As founding member of Sepultura, Max Cavalera’s place in the books of metal history is assured. Even before the epoch-changing Roots, Max was carving it up with classic tracks like “Dead Embryonic Cells,” “Refuse/Resist” and “Troops of Doom.” But in 1996 Max split from Sepultura and went out on his own with Soulfly, a sometimes-rotating collective of incredibly able metal musicians. Initially Soulfly’s work carried on the tribal metal vibe of Roots, before the band started to carve out a niche of its own. And yet there was always the spectre of the Sepultura sound lurking in the background. Max’s other band, The Cavalera Conspiracy with his brother Iggor, has taken up the challenge in giving the world new music in the Sepultura mode. That seems to have freed up Max’s writing even further and fed into Soulfly’s latest, Enslaved. Just as previous Soulfly albums have demonstrated different facets of Max’s metal vision, the new one presents yet another side: full-on skull-crushing death metal. It’s an imposing, aggressive, brutal, jagged, glass-chewing, blood-spitting freak of an album. And Max is justifiaby proud.
This year Soulfly is celebrating its 15 anniversary. That’s a long time!
It is, man! It’s unbelievable. Sometimes I look back and I think it feels like yesterday that we were recording the first record in California. And now fifteen years later this is our eighth record. So many songs, so many tours, the band is still rolling and the band is even more popular now than ever.
How would you describe Enslaved compared to the last one, Omen?
It’s more extreme. We have an extreme metal drummer who joined the band called David Kinkade who comes a school of death metal playing. He comes from a band called Borknagar and they’re a death metal band from Norway. He plays with double bass and blast beats. A very extreme way of playing. We actually built those songs around him. I was very influenced by that, so some of the stuff even sounds like old Morbid Angel and old Death and Suffocation. So it’s really going to surprise a lot of people. It’s a very extreme Soulfly record, the most extreme Soulfly record of all of them. The most extreme record we’ve done for all the times.
Max Cavalera may have left Sepultura well over a decade ago but he certainly hasn’t rested on his metallic laurels. Soulfly has kept him in the brutality game with album after album of metal fury, sometimes tempered with the tribal elements of the Seps classic Roots and sometimes more straightforward thrash. A few years ago Max re-teamed with brother Iggor in Cavalera Conspiracy, a thrashy new outfit which picks up right were Sepultura left off their thrashier elements around the Chaos AD era. New album Blunt Force Trauma is out now and Max couldn’t be happier about album #2.
Last time we spoke you said you’d actually recorded this album last year, before the latest Soulfly CD was released. Is the album exactly as it was when you finished it or did you take the opportunity to go in and tweak it?
No, we didn’t change much. It took a little while for the artwork to get done. I was doing the artwork with Iggor. We wanted it to look punkish, like European 80s punk – like GBH and Discharge – so we needed to find a special way to do this artwork. But we figured it out and it turned out really cool. We really love the way it got done. We also worked on a special edition. It comes with a DVD that was filmed live in France. It’s got a lot of great songs. It’s a full Cavalera concert. It’s a really cool show and it’s really cool for the fans. They get something extra, the full DVD along with the album, some more artwork, some more photos from the studio. But as far as the sound, the album is exactly the way it was finished. I didn’t touch anything. I love the way it turned out. I love the work that Logan [Mader, producer] did. It’s heavy, it’s crisp, it’s big-sounding, it’s aggressive, it’s brutal. It’s more brutal than Inflikted, and I wanted to get that result. Right now I’m just very excited to have people hear the record.
When you were writing it, were you like ‘That’s a Conspiracy song, that’s a Soulfly song…’?
When I write, I write all together. I just write riffs al the time, not really thinking which one it’s going to go into. It’s later on when I listen to the songs that I make that decision, whether it goes for Soulfly or if it goes for Cavalera. But when I’m writing I just write them all together. When I get in writing mode, it’s like a factory. Riffs come out one after the other and I don’t even stop to think about where it’s going to go. I just put it on a CD and put it aside then listen later. It’s working so far. It’s a good technique that’s been working for me for a couple of years. Since Sepultura days we did things like that. I started writing like that on Arise. That’s when I started getting my drum machine and my guitar and starting to write albums full of songs by myself. I really love doing it. It’s a therapeutic kind of thing. I lose myself with a guitar and a drum machine. They feel like a real song because of a drum machine. They have beginnings, middles, choruses, vocal parts. Some of them are really quite finished songs when you listen to the demos. I have some demos of Refuse/Resist that are like that… Arise, Dead Embryonic Cells… songs I wrote at home first then took to the studio to show the guys. It’s a technique that’s worked for me for years, and if it’s working it doesn’t need to be changed.
