Soulfly: “I Have a Driving Need to Create the Perfect Record”

Wednesday, 2nd September 2015

One person in heavy metal that clearly needs no introduction is that of Soulfly’s Max Cavalera. Already legendary from his role in the influential Sepultura, Soulfly marked a rebirth. It can also be noted how the band has changed throughout the years. From it’s more nu-metal-esque beginnings to some of the heaviest stuff that Cavalera has been involved with. Soulfly has been in a seemingly constant evolution.

The latest iteration, Archangel, continues this evolution. Offering some heavy tracks that progress the sound Soulfly has strived for over the past few albums. Leaping at the opportunity to chat with band leader Max Cavalera himself (Chaos A.D. and Roots, alongside Demanufacture and Pierced from Within, marked some of this scribe’s first forays into the genre in the mid ‘90s), we discussed said evolution of Soulfly, Cavalera’s take on the current metal scene, guest spots throughout the years, and more.

Dead Rhetoric: There’s a bit of a biblical influence on Archangel. What inspired you to go in that direction?

Max Cavalera: Trying to do something different. After all these years you have to look for different ideas and I just came from Savages, which was kind of a reflection of the world and I wanted to do something that was more about the past. I was watching a lot of documentaries on TV about The Bible and the Old Testament and I thought it was kind of cool to mix that with metal. Soulfly in the beginning was kind of spiritual, but we never did anything biblical. So I tried it out and I wrote the song “Sodomites,” and it came out really good. I thought, “This is cool. I see where this is going.” Then I just jumped on it and did more of those, and did a few that weren’t biblical, like “We Sold Our Souls to Metal” and “Live Life Hard” and put it all together. That’s how Archangel came about. It’s a mix of biblical and non-biblical stuff.

Dead Rhetoric: There’s always that tribal-esque feature to Soulfly as well. Do you feel that it shifts with each album, and the influences you bring into it?

Cavalera: I think it’s always there, it’s mostly in the rhythm. Groove and tribal kind of go together – that’s always been on every Soulfly record and even Sepultura records. I love a lot of really cool grooves, I think it’s a part of metal. Every great metal band has it: Pantera, Slayer, Metallica, [Black] Sabbath – they always have some really cool groove on it. Then you mix that with fast shit – that’s when it’s cool, when you can do it together. Fast stuff with the groove and put them in the right places, it’s awesome. It works out really well.

Dead Rhetoric: Soulfly has evolved over time and gotten significantly heavier. Most bands tend to get a bit softer with age, what’s your secret or reasoning behind it?

Cavalera: I just had a chance to do it. I thought it would be kind of cool to get more aggressive as you get older. It doesn’t happen to a lot of people. I thought it was cool and was something different I could do. It meant that Soulfly would actually become less popular, but with more integrity, because I’m doing something I love. It’s really not about being very popular. I couldn’t care less about that. Being the biggest band in the world is not my inspiration. For me, it’s really cool that I’m doing something that I love and it’s from the heart. I love extreme music. I’ve been drawn to it. Especially in the last five years, I’ve been listening to more and more extreme music and it’s getting into my own music. I think that’s awesome. I’m getting older and getting into more aggressive stuff. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m glad that it happened. And I’m glad that I don’t mind Soulfly not being as big – it doesn’t bother me at all.

Dead Rhetoric: Guest spots have always been a part of Soulfly from the beginning. How do you choose who you’d like to work with on this spots?

Cavalera: It kind of changes from album to album. On this new one, I had some younger, newer people – Todd [Jones] from Nails and Matt [Young] from King Parrot. Those are two new bands that I’ve been listening to and I really like them a lot so I decided to give them a try. Some older albums I worked with Tom Araya, Chino from Deftones, Corey from Slipknot, Dave Grohl, the list is huge! I think it’s cool that Soulfly does it, and I see other bands are trying it too and it makes me happy. I see that Lamb of God had Chino and Greg [Puciato] on their album. Gojira had Randy from Lamb of God on their album. I think it’s cool that more bands are doing that; it’s a really cool thing. I think it started with Sepultura with Chaos A.D., with Jello Biafra to write the lyrics. And then in Roots we had Mike Patton and Jon from KoRn, and that idea just grew into something that we decided to put on every album. I think fans get excited about who is going to be next, and it becomes a guessing game. But there’s a lot of people that I want to work with, so I keep my eyes and ears open for the next Soulfly.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any favorite guests over the years or is there just too many to think about?

Cavalera: There’s too many…but some of my favorites. Tom Araya was great; I’m a big Slayer fan. Travis [Ryan] from Cattle Decapitation was great on “World Scum.” Sean Lennon was very different – probably one of the most different ones I ever had. “Jumpdafuckup” with Corey Taylor from Slipknot, that was really cool. But there’s been so many. It’s kind of hard to remember all of them. Those are some of my favorites so far.

