guitarist Max Cavalera
may dress in camouflage fatigues but what he doesn't try and hide are his feelings about his music. When the band recorded Omen
back in 2010, he could sense a kind of lethargy setting in. He thought Omen sounded a bit too much like Conquer
and Conquer sounded a bit too much like Dark Ages
. He wanted a change and that came with Enslaved
, Soulfly's newest album. The rhythm section that appeared on Omen, the previous album, are gone and have been replaced by drummer and bassist David Kinkade
and Tony Campos
respectively. Heavyweight Zeuss
is sitting behind the board and producing and the result is what many have called a return to Cavalera's death metal roots.
Here, in what started as a simple discussion of the Enslaved, turned into a lengthy excursion through Soulfly's history. Max, in a thick Brazilian accent, talked about his earlier work with the band and how the pieces have connected to bring him to Enslaved, his eighth album.
UG: What kind of music did you want to make on the first Soulfly record?
Of course I was going to bring elements from Sepultura because that's my style. Like my voice and the way I do my choruses and my riffs, they're all gonna sound similar. Some of them are gonna sound similar to what I did in Sepultura but I started Soulfly as an opportunity to try other things and that's why I like the first record so much. I got a chance to try some percussion things that was not done before and some new ideas. We had a great guitar player called Lucio [Maia, nee Jackson Bandeira] and he was into Jimi Hendrix and he was doing all these cool kinda Hendrix solos on some parts of the album.
The tradition of doing a track called Soulfly on each album began with the Soulfly record.
Soulfly was born, which was an instrumental that gave birth to the line of songs I did on all the Soulfly records. They were instrumental, melodic and kind of like landscape music I call it. Like cinematographic and I imagine more like movies when I'm making these songs. It's more really like ambient sounds and one of the beautiful things that made Soulfly different.
You also had outside players come in and play on Soulfly.
I always thought it would be cool to have guests. So on the first record we had Chino Moreno from the Deftones and we had Benji Webbe from Dub War and Skindred. And of course we had, unfortunately, Fred Durst [laughs.]
Why do you say unfortunately?
I don't regret [but] I don't like what he did afterwards. At that time Bleed did come out as a good song and he did a good job on that song. So I have to admit at that time he was cool. He was a cool guy at that time too and he changed later and turned into a rock star later but at that time he was pretty awesome. He even came to the video and we did a video together and everything was cool. A year later we're playing right across the street from each other and some of the roadies came by and I'm like, Where's Fred? Is he coming by? And they said, Oh, he's too big for this, man. He can't be here. I was like, That's bullshit, man. So whatever, life goes on.
Did you like the Soulfly record?
It was a cool record and still today it's a lot of people's favorite Soulfly record. I don't know why. Maybe it was because the position I was in, I was in a kind of redemption state: Accept me. This is me baring my soul and my heart. This is all I have to give you right now and I wrote it from the bottom of my heart. This is all I can say to the fans right now. Please accept me with my arms open on the album cover [laughs.]
Sean Lennon and Toby Wright produced the Primitive album?
Yeah, Toby Wright was the main producer. He heard about us and we got contacted by his people and we knew that he had worked on And Justice For All and a lot of Alice in Chains big records. We thought, Wow, this guy has worked with Ozzy and stuff and wow, this guy is great. It would be really cool to work with this guy. So he came over and we started working on Primitive. Primitive was almost like a dream record; I almost felt it was unreal how easy it was to get all these people together. Everybody just say yes and it was like to me it was unreal. Cause I thought some of those musicians gonna turn us down. Like Sean Lennon and Tom Araya. We had Chino again and it was just a crazy record to make. In a way it was fun. It was like a music factory with different guests coming almost every week and every week we had somebody different there. It was insane. We had Tom Araya twice cause we couldn't finish the song with Tom, Terrorist.
He was willing to come back a second time?
I told Tom, Don't panic. Go home for a week and come back next week, man. Go home back to Texas where you live and come back next week and we'll finish next week. He was like, Cool, yeah. No problem. And he came back and we finished the song.
What was the story with Sean Lennon?
Sean Lennon decided to stay in my house; he didn't want to stay in a hotel. He said, Hotels freak me out. Can I stay in your house? I said, Sure if you can put up with my kinds waking up at seven in the morning and three dogs that make a lot of racket. No problem. So he stayed here in my house and then I took him to the desert cause he'd never been to Arizona. I took him around driving to see all the desert and the mountains and the cactus. I have a house that's outside Phoenix on seven acres and it's beautiful and in the desert like a ranch. So we went there and we wrote most of the melodic part of Son Song there.
Sean Lennon dug the desert?
The melodic part that Sean came up with, he came up with up there jamming outside with acoustic guitar. He came up with that rhythm and I was like, Yeah, that's the rhythm, man. That's fuckin' killer. That's like Beatles meets Sepultura. That's awesome. I could imagine that.