Will those demos ever be released?
No. I want to, but they’re really shitty-sounding. [Laughs] I don’t have the professional studio stuff, so they’re really punk sounding, man. They’re really raw. The guitar sounds are not so good and ,y programming on the drum machine is not so good – you can tell that I’m not a drummer, haha. So I’ve never released anything. But maybe one of these days! It’d be kinda cool, just to let people hear. I think one time I did release one song, Infliked, the first song from Cavalera Conspiracy. It was called ‘Max Trax’ and a bunch of people got it. It was free. That was before the album was done. So there was one time I let people hear that kind of stuff, but most of them just sit in my garage, just waiting to be discovered.
Do you have special guests on this album?
Yeah! We have one song called Lynch Mob with Roger from Agnostic Front. Me and Iggor are big fans of Agnostic Front, and we’ve been big fans for a long time. It was really awesome to get him down there to the studio to record. To me they are one of the pioneer New York hardcore bands. Before Sick Of It All, Cro Mags, Biohazard, Madball, there was Agnostic Front, from the beginning of the 80s, and they’ve always been amazing. And they still do stuff and he still sings with them. It was really cool to get him down in the studio and work side by side with him, do the lyrics together, develop the song together and watch Lynch Mob become a full song right in front of our eyes.
I hear you’re working on something with Greg Puciato from Dillinger Escape Plan, who was on the last album?
I really like collaborating with him. He loves Nailbomb and he’s been bugging me about doing something like Nailbomb ever since I met him, since we did the Omen recording of Rise Of The Fallen. It turned out really cool and I really like that song. Greg’s a great singer and he’s got a lot of great ideas. So Greg has been calling me from time to time. It will probably be a lot more like a project than Cavalera Conspiracy, which is a real band which goes on tour. It would be just one off, maybe just one album like Nailbomb was. Something off the wall. We’re just getting ideas put together to see what’s going to happen with that.
I saw at NAMM that you have a new ESP signature model. It’s quite a different shape for you.
Yeah! I’ve been trying a couple of different things with ESP. I love all of their guitars, and I’ve been using the Viper for so long. I still use it and I still love it. It’s one of my favourite guitars. I tried the Axe, and now I’m trying the EX model, which is also really cool. I just kinda keep switching from year to year, trying different guitars they have. Some people are not using a lot of those guitars, so I look at the catalog and I say “Are a lot of people using this?” and they’ll say no, and I’ll use that for a while. My goal is to design my own guitar. I have some sketched I’ve done that are really pretty cool. I’m getting pretty close to getting something that really looks awesome, they way I like it, and I hope that I can make that with ESP and have my own model designed by me that is going to be completely unique and different from everything else.
Blunt Force Trauma is out now through Roadrunner. Thanks to Roadrunner Records Australia.
Are you going to NAMM? If so, I’m insanely jealous and maybe somehow I’ll make it there next year. Peavey has released details of their endorsers’ NAMM appearances, and the press release is below. Most interesting to me is Devin Townsend, who has recently been photographed with a Peavey HP. Devin has used Peavey 5150 amps but most recently was seen using Mesa Boogie. Could he be going back to Peavey for amps? Is he leaving ESP for guitars?
Also of note is that Joe Satriani will be officially launching his new Peavey JSX amp. The one you can read about here.
Anyway, here’s the press release and schedule.
Legendary guitarist Joe Satriani will introduce his new signature Peavey JSX guitar amplifier during a special press conference during the NAMM (National Association Of Music Merchants) show on Friday, January 16, at 1 p.m., in the middle of the Peavey exhibit (5740) at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Gary Rossington and metal legends Max Cavalera (SOULFLY, SEPULTURA), Alex Skolnick (TESTAMENT), David Ellefson (MEGADETH) and Greg Christian (TESTAMENT) are also slated to appear during the show.
