Interview with Max of Soulfly
HOB - Las Vegas - August 13, 2004
Phil: I'd like to thank you for taking the time out with closedcoffin.com here in Las Vegas. We're sitting here with Max Cavalera from Soulfly.
Max: Yea, how you doin'?
Phil: First I'd like to ask you is about the Soulfly name. Who came up with it and does it have a meaning?
Max: Yea, I came up with the name. I did the song with the Deftones, the album Around the Fur. I actually wrote part of the lyrics. On the lyrics it said Soulfly. But it took me a whole year after that to actually use the name. You know because I was trying to go with something like Brazilian named because Sepultura is Brazilian. But nothing really clicked, then all of a sudden one day I was like Soulfly, it's been in front of me the whole time. So I went and said I was going to stick with it, it's cool and I'm never gonna change me mind. I think it's good, it's a positive name, Soulfly is many different things. One of them is an ancient tribal Indian believe that the souls of peoples departure actually fly around you when your making music or spiritual stuff. So I like that, I thought that was cool. It's not really fly as the insect, more spiritual like a soul fly.
Phil: Cool. The line up for each album changes. Is there a specific reason for that or are you just trying something new on each album?
Max: It's not really my control, its worked, been that way until the start. So it's been different, but at the same time I think I like that, because I didn't want to make another band like Sepultura. I said that from the beginning to everybody, I already done that, I'm proud of that. This idea of changing members, which was not created by me, but ends up being something that happens. It turned out to be cool, it turned out to make me play with a lot of people. Introducing these guys for my fans and keep Soulfly on every album, as interesting as possible.
Phil: How do you go about choosing the members you want to use? Just previous friends & musicians in the business?
Max: Some of it. This reincarnation of Prophecy, this Soulfly, was really an amazing one. Where everybody I call, it didn't change from the beginning. I call Joe, he came, I call Bobby, he came, I call Marc. When we jammed for the first time it was like we've been playing forever. I felt chemistry and I know chemistry. It's not easy, musically, sometimes you get along with somebody but when you play with them it's not there. I knew a lot to value that, this chemistry is unbelievable! I should keep this band, you know I felt it. And they're here with me today, it's awesome!
Phil: So the line up this time around is Marc Rizzo on guitar, Joe Nunez on drums.
Max: And Bobby Burns on bass.
Phil: Bobby Burns on bass.
Phil: Was Dave Ellfson on bass?
Max: He was a guest.
Phil: He was a guest bass player?
Max: He did a couple of songs, he did like 4 song guest appearance. There was a couple more guests on the album, like the guys from Eyes Burn from Serbia. On Moses, like reggae metal. There was one that a lot of people have been asking me about, is Danny from Northside Kings. He does a song with me call Defeat You. He punched Danzig and it was all over the internet. *laughs* So it was like crazy you know, all of a sudden everybody was like calling me about Danny. It was like my friend for more than 10 years in Phoenix, knocked Danzig out, I guess. I was in Europe, I just got a call like...what??? I couldn't believe it, but I guess Danzig was being a prick. But they are on the album, all that's part of it you know. It was good to make a record where you don't really follow directions, you just do what you feel. I think that is more important to me, feeling is more important than technical stuff. You know, the way an album should be, there's no rules for albums, so it's good to try different stuff.
Phil: You don't only do guitar and vocals you produce the album as well. Is that a lot to take on, coming in like that, or have you been through quite a few?
Max: Yea, I hate it, but I do it because it's necessary, but honestly I don't like it very much, it's not a pleasant job. It's a job for guys that like to drink a lot of coffee and smoke cigarette. I don't like any of that. Being inside of a place for too many hours, it drives me crazy. Plus, I have to have my guitar and scream. Nevertheless, people are so happy with Soulfly 3, how I did it. Everybody pretty much like, even the label asks please produce Prophecy again, don't bring nobody else in, you're doing good. Now that's done, two albums! Next one probably I will bring somebody from the outside and maybe I'll do like half and half. Co-produce and produce by somebody else. 'Cause I like to work with different people too.
Phil: And you're also able to control your music a little bit more, being the producer?
Max: Yea, yea. It was like a big task but, hey I took the challenge. Everything you hear in Prophecy is exactly how I wanted you to hear. Flamenco stuff, heavy stuff, the hardcore, the melodic stuff, you know, I'm very proud of the record. I'm very proud that fans love the record.