Did you listen to the Beatles?
I knew a little bit. My mom was a big Beatles fan and Gloria, of course, my wife was a huge fan. She was trippin' that he was here like hard. She's like, I can't believe it, man. I saw him sleeping in our bed and he looks just like John Lennon. It was crazy. I told my mom I was recording with him and my mom freaked out. My mom was like, I grew up with the Beatles.
But you weren't a big fan?
I actually honestly never got into them as much as I got into Black Sabbath and AC/DC; those were bigger bands in my life.
What about the Rolling Stones?
Nah, never got into them too much. Out of those older bands, I think the only band I got into a little bit more was Zeppelin. Zeppelin was a big one and I got into them. I love Physical Graffiti and Houses Of the Holy. I got them and they made sense to me. It was like, Yeah, there's some mystic shit here. Led Zeppelin is cool in my book. Honestly the Beatles and the Monkees and the Beach Boys, none of that never really clicked with me.
You continued on Primitive with Soulfly II. Did you go back and listen to the original Soulfly track and build on that?
I thought of it right away. I thought, Well, we should continue this. It was such a killer thing. When we did Soulfly we turned all the lights off in the studio and we had candles. We recorded some of the percussion on the porch of Indigo Ranch Studios [located in Malibu, California] with a view of the ocean and the mountains and it was fuckin' beautiful. It was really, really ambient like candles and dark lights. Ross Robinson really made a mood for us to get into that song. So when it came time to Soulfly II, I thought, Let's continue that; let's make another one. I'll turn it into a tradition and put it on every record. And everybody thought that was a cool idea.
Did you want to try and expand on the idea of the original Soulfly track?
What I did was I hired two percussionists. I had Meia Noite who did a lot of the cool percussion that you hear on Primitive. He was a percussionist that was with Sergio Mendes and I just met him in L.A. and he was a killer guy; a Brazilian guy. And Larry McDonald who was the percussionist from Bob Marley and played on a lot of early Bob Marley stuff like Survival and Catch a Fire and stuff like that. He showed up with a repeater [akette], which is this really cool Jamaican instrument that you just pound on it non-stop and it makes a killer sound. And he's like [imitating Jamaican patois] Max, I want to use the repeater, mon with a think Jamaican accent and all. I was like, Yeah, yeah, cool. It's great. I don't know what it is but fuckin' use it. And we went ahead and recorded Soulfly II and it turned out really cool. It's one of my favorites and still is today. I think it's awesome and I really like that one a lot.
What was it like working with Mikey Doling on guitar on Primitive?
It was different. He was coming more from a punk rock vibe. Mike came from Snot so he wasn't 100 percent metalI had to metalize him you know. So I had to work a lot with him with chugging.
You were showing Mike how you approached the rhythms on the guitar?
Showing him how to chug and doing the fast chugging and showing him thrash. And even bands to listen to like, You've got to listen to Exodus, man. And fuckin' death metal. Mikey was like, I don't know any of this shit, man. Like, Even Morbid Angel, man. And Mike was [in a goofy voice] Morbid Angel? What the fuck? And all of a sudden I was trying to metalize him.
Were you able to convert him to the metal side?
He never kinda lost that Snot side so he always kinda played a little sloppy, which was cool for some of the Soulfly stuff but it wasn't cool for the Sepultura stuff. The Sepultura stuff never quite sounded so good with Mikey. Like the solos, he couldn't really do what Andreas was doin' so it was always a little bit on the sloppy side. But he was a cool guitar player and he was a great guy. A very enthusiastic guy and a lot of contacts so he would spread the word around on Soulfly to everybody in town. He lived in L.A. so he knew everybody and he was a popular guy. So he helped the band on that direction.
Were you happy overall with the players on Primitive?
It was a pretty good lineup: me and Marcello D. Rapp, Mikey and Roy [Mayorga played drums on Soulfly; Joe Nunez played drums on Primitive.] It was pretty solid.
3 was the first album you produced?
"I always thought it would be cool to have guests. So on the first record we had, unfortunately, Fred Durst [laughs.]"
My weakest one. Yeah, I don't know what happened. It was a little bit of laziness on my part. Even the name of the record and the cover, I don't like both of them. They don't hit me as I should have hit the word with a third record. Although there's some good stuff on it like Seek n' Strike became a classic live and Downstroy. That was the original name and I should have kept the name. Because that was my first name and I wanted to call the album Downstroy.
Why did you call the album 3?
