He has been called the “Bob Marley” of metal, and his name is synonymous with legendary bands Sepultura and Soulfly. These days, Max Cavalera is dividing his time between the still active Soulfly and his new band, Cavalera Conspiracy, which he formed with his brother, Igor. Recently I was fortunate to talk to Max about how he got into metal, who he would love to collaborate with, and the upcoming release of the newest Soulfly album.
Growing up in Brazil, what kind of music did you listen to and how did you get involved with rock music?
Max: The first band I ever got into was Queen. They came to play in Brazil at a big soccer stadium, there was like 100,000 people and I went to the show and I really liked it. Me and my brother got their cassette tape, and started listening to more bands after that. And it got heavier and heavier as it went along, Black Sabbath and Motörhead and Sex Pistols, Slayer, Metallica later on, but the first one was Queen.
When did you start playing the guitar?
Max: I wanted to be a drummer actually, my brother, he was first and he was better, so I’m actually first a drummer myself. So I ended up playing the guitar as a second choice instrument. We started pretty early, I think I got my first guitar when I was 12, and we started jamming around that time, 12, 13. Just self taught, just learning by ear, just playing along with albums that we had, just trying to figure out the chords and things like that.
So you are completely self taught?
Max: Yeah. I play four strings too. I’m a rhythm player, I’m not a soloist, so I just took the two strings out to leave the ones that I picked, so I became a four string player, so all my guitars have four strings.
Where do you get the inspiration for your songs, where do your lyrics come from?
Max: They can come from anything from books, movies, or just life in general, just seeing something, just reading something somewhere, even sometimes just you see an ad on a billboard and some words will give you an idea for a song. Pretty much from everywhere, really. I keep my ears open for some things that I think is cool that can become a song, then I just write it down and turn it into a song later.
A lot of the Soulfly songs have such a tribal influence, where do you get that tribal influence?
Max: That comes from Brazil. Being born in Brazil, that’s kind of like the groove that we have, the tribal groove that Brazil has, that natural… we’re born with that, so it’s just a case of developing that further, and I created that with my old band Sepultura and I completed it with Soulfly.
Is it true that the name Soulfly came from the Deftones song “Head Up?”
Max: Yeah. That was the first time I used the word, but it was not until a year later that I actually used it for the name of the band. So when I did the song with them it was just a song, but that was the first time the word “soulfly” appeared. But it took me a year later to go back and then decide that that’s what I wanted to call my band.
You have worked with so many people, is there anyone you haven’t worked with that you would like to?
Max: I thought maybe Lemmy from Motörhead or maybe Ozzy. Those are two icons of mine, they’re legendary musicians. I know both of them, I’ve toured with them, I did the Ozzfest a bunch of times, but never got to work with them, so maybe in the future.
On the Soulfly album 3 as it’s called, there is a moment of silence for 9/11. Why was that important to you?
Max: To me that was the way of Soulfly paying tribute to the victims and to what happened. So instead of making a song with words, we just decided to make a minute of silence. It was the complete opposite of what everyone else was doing. Everyone else was doing songs and then doing lyrics. It would be stronger of an impact just to make a moment of silence on the record and just call it 9/11/2001. So that was the idea. I got feedback from a lot of fans, they really liked that, they thought that was cool, they thought that was a god idea. It was a simple idea but effective, I think it got the point across.
Yes, I remember when I got that CD expecting to hear a song, and when I got to that track it was silence, and like you said, it worked.
Max: Ya we do things to make people think.
So you’re touring with Soulfly, but you’re also in Cavalera Conspiracy with your brother. How do you balance your time between all your projects?
Max: It’s really easy going back and forth with this, I just got back from Russia, I played with my brother with Cavalera Conspiracy over there, I did a bunch of festivals last month. And then now switch over to Soulfly it’s kind of automatic, really. Just got to go through the songs and then just one sound check is enough to get back to the rhythm.
What’s it like performing with your brother again?
Max: It’s really cool, I really enjoy that, I always liked to play with him, we grew up together, we formed Sepultura together. We didn’t speak for ten years, so to get back now it’s awesome. It’s really nice and it’s really fun to play with him again and we have a really good time on the stage and off stage. It’s really great to be back with him.
I bet you have a lot to catch up on.
Max: Yeah, we do.
So the next Soulfly album is set for 2010? What is the status on that?
Max: In November is when we are going to really dive into the making of the record and go into the studio and everything. Then will we mix the album, then the album will come out, so I think like March, is realistically when the album will come out.