Phil: Yea, I'm one of them. I recently bought it and I love it!
Max: Thank you. It's been amazing, amazing. I play 8 songs out of the new record, more than I've ever played from any other record I put out. Its a different album. It's approved for me that this album is strong. If I can play 8 songs and the crowd digs it, that's awesome!
Phil: You've been quoted as saying, experimentation is Soulfly's trademark. What is the importance of that? Experimentation, like you were saying, trying something new.
Max: If Soulfly is something we have, that no other bands have quite like this and it started in Sepultura. It actually started with me, because I was the instigator in Sepultura, trying to get these guys to go do some stuff with the Indians. I was always my own curiosity and I always believed that there is no never, there's no impossible. If you try real hard it can be done. So, it's part of believing in something and doing it. And today I feel the same way about it. I have different goals than I has in Sepultura but they are all part of proving to people that it is possible, when everybody says no way. It's like fuel, you know when you actually really want to do it and prove to them. I think that's part of my fans, making new bands you know, when they hear that from me. I hope that inspires them to don't give up and go into music.
Phil: You travel to different countries to get the feel of different countries. Do you feel that helps out in your musical process?
Max: Yes and no. Sometimes there's influence from being in a different culture, like Serbia, on the new album. But, I'm on a different planet in music itself. So, when I'm making music, writing lyrics or whatever, I shut off from everything. Nothing matters around me...where I am, how old I am, none of that. That's completely pointless. The only thing that happens, the only thing that matters is the actual song and what I'm doing with it. I think it's about being inside, stuff that comes out inside of me more than outside.
Phil: Any particular place around the world that has been most influential?
Max: There's a lot! You know we did Indonesia, we did South Africa a couple months ago. America, I have great memories from America the ? of New York, the Red Rocks in Colorado. So yea, all those shows have great memories for Soulfly and Sepultura together.
Phil: New album, Prophecy has some horns in it. Is this the first time working with horns?
Max: Yea, I've been listening a lot, but I never knew you could actually mix them and it would be quite cool. But again, it goes to show in music you're always learning. At this point, I heard the horns with the guitars and I thought, wow this is cool! It's different, it's exotic and cool and different. I went on and did it, but I didn't want to over do it. It was temptation to but horn all over the album, but I didn't. I saved it just for one song, let the guitars and the heavy shit all over the record.
Phil: There's also some bagpipes. Was that kinda cool introducing that in with the music or was it hard to figure it out?
Max: No, that was totally war music. Now that's what I think is very different in Soulfly, things like that. 'Cause that's working with a professor of music, a guy that was 60 years old. He came in the studio, he had a bunch of instruments from the middle ages, one of them being the bag pipes. So this is the spirit of war music as far as I know. People like Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon...when they did records they went for that unexpected, crazy....the crazier the better, I love it! And I had that touch on Prophecy too, I got excited putting all these crazy instruments, there's more than 15 instruments on the record. Most of them from Serbia, from Eastern Europe. So that was cool.
Phil: Do you have any of those instruments on tour with you, that you use, or do you loop a lot of your sounds?
Max: A lot of them have to be looped, you know, because I can't play that. A lot of stuff is flutes, bagpipes, I play the barring ball, the one string with the coconut. As a matter of fact I got one yesterday, from a Brazilian friend that came to the show. 'Cause mine broke, so I got a replacement for tonight. *laughs* I collect instruments, my house I have a studio full of instruments. I don't play all of them, but I collect them.
Phil: I bet you have quite a collection there.
Max: It's alright, it's ummm....I give my shit away all the time too. I figure that's good, same as soccer shirts, I have a big collection...but I'm always giving them away too, for whatever reasons.
Phil: You're obviously satisfied with the outcome of the album, you're very happy. So am I. How has it been received all over the world?
Max: Very great, like I said I play 8 songs out of it. For me the songs that just stick out more now than ever. When I go to the next album there's going to be songs that I have to play they're going to be mandatory. Just like Eye for an Eye is mandatory. I love that, the fact that the album is so strong like that! Even though with music today, downloading and not selling as it used to. On the other hand, the noise of the crowd makes up for the sales. I got into this for my crowd not for selling records. So, I'm a happy person without selling a million records. I'm happy with the music itself. I mean that's the difference, when the artists are making it because they need to make the money and when he makes it because he like it.
Phil: You were saying there's some guest appearances on there, we pretty much went over all that. With Dave Ellfson.