I changed the idea later. I found the aum [om] symbol and I was driving to a Buddhist temple so I stopped there and I went inside and talked to a Buddha guy. I asked him permission to use the Buddha symbol and he gave me the permission so I thought I was cool. I was clean and I thought, Alright, I can use this thing now. I asked a Buddha priest about it and he told me I could use it. So in my mind I was like, Alright, let me go into this Buddhist trip for a little bit with the aum, which is Hindu and whatever.
That's when you changed the name?
On that transition I do remember calling the album Soulfly 3, which was a mistake I think and should have been called Downstroy. But it still had some good songs like Brazil was a good vibe.
Enterfaith was good and very spiritual. Last of the Mohicans [L.O.T.M.] is still one of the classics live and very thrash, very thrash. It came out like straight up out of Arise or something so that was cool.
Roy Mayorga came back into the band again.
We had Roy back in the band because Primitive was Joe Nunez's first album that he did. Roy was back in the band and he was in top form. Roy played his fuckin' ass off; he played great on that record. I produced it and I had an engineer that was the same engineer from Nailbomb, Otto D'Agnolo. Rusty we'll call him because he doesn't like us to call him Rusty but we always call him Rusty, he engineered and he helped a lot. He had worked with Glen Campbell and a lot of country stars and jazz. He had worked with some Phoenix Suns basketball player that was a jazz guy [Wayman Tisdale] so he knew a lot about other kinds of music.
Otto D'Agnolo brought in some of those other influences?
Tree of Pain was kinda cool and it was a seven- or eight-minute epic long song about Dana [Max's stepson killed in a car accident]. I had this really beautiful intro that I came up with and it's still today one of my favorite melodic things I ever wrote. We had this black girl, Asha Rabouin, came in and sang on top of it and she had a beautiful gospel voice. So we experimented a little bit with gospel and then Ritchie [Max's son] came in and did the hardcore part with me. I used a drum machine on that song actually; Roy was not involved in that song at all. The whole song is drum machine and it was me experimenting my Nailbomb-style kind of thing. Yeah, so it was pretty cool but 3 of the weakest of all of them I think.
You brought in guitarist Marc Rizzo for the first time on Prophecy.
Yeah, Prophecy was great, man. I felt almost like a release. Those three guys left me out of the blue and the next thing I saw myself by myself again just like the first time. And I was like, Oh shit, here I go again. Fuckin' by myself again. I've got to find some people. I told Gloria [wife and manager], Help me out. Help me find some people. And she started looking around and the first guy she found was Marc.
Had you ever met Marc Rizzo previously?
I had met Marc before when I was in New York once. I went to see Ill Nino and they played Eye For An Eye and I saw this guy jumping with a backpack. And I thought, That guitar player is fuckin' killer, man. I remember just watching him and going, That guy is great. Then when Gloria told me he left Ill Nino and he's not doing anything I said, Is that the backpack guy? And she's like, Yeah, that's him. I was like, Yeah, let's get him here. He's fuckin' killer.
Did you know when you auditioned him that Marc was the right guitar player?
Marc came and started playing for like two minutes and I was like, Stop. You don't need to play anymore [laughs.] I know you rule. He was doing flamenco shit and he was unbelievable; he was like so good. So we had Joe Nunez back in the back; I called Joe back again. Like, Alright come back and let's try this again. Then somebody found Bobby Burns for me; I don't even remember how Bobby came in the picture. I saw a picture of him and he had a Mohawk and looked punk rock and he played for Primal 55 and they had done some shows with Soulfly. I remembered he was being pretty good.
You had the new lineup intact?
We just kinda went with that lineup and it was like, Let's try to make this work. I started writing and Prophecy was the first song I wrote. I thought it was a great song and still today I love Prophecy and love playing it live. It's got such a cool chorus that everybody sings together and it was fun.
Having this new band was inspiring?
It was kind of a freedom to get all these new guys around; I felt real energetic. Especially Marc, man, Marc was a godsend. Marc was the guitar player I was looking for from the beginning of this band. He was the missing link for me cause I always had a guy like that in Sepultura. Andreas that I got along with and was a great guitar player that I could count on to do all this shit: killer solos and good rhythm and help me with the riffs.
You didn't really find the right guitar player until you brought in Marc Rizzo?
I never found that in Soulfly. We had Mikey Doling and we had Logan Mader and nobody really fit that style except Marc. Marc could play the Sepultura stuff unbelievable. All the songs sounded right again when I did Arise, Inner Self and Troops of Doom. Note-by-note he can play everything Andreas did better even so he was great.
What other songs from Prophecy do you like?
We did Mars, which is one of my favorite songs on that record. I told you I let Marc go off on the flamenco thing, which was the first time he actually recorded that style on an album. He went off, man. He wrote this entire flamenco piece that went behind a rhythm jam that was half melodic and half reggae and it was a trip. And the whole thing came together so beautiful and so awesome and so powerful. I was completely blown away by it and at that moment I realized Soulfly is more than I think it is.