Peavey NAMM artist schedule:
Friday, January 16:
* 11:00 a.m. – Rudy Sarzo (DIO, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT) autographs
* 12:00 p.m. – Max Cavalera (SOULFLY, CAVALERA CONSPIRACY) autographs
* 1:00 p.m. – Joe Satriani press conference, middle of booth
* 1:00 p.m. – Alex Skolnick and Greg Christian (TESTAMENT) autographs, rear of booth
* 3:00 p.m. – BLACK STONE CHERRY autographs
* 3:00 p.m. – Shagrath (DIMMU BORGIR, CHROME DIVISION) autographs, rear of booth
Saturday, January 17:
* 11:00 a.m. – David Ellefson (F5), Devin Townsend (STRAPPING YOUNG LAD) and Rudy Sarzo autographs
* 1:15 p.m. – Joe Satriani autographs
* 3:00 p.m. – Flynnville Station autographs, rear of booth
* 4:00 p.m. – Gary Rossington (LYNYRD SKYNYRD) autographs
Schedule subject to change; please visit exhibit to confirm dates and times
After a decade apart, Sepultura founding brothers Max and Igor Cavalera have reunited in The Cavalera Conspiracy, reviving the intricate thrash and crushing rhythms of Arise-era Sepultura with a modern brutality and ten years of growth on their debut album, Inflikted (Roadrunner).
Peter: This band seemed to come out of nowhere. When did it start?
Cavalera: I’ve been on this project now for the last two years, since I started talking to Igor again. I’ve been submerged with this thing from morning to night, 24 hours. I’m just very happy with it, man, I’m very proud of it. I like the attitude, the music, the visuals – It doesn’t look like all the shit that’s out there, y’know? I’m excited as hell to go on tour, and we’re really thrilled about the record.
Peter: Did you get back into contact with the idea of playing together again, or was it about reestablishing the brotherhood first?
Cavalera: My first approach with him was just to get back together as brothers, family, y’know, but once that was done my thing was, ‘Now that we’re brothers again, now that we’re family again, guess what: We need to play again.’ So that was the next move, and it was cool. We have a really cool chemistry together. It was perfect, really. It’s wild. It’s kind of surreal sometimes. Because it was so long ago and so much has happened in these 10 years, I’m glad we’ve restored our brother relationship. We grew up together in music. The first 20 years of my life playing music was with Igor, then there was a 10 year space where I continued making music but it was not the same.
Peter: How have you changed musically in the time apart?
Cavalera: Not a lot. I still play just 4 strings. I still don’t know the name of all the strings, and I still don’t tune my guitars. Igor noticed that right away: ‘Your shit’s still out of tune man! I can’t believe 10 years have gone by and your guitars are dirty still, you don’t clean them, they’re out of tune.’ And I say, ‘Well …(Woody Allen-style cough) I’m the same.’ And Igor’s pretty much the same. I noticed how much he’s matured as a drummer though. I always knew the double bass Igor, the crazy fills, but this was something else, kind of a Bill Ward, Bonham feel to it, where he can keep the shit as simple as possible but with a lot of power. It’s completely relentless, you can feel that drum beating you, punishing you.
Peter: The drums are mixed very in-your-face. Was that to say ‘Here’s Igor back’ or was it just the way it turned out?
Cavalera: I was more in charge of the direction of songs, sonic ideas, themes and this and that. But Logan (Mader) as an engineer really knew the drums would be a huge thing on this project, and I think in his own way Logan made sure to record the drums the right way and mix it the right way, so when you listen to it the drums really jump out at you. It’s also a lot to do with the way Igor plays. He has this presence. I’ve toured with a lot of people, and the only other person with that kind of presence was Bill Ward when I did the Sabbath tour. One thing about Igor that a lot of people don’t know is that most of the time, the right stick is upside down, so he’s using the end of the stick, and that started in the Sepultura days. He said he wasn’t punishing the drums enough. It’s a very metal thing to do. The first day in the studio I was like, ‘Yeah, the upside down stick, crank it!’
Peter: So I guess that’s the secret to getting your sound is a guitar with 4 strings that’s out of tune, and an upside down drum stick.
Cavalera: I was waiting for him to draw people he didn’t like on the toms, because he used to do that too. Bands that be ****ing with us on tour. Ministry was an example, they had a real asshole tour manager, he hated everybody, a miserable guy, and always talking shit about everyone. So Igor drew him on every drum skin, in many different ways – had him naked in one, had him dressed like a girl, and eventually he saw the drum kit and wanted to kill all of us. We didn’t give a shit, that’s the way we roll.
Peter: Are you still playing your ESP signatures?
Cavalera: Yep, the 4 string, out of tune. On the Conspiracy I’ve been using the AX shape signature model. It reminds me of my old BC Rich I used back in the Sepultura days, and we’re in the process of maybe making a new model, a 4 string model. I don’t know why I never thought of that before, actually made a 4 string guitar. It’s a big riff guitar. I love ESP, I love the guitars.