry’s)Al Jourgensen together. Get the man, because for me, Al Jourgensen is the inventor of industrial metal. He’s such a legend, and I love all the stuff that he does. So he probably would be perfect for it. That would be my dream thing if it ever happened.


At press time, Soulfly’s upcoming 11th album seems to be all but finished. The new album is slated for a tentative summer release via Nuclear Blast, so details and album artwork should be imminent. The follow-up to 2015’s “Archangel” is being recorded with producer Josh Wilbur, who has worked with Lamb Of God, Gojira and All That Remains. Stay tuned to Live Metal for more Soulfly updates.






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