You had the sense that the band could be more than heavy thrash?
Soulfly was more powerful than I thought when I heard things like Mars. I thought, We really can take this band to a whole new level, man. And also it was kind of my beginning to get back to some of my heavier roots with stuff like Living Sacrifice and Execution Style. That was a full on thrash song again back to Arise-era kind of stuff.
You started experimenting more with world music ideas on Prophecy?
There was a lot of cool stuff on Prophecy. I went to Serbia and found this dub reggae hardcore band called Eyes Burn and they gave me a demo on tour and I heard their CD demo and I fell in love with it. They had a little studio in Belgrade so I just flew in by myself and wrote a whole song with them, which was Moses. It turned out really killer and it was just me with them and the guy played trombone and had trombone on the song and it was really awesome.
The trumpets almost sound like distorted synthesizers on Moses.
It was a cool way to experiment in a different country. He [Nemanja Kojot Kojic] was friends with a professor of music in Belgrade who was an older guy and had all these old instruments made out of goatskin and all these kinds of bagpipes and flutes and stuff from the medieval times. He [Ljubomir Dimitrijevi] brought all this stuff to the studio so I had him play over different parts of the record and he played like real weird bagpipes and flutes and all this crazy shit. And to me it was so cool to experience that with this guy.
Prophecy really was the first record where Soulfly started expanding into different styles?
Yeah, I thought another thing Soulfly was doing was reaching out into the world music now. That was the other new thing on the record. Everything from the artwork, which was the Lion of Judah to the pictures that were taken in Monument Valley. Then we did the video for Prophecy in Monument Valley on Navajo Land. The Navajos love metal and love Soulfly and the let us go there and step on sacred land. They said, Record anywhere you want. This place is yoursit's your house. It was amazing, man. I really liked the photo in the back of Prophecy, which is me standing with a hood in Monument Valley looking like a prophet. That was really cool. I liked Prophecy a lot; it's still one of my favorite Soulfly albums. I think there was a whole new invention. We started new again and gave the band whole new blood.
Did you expand on the world music idea on Dark Ages?
Yeah, I took the world music idea again and I went even further. I said, Let's go to Russia and Turkey and all these places I went with me and my wife by ourselves. We just went there and recorded whatever I could. I worked with some musicians in Russia and they put some balalaikas and some weird stuff on it. In France I had an acoustic guitar player from a dub band put some cool acoustic guitars on Soulfly V. I went to Turkey and found some stuff there. There was nothing really musical but they were fixing the main cathedral dome there called Sophia Hagia and the noise of them banging metal to metal sounded really cool and I recorded on a DAT machine and that's what I put on the record. That's what I found in Turkey, this really cool sound of the church being repaired. It sounded like bells almost so that's in-between one of the songs.
Do you typically record this type of stuff on DAT?
Yeah, I have a DAT machine and sometimes a MiniDisc player. Right now it's getting so easy you can do it with the phone. The phone can record great. I don't have a phone yet but I'm thinking about getting one so I can record this shit easier. But I still have my DAT machine and I take that on tour when I can.
Dark Ages was also a return to the heavier side of Soulfly.
The other side of Dark Ages was back to really heavy stuff like Babylon and I and I, which were really heavy killer songs.
Yeah, Carved Inside and Arise Again. Corrosion Creeps, which was superheavy. Actually that song was dedicated to Chuck [Schuldiner] from Death cause we learned about his death at that time and the main riff is totally a Death riff and it's totally dedicated to him.
There were also some other bad things that happened around the recording of that album?
That album had two tragedies, which is Dimebag and it was right when I was in the studio. I came back from recording one day and I walk home and Gloria was like, Did you hear? Three guys from Pantera and Dimebag are dead. I'm like, What? That's fuckin' crazy. And then an hour later it came the report that I wasn't three but it was only Dimebag but he's dead. He was shot. I was like, Fuck, man, that's fuckin' crazy. I couldn't believe it. It was an unbelievable thing for any metalhead in the world. I think it was the most shocking thing we ever had.
It was horrible.
It was crazy; unbelievable. And he was such a good guy too, man. I had met him many times and he was always cool to me. He gave me camouflage pants for a birthday because he knew how much I loved camouflage pants. He always wanted to try to get me to drink even when I wasn't drinking on the Soulfly/Pantera tour. Like [in exaggerated voice] Let's do a shot, man. C'mon, Max. I'm like, Dime, c'mon man. I'm not drinkin' anymore. And he was like, Oh, that's bullshit, man. You know? He was a great guy?
And the other tragedy was closer to home?
"A lot of people were blown away by World Scum and Gladiator and Intervention. So it was a great thing."
