Max Cavalera fosters his tribe of savages

Savages, the new Soulfly album, is a real family business. First, we’re talking about a close, blood related family, with the participation of Zyon Cavalera, Max’s son, who was given carte blanche to compose his own drum parts on the album after working long hours with his father, as the latter pointed out, and of his other son, Igor, who was invited to sing on a track. Then, on a larger scale, Max Cavalera tells us in the following interview about the huge family which was, is and will keep on being a part of Soulfly: its many guests, whom, for Savages, add up to an already extensive list with Jamie Hanks (I Declare War), Neil Fallon (Clutch) and Mitch Harris (Napalm Death). This brings the band leader to tell us about his relationship with his new home: Nuclear Blast, which, just like Roadrunner Records did in the past, seems inclined to let the musician make his own choices and follow his artistic desires.

But beyond Soulfly, Max Cavalera remains an active man. Regarding Cavalera Conspiracy, he doesn’t hesitate and repeats his desires for grindcore on the third album of the act. At the same time, the Brazilian reminds us that his third and new project (gathering Greg Puciato and Troy Sanders) is about to see the light of day and is most likely expected around mid-2014.

« The human race right now has so much evolved, progressed and turned towards the future. […] but we’re still […] killing each other, so we’re still savages. That’s the idea that I wanted to pass onto the record: in our human nature, we’re still savages. »

Radio Metal: Terry Date produced the album. Actually, he previously mixed the 3, Prophecy and Dark Ages albums but never produced an album before this new one. What pushed you to go back to Terry Date this time and to let him do the producing?

Max Cavalera: I always wanted to work with him on a full record. He did mix the other three Soulfly records you mentioned but he didn’t produce the full albums. He has produced Pantera and Deftones, they are friends of ours and they told us great stories about working with Terry and I always wanted to make a record with him. We got in contact with him, I told him that we were ready to make a new record and that we’d love to have him produce it. He was very excited with the idea. So we got to work with him and it was great, he did a great job. I love what he did with the record. We worked together on the vocal and I love it, and also the drum sound, the guitar sound and everything about the record. The studio in Seattle was great. Terry is fantastic to work with, very professional and really fun. It was a great time making the record.

This is a very dark and experimental album. How can you explain that?

That’s what I like with Soulfly. Soulfly has that kind of liberty to be heavy and extreme and at the same time be very experimental. We can come up with a song like “El Comegente”, with full Flamenco kind of jams, and “Ayatollah Of Rock ‘N’ Rolla” with a kind of southern rock beginning and Neil (Fallon) from Clutch doing some talking on top of it. It’s just part of Soulfly. I think it’s really great that we can do that. It makes the album even more interesting for the fans to hear it, because they always get something new and different with each new record.

The album is called Savages. Is it dedicated to human nature? Are we still savages, even considering our evolution, our society and our technology?

Yeah, the idea on the record is the fact that the human race right now has so much evolved, progressed and turned towards the future with internet, facebook, the mission to Mars, but we’re still decapitating each other, blowing up marathons and killing each other, so we’re still savages. That’s the idea that I wanted to pass onto the record: in our human nature, we’re still savages.

Even if you worked in the past with your son Zyon, this was the first time you recorded an entire album with him. How was it?

It was really great. Zyon joined Soulfly a year ago and did some shows in South America and they were fantastic, he brought a lot of young blood to the band. The band felt really young and energetic with him. And he asked if he could do the record even before I started looking for another drummer for the album. So, I tried him out, I went to his room, threw a couple of riffs at him to see how he reacted, and he came up with some really cool beats that he created on top of it. I think that this is the sign of a good drummer, when he can hear a riff and come up with a beat without having to tell him what to play, that’s what Zyon did. For two months we worked in his room for eight hours every day. It was a very brutal schedule but it was very necessary for the writing of the record. The whole skeleton, the whole backbone of the album was done in his room between me and him. Then Marc [Rizzo] and Tony [campos] joined us a little bit later and learned all the songs. And then we went to the studio in Seattle, we knew exactly what we wanted for the record, we knew what sound we wanted, we knew what the songs were going to be like. Terry really didn’t have to mess with the songwriting at all; he liked everything the way it was. The recording went really well and we worked very closely on the vocals.

Do you feel closer to your son now that you share the same musical project?

I do. We became closer, but I’ve always been close to both of them, Igor and Zyon. Igor is a death metal fan, hardcore and grindcore fan, so I always had a really good interaction with him. He has always showed me new bands like Black Tusk, Oceano, Whitechapel and other cool new bands. Zyon likes more classic rock like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, so I didn’t have an interaction with him like I had with Igor. But I had a musical interaction with Zyon because he plays drums and we got to play together. It’s different with each kid and it’s great.

« You learn a lot from collaborations. […] It would not have been the same if it was only us. […] It would have been more regular albums. »

What was his role in the writing process of the album?

He created the beats. I didn’t tell him what to play when I showed him the riffs. He heard in his mind the kind of beat he had to put on the record. He’s responsible for all the drumming patterns in the whole record, even some song intros, like on “Bloodshed” that starts with drums only and goes like “tam tam tam, tam”: this is really from him, he was playing that pattern and I told him: “That’s cool, I like that, do that again!” So we really worked closely. He’s a really good heavy hitter like his uncle Igor. My brother’s play is very similar to Zyon’s, so I feel very comfortable when I play with Zyon. To me, it’s a lot like playing with my brother.