Dead Rhetoric: I saw recently you had been talking about ‘unity in metal.’ Do you think that exploring these guest spots is something that goes in that direction?

Cavalera: I think so. The more that you do that, the more united you become and become friendly between bands. We need more of that. We need to get back to that. In the ‘90s we toured a lot with other bands. Sepultura went out with Ministry, Ozzy, and Pantera. Soulfly did too in the early 2000’s with Slayer, Rammstein, and Pantera again. We tend to go out on our own – but our next tour, we have Soilwork and Decapitated touring with us. That’s a cool package. I like these kind of packages and I want to do more of them. You have a cool night of metal for everyone, and it’s friendlier between the bands. It’s a killer vibe.

Dead Rhetoric: There’s also a noticeable impact of ‘keeping it in the family’ with Soulfly. How does it feel to have your children taking part in the metal scene and your band?

Cavalera: I think it’s great. Zyon is doing a great job. This is his second record. He got a lot better with Archangel. His playing got better and he’s much more energetic and wild with this new record. He’s doing a lot of cool drum stuff. All the kids are into music. Richie’s got Incite. Zyon and Igor, they have Lody Kong. I think it’s cool, it’s a metal family. We dig metal and we all work for Soulfly and it’s great. The best way to carry our family is through metal, and I wouldn’t change anything.

Dead Rhetoric: With such a long and revered stay within the metal world, what drives you to keep going forward?

Cavalera: I love just being part of the metal scene and helping it go forward. I like new bands, and discovering new bands, getting in touch with them, and helping them out; wearing their shirts. I have a driving need to create the perfect record. I don’t think I’ve done it yet, I think I’m still searching for it. I’ll keep trying. I don’t know what I will do after I do that. I can probably retire [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: On the other hand, you’ve had ups and downs in your career. Have you ever had a moment when you thought, maybe I’ve had enough?

Cavalera: Yeah, the worst time was leaving Sepultura. For 6 months, I didn’t do anything. I was done with music. I was too disappointed, too heartbroken; Sepultura was my baby. I gave the name to the band, I created the band – and I was out of it. Then Soulfly came in and I started writing and put my life back together. I’m glad that I didn’t give up. It put me back on the road, and now I’m doing Killer Be Killed and Cavalera Conspiracy too. I’m still here. What I look forward to the most is playing for a long time. I want to do this for as long as I can possibly do it. So hopefully I can do it; I have inspiration from Ozzy and Lemmy – those guys are like idols for me and they are 70 years old and still doing it. I’m 46 now so I’ve got to catch up.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s your take on heavy metal here in 2015?

Cavalera: I think it’s great! I love a lot of the new stuff. Tons of new bands – Genocide Pact, Homewrecker, Xiabalba, Young and in the Way. I listen to a lot of death metal too, black metal. Watain, Behemoth, Belphegor, 1349. I think metal is in a good place. There are a lot of cool records coming out. It just needs more unity. More bands on tour, more unity in the scene. That would be great.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think that some of the problem is our over-classification of genres, like “oh, this is black metal or this is a grindcore band”?

Cavalera: I think we should mix more. When Sepultura did New Titans on the Block, we had Sick of it All, Napalm Death, Sacred Reich, and Sepultura. Those are four way different bands. Sick of it All was hardcore, Napalm Death was grindcore. That’s how it should be – more mixed. I’d love to do a tour like Soulfly with Watain and Agnostic Front. It would be so sick. I think the more mix the better.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve got a big North American tour coming up with Soilwork, Decapitated, and Shattered Sun. How do you widdle down your setlist?

Cavalera: We are trying something new this time. We are playing the whole Archangel record first. For the first 35 minutes of the show, we are playing the whole record. Then we are going to play the best Soulfly songs from the last 10 years. So probably another hour of Soulfly after that. So the whole show will be like an hour and 40 minutes; I’m excited for it. I’ve never played a full record before so it will be great.

Dead Rhetoric: Other than Soulfly touring, anything else in the works for the near future?

Cavalera: Not much. Soulfly is keeping me on the road through November. I am probably going to do some writing in December for Killer Be Killed. Start writing some riffs. At some point, we are going to get together next year and write some more with Greg and Troy. Eventually we will get into the studio we will get into the studio to do our second record, but that’s not until later. I don’t even know if we will do it next year. Soulfly is going to tour a lot next year. Archangel is a big worldwide tour. I hope we do another leg in America, again with some other package of cool bands. Just keep going. I love the record and I think it’s exciting and new, and people are going to love hearing it live. I’m excited to just be playing a lot of new songs and seeing how people are going to react to them.

Soulfly official website