The day after that we get a phone call from Serbia and our grandson had died. It was like, Fuck, man. What's going on, man? Two people in two days that we knew and that's what kinda gave the name for the record. Like we were entering a dark age here. I said that to somebody in the house and that's how I got the name so I decided to call the record Dark Ages. I went all black on it; all the artwork should be black and just everything should be dark. Silver and black. The album cover was done by Michael Whelan that did all the classic Sepultura stuff. I remember he had a painting I wanted to use in Sepultura back in the old days and I never used it. It was called the Apotheosis of War and it was a black-and-white painting and that's the one we ended up using for Dark Ages.
What was it like reconnecting with Michael Whelan?
I called Michael again and talked to him after all these years. Hey, man, it's Max from Sepultura and he remembered me. I said, I wanted to ask you if I can use that Apotheosis of War painting to a new record I'm doing with a new band called Soulfly. And he was like, Awesome. Of course you can use it. It would be my pleasure. I got to actually meet Michael after Dark Ages came out. We played New York and he came to the show and it was the first time we met in all those years.
You never met Michael when he was working with Sepultura?
We only talk on the phone in the Sepultura days. I explained to him how when he first made Arise instead of a brain there was an egg and I had to tell him the egg wasn't a metal thing. An egg is not very metal. And I had to have him remove the egg and I said, Please don't get mad at me but an egg is just egg. You've got to have something more heavy metal than an egg. He said, Oh, alright, I've got something and he made a brain. And I was, Alright, a brain is cool [laughs] but we only talk on the phone. So we finally met and he was a huge guy and a killer guy; a really cool guy. He loved the show and loved Soulfly and he did a lot of cool stuff with the artwork. On the inside of the album there's like pictures that look like old Babylon and all these weird temple guys. And like oil fields of Iraq burning with fire coming to the sky and all that stuff was really cool artwork that he did for Dark Ages.
Despite the circumstances surrounding it, you liked the Dark Ages record?
I like Dark Ages a lot too; it was a very strong record to come out. I didn't like the consequences around it and why I had to write that record cause I lost two special people: Dimebag and my grandson. The studio time for me was dark with all this bad stuff happening. But the record itself was powerful; it was a powerful record to be part of it.
Conquer was an even heavier album than Dark Ages.
Yeah, I was getting into heavier stuff more and more. Of course the title track Blood Fire War Hate, I asked David Vincent to be part of it. A great band I always liked was Morbid Angel and he did it and did a great job. The song turned out killer and we recorded Conquer in Florida so it was not far from him and he just drove to the studio in Orlando.
The Porch Recording Studio?
We recorded the album at this guy's house who was a metalheadTim C. Lauand the whole house was full of Slayer guitars on the wall and Slayer pictures and Metallica. So it felt really cool, man. Kinda like spending some time in a metalhead guy's house and making a record in his house. Like you sit in the living room and you've got Slayer guitars on the wall and shit and you're watching TV and everybody is recording in the next room you know. It was a comfortable vibe and I think everybody was comfortable in the studio.
You had Dave Peters on Unleash?
We had Dave from Throwdown was another band I really liked. It was hardcore and reminded me of Pantera and I think Dave's vocal was obviously a lot like Phil's and he sings really with that kind of feel and tone of voice and he did a great job. Unleash is a killer track and an epic kind of song.
Andy Sneap mixed the album.
Yeah, he mixed the record, which was the first time I worked with him and he did a great job. Before that on Dark Ages it was fuck, I can't remember his name nowthe Deftones producer? Terry Date had mixed Prophecy and Dark Ages and we tried Andy Sneap to mix Conquer and did a great job.
Are there differences in the mixes between Terry Date and Andy Sneap?
Oh yeah, bigtime, man. The original mixes are shit compared to what those guys did to it. When Terry Date puts his hands on it everything changes: the drum sound changed; the guitar sound changed; a total transformation. It's unbelievable how much it matters when you have somebody else mix.
How would you compare your vocals on Conquer and Prophecy?
A lot of people think Conquer is one of my best vocal performances. They think it's one of the strongest vocal performances I ever had was in Conquer.
I was using a handheld and I didn't want to use a prop kind of microphone that stands in the air. So I just decided to ask Tim the engineer, Can I just have a handheld and walk fuckin' walk around the studio and sing like if I was live? And we worked something out and he gave me one of those and I think that made a huge attitude difference on the way I sing. I sing with more attitude so it was more powerful.
Barney from Napalm Death recently talked about using that same method of recording vocals.
I got fed up singing with that thing and you always have to count how many fingers in front of the microphone you have to be. It's too polite for metal. Give me a handheld and I can hold the shit and walk around the room and stamp and jump if I want to. So all of Conquer was done on a handheld and I think that's a huge difference.
You co-produced Omen with Logan Mader.
