Heartfelt Intensity
CoC chats with Max Cavalera of Soulfly
by: Adrian Bromley
Soulfly singer Max Cavalera has a theory. By the time a band hits their third album, they have hit a solid stride, a feeling has come over their creative energy as a band and they hit the mark on the bullseye. Just look at the bands that have put out some of their best material with their third albums: Black Sabbath with _Masters of Reality_ (1971), Metallica with _Master of Puppets_ (1986) and Iron Maiden with _Number of the Beast (1982). Well, you can now add Soulfly to that list of bands with the band's third album _3_. Much heavier than its predecessors _Primitive_ and the self-titled debut, _3_ sees Soulfly's momentum rise to magnificent levels of heart-pounding aggression on new songs like "Enterfaith", "Call to Arms" and "L.O.T.M." (think heavier Soulfly, Sepultura _Chaos A.D._-era and Nailbomb), but at the same time tone things down a bit and expand the Soulfly sound into new directions (i.e. "One" and "Tree of Pain"). Pumped and ready to go, Soulfly has already taken Europe by storm with the new album and tour, and now it is time for North America to get a beating at the hands of Soulfly's electric and heavy charge. Cavalera contacted Chronicles of Chaos while at a tour stop in Worcester, Massachusetts on the much talked about summer tour with Slayer and Sweden's In Flames.

CoC: How is the tour going? This is such a solid bill for fans to come out and experience a hearty metal show. What diversity. Are you having fun?

Max Cavalera: Man, the tour is going over real well. It is an awesome tour. It has been killer every night and sold out shows. I am excited to see the fans turn it up like this and really get into the show. It is cool to see bands like Slayer, Soulfly and In Flames going out there every night and packing the place and it is a good sign that heavy music is here and that trendy music can push it away.

CoC: I bet every band on the bill is winning new fans with this tour?

MC: Exactly! Every night fans are being exposed to all this music. We bring our fans to the shows who may not have seen Slayer before and they get right into what we are doing and what Slayer is doing and vice versa. Fans of Slayer come to the show to see Slayer and get drawn into the intensity and tribal aspect of what Soulfly does. And the same goes for the In Flames' fans. At the end of the show it seems like everyone is going away having enjoyed a great show.

CoC: How is the new stuff on _3_ going over live?

MC: Killer! I was a little nervous, to tell you the truth, because we have a lot of classics that we play and we don't want the new songs to be better than them in a live environment, we want them to work well off one another. We do a lot of the new stuff live because I want people coming to the show to experience the new album's intensity, as well as some classic stuff. I want them to feel the anger on the new disc. I like the fact that we can play a lot of _3_ live because there are less guests on the album and I think the fans appreciate that as well.

CoC: In terms of what you have done with _3_, where do you see Soulfly now, musically and spiritually?

MC: I feel very happy with this record. I am very happy with what we are doing with the band. I think we are starting to get a good balance of what we want to do with Soulfly. The album goes from heavy to tribal onto melodic ideas. I like all of those elements of what we do. I'm a fan of all types of music and I like to experience them all and just get so much out of what they have to offer. I think the great thing about this band is that we can go from one extreme to another, north to south, very naturally without it seeming like it is forced. I don't want to force the music on people. The heart of the music is the main thing for me. It just has to feel right coming out of me, no matter which direction it goes.

CoC: Do you look back at the earlier stuff of Soulfly and kind of feel awkward about the ideas you brought into the band, or are you pretty confident with the way the band has evolved?

MC: Of course there are things that we have done that could have been done much differently, but I try not to look back as much because then you really start to dissect the music. People that do that become predictable. I don't want to be predictable. I think about what I have done, but I don't go back and analyze everything I have done up to this point. I don't know where we are going with this band, but we are trying new things. A song like "Tree of Pain" [a moving, atmospheric song featuring singer Asha and Cavalera's stepson Ritchie -- Adrian] is a good example of that. We just need to carry on and not hold onto old ideas. I need to try something new each time out.

CoC: While the album is much heavier than past Soulfly albums, there is a definite vibe of diversity flowing throughout. How do you think the Soulfly fans will react to _3_?

MC: I really don't know how people will react. I think most Soulfly fans expect different shit from me every time, so they won't be surprised. But at the same time, I like to try and expose them to new things and that is why there is material like "One" and "Tree of Pain". Those ideas are new and they haven't heard them on any Soulfly album before. For myself, I think it will be exciting to see how they will react to it and what songs they get into. What I also like about this record is the typical Max songs where I dig deep into my cassettes of four track recordings and find riffs that drive people and myself. I really tried hard to find some classic guitar riffs to turn some of these songs into powerhouse numbers.

CoC: What about all of the people out there who have lashed out against Soulfly in the past, calling the band a nu-metal and a "jump-up-and-down" kind of band? How do you feel about that, with people saying Max should get back to playing metal and not this Soulfly stuff?