Max: Danny. There was Danny, Asha, she sings on Wings and Eyes Burn on Moses.
Phil: What was the significance of the name Prophecy?
Max: I came up with the title from seeing the different places. There was a book, I didn't read, but I saw...called the Celestine Prophecy. Of course, there is the movie Prophecy and somebody told me there was even an Iron Maiden song called Prophecy, that I didn't about because it's newer. But, I like that title Prophecy, and I thought that was a good title for an album. And it's not so black and white, I leave it to the imagination of the fans, whatever they want the Prophecy to be. If they want it to fit for their own life or not, that's it cool, it's open.
Phil: Prophecy is Soulflys 4th album. Have they been tracking sales through the record company.
Max: My wife does that. I don't get involved, I figure that if I can keep my natural spirit as much as I can in this cut throat business, if I can. As much as I resist the better off I'll be. I'm very blessed I have her to do that, so I'm a music man. You know I don't deal with anything but music which is really a lot, there's a lot to do during the day.
Phil: Prophecy, the song is going to be on Headbanger's Ball, the album coming up. Were you guys pretty excited about that, getting on the MTV thing?
Max: You know, it's ahhh....today music is different, this tour is sponsored by Revolver. There's more media attention for metal and I think, I like that fact that we didn't change the feeling. It's the other way around...we, Slayer...we didn't change ourselves and I didn't change my voice. That's not why MTV is putting us there, I didn't change anything, it's because of the times and the people.
Phil: They're finally realizing that metal isn't going away!
Max: Exactly, and people want it and it's in big demand. It's awesome! Thank God they don't want to change the bands. They'll come to me and say clean your voice, none of that shit.
Phil: Write a love song...
Max: Actually, some of them want to get heavier and heavier. Like the next album, I think I'm gonna have to write some fuckin' real heavy shit. I've been thinking about making a darks record anyway, even darker than all the ones I've done do far.
Phil: The song, I Believe, takes a different shape. You've said it has some spiritual meaning. In general?
Max: Mhmm, it's spiritual. It's not a Christian song. Spiritual doesn't mean Christian, it's not related to any kind of organization, nothing like that. I believe in God myself, but it's a different God, that doesn't judge by the way you look. And doesn't have appointments with you every Sunday and doesn't want your money. So, songs like, I Believe and Enter Fate...I'm showing to the fans how I feel. I'm not afraid to show this side of Max, you know, this side of Soulfly. The spiritual thing is actually quite exciting, in a world where nobody cares if we come out like that. It's like, it's surprising, it's really wild, off the wall!
Phil: You have a tradition of having the song Soulfly on each album.
Phil: Now do you change it up each time? How does that come about?
Max: I try to, You know it's like, let's see how long, how long can I keep it interesting. This last one, the Flamenco guitars in the end was really helpful, melodies and stuff. I have thousands of songs like that because I write a lot of songs like that. When I'm not, not for anything, for no reason at all, my own satisfaction and they're all melodic on track. I kind of envision soundtracks of movies, when I'm doing that, vocals you know. I really like that it's a different side of Soulfly. Maybe not for everybody that will love it, but for some people it's real cool to have that on the record. It's a completely other dimension.
Phil: I read that you're a big Bob Marley fan. Do you have the Reggae type influences when you guys are jamming?
Max: A little bit, there's on Bring It as kind of the Reggae and of course Moses is the main one. Sometimes I like to use the influence, just more of a just inspiration. I don't change my guitar riffs, I just use that whatever Bob's saying, you know, the artist is saying. I just absorb as some kind of an inspiration. I'm sure it happens the other way around with people that listen to my stuff and use it as an inspiration. It's a full circle, it's really cool, it's 360 degrees.
Phil: You have tattoos. Do you get them all over country or all over the world.
Max: All over the world, I don't have a special place. I have some friends that when I met them they weren't that popular. Now I see them even on CNN. People like Paul Booth, and stuff, it's amazing. If I see somebody I like, they don't need to be famous, I'll go ahead and tattoo with them. So, it's cool. Plus the Soulfly symbol is made by a tattoo artist, Usaletta from the Philippines, so there's some connection.
Phil: Well, I'd like to thank you once again for joining closedcoffin.com in Las Vegas, I appreciate it.
Max: Thank You.
Phil: Is there any last thing you'd like to say to anybody out there?
Max: Just enjoy the show, we're gonna fuck shit up tonight! *laughs*
Phil: Thanks Again!
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