Yeah, it was cool. I was familiarized with Logan and had worked two times with him with Cavalera's Inflikted and Blunt Force Trauma. He made the whole Omen session go really easy cause we knew each other and he was an old member but now he's an engineer and producer-type thing. We kind of produced and did everything together and it was really fun and really cool. A lot of cool stuff came out of Omen. I really like Bloodbath & Beyond, which of course is making fun of the Bed Bath & Beyond store. I was riding the bus on tour and I saw that when we were driving and I made the joke in the bus. I go, Oh look, there's a Bloodbath & Beyond store. And everybody was cracking up in the bus and I wrote that down in my book and when it came time to make the record, I go, I'm gonna make a song with that name. That's a fuckin' cool name. I know Europeans will not get it but they'll get it in America.
What other songs did you dig on Omen?
One of my favorite songs ever was Rise Of the Fallen with Greg Puciato from Dillinger Escape Plan. I had just discovered Dillinger and was listening to them and they sounded killer and crazy with that mathcore or whatever you call that crazy kind of music that's complicated with jazz shit on it. Like, Man, this is fuckin' nuts stuff. I was making the record in L.A. and I went to sing with the Deftones because they had a tribute show for Chi [Chino Moreno] and Greg was up there singing Master of Puppets with the Defontes. I run into him backstage and I say, Greg, I'm in the studio, man, making a new Soulfly record. Wanna come down and fuckin' sing some shit on it? And he was like, Yeah, yeah, yeah, it would be great, man. And then he emailed Gloria the same night and said, Tell Max we're gonna do something fuckin' epic. We gonna kill some motherfuckers with this one.
So Greg was totally into singing on the record?
He came pumped up to the studio, man. He was fuckin' ready [laughs.] Immediately he heard Rise Of the Fallen he fell in love with the track. It's a great track, man. I love this riff and started working on his vocal pattern. When he started singing, it was completely different than anything I could imagine for a vocal pattern for that song.
You didn't hear the vocal coming in there?
It blew me away so much because he waited a couple seconds to start singing. Every time I do that song in my head, I start singing right where the riff comes in and he didn't do thathe waited a couple seconds and then sings. Just the thought of that to me was brilliant. It's like, How did you think of that? That's fuckin' genius. I told him it was genius and it was one of the greatest things I've seen that surprised me in a vocal pattern ever. And Greg was like, Oh yeah, that's cool, man. I'm glad you like it. I was like, Oh yeah, I fuckin' love it. We worked on the whole song and he did the whole end part melodic. He was like, I've got some melodic voice I want to try too. I was, Yeah, go ahead. And he did some melodic kind of vocals and he even joked like, Yeah, it would be cool to get the guy from Soundgarden here to do some of this shit. I was, Yeah, yeah, that would have been cool and we were laughin'.
You had Tommy Victor on Lethal Injection?
We also got Tommy from Prong. I just did a tour with Prong and Soulfly and I became friends with Tommy again after many years. I saw him with Sepultura and we played some shows and I didn't see Tommy for a long time and I got to see him again on that tour and became friends. I told him on that tour, I'm gonna call you, man, and we're gonna do a song together. One of those class-fuckin'-thrash-style old Prong/Max kinda of songs, right? And he's like, Yeah, yeah, sure. I wrote the riff for him and he really like it and he came down to the studio and he's like, Dude, we should do this song and was really into it.
How did you come up with the idea for the song?
I told him about the subject and said, We should talk about lethal injection as one of the ways to kill people in America and other parts around the world but mostly here. It's a really crazy way to die and let's make it a twist songmaking sure the person dying is actually innocent. So it's really fucked up. And he's, Yeah yeah, let's do that. So we created a whole little injection thing. I love the first riff of it that duhduhduh dennit [sings riff] like with the little stop and the chugging. I don't know where that riff came from but when I first heard it I was like, This is kind of a Prong riff. I even said, This could be on Beg to Differ and it's gonna be perfect for Tommy to sing on it. So he did it and we did the song and it was great.
So you thought Omen was a cool step forward from Conquer?
Yeah, so coming out of Conquer, I thought Omen was a really strong record. The only thing I notice and it's weird I can sense these things was I thought the band was getting stale and needed a change. That's before I even got the problems with Bobby and Joe didn't even know they were gonna leave the band. But I just felt everybody kind of too comfortable and some of the material started to sound a lot the same. Some of the songs on Omen it was like they were exactly replicas of some songs on Dark Ages and Conquer and I'm really not comfortable with that much repetition.
And that brings us to the Enslaved album with the new members: Tony Campos and David Kinkade.
Which is totally that at that time I was sensing the band needed something. It was almost like I was saying to myself, I hope something happens here and I need to change some of these guys so I can make a new record that sounds different. I think we need a new sounding record and we definitely need something to get us out of this slump that we're in right now. Because I felt if I did another album just like Omen, it would get too repetitious and too stale and people just gonna lose interest.