There are a lot of guests on this album, much more than on the previous ones. How comes? Did you want this album to be full of diverse musical flavors coming from other artists?

It just happened like that. It was not planned. The original plan, normally, with Soulfly is to have two guests. For some reasons we ended up with more. We had Mitch (Harris) from Napalm Death, Neil (Fallon) from Clutch, Jamie (Hanks) from I Declare War and my son Igor sang on “Bloodshed” and Tony Campos sang on “El Comegente“. So we ended up getting five people to be part of the album, which is more than planned. But I think it’s cool because I think it gives the album more different flavors. For example, when “Fallen” ends and you just had Jamie from I Declare War with his brutal voice, you’re not expecting a talking voice from Clutch, and when that comes in, in “Ayatollah Of Rock ‘N’ Rolla”, it’s really refreshing and I think that’s what makes this album interesting. But in the future, who know? Maybe next time we’ll do a Soulfly record with fewer guests, maybe only one, maybe it’ll be totally different from this one. For this time I wanted to have all these guys involved.

Soulfly has always been working with guests. Is working with other artists what gives you fresh inspiration?

You learn from this, because you always learn from talking to other musicians. They always tell you stories about things that happen. I was talking with Troy (Sanders) from Mastodon, because we just did a record together for a project and we hang around a lot, and I asked him how did he write “Curl Of The Burl”, which is a really cool Mastodon song. He told me that the guitar player was hangover and trying to tune his guitar, and when he was tuning it the riff of the song came out. I love these kinds of stories. You learn a lot from collaborations and you hear stories like that. To me it’s really fun to get to collaborate with my favorite musicians, to get to jam with other guys that I listen to, like David Vincent from Morbid Angel, Tom Araya from Slayer, Troy from Mastodon, these are all bands that I like. And Jamie from I Declare War, this is one of the new bands that I like. And I like to sing on other people’s albums. For example, I sang on the new album by Man Must Die from Scotland, they’re a very cool death metal band. There’s always something going on. It’s cool to be sharing my music with other people, either in Soulfly or in other projects.

And do you think that Soulfly has also evolved thanks to these guests and collaborations?

Yeah, I think so. It would not have been the same if it was only us. It would have been less exciting I think. It would have been more regular albums. When I listen to the Soulfly catalog, all the way back to the first album when we had Chino (Moreno) from Deftones and Benji (Webbe) from Dubwar, the Fear Factory guys, throughout the history of Soulfly, those guys have made the albums more exciting. It’s a plus to have on your records all the people that you want and make the albums more interesting for the fans to hear.

You left Roadrunner Records to join Nuclear Blast Records where you found Monte Conner, with whom you worked while you were on Roadrunner. Is it the presence of Monter Conner that made you choose Nuclear Blast?

No, not really. When we found out that Monte was there, we thought it was cool to work with him again because we worked together for a long time. But we already had made up our mind about the fact that it was a great label, a very powerful metal label, the most powerful metal label in Europe, very powerful all around the world. And they have these great ideas for digipacks and vinyls, and they do all these things for the fans. Going to Nuclear Blast was the best thing to happen for Soulfly. They really try to make Savages a successful record.

Do you think it would have been possible to release such an experimental album in Roadrunner? Would you have had the same artistic freedom?

I never had any problems with the labels I was in. Roadrunner has always let me do what I wanted to do. It’s the same with Nuclear Blast, they don’t interfere with the musical process. I do what I want and I’m really free. What I love about my music is that I get to do what I want with it and I’m not expected to write a radio song, a hit single or anything like that. They know that I don’t do those things and they don’t care for that. They only want a good metal album from me and that’s what I try to do all the time.

« I’m not expected to write a radio song, a hit single. […] They only want a good metal album from me and that’s what I try to do all the time. »

Have you started writing some stuff for Cavalera Conspiracy?

I haven’t started writing yet but I started thinking about it. I came up with the idea to make the third album very grindcore, very similar to stuff that I listen to like Nails, Pulling Teeth and Wormrot, very brutal, very aggressive and very fast. Because I love when Igor plays fast, I think he’s a great drummer to play fast music. So I think it would be really cool to make the third album a kind of grindcore album. I’ve never done that before and, for me, it would be really cool and I think that the fans will really like that as well.

Can you give us an update on your project with Greg Puciato and Troy Sanders?

The project is finally recorded except for Greg. Greg is actually touring Europe with Dillinger Escape Plan, so he didn’t finish his vocals. But I and Troy have done singing on all the songs. There are twelve songs on the album. There are some amazing songs. It’s a really great mix, a lot of the stuff sounds like a mix of Soulfly, Sepultura and Mastodon. It’s not really complicated, not like Dillinger Escape Plan, it’s more like Mastodon meets Soulfly. Most of the stuff is heavy and melodic, and the three of us are singing on every song and that’s what’s going to make this project really killer. It doesn’t have a name yet. We’re looking for a name. But we’re going to have the album released in the middle of next year and it’s going to be great. It’s a really cool project, I really like the recordings, and I really like the songs a lot.

And who wrote the lyrics actually?

The three of us, we all wrote the lyrics together, one helping the other. Sometimes I wrote the lyrics and Troy gave me some ideas, sometimes I gave Troy ideas and sometimes I gave Greg ideas. We all did it together, so it was a really cool team work.

Interview conducted by phone on September, 26th 2013 by Metal’O Phil
Transcription: Spaceman
Introduction: Alastor

Soulfly’s official website: www.soulfly.com

Album Savages, out since October, 7th 2013 via Nuclear Blast.

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