MC: I have to deal with it. It is something that is gonna happen and it does. I was thinking about this the other day while watching an NHL hockey game. There was some player from another team who people hated and were booing because he was on the other team and was scoring goals. I kind of feel like that sometimes. The anger and aggression towards me is like fuel and just pushes me even harder to keep carrying on with my music as it does with the hockey player on the ice trying to score goals for his team. I don't want to be the loved guy. I want to be the guy who not everyone likes and when I get pissed off about the way things are going, I go back in the studio and write a song like "Eye for an Eye". I write music because I love music and I want to share metal music with people. If there are some people out there who don't like what I do, I can't do anything about it. Not everyone can like Soulfly. From day one it has been like that. I had to put up with people who didn't like Sepultura too. <laughs>

CoC: Let's talk about Sepultura for a bit. Do you think you'd be where you are today with Soulfly if it hadn't been for the success of Sepultura?

MC: I never planned to leave Sepultura [he left in 1997 -- Adrian]. I planned to stay in the band for a long time, but I didn't plan a lot of things in life. These things just happen, kind of like the way we came out of Belo Horizonte [their hometown in Brazil -- Adrian] and became successful. It was amazing. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. I was pleased with the success of the band, but I think Sepultura and Nailbomb [the band Max collaborated on with ex-Fudge Tunnel member Alex Newport for the 1994 release _Point Blank_ -- Adrian] really helped me find my place in music and where I am today. It was like a school where you learn from your mistakes and how and why things happen and I really enjoy what I am doing with Soulfly right now.

CoC: It must feel good to see where you are today after leaving Sepultura five years ago. There must be some kind of vindication in what you are doing now?...

MC: I don't know how to respond to that. One thing I never considered was to stop playing music [with the split from Sepultura] and with that on my mind I carried on. I wanted and needed to do this. It is still on my mind, the stress about trying to stay focused on what I am doing, but it is cool to see how people are actually started to get into and understand what Soulfly is all about.

CoC: Is Sepultura still on your mind or do you not care?

MC: I still care about Sepultura in my heart. I am proud of what we did with the band. It is kind of like Ozzy is still a part of Black Sabbath, even though there were other singers in the band. Ozzy is still into what he did with Black Sabbath and I will always be into what Sepultura did, but at the same time I think it is important not to live from the past. It is more important to live for the future.

CoC: When you play back your Soulfly albums, do you ever hear any Sepultura riffs or patterns in the music, or do you think Soulfly has distanced itself from Sepultura musically?

MC: I hear it all the time. Both of those bands are connected in some way or another. All of the Soulfly records you can hear that Sepultura sound at one time or another, but like I said before, there are also ideas and sounds on Soulfly albums that we'd never done with Sepultura and I'm proud of that. It is exciting to try new things and expand the sound of a band.

CoC: Right now, with the tour and the response to the new album, things seem to be clicking for Soulfly. Am I right?

MC: It is starting to pick up in North America. It is really sick in Europe. Things are crazy over there. We are on the charts in France, Germany and Italy. I have never been on the charts that long with Sepultura ever, so I guess it says that Soulfly is bigger than Sepultura ever was there. I am a very patient man and I think this music that we play takes time for people to get exposed to it. We don't have a lot of support as other big bands do and a lot of the success for the band has come from word of mouth by the fans. Eventually I think we will find our place in the sun. We planted our seeds long ago and now we are seeing the fruits from all the work we have done with _3_.

CoC: Having been in the music industry for so long now, what are the things that you despise about it currently?

MC: I am sick of the same old shit. The same type of bands that get played because there is so much money behind it. I can't believe some of the shitty bands that people are so into. But it has always been like that. I remember years ago when Sepultura was starting to get big and there were bands like Ugly Kid Joe that sucked but were huge. Where are they now? Those bands are big, but they never last. I'm more into having a lot of integrity and having your heart in what you do than be a huge success and sell tons of records.

CoC: So what do you think has been the success of Soulfly?

MC: I think the success of Soulfly has been that I have done what I wanted to do. I could have easily stuck to one style of music and created some great music but not really have gone as far as I have with Soulfly. I didn't do what people told me to do, I did the exact opposite. When bands listen to what people tell them to do, that just ruins a band. They become something else, far way from what they had originally started out as. You got to stick to your guns. As long as I know what I am playing is coming from here <Max taps his heart> then I can be proud of anything Soulfly does. I'm glad that I have never been afraid to go into unexplored territories and see what happens.

CoC: So what is left for Max Cavalera? What are your goals?

MC: I don't have many big goals, really. I am very patient and I just want this to last as long as I can. I see musicians like Carlos Santana and B.B. King who are old but still doing this and loving it. I want to be like that. I don't care about having one huge record and riding in limos and having all this money. I just want to enjoy my music and play it as long as I can. My goal is to be old and playing music. I want to be in my wheelchair and still jamming to my guitar.

(article submitted 1/9/2002)

8/9/2008 J Smit 8.5 Soulfly - Conquer
9/19/2005 J Smit 8.5 Soulfly - Dark Ages
10/25/2000 A Bromley 8 Soulfly - Primitive
4/13/1998 A Bromley 8 Soulfly - Soulfly
8/12/1999 J Webb Rammstein / Soulfly Let Your Soul Fly Away
8/12/1999 A Wasylyk Rammstein / Soulfly / Skunk Anansie Take Your Stein, and Ramm It
9/1/1998 M Noll Soulfly / Cold Mad Max Lives
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