How did you get the new members?
With Bobby we got rid of him and Joe quit and didn't want to play music anymore, which was something he told me years ago. He said, You know, Max, I'm not gonna do this forever. I'm like, Yeah, I know and he said, At some point I'm gonna let you know that I'm out and I want to do some camera work. And the time came and it was cool cause it came right in between records so he gave me the chance to find somebody before I started working on the new record.
Where did you find Tony Campos and David Kinkade?
I found Tony to replace Bobby was a great guy and played with Asesino with Dino Cazares and Prong and Ministry and had toured with me in Static-X when he used to come and sing the chorus of No every night and come onstage. I knew he was a badass bass player but I did not know he was that professional, man. Cause when I started playing with him I noticed it's a whole new level of bass playing. He's in a whole category and plays so solid and he doesn't fuck around. He's just killer, a killer guy to have in the band.
And David Kinkade?
There was an email David sent to the office with some clips of him playing with Borknagar and it was as extreme as fuck, man. All this crazy death metal shit and I'm like, Yes, that's what I need right there. This is the guy we need, I told myself. With a drummer like that, I can make some records, man. I can turn Soulfly around again. So I flew David here from Chicago and jammed with him for two days and said, Show me some of that double bass shit I heard on that video and he started doing it and I was like, Yeah, man, fuckin' yeah. It sounded like old Morbid Angel and Gojira and precision. A double bass that's not sloppy and precise and just played right.
David's drumming inspired you?
I wrote the whole World Scum when he was here. Like 80 percent of the song was written here with him. I was so excited just to be jamming with him. And then came the idea from Roadrunner Records [Soulfly's label], from Monte Conner [A&R] was to actually have a producer this time and have somebody produce the album with me.
And you picked Zeuss.
Enter Zeuss. I got familiarized with some of Zeuss's material and I really liked the new stuff that he did. He's known more for working with Shadows Fall and Hatebreed but I was more into the other records he did that were obscure like Oceano and Whitechapel and the Red Chord. Those are the records I really liked his production on and thought this guy was great and had a great ear for heavy music. Delivers great drum sounds and great guitar sounds so I was really excited to work with him. And he was really excited to work with me. He's been a fan for a long time so it was a great match. We got along great from the first day in the studio and we talked about metal and what I wanted to do. He's like, Max, I'm gonna promise you right now I'm gonna give you a new sounding record. It's gonna sound nothing like anything else you've ever done. This is my promise to youthat you're gonna come out of here with a new record that you're proud of it, a new sound, a new Soufly. You can look back at these other records and say, This one is different.' He made a promise to me in the beginning and he kept it, man. It is a new record; it is a new sound.
How have your fans reacted to Enslaved?
"I think Dimebag's death was the most shocking thing we ever had."
A lot of people were blown away by World Scum and Gladiator and Intervention. So it was a great thing.
You've invited more of your friends to guest on tracks?
We had Travis Ryan from Cattle Decapitation sing on World Scum, which made it even heavier. The song was already heavy and Trav put the fuckin' nail in the coffin and made it super extra heavy with some old school death metal vocals and crazy lyrics about Babylon and religion and shit. And then Dez from DevilDriver, I know him for a long time since the Coal Chamber days and we toured together with Sepultura. Our families traded Christmas cards every Christmas, which is funny. He's one of the few people that's constant in contact with us in Christmas: the Fafaras.
Dez sang on Redemption of Man By God.
He told me that the week I call him cause I was in the studio and I found out they were gonna be in Phoenix on tour with Arch Enemy. I called him and he said, Man, it's weird. I just been listening to a lot of Chaos A.D. this week. And I was like, Wow, that's weird. That's kind of a cool coincidence. He's like, Yeah yeah, I've been hooked on Chaos A.D. and been listening to the record like non-stop all week long and now you call. That's just weird, man. I was like, Well you're gonna be here on this day so I'm gonna come around and kidnap you from your soundcheck and you're gonna come record with me, man. He was like, Yeah yeah, fuck yeah. So he came and I played him the song Redemption of Man By God and there was something that happened with that song. There's a preacher voice in the end, which came out of Tony's bass rack. And it was this preacher talking about Egypt and blood on the walls and sacrifice of the firstborn kid. We put that in the end of the song and it was this fuckin' crazy religious freak guy talking about Biblical shit.
You played that for Dez?
When Dez came up I said, Hey Dez, check this out, man. I was waiting for him to sing and he was like, Man, that's fuckin' great. We should do a song about this. I was, Alright, cool. I don't care. Whatever subject you know. He said he knew a little bit about weird religious shit. He said, My dad was a preacher in the south and I guess his dad used to do the snake thing and I was, Wow, really? That's crazy. He said he wanted to write something about that so that's what he wrote about his father: the venom of the snake and serpent's coil and all this weird religious snake shit. We got to snakes of Christ later and I did my part more related to what the guy was saying about Egypt and the death angel killing the firstborn baby and a little bit like Creeping Death.
You and Tony Campos sang Plata o Plomo in Portuguese?
Yeah, Portuguese and Spanish. That's the first time I've done that together. The song is about Pablo Escobar, the big drug dealer and it's the story of his life. I do the first part in Portuguese and then Tony sings the second part in Spanish, which was Pablo's language so it makes more sense. Then we sing the chorus together and Tony actually gave the name to the song. He told me that was a drug dealer slang to say plata or plomo, which is super or lead and it's like a slang when you're gonna do a drug deal or something. I said, That's a cool name, OK. We can work with that. But it was really a cool and awesome riff and I really liked the groove of the riff. Zeuss added some shotguns throughout the whole song and you can hear shotguns [laughs] and he was going off with the shotguns. He put that on every part of the song and I was like, How many people you killing on this song, man?
It's still the four strings on the guitar for you?
And on Revengeance you have the whole Cavalera clan: Richie, Igor and Zyon.
Yeah, the whole tribe is there, man. It was insane. It was a family day and the next thing I know I'm sitting with my kids and talking about the song. I had me, Igor, Richie and Zyon all in a little group and I saw Zeuss come out of the booth with his camera all excited. I've got to take a picture of this Cavalera moment. So he takes the picture and I'm like, Go back to the booth, man. You're a producer and you're acting unprofessional [laughs.] Busting his chops.
What was that like working with your family?
Well we had a whole day for the song and I work a little bit with Zyon a couple days earlier in the house and we did the main song but then little Igor got involved and he changed the beginning of the song and he came up with a new riff that I really liked and he came up with a chorus riff that we put in the middle of the song. So I liked his input because he was actually writing riffs and I was so proud because he's only 16. I was like, It's cool you're writing riffs, man. That's the way to go. And then we all sing on it: I had a verse and Richie had a verse and Igor had a verse. The song is about their brother that was murdered in '96 and it's really a cry for justice and blood on your soul and revengeance and really hardcore. Asking questions kind of song and amnesia and all this shit and it turned out really good. It was recorded all live so it was recorded different from the rest of the record so it has more of a raw dirty kind of sound. When I listen to it I love it from the beginning when I first heard it. I told Zeuss, It sounds great, man. It sounds real dirty and raw and fucked up. I really like the sound of the song. So I'm gonna put it as the last song on the record so I can finish the record with this song.
Which means Soulfly VIII is only available on the deluxe edition of Enslaved.
Unfortunately I had to bump Soulfly VIII out. I was against the wall with that one, man. Although it was a beautiful way we did it with a violin; I hired a violin player to add some violin on top of the melodic and it turned out great and Soulfly VIII was really beautiful. It sounded killer and Marc did some old U2, the Edge kind of guitar that sounded like Joshua Tree and really, really cool and classic sounding stuff.
Did you leave it off the main record because of the length of Enslaved?
Everywhere I put it it broke the vibe of the heaviness of Enslaved and I thought, I cannot do that. This album is so heavy and so killer, I gotta make a commitment here. So I decided to come up with this thing that I thought made more sense was let the fans actually have a choice because not everybody likes those instrumentals. And I know they're not for everybody and you've got to have a little bit more of an open mind to like those things. A lot of people do but a lot of people don't so that way I give them the choice. If they want to get it they can get a special edition that comes digitally with Soulfly VIII and if they don't they can just get the record as it is and just heavy all the way. Yeah, I was a little bummed about that decision but I had to do something and I couldn't make my mind up so I had to decide what to do. So I decided to go with that and just keep it as a bonus.
There are some other bonus tracks also?
Slave was really twisting my arm between not having that song on the record and having it because it's such a great song. It really fits with the whole Enslaved topic of the record but I had to take Revengeance out and I really like Revengeance too so I decided, OK, let's keep Slave' out and Bastards' and Soulfly VIII' as bonus tracks. And I made a decision and I stick by it and that's it. I'm really cool now and I'm kind of getting used to the idea of let people choose for theirselves if they want to get the instrumental or no.
Have you had any feedback on leaving Soulfly VIII off?
The album is heavy as fuck and that's the best way and I'm getting really good feedback on the record. Like World Scum that came out on a video, I saw all the posts and they were all great, man. It was like, Max and death metalfucking great! and Max is back to death metal and that's a dream come true [laughs] and all this crazy shit that people write. So it's cool, man. I'm excited for the record.
Interview by Steven Rosen